The British government has laid a draft statutory instrument before Parliament that would, for the first time, require domestic cats in England to have a microchip. The Microchipping of Cats and Dogs Regulations will take effect on June 10, 2024, if they receive parliamentary approval. The microchipping of dogs has been required since February 2, 2015.
The new draft regulations have been made under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and provide that those responsible for keeping cats older than 20 weeks and dogs older than 8 weeks (other than certified working dogs) must ensure that the animals are microchipped. The only exceptions to the regulations are for service dogs, or animals that a veterinarian certifies should not be microchipped “for reasons relating to the health of the animal,” with the period that the animal is unfit to be microchipped to be specified. (Microchipping of Cats and Dogs Regulations reg. 3.)
The standards established for these microchips require that they have a unique number containing the manufacturer’s code and include the following information:
(a) the full name and address of the keeper;
(b) if the keeper is also the breeder of that dog, that fact;
(c) if the keeper is the breeder of that dog and is licensed by a local authority under regulation 4 of the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018(6)—
(i) the breeder’s licence number; and
(ii) the name of the local authority which issued the licence;
(d) the original name or identification number given to the cat or the dog;
(e) the contact telephone number (if any) for the keeper;
(f) any other name given to the cat or the dog by the keeper if that name is different to the cat or dog’s original name;
(g) the sex of the cat or dog;
(h) the breed of the cat or dog, or a description if it is a cross-breed;
(i) the colour of the cat or the dog;
(j) the date of birth of the cat or dog to the best of the keeper’s knowledge;
(k) the unique number of the microchip implanted in the cat or dog. (Regs. 5, 6.)
Operators of databases holding information from the microchips must have sufficient capacity to both store and retrieve the details held above and back up this data at a secure off-site facility daily. The database operator is further required to have a system available at all times to answer the telephone and respond to online requests for information held on the database. The operator must also provide information to the keeper of the cat or dog and have a system in place to identify whether a person is authorized to receive information held in the database. (Reg. 7.)
Cats and dogs may not be transferred to new owners unless they have been microchipped in accordance with the draft regulations, or have a veterinary certificate stating they should not be microchipped for health reasons. The new owner must update the database with their full name, address, and contact telephone number, along with any changes to the cat’s or dog’s name in the database. (Reg. 9.)
Microchips may be implanted only by a veterinary surgeon; veterinary nurse, student veterinarian, or student veterinary nurse acting under the direction of a veterinary surgeon; person who has been “satisfactorily assessed on a training course approved by the Secretary of State” after the regulations enter into force or has “received training in implantation which included practical experience of implanting a microchip” before the regulations requiring the implantation of microchips entered into force. (Reg. 10.)
A person authorized by the regulations may, with written authorization, take possession of a cat or dog without the owner’s consent to determine if it has been microchipped. If the cat or dog does not have a microchip, the authorized person may serve notice on the keeper requiring them to microchip the animal within 21 days or, if the owner fails to comply with the notice, take steps to arrange for the animal to be microchipped without consent and recover any costs incurred during these actions. Failing to comply with a notice served under this regulation, or otherwise obstruct the authorized person, is an offense, punishable by a fine of up to 500 pounds sterling (£) (about US$620). (Regs. 13 & 14.)
The regulations contain other offenses that include failing to microchip a cat 20 weeks or older or a dog 8 weeks or older before transferring ownership, failing to report adverse reactions or failure of a microchip to the secretary of state, and failing to meet the standards for implanting a microchip. These offenses are punishable by a fine of up to £500 (about US$620). It is an offense for a database operator to fail to respond to a notice from the secretary of state to give information and is punishable by a fine of up to £2,500 (about US$3,100). (Reg. 14.)
These regulations fulfil an election manifesto pledge from the Conservative Party government and form part of the government’s Action Plan for Animal Welfare. The proposal received overwhelming public support, with 99% of respondents to a public consultation backing the measures. It is anticipated that out of the approximately nine million pet cats in England, 2.3 million are not yet microchipped and will have to be so to comply with the regulations.
The regulations are subject to the affirmative procedure and must be approved by a resolution from each house of Parliament before they enter into force.
Clare Feikert-Ahalt, Law Library of Congress
May 24, 2023
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