Microchipping: a year on

Today (6 April) marks one year since microchipping became mandatory for all dogs. Dog owners are responsible for chipping their dog and keeping their details on the chip up to date, or face hefty fines - as well as the likelihood of never being reunited with their beloved pet should he go missing or be stolen.

While the effects of the new law were generally positive, allowing more dogs to be quickly reunited with their owners, back in September Dogs Trust reported that 12 dogs were let down by outdated microchip details every day.

The problem has not yet been solved, according to Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. In the year since microchipping became compulsory the charity did see an almost ten percent increase in microchipped dogs among those who came in their care, but it still is not enough. Of the 934 strays who were brought in across their centres, only 480 were microchipped. And even then, not all of them could be reunited because the details were not up to date, making it impossible to trace the owners.  Of all microchipped dogs who arrived at Battersea since the law was introduced, only 44% were reunited with their owners.

Battersea’s Deputy Chief Executive, Peter Laurie, said, “It’s encouraging to see that more of the strays that come to Battersea are microchipped but there are still so many who aren’t. A microchip is the size of a grain of rice and is totally painless for an animal – there just isn’t a good reason not to get it done, especially now it’s been law for a year.

“By making a decision not to chip their pet or not keeping the chip’s details updated, the owner is gambling that their dog will never go missing. Unfortunately, dogs run away, escape and get stolen – it’s not worth the risk. It’s a simple procedure that could save both you and your pet from weeks of misery and distress.”

Another serious loophole in the microchipping legislation is that, while it is compulsory for owners to chip their dog and keep their details updated, there is no legal requirement for vet practices, shelters and pounds to routinely scan the dogs who are brought in their care: this fundamental action is regarded as "good practice" and nothing more. This has led to heartbreaking situations where dogs were adopted by new families, who only later found out the dog was chipped and already had a family who'd been looking for him.

Campaign group Vets Get Scanning has long been fighting to make it a legal requirement, and for the microchip to be recognised as proof of ownership, as it currently is not.

The issue of ownership is among the reasons why the RSPCA believes that a licensing scheme is needed to make up for the shortfalls of compulsory microchipping.

RSPCA dog welfare expert Sam Gaines says, "Compulsory microchipping was a move welcomed by the RSPCA ensuring lost, stolen or missing dogs can be reunited with their rightful owners more quickly which is obviously wonderful news. However, there are issues around people keeping their details updated and unfortunately, we are finding animals coming to our attention which are not microchipped.

"While we welcome compulsory microchipping and it is undoubtedly helping reunite dogs and owners, compliance and enforcement issues surrounding the compulsory microchipping legislation remain. There are also many issues which compulsory microchipping does not address and that is one reason why the RSPCA maintains its view that dog licensing is the right way to go."

Images by Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.