Pet Theft — [Sir David Amess in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:46 pm on 19th October 2020.

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Photo of Sheryll Murray Sheryll Murray Conservative, South East Cornwall 4:46 pm, 19th October 2020

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David. I know how committed to you are to all parliamentary pets, having organised the parliamentary pet of the year competition. I was lucky enough to meet your dogs at the time, and I know you saw some lovely photographs of my Bosun. I also congratulate my hon. Friend Tom Hunt on securing this important debate.

I will concentrate on a manifesto pledge that the Conservative party and, to be fair, the Labour party made at the last election, which was to seek compulsory microchipping of cats. As the co-chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on cats and as the proud owner of two VIPs—that is, very important pets—I feel it is time to bring in the right regulations to require the compulsory microchipping of owned cats.

I had Milly microchipped, and the newest addition to the Murray-Davidson household is Louis, who came from Cats Protection. Little Louis’ former owner had poor health, so he needed a new home. He came chipped because Cats Protection believes that cats should be microchipped so that, where possible, they can be reunited with their owners. I agree, and I thank Cats Protection for all its help to cats everywhere.

Unfortunately, I have to report that in recent years cat theft has been a growing problem, including in my area of local Devon and Cornwall. A microchip increases the chance that a pet will end up back with their rightful owner, although, as one of my constituents pointed out to me this morning, we must ensure that all the details on the register are up to date. I urge the Minister to make it compulsory, when vets see these pets, for the owner’s details to be updated, as that can often resolve any dispute without the need for litigation.

I understand from the Secretary of State that the response to the call for evidence on cat microchipping, which closed on 4 January, has been held up due to covid-19. While I understand that, I also call for all possible speed, because during lockdown people have been so much more reliant on their pets for company, as has been mentioned. My own mother-in-law, who lives in Wales, often only has her pet Jess for company. We Zoom as much as we can, but it is Jess who has been there for her as a constant companion in the covid world. Jess means so much the whole family, which is why I am pleased that the Secretary of State has reported that the Government are moving the situation along in the next three months with the consultation.

I ask the Minister to give us an update on that, and I also ask for an update on when we will see legislation coming to Parliament. There is no doubt that the compulsory microchipping of dogs, which came in in 2016, has worked, but I believe that it can be improved through the updating of ownership details, and that it is now time for cats to be treated equally in the eyes of the law, which could massively help when it comes to prosecuting and proving pet theft.