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Microchips - is your pet’s up to date?

Most of you will probably remember the push we made last year to ensure that all of our clients’ dogs were microchipped to comply with the new law. However, getting a chip inserted isn’t the end of the story! In this blog, we’ll quickly recap the law, look at how microchips work, and then explain what you need to do now - even if your pets are chipped.

Informative image: scanning

What does the law say about microchips?

Since April 2016, it has been a criminal offence for a dog to be without a microchip that is linked to the owners details on a government-recognised database (remember this last bit, it’ll be important in a moment!).

If a dog is found by the police or trading standards officers not to have a microchip, the owner could be fined £500 (and be made to pay for a new one). The only exceptions are for small puppies still with their mothers (although they must be chipped by 8 weeks of age) and dogs with a veterinary certificate to the effect that microchipping would be medically dangerous for them (microchipping is so safe there are very, very few cases where a vet would issue such a certificate).

What about cats and other pets?

There is no legal requirement for cats and other small pets to be microchipped, although it really is a good idea (see below!). Interestingly, the only other species where a chip is a legal requirement is the horse, where all horses under a certain cut-off age (a date of birth in 2009 or later) must have one implanted and the number recorded in their horse passport.

What are the advantages of microchipping?

Well, if you own a dog (or a horse!) you can avoid a hefty fine. However, there are more practical reasons too - if your pet ever wanders off or goes missing, all vets’ practices, animal rescue centres and dog wardens have, or have access to, chip readers. They can scan your wayward pet and reunite the two of you.

How can I track my pet using their microchip?

This is a really common question - but you can’t, the chip doesn’t work like that. To contain (and power) a GPS transponder (which some people think the chip contains) the device would have to be much, much bigger than a grain of rice - and it’s very unlikely that any battery could be inserted into a pet that would last for the 10-15 years of an average dog’s lifespan.

I read somewhere that microchips emit radio waves like mobile phones - can they cause cancer?

Basically, no - because they are passive devices, they do not generate any form of energy or radiation. Even if they did, the amount of energy is so low (much, much weaker than a mobile phone or bluetooth headset, for instance) that there is no evidence that it could cause any harm.

So how do they work?

Basically, the same way as a contactless payment card. The microchip (the name is a bit misleading, actually) contains what is called a RFID tag (radio frequency identification). This is a passive metal structure, concealed inside a glass or plastic outer casing. Although the chip doesn’t actively generate radio waves, when the pet is scanned, the reader does emit very low energy, very short range, radio emissions. When these radio waves hit the tag inside the chip, they are absorbed and re-emitted (essentially, reflected by it) but modified into a different pattern, which codes for a specific number. The reader then detects this code and displays the number.

So they don’t actually contain my pet’s name or address?

No - just a unique number.

So how is that linked to me?

That’s the really, really important thing to remember - inserting the microchip is only half the job done! You need to register that microchip with one of the national databases (each chip is coded for one of them), and tell them which number is associated with which pet and, crucially, which owner.

What if I rehome or adopt a dog, or move house?

Then you must contact the database company and update the details they have stored.

What if I don’t update the details?

Then if your pet goes missing, they will probably stay missing - there may be no way to reunite you because the details the chip number is linked to won’t be up to date. They may direct your pet’s finders to an old owner, or even to a new householder, but not to you.

The bottom line - get your pets chipped and then make sure you update the database! If you want to know more, pop in and have a chat with one of our staff.