It's estimated that around 250,000 pets go missing every year in the UK. Thanks to microchipping, it's easier to reunite these missing pets with their owners. A small memory chip including your personal details is inserted into your pet, and the police or local authority can easily scan this if your pet is lost to track you down.
Since April 2016, it has been a legal requirement to microchip all dogs that live in England and Wales and it'll soon be the law for cats. Other animals such as rabbits, ferrets and parrots can be microchipped too.
To explain how it works in practise, we've put together this quick and easy guide to help you get to grips with microchips.
Microchipping is a safe and simple procedure for animals, much like a jab. Your vet, or a trained professional in a pet store, will implant a small electronic device under its skin, usually where the skin is loose between the shoulder blades. This quick procedure feels like a small scratch and doesn't cause your pet any pain or discomfort once it's in place.
The chip, which is roughly the size of a grain of rice, is covered in a protective casing to prevent a reaction and to stop it moving about. Each animal's microchip has a unique identification number linked to the owner's name and address. This information is stored on a database and can be traced when the chip's ID number is scanned.
A microchip lasts a lifetime, but you must update the information if you change address or if the animal gets a new owner.
Losing a dog is very stressful and upsetting, and unfortunately, it's fairly common. Around 100,000 lost, stray or stolen dogs are reported each year, and many could be miles from their home. If a dog isn't claimed and the authorities can't trace the owner, then it may be rehomed or put down.
To help reduce stealing and the number of strays, the government has made microchipping a legal requirement, because collars and tags can easily fall off or be removed. It's thought that microchipping dogs can also help prevent illegal breeding and puppy farms, as the chip is linked to the breeder. Pet insurance premiums may also reduce over time with the reduction in claims for stolen or missing dogs.
You must get your puppy microchipped as soon as it turns eight weeks old and you should receive a reminder of this in the post. If you fail to microchip your puppy, you could face a fine of up to £500.
It was announced in December 2021 that microchipping cats would become a legal requirement, due to overwhelming support from a public consultation.
When it comes into force (date to be announced), the new legislation will mean cats should be microchipped before they reach 20 weeks old, with their owner’s contact details stored and kept up to date in a pet microchipping database.
Owners who haven’t microchipped their cat will have 21 days to have one implanted or they could face a fine of up to £500.
It was always a good idea to get your cat microchipped, especially if it’s prone to disappearing for long periods of time. Cats can easily get trapped in sheds and greenhouses or get disorientated if you move house, so it's handy if people can easily find out who you are if it goes wandering and gets lost.
Microchipping a cat is easy to do and works in the same way as microchipping a dog.
Veterinary surgeries, pet shops and pet rescue and welfare centres can all fit microchips. Wherever you decide to take your pet, make sure that you use a fully qualified professional – it will help protect your insurance claim should something go wrong, even though this is unlikely.
It isn't expensive to microchip your pet, but costs will vary depending on where you have the procedure. Some charities such as the Dogs Trust or other animal welfare centres may microchip your pet for free or ask for a small donation.
If your pet doesn't come home, then it's likely to have been taken to an animal rescue centre or an animal warden where one of the staff will scan its microchip to identify you. They should contact you as soon as they find your details, but you might like to ask around the local centres so they can keep their eyes peeled for your pet.
Make sure the contact details on the microchip are up to date. That way it will be easier to be reunited with your pet should they go missing.
There are different ways to update your personal details, depending on which database your chip manufacturer is registered with. These databases include Petlog, Pet Protect, Anibase and PETtrac. You may be able to update your details with one of these database providers online or over the phone.
You may have also received an update form when you first microchipped your pet. This update form can be filled out and posted to the company. If you're unsure which database your details are registered with, contact your vet or take your pet into a veterinary clinic or pet store to be scanned.
Most insurance providers will ask you at the onset whether or not your pet is microchipped to determine your premium. If you own a dog, you won't be able to take out pet insurance until you've had it microchipped. If you own a different animal, the provider may offer a discount for getting it microchipped.
Insurance Factory Ltd
For pet insurance, Admiral introduce to Insurance Factory Ltd who arrange and administer the policy. Insurance Factory Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (No. 306164). Registered in England and Wales Number 02982445. Registered Office: 45 Westerham Road, Bessels Green, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN13 2QB. The policy is underwritten by HDI Global Specialty SE UK. Registered in Germany, registration number HRB 211924. Registered Office Roderbruchstraße 26, 30655 Hannover, Germany acting through its UK branch whose office is located at 10 Fenchurch Street, London EC3M 3BE, United Kingdom. Authorised by the Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht, and authorised to limited regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA No. 659331). Third party liability (dogs only) is underwritten by Ageas Insurance Limited, Ageas House, Hampshire Corporate Park, Templars Way, Eastleigh, Hampshire SO53 3YA, Registered in England and Wales No. 354568.