Confused about microchipping your pet? To help you understand we’ve answered a long list of frequently asked questions about microchipping. However, if you can’t find the information you want, please leave a question in the comments and we’ll try and answer it for you.
What is a microchip and what does it do?
You’ve probably heard about microchips before, but you may not know how they are used for pet identification. Microchips used for pets, such as dogs and cats, are about the size of a grain of rice and are implanted under the animal’s skin. Each chip is programmed with an individual ID number which is then allocated to the animal it’s implanted in.
This number then needs to be registered with a microchip database along with the pet’s information and the keeper’s contact details. These contact details are vitally important and must be kept up to date in case the pet goes missing. If the contact information is not correct it makes it incredibly difficult for the animal to be reunited with its keeper.
However, the microchip does not act as a tracking device. Although it’s primarily used to reunite pets with their keepers it can also be used to safeguard pets. The chip’s ID number is logged alongside the keeper’s contact details, so the keepers of aggressive dogs or dogs who have been abused can be identified and prosecuted if necessary.
What do people mean by “keeper”
In some instances regarding microchipping the word “keeper” may be used. When the Government introduced the legislation on microchipping on the 6th April 2016 they used the term “keeper” instead of owner. They understand that the owner of the animal may not be the person with whom the animal lives with on a regular basis, meaning that the owner and keeper can be two different people. So legally the “keeper” is the person with whom the animal normally resides. It’s this person’s contact details that must be registered with the microchip number on the database. The keeper, not the owner (if different), will be the person who will be held legally responsible for any dogs register to them!
Do I have to microchip my dog?
Since the 6th of April 2016 it has been illegal to not chip your dog. Dogs must be chipped before they reach 8 weeks old. If you don’t microchip your dog you can be fine up to £500 and a court case can be taken out against you.
It’s not compulsory to get other pets such as cats or rabbits microchipped however it is advised.
Is microchipping proof of ownership?
No. Although microchipping means that the keeper is legally responsible for the dog it does not necessarily prove ownership. However, it does provide powerful supporting evidence for ownership.
What will happen if I don’t microchip my dog?
If your dog is scanned using a microchip scanner and it does not have a chip you will be served with a notice giving you 21 days to rectify this by getting your dog microchipped. If you do not do this in 21 days you will be fined up to £500 and a court case may be made against you. Enforcers, such as a dog warden, may seize, chip and register your dog and then reclaim the cost of this off you.
Furthermore, if your unchipped dog goes missing and ends up at a rescue centre or animal home it can legally be rehomed if not claimed within 7 days. In some cases, your dog may even be put down. The Dogs Trust found that every day up to12 dogs face being unnecessarily put down, if you do not chip your dog this may happen to them.
Where can I get my dog microchipped?
You can get your dog chipped at a variety of places including:
- Animal charities such as Dogs Trust, Blue Cross or the PDSA
- Pet homes such as Battersea Dogs and Cats Home or The Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home.
- Some local councils.
Is there a cost to microchipping my dog?
Some places may charge you for microchipping, ranging from £8 – £30. But there are some free and reduced price options available. The Dogs Trust offers free microchipping at their rehoming centres around the UK. The Blue Cross has a free microchipping service for dogs (and cats and rabbits) at their rehoming centres and animal hospitals. The PDSA also offers a free or reduced price service’s at their hospitals around the UK to people on benefits, eligibility for this is broken down on their website.
Who is legally allowed to microchip my dog?
The only people who are allowed to implant microchips are:
- Vet or vet nurse.
- Student vet or student vet nurse under supervision from a qualified vet.
- People who have passed a training course approved by the Secretary of State.
- Someone who has had training, including practical experience of implanting microchips before January 2016.
It is illegal for anyone else to implant a microchip, with fines of up to £2,500 if you are found to be implanting microchips illegally. If you believe the a microchip implanter is working illegally or is not competent you should report them to your local council.
How old does my dog have to be to be microchipped?
There is no minimum age for implanting a microchip in a dog, but it is advised that dogs are not chipped before 6 weeks. However, by law, all dogs have to be chipped by 8 weeks, unless a vet classifies them as exempt. If a vet exempts your dog you need to get an exemption certificate to prove this.
Why might my dog be exempt?
It may be the case that a vet does not think it appropriate for your dog to be chipped before 8 weeks. Only a vet has the authority to exempt a dog. These are the possible reasons a vet may exempt your dog:
- Severe illness.
- An infection in the area the microchip would be implanted.
- A condition that affects blood clotting.
- Too small.
If a vet exempts your pet they must provide you with an exemption certificate.
What information needs to be on an exemption certificate?
The following details need to be on the exemption certificate:
- Dog’s name and description.
- Keeper’s name and contact details.
- Name and address of the vet’s practice.
- Reason it can’t be chipped.
- How long the exemption will last.
- Keeper’s name and signature.
- Vet’s name and signature.
If the dog gets a new keeper during the exemption period then you must past the exemption certificate onto them.
My dog is a small breed eg. Chihuahua, are they not too small to be microchipped?
For some smaller dogs a vet may exempt them for a period of time and then implant a chip when they think the dog is big enough. However, mini microchips are also available which perform the same as an ordinary chip, but has a smaller needle for implantation. If you are worried, seek advice from your vet.
I’ve heard that the microchipping process can harm the dog, is this true?
Implanting the microchip will not harm the dog. It may briefly cause some mild discomfort but no more than a standard vaccination may cause. The process is quick and does not require any anaesthetic. It’s very rare for a dog to have a bad reaction to microchip implantation, however, if they do seek medical advice from a vet immediately.
Who’s responsible for registering the microchip?
Sometimes it will be the vet or microchip implanter who will register the microchip, but this is not always the case and so the responsibility for registering the microchip will be up to you as a keeper or breeder. If the microchip implanter registers the chip it may be worth checking with the microchip database to check the chip was registered correctly.
How do I register my dog’s microchip?
If you are responsible for registering your dog’s microchip you need to contact one of the UK microchip databases and they will ask for the following details:
- The breeder’s licence number and the name of the local authority by which they are licensed (if relevant)
- The original name given to the dog by the breeder
- The breed of the dog, or a description if it is a crossbreed
- The sex of the dog
- The colour(s) of the dog e.g. blue, brindle and white
- The most accurate estimate of the dog’s date of birth which the keeper can give. If the keeper is the breeder then the exact date of birth should be known
- The full name and address of the keeper (including the full postcode)
- The contact telephone number(s) for the keeper
- The email address of the keeper
- The name given to the dog by the keeper if different to those already recorded
- The unique microchip number (NB: This may be found on the registration certificate issued by the database operator)
Most microchip databases give you the option to register these details either by post, phone or online.
Which Database should I register my dog’s microchip with?
You must register the microchip number and your details on a database that meets government standards, such as:
Anibase 01904 487600
Animal Tracker 01279 219777
PetLog 01296 336579
PetIndentity UK 0800 9751960
PETtrac 0800 6529977
National Veterinary Database 0330 1239924
SmartTrace 01208 420999
Protected Pet 08452 262712
MicroChip Central 01223 790100
Is there a cost to register my dog’s microchip?
Some databases may not have registration fees, but other databases may charge a registration fee. So you may want to check with the database before registering.
What do I do if I have no fixed address can I still register my dog’s microchip?
This issue is a bit tricky. In this circumstance, some charities or a person close to the owner may be able to register their address and contact details when registering the microchip, acting in the role of “keeper”. However, if you find yourself in this situation you should seek professional guidance, such as asking your vet what to do or contact one of the microchip databases for advice.
How do I update my details?
You can update your details by getting in contact with the database that you registered the microchip with. If you move house, change your phone number or email you need to update the details, if not it makes it so much harder or even impossible for you to be reunited with your pet. Most databases let you update your details via post, phone or online.
What if I can’t remember my dog’s microchip ID number or the database I registered on?
The microchip ID number can be found on the following:
- Microchip certificate
- Vet records
- Pet passport
- Sometimes on dog’s pet insurance papers.
However, if you can’t find any of these records you can find out the dog’s microchip ID number by going to the following places to get your dog scanned:
- A vet.
- A dog warden.
- A dog rescue centre.
Scanning will also reveal which database the microchip is registered with. Or you can go to http://www.check-a-chip.co.uk/ and find out by entering your ID number.
Is there a cost for updating my details?
Most databases charge a fee to update details which could range from £6-£20. Some databases offer upgraded membership where you will be charged a one off fee, but it means you will be able to update your contact details for free in the future.
What will happen if I don’t update my contact details?
If you don’t update your details you may not be contacted if your dog goes missing. 37,000 lost or abandoned dogs were taken into local shelters in 2015, 12.5% had outdated chip information. If a dog with out of date contact details is taken to a rescue centre and it hasn’t been claimed within 7 days the dog can legally be rehomed. Even worse than this your dog may end up being 1 of the 12 dogs who are needlessly put down every day.
Furthermore, if you do not keep the details on your dog’s microchip up to date then you could face a fine of up to £500 and a court case can be taken out against you.
I’ve just bought a dog but I’m not sure if it already has a chip or not?
By law a breeder or importer must have had a dog microchipped before they can legally sell it onto a new keeper. If they have not done this they can be fined up to £500 and a court case can be launched against them. A breeder or importer must tell buyers the following information:
- Dog’s microchip number.
- Which database the microchip information is stored with.
- That they must update the contact details when they take the dog home.
As a buyer, you should ask if it’s had a chip fitted and get proof in the form of:
- Microchip certificate
- Vet records
- Pet passport
- Sometimes on dog’s pet insurance papers.
If they haven’t had the dog chipped and registered they must have an exemption certificate, which will explain why this has not been done. If they cannot offer you an exemption certificate do not buy the dog from them and report them to the local council.
It is also advised that whenever you buy or rescue a dog you should get your vet to scan them, to make sure the chip corresponds to the paperwork you’ve been given.
I’m a dog breeder, what do I need to do about microchipping?
As a dog breeder you need to know the following details. Before a dog leaves you, you must:
- Microchip them before they’re 8 weeks old
- Register the chip and your details on a microchip database as you are the dog’s first keeper!
You cannot register the person buying the dog off you as the first keeper! If the dog cannot be chipped for health reasons you must get an exemption certificate as proof (see above section on exemptions). If you pass the dog to a new keeper during the exemption period you must give the new keeper the exemption certificate.
You must tell the new keeper the following information:
- Dog’s microchip number.
- Which database the microchip information is stored on.
- That they must update the contact details when they take the dog home and update their details every time they change.
Failure to get any dog in your keepership chipped can result in a £500 fine and a court case can be taken against you.
So if my pet goes missing what can I do?
If the worst happens and your pet goes missing having a microchip increases the chances that you’ll be reunited. However, you can also do the following things:
- Share an appeal for your pet on your personal social media accounts and to lost and found groups in your area.
- Create a free appeal with Lostbox. You can report your pet missing on the Lostbox website (https://mylostbox.com), Lostbox app and to the Lostbox social media pages. This appeal will be shared to thousands of followers in your area and UK wide. Increasing the chances of finding and reuniting you and your pet.
- Ring your microchipping database and check if the pet has been scanned for a chip for the duration the pet has been missing.
- Try the old school method putting up posters and leaflets around your local area.
- You can also report lost pets for free on www.animalsearchuk.co.uk who will run the pet’s microchip number through their Auto-Match system, checking to see if anyone has reported an animal with that microchip number as found. Auto-match increases the chances of a match being found within this system. Finders and owners of matches are notified straight away. This can be a useful service if the microchip details are out of date or haven’t been registered correctly.
You can find out more information about microchipping your dog here. Or, if you have any more question then feel free to post them in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer them for you!