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Defra approves new guidance on scanning

Issue: 04/06/2021

The Department of Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has approved new guidance on the scanning of dogs ahead of euthanasia.
It follows a campaign, known as Tuk’s Law, which called for measures to ensure dogs were not euthanised without the microchip database first being checked for a ‘rescue back up’, that is a rehoming charity that could take responsibility for the animal.
Tuk was a 16-month-old Romanian rescue dog who was euthanised in December 2017. He was not scanned prior to euthanasia and his ‘Rescue Back Ups’ were not contacted or notified of his death. Tuk was euthanised whilst having full rescue back up, dually registered contact details on his microchip and was presented by an individual who was not his registered keeper.
In consultation with Defra the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) have jointly agreed a way forward for the key guidance for vets to be strengthened.
Both the BVA and RCVS have agreed that more could be done to prevent occasions where a dog might needlessly be put to sleep, but they have voiced concerns that a legislative approach could undermine a vet’s clinical judgement and unfairly involve vets in ownership disputes or potential criminality. They also fear that vets could be exposed to financial sanctions.
The government in its recently published Action Plan for Animals included a commitment to Tuk’s Law and last September the Conservative MP James Daly introduced a Private Members’ Bill to introduce the measure.
Debbie Matthews, who has campaigned for Fern’s Law, where vets would be called on to scan for microchips when a dog is first presented to a vet, told OUR DOGS, ‘The new guidance-led approach to microchip scanning of dogs (only) ahead of euthanasia, supported by the UK’s leading veterinary organisations and Defra is a missed opportunity for all microchipped pets. 
‘Families searching for their missing microchipped dogs and cats have had hope taken away from them. Checking healthy dogs prior to euthanasia is great but why ignore the importance of reuniting sold-on stolen pets?
‘BVA and RCVS support compulsory dog microchipping and the proposed compulsory cat microchipping, it doesn’t make any sense that they are not supporting microchipping to reunite sold-on stolen pets. 
‘Limiting the use of microchip system should not really be a choice, when the public have been sold the premise that microchips are sold to reunite lost and stolen pets. 
‘All vets have to do is inform the microchip database, checking chips can be done by vet nurse at any time. Once it’s a standard operation procedure (SOP) they’ll wonder what all the fuss was about! 
‘The mental health issues caused by the trauma of dog theft is compounded by the knowledge that the veterinary profession are not checking microchips at first visit and blocking their pets only route home. The other concern should be the impact on animals snatched from loving home, which is never addressed, where will this sit with the new proposed Animal (Sentience) Bill supported by Defra and BVA, ‘animals have feelings’?


‘We’ve recently seen a couple of reunited stolen dogs who have needed veterinary help because of stress related issues. One dog having to be put to sleep. So maybe that sick dog taken into a vet clinic is showing signs of stress because they are stolen? 
‘It’s pot luck at the moment with some vets who do check microchip registration on the original database and some that don’t! We need legislation, the Government made it a legal obligation to microchip our dogs (and cats soon), there should be a reciprocal legal obligation to check microchips at pets first treatment to reunite sold-on stolen pets. It’s the only way these missing pets will get home. 
‘What makes Defra’s, RCVS and BVA’s decision all the worse is this wonderful reunited stolen dog update from last week. When a family went to the vets with their new dog, the vet checked the microchip registration on the original database and it was a dog called Keedy who had been stolen three months previously from an elderly couple. 
‘Microchips work when they are scanned and registration is checked, it’s that simple. 
‘The question that led our petition to victory was: If your stolen dog was taken to the vets by a new family, would you want the vet to check their microchip to get them back home? YES.’
Dr Daniel Allen, who has campaigned for Pet Theft Reform, said, ‘Why does the pet microchipping system matter? The public must legally microchip dogs - or be fined. The public pays to join a database - sold with promise of helping reunite lost & stolen dogs. Yet no authority is legally obliged to scan & check microchips.’
Campaign group Focus on Animal Law said, ‘It seems a very uncomfortable position to us that identification of a registered owner only becomes relevant either a)when elective euthanasia is requested of a healthy dog, or b) as also suggested, on discovery of a deceased dog. Microchipping can do so much more.’


The RCVS Standards Committee has recognised the difficulties in dealing with the current microchip database system but they felt that introducing these provisions into the guidance was a more proportionate response than the alternative of legislation with substantial fines.
George Eustice, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said, ‘We are a nation of animal lovers and the Government is committed to further strengthening our world-leading animal welfare standards. We have worked closely with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and British Veterinary Association to develop this new guidance, which honours the Tuk’s law principles by requiring vets to scan the microchips of healthy dogs to help ensure they are not put down unnecessarily.’
RCVS President Dr Mandisa Greene MRCVS said, ‘We are grateful to Defra for helping find a workable solution to a challenging problem that will support animal welfare while underpinning the central role of a veterinary surgeon’s judgement, in what is often a very difficult moment for both the client and the vet. We are confident that our new guidance will significantly reduce any risk of unnecessary and unwanted euthanasia, while continuing to help veterinary surgeons help animals under their care to the best of their abilities.’ 
Sue Williams and Dawn Ashley the joint founders of the Tuks Law Campaign said, ‘This is a hugely important day for the Tuks Law Campaign. Tuk was a rescue dog from Romania who was rehomed in the UK as a puppy, when he was 16 months old he was put down. If his micro chip had been scanned the vet would have learned Tuk had rescue back up, meaning he had a safe place to go and his life would have been saved. Thousand of other dogs have suffered a similar fate to Tuk and we now hope these changes to the way vets operate in surgeries in Britain will prevent this continuing to happen. 
‘We will continue to engage closely with Defra, RCVS and BVA on the implementation and monitoring of this new guidance and any action that might need to be taken against vets who do not follow these new guidance measures.
‘We are calling on Defra to work closely with the micro chip companies to improve the database systems to ensure vets can obtain all the key information required on ownership and back up details at the time of scanning micro chips, when dogs are presented to be euthanised.
‘We would also like to thank the hundreds of thousands of people who have supported the Government petition on Tuk’s Law, James Daly MP for his Private Members Bill supporting Tuk’s Law and the Prime Minister and his fiancée Carrie Symonds, who have also supported our campaign in view of their rescue dog Dilyn.’

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