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Microchipping Your Pet

Dog microchipping has been compulsory since 2016 in UK territories (Northern Ireland 2012), and compulsory cat microchipping is coming soon.

However, there are some things you might not know about microchips.

What is a microchip and how does it work?
Dog microchipA microchip isn’t a tracking device, it’s a Radio Frequency Identification device (RFID), about the size of a grain of rice, programmed with a unique number and only activated when a microchip scanner passes over it. It must be implanted by a vet or qualified implanter.

Simple yes? But to reunite pets when they go missing, pet owners must ensure the microchip is registered correctly in their name and keep their details up-to-date.

When your pet is microchipped, details should be recorded on a Defra compliant database Puppies must be microchipped by 8 weeks old and registered in the breeder’s name (except in Northern Ireland) before being sold or transferred to a new keeper. So, if you get a new dog or puppy, you’ll need to transfer the microchip registration into your name. Don’t assume someone else has done it for you.

The person I got my dog from wasn’t a breeder, their dog’s only had one litter
The law doesn’t differentiate between licensed and accidental breeders. If you’re buying a puppy don’t just make sure you see “mum” but ask for evidence that the puppy is microchipped and registered to the person you’re buying it from. If they can’t provide it, walk away!

Why should I get my pet microchipped?
Besides any legal obligation, it’s the only way to ensure your pet can be easily identified and returned to you. Around 92% of dogs in the UK are microchipped, however, 69% of stray dogs can’t be reunited because the microchip is either not registered on an authorised microchip database or details aren’t up-to-date (source

Treat your pet’s registration as you would an insurance policy or bank account and update it whenever you change your phone number, email or address. Why overlook your furry family member?

microchipping dog

How do I find where my pet’s details are?
Check-a-chip which will guide you to the relevant database. All authorised UK databases are linked to Check-a-chip as well as having a similar feature on their own websites.

But beware! There are some unscrupulous, unauthorised databases advertised on search engines who just want your details and your money – they’re not what they claim to be. Organisations dealing with lost/found pets won’t look on these scam sites because they rely on the authorised databases to determine owner details. So, don’t just go to the top one on Google!

How do I check my pet’s chip is working and if my details are up-to-date?
There’s not much to go wrong with a microchip and whilst it’s not unheard of, failure is very rare. Have your pet’s microchip checked at its annual booster then log into the database your pet’s microchip is registered on and check your details are up-to-date.

Why do microchip databases charge for updating the microchip?
Authorised databases are required by law to have someone at the end of the phone 24/7/365 answering calls from those involved with lost/found pets, and contact you if your pet is found. There’s no government funding for this so don’t be surprised if you have to pay a few pounds to update information. Any databases that claim updates are free forever will still need to make money somehow!

My dog’s microchipped, why does it still need to wear a collar and tag?
It’s a legal requirement under The Control of Dogs Order 1992 for dogs to wear a collar and tag showing the owner’s name and address when in a public place. Whilst the engraving is specified within the Order, pet owners should consider carefully what information they need on there to balance their legal obligations whilst protecting their identity and property. This piece of legislation needs to be reviewed.

What about cats?
New legislation is being introduced for compulsory cat microchipping. Cats roam and can be found far from home, or a couple of doors down the road being fed because “it looked hungry”! The legislation will ensure microchipped cats can be reunited and if a cat is injured and needs veterinary treatment, the owner can be contacted.

The cat legislation will be slightly different; they’ll need to be microchipped by 20 weeks old and won’t need to be registered to the breeder first. It’s important for “indoor” cats to be microchipped too as you never know when they could get out of an open door or window and if they do, they may not know their way home and how would anyone know it’s your cat?

What about other pets?
It’s not just dog and cats that need to be microchipped; horses need a microchip to obtain a horse passport and certain tortoises need to be microchipped before they are bred from or sold on.

Whilst microchips are tiny, the benefits are huge. So, get your pet’s chip checked, ensure your details are up-to-date and don’t forget if anything changes, let the database know and have many happy years knowing your pet can be identified if need be.

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