The reporting role of vets in the microchipping legislation

Posted on April 27, 2015

Robin Hargreaves with his pet dogWe have less than 12 months until the beginning of compulsory microchipping of dogs in England. Microchipping and the drafting of the regulations has been a regular entry in my meeting diary throughout my term as a BVA Officer. I am hugely in favour of this measure, largely from my experience in returning lost dogs to their owners through my own practice, and the frustration when lack of identification delays or prevents this.

There are however a lot of different interest groups who would also like this measure to resolve their particular concerns, for instance those involved in the seemingly rapid and increasing phenomenon of dog theft.

Obligations for scanning and reporting

I see this legislation as being solely concerned with dogs and their owners, with vets and others helping make it as effective as possible for the benefit of dogs and to reduce the social costs of lost animals.

Clearly there are some who feel vets should be included in the legislation and have obligations enshrined in the law. I have argued against this, particularly the requirement for vets to scan every dog they see and be responsible for checking its provenance on whatever data base as a legal obligation. I am pleased to see this is not part of the regulations to come into effect, but we are not entirely excluded from the new requirements.

Reporting adverse reactions

Ever since it was suggested, I have argued against compulsory reporting of adverse reactions. We already have a voluntary scheme for reporting adverse reactions to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) that I feel would adequately meet the requirements.

The Government has argued that in order to identify poor practice or faulty chips vets must report all adverse reactions, and that failure to do so will be an offence under the microchipping legislation. Adverse reactions include:

  • chip failure - which can only be confirmed by x-ray, raising a significant question of consent and responsibility for payment
  • chip migration - which must be reported to the Secretary of State via the VMD. But how are we defining migration, how far is too far?

More information can be found in the VMD's Microchip adverse event reporting scheme leaflet (1.92 MB PDF)

I identified the irony that we might be convicted of an offence in law that is not deemed sufficiently serious to warrant any sanction by our regulator the RCVS. We now hear from Defra that they do not envisage prosecuting vets for non-reporting, and the RCVS confirm that they would not consider justifying disciplinary action for non-reporting. It seems ironic from a government that produced the red tape challenge, that after months of discussion they chose to create legislation against our reasoned advice that they have no intention of applying.

That said I look forward to April 2016. Clients seem to be accepting the wisdom of microchipping and anything that reduces the misery of lost pets and distressed owners gets my vote.


PS To raise awareness of microchipping to clients, you can download our waiting room posters: