Compulsary canine microchipping

Next week, on April 6th, it becomes a legal requirement to have your dog microchipped. The new law says that by 8 weeks old puppies must be chipped and owners who fail to do so will face a fine of up to £500 and possibly prosecution, although there is a 21-day grace period to get a microchip. Other animals aren’t affected; although it’s a very good idea to have your cat or rabbit microchipped, it’s not a legal necessity. For horses microchips are already required if the horse’s compulsory passport dates 2009 or later.

Pets at Home have a good description of what a microchip does on their website:

“A microchip is a very small electronic device, about the same size as a grain of rice, that is implanted under your pet’s skin. Every chip has a unique 15-digit number encased in a protective shell which is “read” using a special scanner. This protective shell helps to prevent the microchip from causing a reaction or moving around which can make it difficult to read. “

Microchips are injected under the skin using a needle, a process which must be done by a qualified person. In one practice I visited they preferred to do this on a puppy’s second vaccination visit as it can be slightly painful and bleed for a short period; waiting until their second vet visit helps to avoid dogs developing a fear of the vet. However, the momentary pain is a small price to pay for being able to go home after getting lost or stolen! Although commonplace now, the microchip has had a huge positive effect in helping pets find their way home. The RSPCA say that microchipping usually costs about £15 but many dog wardens are offering free chipping sessions ahead of the change in the law.

So how does a microchip work? Vets, rescue centres, dog wardens and the like can scan found animals with a handheld machine to find the 15-digit number from the chip. This will match an entry in one of several national databases where the owner’s address and contact details can be found. The biggest database is called PetLog, but PetTrac, Pet Protect and Anibase also store owner information. If you find or lose a pet, you can notify the database company to help get the pet home.

Obviously the databases rely on owners’ information being kept up to date and this is reflected in the new law. If your details change and you fail to update the database, you can also face the fine. Equally, if you rehome your pet it’s your responsibility to replace your details with the new owner’s. If you’ve forgotten which database you and your pets data is in you can use an online checker or it can usually be worked out from the prefix of the 15-digit code (written on the chip paperwork). If this has gone missing you can get the code read at the vets and go from there.

This is just one example of a change in the law which vets have to keep up with and play a part in educating their clients about. I’ll try to cover similar changes as they happen in future blog posts. Have a good week!


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