My name is Rebecca. I am a veterinarian, and will do my best to help.
This is an area that is very "gray". It is up to you what you think is best.
I can only tell you what I would do in this situation. I have my dog and cats microchippped. One of my cats has been missing for over 2 years now, and I can't tell you how overjoyed I would be to find out he is alive, that someone has been taking care of him, and of course I would want him back. It would make me so happy to know that he is not dead, and that he has been cared for and loved.
So you can put yourself in the shoes of the person who lost Toota, and decided what is best.
I would trace the chip and find out who it is registered to. There is a good chance that the information will be old, or that the chip was never registered. Often these chips are placed by the animal shelter when a cat is adopted, and the adopter never put it in his name. If you go to the microchip registry, and find it registered to a shelter, then you have made an honest effort and he is yours.
But, if you find there is a person, and a phone number or address registered to the chip, it is up to you to decide what is best.
Twice I have had dogs with chips brought in by people who found the dog and wanted to keep it, and both times when I called the person the chip was registered to, they did not want the dog, and the new owners got to keep the dogs, knowing they had made an honest effort to find the first owner.
As far as I know, there have been no court cases to decide about these things. If you would like to contact a lawyer, you could ask one of the legal experts on this website.
I am not seeing responses from you. I hope you can see what I am writing. Sometimes there are problems with this live chat, and we can't see what the other is saying.
I will try another way to connect with you.
Thankyou for your reply and helpful info.
Toota turned up on our doorstep over 2yrs ago and we only fed him outside until he decided he wanted to come into our home. He fell very ill a short time after that and we took him to our Vets. They were baffled as to what was wrong with him and tested for lots of things including Toxoplasmosis. Toota was unable to use his back legs and appeared to become disabled overnight. To cut a long story short, after much heartache, care from us and our Vet he recovered after 2mnths. We realised then how much we had bonded & decided to keep him. The Vet told us he had been spayed and we should think about getting him chipped at some point. We were very happy and Toota has become central to our family life.
Its only recently we took Toota for his annual booster and to get him chipped, the Vet informed us he was already chipped. We were shocked and so sad.
The Vet then contacted the original owners with our telephone number and in turn they contacted us, hugely relieved.
The original owners have decided they would like Toota back and after 2 years we are hearbroken and just wondered if we have any rights and obviously want whats best for Toota. We feel we should do the right thing and return him although it is a very sad situation.