Compulsory scanning of microchips has become an increasingly prominent issue within the animal welfare sector. A number of high-profile public petitions relating to compulsory scanning have received extensive support and demonstrate clear public interest in this issue.
Current legislation, guidance and recommendations
Whilst microchipping has been compulsory for dogs in England, Scotland and Wales since 2016, there are currently no legal requirements for veterinarians, local authorities or highways agencies to scan dogs or cats in any circumstance. In May 2020, the UK Government announced it was considering scanning requirements as part of the ongoing post-implementation review of the microchipping regulations.
British Veterinary Association recommendations
The British Veterinary Association’s (BVA) guidance recommends that an animal should be scanned for the presence of a microchip when admitted for treatment ‘if considered appropriate’. The BVA also newly recommends scanning before euthanasia and in other circumstances, including: prior to microchip implantation; on first presentation at the practice; on presentation of a lost, stray or seemingly unowned animal; annually as routine; and on admission for treatment or hospitalisation. It currently does not recommend compulsory scanning of all dogs at every presentation, highlighting that this would misunderstand both the powers of veterinarians and poses potential welfare harms to both animals and humans.
Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons guidance
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has highlighted that veterinarians are currently not obliged to scan microchips prior to euthanasia nor confirm that the person presenting the animal and signing the consent to euthanasia form is registered on the microchip as the animal’s keeper. Where there is an ownership dispute or an animal is suspected stolen, veterinarians are expected to follow the RCVS client confidentiality and microchipped animals flowchart.
Tuk’s Law would ensure that no healthy or treatable pet can be euthanised by a vet without having its microchip scanned first and that no dog can be destroyed without the expressed permission of its registered keeper. The law would also ensure that all other options of rehousing a healthy or treatable pet have been exhausted before euthanasia.
The Kennel Club’s position
We support the principles of scanning before euthanasia, which will ensure that no healthy or otherwise treatable pet is euthanised without having its microchip scanned and its keeper alerted.
We hope that scanning before euthanasia will ensure that owners are aware and reminded of all available options, such as ensuring dogs with rescue back-up details are returned to rescue centres or their back-up contact prior to euthanasia. There may be some situations in which this would not be considered appropriate or in the dog’s best interest: in circumstances where this is genuinely the case, the veterinarian’s discretion must come into effect.
The Kennel Club Breed Rescue organisations rehome approximately 10,000 dogs each year and the Kennel Club supports such organisations by publishing a directory of the many breed rescue organisations that exist around the UK. The Kennel Club’s Assured Breeder Scheme allows those seeking to buy a puppy to do so in a responsible way. In order to obtain the accreditation, breeders must commit to help – if necessary – with the rehoming of any dog that they breed within the scheme, throughout the dog’s lifetime and for any reason. This measure is in place specifically to prevent the euthanasia of an otherwise healthy pedigree dog.
Proposed to apply to cats only, Gizmo’s Law would make it a legal requirement for all local authorities to scan a microchip of a deceased cat in order to return it to the registered keeper and to notify Deceased Cats UK when a deceased cat is discovered without a microchip in order for them to reunite the animal with its keeper. Gizmo’s Law has been proposed alongside Tuk’s Law as part of a joint Bill brought forward by James Daly MP.
The Kennel Club’s position
We support the proposal to make it a legal requirement for all local authorities to scan a microchip of a deceased cat and urge this requirement to also be extended to dogs. It is our hope that, upon discovery of a deceased dog, local authorities would be legally obliged to scan its microchip in order to alert the registered keeper of the dog’s death.
The petition calls on the Government to enact legislation to make scanning an animal’s microchip compulsory upon first presentation at a veterinary surgery and/or during the pet’s annual check-up.
The Kennel Club’s position
We are supportive of the provisions laid out in Fern’s Law, which would mandate compulsory scanning upon first presentation at a veterinary surgery and on an annual basis. Such measures are important to ensure that lost or stolen dogs have a higher chance of being reunited with their keepers. Additionally, it will make sure the microchip is still working and has not migrated significantly.
The Kennel Club’s position
The Kennel Club recognises that a number of databases are not compliant with regulatory requirements and that in general there are lots of databases in the market which can be confusing. Whilst Petlog would comply with having to share information on a joined up service, we believe that a single database raises a number of concerns: for example, it would impact competition in the market and is likely to result in price increases for pet owners and a lack of innovation. To address concerns regarding non-compliant databases, we would welcome compliance auditing of all databases by a relevant governmental body. This would ensure that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), for example, is continuously monitoring the activity and service of databases in its jurisdiction and updating its list of compliant databases as necessary.
It is legally required, however, that microchips are registered with databases that comply with all relevant regulations, such as Petlog, which play an instrumental role in reuniting owners and their pets in the event of loss or theft. It is worth noting that Petlog typically receives more calls regarding dogs being found than calls to alert the database of a lost dog: for example, between January and September 2020, there was a total of 7,698 calls reporting lost dogs versus 12,011 calls reporting found dogs. This suggests that the current system is working effectively and reuniting dogs with their keepers before they even recognise that their dog is missing.
Further to this, the Petlog database currently holds the details of the previous keeper of the animal and any rescue details even after the pet has been transferred. This ensures that a more detailed background history of the animal – including where a pet has been and how many keepers it has previously had – is easily accessible to veterinarians or keepers contacting the database in the event of an emergency, for example.
We do not support compulsory scanning at every appointment for the reasons highlighted above by the BVA and because scanning and checking the relevant database can be time consuming, and may be unlikely to be completed in a meaningful way if required during every visit to the veterinary surgery. This could have a number of unintended consequences for animals and their owners, such as a reduced number of available appointments and increased costs for owners to burden. We would like to see greater adoption of technological advances, such as the Halo Scanner, which can scan a microchip and automatically flag a lost or stolen animal within eight seconds. This would make the process both quicker and easier for veterinarians.
It is also worth noting that veterinarians already play a key role in helping to reunite lost or stolen animals with their owners. The BVA advises veterinarians to exercise their professional judgement, based on the information available, when choosing whether to scan for a microchip. It is important that veterinarians continue to operate within their powers and follow best practice guidelines regarding scanning. They cannot seize or hold a dog suspected as stolen, nor can they share confidential ownership information; however, they can scan on first presentation at the practice to ensure dogs are microchipped and contact details are up to date. It is essential that the health and welfare needs of the dog are put front and centre of any changes to and application of microchipping legislation.
If there is an issue you feel strongly about, write a letter to your parliamentary representative lending your support to one of our many campaigns and letting them know how they can help. Your emails and letters don't need to be long, in fact, the shorter the better as politicians are very busy. By doing this you will be playing your part in keeping the welfare of dogs on the political agenda.
Our guide to letter writing
While we know that it is much easier simply to copy a letter and send it off, your parliamentary representative is far more likely to take notice if you write your own letter. Use the guideline below to draft your own letter:
[YOUR HOUSE NUMBER AND STREET]
[NAME OF POLITICIAN]
[PARLIAMENT OR ASSEMBLY ADDRESS]
Paragraph 1: Why you are writing
The first paragraph of your letter should always introduce your concerns to your parliamentary representative. For example:
‘I am writing to you regarding the issue of [INSERT TOPIC], to ask that you support The Kennel Club’s campaign to...’
(This information can be found on the relevant campaign page of our website.)
Paragraph 2: What you want to change
Each of the campaign’s pages on The Kennel Club’s website outlines the organisation’s official position and what is being done to try and push for change. This information can act as a guideline for telling your parliamentary representative how existing legislation needs to be amended.
If you are writing to request that your parliamentary representative support The Kennel Club on a specific issue, you may wish to use something along the lines of the following wording as an introduction to the paragraph:
‘The Kennel Club acts as a voice for thousands of dog owners across the United Kingdom. Supported by its vast expertise and experience on dog-related matters, The Kennel Club is proposing the following…’
…then write a bullet-point list into your letter.
Paragraph 3: Why these changes are necessary
Providing politicians with evidence will demonstrate that your concerns are valid. Use facts and figures to support your argument, and describe any personal experiences that you may have had to make your case even more powerful.
Paragraph 4: Action points
Tell your parliamentary representative the line of action that you wish them to take on this matter. This could be taking the matter up with their party, raising the issue in parliament, signing an EDM or supporting a specific Bill. If you are unsure what to write in this paragraph, contact The Kennel Club's public affairs team for advice.
Paragraph 5: Signing off
Request a reply. You may also wish to arrange a face-to-face meeting to discuss the issue further. Then all that is left to do is sign off:
‘I look forward to hearing from you.
[INSERT YOUR NAME]’
Once you have received a reply
To help keep us up-to-date on which politicians are aware/supportive of our campaigns, please photocopy or summarise the response you receive and send it to us by email or by post to: The Kennel Club Public Affairs, 1-5 Clarges Street, Piccadilly, London, W1J 8AB.
If your parliamentary representative has agreed to meet with you, read our guide to a successful meeting with parliamentary representatives below.
Our guide to a successful meeting with parliamentary representatives
Most parliamentary representatives hold surgeries where constituents can meet them face to face. Sometimes notices of surgeries appear in local newspapers, but if not you can contact your MP, MSP, AM or MLA’s office directly to book your appointment in advance.
Five steps to success
- Preparation is key. Make a list of questions/topic areas that you want to discuss with your parliamentary representative. Go armed with facts and figures to support your argument. You should also take a notepad and pen to write down any important points for reference
- Be direct. Introduce yourself and what you are there to discuss. State your concerns clearly, countering any opposing points that they may make. Do not become emotional – you will make a stronger argument by being calm and reasonable throughout
- Listen and respond constructively. Once you have made your position, allow your MP/MSP/AM/MLA to present you with his/hers. Listen carefully for areas of agreement and disagreement, always be positive and try to ask questions that will probe their personal viewpoint rather than that of their party
- Be aware of time. Stick to the issue and try not to get sidetracked into general debate - you will have a limited amount of time with him/her and it is important to make sure you get across all the points you wish to make
- At the end of the meeting and beyond… Thank them for the meeting, summarise your discussion and outline the steps you can take going forward. Let them know that they can contact you in the future to discuss the issue further.
For further information or advice, please contact The Kennel Club public affairs department on 020 7518 1020 or by email.