Pensioner whose cat vanished denied info about whereabouts due to GDPR

Good news: We’ve found your lost cat Fred. Bad news: His new family are keeping him and we can’t tell you where they are due to data protection laws, microchipping firm informs shocked woman, 76

  •  Beryl Edward’s beloved cat Fred had been missing since summer 2021 

When Beryl Edwards received a call from a microchipping company to say her long-lost cat was safe and being looked after, she thought it would prove a simple process to be reunited with him.

But the pensioner’s joy at the news Fred had been located proved to be short-lived, after pet database provider Identibase said the cat’s guardians wanted to re-register him as their own – and the firm was unable to pass on their details or location due to data protection rules.

The distraught owner was forced to contact police, who said they would treat the matter as a potential theft, in a bid to get her feline friend back.

And today Fred was back in Ms Edwards’ arms – after West Mercia Police officers visited his new owners – and they agreed to hand him back to the retired headteacher.

Ms Edwards, 76, adopted Fred and his brother Gino from an animal shelter in September 2021 before he ‘just disappeared’ from her home in Market Drayton, Shropshire, last summer.

Beryl Edwards had adopted Fred and his brother Gino (pictured) from an animal shelter back in 2021  

Fred returned home on Monday after the long ordeal after Ms Edwards had been told she could not know the address of where her missing cat was over fears of a data protection breach 

She registered him missing but heard nothing more about what had happened to him.

‘And then out of the blue last week I get an email saying we’ve had a request – somebody wants a transfer of ownership,’ Ms Edwards said.

‘Can you imagine the range of emotions from, ‘Fred! He’s alive, he’s OK’ to ‘transfer of ownership? ‘What’s this all about?”

When she contacted Identibase, the firm, headquartered in York, said it could not share any information that would help her find her cat.

It offered to pass on her contact details instead but ‘the prospective new owners didn’t get in touch at all,’ she said.

West Mercia Police returned the cat to Ms Edwards on Monday night. She was told that the owners had taken the cat to the vets for treatment on numerous occasions but ‘didn’t bother’ to ask the vet to see if he was microchipped and owned by someone else until a recent visit.

‘If they had I might have been spared through the hell with worry and anxiety about Fred’, she added.

‘In the end I had to report the matter to the police. The whole situation is ridiculous.

‘On Monday, the police did eventually go see the people who had Fred, but even then, the people with Fred sent me an email appealing to me to let them keep him.

Fred had been missing since last summer, but Ms Edwards received a call out of the blue last week explaining that her furry friend had been found 

‘But I told them and the police firmly that I wanted him back.’

From June 2024, it will be law for all cats to be microchipped.

Stefan Blakiston Moore(corr), from Cats Protection, told the BBC that microchipping usually resulted in a positive outcomes for lost cats.

‘In most cases, if your cat becomes lost and is found we will be able to scan it and get it back to you,’ he said.

‘It is a very complicated situation with the case of Beryl’s cat, there can be these complications that come up but generally this isn’t the case.’

Robert Diamond, chief executive of Identibase’s parent company, Identicare, said: ‘In this instance, a request was made by the recent ‘finder’ of the pet for a Transfer of Keepership. This request was refused by the existing registered keeper who asked for their pet to be returned.

‘Under GDPR legislation, we were not able to share contact details for the ‘finder’ with the registered keeper.

‘However we have taken all possible steps to help resolve this situation, which we understand has caused understandable distress.

‘We have been in touch with West Mercia police, who have received all the relevant information as per their request.’

West Mercia Police said: ‘Last week we received a report from a member of the public concerned their cat may have been stolen. The much loved pet has been missing since August last year but recently the owner received a request to change the details of the cat’s microchip.

‘We are following up on a number of enquiries and at this stage are treating the matter as a potential theft.’

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