STILL NO UPDATE ON #FernsLaw petition: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/300010
Petition closed on 4th September 2020 and reached over 100k signatures in under 4 months.
The Government opened a Consultation on ‘Cat and Dog Scanning and Microchipping’ which closed on 17th February 2021: https://consult.defra.gov.uk/companion-animals-team/cat-and-dog-microchipping-and-scanning-in-england/. No update
FernsLaw debated in Parliament on 28th June 2021: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2021-06-28/debates/FAE1F98B-BE16-4016-B701-FAEF87D7055C/MicrochippingOfPets
Victoria Pentis, Defra, said:
“On Fern’s law, we recognise the clear emotional upset and trauma that the loss of a much-loved pet can cause, and we will continue to take action on pet theft. We set up the Government’s pet theft taskforce, not at all to kick the issue down the road, as the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport suggested, but in fact, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith) indicated, because this is a multi-departmental issue. My right hon. Friend has, if I may say so, knocked around government for some time now and is aware that we need DEFRA, the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office to work together to ensure that this issue is right at the top of the agenda.
The taskforce will report by the end of July. Officials are working on the recommended actions at the moment. In the autumn, following the recommendations of the taskforce, we will work on the legislative and non-legislative measures that can help to deal with pet theft. Items that we are working on include stopping cash payments, as mentioned by my right hon. Friend; creating a new pet theft offence or offences where necessary; and considering measures on the compulsory scanning of microchips. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton North East (Jane Stevenson) said, we need to use every available tool in our response to this.
Fern’s law formed part of the consultation we carried out earlier this year. It is worth reminding colleagues that the compulsory microchipping of dogs was primarily brought in to reduce the number of dogs that needed to be rehomed or put down because their keepers could not be traced. In this, it has been really successful, with an increased reunification rate for strays since its introduction. The routine scanning of strays is clearly helpful, and there is a strong imperative to do that on animal welfare grounds. The veterinary profession already recommends that vets scan cats and dogs on first presentation to make sure that animals are correctly identified when checked against the database, and that the same thing is done at regular check-ups. Where the checks raise a concern that the animal might have been lost or stolen, vets have procedures in place to handle that. All of us have a shared goal to reunite pets with their owners. Vets play an important part in the system, and it will take a whole system approach to deal with it, including but not limited to microchipping animals, effective databases, and keepers ensuring that their details are kept up to date.
I will watch the progress of the amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green closely. I know that he has been in touch with the Lord Chancellor about it. We are considering the consultation responses on Fern’s law and will put forward our proposals this autumn.
On the calls for a single database, I have listened carefully to the arguments put forward, not least by my hon. Friend the Member for North West Durham (Mr Holden), whose constituency I was very pleased to visit. We should recognise that database operators are commercial enterprises that offer a range of services and provide a level of choice for pet owners, but I am sure that significant improvements can be made to the current system to address the issues of concern. Those include considering a single point of access for all databases, which, from the user’s perspective, might be very much like having a single database. We are working on that urgently, and, once again, I will come back to right hon. and hon. Members in the autumn with the response to the consultation. The improvements will help to support the principles behind the scanning campaigns that we have discussed today.”