Unsurprisingly and unfortunately British veterinarians, through their spokesperson, have responded negatively to the current news that the UK government plans to introduce compulsory micro-chipping across the nation. The reason why they reject the plan is because they don’t want to be involved in enforcing it. They want to do their work which is to improve the health of animals. To be involved in a new law on mandatory micro-chipping will divert them from this objective. It may also place added financial strain on their businesses. It is quite hard, financially, to run a successful independent veterinary practice.
Although compulsory micro-chipping is a good idea because it saves lives, the greatest barrier to it being effective is enforcing the law. I mentioned this in an article I wrote very recently. In fact, effective enforcement is the problem with any animal welfare law, which applies across an entire nation. They are good ideas in theory but in practice they may be unworkable because there’s not enough people to enforce it. For example, the same applies to compulsory registration of cats which would be useful to improve the quality of cat ownership to reduce the number of abandoned, unwanted cats. You can’t enforce it.
Daniela Dos Santos, senior vice-president of the British Veterinary Association is outspoken in her rejection of the plan. In some ways it is quite surprising to hear her being so vocal about it. She said about the plan that it is, “at best unworkable and at worst detrimental to animal welfare”. A very negative response. Reactionary really.
Initially I didn’t understand what she means by being detrimental to animal welfare. This is not fully explained in the news item that I’m reading. Micro-chipping is essentially beneficial to animal welfare because it reunites cat owners with their pets which can save lives and it keeps them out of shelters where life can be quite difficult for a cat.
Does Santos goes on to say, “Vets’ primary role must be in providing veterinary care for animals and they should not be put in the position of policing the law or untangling ownership disputes, which could result in people not seeking treatment.”
In her statement we can detect the tenuous reason why she thinks the plan is detrimental to cat welfare. She thinks that the number of disputes will increase and interfere with animal welfare. I disagree with that strongly because it is extremely rare for disputes to arise about cat ownership when a cat is micro-chipped. It does happen occasionally and animal shelters are often in the middle of the dispute. They struggle with privacy laws and feel nervous about disclosing the whereabouts of the cat who’s been adopted by a person who does not own the cat. It gets quite technical but I disagree with her on this.
The fact of the matter is that 99% of people agree to compulsory micro-chipping as per a survey run by Defra. And the respected cat shelter organisation, Cat Protection, agree that a microchip “gives a lost cat the best chance of being quickly reunited with their owner”.
Also, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home support compulsory micro-chipping. And their chief veterinary officer said that microchips were crucial in reuniting owners with lost or stolen pets. It’s common sense but so to recap: the big barrier to it is how to enforce mandatory micro-chipping and to get the veterinarians on side.
P.S. I expect Carrrie Symonds is behind this law as she is friendly with Lord Goldsmith the government’s animal welfare minister.