by Sandra Pearce
Charities have welcomed the news that all dogs in England will have to be microchipped from April 6, 2016, with the Dogs Trust, Blue Cross and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home saying they will offer a free microchipping service. The Kennel Club has pledged to gift microchip scanners to every local authority in England and Wales in support of the decision.
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary said: “After speaking with dog owners around the country we are confident compulsory microchipping will be well received. A recent Kennel Club survey highlighted public support for compulsory microchipping, with almost 90% of people strongly in favour.”
The RSPCA and the Blue Cross, while welcoming the move, have said that more still needs to be done to tackle irresponsible dog ownership and prevent attacks from happening in the first place.
The new law is part of the government’s attempt to cut the number of strays and make pet owners more responsible for their animals. A legal loophole may also be closed, meaning owners could be prosecuted over an attack by their dog on private land.
Every year, more than 100,000 dogs are dumped at a cost of £57 million to the taxpayer and welfare charities. And since 2005, eight children and six adults have been killed in dog attacks in the UK, many of which happened in the home. Last year, more than 3,000 postal workers were attacked by dogs, 70% on private property.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said: “It’s a shame 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. I am determined to put an end to this and ease the pressure on charities and councils to find new homes for these dogs.”
Caroline added: “Compulsory microchipping will go a long way towards improving welfare by reuniting stray and lost dogs with their owners more quickly whilst also providing government with solutions to a number of issues relating to irresponsible dog ownership. It is also hoped that microchipping will help keep a record of where each dog has come from to improve traceability, and in turn assist with health and welfare issues such as puppy farming.”
Anyone who breaks the rules gets a short period to comply, then could be fined up to £500.
The RSPCA has said that while it welcomed the government’s announcement, it believes the government has not gone far enough.
David Bowles, head of public affairs, explained: “Compulsory microchipping and extending the law to cover private property as well as public spaces is a welcome move. However, on their own we don’t believe they will reduce the number of stray dogs, make owners act more responsibly to their dogs or ensure fewer dogs bite people or other animals.
“The Home Office proposals on anti-social behaviour do not provide sufficiently early intervention and could label some dog owners as anti-social when their failing may only be a lack of understanding.
“We have always said that prevention is better than the cure. This was Defra’s opportunity to finally tackle the big issues, but instead we believe they have merely tinkered with the existing legislation rather than make the comprehensive reform that dog law enforcers were calling for.
“We believe that preventative measures, such as dog control notices, are required as well as introduction of dog registration to improve dog owners’ accountability, deter casual acquirers of dogs and fund owner education services. Early intervention with owners prevents suffering to animals, as well as protect public safety where owners fail to control their dogs.”
Kim Hamilton, Blue Cross chief executive, said: “The Government’s decision to introduce compulsory microchipping of all dogs promises to make a lasting impression on animal welfare.
“Blue Cross believes that dog ownership can be a good thing – regardless of the breed – when people are properly informed and supported. Without tackling this problem the reputation of some dog owners, and the breeds of dogs they choose to own, will continue to suffer.”
Clarissa Baldwin, Chief Executive of Dogs Trust, said: “We are delighted that the Government has taken this prescient move to introduce compulsory microchipping for all dogs in England. This immediate method of identification is essential to improve dog welfare.
“This will help to reduce the number of dogs that needlessly end up with an uncertain fate in council pounds and rescue centres when their owners simply cannot be traced. We urge dog owners to view microchipping as part and parcel of dog ownership and, importantly, also take responsibility for keeping their contact details up to date.”