Animal Friends Blog
In April, mandatory microchipping for dogs will come into law in England. Breeders will become responsible for having puppies microchipped before they are sold and documenting the names and details of the buyers. Owners of dogs who don’t have microchips already will be expected to do so. It is hoped that this will promote responsible dog ownership, help owners find missing pets, reduce thefts and help control and monitor dangerous dogs. So why are so many people angry about this legislation? Mistrust and cynicism seem to me the main issues.
While animal charities have come out in support of the move, a quick scan of the comments section of any article about this decision reveals hundreds of people who oppose mandatory microchipping. Their reasons vary from concerns over data protection to scepticism over whether there’s any point in microchipping dogs when microchipped dogs still go missing without ever being found. Hopefully we can put a few of these doubts to rest.
A common reason against microchipping is that many people don’t trust the government, and believe that the move is a money-making ploy. This is fortunately easy to allay as Dogs Trust have made free microchips available to all unchipped dogs in the run up to the deadline. The government is only set to profit if you don’t chip your dog, are caught and then refuse to chip your dog within the allowed time period after that. In fact, lost and stolen dogs cost the taxpayer £33 million per year.
Another concern is that people will be able to access all of your personal details by stealing your dogs, or track your movements by satellite by tracking the chip. Firstly, a microchip itself doesn’t have any details on it, it has a unique serial number which is only accessible with a scanner. Granted, it is possible to access your name, address, telephone number and date of birth from the database but it is not easy. If someone was intent on stealing your details there are much simpler ways to go about it. If nothing else it is already a legal requirement that a dog must wear a collar with his owners’ name and address on it. A microchip doesn’t really pose any more of a threat to your personal details than that. What’s more is that you cannot track the whereabouts of a dog (or their owner) from the chip as it does not transmit any information on its own and is therefore not traceable by satellite. It only pings out radio signals when stimulated by a scanner, and even then it only responds with the microchip number, that is all. In the unlikely event that someone wants to track your movements they could do it in a multitude of ways (through your smartphone, Facebook or Twitter) but your dog’s microchip isn’t one of them.
Some people argue that responsible dog owners will already have their dogs chipped so owners who are not so scrupulous can just carry on with their dogs unchipped until they are caught. While it is true that irresponsible owners can carry on until they are caught out by spot-checkers, this will be partway counteracted by the requirement for breeders to only sell puppies who have been chipped and to take personal details of the new owners. Most shelters already make sure dogs are microchipped when they are rehomed. This means that eventually all dogs will be microchipped and, if puppies are found who aren’t, it will raise questions as to where the puppy came from. Breeders will have to put their details on the database under the microchip number. This means that, if multiple dogs from the same breeder are exhibiting developmental, health or behavioural issues, this can be investigated. This in turn will help root out unethical breeders like puppy farmers. It will also help to crack down on the illegal breeding of banned breeds.
There are a number of people who say that microchips move or can’t be found later, making them pointless. The fact is that, of 2.3 million pets microchipped in the UK there have only been 165 instances of a chip moving. In fact there were fewer than 300 instances of any kind of failure regarding the microchip, meaning that 99.9% of the time it works perfectly and stays in place.
One reason that the government has put forward for this law is to help reduce the number of dog attacks. Some people have questioned how a microchip is going to stop a dog from biting someone. Well, obviously the chip itself isn’t going to do anything to prevent a dog from biting someone if it wants to. What mandatory microchipping will do is ensure more regulated ownership and a more responsible approach to dog ownership as, from the moment the owners take their puppies from the breeders, they will know that the dog is linked to them by the details on the database. If their dog is frequently caught by wardens, abandoned, or attacking people this can be identified and these incidents can be more accurately catalogued. This way dangerous dogs will be easier to identify by their actions rather than just by their breed and owners can be held accountable more easily.
There are currently a number of campaigns in place to try and force local authorities to scan all pets who are found dead on roadsides or hit by cars. Perhaps the knowledge that all dogs will (or, at least, should) have microchips will make them more inclined to do so? Also, if owners know that they can be identified by the authorities through their dog’s microchip, they are less likely to dump or abandon them, or worse. Hopefully it will make people think more carefully about buying a dog and make less impulsive decisions.
Some people have said that they worry about keeping their details up to date. You wouldn’t move house and forget to change your address with the bank, or forget to tell your family that you have a new phone number. It’s exactly the same with the microchip database. It’s easy to do, and very important. Consider compiling a list of all the people/companies who you’ll need to inform of your change of details and make sure that the microchipping database is on that list.
There are a few people who seem to think that having a dog is a right that shouldn’t be regulated or policed and think that it will make dogs more expensive – there are plenty of dogs in shelters waiting to be adopted if money is a concern in choosing a dog, and that being a pet owner is a privilege, not a right. The safety of your dogs should be paramount.
While it is natural to have concerns over changes in the law, particularly regarding our beloved pets, mandatory microchipping is only going to affect the 30% of owners who don’t already have their dogs chipped. The benefits far outweigh the doubts and we look forward to seeing more responsible dog ownership as a result.
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