Dog microchipping laws: your questions answered

Posted on May 11, 2016 by Gudrun Ravetz

Jack RussellIt’s now one month since the microchipping of dogs legislation came into force in England, Scotland and Wales (it has been compulsory in Northern Ireland since 2012). As is often the case with new legislation, there have been many questions about how it should be observed in everyday practice. With that in mind, this post aims to answer some common questions that have been raised by vets and colleagues in the profession.

Why is the microchipping of dogs important?

BVA actively campaigned for this legislation and has welcomed its introduction. The BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey (October 2015) highlighted that 7 out of 10 vets could not reunite a lost pet due to a lack of microchip or other identifier.

The Dogs Trust reported there were over 102,000 stray dogs found by local authorities between 2014 and 2015. Each stray that cannot be reunited with its owner comes with a financial cost to charities and councils that are dealing with them, as well as the emotional cost to an owner of a missing pet.

Compulsory microchipping should help to significantly reduce the amount of stray dogs and speed up the time taken to reunite pet and owner. However, it is important to keep reminding clients to make sure their microchip details are up to date. This is a legal requirement but also invaluable for reuniting pets. BVA’s Voice survey also found that 20% of vets could not reunite stray dogs that presented with a microchip due to the registration details being out of date on the database.

Are any dogs exempt from the microchipping laws?

Under the new legislation all dogs must be microchipped and recorded on a microchip database by the time they are 8 weeks old, with the only exemption being if a veterinary surgeon decides that microchipping should not be undertaken for a reason concerning the health or welfare of the dog. In this case the vet can issue an exemption certificate. In the case of veterinary certified working dogs, the microchip must be implanted by the time the dog is 12 weeks old.

What about adverse reactions to a microchip?

There have been some media reports discussing adverse reactions from microchips. It is important to note that these are incredibly rare. The World Small Animal Veterinary Association advises that microchipping is safe and that adverse reactions are a tiny proportion of microchips implanted. However, if there is a failure of the chip or an adverse reaction to implantation there is a legal duty to report this to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate adverse events reporting scheme.

Should the veterinary team scan every dog that visits the practice?

Dog in practice waiting roomThere is no legal requirement for the veterinary team to scan a dog when presented to the practice, except prior to administering a rabies vaccination and for the completion of official documentation such as a pet passport. However BVA would recommend as good practice to:

  • scan all dogs on first presentation and scan all lost/strays
  • make a note of the microchip number in the dog’s medical records
  • check scanned details against the microchip database

Occasionally it may become apparent that there is a discrepancy or dispute about ownership of a pet presented to the practice. Although rare this can be a potentially unsettling situation for the veterinary team. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has produced guidance to help any practice in this situation and it is worth sharing and familiarising the team with this advice.

What should I do if a dog hasn’t got a microchip?

If presented with a dog over 8 weeks of age that has not been microchipped, then the vet or registered veterinary nurse (RVN) should remind the owner or breeder of the legal requirement to have the dog microchipped but there is no legal responsibility on the vet or RVN to report the owner or breeder for non-compliance with the law.

I'd like to know more about microchipping

Further information about the microchipping legislation can be found in the following resources:

You can also email policy@bva.co.uk

Gudrun Ravetz

Written by Gudrun Ravetz

BVA past President

Gudrun currently works as a Veterinary Consultant for Denplan and is an interviewer for prospective students at University of Liverpool. Gudrun was previously President of the Society for Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS). Follow @RavetzGudrun on Twitter.