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Owen Paterson, Environment Secretary  at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced today that all dog owners in England will have to microchip their animals by 6th April 2016 to help tackle the growing problem of strays roaming the streets and to make it easier to reunite lost dogs with their owners.

The Government believes this measure will relieve the burden on animal charities and local authorities and protect the welfare of dogs by promoting responsible dog ownership.

The collected statistics tell us that 110,000 stray dogs are recovered by police, local authorities and animal welfare charities each year and of these only 53,000 are returned to their owners.  Six thousand of those not returned are put down because they cannot be re-homed.  This burden is costing taxpayers and charities £57 million a year.  Currently nearly 60 per cent of the UK’s 8 million pet dogs have been chipped.

This measure has the support of the Dogs Trust, Blue Cross and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, all of which offer free microchipping at their premises.  The Dogs Trust will also be providing free microchips to local authorities, housing associations and veterinary surgeries, but you may have to pay for them to be implanted.

The government says owners who refuse to comply with changes to the Animal Welfare Act 2006 will face fines of up to £500.

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.”

Owen Paterson also announced that the laws on dog attacks will be changed to remove the dog owner’s immunity from prosecution if the dog attack occurs on private property.

Eight children and six adults have been killed in dog attacks since 2005, with several of these attacks taking place in the home. During 2012, 70 per cent of the 3,000+ attacks on postal workers occurred on private property.

Householders will be protected from prosecution if their dog attacks a burglar or trespasser on their land.

Government measures will also allow the police to decide whether a suspected ‘prohibited dog’ as defined in the Dangerous Dogs Act (See links below), needs to be kept apart from the owner until the result of court proceedings.  Currently, these dogs are kennelled until after the court proceedings even if the animal poses no risk to the public.

Is microchipping required in the rest of the United Kingdom?

Northern Ireland - Compulsory microchipping was introduced in Northern Ireland in April 2012.

Wales - Plans were considered in Wales in 2012, although no formal policy announcement has been made.

Scotland - The Scottish government will be monitoring the situation and whilst recognising the benefits of microchipping they are not currently convinced that compulsory microchipping would effectively tackle welfare issues.

The consultation that led to the introduction of the new rules took place during April, May and June 2012.  The results can be viewed at this link

Related links:

Original government consultation ‘Tackling irresponsible dog ownership’

DEFRA’s news release (6th February 2013)

Dangerous Dogs Act 1991

Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Act 1997

Animal Welfare Act 2006

Dogs Trust

Blue Cross

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home

Pets and Micro-chipping

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