AS ALL SMALL ANIMAL VETS AND NURSES SURELY KNOW, from 6th April it will become compulsory for all dogs to be microchipped.
Most responsible dog owners would have already done this and there are good reasons to do so – reuniting a lost pet being the main reason I have my pets microchipped. But what does this legislation mean for us veterinary nurses working in practice?
Well, it will mean more wriggly puppies coming in for chipping as the law is for all dogs to be chipped by the time they are eight weeks old (there are exceptions for working dogs, having the time extended to 12 weeks – dogs having their tails docked must be chipped by either a vet or RVN).
It may be due to this that we start using more mini-chips that have smaller needles and which are therefore easier to use on Chihuahuas and other toy breeds.
The breeder must also be registered as the puppy’s first owner rather than the person who purchases the puppy registering first, so no handing over forms for the breeder to input the new owner’s details. Presumably this will also be the case with rescues and previously unchipped dogs.
It has been left up to the databases to set their own charges for changing details. If a vet deems that a dog cannot be chipped due to health reasons, a form approved by the secretary of state should be completed.
Vets will be required to report any adverse reactions to microchips and also report any migrated chips or failed chips to the VMD. What vets are not required to do is enforce the system or to scan all animals coming into their practices.
There has, however, been a petition asking for vets to scan all dogs coming into the practice and an online campaign, but this would be completely impractical. A staff member would have to be dedicated to checking details on databases and then the logistics of dealing with the inevitable issues that would arise as well as the data protection mine field would be as cost-prohibitive for vets as I suspect it would be for the local authority staff and police to randomly scan pets.
It should be good practice already to scan animals in to be chipped before implanting to make sure an existing chip is not already in place, as would scanning at booster appointments (definitely a requirement if a rabies vaccination for a passport!) to make sure chips are still working and checking for migration of chips.
It will be an offence to not have your dog microchipped and also for not updating your details with the database if you move. The microchip, however, is not a proof of ownership, only that the registered owner is the keeper of that dog.
If a dog is not chipped the owner can be served with a notice and then has 21 days to comply. If this is not done then a £500 fine is applied. The regulations are breached if contact and/or address details are not updated and again a notice would be served and the keeper would have 21 days to comply before the fine is applied.
If a dog is sold or rehomed, the previous keeper is responsible for updating the new keeper’s details.
An end to the frustration?
This should all help us out when the stray dog is brought into the practice, as it will help rescue centres and charities. We all know the frustration of a dog not being chipped, or being chipped but the contact details being out of date. However, will this new legislation really cut the mustard?
It shouldn’t be forgotten that under The Control of Dogs Order 1992 a dog should wear a collar with the name, address and postcode of the keeper engraved on it or on a tag when the dog is in a public place. The new microchip law does not negate this, but how many people comply?
I have an ID tag on my dog but it doesn’t have that information – I have mine and my partner’s telephone number on it and my vet’s number. I knew that I was required to have an ID tag on my dog but until I researched this article I didn’t know I wasn’t compliant… and there are many dogs out there in public places with no identification on collars.
Local authority employees and the police will be responsible for enforcing the microchipping law. We will have to wait and see how effective this will be and whether already stretched local authorities can enforce the law.
My idealistic mind hopes that puppy farms and unscrupulous breeders are put off breeding, that we can reunite every stray dog that comes through our doors and abandoning and abusing dogs will be a thing of the past, but I doubt it.
What about all those puppies coming through from mainland Europe? Many of these puppies come into the UK illegally on false passports. But I guess we have to try to deal with our own country first so it can only be a step in the right direction.
Guidelines on the new legislation can be found at the RCVS website including a useful ow chart as to how to deal with data protection and suspected stolen animals or disputed ownership.