Millions of cat owners may be forced to microchip their pets as part of a new legal requirement expected to be approved by parliament.
The proposed measures are part of a renewed effort to further raise the UK’s animal welfare standards.
Pet ownership increased during the lockdown, and it’s estimated that 2.6 million cats are not microchipped. That’s a quarter of the cat population.
Microchipping involves placing a chip, usually the size of a grain of rice, under the skin.
When an animal is found, scanning the microchip with a unique serial number means the registered owner can be identified in a database and the pet can be reunited with them quickly.
Owners can face the same penalties as dog owners if they break the law. If local authorities find a dog without a microchip, owners will have to wear it within 21 days or face fines of up to £500.
Organizations like Battersea Dogs & Cats Home and Blue Cross have called for legislation to force drivers to report hitting a cat, but Holden has argued that microchipping is the best way to reunite owners with their dead pets.
The microchip plans came after lawmakers considered a petition mandating that drivers stop when they walk over a cat with microchips that help identify the deceased pet.
Transport Minister Richard Holden supports the microchip law to be introduced this parliamentary session.
He added: “Cats tend to wander unaccompanied and will likely go out at night.
“Drivers may also not realize that in some cases they are colliding with a cat or small animals very similar to rabbits or other wild animals that may be crossing the roads late at night.
“There are dangers to stopping to check if animals are alive, especially if they are very small animals.
“Having legislation that makes it a requirement to report road collisions involving a cat would be difficult to enforce, especially when, as Council members have made clear, Petplan suggests that this could be hundreds of thousands of such accidents a year ahead.”
Labor MP Tonia Antoniazzi said many people see cats as “part of the family,” adding: “This, along with their independent natures, as well as their inquisitiveness and aloofness, has helped make them one of our favorite pets.”
Under section 170 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, drivers are required to stop and report incidents of collisions with farm animals or working animals such as horses, cattle, sheep, pigs, goats or dogs.
Conservative MP James Daly told lawmakers that changing the law would be simple: “Just add a word that is ‘cat’ to the legislation. Then we will achieve what is said.”
“Even though we all love goats, we shouldn’t differentiate between animals in value,” he added.