All dogs in England will need to be microchipped to help tackle the growing problem of strays roaming the streets, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson announced today.
Each year more than 100,000 dogs are dumped or lost at a cost of £57 million to the taxpayer and welfare charities.
The Government is bringing in compulsory microchipping for all dogs from 6 April 2016 to help 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.
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.
“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 generous support of Dogs Trust will mean that this valuable service can be offered for free to pet owners across the country.”
Currently there are around 8 million pet dogs in theUK. Nearly 60 per cent are already chipped.
Owners will be able to get their dog microchipped for free at any of the 18 Dogs Trust centres across the UK, and free microchips will be offered by Dogs Trust to local authorities, housing associations and veterinary surgeries.
Battersea Dogs and Cats Home have announced that free microchipping will be offered at their three centres, and the Blue Cross will also offer free microchipping to dogs and cats at their 16 hospitals and centres across England.
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.”
Kim Hamilton, Blue Cross chief executive, 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.”
Claire Horton, Chief Executive of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, said:
“Battersea warmly welcomes today’s Government announcement on microchipping in England. It’s so worrying for owners when a dog strays from home, yet a tiny microchip the size of a grain of rice means charities like Battersea can often reunite pets with their owners within hours. Having no chip in a dog can mean any reunion can take days to happen, if it happens at all. So our three centres around London will help by offering dog owners free microchipping for their dog.”
Owen Paterson also announced that the police are being given new powers to tackle dangerous dogs and keep the public safe.
The laws on dog attacks will be extended to cover private property, closing 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.
Householders, however, will be protected from prosecution if their dog attacks a burglar or trespasser on their land.
Mr Paterson added:
“Most people take proper care of their dogs but there are a small minority of people who behave irresponsibly, allowing their dogs to threaten and attack people.
“People like health and postal workers, who have to go on private property just to do their jobs, deserve protection under the law. By giving the police extra powers to clamp down on law-breakers, those responsible for the worst offences will be held to account regardless of where the attack takes place.”
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.
The changes follow a consultation which ran from 23 April 2012 to 15 June 2012. Over 27,000 people responded to the consultation and a breakdown of their responses can be found here.