Any responsible dog owner will know that it is a legal requirement to identify your dog with a collar and tag, detailing your name and address. The majority of owners also choose to microchip their dogs. While microchipping is not currently compulsory in most of the UK, from April 2016 it will be mandatory for all dogs to be implanted with a microchip.
In fact it is possible to have almost any pet microchipped, if you so choose. It’s an added level of security for pet owners in case their pet is lost or stolen. It also provides a way of identifying pets that don’t generally like to wear collars such as cats, rabbits and reptiles.
While the law requiring dog microchips has largely been welcomed by the pet community, many owners feel that it is not enough. A number of petitions have popped up in the past few months that demand further changes, or alterations to the usual procedures of vets. The two most prominent are “Harvey’s Law” and “Vets Get Scanning”.
“Harvey’s Law” was instigated after a dog called Harvey was sadly struck by a vehicle just 21 minutes after escaping his home. His owners only found out about his unfortunate fate 13 weeks later. Disappointed and angry about the lack of communication and delay in notification, his owners have created a petition called “Harvey’s Law”. It calls for a change to the Highways Agency code to make scanning domestic animal remains for a microchip compulsory, and for a log report, including photographs, to be circulated to the Police and local Dog Wardens.
The petition’s creators and supporters hope that this will lead to pet owners being notified if their pets are killed in a collision, rather than being left in the dark indefinitely. The petition currently has 106,000 digital signatures, meaning that it will be considered for debate by the Backbench Business Committee. If you wish to sign it you can do so here.
The Network Management Manual, a Highways Agency policy document, outlines that staff must have access to a microchip scanner and be trained in its use. It also says that if a canine’s remains are found on the roadside without a legible ID tag, they must be scanned for a microchip and that “the identification process should go as far as is reasonable”. This means that employees of the Highways Agency should already scan remains as recommended by their code of best practice. However, it has been found that this procedure has actually been phased out in six areas and will no longer be common practice by July this year. Owners will have no system to rely on for finding out whether their pet has been killed on the roads.
Enforcing these measures through legislation, in other words making it a legal requirement to scan, log, and distribute information about remains, means pet owners can feel assured that everything possible will be done to notify them in case of a road traffic accident.
“Vets Get Scanning” is a broader appeal, asking for microchip scanning to become standard practice at vets and rescue centres, as well as when remains are found by railways or roadsides. These measures would increase the likelihood of owners being contacted if their pets are killed in a train or road collision. Not only that but it could deter criminals from stealing dogs, as they would get caught out if and when they took the dog to a vet. It would likely deter potential abandoners as they would be held accountable once the chip is found and they are identified by a vet or rehoming centre. As pet abandonment is, in fact, a crime this could mean it would be it easier for convictions to be made.
The “Vets Get Scanning” website details the story of Tia, who went missing in 2011. She ended up at a rehoming centre and subsequently was adopted, despite having an up-to-date microchip with her worried owners’ details on it. Tia’s owners only found out that their dog was alive and well when they received a call from the microchip database to tell them that her new owners wanted to update the microchip details! Despite Tia’s owners making it clear that they want their dog back, the new owners have refused and the case is now going to the Small Claims Court. Had the rescue centre scanned the dog on arrival and attempted to contact her owners in the first place, this could have been avoided.
When microchips work they are fantastic, and many happy pets are reunited with their owners because of this technology. With further measures put in place we could see even more success stories, and far fewer tragedies.