dog microchippingIt seems amazing to think that from April 6th this year, the law will change in England and Wales to introduce compulsory microchipping for all dogs. This is a change long sought by animal welfare campaigners and especially by representatives of rescue organisations. I’m very pleased by its introduction, as it will offer genuine benefits in helping to reunite lost dogs with their owners. The experience of horse passports teaches us however that it certainly won’t be a magic bullet. We know that irresponsible owners (or those carrying out illegal activities) won’t chip, and the far bigger issues to my mind are the problem of people not updating their details and of poor/patchy enforcement, mostly by local authorities.

One issue that will affect many of our customers (who overwhelmingly have hounds from rescues) is that up till now, many rescues have insisted on chip details being linked to them rather than to the adopter/owner. The law after April 6th is very clear and the chip details should be linked to the person with whom the dog normally resides – the owner, rather than the rescue. Some rescues have been working on the painstaking task of contacting all their adopters and reminding them of this, but I’m also aware that a number either haven’t yet done so, or have no plans to do so, instead relying on individual owners to drive the change. In case you’re wondering why this matters, a £500 fine will apply after April 6th if your dog has the wrong/out of date chip details. We’re currently working through the paperwork for our four – three are sorted, and Sara’s paperwork is in the queue.

This is a great opportunity to check your chip details and make sure they are up to date and correct. Remember, a dog has only seven days in a pound before it can be quite legally either sold, rehomed or in the worst case scenario, destroyed by the local authority. Rates of killing by local Councils have declined slowly over recent years, but still around 8-10% of the stray dogs nationally that enter the pound system face death rather than rehoming.

While I was at Crufts over the weekend, I took the opportunity to pop in to say Hello to Trevor Cooper and his great team on the DogLaw stand. Trevor is widely recognised as a national authority on law affecting dogs and I always recommend his seminars for owners – they are a fantastic investment in making sure you understand fully the legal issues that can affect you as a dog owner. Trevor has put up a useful video guide to the new chipping regulations on his website. One of the issues I wanted clarification on was chipping for foster dogs, and I’m happy to share Trevor’s advice. Broadly, foster dogs who are with their foster homes up to four weeks i.e. short term should be chipped to their rescue – once a foster has been in residence for longer than this, it makes sense for chip details to be changed to the foster home. Long term fosters (like our Sara) should of course be chipped to the home, not the rescue. Trevor confirmed that his advice has gone out in an advisory note for rescues who are members of the ADCH (Associations of Dogs and Cats Homes) but I’m aware not all rescues are members and even among those who are, sometimes information doesn’t always get passed round quickly, so I’m happy to share this update, especially as I know many of our customers and friends are involved with rescues.

To further assist being reunited with your dog, did you know that you can upload your dog’s details to the DogLost website? This is a wonderful idea, as it means you can dig out some decent photos, ensure you’ve got accurate measurements etc and write a good description while you are unflustered and not panicking. If the worst happens and your dog does get lost, your details can then swiftly go live and a wonderful team of volunteers will get busy with posters, searches, information and sharing on social media.

It’s also important to remember that although chips will be compulsory from April 6th it will still be a legal requirement for your dog to wear an ID tag giving your contact details. In practice, this is rarely enforced. I did a survey of Welsh Councils a while back and out of the 22, only 1 had ever brought a prosecution on this issue in the previous five years.

If you do a Kennel Club Good Citizen Award after 6th April, the examiner will be scanning dogs taking part to make sure they are chipped. I am sure we will see similar scans introduced in a variety of other settings as the new law beds in.

I’m sure I’ll return to this topic in future news articles, especially once the new law has had a chance to settle in and we all have more experience of how it is working out in practice.

Published: 15th March 2016