Northern Ireland is to become the second place outside Australia to require owners to microchip their dogs.
The procedure is argued as the best way to ensure that lost dogs are returned to their rightful owners and as a way of encouraging responsible pet ownership. The Dogs Trust, which is campaigning for it to be made a requirement throughout the UK, says that it is a welfare issue. They say:
In 2010 local authorities took in over 121,000 stray dogs, of those dogs taken in by authorities last year, 6,404 were put to sleep. Dealing with these dogs cost a combined estimate of £25.9 million worth of taxpayers and charities’ money. If more dogs were microchipped, more could be returned to their owners and the cost to authorities would be vastly reduced, as well as ease the stress and worry to dogs and their owners.
The technology has been around since the 1980s and is similar to that used to identify supermarket goods. Insertion is without anesthetic and causes no more discomfort than a standard vaccination. The chip is surrounded by the same material as human pacemakers, so the body doesn’t reject it. Chipped dogs’ information is entered into databases, so if lost the dog can be identified and its owner contacted.
Nevertheless, there are opponents who cite health concerns, privacy concerns regarding recording owners’ information and that collars and tags should be enough to identify dogs. The Dogs Trust say that up to a third of dogs in the UK are not tagged. Opponents have also said that compulsory microchipping of dogs could lead to the practice in humans.
In the United States, bills requiring owners to microchip their dogs over six months of age have been put forward in Riverside County, CA, Indianapolis and New York state. In California it has been proposed for dogs adopted at an animal shelter.
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