Harvey’s Law is Debated in Parliament

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Yesterday Harvey’s Law was debated in Parliament. For the uninitiated Harvey’s Law was a petition largely directed at the Highways Agency, compelling them to scan canine remains for microchips. The Transport Minister, John Hayes, announced that he has told the Highways Agency that he “expects” them to do all that is practical to identify pets killed on the road.

The campaign was started after a poodle named Harvey went missing. His owners spent £8,000 in their desperate bid to find him, including relentless leafleting and temporarily living in a caravan to live closer to the area they thought he could be in.

The following year, Harvey’s distraught owners received a Facebook message from a ‘highway patrol officer’ to say that Harvey had been struck down by a vehicle just 21 minutes after escaping.

The Highways Agency’s code of practice indicates that all canine remains should, where possible, be scanned for a microchip and that staff must have access to a microchip scanner and be trained in its use. This would indicate that employees of the Highways Agency should routinely scan remains, and with this in mind owners might think that they would at least be informed if their pet had been involved in a road traffic accident.

However, a Freedom of Information Act request has revealed that these measures were being ‘phased out’ in several areas and would have been entirely outmoded by this July. Given that mandatory microchipping is being brought in next year it seemed like a huge step backwards to suddenly abolish a policy such as this. It forces us to wonder why we bother microchipping our pets at all.

Pet owners get their pets chipped in the hope that it will never need to be scanned. I have six rescued rabbits and a dog, all of whom are microchipped. If it were up to me, they would never need to be used. But pets escape, they go missing and, increasingly, they are stolen. I would like to think that, were one of my animals to be lost or stolen, I would eventually have them returned to me courtesy of the microchip. I update my details on the database as necessary and get the chips checked whenever I visit the vet, just to make sure they are in full working order. So why shouldn’t they work when I need them to?

The problem isn’t helped by the fact that vets and rescue centres don’t always conduct a thorough check for a microchip. There have been numerous instances of bereft owners becoming locked in battles over ownership when their missing pet is rehomed to unwitting adopters, despite the pet being microchipped. These clashes can get incredibly messy, especially when the new owners refuse to surrender the pet.

In one case the owners of a Pomeranian, missing since 2011, were called by their microchip database asking for permission to change the microchip details to accommodate the new owners, who have adopted the dog from a rehoming centre. Because of the restrictions of the Data Protection Act, the database could not disclose the location of their dog, and the new owners have rejected any claims of prior ownership. The case is going to the small claims court, as the police have deemed it a ‘civil matter’. The whole sticky scenario could have been neatly avoided if the rescue centre had scanned the dog for a chip and contacted the owners.

Situations like this are horrible for pet owners to contemplate, from both sides.

Imagine your much-loved pet runs away from home. You launch a military-style operation to try and retrieve your furry family member to no avail. After a few months, or even a few years, you give up searching, but you never give up hope. Then, out of the blue, you get a call from your pet’s microchip database asking for your permission to change the details for your pet’s “new owners”. The mix of emotions would be a lot to handle. On the one hand you’d be overjoyed that your pet is alive and well, but on the other you’d be so concerned, upset and probably rather outraged that someone else has quite evidently scanned your pet’s microchip and still not chosen to return them to you.

Now, instead, imagine going to a rescue centre and immediately falling in love with an animal and bringing them home. They become a part of your family, and you come to a point where you can’t picture your life without this pet. Then, while responsibly attempting to update your new addition’s microchip details, you suddenly find yourself embroiled in a legal dispute with someone you’ve never met, claiming that they are the pet’s “real” owners and demanding the return of “their” pet. What would you do? Would you just hand your pet over?

Microchips have uses beyond the identification (and, hopefully, subsequent return) of lost pets. For instance Pets at Home sells rabbits implanted with microchips which state that, should the pet be abandoned or surrendered to a shelter, they should be returned to a store, where they will be cared for and rehomed.

On the occasions where they are utilised effectively this technology is brilliant, and I will continue to microchip any pet I ever own that can possibly be microchipped (and you’ll be amazed just how many different species can be). We can only hope that mandatory microchipping law will also be the advent of more stringent checks at all stages to help reduce pet theft, abandonment and “accidental adoption”.

But, back to Harvey’s Law. It was patently unacceptable to outmode a practice that takes minutes to perform and can prevent years of heartache, so it’s great that this has been prevented. I’d argue that you never fully stop grieving for the death of a pet, but not knowing is far harder to bear.

Introduction to March

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It’s March, which means Easter is around the corner and Lent is already here! The third month of the year signals the end of winter, and with January feeling quite distant now, you may have let those New Year’s resolutions slip slightly. This might include any you had pledged for your pet, but Lent is perfect for getting back on track. As well as using this time to give up your own bad habits, why not help your pet to give up theirs as well? (more…)

International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day

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Today is International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day, though I’m sure most dogs don’t need much of an excuse to appreciate a snack or three!

We all know that having a treat now and again is harmless, and can just be a nice little way to improve your day. A square of chocolate or the odd packet of crisps is not going to do us any damage as long as we balance it out with the rest of our nutrition and make sure we don’t overindulge, right? Well, it’s the same with our pets. (more…)

Animal Friends Donates £6,000 to Help Felix the Foal

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Animal Friends Pet Insurance is making a donation of £6,000 to Horse World to help them care for Felix, a foal found abandoned on private land in tragic circumstances. The donation means that Horse World have now smashed their initial fundraising target of £10,000. (more…)

Happy Love Your Pet Day!

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Most owners don’t need a special day to be reminded how much they adore their furry friends. But, as today is Love Your Pet Day, we asked some of our staff here at Animal Friends to tell us what they love about their pets. (more…)

Random Acts of Kindness Day

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Today is Random Acts of Kindness Day, and to celebrate we thought we’d propose a couple of ways that you can show your pets, wild animals and other pet owners a few small gestures of consideration. (more…)

Pet-friendly Pancakes

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It’s that time of year again and many of us are looking forward to having pancakes! Maybe you had yours for breakfast with maple syrup and bacon, or perhaps you’re having yours for tea with lemon juice and a little sprinkling of sugar.

However you like yours, the usual pancake recipe with milk and white flour isn’t ideal for our pets. But, with some clever substitutions you can make gluten and dairy-free pet-friendly pancakes that your furry friend will love! (more…)

Ways You Can Show You Love Your Pet

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Valentine’s Day is almost here and why not factor your pet into the celebrations? They love you unconditionally, so here are a few ways you can show your pet you love them. (more…)

Blame Someone Else Day

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The first Friday the 13th of every year is known as Blame Someone Else Day. This event is attributed to a an American woman called Anne Moeller whose alarm clock failed to go off on the first Friday the 13th in 1982, setting off a series of unfortunate events for which she blamed other people. Perhaps it’s a slightly silly day but as pet owners I’m sure there’s been the odd occasion where we’ve blamed our four-legged friends for something we’ve done. We asked Animal Friends staff what they had let their pets take the rap for and this is what they had to confess. (more…)

Happy Make a Friend Day!

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Today is Make a Friend Day, so we thought we’d put together a fool-proof guide to helping your pet make new animal friends. Whether you’re getting a new cat, or you just want your dog to have a new play partner, here is a quick method to help you through the process. (more…)