Pets (Microchips)

– in the House of Commons at 2:42 pm on 9th March 2022.

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Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

Photo of James Daly James Daly Conservative, Bury North 2:53 pm, 9th March 2022

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision regarding pets with microchips;
and for connected purposes.

I am stood here because of Gizmo and Tuk. Gizmo was a cat and a much-beloved family pet. She died in a car accident on 17 July 2016 when she was 15. In the words of her owner, Heléna, she

“was disposed of like a piece of trash”.

Tuk was a healthy 16-month-old rescue dog who was euthanised on 22 December 2017. Tuk was not scanned prior to euthanasia and was presented by an individual who was not his keeper. My Bill would introduce statutory requirements on local authorities and veterinary surgeons to address the failings highlighted in the stories of Gizmo, Tuk and many—too numerous to mention—much-loved pets.

Clause 1 would introduce a legal requirement for veterinarians to scan for microchips before euthanising pets. I am delighted that last year the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons updated its code of professional conduct to require that, before euthanising an otherwise healthy dog, veterinary surgeons must first scan the animal for the presence of a back-up rescuer. While that is most welcome, it must be put on a statutory footing rather be at the discretion of the veterinarian.

Subsection (2) would require the veterinarian to scan the pet on first presentation and contact the registered owner or back-up rescuer. It is crucial to highlight the importance of that back-up. Rescue organisations and breeders register their details on the original database as a secondary contact as part of the adoption contract or bill of sale. In a time of vulnerability, the secondary contact is there to prevent the animal from being unnecessarily euthanised and to alert the veterinarian to an alternative that is in place. That also allows the rescuer or breeder to remain a constant presence and provide support to the pet should it be abandoned or sold without the rescue organisation’s or breeder’s knowledge. If the adopter or owner does not keep the information registered on the microchip up to date, the secondary back-up rescuer information will enable the rescuer or breeder to be contacted in all circumstances.

As I said, despite the change in the RCVS’s code, the scanning of microchips prior to euthanasia remains at the discretion of the veterinarian and is not a legal requirement. Animals can still be subjected to destruction on the basis of behavioural issues or accusations of such ill behaviour. I do believe that to be right. The back-up rescuer provision allows time for comprehensive assessments, healthcare checks, reforming support and guarantees that any life-ending decision is based on the animal’s best interests, with all facts and alternative options examined.

The Tuk’s law campaign was started four years ago by the brilliant Sue Williams and Dawn Ashley, and it has had the fantastic support of Dominic Dyer. More than 100,000 people from all over the country supported the campaign, leading to a parliamentary debate on 28 June last year.

Clause 2 would place requirements on local authorities to make all reasonable efforts to take steps listed in subsection (2) with regard to deceased cats found on a public highway or otherwise reported to a local authority. Those steps include: making arrangements to pick up the cat; checking for a microchip; finding ownership details; contacting the owner to inform them of what has happened; making arrangements for the owner to be reunited with the cat; and ensuring that the cat is held and preserved by the local authority for up to seven days. There would also be a requirement under subsection (3) to record certain information in a register of cat and cat owner reunification organisations.

My constituent Heléna Abrahams has been campaigning for six years for Gizmo’s law, which is encompassed in the Bill, to ensure that no other pet owner has to experience what she suffered with Gizmo. The efforts of Heléna, Wendy and the whole team at Gizmo’s Legacy have secured the support of tens of thousands of people throughout the country for the proposed change in the law, and every day they work to ensure that those sadly deceased cats—much-loved family pets—are returned to their owners. Gizmo’s law is articulated in clause 2, and it is a testament to the kindness and humanity shown every day by Heléna and her team. There will also, hopefully, be another benefit of the Bill and Heléna’s hard work. She has worked in partnership with a pet food company, which has agreed to supply the appropriate equipment to any local authority that does not have a scanner. Clearly, that is to be recommended.

I hope that the Bill is a sensible step. Steps have already been taken; the Minister is a genuinely excellent Minister and the Department has interacted with me on this issue. I have been speaking in Parliament about this for two years, so I must apologise again to the House for that. However, Sue, Dawn, Heléna and Wendy are genuinely good people who are trying to do things for the right reasons—and that is the end of that.

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Chair, Standing Orders Committee (Commons), Chair, Standing Orders Committee (Commons)

The hon. Gentleman certainly held the attention of the House. Most remarkably, his speech came in at well under 10 minutes, so he will probably get in the “Guinness Book of Records” for that.

Question put and agreed to.

Ordered,

That James Daly, Jim Shannon, James Grundy, Luke Pollard, Tom Tugendhat, Mark Logan, Lee Anderson, Aaron Bell, Chris Green, Craig Tracey, Robin Millar and Sally-Ann Hart present the Bill.

James Daly accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 18 March, and to be printed (Bill 278).