Losing your dog or cat can be very traumatic and made worse if your pet is accidentally injured. Conscientious pet owners protect their pets with collars and ID tags but unfortunately, collars and ID tags are not fool proof. Collars can be removed, break or fall-off and leave your beloved pet among the countless, unidentified lost strays at animal shelters. However, this can easily be prevented with the use of microchips.
It is a legal requirement for dogs to wear a collar and tag as well as to be registered on a UK microchip database. This is because they are more likely than any other common domestic animal to cause problems. The regulation applies to all dogs older than 8 weeks which are not certified as a working dog. There is an exemption for working dogs, which extends the deadline for microchipping to 3 months.
This legislation was introduced to encourage owners to take responsibility for their pet and requires them to ensure that their details are recorded and kept up to date on an approved database such as Petlog.
A dog is only exempt from being microchipped if a vet certifies in writing that they cannot be microchipped for health reasons.
As well as being a legal requirement, microchipping has benefits – it can make all the difference in being reunited with your pet should they stray or go missing, and some chips contain sensors that can be used to check your dog’s temperature.
It’s a simple, safe and quick procedure that can be carried out by your vet. The grain of rice sized chip holds a unique 15-digit microchip code that will act as your pet’s identification. The microchip is placed under the skin between the shoulder blades using a special implanter. This is done without sedation or anaesthetic and should be no more painful than a standard injection such as a booster vaccine.
The vet will use a microchip assigned to a specific database such as Petlog or Anibase, and you will need to ensure your contact details are kept up to date on their records in the event your pet goes missing.
Many local organisations, authorities and animal charities, including some RSPCA branches, also offer microchipping programmes.
The cost of the implant will vary but typically vets charge around £15 while some charities and organisations will even offer free microchipping. You may also be charged by the database company to change or amend your records, for example if you move home.
If your dog isn’t registered on an approved database then you could be served with a notice ordering you to microchip your dog. Police and local authority employees will be able to use scanners to carry out on the spot checks and enforcement.
If your dog does not have a microchip fitted you will have 21 days to do so or you may be liable to pay a £500 fine and could face criminal prosecution.
If your contact details change and you don’t update your details on the database, then you could also receive a notice and may be liable to pay a fine of £500. All owner data is linked to the dog’s microchip and it’s also against the law to provide false information, or to not update it when a dog is given to a new owner or dies.
When your dog was microchipped, you should have been sent a confirmation letter or email including an ID or reference number as well as a microchip number.
If you know which database your pet is registered on, you can check your details are up-to-date by logging in online or calling them.
If you’re not sure whether your dog is microchipped, or don’t have the ID number, take him along to your local vet to have him scanned.
Your vet should be able to provide you with the microchip number, and you can then use an online chip checker to find out which one he’s registered with.
Microchipping a cat is not a legal requirement. That said, cats also tend to roam around a bit and can cause their owners a lot of unnecessary worry – which is why many cat owners choose to microchip their feline friends.
Microchipped cats have the same advantage as microchipped dogs. If they should turn up at a strange veterinary practice without their collar (if they even wear one), the vet can easily get hold of the owner via a scan.
So, unless you have a strictly indoor cat, getting them microchipped is always a good idea. A few pounds is a small price to pay for the peace of mind, knowing you’re highly likely to be reunited with your pet.