In an effort to decrease the stray population and the number of welfare citations, English officials have announced that all dogs over 8weeks old will be required to have a microchip starting April 6, 2016. More than 100,000 dogs are lost or abandoned each year, costing tax payers and animal rescue groups an estimated £57 million.
The government hopes that requiring microchips and keeping an up-to-date registry database will help to reunite more dogs with their owners and relieve some of the burden on local animal charities. After April 6, if a dog is found without a chip, the owner will have a 21-day grace period to comply or face fines up to £500.
Environmental Secretary, Owen Paterson, commented to BBC News on the stray dog problem.
It’s ludicrous that in a nation of dog-lovers, thousands of dogs are roaming the streets or stuck in kennels because the owner cannot be tracked down. Microchipping is a simple solution that gives peace of mind to owners. It makes it easier to get their pet back if it strays and easier to trace if it’s stolen.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) applauds the effort, but doubts that the new law will reform irresponsible pet owners, or reduce the growing problem with dog attacks. The number of poor welfare warnings issued to dog owners is up 12% from 2011, and dog bites requiring hospitalization have increased a startling 26%. David Bowles, head of the RSPCA’s department of public affairs said:
If the government are trying to tackle these [issues], we don’t see how compulsory microchipping will help reduce either of these figures.
The microchip law may not reduce the number of dog bites, but officials have discussed repairing a loophole in the law that currently allows owners to avoid prosecution if their dog bites someone on private property. Since 2005, 8 children and 6 adults have been killed in dog attacks, several in the home, according to the Department for Environment & Rural Affairs. Under new law, homeowners will still be protected from prosecution if their dog attacks an intruder on their land.
Clarissa Baldwin is the chief executive of the Dogs Trust charity. She believes that the new microchip law will make a “huge difference” for the more than 16,000 dogs cared for by the group each year. She pointed out that the majority of the dogs that pass through Dogs Trust are not microchipped.
With a register, kept up to date, people will be able to get their dogs back far more easily.
Some feel that this very statement reveals the flaw in the legislature. According to Beverley Cuddy, editor of Dogs Today magazine, 40% of the microchipped dogs picked up by the National Dog Warden Association have incomplete, inaccurate or outdated information in the database.
People don’t know how to update their records. The chip is invisible – once it’s in there people forget it’s there.
Many veterinary clinics will be offering free microchips donated by Dogs Trust to help dog owners comply with the new law. The chips are the size of a grain of rice and usually no more painful to implant than a routine vaccination. Other charities offering free microchipping services include Blue Cross and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. For a list of upcoming events in Scarborough Borough, click here.
Microchipping has been required for dogs in Northern Ireland since 2012, and is currently under consideration by Scotland and Wales. Do you think the US should consider this type of law? We want to hear your opinions!
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