Next year the Microchipping of Dogs (England) Regulations 2014 will come into force, the effect, from the 6th April 2016 is that all dogs aged eight weeks or older must be microchipped and registered on an approved database.

This will apply to all dogs unless a vet has certified that the dog cannot be microchipped due to health reasons. If the dog is not microchipped or its keeper does not register their details, a notice may be served on the keeper requiring them to do so.

If the keeper does not then microchip the dog within twenty one days they could be liable for a fine of up to £500. If the keeper moves address or changes telephone number without updating the register then the dog will no longer be considered microchipped and enforcement action might be taken against the keeper(s). The keeper of the dog should be mindful that the animal is healthy enough to be implanted and if it is, they should allow sufficient time for the database to process registration before the dog reaches eight weeks of age.

It should be noted however that there are already laws in place that require a dog out in a public place to wear a collar with a tag, although these laws are not regularly enforced. Microchipping has many obvious additional benefits to collars: the reuniting of strays with their owners, discouraging illegal dog farming, assisting in the reporting of hereditary health problems and promoting responsible ownership generally.

Compulsory microchipping is not proof of ownership however, although the registered keeper is legally responsible for the dog. Microchipping will allow the police, local authorities and prosecutors to more easily identify the person or people responsible for the dog for the purposes of enforcement and bringing prosecutions under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, the Dogs Act 1971 as well as all various other pieces of legislation that deals with animal welfare.

The UK Government has largely promoted microchipping with reference to how it will assist in dealing with dangerous dogs, an issue that is regularly discussed in the media with strong opinions from both sides of the argument. The Dangerous Dogs Act banned certain breeds of dog and it is said that compulsory microchipping would be a way to monitor this more effectively, both before and after the event.

Those who disagree argue that neither the ban nor compulsory microchipping address the issue of responsible ownership, highlighting that a number of dog attacks in the last few years were committed by breeds of dogs that were not in fact banned. It is suggested that keepers of dogs who do not properly train or control their animals are less likely to get them microchipped in any event. If this is the case then perhaps alongside these new laws money ought also to be spent  encouraging responsible dog ownership by educating owners and the wider public on how to safely handle and care for our dogs.

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