Cat microchipping debate out of the bag

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Ashburton SPCA team leader Ashleigh Murray. Photo: Supplied
Ashburton SPCA team leader Ashleigh Murray. Photo: Supplied
The debate of whether or not cat microchipping should be made mandatory has been raised following the Selwyn District Council’s decision to make cat microchipping and registration mandatory for animals aged over four months.

The changes were made effective as of July 1 and subject owners to a one-off cost for the microchipping and lifetime registration of their cats with the New Zealand Animals Companion Register (NZCAR).

Now Ashburton residents are wondering if Ashburton District Council has any intention of following in Selwyn’s footsteps, and if cat registration is actually beneficial.

Ashburton SPCA team leader Ashleigh Murray said if there are any plans to legislate cat microchipping in this district, or any others, she will be in full support, claiming that more cats having up-todate microchip information would mean less cats occupying SPCA shelter space.

‘‘It makes it much easier to reunite lost animals or stray animals with owners,’’ Ashleigh says.

‘‘If the animals have one, we can ring the owners straight away rather than (the animals) waiting around in the centre for someone to claim them.’’

The animal welfare facility, which is purpose-built for sheltering cats, is not often seen with empty cages.

Veterinarian Cody Wong with his adopted ex-clinic cat, Stanley. Photo: Supplied
Veterinarian Cody Wong with his adopted ex-clinic cat, Stanley. Photo: Supplied
All cats taken in by the SPCA are immediately scanned for a microchip.

Unchipped, unidentifiable animals, will be advertised on lostpet.co.nz in the hopes that they will be reunited with their owners.

However, after seven days, if the animal remains unclaimed, the SPCA will determine if rehoming is viable, and if so, the animal will go up for adoption.

Historically, the SPCA have run ‘Snip n Chip’ campaigns which are aimed at increasing the number of microchipped and desexed animals within the community by offering vouchers for microchipping and desexing services at just $20, a heavily discounted fee. Like with dogs, microchipping tags cats with owner contact and location information, which ensures a level of owner responsibility and enables animals to be reunited with their owners should they go missing and be found.

Chipless animals with no identifiable registration virtually exist with no identity, meaning they can often be accidentally profiled as ‘strays’.

Ashburton veterinarian Dr Cody Wong likened cats not being microchipped to foreigners not having passports, saying if anything happens, there’s just no telling who they are.

He said ‘‘It’s almost impossible to find your lost cats without microchips”, recounting the hundreds of times ‘stray’ or injured cats have been brought in for veterinary care without any way of identifying or contacting their owners. From there, it’s often a matter of welfare that dictates what happens with the animal, or where it goes.

“But I have seen cats reunited with their owners after being missing for a year or two because the cats were chipped,’’ Dr Wong said.

Ashburton District Mayor Neil Brown has said there was no intention of making cat microchipping mandatory, but it would be considered if there is a strong interest from the public.

While the topic remains up for debate, both the Ashburton SPCA and local veterinarians agree cat micrchipping is important.

-By Indi Roberts

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