Monday, 11 February 2013

Every dog to have free microchip

The government announced that all dogs in England will be microchipped for free. Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood, who has campaigned for this measure for years, welcomed the move. From 6 April 2016, microchipping will be compulsory for all dogs. This will help to reunite owners with lost or stolen pets, relieve the burden on animal charities and local authorities, and protect the welfare of dogs by promoting responsible dog ownership. Support from Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, means a free microchip will be available for all unchipped dogs in England.

Currently there are around eight million pet dogs in the UK, and nearly 60 per cent are already chipped. Microchipping has been carried out in Cheltenham by the Cheltenham & East Gloucestershire branch of the RSPCA [see attached photo from 2008]. Each year, more than 100,000 dogs are dumped or lost in the UK at a cost of £57 million to the taxpayer and welfare charities. Over half (52%) of the stray dogs picked up by police, local authorities and animal welfare charities could not be rehomed because their owner could not be identified, a problem which causes 6,000 dogs to be put down every year.

In 2011, Martin raised in parliament the issue of a series of vicious dog attacks in Cheltenham, and highlighted the importance of microchipping in identifying dangerous owners as well as dangerous dogs.

Martin said: “This move has been a long time coming, but I’m delighted the coalition government is now going to do the right thing – and that they have agreed with Dogs Trust a way of doing it for free for at least three years. Microchipping will help to bring down the number of unidentified strays. It will help animal charities like Cheltenham’s own Animal Shelter to track down owners and return lost pets. It will also help the authorities to identify dangerous dog owners who allow their animals to hurt other animals, and pose a threat to human beings.”

Kim Hamilton, chief executive of Blue Cross, based near Burford, said: ‘Compulsory microchipping will make a huge difference to the work of charities like Blue Cross, as we struggle to find homes for an increasing number of stray and unwanted pets. We will be offering both cats and dogs microchipping at Blue Cross rehoming centres and animal hospitals across England. We also welcome plans to allow more flexibility on kennelling suspected banned breeds, as this will have a lasting impression on pet welfare and the wellbeing of dogs.’

 The laws on dog attacks will also be extended to cover private property. This will close a loophole which has meant that dog owners whose animals have attacked people on private property are immune from prosecution. Eight children and six adults have been killed in dog attacks since 2005, with many of these attacks taking place in the home. In the last year alone, over 3,000 postal workers were attacked by dangerously out of control dogs, and 70 per cent of these attacks happened on private property. Government measures will also allow the police, when dealing with any dogs which are subject to court proceedings under the Dangerous Dogs Act, to decide whether a suspected prohibited dog needs to be kept apart from their owners until the outcome of court proceedings. Previously all such dogs had to be kennelled until after proceedings had concluded, even if they posed no risk to the public.

After 6 April 2016, owners of dogs found by the police or local authorities not to have a microchip will have the benefits explained to them, and be given a short period to comply with the microchipping law. If they do not, they will face a fine of up to £500.

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