Microchips and the Minefield of Databases


22 Aug
22Aug

Microchipping - Is there any point?

There is no doubt that microchipping is the best way to ensure you are reunited with your lost cat, or any pet.  Where there is a chip there is always hope, even years later that you will get that all important call to say your loved pet has been found.  It also ensures that if they are involved in an accident and taken to a vet, they can contact you swiftly so that you can be there and make those all important decisions for your furry family member, or if the worst has happened you aren't left forever searching fruitlessly.

Of course in the case of dogs, failure to microchip them and keep the contact details up to date carries a £500 fine, so a microchip, costing between £5 - £30 is a no brainer.  One day this will almost certainly be the case for cats as well.


What happens next?

So you've had your cat microchipped and have probably been given a slip or card with the chip number on and details of where your contact details will be held, or how to go about registering the chip, if this hasn't been done by the vet, rescue or implanter.  Job done and dusted, your cat is now safe and protected by the tiny piece of technology that now lies under their skin, right? Wrong!

The chip needs to be registered on the correct UK microchip database, this is what links you to your pet.  Usually, but not always, the person who implants the microchip completes the registration for you with the contact details you have supplied.  They will tell you if that isn't the case and will give you the necessary paperwork to complete the registration yourself, make sure you do it as soon as possible.  Regardless of who completes the registration, the database will send you a confirmation, either via email or by post.  This confirmation will include details of how to access your account and any available options and benefits.  You will need this should you ever need to change your address or phone number, or if your pet goes missing.  Keep this information safe, it is as important as a passport.

In the UK microchips must be registered on a DEFRA compliant database, these are the current approved ones:


How does it help my lost pet?

In short, your lost pet is scanned and you get a call!  

The long and unnecessarily complicated version: 

Without getting too technical, the microchip sits there under the skin doing nothing most of the time, it is inert.  Only when a scanner is passed over it does it spring to life and send a unique number back to the scanner.  That's all the scanner operator gets, usually a 15 digit number (other formats do exist), which is very similar to a bar code.  By itself the chip number is just that, a number, but it holds the key to reuniting you with your pet.

The first part of the chip number usually identifies the manufacturer and each manufacturer will have agreements in place with one of the approved UK databases and the cost of registration on that database is included in the price of the microchip itself.  Some manufacturers offer a variety of registration options, others are exclusive to one database, so identifying the correct database is the first step to reunification.  To identify the correct database there are a number of online 'chip checkers', where you type in the chip number and it will give you the most likely database where the owner's details are held.  Authorised people can then contact the database and access your contact details, allowing them to get in touch and reunite you with your pet.  Authorised people can be vets, local authorities and rescue organisations, data protection laws prevent just anyone from accessing your personal information.


The Minefield

I have to be honest, the system as it is now is flawed, deeply flawed, in oh so many ways.  A great deal of work is being done to lobby our lawmakers and institutions to fix the system, to close the giant gaping holes in it and make the whole thing fit for purpose, but for now we can only work with what we've got and learn to navigate the minefield. 

Scanning is not compulsory, not for vets, local authorities or rescues and it absolutely should be.  It is considered 'best practice' for these organisations to routinely scan, so does happen for the most part, however they are under no obligation to cross check the registered keeper's details held on the database, with the details of the person presenting the animal at the time.  This means your missing or stolen pet could be taken to a vet or handed in to a rescue by someone other than yourself and you will never be informed.  Until scanning and cross checking is compulsory, animals will continue to slip through undetected.

Microchips can fail, although it is rare, and when they are implanted they can work their way out in the next 24-48 hours, or be sucked back out again when the implanting needle is withdrawn.  They can also move from their original position, which is known as migration.  The implanter will carry out checks to confirm the chip is in place and working, but make a habit of getting your vet to scan your pet each time you go, to confirm the chip is working, and ask them to confirm it is registered on the database correctly as well. 

The process of registration on one of the UK microchip databases should be straightforward, and usually is, but you do need to make sure it is done.  Some of the databases are less than perfect, to say the least, errors can occur in their systems, mistakes can be made entering the details or the entire process can get missed.  This can result in nobody being able to find your contact details and reunification never happening.  When you receive your confirmation make a point of going to the website and setting up your account login.  Check that all your details have been entered correctly, change anything that is incorrect (this can be done for free in the first couple of weeks after registration).  If you don't receive a confirmation contact whoever implanted the microchip, they will be able to help you.

Contact details need to be up to date and this is your responsibility and nobody else's.  A microchip is completely useless if it is registered to the wrong person, wrong address, wrong phone number etc.  Yes there are various methods that can be employed to work around that and still find you, but that involves a lot of work and luck, so don't rely on it and do your bit by keeping everything up to date.

If your pet goes missing contact the database as soon as possible and inform them of this.  They will place a missing/stolen flag on their system, which may not seem important but really, really is vital.  Just one example of why this is so important, is that if a chip is registered on Petlog and someone applies to change the keeper's details, i.e. assume ownership of your pet, they will make the change without notifying you UNLESS your pet is flagged as missing.  Yes, this is outrageous, but is a fact and will remain so until something is done to tighten up on those gaping holes in the system I spoke about before.  I won't bore you with all the other technical reasons why a missing flag is important, but trust me it is, so get it done, it's free!

If you have brought a pet into the UK from abroad, it will not be automatically registered on any UK microchip database, you need to do this yourself.  


Your pet, your responsibility

Remember I said before that the databases are far from perfect? Well that is probably an understatement, sadly, although some are better than others.  There have been many, many cases of errors occurring, data disappearing, databases merging and failing to notify owners, truly the list goes on and on and on..... but don't despair and just accept the inadequacies of the system, take responsibility and keep control.

Check your chips regularly, at least annually, here's how to go about it.

Pick a chip checker

Petlog microchip search

Check-a-Chip

Identibase

UK PETtrac microchip search

Animal Tracker Chip Lookup

Foreign chips

Europetnet

Pet Microchip Lookup


Type in your chip number and check it comes back with the correct database, if it doesn't or if it returns an 'Unregistered' result, try another chip checker.  These checkers don't all work the same way and don't always return accurate results, so try several.

Login to your account and check your contact details are still correct and any missing/stolen flags are still in place.

If you don't know your microchip number you will need to get your pet scanned, either by your vet or any of our Lost and Found Cats Norwich scanner holders, who will come to you, if you are local.  Feel free to get in touch with us if you need this done, or if you need any help at all with anything to do with microchips, we are more than happy to help in any way we can.


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