Free microchips will be implanted through 18 Dogs Trust centers and through local authorities and housing associations, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) reported Feb. 6.
Owners who fail to microchip their dog after being advised to do so by police or local authorities may be fined up to $800.
The new law won the endorsement of groups such as the London-based dog welfare charity Dogs Trust and the British Veterinary Association.
“This will help to reduce the number of dogs that needlessly end up with an uncertain fate in council pounds and rescue centers when their owners simply cannot be traced,” said Clarissa Baldwin, chief executive of Dogs Trust. “We urge dog owners to view microchipping as part and parcel of dog ownership and, importantly, also take responsibility for keeping their contact details up to date.”
BVA president Peter Jones, BVSc, MRCVS, applauded the move and said pet owners may find free microchipping through some veterinarians.
“The introduction of compulsory microchipping is a giant leap for dogs and their owners and is something that vets have long campaigned for,” Dr. Jones said. “Microchipping is a small cost in terms of dog ownership, with veterinary practices offering microchipping for around [$23 to $32] or for free as part of a practice promotion.”
Dog owners will have to register their microchipped dog on an authorized commercial database and update contact information when the owner moves or the dog is sold or given away.
“Microchips are only as useful as the information on the database, and so it is essential that owners realize that they must keep their details up to date,” said Mark Johnston, BVetMed, MRCVS, president of the British Small Animal Veterinary Association.
More than 100,000 dogs are dumped or lost annually in England at a cost of more than $89 million to taxpayers and welfare charities, Defra added.
“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 cannot be tracked down,” Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said. “I am determined to put an end to this and ease the pressure on charities and councils to find new homes for these dogs.”
The United Kingdom is home to an estimated 8 million dogs, 60 percent of which carry a microchip. Microchips are compulsory only in Northern Ireland.
The United States has no such law, but the American Veterinary Medical Association endorses the practice.
An AVMA policy statement urges that veterinarians scan all companion animals, birds and equids for microchips and note the presence or absence of one in the patient’s medical record.
“This routine scanning for a microchip not only aids in the positive identification of an animal but also provides the opportunity to assess if the microchip is still functioning properly and located appropriately, as well as reminding owners to keep their microchip database contact information current,” the AVMA added.