Oxfordshire Branch

Pet microchipping rules are soon changing

In September 2021, the government released the findings of the Pet Theft Task Force and their recommendations to tackle the issue of pet theft in the UK.

The taskforce was commissioned to:

  • Gather, research and commission work to build a clear evidence base on the scale of any issue
  • Consider the issue from end to end, including causes, prevention, reporting, enforcement and prosecution
  • Make clear and timely recommendations on ways to improve the situation around pet theft

The Metropolitan Police Service says that around 7 in 10 incidences of pet theft are involving dogs, so the majority of the key findings and recommendations are centred on dogs rather than other pets, however cats have been taken into consideration as well.

The key findings from the Pet Theft Task Force were:

  • Around 2,000 thefts of dogs were reported in England and Wales in 2020
  • It’s thought that an increase in demand for dogs as pets may have had a relatively small effect on the numbers of thefts
  • The emotional impact of pet theft is undeniable, causing trauma to both the owners and the pet
  • Assessing the psychological impact of pet theft is difficult, especially when companion animals are taken

The key conclusion was that reliable data on pet theft is limited, and ‘it is essential to address these data gaps as enhanced transparency is fundamental to supporting the police and the courts in dealing with this serious issue.Pet Theft Task Force Report

From the RSPCA’s point of view, we find it reassuring that the impact of pet theft on the owners emotional and psychological wellbeing have been officially recognised. However, we feel it is imperative that the recommendations are taken seriously during the government’s reform to pet microchipping consultation, to ensure these impacts are reduced by making pets safer and easier to track, and to bring perpetrators to justice as criminals.

The recommendations include:

  • Making ‘pet abduction’ an offence – this means recognising pets as more than mere objects in the eyes of the law
  • Identify pet theft cases separately to ‘burglary, robbery and theft’ to make identifying and tracking cases more reliable
  • Enhanced recording and transfer of ownership; making microchipping compulsory for cats (read Luna's story), more robust rules around notifying the database of new dog ownership, compulsory scanning of microchips during first vet visit, and bringing the databases in line with a unified protocol such as a single point of access.

There are further recommendations that can be seen in the report, above.

The cat and dog microchipping consultation

The government’s consultation closed the request for public feedback on 20 May 2022. The aim of the consultation was to make reuniting lost or stolen cats and dogs easier, and to improve breeder traceability. The government are currently analysing the feedback, which we are eagerly awaiting.

Until that time, the RSPCA urges all cat and dog owners to get their pets microchipped as soon as possible. Doing so gives them the best chance of being identified and returned to you if they are lost or stolen.

If your pets are already microchipped, are their details up to date? You should have received login details, including your secure password to your microchip database at the time of the procedure, however your vet can assist you to make the necessary amendments.

More information on microchipping can be found on the RSPCA advice page, ‘Microchipping your pet’, or if you would like to speak to someone at the Oxford branch about this topic, please phone 07887 475403 or email info@rspcaoxford.org.uk. Opening Times are 9am-5pm Mon-Sat (closed Sun).