Six months after the introduction of compulsory microchipping of dogs in England, Andrew Bucher, Chief Veterinary Officer and co-founder of MedicAnimal, the UK’s leading online pet healthcare retailer has questioned elements of the scheme and whether it can be effective in the long term. Figures reported last week by animal charity Dogs Trust show more than 4,700 stray dogs in the UK last year couldn’t be reunited with their owners, due to outdated microchips. This is the equivalent of one in eight pets. Just under 3,500 stray dogs were put down.

Owners who fail to have their dog microchipped or maintain current contact details are liable to a fine up to £500. Family pets who remain unclaimed face the uncertainty of rehoming or sadly in some circumstances are destroyed.

Andrew Bucher, Chief Veterinary Officer at MedicAnimal, commented:

“We continue to support the initiative and welcome the fact that there has been a decline in the number of stray dogs handled. Yet, it’s clear to see there remains a problem around cost and awareness. Microchipping itself is relatively inexpensive and the support from local vets and animal charities means many dogs, who were previously unregistered, are now chipped.

“However, in the event of moving house, changing phone numbers or updating health details of your pet, I suspect not only does it fall low down the priority list, but many will baulk at the additional cost of amending microchip data. It needs to be convenient to the owner, allowing them to do it online or at the very least, free to update when they visit the vet. £15 each time is utterly ridiculous.

“Any future initiative to microchip cats, for example, must take into consideration the practicalities of cost and owner awareness of the schemes. Otherwise, we may still have the same problem of being unable to reunite pets with owners, as well as a £500 fine looming over them.”