A mum is believed to be one of the first people in Britain to be convicted of not having her dog microchipped correctly.
Heather Westwood has been ordered to pay almost £400 after she failed to update her dog Dotty’s chip.
The law only came into force on April 6, and means anybody who doesn’t chip their dog – like Heather – can end up in court.
Last night the 29-year-old told the Gazette she was “gobsmacked” by the conviction – particularly as she hadn’t realised the case had gone to court.
But Westwood, who works in a doctor’s surgery, admitted: “It is my fault.”
Her pet pooch Dotty escaped from the family’s Stockton home in April.
It was handed to Stockton Council’s animal welfare service by a member of the public and officials found while it was chipped, it didn’t contain Westwood’s details.
Westwood had bought the cross breed as a puppy, but never bothered changing the chip.
She was given 21 days to change the details, but failed.
“(Stockton Council) gave me a form to send off but I never had the original chip number,” claimed Ms Westwood.
“The dog just got out the back door, I rang the council to see if a dog had been handed in and they said ‘oh yeah come and get it’.
“She was already chipped but it wasn’t updated with my details.
“I’m surprised that I’ve never had anything to say ‘If you don’t do this’ you will go to court – I mean, I don’t want a £400 fine for a dog that has only got out once since I got her.”
“I don’t really want to go to court for not chipping my dog.”
But while she didn’t attend Teesside Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, Stockton Council proceeded with its case against her.
Chairwoman of the bench Judith Daniels fined Westwood, of Peel Street, Stockton, £220 for the offence.
She was also ordered to pay £130 costs with a £30 victim surcharge.
All dogs over eight weeks old must now be chipped under the new legal requirement.
Under the new measures, all owners must ensure their dog is microchipped and their details are kept up to date.
The law was brought in to make it easier for lost or missing dogs to be returned to their owners.
It also makes it easier to track down the owners of dogs that attack people.
Stockton Council’s cabinet member councillor Steve Nelson said: “It is a legal requirement for all dogs to be micro-chipped and part of being a responsible dog owner.
“I cannot express enough the importance of getting your dog micro-chipped and making sure the contact details on the specific micro-chipping database are kept up-to-date.
“It is absolutely vital if your dog is lost or stolen because it increases the prospects of being reunited with your pet as quickly as possible and also benefits the dogs welfare.
“The database company charges between £10 and £16 to update an owner’s details and because Ms Westwood did not do this she now must pay £380 in 7 days. I hope this case is a reminder to others that they must keep their contact details up-to-date if they move home.”
And Ms Westwood issued a warning to any dog owners who haven’t got their pets chipped.
“Update your details because you are going to be fined,” she said.
Compulsory Microchipping for Dog Owners
From April 2016 it will be a legal requirement for ALL dogs to be microchipped and contact details up-to-date.
We have listed the most Frequently Asked Questions regarding compulsory microchipping
Will compulsory microchipping for dogs be government-controlled?
The Microchipping of Dogs (England) Regulations 2014 will be enforced by local authorities, police constables, community support officers and any other person which the Secretary of State may authorise to act as an enforcer of the regulations.
How do I update my contact details?
Contact your Microchip database
Is compulsory microchipping now proof of ownership / keepership?
No, microchipping will not be proof of ‘ownership’. The words ‘owner’ and ‘ownership’ have been replaced by the words ‘keeper’ and ‘keepership’ for this very reason.
Will compulsory microchipping mean legal ‘Keeper / Ownership’?
The words ‘legally responsible’ are used if your dog strays, bites or causes any unjust damage. As the keeper of the dog you are ‘liable’ for the dog that is registered to you. Therefore, as the ‘keeper’ you will be held responsible if your dog has been found to commit such an act, however the ‘keeper’ will be protected from prosecution if their dog attacks a burglar or trespasser on their land.
How long has a person got to get a dog microchipped if they get one after April 2016?
From the 6th of April 2016, all dogs must be microchipped and registered to an approved database by the time they are 8 weeks old.
If a keeper of a dog which is not microchipped gets served with a notice requiring them to have the dog chipped, they will have 21 days to do this.
At what age is a dog exempt?
There are no exemptions with regarding to age. A dog will be legally exempt from being microchipped only when a vet certifies that it cannot be microchipped for health reasons. This needs to done on a form approved by the Secretary of State.
What is the minimum age a puppy has to be before being chipped?
There is no minimum age specified in the regulations. The puppy only has to be microchipped and registered to an approved database by the time they are 8 weeks old. The government advises that the dog be healthy enough to be implanted and sufficient time is allowed for the database to process the registration in order to ensure that the dog is compliant with the regulations by the time they are 8 weeks old.
Is there a fine/penalty if I don’t get my dog microchipped?
Yes. Under the regulations, your dog is considered microchipped when you (1) implant the dog with a chip and (2) register your details on an approved database. If you do not get your dog microchipped or your details registered on an approved database, then it will be considered as not complying with the regulations and a notice may be served. If the keeper does not microchip their dogs within 21 days of the served notice, then you will be liable to pay a fine of £500.
Is there a fine/penalty if I don’t keep my database details up to date?
Yes. Under the regulations, your dog is considered microchipped when you (1) implant the dog with a chip and (2) register your details on an approved database.
If any keeper subsequently moves, changes contact telephone number, etc. then the dog is no longer considered microchipped under the regulations and enforcement can be taken and a notice served. If the keeper does NOT get their details up to date within 21 days of the served notice, then you will be liable to pay a fine of £500.
What is the purpose of a microchip database?
When a pet is microchipped the unique Microchip Number and your contact details along with important information on the pet – need to be held in a secure location / and be accessible 24/7 365 by any Authorised Agent finding the pet.
What documentation will be issued to the registered keeper?
The keeper will be able to download their confirmation of registration via the website for their microchip number and Petlog ID upon validation of registration.
Why do Microchip databases charge fees for amending / changing details?
The fee that is paid at the point of microchip implantation does not go to the databases; this is the reason why databases request a fee when a change of details is required – to ensure the promise of a 24/7, 365 lifetime service to its customers.
Will the microchip expire?
The microchip will have an expiry date on the packaging but this is purely for implantation purposes and not an expiry date for the function of reunification.
If there is more than one Microchip database – how do I know where my details are being stored – do I get a choice?
We always recommend that before having your pet microchipped – you ask what microchip is being used and which database it is aligned to. Your pet’s details and your contacts details are very important – and you should consider where this information is being stored – and the service level that accompanies this.
How do I know if my dog has been registered on a microchip database in the UK?
The implanter will forward the microchip registration information directly to the respective database, where all the details will be held. If the keeper of the pet does not receive confirmation of registration within 14 days they should check the paperwork given by the implanter on the day, contact the relevant database.
If the keeper knows the microchip number they can easily go online to check if the dog is registered on the Petlog Microchip Look Up.
How can owners “keepers” check the details on their dog’s microchip are up to date?
Easy, online at place the pet’s microchip number in the Look Up a Microchip search. If the microchip number is one that is registered with Petlog the keeper can create an account or login and then check the details recorded with Petlog.
What is the procedure for changing details in situations where both previous owner and new owner might not express consent, such as when a dog is unclaimed from the pound, or if the previous owner has died?
On most occasions both parties can be put in touch with each other and a resolve made.
In the case of the death of a previous keeper, the database has a process to deal with this, and will be happy to discuss with the customer in this unfortunate event.
In respect of other keepership issues, on the rare occasion that consent is not given then the record is ‘locked’ and can only be dealt with by a member of our Customer Care Team. The primary role is to reunite lost pets with their keepers. When keepership issues arise, if they cannot be reconciled by agreement between two conflicting parties, the dispute over keepership will then become a civil matter.