ENGLAND – A mother speaks of her outrage after she discovered her missing cat had been stolen – only to be told she cannot have its location due to the Data Protection Act.
Karen Young, who is 41, had her seven-year-old Bengal cat Tigger micro-chipped when she first purchased him back in 2009.
The rare cat went missing in back in the year 2012, but just three weeks ago, Karen, who works in the beauty industry, received a letter in the post from microchip database Petlog, requesting there be a change in ownership.
Initially ecstatic to discover her beloved family pet was still alive at all, Karen assumed she would automatically be reunited with Tigger.
Despite having proof of ownership paperwork, including the pedigree certificate and receipt of purchase, the people at Petlog refuse to hand over details of the people who currently hold her cat and she is now battling to get him back.
She has since reported the theft to the police and is now questioning the validity of micro-chipping pets altogether.
Furious Karen, who is from Tamworth, Staffordshire, stated: ‘I couldn’t believe it when I discovered Tigger was still alive. It’d be so long, that I had given up all hope of seeing him again. Me and my kids were over the moon and were relieved he was ok.
‘But when I got in touch with Petlog and told them I was the owner and I wanted to be reunited with my cat, they refused to tell me who had him, due to data protection rules and instead said they’d pass on my details.
‘They told me it was up to the people who had him to get in touch with me.
‘But they still haven’t, and they continue to withhold him. It’s disgusting.
‘Essentially the system is pointless if your pet falls into dishonest hands.’
When Tigger went missing back in 2012, Karen and her children, Carmen, who is 13, Leon, who is 15 and Sam, who is 19, were left devastated and put up posters in the area in a bid to see Tigger’s safe return home.
However, a few months later they gave up hope and reported him missing to their veterinary practice and Petlog.
A total of four years passed and in July this year, Karen received a letter from Petlog with a request for a change in ownership from the cat’s new ‘owners’.
Karen stated: ‘I told them that I didn’t want to transfer the ownership because my cat had been missing all that time. I asked them for the name and address of the people that had my cat, but they point blank refused.
‘In fact they were very insensitive to my case, and kept referring to the other keepers as Tigger’s “owners” – I was furious.
‘I called a number of times, but they kept telling me they were bound by the Data Protection Act, so I couldn’t force their hand – even though I was in tears.’
After numerous attempts to retrieve this information from them, Karen decided to contact the Staffordshire Police to report her cat as stolen.
The police are currently in the process of requesting the details in questions from the current keepers from Petlog.
In April this year it became mandatory for dog owners to ensure their pet is micro-chipped, however, it is not yet a legal requirement for cat owners to do so.
A spokesperson for Petlog, stated: ‘A microchip registration should not be treated as proof of ownership, but rather it is a record of keepership i.e. where a pet animal normally resides and is intended to assist reunification if the pet goes missing. The primary role of Petlog is to reunite lost pets by holding up to date contact information on the database so that we can provide that information to those managing a reunification.
‘Legal ownership of a cat is not defined by law and micro-chipping is not proof of legal ownership. In cases where there is a legal dispute over ownership, and keeper-ship issues arise, if the dispute cannot be reconciled by agreement between two conflicting parties, the dispute will become a civil matter for a court to decide.
‘In the case of stolen pets the police will need to be informed. Petlog will work with the police and other relevant authorities to help reunite any pet but it is against Data Protection legislation to provide personal data to third parties and Petlog must work through authorized statutory agencies.
‘Petlog cannot make any adjudication regarding a dispute over ownership but will update the keeper’s record as appropriate once a dispute has been settled.’
A spokesperson for Staffordshire Police stated: ‘Staffordshire Police was made aware of the incident involving the once, missing cat which has now ended up in the possession of, currently, unknown people or person.
‘Via a third party, this individual or individuals have been made aware that the cat in their possession has an owner and they should take appropriate steps to return the cat to its rightful owner.
‘We expect this to happen. Failure to do so could result in further police action.’