Following on from our recent article that asked the question, “Should it be compulsory to have your dog microchipped ?” the government announced on the 6th of February that from April 2016 onwards, it will indeed become compulsory for all dogs and puppies in England and Wales to be microchipped. The proposals to amend the Animal Welfare Act (2006) and parts of the Dangerous Dogs Act (1991) received a large amount of support from the dog-loving public, and were backed by a range of organisations including The Dogs Trust, The Kennel Club, and the RSPCA. The vast majority of responsible dog owners already have their dog microchipped as a matter of course, and so the changes to the law are unlikely to have a significant effect on many dog owners once they come into force. So, why has the government decided to make the microchipping of dogs compulsory, what do the changes to the law hope to achieve, and how can compliance with the law be policed ? Read on to find out more!
The changes to the law that will be implemented in April 2016 state first and foremost that all dogs within England and Wales must be microchipped. A parliamentary debate over the issue is not considered to be necessary, and so it seems unlikely that the new scheme will face any opposition in the meantime. The police and local authorities will be tasked with policing compliance with the scheme, and all local authorities and police forces will be issued with the appropriate number of microchip scanners to be able to execute their duties effectively. If the police or local authorities find a dog without a microchip after April 2016, assuming that the owner of the dog in question can be located, the owner will be given a further short window of opportunity to get their dog microchipped. If they still then fail to comply with the law, they will face a fine of up to £500 per dog. The second part of the amendment to the existing law, involves a change in the remit of the Dangerous Dogs Act, to include attacks by dogs on private property. Currently, the laws surrounding attacks by dogs only covers attacks made in public, and does not provide any recourse if, for instance, a dog attacks a person on the driveway or grounds of the home that the dog lives on. An additional caveat will be added to protect dog owners from prosecution under the amendment should their dog attack a burglar, trespasser or other unauthorised person.
The reasons for the amendment to the current laws to make microchipping compulsory will, it is hoped, provide a multitude of benefits for dogs and dog owners in England and Wales.
The dog-loving public and a wide range of animal welfare and stewardship organisations have welcomed the upcoming changes to the law, although many people have cautioned that the scheme will not be without its flaws. As ever, responsible dog owners will take care of their dogs properly and ensure that they are microchipped and well supervised, while other less scrupulous dog owners will be resistant or unwilling to comply with the new law. Compulsory microchipping, while it will almost certainly ease the pressure on rehoming shelters and local authority dog wardens, will not go any way towards addressing the issues of neglected or poorly treated dogs, and irresponsible owners. The RSPCA’s David Bowles said that, while he broadly welcomes the move, he feels that compulsory microchipping will by no means completely eradicate the problems of stray and neglected dogs. The editor of Dogs Today magazine, Beverly Cuddy, warned that the scheme could only ever be as effective as public compliance with it allowed it to be. Many dog owners forget to update the information held about themselves and their dogs on the microchipping databases if they move home or their contact details change, and many microchipping companies charging a fee for updating information. So the incentive to remember or prioritise updating contact information when the stress and expense of moving home is often significant, is very much lacking. The National Dog Warden Association states that 40% of the microchipped dogs that they take in have missing or inaccurate information held about their owners on the databases, making reuniting a microchipped dog with its owner as hard in some cases as it can be for dogs that are not microchipped at all.
The 2016 amendments to the law will only apply to England and Wales. In Northern Ireland, the microchipping of dogs is already compulsory, and has been since April 2012. The Scottish government has stated that there is “no evidence that compulsory microchipping would effectively tackle welfare issues,” and so has declined to consider implementing a compulsory microchipping scheme for dogs at this time. However, a spokesperson for the Scottish government has said that they will observe the results of the law’s implementation in England and Wales, and will not rule out the possibility of introducing the law north of the border further down the line.
You can get your dog microchipped at any veterinary surgery, and many organisations such as The Dogs Trust and the RSPCA provide subsidised microchipping schemes for dog owners. Get ahead- have your dog microchipped now, and enjoy the peace of mind that microchipping affords to you and your dog. And don’t forget to update your details if you move home!
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