Dr Samantha Gaines, head of the RSPCA’s companion animals department, said:
We believe compulsory microchipping is a step in the right direction and, if implemented effectively, could lead to significant benefits to dog owners and their pets – for example reuniting them more quickly if they become lost or stray.
A critical issue will be ensuring people keep their contact details and information up-to-date on the databases, for example if they change address, phone number etc. This has been a real challenge in the past.
Although compulsory microchipping is a positive scheme, it isn’t the answer to all dog issues such as attacks on people and other dogs.
The RSPCA would still prefer to see such a scheme built upon into an annual registration scheme in England, to provide the funding for the public sector to have the resources to enforce dog-related legislation and tackle irresponsible dog ownership more effectively.
What is microchipping?
Many pets can be microchipped including dogs, cats, rabbits and horses.
It’s a quick procedure where a vet inserts a tiny chip under the skin or in the neck for horses. Each chip has it’s own unique code. The animal can then be scanned and matched to the owner’s details which are held on individual databases, which are linked in with each other.
Why is it important?
Microchipping acts as an identification programme. Each chip has a unique number and each number is logged alongside the owner’s contact details. This means that if your dog goes missing or is stolen and is later found, he can be scanned and you can be contacted meaning it is easier to return him home. In order for this to work it’s essential for owners to update their contact details on the database, for example if they move house.
When does the compulsory microchipping law come into force?
From 6 April 2016, it will be a legal requirement to have your dog microchipped under the Microchipping of Dogs (England) Regulations 2015. Dog owners are expected to have their pets microchipped before 6 April.
As part of the new law, it will also be a requirement for keepers and breeders to keep their registered details up-to-date. This includes if you move house or change your telephone number.
What age do puppies need to be microchipped?
Any dog over the age of eight weeks will be legally required to be microchipped and registered to an approved database by 6 April. It is up to the breeder to microchip the animal and for each subsequent new owner to ensure the details have been changed and are up-to-date.
A dog is only exempt from being microchipped if a vet certifies in writing that it cannot be microchipped for health reasons.
Who enforces the new law?
The new law will be enforced by local authorities or anyone authorised in writing by a local authority, police and police community support officers. From 6 April, dogs that come to the attention of authorities will be scanned.
Will the RSPCA be enforcing the new law?
No, as it is a statutory requirement of local authorities to look after stray animals, but the RSPCA do scan every animal that comes into our care and will be using the new law in our enforcement work as it clearly links an animal with an owner who is responsible for his/her welfare.
What happens if I don’t get my dog microchipped?
If your dog is not microchipped and/or is not registered on an approved database then you could be served with a notice ordering you to microchip your dog. You 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 do not update your details on the database, then you could also receive a notice and may be liable to pay a fine of £500.
Where can I go to get my dog microchipped?
You should contact your local vets to arrange for your dog to be microchipped. The vet will use a microchip assigned to a specific database, such as www.petlog.org.uk or www.anibase.com, and you must then ensure that your latest contact details are registered on the database.
Some local animal charities and organisations also offer microchipping programmes, as do some local authorities.
How much does it cost?
The price of microchipping your dog can vary from place to place. Some animal charities and organisations offer free microchipping and vets can charge around £15, although some may be cheaper or pricier.
I’m selling my dog to someone else, what do I do?
Before selling a dog or giving him/her away to a new owner, you must microchip the dog and it is recommended that you also register the details of the new owner on the database. The new keeper is responsible for ensuring their contact details are registered.
I’m buying a puppy from a breeder, will it be microchipped?
All dog breeders are responsible for ensuring puppies are microchipped before selling them. Puppies must be microchipped by the time they are eight-weeks-old. Puppies cannot be sold until they are eight weeks old. Breeders must also register their details online to be recorded against the microchip for the life of the dog.
In these Regulations, a person is considered to be a ‘breeder’ if they are the keeper of a dog which gives birth, whether or not they carry on a business as a breeder of dogs.
How can I find out if my dog is microchipped or if my details are up-to-date?
If your dog is microchipped you should have 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, you can contact the database team over the phone.
To find out if your dog is microchipped, or to find out the microchip number, take him along to your local vet and have him scanned. Once you have the microchip number, you can use a chip checked online to find out who he is registered with.
What if my dog’s microchip doesn’t work properly?
Microchips are designed to cover the dog’s lifespan but occasionally they fail to work.
Anyone who finds that an implanted microchip has migrated (moved), failed, or cause an adverse reaction in the animal, must report it to the microchip adverse event reporting scheme run by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate.
What if a puppy has been imported? Will these microchips work?
All microchips inserted in the EU should be compatible and should work, if the puppy is legally imported, and the details accessed through the European databases. However, occasionally a puppy will have a microchip that is not readable. You will need to have the dog microchipped within 30 days of importing if this is the case.
Why does the RSPCA want dog licensing in England if a microchip registers a dog anyway?
A dog microchip is a step forward in linking the dog to its owner and should help reunite lost animals with their families, but an annual dog licence would generate money that could be used to help improve dog welfare and would engender greater responsibility towards the dog from the owner as it would have to be renewed annually like your car tax.
What is the law now?
At the moment, in England, it’s a legal requirement for dogs to wear a collar with the name and address of their owner on and that won’t change, but there’s no requirement for dogs to be microchipped. We do strongly recommend getting pets microchipped anyway as it gives owners the best chance of being reunited with their pets if they’re lost or stolen.
How many dogs are currently microchipped?
The latest animal wellbeing report from PDSA suggests that 83% of dogs are currently microchipped¹.
¹ PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report 2015 page 12 www.pdsa.org.uk/get-involved/our-current-campaigns/pdsa-animal-wellbeing-report