Microchip cats

RESPONSE TO A CALL FOR EVIDENCE ON COMPULSORY CAT MICROCHIPPING

This response is provided by the Microchip Trade Association. We represent the majority of the companies that supply microchips used for animal identification in the UK.
Question 1 : What are the advantages and disadvantages related to the compulsory microchipping of cats?
Advantages

Ability to identify cats killed due to RTA, so as to give closure to its owner.
Cats can regularly stray, especially when families move, so would help with reunification.
Should result in fewer cats being held in welfare as the reunification would be quicker, and so be less of a cost to rescues.
Should prevent unnecessary rehoming eg a cat getting rehomed before the original owner is found.
Microchipping is potentially more important with a cat than a dog as they generally don’t wear collars.
Health problems or poor breeding could be traced back to the breeder, if the onus is put on the breeder to have a microchip implanted and have it registered to themselves before selling.
Breeders/welfares remain in the animal history on a database and could more frequently take cats back if the owner can’t be found.
Identification for insurance purposes ensures the correct cat is covered under claims ie it could reduce fraudulent claims
Gives authenticity to breeders who comply.


Disadvantages
o Cats roam freely, sometimes even choosing more than one home, so it may not resolve ownership disputes.
o Owners would need to ensure their details are correct on the database which is proving difficult with dogs.
o Feral cats and community cats would be a problem. Who, if anyone, would take responsibility?
o Most responsible cat owners already microchip their cats, so how would this requirement be advertised to get to the owners who currently don’t chip their cats.
o There is patchy enforcement with dog microchipping, despite Councils being obligated to deal with stray dogs. So who would be responsible for enforcing cat microchipping and how would this be funded?
Question 2 : Do stray cats cause a public nuisance?
Cats are naturally free moving and as a general rule are not a public nuisance other than occasionally:-

To road users, or
Getting through other people’s cat flaps (although microchipped cat flap has aided this issue)
Question 3 : What would be the cost of introducing compulsory microchipping of cats for owners, local authorities and others?
Owners : There would be a modest fee in the region of £30 charged by implanters, which would also cover the first registration. Updating the database would be an additional cost, which varies depending on which database the microchip is registered on and also the level of service being purchased.
Local authorities : If they are to be expected to deal with enforcement, then this could be a considerable burden. However, we anticipate that there would be ‘light touch’ enforcement and so the emphasis would be on a compliance strategy ie the carrot rather than the stick approach. We believe it is about the benefits of compliance rather than the detriment of enforcement.
Rescues : This could actually save rescues money as they could rehome or reunite quicker. Clearly, this is a considerable welfare benefit as well.
Question 4 : What should happen to unowned (feral) cats and others where ownership is unclear (community cats) or where there may be a dispute on ownership?
Realistically, we can’t see that unowned (feral) cats would be microchipped. For community cats (where a cat may have several families that look after it) we also forsee they would be unmicrochipped. We believe that only owned cats should be microchipped and the Regulations should stipulate:-
That person is presumed to be the owner, and
If a cat is not microchipped it shall be presumed that the cat does not have an owner
By providing these incentives, we believe that owners are more likely to see the benefit of having their cat microchipped.
Question 5 : Should there be any exemptions for short term visits?
It should be the same as for dogs.
Question 6 : How could compulsory microchipping of cats be enforced?
There are two issues here:-
a) Who should enforce it? Realistically, we don’t believe there would be much enforcement because in the absence of a cat being a nuisance then it would be difficult to see how it could be in the public interest for public money to be spent on enforcement. Ideally, there should be provision for a Fixed Penalty Notice for non compliance as that could act as an incentive for Local Authorities and this would need to be set at an amount whereby Councils could recover the cost of enforcement.
b) Who should have the duty to get a cat implanted? Ideally, it would be nice to think that an ‘owner’ should be required to have their cat microchipped. However, this would depart from the model used in dog microchipping (where we look at the ‘keeper’) and in any event there is no one single piece of evidence that conclusively proves who owns a cat. Potentially, the duty could be placed on the person who has ‘responsibility’ for the cat, as this would use a term already used in the Animal Welfare Act 2006 but, to make sure that feral cats and community cats aren’t included, it could be expressly provided that this duty does not extend to cats which are living in a wild state. If a long lead-in time is provided for, then initially it could be a requirement that cats are microchipped prior to transfer and that the duty to update is placed on the seller – that way eventually all owned cats should become microchipped after a few years – and put the onus on the new owner to ensure that the details are kept up to date.

Question 7 : What obligations should be placed on databases, implanters & in cases of adverse reactions?
Control needs to remain over who can microchip any animal, cats are more difficult than dogs and require as much if not more training especially regarding handling. Should remain only vets, vet nurses and lay implanters trained by a DEFRA Approved provider (subject to grandfather rights for a period of time)
DEFRA left the databases with little guidance for dog microchipping. If that scheme was to continue to rely on database operators it needs some minor changes to the current legislation to help them achieve their goals:
Currently databases are not properly tested for compliance; this issue will be compounded if cats are added to the mix. E.g. 24/7 lost and found telephone number, GDPR compliance, strict procedures in place for change of keepership. Each compliant database could be asked to cover cost of their own compliance testing by an independent company and to sign up to a code of best practice so if they stop complying measures can be taken to enforce it. This should be checked on an annual basis.
Put the onus on the implanter to create first registration as this will minimise the number of unregistered microchips that have been implanted, currently still a big problem with dogs.

Clarification in the regulations that a microchip must only be registered on one compliant database in order to remove the issue of duplicate registration which causes issues with reunification.
Adverse reaction reporting, although the scheme is there and people are reporting, currently it is not believed that anything is done with the data collected or published in anyway.

Currently most compliant databases are doing their best. If the dog legislation was tightened, a Code of Practice put in place and checks introduced it would see all databases operating together to the same goal rather than just trying to take as many registrations as possible without keeping up the standards. (Work together not against each other, focusing on welfare and reunification)

Question 9 : What should be the most appropriate lead-in time?

It depends greatly on where responsibility to have cat microchipped lies. If it’s just on the initial seller (breeder), it would be quicker to roll out than placing the duty on all existing owners.
Question 10 : Do you have statistics on the number of cats already microchipped?
We don’t have access to any statistics of this nature
Question 11 : How should the Regulations be introduced?
Our preference would be to have separate cat Regulations which could be introduced under the power in the Animal Welfare Act 2006. If after the DEFRA review on the dog Regulations it was decided that changes should be made, then we see there could be merit in them being combined.
Question 12 : What exemptions should be available?
In line with dogs there should be an exemption if microchipping would be detrimental to health. The dog Regulations stipulate puppies must be microchipped by the age of 8 weeks of age (or on transfer if that is sooner), but we would suggest 12 weeks for kittens.
Question 13 : How should enforcement be funded?
It could be self-funding if it was enforced by Fixed Penalty Notices set at an appropriate level. What is perhaps more pressing is how to fund the education campaign that would be needed to initially bring this to the attention of cat owners. Perhaps there could be collaboration between DEFRA, Vets, Welfare and Compliant databases to get the message out there about the benefits of compliance.