Cat microchipping to be compulsory in the UK with a fine if you don’t

It’s reported today that the UK government plans to introduce compulsory micro-chipping for cats from next year with a fine of £500 for non-compliance. This has been planned for a long time and debated a lot. It is said that, in the UK, 26% of companion animals are not microchipped and that 80% of stray cats handed into shelters are un-chipped (Cats Protection). In comparison, when the micro-chipping of dogs was made compulsory in 2016, 9 million dogs were micro-chipped. However, please note that these are government plans and we know how government plans don’t always work out!

Pet microchipping
Pet microchip scanning. PIcture in public domain.
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A survey in America of 7,700 stray animals at animal shelters tells us that cats without microchips were reunited with their owners only 1.8% of the time. Microchipped cats were reunited far more successfully at 38.5% of the time (Lord et al. JAVMA, July 15, 2009). By comparison, incidentally, the success rate for dogs is considerably higher at 52.2%.

There are numerous stories on the internet of cats being reunited successfully because they are micro-chipped. These reunions have saved the cat’s life because often they are in jeopardy of being euthanised at shelters because of an inability to find a new home for the animal. In short, micro-chipping saves lives.

A nationwide consultation is about to take place to allow the government to hear from veterinarians and the public. I suspect that all parties would agree that microchipping is highly beneficial and therefore should be compulsory. However, please remember that it is not 100% safe. I wrote about this some years ago-click this link to read the article.

Peter Laurie of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home illustrates the problem with not micro-chipping your cat when he said, “Unfortunately we are often unable to trace their owners as they have either not been micro-chipped or the details on the chip are not up-to-date.”

We know that if you have a microchip it is important to ensure that the information it contains is current. One issue that I have is that micro-chipping is carried out by private companies by which I mean that it is not a public service run by a government agency which can lead to complications because businesses sometimes go bust or they change their names or they are sold and so on. This can interfere with access to the database in my opinion.

The UK’s animal welfare minister, Lord Goldsmith, wants compulsory micro-chipping to build on “our already world-leading animal welfare standards”. The government is going to have to work out how to carry out compulsory micro-chipping if it becomes law. Do the veterinarians police it? How do you enforce it? This is the big problem with compulsory micro-chipping.

I’m reminded of an Australian program to compulsory microchip in a much smaller area of the country that is proposed by the UK, which would be nationwide. The programme was not as successful as it might have been because of the difficulties of enforcement and a reluctance to microchip voluntarily.

Some people may have concerns about the health implications and we know that with vaccinations there are many people who are suspicious about putting things in bodies be it their own or their domestic cat companion’s. Despite these potential complications cat microchipping should be compulsory I believe.


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