Proposals could be brought forward in the coming weeks
Proposals to make it a legal requirement to microchip pet cats could be brought forward in the “coming weeks”, a minister has said.
Transport minister Richard Holden said long-awaited legislation would soon come to Parliament as MPs considered a petition on requiring drivers to stop when they run over a cat.
The minister said microchipping cats would be the best way to reunite owners with their dead pets instead, claiming that because cats roam free at night the proposal involving drivers could results in “hundreds of thousands” of reports each year.
Mr Holden said: “Cats tend to roam unaccompanied and are likely to go out at night. Drivers also may not realise that they have had a collision with a cat in some instances, or small animals very similar to rabbits or other wild animals, which can also cross roads late at night.
“There are also hazards associated with stopping to check whether animals are alive or not, especially if they are very small animals.
“Having the law to make a requirement to report road collisions involving a cat would be difficult to enforce, especially when, as members across the House made clear, Petplan have suggested it might be in terms of hundreds of thousands of these incidents being brought forwards a year.
“One of the things we have been really pushing on in the last few years is microchipping as providing the best way for reuniting owners with their pets when they have either been tragically killed, stolen, or a variety of other issues.
“As members across the House pointed out, we do have a manifesto commitment to introduce compulsory cat microchipping and we consulted on this last year.
“We are committed to introducing this and we will be laying the legislation for this in coming weeks for England, and I hope that devolved administrations will follow closely, as this is a devolved issue both in Wales, and in Scotland, and in Northern Ireland.”
Labour MP Tonia Antoniazzi (Gower) opened the Westminster Hall debate on the petition, which called on the Government to add cats to an existing list of animals which drivers must stop and report if they hit them while using their vehicle.
Ms Antoniazzi said many people considered cats “as part of the family”, adding: “This, alongside their independent natures, inquisitiveness and aloofness has helped them to be one of our favourite pets.
“Under the Road Traffic Act 1988, section 170, drivers are required to stop and report incidents of hitting a horse, cattle, ass, mule, sheep, pig, goat or dog.
“The Act as it is reflects an understanding of animals having a financial value attached to them as livestock or as working animals. As such, cats are not covered by the Act.
“But Olivia, our petitioner, and organisations including Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and the Blue Cross want this to change. Because there is currently no legal requirement to report, we simply do not know how many cats are killed by vehicles.”
She urged ministers to “make good on their promise to make a legal requirement for cats to be microchipped” as this would send “a vital message that it is an integral part of looking after a cat”.
Conservative MP James Daly said changing the law would be simple, telling MPs: “You simply add a word into legislation, which is ‘cat’. Then we achieve what has been said.”
The Bury North MP has previously called for local councils to be required to scan dead cats found after traffic accidents, to reunite them with their owners.
He added: “Much as we all love goats, we shouldn’t be differentiating in respect of animals on value.
“We differentiate and change things within this House on their meaning to our fellow citizens and it is, to me, utterly bizarre that the law does not take into account cats because of how many people in this country own cats, how important they are to people.”