Gizmo was 16 years old, the long-beloved cat of Helena Abrahams. Gizmo went out to play in July 2016, but never returned home: she was in a road traffic accident. Even though Gizmo had a microchip, she was disposed of before anyone scanned her for a chip.
Currently under UK Law, dogs must be microchipped, and drivers who hit cats on the road must report the accident under UK law. An animal rescue centre or veterinary profession would be informed, and the animal would be scanned and then identified in order to inform the owner. But the same is not true for cats, despite being the second most popular pet in the UK. Instead, our feline friends are often picked up from the roadside and disposed of in landfills without being reported, scanned, or identified. Without their owners’ knowledge.
Although the government, local councils, and Highways England encourage reporting and scanning of any animals found in a public space (and all local authorities “should” have handheld scanning devices), this is not a common practice in the UK. In fact, drivers must report accidents to the police that involve dogs, but also horses, cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, donkeys, and mules – but not cats. Too often, cat owners like Helena are left unaware that tragedy has struck.
After Gizmo’s unfortunate incident, her owner Helena set up a Facebook group called “Deceased Cats UK and IRL” for cat owners to report a missing a cat. As the social media group became increasingly popular, Helena realised worryingly that a lot of cat owners across the region had lost their beloved pets in road traffic accidents, and the pets were, just like Gizmo, deposited into a landfill and never scanned. Helena decided to help fix this problem, so she set up the Gizmos Legacy, a UK Government petition with the help of Angela Hoy, Beryl Beckwith and the other members of what is now known as the Gizmo’s Legacy team.
The petition, up for debate on June 17, is titled “New law that cats killed/injured by a vehicle are checked for a chip”. To promote the petition and debate, Helena has appeared on BBC North West Tonight, Granada Reports, Do the Right Thing with Eamonn and Ruth, as well as radio and newspaper coverage. The national coverage has caught the attention and support of well known people and groups in the animal welfare world.
The government department DEFRA (Department of Environment, Fisheries and Rural Affairs) responded to the petition in February 2019 with the below statements:
“We encourage microchipping of cats and it is established good practice for local authorities and the Highways Agency to scan domestic pets found on our streets so that the owner can be informed. We do not consider that it is necessary to introduce a new law requiring cats involved in road traffic accidents to be checked for a microchip because it is already good practice for local authorities to do so”. DEFRA went on to say that stray cats do not pose the same dangers to the public as stray dogs do, relying on that to explain the difference in the treatment of the two animals under the law. Incongruously, DEFRA also “strongly” recommended that cat owners get their cats microchipped, despite holding fast to their position that the government should not be required to check said microchips.
However with further perseverance, the petition has gained tremendous support, reaching 107,064 signatures and thus necessitating a debate in Parliament.
UK Cat owners want Gizmo’s Law to be enacted so that cat owners can have the closure they deserve for their beloved pets who are part of their family.
The Parliamentary debate is set for Monday 17th June 2019 at Westminster Hall. All those who would like to have this law passed should reach out to their local MP to ask for their attendance and support at this debate.