Should microchipping dogs be compulsory?

Susan Caputo with Toby and children Amelia, Antonio and Giovanni. Toby, a five-year-old Lhasa Apso, returned home in time for Amelia's birthday. He was last seen outside Poulton Railway Station after escaping.
Susan Caputo with Toby and children Amelia, Antonio and Giovanni. Toby, a five-year-old Lhasa Apso, returned home in time for Amelia's birthday. He was last seen outside Poulton Railway Station after escaping.
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A campaign to make microchipping compulsory is launched this month, Carla George spoke to dog owners and experts about the security measure.

More than three hundred stray dogs have been reported to Blackpool Council so far this year – a worrying statistic.

In the UK last year, around 126,000 stray dogs were handled by local authorities and 7,500 of theses were put to sleep.

It is figures like these that have led to calls for compulsory microchipping, a law already introduced in countries such as Austria, Belgium and Denmark.

As a public consultation into compulsory microchipping draws to an end and National Microchipping Month begins, pet experts have looked at the pros and cons of the electronic tag.

A spokesman at Sundown Kennels in Poulton, a pound used by Blackpool Council to house stray dogs found in the resort, said: “Microchipping is a good thing, if a dog is stolen or wanders off, it is much easier to reunite it with its owner if it is chipped.

“But the main problem we come across is often the microchips are not up to date, so you might find a dog with an address and phone number which is four years out of date, that is useless.

“I think more awareness needs to be made around dog collars, by law they are meant to have a disk on and it should really have at least two phone numbers.

“The number of dogs we see time and time again with no collar, it is unbelievable – it’s a basic legal requirement.”

Despite the shocking figures published this week by The Kennel Club revealing thousands of dogs were put to sleep last year, no strays are destroyed at Sundown unless they are ill.

The spokesman said: “We re-home, we don’t put dogs to sleep because we are well established and are involved with several charities.

“Unfortunately, there are a lot of areas where dogs are put down, I think mainly in bigger cities where the numbers will be more than we see in Blackpool.

“We will always strive to re-home our dogs unless the kindest option is to put them to sleep or they are dangerous and we will hand them to the police.”

Petlog, the largest microchip database in the UK, has 6.2 million pets registered, of which 4.6million are dogs.

The UK dog population is estimated at around eight million, that equates to a lot of microchipped dogs, yet stray dogs still remain a problem.

Celia Walsom, Petlog executive. said: “Quick reunification is the main aim of the microchip.

“Those that have their pet registered and have kept their contact information up-to-date are making sure that they can be reunited with their pet quickly and easily if they are found.

“Local authorities have released data that only 23 per cent of the dogs they receive are micro-chipped.”

What dog owners may not know is there is a statutory £25 fee for a stray dog to be returned from local authorities, and after seven days this increases dramatically.

More worryingly, however, for owners of non-microchipped dogs is that after seven days, if a dog is not claimed they may be re homed or, in some cases, even put down.

Celia added: “In 2011, more than 126,000 stray dogs were handled by local authorities, and of these, around 7,500 dogs were put to sleep. This is not including the dogs handled by charities, and given that the average stay in a kennel for a dog is 30 days, there is a lot of time, money and resources spent looking after lost dogs.

“Microchipping really does make the difference – if a dog is found by a dog warden or handed to a vet or welfare organisation and does not have a collar and tag, they will scan to check for a microchip.

“If one is found, they can call Petlog and be put in touch with the dog’s owners.”

Dog owner Susan Caputo, of Anchorsholme, launched a two month dog hunt when her pooch, Toby, went missing.

Luckily she was reunited with her pet, but says it was only down to the fact he was microchipped.

She said: “When he was found he looked nothing like our Toby, even the dog warden said she was shocked when the chip revealed who he was. I strongly believe it should be compulsory for dogs to be chipped, it is in certain countries in Europe.

“The thought of Toby being put to sleep is not even worth thinking, but that is the fate of some of these poor dogs.”

A Blackpool council spokesman said: “If any resident comes across a dangerous dog, they must call the police.

“However, if it is a stray dog the dog wardens can be contacted and they will come out and advise the best thing to do.”

National Microchipping Month takes place throughout June. For information visit www.nationalmicrochippingmonth.org.uk.

Contact Blackpool Council dog wardens on (01253) 477477.