In April 2018, Defra updated the Code of Practice for the welfare of cats (the Code) for England with the collaboration of Cats Protection and others. They now wish to make the microchipping of cats compulsory.
In 2019 the UK Government requested Defra gain evidence for compulsory microchipping it ran for 12 weeks from the 12th of October 2019 to the 4th of January 2020.
Defra received 3,140 responses from cat welfare organisations, rescue and rehoming centres, cat charities and members of the public.
3,118 (99%) agreed with compulsory cat microchipping and 22 (1%) disagreed.
There were thirteen key questions asked.
Evidence question 1
– advantages & disadvantages of cat microchipping
Many agreed that reuniting lost cats the biggest advantage to compulsory cat microchipping. With a reduced burden on rescue centres.
There was a concern that the enforcement of the legislation given local authority resource constraints. Elderly owners or those with a disability may also be disadvantaged in terms of accessing information on microchipping requirements. This could be mitigated by better communications to raise public awareness.
Evidence question 2
– the impact of stray cats
Most agreed that stray cats are less of a nuisance than stray dogs. Cats roam freely, as is their nature, and include feral or community cats, fed by various homes. Data from the Blue Cross shows that it is not uncommon for owned cats to be presented as strays. It is believed caring for strays will decrease if compulsory microchipping is introduced as some may not want to take on the full responsibility of caring for the cat.
Evidence question 3
– costs of compulsory microchipping
There were three sections to the cost involved. The actual chip, the cost of having it implanrted and the cost of registering it with a database company (around £15).
Some felt the costs would be negligible compared to the overall costs of cat ownership and felt that pet owners should be fined for not microchipping their pets. However, it was also felt that the government should help with the costs where needed e.g. for those in financial hardship.
Cats can have more than one person who consider that they own them, and there is a risk that databases could spend a considerable amount of time trying to resolve such disputes.
Evidence question 4
– feral cats
Cats charities have a well established Trap, Neuter and Release processes for feral cats. All TNR cats are ear tipped to show they have been neutered and are not owned. The charities feel that is sufficient identification and not need microchipping.
Evidence question 5
– exemptions for non-resident cats
Imported dogs remaining in England have to be registered on a microchip database within 30 days of entering the country. Most felt that cats should have the same rules.
It was suggested that all visiting animals should be logged on a temporary register as part of the compliance for admission into the UK, requiring owners to keep details updated.
This would track visiting animals and preventing illegal imports.
Evidence question 6
– enforcement arrangements
Most felt that local authorities would not be able to enforce cat microchipping effectively due to lack of resources, and felt the need for government funding. Local authorities need more equipment to scan for microchips in stray or deceased cats. Most supported the use of Fixed Penalty Notices.
Evidence question 7
– should any scheme build on the existing legal requirements for dog microchipping
This question concerned additional legal requirements placed on database operators, who can implant microchips and the adverse reaction reporting procedure under the 2015 Regulations.
Most felt databases should also record the contact details of the animal’s veterinary practice.
Some felt that there should be stronger enforcement, increased inspection and random checks to ensure databases are complying with the regulations.
Evidence question 8
– dealing with the database companies
Many felt that one centralised database would offer the best solution and it should also hold animal health and vaccination records.
Some suggested that database companies should contact the registered keeper before they remove any “missing alert” or change details.
They considered that if the database system was mandatory then owners needed to be able to update the database free of charge.
Many organisation noted that the government should take a more active role in the compliance and the long term financial viability of databases.
To help tackle the number of unregistered microchips caused by some owners/breeders failing to register their newly acquired dogs/puppies, the Microchip Trade Association (MTA) considered that the regulations need to clarify that a microchip could only be registered on one compliant database and that the implanter should be responsible for the initial registration.
Evidence question 9
– transitional period for legislative compliance
Most agreed that 12 months would be a suitable timescale, in line with the period when compulsory dog microchipping was introduced. There should be a campaign to educate and inform the public.
Evidence question 10
– figures for microchipping uptake
Using 2019 data from the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), the estimated numbers of cats in England is 9.1 million.
Of these 6.6 million (73%) are microchipped
This leaves 2.5 million (27%) of owned cats not microchipped in England.
Evidence question 11
– preferred vehicle for implementing new legislation
Most want separate legislation for cat microchipping as in their view the requirements for cats need to differ from those for dogs.
Most want compulsory cat microchipping to take place at 16 weeks of age, unless there is a medical reason not to do so. This would allow kittens to be sufficiently well grown for the procedure, which would then most likely be carried out at the same time as neutering.
For cats handed in to rescue centres, most wanted a presumption of non-ownership to apply after seven days. The cats could then be rehomed quickly in order to avoid lengthy stays in catteries or rescue centres.
Evidence question 12
– possible exemptions
Most agreed that the current health exemptions applying to dogs and felt the same should be applied to cats.
Evidence question 13
– funding sources for enforcement of new legislation
Most said that enforcement should be funded by the local authorities, Central Government and income from FPNs.
It was agreed that there should be an awareness campaign.
Defra hopes that compulsory microchipping in cats will become law in early 2021