UK companion animal microchipping needs sorting out

UK – NEWS/OPINION: Companion animal microchipping is in a mess judging by the article written by Daniel Allen for The Conversation and it needs sorting out to be more effective. There are calls for compulsory cat microchipping. Sorting out outstanding issues should be dealt with at the same time.

UK microchipping needs improvement
UK microchipping needs improvement. Image (annotated and modified by PoC) from Facebook Adelaide Mobile Microchipping.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Too many databases and illegitimate databases

I was surprised to read that there are 13 microchip databases on the government list in the UK. As I understand it, they are independent of each other and are reluctant to work together to create a single, unified national database because they are commercial enterprises competing with each other.

However, there is a website called Microchip Central where you can search all the UK compliant microchip databases and identify which database your cat is on. This is not the same as one database.

There also appears to have been a scam operation. They have used the same name as the US registry: Pet Chip Registry. They are not a legitimate DEFRA database. DEFRA are aware of the business but they have moved off-shore to avoid trading standards who are investigating (as of March 2019). Please beware of this business which Google’s search engine lists.

Daniel Allen writes that there are other databases which don’t meet government standards. Google finds these too when people search for them which compounds the problem. Google has, in fact, been implicated in several examples of allegedly and inadvertently promoting illegal activity with their search engine. This is an area which also needs to be tightened up. It is about statutory regulation of the big online companies.

If you innocently use a database which is not legitimate you can be fined £500 and your cat’s microchip will scan as unregistered. The clear conclusion is that the situation regarding microchip databases needs tidying up.

Compulsory micochipping and compulsory scanning

There is also the issue of compulsory microchipping. From October 2020 microchipping will be compulsory for horses, ponies and donkeys. It has been compulsory for dogs since April 2016 in England and Wales. Is it time for compulsory cat microchipping? But if and when it happens the databases need to be improved and scanning needs to be compulsory.

Another weakness in the system in the UK is that although across-the-board microchipping will be compulsory one day there is currently no obligation for vets, local authorities and animal rescues to scan for a microchip.

There is also the issue of databases not being current. A lot of registered details are out-of-date as the owners have moved or ownership transferred. There is no obligation on professionals to contact registered keepers if they do not match the person possessing the companion animal.

Unfortunately microchipping appears not to curb animal theft. Since dog microchipping became mandatory dog theft has risen.

There is a campaign for equality between cats and dogs with respect to road deaths. Under the Road Traffic Act 1988 drivers have to report a collision with a dog but not for cats. This should be changed but the weaknesses in UK companion animal microchipping need to be eliminated at the same time. The system needs to be more robust if it is to work satisfactorily and cats and dogs reunited with their guardians.

Improving animal welfare

Compulsory microchipping has the ability to improve companion animal welfare too. It should help improve the standard of companion animal ‘ownership’ particularly with respect to miscreant dog ownership behavior.

Under an effective system it might also help if non-professionals i.e. ordinary ‘pet owners’ had the facility to scan for microchips in wandering cats. Cats often wander into people’s homes. Home owners would be able to contact the cat’s owner to discuss the matter. Currently you don’t know who owns the cat.

P.S. By contrast there appears to be centralised database in the US: Pet Chip Registry USA.

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