Since their introduction in the early 1990s, ID microchips have enjoyed a certain amount of notoriety. The chips are around the same size as a grain of rice and are implanted under the skin of a pet. When scanned, they will identify the pet with a unique number which is linked to a database.
On the surface, microchips seem to be a great way of identifying your pet and, in theory, they could also make it easier to find and prosecute the owners of abandoned or neglected pets. However, there are some issues, namely that many owners do not keep the microchip database up to date with appropriate contact details. This means that it can be difficult to accurately trace ownership. In rare cases the chip can move inside the body, making it impossible to scan, though in these instances a new one can be implanted. There is also some controversial debate as to whether microchips cause tumours.
Mandatory microchipping for dogs is due to be introduced in 2016, meaning that all dogs in England and Wales will need to have one. It is hoped that this will promote responsible pet ownership as well as improving the traceability of unethically bred puppies. There have also been two petitions addressing microchips, one of which (Harvey’s Law) was debated in Parliament. Harvey’s Law called for more stringent scanning of canine remains at roadsides, and following the debate the Highways Agency was compelled to do so. The other, Vets Get Scanning, asks for vets to check for microchips as a matter of course in order to help identify lost or stolen dogs. This could prove a deterrent for would-be dog thieves.
Despite these high-profile petitions and the legislation coming into force next year, pet owners placed microchip scanning as their animal welfare issue of least concern.