On the 6th April 2016 legislation came into force requiring every dog owner to make sure their pet is fitted with a microchip which is then registered on one of the authorised commercial databases along with the owner’s contact details. It is thereafter the owner’s responsibility to keep their contact details up-to-date on the databases. Where a dog is transferred to a new keeper, the new keeper must, unless the previous owner has already done so, record their details and any change in the dog’s name with the database on which the dog’s details are recorded.
Prior to the legislation coming into force a public consultation was held in 2014 which showed that more than 83% of those that took part favoured making microchipping compulsory. It was thought that the new law would assist as follows:
- Ownership disputes would be settled more quickly and simply and stolen dogs would become easier to trace
- The ownership details for any dog found lost or straying could be located effortlessly, greatly increasing the chances of a lost dog being reunited with their owner in a timely manner. This would ease the pressure on dog re-homing shelters as it should reduce the amount of time that a dog will be under their care awaiting collection by their owner.
- Compulsory chipping should also greatly reduce the number of dogs that are dumped or abandoned each year as the details of their original owners can be traced and prosecution for neglect and abandonment would become easier.
The Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead – the Scottish Government Minister with lead responsibility for animal welfare stated “ Compulsory micro-chipping will help reduce the number of lost and abandoned dogs in Scotland- safeguarding animal welfare and promoting responsible ownership. As well as reuniting pets with their owners, it will allow authorities to directly identify dog owners and hold them accountable for their dogs’ behaviour and welfare.”
Elvira Meucci Campaigns Director at Dog’s Trust said “ Dog’s Trust greatly welcomes the introduction of compulsory microchipping for all dogs in Scotland from April 2016. We have long been a leading voice in the campaign for compulsory microchipping and are delighted to see the Scottish Government legislate for this important component of dog welfare.”
The police and local authorities will be tasked with policing compliance with the scheme and all local authorities and police forces will be issued with microchip scanners to be able to execute their duties effectively. If the police or local authorities find a dog without a microchip after April 2016, the owner will be given 21 days to have their dog microchipped . If they still then fail to comply with the law they will face a fine of up to £500 per dog.
However although there are obvious positives the editor of Dogs Today magazine Beverly Cuddy warned that the scheme could only ever be as effective as public compliance with it allowed it to be. Many dog owners forget to update the information held about themselves and their dogs on the microchipping databases if they move home or their contact details change.
Also as Sarah Boyack of Scottish Labour states about microchipping “ While today’s announcement is welcome, there is more that the Scottish Government could be doing. Scottish Labour has backed a ban on the sale and use of electric shock collars and we challenge the Scottish Government to match that commitment.”
Nanette Milne MSP for the North East said “There are still a number of complex issues which the compulsory microchipping of all dogs will not address, namely puppy farms and the growth of the sale of puppies and dogs online, as well as the indiscriminate breeding of dogs in social rented property and the lack of enforcement of dog control by local authorities”.
Under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 it is already a legal requirement in the UK for dogs defined as dangerous dogs to be microchipped. The Scottish Government have also ensured that the owners of other dangerous or out of control dogs can be required to microchip their dogs by the issue of a Dog Control Notice under the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010
The compulsory microchipping legislation does permit vets to exempt dogs from microchipping if in their professional opinion it would adversely affect the dog’s health.