Rhode Island May Lead the Nation with Mandatory Dog and Cat Microchip Law

i February 15, 2019

Rhode Island may be the first state to enact legislation requiring the microchipping of all dogs and cats. 

Adopting verbatim (without the preamble) ISAR’s Mandatory Dog and Cat Microchip Law, the proposed legislation, S.B. 160, was introduced by Senators Erin Lynch Prata, Cynthia Coyne, and Stephen Archambault and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Thanks to the efforts of Dennis Tabella, founder of Defenders of Animals, RI, the ISAR-developed Mandatory Dog and Cat Microchipping statute will deter pet abandonment, facilitate recovery of lost pets, and substantially ameliorate the suffering of those who lose a companion animal.

The Mandatory Dog and Cat Microchipping Act reads as follows:

WHEREAS, there is in this jurisdiction a large population of stray dogs and cats; and

WHEREAS, the source of those dogs and cats varies, but includes those who have escaped from their homes, those who have been abandoned, and their street-born progeny; and

WHEREAS, these dogs and cats, through no fault of their own, have an adverse impact on the public health, safety, welfare, and environment; and

WHEREAS, the impact of these animals includes but is not limited to the transmission of disease, the injury of humans and other animals, the creation of hazards to vehicular traffic, and the drain of public finances; and

WHEREAS, it is in the interests of the public health, welfare, safety, and environment that the numbers of these animals be considerably reduced, if not eliminated altogether; and

WHEREAS, one method of reducing those numbers is to provide for the efficient restoration of those animals to their custodians or shelters, pound, humane societies, and rescue organizations, and to punish persons who abandoned these animals,

NOW, THEREFORE, be it enacted as follows:

Section 1. Short title.

This act shall be known, and may be cited, as the Mandatory Dog and Cat Microchipping Act.

Section 2.  Mandatory microchipping.

No shelter, pound, humane society, rescue organization, or similar organization, whether public or private, whose principal purpose is securing the adoption of dogs and cats, shall release any such animal to its owner, custodian or an adopter unless the dog or cat has first been microchipped.

Every breeder, purchaser, or other person or entity coming into possession of an unchipped dog or cat is required within 30 days to have the animal microchipped.

Section 3.  Medical exceptions to sterilization.

(a)  No dog or cat need be microchipped if a licensed veterinarian, exercising appropriate professional judgment, shall certify in writing and under oath that an animal is medically unfit for the microchipping procedure because of a physical condition which would be substantially aggravated by such procedure or would likely cause the animal’s death.

(b)  The dog or cat’s age shall not per se constitute medical unfitness.

(c)  As soon as the disqualifying medical condition ceases to exist, it shall be the duty of the person or entity having control of the dog or cat to immediately comply with all provisions of this act.

(d)  Possession of the certificate referred to in subsection (a) of this section shall constitute a defense to liability under the penalty provisions of this act.

Section 4.  Penalties.

Each unauthorized failure-to-microchip violation of this act shall be punishable by a fine as follows:

The first violation shall constitute an offense, punishable by a fine of $500.00.

The next two violations will constitute separate offenses for which an additional civil fine of $1,000.00 shall be imposed for each violation.

Immediately following the third offense, subsequent violations will be punishable as the lowest grade misdemeanor.  A $2,000.00 fine will also be imposed for each offense after the third.

Section 4.  Effective date.

This act shall be effective when it is approved according to law.

Those who favor the passage of this important legislation can contact the Senate Judiciary Committee and ask them to support S.B. 160, the Mandatory Dog And Cat Microchipping Act at the following addresses:  sen-lynchprata@rilegislature.gov, sen-archambault@rilegislature.gov, sen-metts@rilegislature.gov, sen-coyne@rilegislature.gov, sen-delacruz@rilegislature.gov, sen-euer@rilegislature.gov, sen-lombardi@rilegislature.gov, sen-mckenney@rilegislature.gov, and sen-raptakis@rilegislature.gov.