White terrier getting vacuumed by someone

It’s compulsory for dog owners living in England, Scotland and Wales to microchip their pet and add them to an approved database. Failure to do so could lead to a £500 fine and criminal prosecution.

Why does my dog need a microchip?

The three main reasons are:

  1. If your dog is lost or stolen, you’ll be alerted as soon as their unique microchip is entered into the national database, which will remove any doubts about identity.
  2. Owners are abandoning their dogs at alarming rates because they can’t deal with the responsibility. Over 66,000 stray dogs were handled by local authorities in the UK between April 2016 and March 2017. Microchips trace pets back to their owners, so should reduce the number of people abandoning their dogs.
  3. Some dogs are used for dogfights, or as weapons. If a dog is being used for illegal purposes, the microchip makes it easier to track down their owners.

How do microchips work?

A microchip is about the size of a grain of rice and sits just under the surface of the dog’s skin waiting to be scanned. The microchip doesn’t require a battery, is non-toxic and won’t hurt your dog.

When scanned, the microchip’s unique 15-digit code is revealed and can be used to look up details about the dog and its owner, including:

  • Your name
  • Your address
  • Ownership history
  • Your dog’s breed

It’s worth noting that these microchips aren’t tracking devices, although they can identify a dog that’s been found if they’ve gone missing.

How much do microchips cost?

Getting your dog microchipped doesn’t cost much. A vet must fit the microchip, but will charge around £10-£15 for the service.

Dog’s Trust offers a free microchip service at its rehoming centres across the country. Find the one nearest to you to have your pet microchipped.

What happens if my dog isn’t microchipped?

If you haven’t microchipped your dog and you’re stopped by a police officer or a member of your local council, they’ll give you an enforcement notice, meaning 21 days to get your dog microchipped.

After 21 days, if you still haven’t microchipped your dog, you’ll face a fine up to £500.

Microchipping advice for buyers

Puppies should get their microchip when they’re eight weeks old. Usually, puppies are still with a breeder at this point, so it’s the breeder’s job to get this done.

Breeders must also be recorded as the first keeper of the dog. This means they’ll always appear and be identifiable when scanned. It’s the breeder’s responsibility to make sure their contact details are up to date.

If you’re buying a puppy, make sure that you ask for proof of a microchip before you pay for your dog. Good types of proof are:

  • A microchip certificate
  • Vet records
  • A pet passport

You should be provided with microchip documents when you buy a dog. These let you transfer ownership of the dog on the database. If you don’t get these documents, don’t get the puppy.

Update the dog’s address to yours as soon as you can. You also need to attach an ID tag to their collar even if they’re microchipped. By law, dogs are required to have a tag with the owner’s details on when walking in public places.

Consider getting pet insurance around this time too. Protecting your pet is your responsibility, and insurance can make a massive difference if something goes wrong. Try getting them on a policy around this eight-week period. Some breeders sell puppies with insurance, but that only lasts a month or so.

How do I register my dog?

There are many pet microchip databases available online, and unless your vet has one they use specifically, it’s up to you which one you choose.

Keep track of your dog and stay within the law by registering your microchip to one of the following UK databases:

Source: GOV.uk

Avoid databases which aren’t on this list – they’re not approved and you could still be fined up to £500.

Different databases have different registrations fees – some are free. You can usually register online, by phone or post.

You’ll also need to update your details on your microchipping database when you move house, otherwise your microchip is useless and you’ll be breaking the law.

Will a microchip hurt my dog?

There might be some minor pain – similar to a pinprick - but only for a moment. The chip is put under the skin between the shoulder blades, so the dog might feel uncomfortable, but this should pass in seconds.

No anaesthetic is needed and there’s no long-lasting impact. A dog is unlikely to feel the chip once it’s implanted. There shouldn’t be any impact to the dog’s movement.

Are microchips enough?

Microchips are required by law, but they only identify a dog once scanned. To help keep your dog safe you could consider the following:

  • GPS tracking – A tracking device lets you know where your dog is. So, if they go missing, you should be able to pinpoint their exact location. A downside here is that trackers are wearable, so can be easily removed by dog thieves.
  • HD cameras in your garden – Setting up a camera in your garden makes keeping an eye on your dog far simpler. It also makes it easier to identify potential thieves.
  • Home security systems – You can use home security systems to protect every member of your family, pets included. Try to find a system which isn’t set off by your dog roaming the house. This is usually more of an issue with larger breeds.

What about pet insurance?

Insuring your pet with Direct Line could help remove the worry of affording to pay expensive veterinary fees should your dog be in an accident or get an illness. An optional 5-in-1 care package includes up to £1,000 towards local advertising costs to help you get your pet back if it's stolen or strays.

Insurance companies will often ask you whether your dog is microchipped or not, but it’s rare for them to refuse pet insurance based on this information.

However, the law has changed when it comes to microchips. The bottom line is: microchip your dog to keep it safe and to stay within the law.