The government today is set to introduce new legislation to ensure that any newborn puppy is microchipped. The idea is that this will ensure that all dogs can be traced back to an owner, seemingly the logic is that this will encourage owners to take responsibility for their pets and we’ll see a reduction in the number of dog bite / attacks (whatever you want to call them). Although the sentiment is clearly right, and I don’t think anyone would disagree that an approach that encourages responsibility of owners is the right course, I’m not sure that compulsory microchipping is the ‘magic bullet.’
Obligatory costs argument
Some will argue that this simply adds cost to people wanting to own a dog, I’m not so sure that this is a bad thing - if you aren’t willing to spend £35 on a safety net for locating your pet then I’m not so sure that you should own a dog. The problem really is that it is an expense for legitimate breeders and the source of the real problem, the cottage industry breeder with no experience, no motivation other than a fast buck isn’t likely to do this and I suspect the type of person who buys or takes one of these puppies isn’t likely to care either.
And there is the real problem
This legislation, although well intentioned actually doesn’t address the problem, that the people that really need targeting will be missed, won’t adhere and won’t care. They don’t care about the dog and it’s welfare and in all of this the focus needs shifting to solve the problem of poor ownership.
Then the privacy argument
Another point that will inevitable be levelled at this legislation is that of privacy and data protection. Ok it does add the the ‘big data’ pile, but let’s face it access to this information isn’t going to be that easy and there is a benefit to most owners of having the information available - the tag around my neck with my owners mobile is much less secure data storage. The biggest concern I have for this data is how easy it is to keep it up to date - a move of house, different phone number, a change of ownership, what are the ramifications for not keeping the data up to date? and who has responsibility for checking and maintaining this?
Neither the cost, nor the privacy argument stack up and compulsory microchipping as a starter can only be a good thing, but more need to be done to address the problem.
Status dogs and a poor law
The last conservative government compounded the problem and now it has gotten out of hand. They tried stamping out a problem by banning a breed based on media pressure, and without proper consideration the dangerous dogs act was amended to include a set of banned breeds, including ‘pit bull type’ dogs. And over the past 20 years it has become fashionable to own a ‘banned dog’ within a certain segment of society. This has led to cross breeding in backyards, an explosion in staffie crosses in rescue centres and a spiralling of unsuitable owners and terrible incidents.
The solution is not simple
There is no sticking plaster, no magic bullet. What is required is a range of measures and more power to enforce where necessary. Any dog can be a dangerous dog in the wrong hands. And I’m not just talking about the status dog underclass here, I’m talking about Jack Russel that ‘just gave him a little nip’ or the doberman x that you cannot control. The important thing is that people respect their dog, take care of his/her welfare, ensure that they raise a nurture a well adjusted, well mannered pet - and anyone that doesn’t is given the help to put it right, and if they won’t has their rights taken away.
I’ve blogged about what is necessary before - you can read a bout it here but I believe that we need a multifaceted approach that at the very least considers the following:
- Licence owners
- Compulsory Microchipping
- Compulsory Annual Vet Visits
- Deed based
- Context should be a consideration
- Ensure a Dog is Innocent until proven guilty
- Help owners to improve
- Punish bad ownership
We need to focus on a solution to the problem rather than delivering small thinking ‘do something’ legislation. With an emphasis on personal responsibility and education where necessary we can get things back on track.
Sadly I’m sure compulsory microchipping alone is not enough and for all the arguments of affordability and data protection, the reality is it doesn’t address the whole problem.
*Note: fact checked my History and have amended the Dangerous dogs act bit (Conservative Govt. and 20 yrs not 15)