WHAT DOES THE LAW SAY?

All dog owners in England, Scotland and Wales had until 6 April 2016 to have their dog microchipped and to register them with a government compliant microchip database such as Petlog.

After that date, all puppies must be microchipped and recorded on a microchip database by the time they are 8 weeks old.

Any changes to an owner’s contact details must be updated on their microchip database to ensure compliance with the law. If a dog owner subsequently moves, changes contact telephone number, etc. then the dog is no longer considered microchipped under the new law and enforcement can be taken.

WHAT EXACTLY WILL WELFARE ORGANISATIONS BE EXPECTED TO DO AFTER APRIL 2016?

Welfare organisations will not be expected to do much differently with regards to microchipping after April 2016. Welfare organisations should be aware of the requirement for all dogs to be recorded on a database in the keeper’s name and not in the name of the organisation. Labradors In Need has enforced this procedure. All dogs that come into rescue will have their microchip details transferred to the new owner/foster.

DOG OWNERS

All dog owners in England, Wales and Scotland, must get their dogs microchipped to ensure they are compliant with the law.

The owner of an unchipped dog will be given 21 days to comply and failure to do so may result in a fine of up to £500.

It is the responsibility of the owner to ensure that contact details for the dog/dogs are kept up to date to ensure a dog can be reunited with its owner in the event that it is lost or stolen.

WHO IS THE ‘KEEPER’ THAT SHOULD BE RECORDED ON THE DATABASE?

The term keeper has been introduced within the new regulations and relates to the person with whom a dog normally resides. So when a dog is taken into welfare, the database should be updated with the welfare organisation named as the keeper, however, when the dog is rehomed or fostered, the database must be updated with the information on the new keeper.

For an assistance dog, it is the organisation responsible for its training and allocation (until its retirement).

For a new born puppy, the keeper is the owner of the bitch which gave birth to it.

IS THERE A FINE/PENALTY IF OWNERS DON’T GET THEIR DOG/PUPPIES MICROCHIPPED?

Once the new rules come into effect, if a dog without a microchip comes to the attention of the authorities, its keeper may be served with a notice requiring the dog to be microchipped, and may face criminal prosecution and a £500 fine if they do not comply with the notice. If this notice is ignored then a fine of up to £500 can be issued or an enforcer can seize the dog and microchip it at the keeper’s expense.

For a welfare organisation it is worth noting that it will be an offence to transfer keepership without the dog being microchipped and recorded on a database that is compliant with the new regulations, and fines of up to £500 could be issued. Unlike the other offences, no notice will be required.

IS COMPULSORY MICROCHIPPING NOW PROOF OF LEGAL OWNERSHIP?

Microchipping shows who the current keeper of the dog is but this alone is not proof of legal ownership. A microchip relates to the main keeper of the dog i.e. the person the dog lives with and to whom it should be returned to if found. Record of a microchip is separate from Kennel Club registration which lists a ‘registered owner’. Kennel Club registered ownership alone is not proof of legal ownership. Legal ownership of a dog is undefined. In cases where there is a legal dispute over dog ownership, many factors will be considered including perhaps the keeper and KC registered owner of the dog, but also who pays for the dog’s upkeep, veterinary treatments etc. and who pays for insurance for the dog for example. Ultimately it will be for a court to decide ownership.

WHO IS LIABLE FOR A DOG IN CIRCUMSTANCES IN WHICH THE DOG STRAYS OR IS INVOLVED IN A DOG BITE INCIDENT WHEN THE CONTACT DETAILS ARE NOT UPDATED?

As soon as the dog is transferred to a new keeper they become liable for that dog. The new keeper should ensure the contact details on the microchip database are up to date when they acquire the puppy or rehome a dog. The new keeper’s details can be updated either by the previous keeper, or the new keeper. If the new keeper is to do this it is advisable the previous keeper should give proof of microchipping and confirmation of details recorded in their name to the new keeper, as well as keep a copy for themselves. It is recommended this be either a copy of the confirmation from the database of details recorded or a copy of a valid exemption certificate. This will help the new keeper to record their details in relation to the dog. Once database records are updated with the new keeper’s details it will also ensure the previous keeper cannot be held liable for any problems the dog may cause under the new keepership.

For more detailed information, please visit the Chip It Check It website www.chipitcheckit.co.uk or Petlog www.petlog.org.uk