Compulsory microchipping: what the law says in the UK for dogs and cats

25 April 2022 - 5 min read
A dog microchip scanner

Microchipping is a quick procedure to insert a microchip under the skin of your pet’s neck. It causes no more discomfort to your pet than a routine vaccination.

The chip is the size of a grain of rice and contains your contact details, so your pet can be reunited with you if they’re lost or stolen.

It became compulsory for all dogs to be microchipped on April 6 2016.

A dog eating a credit card

A Value policy with £3,000 a year vet fee cover.

A dog eating a credit card

The law says that puppies must be microchipped before they’re eight weeks old, which means microchipping is the dog breeder’s responsibility. Under Lucy’s Law puppies shouldn’t be sold until they’re eight weeks old.

And in 2021, the Government announced plans to make microchipping compulsory for cats as well in its Action Plan for Animal Welfare.

No exact date has yet been given for compulsory cat microchipping, but it’s likely to be in 2022.

We’ve put together a guide for pet owners, to tell you all you need to know about the Microchipping of Dogs Act (England) Regulations and the proposed new laws for microchipping cats.

What is the Microchipping of Dogs Act?

The Act outlines the laws on microchipping dogs in the UK. It says all dogs must be implanted with a microchip loaded with information about them (breed, sex, colour etc) and their keepers’ details. Puppies must be microchipped and registered with a database by the time they’re eight weeks old.

If an owner fails to microchip their pet they will be given 21 days to do so, after which they can face a fine.

What are the new UK microchip laws for cats?

At the moment you don’t legally have to microchip your cat, although it’s strongly recommended by vets and cat rescue organisations.

The UK government is making it the law for cat owners to microchip their pets by the time they’re 20 weeks. It’s not yet clear whether cats who are already older than 20 weeks will have to be microchipped.

Owners found not to have microchipped their cat will have 21 days to have one implanted, or they’ll face a fine of up to £500.

Is a microchip proof of ownership?

No, the microchip contains information about the animal's ‘keeper’. Being the keeper means you are legally responsible for it and liable if it causes damage.

In most cases the dog’s owner will also be their keeper and a microchip will to reunite you with your dog if they’re ever lost or stolen.

Why is it the law to microchip dog?

As far as the government’s concerned, the main purpose is to hold people accountable if their dog causes damage to a person, property or another animal and to reduce the number of stray dogs.

But microchipping can also have huge benefits for you as the owner of keeper, to help reunite you with a lost pet quickly.

Battersea Dogs Home’s 2021 annual microchipping report showed that 94% of accurately microchipped dogs were reunited with their owners and that the number of total stray dogs in five local authorities had dropped 66% between February 2016 and May 2021.

Despite these statistics, a PDSA report found that in 2021 around one-in-10 dogs in the UK still aren’t microchipped.

Failure to microchip is much higher in strays: 74% of stray dogs either had no microchip or did not have up to date details on their microchip that allowed the owner to be contacted according to Battersea.

How microchipping affects pet insurance

Some pet insurance policies are cheaper if your pet has a microchip because it means there is a better chance of finding them if they’re lost or stolen lost. That means an insurer is less likely to have to pay out for a lost pet, so the risk is a little lower.

It’s important to make sure your details on the microchip are up to date and match the information on your insurance policy. If you adopt a rescue dog don't forget to check if they’re already chipped and to change it to your details.

Pet insurance doesn’t cover the cost of getting a microchip fitted. Although it’s usually pretty cheap anyway and sometimes free.

What happens if my pet isn’t microchipped?

If your dog is found to not be microchipped you‘ll’ get a notice that you must have them chipped. You will then have 21 days to microchip your dog. Failure to do this means you could face fines of up to £500.

The same penalty applies for failing to update the detail on the dog’s microchip (in case you move or your contact details change). In 2021, 70% of stray dogs handed in to Battersea had a microchip but 44% weren’t up to date.

No penalties have been confirmed yet for failing to microchip your cat when the new legislation is brought it, but it’s likely to be in line with the notices and fines for dogs.

Fines and penalties aside, failing to microchip your pets means you’re much less likely to be reunited with them if they’re lost or stolen.

Our Complete policy has up to £6k cover if your pet is lost or stolen.

How much does microchipping cost?

Microchipping is a quick and simple procedure which usually costs around £15. For exact rates, check with your vet.

Pet charities and events sometimes have free or cheap microchipping offers to encourage owners to chip their pets. As compulsory microchipping for cats approaches, you could check with your local authority and nearby cat charities to see if anything’s on offer in your local area.

I have an older pet, is it exempt?

There is no upper age limit on microchipping an older dog and microchipping won’t harm them. It’s likely to be the same when compulsory microchipping for cats is brought in.

if your vet has confirmed that your pet has a health condition that prevents it from being implanted with a microchip an exemption can be made.

If your dog had been implanted but develops an adverse reaction to the microchip it can also lead to an exemption.

Mini microchips are available for smaller dogs.

I’m a breeder, how do these regulations apply to me?

Dog breeders must microchip all their puppies by the time they are eight weeks old. It then becomes the responsibility of the adopting keeper to update their details on the database.

When cat microchipping laws come in, it’s likely to be for all cats over the age of 16 weeks. As most kittens go to their new homes at the age of eight-10 weeks, breeders won’t have to microchip kittens before selling them. The new owner will need to make sure they’re chipped by the time they’re 16 weeks.

I have a working dog, does it need to be microchipped?

Yes, but the time limit for a puppy to be microchipped and registered to a database is 12 weeks, rather than 8. This only applies to dogs that have been certified as working dogs by a vet and had their tails docked in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

A person high fiving a dog

£15,000 a year vet fee cover with our Complete policy.

A person high fiving a dog

Derri Dunn
Content marketer

Derri is a personal finance and insurance writer and editor. After seven years covering all things motoring and banking at GoCompare, Derri joined ManyPets in 2021 to focus on pet health. She has fostered cats and kittens for Blue Cross and Cats Protection and is owned by tabby cat Diggory and two badly behaved dogs.