Pets go missing from home for a whole variety of reasons and stray animals are usually picked up by members of the public, then passed on to the local animal wardens, animal charities or taken to the veterinary surgery if they are injured. If they cannot be identified by means of a microchip or id tag, sadly they may never be reunited with their owners and often end up in rescue centers to be re-homed, or even put to sleep if there is no room for them or they are ill.
Every year in the UK, animal welfare organisations estimate that thousands of pets go missing and that only just over half of these pets are ever reunited with their owners because there is no way of knowing who they belong to.
Dogs Trust reported that the number of stray dogs taken in last year was 56,043! . According to the Dogs Trust Stray Dog Survey 2018, only 57% of these dogs were reunited with their owners and of these, only 35% were microchipped. Sadly many of the stray dogs were not reunited with their families because they either had no microchip or the contact details for the owner were not up to date so they could not be contacted.
The RSPCA reported figures released in 2017 show that 5,647 cats were taken in by RSPCA centres in England and Wales during 2017 (many more will have been taken in by other rescue centres). However, a staggering 4,896 of these did not have a microchip at all and, of those that did, many had out-of-date contact details, which makes it extremely difficult to reunite pets and owners.
Animal Search UK reports that they have between 20 and 100 missing and found pets registered with them every day!
Some of the most common reasons pets go missing are
- Hormone related – Male animals wander off after scenting a female in season, or females in season wander off to find a mate.
- Fear – Animals may run off after hearing a particularly loud and scary noise, such as fireworks or thunder. Or a stranger in the home may scare them away.
- Moving house – Animals may become lost after a house move when they are in unfamiliar territory.
- Natural inquisitiveness – You pet may start following a scent or another animal for a while and get lost.
- Illness – Poorly animals may become disorientated and get lost easily, others may have had an accident and be unable to get back home before someone picks them up and takes them to the local vet.
- Theft – unfortunately people stealing pets is still on the increase especially cute younger animals and in pedigree or working breeds that can be sold on.
Having your pet microchipped is a quick, simple and permanent method of identification. It will give you peace of mind that should you pet go missing, you have a higher chance of being reunited.
Dog Microchipping And The Law
On 6th April 2016 it became a legal requirement to have your dog or puppy microchipped and registered on the national database. Owners are now required to keep their contact details up to date and register the details of the new owner if their dog or puppy is ever sold or given away.
Puppies must be microchipped and registered before they leave their breeder and go to a new home (this applies to anyone that breeds a litter of puppies, even if it is an unplanned litter).
There is currently a fine of up to £500 for dog owners, breeders or keepers that do not comply with the new law.
How microchips work
A pet microchip uses passive radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. The microchip stores data which can be read by a microchip reader when the pet is scanned. The microchip has no battery or internal power source and is completely inert until it is scanned and transmits the data to the reader. (Microchips are not GPS enabled)
The microchip is very small, roughly the same size as a grain of rice. The glass material that surrounds the microchip is bio compatible, which means that it is non toxic and does not do any damage to the animals body or cause any kind of allergic reaction.
Pet microchips carry a number that is unique to your pet. Some microchips are also able to record the pets core temperature, although these are not yet widely used in the UK . Technology is also becoming so advanced that companies are working on microchips that could measure the animals pulse, oxygen levels and blood pressure.
Implanting the microchip
The microchip is implanted using a hypodermic needle; similar to, but slightly larger than the ones used for your pet’s routine vaccinations. It can be implanted by a qualified veterinary nurse during a routine consultation.
The Chip is implanted into the animals scruff (the loose skin at the back of the neck) between the shoulder blades of dogs, cats and rabbits. Once the microchip is implanted, it is encapsulated by the animal’s body tissues which prevent movement of the microchip.
The benefits of a microchip
- Permanent method of identification (collars and tags can be lost or removed).
- Allows animals to be identified in emergency situations; for example, if a straying animal was injured, the vet would be able to contact the owners and start treatment immediately.
- Deterrent to theft as ownership can be proven.
- Identification of stolen and re homed pets. The veterinary surgery should be routinely scanning all new patients.
- Your pet must be microchipped if you are planning to take them on holiday to another country.
- Easier identification and subsequent prosecution of owners involved in animal cruelty.
- Puppies and kittens will be traceable to breeders, helping reduce the problem of puppy and kitten farming and irresponsible breeding.
It is really important that you keep your contact details up to date so that you can be informed if your pet is found as a stray. Remember to contact the database company if you move house, change your phone number or even re home your pet to someone else
Common questions about microchips
- Will it hurt? Some animals may feel a slight and temporary discomfort during the procedure, but this is far outweighed by the benefits of having a microchip. Most animals do not react at all.
- Will the microchip wear out or have to be replaced? There are no batteries or moving parts in an id chip so there is nothing that can wear out. The id chip receives any power it needs to transmit your pet’s identification number from the scanner as it passes over it.
- Is it safe for my pet? The material that surrounds the microchip is biocompatible, which means that it is non toxic and should not do any damage to your pet’s body or cause any kind of allergic reaction.
- Can the microchip move from the implant site? The microchip is designed with an anti-migration feature that encourages the body tissues to surround and encapsulate it, to keep it in place. There have been occasional instances of some microchips migrating to other parts of the animal’s body, usually further down the back or to the shoulder, but these are rare and do not cause any problems to the pet.
We recommend that microchips are always implanted by a qualified and trained professional, such as a veterinary nurse or vet, as this will ensure that the microchip is implanted in you pet properly and safely.
Pet identification (collar/tags)
The Control of Dogs Order 1992 states that any dog in a public place must wear a collar with the name and address (including postcode) of the owner engraved or written on it, or engraved on a tag. Your telephone number is optional (but advisable). You can be fined up to £5000 if your dog does not wear an identification tag.
Cats do not have to wear a collar or a tag.
What to do if you find a stray animal
You can report a stray dog to your local dog warden. The contact number for the dog warden in Reading is 0118 9373787.
Stray cats can be reported to the RSPCA or your local Cat Protection charity. If you suspect a cat is stray you could always try attaching a collar with a note for a few days to see if anyone contacts you, cats often have huge territories so a cat that you see hanging around may not always be a stray. Obviously if the cat is injured or looks unwell then contact your vet or the RSPCA first.
For more information about what to do with a stray cat, please visit our lost and found page
Other stray animals can be reported to the RSPCA
Please remember that stray animals should only be taken to your vet if they are injured or ill and in need of treatment. Your vet will often not have enough space to house stray animals.
Castle Vets are more than happy to scan any stray animals to see if they are microchipped, but we cannot take them in unless they are in need of veterinary treatment. If you find an animal that you would like to be scanned, please contact the surgery for an appointment with one of our veterinary nurses.