Compulsory Microchipping

A microchip

So the UK government has decided to introduce compulsory microchipping of dogs.  It’s supposed to enable those owners who’s dogs bite or attack people to be more easily prosecuted.  However, the law isn’t to be implemented until 2016.

The government haven’t gone so far as to introduce a link between the details held on the database for a particular microchip proving ownership of the dog who that chip is implanted within.  They also haven’t looked at any way of linking the current microchip provider’s separate databases together.

They have – however – stealthily added an extension to the current ‘Dangerous Dogs Act (1991)’ (DDA), to include dogs who are “dangerously out of control” on private property e.g. at owner’s home, or other houses (importantly, excluded from this addition are bites to intruders/burglars).

So far, so good – or is it?

To responsible owners, like myself, it makes little difference.  My dogs are already permanently identified by a microchip (which, importantly, is kept up to date), as well as wearing a collar and tag 100% of the time in public, and 99% of the time at home (just in case, not because of paranoia – honest!).

As they both can be anxious around strangers, there’s baby gates to restrict their access to both the front and back doors, and if someone ‘new’ were to require access to the house, Inka and Starr are crated, or put in another room – whichever’s most appropriate for the situation.

However, I know of a least one person who is publicly against microchipping, due to the belief that the chips are linked to or cause cancer in dogs.  Tina Humphrey (of ‘Tina & Chandi’ fame) says “Enough with the ‘responsible dog owners already have their dogs chipped’!  I am responsible but chose to NOT subject my dogs to medical procedures that carry health risks.  Instead I supervise my dog 24 hours per day, have up-to-date info on a collar and tag.  It is possible to be ‘responsible’ and not risk your dog’s health by implanting a foreign body!”.

There’s been no indication from the government that another permanent form of identification might be allowed, such as tattooing.

And as for the extension of the DDA onto private property?  I think many responsible dog owners may choose to have a few less visitors to their homes, especially “non-doggy” people.  The reason?  The current, extremely subjective, wording of the DDA.

This quote, as taken from the Blue Cross website, goes some way to explain the problem (emphasis is mine): –

“Section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act is not breed specific, and applies to all dogs regardless of breed or breed-type.  Section 3 makes it an offence for any dog to be dangerously out of control in a public place.  Dangerously out of control has been defined in law as “Any occasion on which there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that a dog will injure any person”.  This means that a dog could be considered dangerous even if it does not actually injure anyone.  If a person believes that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the dog could injure them then charges can be brought.

It is that simple – if someone thinks your dog might injure them, you can be charged under the DDA.  For instance, let’s take Joe.  Joe doesn’t like dogs, and is a little bit afraid of what he calls “big” dogs – those that are about Spaniel-sized or bigger.  I’m walking Inka & Starr down the street towards Joe.  Inka’s closest to him, and as we walk past Joe, Inka moves towards him a little to take a sniff of his hands (Joe’s recently finished eating a sandwich).  Now remember, Joe doesn’t like “big” dogs, and thinks Inka – who’s about 22″ at his shoulders – is huge.  He sees Inka moving towards him, and panics, clearly Inka’s out of control and is going to rip his arm off!

 

Sneaking in of extension of DDA to include private property. Laughable, as the definition of “attack” is dependant upon the feelings of the “victim”, so someone who doesn’t like or is afraid of dogs could see something as the dog moving closer to sniff them as an attack. Additionally, look at the number of dog owners who misinterpret their own dogs body language and/or behaviour – barking as being aggressive; playing as fighting; not doing as requested as trying to be dominant..

Considering that many dog owners seemingly understand little of canine behaviour and communication, and many misinterpretations are made – dogs who don’t do as asked are dominant or stubborn, two dogs playing together is seen as them fighting, a barking dog is obviously aggressive.  How can we then expect the non-dog owners in the UK to correctly interpret the actions of any given dog, especially one on his home territory who may not be used to visitors?  Even when in their crates, both of my dogs will bark at anyone knocking on the door, or getting too close to them – I now have to consider that this behaviour, from 2016, could mean I get taken to court.

While I applaud the government for realising that something needs to be done, it seems to me that this is a knee-jerk reaction, similar to the original implementation of the DDA.  It seems to have been brought about by people who know little, understand less, and are reluctant to take on board the views of those who know and understand more, let alone other countries where this has been tried.

Northern Ireland being a close example.  Although compulsory microchipping has been in place for less than twelve months (see here and here), from following just the Mutts Anonymous Dog Rescue (MADRA) page on Facebook, I see just how many strays can be found in that one area of Ireland.  Not to mention that Starr was an Irish stray, as were several of my friend’s dogs before they found their new homes.  I know Starr wasn’t microchipped until she arrived in England, and I doubt that any of the other “expats” had microchips either.

Let’s be realistic for a minute:many dog owners in the UK currently flout the laws they should be following (dogs being on leash when near a road, poop-scooping, and dogs wearing a collar with an up-to-date ID tag with the name and address of the owner to name just three!), and nothing is ever done about them.  Nobody’s fined, nobody’s taken to court.  Nothing!

Until somebody can do something about these, basic, simple rules (let alone welfare rules which are frequently ignored by everyone from ‘regular’ dog owners to puppy farmers), then I think it’s unrealistic to expect that anybody is really going to care whether every dog is microchipped, and/or randomly check dogs on the street and issue fines for those dogs who aren’t chipped.  Not to mention that vets will not be routinely scanning new patients – for fear of causing embarrassment

 

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