The Government is bringing in compulsory micro-chipping of dogs in an attempt to tackle the escalating problems of unwanted and stolen dogs and irresponsible breeding. All puppies will have to be microchipped and current owners have until April 2016, when the law comes into force, to get older dogs done-about 60% already have one. The penalty for failing to do so will be a fine of up to £500.

Country Life has long called for dog owners to be more accountable and highlighted the UK’s glut of unwanted animals in ‘Help the homeless: adopt an animal’ (January 30): every year, more than 100,000 dogs are dumped, lost or stolen, and rescue charities are struggling to deal with the numbers. Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for the Environment, comments: ‘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 can’t be tracked down. I’m determined to put an end to this and ease the pressure on charities and councils.’

Microchipping involves a dog being given a unique code, which is logged on a national database with the owners’ details; the microchip bearing the number is about the size of a grain of rice and is quickly and almost painlessly inserted underneath the animal’s skin. This can be done free of charge through the Dogs Trust (020-7837 0006; www.dogstrust.org.uk), the Blue Cross (0300 777 1897; www.blue cross.org.uk) and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home (020-7622 3626; www.battersea.org.uk), and the charities’ regional centres.

The UK’s largest microchipping service is Petlog, which is managed by the Kennel Club (0844 463 3999; www.petlog.org.uk). It has many cheering tales of heartbroken owners being reunited with lost animals, thanks to police and vets being able to scan the microchips, but the onus will be on owners to keep their contact details up to date.

New legislation will also close the loophole through which dog owners get away with their animals attacking people on private property last year, it was revealed that post-men had been subjected to 3,250 attacks in the preceding 12 months. However, owners will not be prosecuted if their dog goes for a burglar or trespasser. ‘People such as health and postal workers who have to go on private property to do their jobs deserve protection under the law,’ comments Mr Paterson. Another change is that police will be able to make decisions about whether a dog should be kept apart from its owner while court proceedings are pending.

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