ANIMAL HEALTH AND DISEASE CONTROL
The animal welfare officer is actually in an ideal position to spread disease. A good basic
understanding of diseases and how they spread will be very helpful to the officer trying to
maintain the health of the animals under his care. The officer's vehicle, the dog pound
and movement of animals are all potentially excellent for spreading disease.
There is a large a range of animal diseases and each species has a number of conditions
which are specific to it. It is not practical to discuss all the possibilities in this handbook.
In addition, the diagnosis of disease can only be carried out by a veterinary surgeon and
local veterinary advice is an essential tool for the animal welfare officer. Officers should
be aware that many veterinary practices deal with a limited number of species and it may
therefore be necessary to establish a relationship with more than one, for example a
companion (small) animal practice, farm practice and equine practice.
Animal welfare officers' normal practice should be aimed at preventing the transmission
of disease between animals that come into their care. That requires knowledge of disease
control, irrespective of what is to be controlled. Disease control does require some
knowledge of transmission mechanisms.
It is never safe to assume that animals are healthy because many well be carrying some
form of disease. There are two reasons for this:
● An infected animal goes through an incubation period once infected, before
symptoms of disease appear. During this time the organism may be re-excreted and
certainly, in general, the largest number of micro-organisms is excreted just before
and just after symptoms appear.
● Many diseases can exist in what is called a carrier state. A carrier is an animal
which appears healthy but is excreting an organism. The excretion may be
continuous or intermittent but, in either case, stress is likely to increase excretion.
Most animals with which welfare officers deal are stressed.
It is therefore essential that the animal welfare officer and any equipment (likely to be
vehicles and cages) which come into contact with the animal must be cleaned and
disinfected before use with another animal.
Transmission of disease
Disease spreads through three different routes - if you understand these you will be
much more able to minimise transfer of disease.
Where transmission is by excretions (eg, fluid from eyes, nose, faeces, urine etc), clearly
the removal of such material must be the first line of defence. Routine and frequent
removal of faeces in particular is important as diseases of the gut are among the most
commonly encountered. Some of the viruses causing such disease, such as canine
parvovirus and feline infectious enteritis (feline parvovirus) are very hardy and may live for
some years on the ground. Cleaning following removal of faeces, cleaning and disinfection
should be routine
Where transmission is by aerosol (airborne fine sprays of droplets carrying the disease) it
is almost impossible to provide adequate disinfection. However for all diseases there is a
minimum infectious dose for each individual animal. Therefore diluting infected air which
might contain an aerosol infection will reduce the dose to which an animal is exposed.
Good ventilation which does not feed air from one animal directly to another is therefore
likely to be an adequate disease control mechanism. Aerosol transmission is particularly
important for the spread of disease in cats, dogs and horses, so separations of individuals
and ventilation in vehicles and at holding facilities is especially important.
3. Animate and inanimate objects
Transmission by people and objects is an extremely important factor in many diseases.
The more hardy viruses, mentioned above, are easily transmitted on feet and unwashed
hands can also transmit almost all infections if an uninfected animal is handled soon after
one which is excreting an organism. In some circumstances even vehicles can carry
organisms and there was clear evidence of this happening during the last foot and mouth
Some diseases are transmitted by equipment and require special techniques to prevent
this happening. Although cleaning will prevent most instances of skin disease, ringworm,
fleas and sarcoptic mange (scabies) can be more resistant. The design of equipment can
have a significant effect on the ease of prevention; smooth easily cleanable surfaces such
as gloss paint, quarry tiles and stainless steel are unlikely to harbour organisms following
a thorough clean. Porous surfaces are almost inevitably going to be impossible to deep
clean. In addition surface cracks will readily harbour flea eggs and larvae and washing
only achieves clean fleas. Specific preventive measures may be required and veterinary
advice, appropriate for the circumstances, should be sought.
It is possible to kill virtually all organisms with the correct disinfectant at the correct dilution.
However it is critical that disinfection is undertaken on clean surfaces as dirt, and
particularly organic material such as faeces, rapidly inactivates all disinfectants. It should
therefore be routine that all surfaces are thoroughly cleaned with detergent before
disinfection. See Chapter 9 on health and safety for information on the safe use of chemicals.
Animal welfare officers should be aware that there are a number of diseases which have
to be reported to the authorities, usually the Department of the Environment Food and
Rural Affairs (DEFRA). However the veterinary advisor should be aware of what these are
and advise accordingly. Prompt reporting is essential to good disease control and the
officer has his part to play in ensuring this takes place. It should be noted that the relevant
county council, unitary authority, metropolitan authority or London borough, is responsible
for enforcing legislation relating to the control of disease in farmed animals. Therefore
any issues relating to disease in farmed animals should be reported to the relevant
authority. Responsibility often, though not exclusively, lies with the trading standards section.
There may be occasions when an animal welfare officer is faced with an injured animal.
The law does not differentiate between an injured and healthy animal and the animal
welfare officer's responsibility is the same to both. It is therefore sensible to have some
basic first aid knowledge. However, officers should check with their managers that their
authority is in agreement with them carrying out first aid on animals, and that the authority
has appropriate liability insurance. While the following chapter provides basic knowledge
it is worth considering attending a full animal first aid course. Colleges of further education,
such as the College of Animal Welfare, often run such courses. The Veterinary Surgeons
Act 1966 limits what may be done by people not qualified as veterinary surgeons. There
is a specific exemption in the Act for the provision of first aid to an injured animal but this
does not extend to the diagnosis of injury or treatment. Animal welfare officers should
therefore be aware that it is first aid they may provide prior to consultation with a veterinary
If a veterinary surgeon is to be consulted there will almost always be an account to pay as
a result. It is therefore advisable to ensure that the local authority has guidelines in place
for what treatment you may authorise a veterinary surgeon to carry out.
The aim of first aid is to maintain life, prevent a condition worsening and to minimise pain.
First aid can be administered by anyone to an animal and inevitably animal welfare officers
may be presented with situations where knowledge of first aid is essential, particularly
following road traffic accidents. It is not necessary to make a diagnosis of an injury to
provide effective first aid; indeed, as mentioned above, diagnosis is legally the province of
qualified veterinary surgeons.
First aid is often called for in situations where there is a significant danger of further injury,
such as road traffic accidents. The safety of those providing first aid must always be a
primary consideration and, if necessary and practical, animals should be moved carefully
to a less dangerous site whenever possible. If it is not possible to move the animal safely,
personal safety should take priority and no action should be taken until police assistance
Officers should also remember that an injured animal may react in a manner which may
endanger their safety. For instance a badly injured dog may bite if handled even though
that would not normally be in their nature. Proper restraint is therefore extremely important
and the techniques described in Chapter 6 should be followed.
It is useful to be able to recognise death in an animal. While it may be perfectly obvious if
the animal is cold, lifeless and stiff it is not so apparent if death is recent. Life may be
detected at a number of sites and all should be examined carefully before death is assumed.
If apparent death is very recent resuscitation may be attempted by animal welfare officers
who should be aware that, except in limited circumstances, such attempts are unlikely to
lead to full recovery and a good quality of life for the animal. When assessing for death,
three organ systems should be evaluated; circulation, respiration and nerve activity.
Assessment of circulation is achieved by detecting a heartbeat, a pulse or capillary
circulation. Heartbeat can be detected by holding finger and thumb across the chest just
behind the elbows. Finding a pulse needs practice and this is best done on a friendly
healthy dog. The easiest way to detect a pulse is to use the point of the fingers at the
centre inside the dog's hind leg. The femoral artery is very large and runs over the thigh
bone or femur making it easily
detectable. Capillary circulation is best evaluated inside the dog's mouth.
Obviously this needs care if the dog is
conscious. Pick up the upper lip and
squeeze gently. This empties all the blood
from the smallest blood vessels, called
capillaries, and they can be watched refilling
from the outside inwards. They should re-
fill within a second or two. Assessment of
capillary refill is also useful in evaluating
shock and blood loss (see later in this
Respiration is assessed by direct observa- Hand position to take a pulse
tion of movement of the chest wall or by
holding the flat of the hand on the chest to feel it move. If respiration is accompanied by
noise further action is required to ensure sufficient air is getting into the lungs.(see later).
Nerve activity is the ultimate test for death. If neither circulation nor respiration can be
detected, confirmation of death is provided by evaluating nerve reflexes. The body has a
number of automatic reflexes which the animal cannot control and only disappear when
the animal is under a deep
anaesthetic or dead. The most convenient reflexes to assess are at the eyes.
Touching the inside corner of the eye should result in the eyelids moving as if to blink.
The movement may be quite subtle so
close observation is required. In addition
the pupil of the eye (the black hole at the
centre) always constricts in light. When
reflexes disappear the pupil dilates
completely so that almost the whole clear
part of the eye looks black. If there is no
blink reflex and the pupil is totally dilated,
the cornea, the clear part of the front of
Testing the eye reflex the eye, usually starts to look glazed and
often pock-marked. An animal in that
condition is almost certainly dead and even after resuscitation is likely to be brain damaged.
If no circulation can be detected urgent action is required as, without it, the animal will die
imminently. It is always worth trying external cardiac massage unless the animal has clearly
been dead for some time, as there is
nothing to lose. The technique depends Cardiac resuscitation using one hand
on the size of the animal but it should
always be borne in mind that reviving
circulation is of no use unless respiration is
also replaced in some manner.
Compression of the chest is the only
effective method of achieving cardiac
resuscitation. This can be done with one
hand for small animals such as cats, two
hands for dogs and with the knee for large
animals such as horses. The rate at Cardiac resuscitation using two hands
which pressure is applied to the heart
should be related to the normal heart rate
for the animal so a cat will need two
compressions per second whereas a
horse will need only one. Effective cardiac
massage requires considerable force to
be effective and, as this is a life or death
situation, it is almost impossible to use
too much effort.
Any animal needs to be able to breathe to get oxygen from the air to maintain life. In
normal circumstances the colour of the tongue should be pink. When there is a respiratory
problem the tongue is likely to turn a purple colour and this is known as cyanosis. Some
animals, such as the chow chow, have coloured tongues and other membranes should be
examined as an alternative.
A conscious animal is almost invariably able to attempt to breathe and in all but exceptional
circumstances there will be sufficient air movement to allow the animal to survive. The
only exceptions are where there are severe head or chest injuries or accumulations of
fluid in the chest. If there is an obvious chest injury which makes a sucking noise as the
animal breathes, a pad should be applied over the wound and held in place to attempt to
make a seal. Urgent veterinary advice should then be sought.
An unconscious animal is quite likely to be attempting to breathe but unable to move
sufficient air because it is unconscious. The most common causes are obstruction of the
airway by a foreign body or by structures at the back of the throat. Even though the animal
is unconscious, considerable care must be taken when treating such a problem as some
reflexes may still be present and any animal may bite very hard, causing injury to the officer.
The animal’s mouth should be opened and examined for foreign bodies. Where there are
head injuries the most common foreign bodies are blood and damaged tissue. It is
inadvisable to place hands inside the animal's mouth without first placing something
between the rear teeth to prevent biting. Once this is done the tongue should be pulled
forwards and any foreign material cleared. At the same time the neck should be straightened
Pulling the tongue forwards and this will almost always clear the airway,
allowing good air flow. It will also clear
any structures at the back of the throat
which are obstructing breathing although
the tongue may have to be pulled hard in
short nosed breeds such as Bulldogs and
Persian cats to achieve this.
Once the airway has been cleared, if the
animal is not breathing spontaneously
artificial resuscitation may be applied.
Clearly this will only be effective if there is also effective circulation so that also must be
assessed and treated if necessary. The method of artificial respiration depends on the
size of the animal. For smaller animals mouth to nose can be effective although extreme
care needs to be taken not to get bitten. The technique is the same as for cardiac resus-
citation described above. If there is no response after about five minutes there is likely to
be such severe brain damage that further attempts should not be made.
Bleeding almost invariably looks alarming but blood is remarkably good at spreading itself
around and a proper assessment of blood loss is important. Occasionally bleeding is
internal and therefore cannot be seen directly. However the signs of blood loss will be
apparent from the assessment. Any significant blood loss requires urgent veterinary attention.
Assessment of blood loss is done by evaluating the colour of membranes and capillary
refill. In most animals membrane colour can be evaluated by looking at the tongue or inside
of the lips. Obviously this must be done with care as an animal frightened following
trauma may react aggressively. The normal Normal colour of mucous membranes
animal's membranes are a healthy pink colour
comparable to the colour inside your own lips and
tongue. Pale membranes may be a result of shock
or blood loss and in either case are likely to be
accompanied by an increased heart rate and
reduced capillary refill. If there is no external blood
loss such animals require urgent veterinary attention
and are very likely to die in spite of any treatment
Pale colour of mucous membranes
Bleeding may be from an artery, vein or capillaries.
The urgency with which bleeding must be treated
will depend on which of these is the source so it is
important that the officer can distinguish between
them. Arterial bleeding is high pressure, always pul-
sating in time with heart beat and the blood is bright
red. Heavy arterial bleeding can lead to death in
minutes. Venous bleeding is lower pressure, may
pulsate but not as obviously and the blood is a
much darker red. Severe venous bleeding can cause death but volumes are generally
smaller although stemming the flow is still a high priority. Capillary bleeding, although
potentially profuse, is smaller in quantity and tends to ooze. There may be significant
blood loss but it is unlikely to be life threatening.
The most effective means of controlling any bleeding is by applying pressure and the
most convenient thing to use is someone's thumb. It is advisable to apply a gauze or
cotton wool pad under the thumb and pressure should be maintained for some minutes.
If correctly applied, pressure will stop bleeding immediately and maintenance of pressure
will allow blood to clot, sealing the vessel. Obviously this is much more likely to be effective
with smaller lower pressure blood vessels but pressure should always be followed with
the application of a relatively tight bandage until veterinary attention is given. In larger
animals it may be impossible to apply sufficient pressure for long enough to stop bleeding
as considerable force is required. The alternatives are a pressure bandage and a tourniquet.
Both can also be difficult to apply on very large species such as horses and are generally
limited to use on limbs; there is no real alternative to straight pressure on the body.
A pressure bandage may be applied by using a small roll of bandage held over the bleeding
point which is then bandaged in place as tightly as possible. A tourniquet is applied
above the bleeding point and must be tight enough to obstruct the arterial flow. This can
only be achieved by applying a bandage round the limb and tightening it with a stick or
pencil through it. Once a tourniquet has been applied there should be no blood flow to
the limb below it. Consequently if it is left in place for too long the limb will become
gangrenous. A tourniquet should therefore be the last resort to stop bleeding and should
be loosened every twenty minutes with straight pressure applied to the bleed point. This
will allow the rest of the limb to receive blood while preventing further blood loss. Urgent
veterinary care is required.
Starting a Applying a Placing a Tightening the
pressure bandage pressure bandage tourniquet tourniquet
Most animals are able to swim naturally and therefore drowning is not a common
occurrence. Contrary to popular belief it is not the lungs which fill with water but the
upper parts of the airway and particularly the windpipe or trachea. Consequently it is
possible to assist the re-establishment of breathing by holding a smaller animal upside
down to empty the trachea prior to attempting resuscitation. If this is not possible
because of the size of the animal the clearance of water can still be assisted by placing
the animal head down on a slope. This action should be followed by cardiac resuscitation
and/or artificial respiration as necessary.
When an animal has fallen into very cold water it is likely to be suffering from hypothermia
as well as the direct effects of drowning. This is likely to be an advantage as the time
taken for the brain to die in the absence of oxygen is considerably longer than at normal
temperatures. In such circumstances it is therefore worth persisting with artificial
resuscitation for far longer while warming the animal.
Shock is a medical term used to describe the secondary effects of disease which may
result from injury or infection. The primary effect is on the circulatory system and results
in reduced blood flow to vital organs. Shock is a significant factor in causing death
following severe injury and first aid should aim to minimise it. Blood loss, heat loss and
pain are major factors which influence the severity of shock. All can be influenced by high
quality first aid. Blood loss has already been covered. Prevention of heat loss is relatively
simple by using a blanket or, better still, a foil blanket. As much heat is lost downwards
into the ground as upwards, so the animal should be wrapped as completely as possible.
While it is difficult to control pain, gentle handling of the most painful injuries such as
fractures does help as does approaching the animal in a calming manner. Rapid veterinary
care is the most effective method of providing pain relief as this is likely to underpin any
treatment provided by a veterinary surgeon.
In spite of considerable publicity warning of the consequences it is sadly not an uncommon
occurrence, in hot weather, for animals to suffer from heat stroke, particularly dogs left in
vehicles. Most animals, except horses, do not cool themselves by sweating and many,
such as dogs and cats, only have sweat glands in limited parts of their bodies. In hot
weather they keep themselves cool by their behaviour and by panting. Appropriate
behaviour includes sitting in the shade and reducing activity to very low levels. Clearly an
animal left in a vehicle cannot use behaviour to regulate its temperature.
On a warm day even with some cloud cover the large surface area of a vehicle exposed
to radiation from the sun heats the inside of the vehicle very rapidly. Temperatures can
reach over 40 C within a few minutes even if windows are left open. An animal constrained
inside a vehicle is therefore exposed to high temperatures very rapidly. Such an animal
will pant to attempt to keep cool and this increases the humidity inside the vehicle. This
results in a reduction of the efficiency of the cooling effect of panting which relies on
evaporation of water from the tongue. Consequently the animal's body temperature will
begin to rise and this has significant effects on it, which will rapidly prove fatal if untreated.
Animals suffering from heat stroke commonly have temperatures elevated to 40.5 C after
only 20 to 30 minutes. Other symptoms include obvious cyanosis of membranes,
particularly the tongue, and a very high heart rate. Circulatory collapse and death will
ensue if rapid treatment is not provided.
Should an animal welfare officer encounter a situation where he feels that an animal in a
vehicle is suffering from heat stroke then the primary consideration should be the timely
removal of it. Officers are advised to seek urgent assistance from the police if they find
themselves in these circumstances since they can only act within the boundaries of their
own powers. The first aid treatment is to wet the entire animal to aid cooling. As the brain
is especially severely affected particular attention should be paid to the head and the
application of a pack of frozen vegetables is very effective. The addition of forced airflow
from a fan is also very helpful. Urgent veterinary treatment is required and there should
be no delay to assess the efficacy of first aid treatment.
Fractures of limbs are generally very obvious as there is extreme pain, angulation of the
limb and severe swelling. Fractures of deeper structures such as the pelvis and spine are
also common consequences of road traffic accidents and falls from a height. It is reasonable
to assume that any animal which is showing signs of severe pain following an injury has a
fracture and it should be treated as such.
There is some controversy about whether some support should be provided for limb
fractures while the animal is being transported to a veterinary surgeon. A judgment has to
be made by the provider of first aid whether supporting a fracture with a dressing is likely
to cause more distress than moving the animal carefully. If a dressing is to be used it
should be very padded and not excessively tight.
Animals often appear to be paralysed following severe accidents. While this may be a
result of a spinal fracture it may also result from a combination of shock and pelvic fractures.
It should therefore never be assumed that an apparently paralysed animal is beyond help
without seeking veterinary advice. It should be assumed that such an animal has a spinal
fracture and appropriate handling used, as minor spinal fractures can respond well to
treatment and the animal regain full use of its limbs.
It is important when moving a paralysed animal that the spine is properly supported along
its length. With very large animals this may be difficult and if so veterinary advice should
be sought at the site before any attempt is made to move the animal. With most dogs
and cats it is feasible to carry the animal on a makeshift stretcher. This can be constructed
from a board or a blanket. The animal should be held onto the stretcher by one person
while being carried by one or two others.
Placing a dog on a blanket Carrying a dog on a blanket with a
prior to carrying third person to control the dog
Severe burns are relatively unusual injuries to animals and in most circumstances immediate
treatment is provided by a veterinary surgeon. However if an animal requires first aid
immediately following a burn the treatment consists mainly of limiting the effects.
Secondary tissue damage continues for some time after the source of heat is removed
and this can be very effectively limited by the application of cold water for some minutes.
If available a hose and running water are most effective. However it should be borne in
mind that, where the burn covers a very large proportion of the animal's body, cooling will
also exacerbate the shock which the burn will induce. Large areas should therefore be
treated with care and veterinary treatment is urgent where a large proportion of the body
surface is affected.
Following any incident, treatment by a veterinary surgeon is essential. Where it is physically
impossible to move the animal because of its size, such as horses and cattle, the veterinary
surgeon must be asked to attend the site. It is always useful to let the veterinary surgeon
have a summary of apparent injuries so that appropriate equipment can be brought.
With smaller animals effective care will be provided more rapidly and effectively if the animal
is taken to the veterinary practice. Most practices do not have a veterinary surgeon on
site at all times and it is therefore essential that the practice is contacted before setting off
to ensure prompt attention will be available on arrival. Again a summary of obvious injuries
is very helpful.
There will be occasions when an animal is so badly injured that euthanasia is considered
the only option to protect the animal's welfare. That is not a decision to be taken lightly
and there will be very few occasions where it should be taken without an examination of
the animal by a veterinary surgeon. If a veterinary surgeon advises euthanasia he will
generally administer the necessary drugs or, for larger animals, shoot it.
On those very rare occasions where an animal welfare officer considers that an animal is
so severely injured that immediate euthanasia is necessary without veterinary advice to
prevent further suffering, it is imperative that the animal is killed without causing any further
suffering. Not to do so would be an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Officers
should ensure that this is within their job remit and that their managers are in agreement
to them carrying out this course of action.
It is surprisingly difficult to kill an animal humanely without the use of drugs, which are
unlikely to be available, or firearms and so officers are strongly advised to consider
whether it is appropriate to do so.
Even if firearms are used the weapon must be appropriate for the species and the shot
must be aimed at the correct site on the head. If officers are to be given access to
firearms they must also be given appropriate training in their use. The Humane Slaughter
Association produces some excellent material and all officers who are likely to use
firearms should be aware of its content.
The control of disease is important both for the welfare of animals with which the animal
welfare officer deals and in the prevention of zoonotic infections of staff. Zoonoses are
diseases transmissible between man and animals and many are common. They range in
severity from relatively minor (but common) problems such as flea infestations to the more
serious and potentially fatal diseases such as salmonella food poisoning and rabies.
The range of potential zoonotic diseases is huge and impossible to cover in this handbook.
However the principles of control are equally effective for zoonoses as they are for
transmission between animals. Proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is an
essential element of prevention. A risk assessment (see Chapter 9 on health and safety)
should be undertaken for every circumstance. It is worth considering the routine use of
cheap disposable gloves if hand washing facilities are not readily available. However the
use of gloves can give a false sense of security and thorough (for at least 30 seconds with
soap and hot water) washing of hands is very effective. Where contact with a potential
zoonotic disease is anticipated the use of a mask and goggles may also be appropriate,
particularly when dealing with birds.
There are three diseases where advice about vaccination from a local medical practitioner
should be sought: tetanus, anthrax and rabies. Vaccination against tetanus is common
and regular assessment of the immune status of animal welfare officers should be
undertaken. In some rural areas of the country cattle are occasionally infected with
anthrax. Although the risk to humans is small the advice of officials from DEFRA and a
medical practitioner should be sought.
Rabies is not endemic in the UK but a similar virus, European bat lyssavirus, is occasionally
found in some species of bat. Bats should always be handled with gloves and, if they are
commonly handled, vaccination against rabies is advisable. The local authority will normally
have a rabies contingency plan to provide manpower. Advice should be sought about
regular vaccination if this includes animal welfare officers, as is likely. The Pet Travel
Scheme (PETS) has been established to allow movement of animals across the borders of
rabies-free countries. Animals fall into two classes: those where rabies is likely to be
passed on to other animals and those where rabies is an end host. The former are largely
carnivores and the latter herbivores. Herbivores can be imported under PETS with simple
certification whereas carnivores (cats, dogs and ferrets) require vaccination and blood
testing. The risk of importing rabies is extremely low but it should always be borne in
mind with imported animals.
Similarly disease transmission may be from human to animal and liaison with the person
responsible for the control of communicable diseases in the council may be helpful. In
addition it may be helpful to have liaison with other public health authorities.
The methods of identification and relevant legislation vary significantly between species.
Some species, such as cats, are not covered by any legislation whereas farmed species,
equines and dogs are all included. Chapter 2 on legislation gives more detail.
Permanent identification generally refers to the use of a tattoo or a microchip.
The clear and permanent ability to identify stray dogs provides the local authority with
new options to break the stray dog cycle. Microchipping provides an opportunity for local
authorities that wish to do so to return a dog to its owner immediately. This can be
accompanied by any other action that the officer chooses to take to prevent a recurrence,
such as a written warning. The advantage of this approach is that the local authority does
not incur kennelling fees and avoids risking the chance that the owner may not claim the
dog, which they will have to dispose of in accordance with the 1990 Act. Some authorities
have chosen to adopt an approach of escalating action if the stray is caught a second or
subsequent time: the ‘three strikes and you’re out’ type of approach. If they choose not to
return the dog directly, either on the first or any subsequent time, they know where the
owner lives, and can write to advise where the dog is detained in accordance with the
Microchips are small electronic devices that are activated by a
radio signal emitted by the reader. In response the microchip
transmits a unique number which is displayed on the screen of
the reader. Microchips are encased in glass to make them
biologically inert. They are also electronically inert until stimulated
by the reader. The distribution of microchip readers in local
authorities, animal pounds, police stations, animal rescue groups
and charities means there are many opportunities to identify and
return a lost or stray dog. However there are considerable benefits
A microchip to local authorities to promote, encourage and facilitate
compared to a 1p coin
Standards for chips All modern microchips conform to International Standards
Organisation standard 11784 and 11785, known as ISO or FDX-B microchips. However,
such standardisation has not always been the case and prior to about 2000 a previous
design of microchip was also used known as FDX-A. Consequently some animals still
have these microchips. Officers are advised to ensure that their scanner will read both
FDX-A and ISO (FDX-B) microchips. Other countries, notably North America, use a different
design of microchip which is unlikely to be read by readers available in the UK. Where
such animals have been imported into the UK under the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS),
DEFRA advises owners to have an ISO microchip implanted in addition. Only microchips
which comply with the International Standards
Organisation (ISO) standards 11784 and 11785, otherwise known as FDX-B, should be
Site of insertion Where an animal is chipped can
also vary, with horses being chipped in the ligament
on the left side of the neck,
most other companion animals
between the shoulder blades,
birds in the pectoral (flight) Zone A (red) -
muscles and reptiles in a variety normal site of insertion in UK
of sites depending on species. Zones B & C (black) -
site used elsewhere in the world
Other countries use different
Zone D (white) -
sites, the most common being
Inserting a microchip incorrect site for insertion
the left side of the neck.
Training Any officer who is to insert microchips should attend an appropriate training
course. Most microchip distributors run courses and it would be advisable to ensure the
course content complies with the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA)
Microchip Advisory Group recommendations. While it is legal under the Veterinary Surgeons
Act for any person to insert a microchip into the subcutaneous site, insertion in any other
site is an act of veterinary surgery and can therefore only be performed by a veterinary
surgeon. It is also important that anyone who tries to read a microchip is properly trained
in the technique as failure to scan properly can lead to the microchip not being detected.
Scanning should be performed in slow circular movements beginning at the expected site
of insertion and extending to cover both sides of the chest and the upper part of both fore
limbs. It is vital that the microchip reader is properly functional and that the battery is fully
charged as poorly maintained equipment can also lead to a failure to detect a microchip.
The site of a tattoo varies between species with horses being done inside their lips while
dogs are generally tattooed in their ears although the Dangerous Dogs Act required the
tattoo to be inside the thigh.
No method of permanent identification would be of any value without the database which
supports it. There are currently separate databases, one for tattoos and three for microchips
for companion animals although there is a single point of contact by telephone on 08706
066751 which operates 24 hours a day. Access may also be obtained by persons who
have been authorised, to some data via the Internet. The Dog Identification Group (DIG)
has introduced a Code of Practice for database operators, which complies with the
manufacturers’ obligations under the ISO Code of Practice. It is recommended that only
microchips which are registered on a database which complies with the code should be
There are a number of databases for horses although there is a central database being
established by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to
support the horse passport scheme.
There are a variety of methods of non-permanent identification. Many species of companion
animals may wear collars although there are inherent risks in doing so for the more active
and agile animals such as cats that might get the collar caught. The safest collars are
those which snap apart when caught, although inevitably they are more prone to accidental
Dogs must wear a collar in a public place and it, or a tag attached to it, must bear the
name and address of the owner (Control of Dogs Order 1992). It is also useful to have the
telephone number for speedy contact. Unfortunately this is probably the worst known
piece of legislation relating to dogs and therefore its enforcement by animal welfare officers
is all the more important.
Farmed animals are legally required to be identified in order to provide traceability through
the human food chain, and to assist with the control of animal disease. Cattle will be
predominantly identified through a single ear tag or double ear tags depending on when
the animal was born. Sheep and goats will also have at least a single ear tag, and potentially
temporary paint marks for farm management purposes and specific movements. Pigs can
be identified through a slap mark, tattoo or ear tag.
Any issues with regard to farmed animals, or farm animal carcasses, should be reported
to the relevant county council, unitary authority, metropolitan authority or London borough,
who are responsible for enforcing all legislation relating to the health and welfare of