Tigger Is Finally Reunited with His Family Despite the Best Efforts of the Administrators of a Microchip Database to Keep Them Apart
|Tigger Was Subjected to Years of Turmoil and Uncertainty|
"A microchip registration should not be treated as proof of ownership, but rather it is a record of keepership. That is, where a pet animal normally resides and is intended to assist reunification if the pet goes missing."
-- a spokesperson for Petlog
"Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive," Sir Walter Scott observed in his 1808 epic poem, "Marmion," and those sentiments are perhaps nowhere more à propos than when it comes to implanted microchips. As their universality continues to grow, so too do the problems and absurdities associated with them as the preferred method of keeping track of companion animals.
The double-edged nature of these onerous devices was driven home in rather stark fashion to forty-one-year-old Karen Jones and her three children of Drayton Bassett, five kilometers south of Tamouth in Staffordshire, late last July when she, out of the blue, received a letter from the microchip database Petlog requesting a change of ownership for her seven-year-old Bengal, Tigger. To say that the missive left her dumbfounded would be a classic understatement of the first order.
That is because not only had she not put in such a request but, more importantly, the designer cat that she had shelled out £800 for in 2009 had mysteriously disappeared without so much as a trace four years earlier in 2012. At that time, she and her children, Carmen now thirteen, Leon now fifteen, and Sam now nineteen, had searched high and low for him and even resorted to fly-posting the neighborhood with Lost Cat posters but they never were able to find either hide or hair of him. They even notified Petlog and their veterinarian but those efforts likewise failed to bear fruit.
"I couldn't believe it when I discovered Tigger was still alive," Young, who works in the beauty industry, told The Telegraph of London on August 12, 2016. (See "Missing Cat Found after Four Years -- but Family Can't Be Told Who Has It Because of Data Protection Rules.") "It'd be (sic) so long, that I had given up all hope of seeing him again."
Her elation that Tigger was still alive melted quicker than a cone of ice cream on a hot July day however when Petlog, which is supposed to assist owners in reclaiming lost cats, unexpectedly stiffed her. "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," she disclosed to The Telegraph. "They told me it was up to the people who had him to get in touch with me."
By that she was referring to the Data Protection Act (DPA) of 1998 which Petlog, quite obviously, interprets in an extremely inflexible fashion. That is nothing, however, compared to the novel view that it holds regarding microchips themselves.
"A microchip registration should not be treated as proof of ownership, but rather it is a record of keepership," a spokesperson for the company proclaimed to The Telegraph."That is, where a pet animal normally resides and is intended to assist reunification if the pet goes missing."
Even though circumstances abound whereby someone, usually a close family member, serves as the caretaker of a cat without actually owning it, most individuals nevertheless would be shocked to learn that there exists a legal distinction between keepership and ownership and that microchipping alone is therefore insufficient to establish the latter. Au contraire, it would appear that if Young had not either received or responded to Petlog's letter that Tigger's current guardians would have been able to legitimize their possession of him by simply putting in a change of ownership in the database.
The entire rationale behind microchipping then would have been turned on its head with Young left out in the cold as the biggest loser. "I had no right to my own cat," she later correctly deduced to the Daily Express of London on August 17th. (See "Cat Finally Reunited with Owners after Four Years Missing and a Data Protection Battle.")
Perhaps most galling of all, Petlog insisted upon referring to Tigger's new guardians as his owners and that really got Young's goat. "I was furious," she exclaimed to The Telegraph.
Although she may have run up against a brick wall in her frustrating dealings with Petlog, she still had the law on her side. Armed with both a receipt of purchase as well as a pedigree certificate, both of which she had wisely retained over the years, she took her case to the Staffordshire Police where she, surprisingly, found receptive ears.
"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," a spokesman for the department told The Telegraph. "We expect this to happen. Failure to do so could result in further action."
The specifics have not been spelled out in media reports but it nevertheless is believed that the undisclosed third party was someone that had contacted Young via social media and she in turn then relayed that information to the police. Regardless of the exact details, Young eventually learned that Tigger was residing in Sutton Coldfield, a suburb of Birmingham located nine kilometers southwest of Drayton Bassett.
Realizing that the game was up, Tigger's guardians belatedly contacted Young and he was returned to her during the second week of August. "The kids were close to tears when I walked in the door with him," she confided to the Daily Express. "Me and my kids were over the moon and were relieved he was okay."
It is far from clear what would have transpired if his interim caretakers had not complied with the warning issued to them. While it is entirely conceivable that the police could have unilaterally procured a warrant and seized him, a more likely scenario is that a protracted and expensive legal tug-of-war would have resulted.
Best of all as things eventually turned out, Tigger apparently had been treated well during his prodigal years and therefore was no worse for the wear in spite of having endured many trials and tribulations. "The people who had Tigger said they purchased him for £200 from a woman who was moving into a high-rise flat," was about all that Young was able to disclose on that subject to the BBC on August 16th. (See "Data Protection Row' Cat Owner Reunited with Pet.")
She nonetheless suspects that he may have been stolen before he was passed on to the family in Sutton Coldfield. For their part, the police apparently found the caretakers' story to be plausible in that no charges were filed against them.
|Karen Young Fought Tooth and Nail in Order to Get Tigger Back|
Since press reports have not divulged the circumstances surrounding Tigger's disappearance in 2009, it is difficult to evaluate Young's claim that he was stolen. In particular, if he was allowed out-of-doors, almost anyone could have mistakenly picked him up off the street falsely believing that he was homeless.
That happens all the time and although cats are richly entitled to their freedom, allowing them to roam exposes them to a myriad of dangers. It also leaves their owners open to charges, no matter how frivolous, of being unfit caretakers.
That is especially the case if their cats are deemed to be disheveled, injured, or out in traffic. Their rescuers therefore sometimes have valid reservations about returning them. (See Cat Defender posts of July 9, 2007 and June 26, 2012 entitled, respectively, "A Hungry and Disheveled Cat Named Slim Is Picked Up Off the Streets of Ottawa by a Rescuer Who Refuses to Return Him to His Owners" and "A Family in Wiltshire Turns to Social Media and Leaflets in Order to Shame a Veterinary Chain and a Foster Parent into Returning Tazzy.")
All things considered, Young and her children are extremely fortunate to have found Tigger again after so many years. If, on the other hand, his interim caretakers had not requested a change in ownership not only would they never have seen him again but they likewise would not have known whatever became of him. Under such cruel circumstances any measure of closure would have been totally out of the question.
Unlike collars and tattoos, implanted microchips are not visible to the naked eye and therefore the two, or possibly more, guardians that Tigger had between 2012 and 2016 in all likelihood were unaware that he was a lost cat with an owner who desperately wanted him back. That discovery likely was not made until fairly recently and then only during a routine visit to a veterinarian.
None of that explains, however, why neither his last interim caretakers nor the attending veterinarian failed to notify Young. It is a murky area of the law but apparently veterinarians are not under any legal obligation to notify the authorities whenever they treat a cat whose implanted microchip lists its owner as being someone other than its current guardian.
The only remotely similar case in recent memory involved a four-year-old gray and white female named Tabor who was picked up off the streets of Portland in September of 2012 by a homeless man named Michael King. After a nine-month tour of the West Coast, he took her to Helena Veterinary Service in June of the following year for a routine check-up and that is when a microchip was discovered that revealed her legitimate owner to be Ronald A. Buss of Portland.
Without so much as a moment's hesitation, King did what was legally required of him by promptly returning her to Buss. By that time, however, he already had moved on to the next chapter in his turbulent life by acquiring a new traveling partner and that development made Tabor expendable.
It never was disclosed what, if any, action that the surgery would have taken if he had refused to contact Buss and to return his cat. (See Cat Defender post of July 5, 2013 entitled "Tabor's Long and Winding Road Finally Leads Her Back Home but Leaves Her with a Broken Heart.")
In her case Young is, quite understandably, thoroughly disgusted with the entire business of microchips. "Based upon my experience I think microchipping is a scam," she ranted to The Telegraph. "I paid for a service I'm not receiving. It's a mockery and protects criminals."
She is equally fed up with Petlog. "I'm glad the keepers did the right thing and realized how much misery they were causing us all, but it's no thanks to Petlog," she averred to the Daily Express. "The fact still remains that Petlog didn't help me get Tigger back."
The DPA likewise has not escaped her vituperation. "It's up to the integrity and goodwill of people who find your cat to return it," she pointed out to the BBC. "If it falls into the wrong hands, they can hide behind the Data Protection Act."
For its part, Petlog stubbornly insists that the only allegiance that it owes is to the authorities. "In the case of stolen pets...Petlog will work with the police and other relevant authorities, but it is against data protection legislation to provide personal data to third parties," a spokesperson for the firm swore to the BBC.
That admission brings up the still unresolved issue of what, if anything, that it did with the lost cat report that Young filed with it in 2012. At the very least it should have made a notation in its database that Tigger had been reported missing.
If it had done its due diligence, it then would have readily known that something was amiss as soon as his interim caretakers had filed a change of ownership request and under those puzzling circumstances it should have either contacted Young by telephone or the Staffordshire Police. It accordingly seems rather clear that Petlog failed both Tigger and Young in its mission to protect their interests.
Furthermore, if Young was furious at the firm for referring to Tigger's interim caretakers as his "owners," she surely must have hit the ceiling once she learned that it considered her to be a mere third party. Although that in itself is a disturbing commentary upon just how shabbily both cats and their owners are being treated by those individuals and groups who are lining their pockets by peddling Silicon Valley snake oil to the naïve, it is merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg as far as the difficulties and dangers that implanted microchips pose to both cats and their owners.
Although this is the first such known incident on record whereby a microchip database company has freely chosen to hide behind privacy law protections in order to thwart the expressed purpose of the devices, it would be rather naïve to believe that Tigger is an isolated case. A large part of the problem in determining the extent of such malfeasance lies in trying to get to the bottom of a rather complicated matter that is little understood outside the microchip industry itself.
|Carmen with a Remembrance of Her and Tigger|
Owned by The Kennel Club of London, Petlog boasts on its web site that it is the United Kingdom's "largest database for microchipped pets" but since there are at least a dozen known microchip purveyors throughout England it is by no means the only one. By contrast, in the United States there are at least fourteen known manufacturers of microchips with, presumably, their own individual databases. Plus, RFID-USA of Tampa claims to be a national pet microchip registration base.
Complicating matters further, microchips operate on different frequencies and therefore require multiple hand-held scanners in order to be deciphered. The chips themselves also sometimes move around once implanted and therefore are difficult to locate even if the appropriate scanners are available.
The chips additionally have been known to malfunction with disastrous consequences, such as leaving pets marooned in foreign countries. That is an especially frightening possibility considering that the European Union mandated in 2011 that all pets crossing the borders of its member states must be microchipped.
It is almost superfluous to point out but unless guardians keep their contract information up-to-date in the databases it it almost impossible for lost pets to be reunited with them. (See Cat Defender posts of March 31, 2010, July 25, 2014, and August 26, 2015 entitled, respectively, "Winnipeg Family Is Astounded by Tiger Lily's Miraculous Return after Having Been Believed Dead for Fourteen Years," "Poussey Overcomes a Surprise Boat Ride to Dover, a Stint on Death Row, and Being Bandied About Like the Flying Dutchman in Order to Finally Make It Home to La Havre," and "A Myriad of Cruel and Unforgivable Abandonments, a Chinese Puzzle, and Finally the Handing Down and Carrying Out of a Death Sentence Spell the End for Long-Suffering and Peripatetic Tigger.")
That is one reason why that England and Wales impose a £500 fine on all dog owners who not only fail to microchip them but also to keep their contact information current. As of yet, neither jurisdiction requires that cats be chipped but that is the law in both Spain and Belgium.
The biggest impediment in the entire scheme lies, arguably, in the limited availability of scanners in that, as far as it is known, only shelters and veterinarians have access to them. If, on the other hand, they were readily available to the general public it is entirely possible that at least some lost pets would be promptly returned to their legitimate owners.
As things now stand, that does not always happen. Rather, it is often years, and even decades, before lost cats are brought to either a veterinarian or a shelter and their implanted microchips found and read. Regrettably, by that time their owners often have relocated elsewhere and therefore are nowhere to be found. Even worse, some of them no longer want any part of their long-lost cats.
The sale and implantation of microchips also is a thinly-disguised cruel and inhumane money-making racket. In their quest to make as much moola as possible in the shortest amount of time coupled with the least amount of exertion, some veterinarians have been known to carelessly ram home these devices on top of vaccination sites which in turn has led to cats developing cancerous growths.
Others think absolutely nothing at all of implanting them on top of spinal cords. For example, back in 2014 a three-year-old calico named Sassie from Consett in County Durham was left paralyzed as the result of such gross negligence.
Plus, removal of the chip cost the offending party, the Durham County Council, £3,000. (See Cat Defender post of April 28, 2016 entitled "Sassie Is Left Paralyzed as the Result of Yet Still Another Horribly Botched Attempt to Implant a Thoroughly Worthless and Pernicious Microchip Between Her Shoulders.")
In Angleterre, the cost of having a microchip implanted in an animal generally runs between £25 and £30 and as such these procedures constitute a quick and easy way of turning a fast buck. It therefore is not surprising that the RSPCA, Cats Protection, the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, and the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals have jumped on the microchipping bandwagon in spite of the dangers associated with these devices.
Not a great deal is reported in the media about what goes on inside shelters but if what happened to a gray and white tom of unspecified age named Cooper last year while he was unjustly incarcerated at the Rowan County Animal Shelter in Salisbury, North Carolina, is indicative of prevailing conditions and procedures elsewhere, the number of grotesquely botched microchipping operations performed annually at these thinly disguised death houses surely must be staggering. (See Cat Defender post of June 23, 2016 entitled "The State of North Carolina's Veterinary Division Is Covering Up a Savage Beating Dished Out to Cooper at the Rowan County Animal Shelter During the Course of a Microchipping Fiasco.")
In addition to the advisability of implanting any foreign object in an animal, there is a growing body of research linking microchips to the development of cancer. (See Cat Defender posts of September 21, 2007 and November 6, 2010 entitled, respectively, "FDA Is Suppressing Research That Shows Implanted Microchips Cause Cancer in Mice, Rats, and Dogs" and "Bulkin Contracts Cancer from an Implanted Microchip and Now It Is Time for Digital Angel® and Merck to Answer for Their Crimes in a Court of Law.")
By far and away, however, the strongest argument against these odious devices is that they offer cats absolutely no protection whatsoever against motorists, other animals, and a multitude of individuals and organizations intent upon doing them harm. (See Cat Defender post of May 25, 2006 entitled "Plato's Misadventures Expose the Pitfalls of RFID Technology as Applied to Cats.")
Their manufacture, implantation, and recordkeeping also provide the financial and political elites with yet still another golden opportunity to snoop, dominate, and ultimately control the lives of both cats and their owners. Once all of their demerits are taken into consideration the benefits that they offer are negligible to say the least.
Young's roller-coaster ride with Tigger also serves to refocus attention on the myriad of problems associated with owning hybrid cats. Created from the forced breeding of Asian Leopard Cats (Prionailurus bengalensis) with Egyptian Maus, Abyssinians, and other unspecified domesticated breeds, Bengals such as Tigger are four generations removed from their wild ancestors.
Even as such, man's patently cruel and immoral manipulation of their gene pools has not been able to completely eradicate their wild natures. Consequently they, like all hybrids, are high maintenance cats that require a good deal of both attention and space.
|Mother and Daughter Finally Have Tigger Back Home Where He Belongs|
Not surprisingly, they do not like being cooped up indoors all the time and according have a tendency to run off whenever the least little opportunity presents itself. That, most likely, is how that Young lost custody of him in the first place although thievery also is a distinct possibility.
On a much broader scale, it is difficult to understand how that any hybrid cat ever could be completely contented in a domestic environment. In addition to that, they are prone to genetic abnormalities that often shorten their lives.
Furthermore, many jurisdictions around the world have statutes that outlaw the ownership of them. Most tragic of all, whenever they are able to shake off the shackles of domestication their only reward is often to be shot on sight by either ignorant citizens or trigger-happy cops.
Even if they are able to stay alive under such perilous circumstances, sooner or later they are trapped and wind up spending the remainder of their days in either some hellhole shelter or zoo. (See Cat Defender post of February 20, 2008 entitled "Exotic and Hybrid Cats, Perennial Objects of Exploitation and Abuse, Are Now Being Mutilated, Abandoned, and Stolen.")
Their tendency to run away from home coupled with owners who intentionally abandon them to their own devices has even necessitated the creation of rescue efforts designed to shelter and rehome specific breeds of them. Considering the millions of homeless and unwanted cats that are systematically exterminated en masse each year by shelters and veterinarians, homeless designer cats are the absolute last thing that this world needs.
Just as it would be utterly impossible for any whorehouse to stay in business for very long without a rather substantial client base, sadistic and greedy breeders of these cats rely upon an equally callous public that is willing to shell out big bucks in order to bask in the hubris of being able to show them off to their friends and acquaintances. Therefore, in spite of the cruelties inflicted upon them by both parties, the variety as well as the overall number of designer cats continue to increase.
One of the more popular breeds are Savannahs, which are a cross between African Servals and a variety of domestic cats such as Oriental Shorthairs, Egyptian Maus, Serengettis, Ocicats, Chausies, and Bengals. (See Cat Defender posts of May 19, 2015 and April 19, 2014 entitled, respectively, "Savannahs: More Feline Cruelty Courtesy of the Capitalists and the Bourgeoisie" and "Doomed from Conception to a Lifetime of Naked Exploitation and Destined Never to Fit In Anywhere, Chum Is Gunned Down in Cold Blood on the Violent Streets of Lawless and Uncaring Detroit.")
Asheras, which are a cross between African Servals, Asian Leopard Cats, and a "trade secret" domestic, also are growing in popularity. (See Cat Defender post of February 19, 2008 entitled "Asheras Are the Designer Chats du Jour Despite the Cruelties Inflicted During Their Hybridization.")
Although they are still very much a breed in development, Toygers are supposedly the end product of forcibly breeding Bengals with the offspring of an unidentified cat abducted from streets of Kashmir. (See Cat Defender post of April 13, 2007 entitled "Killing and Torturing Wild and Domestic Cats in Order to Create Toygers Is Not Going to Save Sumatran Tigers.")
In the United States, the breeding of bobcats with domestics in order to create Pixie-Bobs and similar varieties has spawned all sorts of dilemmas. (See Cat Defender posts of June 28, 2007, December 19, 2008, April 26, 2014, and May 29, 2014 entitled, respectively, "Rural Alabama Man Makes a Killing Forcibly Breeding Domestic Cats to Bobcats in Order to Create Pixie-Bobs," "Regardless of Whether He Is a Pixie-Bob or a Bobcat, It Is Going to Be a Blue Christmas for Benny after He Inadvertently Bites Santa Claus," "The Opportunistic Old Hacks Who Run the Show in New Jersey Are All Set to Unjustly Condemn Rocky to a Lifetime Behind Bars for, Basically, Daring to So Much as Breathe," and "The Odds Were All Against Him and His Enemies Were Well-Financed and Unscrupulous but Rocky Nonetheless Prevails in a Stafford Courtroom.")
Trumping all of the cruelties and inequities involved in not only domesticating but in breeding hybrids is the disturbing petit fait that their creation requires the removal of their progenitors from the wild. Although Prionailurus bengalensis still inhabit a large swath of the earth that includes Russia, Korea, China, Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Thailand, Japan, the Philippines, and parts of Indonesia, that does not necessarily mean that their survival is by any means assured.
For instance, the Chinese, Thais, and Myanmars traffic extensively in their fur, flesh, and body parts. Farmers also shoot them on sight in order to protect the chickens that they in turn slaughter in droves.
Their habitat also is shrinking. For example, on Iriomote in the Yaeyama Islands of the Ryukyu chain, a subspecies of them, Prionailurus bengalensis iriomatensis, is being decimated by both developers and motorists. That is so much the case that perhaps fewer than two-hundred of these critically endangered cats still exist. (See Cat Defender post of November 27, 2006 entitled "After Surviving on Its Own for at Least Two Million Years, Rare Japanese Wildcat Faces Its Toughest Battle Yet.")
The hybridization of Asian Leopard Cats was first reported in 1889 but such unions were not officially confirmed until 1934. It took another thirty ago, however, for Bengals to become a popular breed.
It also is believed that Leopard Cats were the first breed to have been domesticated in China. That reportedly occurred more than five-thousand years ago and long before they were supplanted in domestic circles by the more common Felis sylvestris lybica of African and the Near East.
Regardless of whether their domestication involves either the genuine articles or hybrids, neither process augurs well for their long-term survival in the wild. What the species needs is to be left alone in protected habitats coupled with a ban of all trapping and killing.
As far as Tigger is concerned, he certainly has done remarkably well in order to have persevered throughout all the upheaval that has been thrown at him during his short life. It remains to be determined, however, if Young and her family are capable of holding on to him this time around.
Beyond that, it would be refreshing if they were willing to devote the time, effort, and resources that are necessary in order to make him at least somewhat contented with his unfortunate lot in life. It was not his fault that he was born with a mixed set of genes that have left him suspended midway between two rather different, but equally demanding, worlds.
Photos: The Telegraph (Tigger and Carmen with a picture of him), the BBC (Karen Young), and the Daily Express (the happy reunion).