Compulsory microchipping - how effective has it been?

As an organisation which cares for a great number of stray cats and dogs, Battersea believes passionately in the importance of microchipping. Every year, we see hundreds of animals quickly reunited with their family thanks to this simple procedure. This is why we campaigned to make microchipping compulsory for dogs and cats and why we continue to work to improve the microchipping system.


Microchipping is the process where a small chip the size of a grain of rice is implanted between the shoulder blades of a dog. This procedure is done by a trained professional, usually vets.

Every microchip has a unique code, which is readable with a microchip scanner. This code corresponds with a database entry, which in turn gives information on the dog’s keeper, such as their name and address.


Compulsory dog microchipping – how effective has it been?

In 2016, it became a legal requirement for all dogs to be microchipped and since then we have been tracking the effectiveness of the law with pioneering surveys of Local Authorities and stray dogs across the UK. We have published six reports with our findings between 2016 and 2023.

Our reports have consistently found that a significant proportion of stray dogs do not have a microchip or accurate microchip details. Our 2023 survey found that;

  • The number of stray dogs has increased by 25% compared with 2021, the first increase since 2016.
  • Just 19% of stray dogs are now microchipped with an accurate microchip record. This is down from 26% of strays in 2021 and is the lowest figure since we began recording it in 2016. 
  • 30% of stray dogs do not have a microchip implanted, up from 23% in 2021.
  • 72% of stray dogs with a microchip implanted had an inaccurate and out of date record on the database.
  • 83% of all inaccurate records seem to be due to new keepers failing either to update the microchip record when they acquire their dog or register a dog on a database.
  • There are now (at the time of writing) 22 separate seemingly DEFRA compliant microchip databases.

Sadly, it is difficult to reunite many strays with their owners because they often have no microchip or the details on the microchip are not up to date. While it is the responsibility of owners to update microchip details on a database, it has always been Battersea’s position that there is more that both the Government and database companies can do to help make sure that all dogs have a microchip with up-to-date details.  


Upcoming reforms to the microchipping system

In December 2021, DEFRA published its review of the Microchipping of Dogs (England) Regulations 2015. It subsequently launched a consultation on a range of proposals to improve the operation of the microchip database system. Battersea’s reports helped to inform both the review and the consultation and on the 29th March 2024, the Government announced that they will introduce a number of significant improvements to the microchipping system. The reforms will;

  • Require database companies to contact their customers regularly and systematically, to remind them to ensure their contact details are up to date on the microchip record.
  • Make the process of updating information as easy as possible for keepers and processing requests to update details as quickly as possible.
  • Develop and implement single portal access to all databases to prevent vets, enforcement bodies and rescues having to search through multiple websites after scanning to find a record.
  • Make sure information about the breeder remains a permanent part of the database to increase transparency, ensure negligent breeders are brought to justice and enhance breeding conditions.
  • Require database operators to introduce stronger procedures around the transfer of records, including seeking the approval of previous registered keepers before transferring a record to a new keeper, which would help to avoid stolen pets having their microchip details changed.

Battersea will now work to ensure that these improvements are implemented as quickly as possible by the Government.


Compulsory Cat Microchipping 

In March 2023, the UK Government passed Regulations to make microchipping compulsory in England for owned cats. As of 10 June 2024, all owned cats in England are required by law to be microchipped accurately on a DEFRA-compliant database. Keepers found not to have microchipped their cat will be given 21 days to do so or face a fine of up to £500.

Battersea welcomed this legislation which will be critical in helping rescue and rehoming centres reunite stray cats with their owners. In 2022, 59% of cats came into Battersea’s care without a microchip and due to issues, such as inaccurate database records, we were only able to reunite 7% of cats.

However, our 2023 report found that Local Authorities have very little contact with stray cats, which are difficult to identify given that cats roam in a way dogs do not. Of the 34 Local Authorities surveyed, 94% had no contact with any stray cats in March 2023. Local Authorities are therefore likely to have few opportunities to enforce the Microchipping of Cats Regulations.



Battersea will continue to work closely with DEFRA to ensure that the The Microchipping of Cats and Dogs (England) Regulations 2023 can be effectively enforced by Local Authorities.

In April 2019, Battersea asked 369 Local Authorities in Great Britain with responsibility for dog control about how they enforced compulsory microchipping. This revealed that Local Authorities in Great Britain only issued 21-day enforcement notices in an estimated 13% of potential cases, with fines ranging from £20 to £500. Battersea recommends that DEFRA;

  • Give Local Authorities sufficient resource and a legal duty to enforce the Regulations. There is currently no legal obligation placed on any statutory body to enforce.
  • Produce best practice guidance for Local Authorities, drawing on the experience of those Councils that are making extensive use of their enforcement powers.
  • Give Local Authorities the power to issue a conditional Fixed Penalty Notice for non-compliance. In April 2022, the Animal (Penalty Notices) Act 2022 was passed, potentially allowing Local Authorities to issue Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) for failing to microchip a dog or cat; secondary legislation will be required to enable this, which Battersea will continue to push for.