Will compulsory chipping really make a difference? - Veterinary Practice
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InFocus

Will compulsory chipping really make a difference?

Periscope continues the series of reflections on issues of current concern

THERE is much riding on
the proposed legislation that
will require the compulsory
microchipping of dogs. Those in
favour appear to believe it will be a
panacea for all the evils associated
with dog ownership.

Suddenly (or so they seem to
believe), owners will start to behave
responsibly; dangerous dogs will be a
thing of the past; pet dogs will revert
to the Disneyesque
persona that all of us
would like to imagine
man’s best friend to be;
we will begin to live in a
utopian world where dogs don’t crap
on the street and postmen never get
bitten…. Well, one can always dream.
And maybe, just maybe, pigs might fly
after all.

Unfortunately, I think that this is just
pie in the sky. I suspect that all that will
happen is that already responsible dog
owners will continue to microchip their
dogs (no compulsion necessary) and
those who are irresponsible will simply
put two fingers up to the idea and carry
on their merry way.

After all, if you are owning a dog
as a status symbol, or worse still as an
attack animal, then failing to comply
with the little matter of having an
electronic chip implanted is really not
very big beer or likely to phase you.

The success or otherwise of the
proposals will of course depend on
the resources that are put in place to
ensure compliance. Knowing how little
effort there was to enforce compliance
with the Dangerous Dogs Act, I for
one doubt that the scheme will be a
resounding success.

I am not exactly certain what
problems compulsory microchipping is
expected to solve. As far as I am aware
there has been no uncertainty over the ownership of the dogs that have killed
people in recent years so what would
microchipping have achieved in those
cases?

The “dumping” of unwanted dogs
is unlikely to be curtailed by the
legislation either. If the owner of a
microchipped dog is challenged, all
the person need say is that the dog
ran away and that he or she no longer
wants it for that very reason. If the “dumped” dog isn’t microchipped
then … well isn’t that pretty much
the situation we find ourselves in at
present?

So what sanctions are going to
be imposed on persons caught in
possession of a non-microchipped
dog? I have seen the government’s
spokesman on this matter, one Andy
Patnelli, has been reported in this very
magazine as saying that there will be fines and possible confiscation of the
“offending” animal.

Well, in order to be ned surely
one has to prove ownership and all a
person need say in this case is that he
or she found the dog wandering the
street and just hadn’t yet had time to
get it microchipped.
As for confiscating the animal, I
can think of no better response than
that which would be given by Ricky
Gervais’ character Andy Millman in the
TV series Extras during his fictional
sitcom When the whistle blows: “Are
you having a laugh? … Is he having a
laugh?”

What will be done?

What on earth is the confiscating
authority going to do with these confiscated dogs? It would be
a public relations disaster to
euthanase them.

You can just see the
headlines in the tabloids
now: “Government slaughters
innocent pooch” (with
accompanying gooey photo);
“Killed for the sake of a £2
microchip” (with accompanying
gooey photo); “Please save me” (with
accompanying gooey photo). Well you
get the idea, don’t you?

So presumably the animal is to be
put in kennels (at public expense) until
a court decides on what is to happen
to it (euthanase or rehome). Now it is
my recollection that dogs confiscated
under the Dangerous Dogs Act were
sometimes kennelled for months or
even years with some police forces
racking up bills of hundreds of
thousands of pounds for the privilege.
Is that a wise use of scant public finances, one could legitimately ask?

Remember too
that some of these
“problem” dogs appear
to change hands fairly
regularly. Wasn’t the
malamute that killed a
baby recently handed
over to the last “owner”
in a pub? Yes, the legislation will
state that the owner has to update
the microchip register with the latest
ownership details but, come on, is that
really likely to happen in the scenarios
that all of us can probably envisage?

What can we do?

What too is the veterinary surgeon to
do in the consulting room when faced
with a dog that isn’t microchipped?
Sure, he or she can try to persuade the
owners to pay for a microchip there
and then but if they refuse and stick two fingers up (again), what can the vet
do? Some of these owners are not the
most pleasant or reasonably-minded
of people and I for one won’t be doing
the hard sell on them.

So what is the solution to the dog
problem? I don’t pretend to have one
any more than I have a solution to
the badger problem. I don’t envy the
government its task in trying to address
either scenario but, equally, I don’t
think they should be doing things just
so that they can be seen to be doing something.

If I can misquote a rather familiar saying:
“It is better to do
nothing and be thought
a fool than to do
something and remove
all doubt.” I suspect that we (or those who come after us)
will still be debating this subject in
2030 and beyond. I suspect also that
the animal charities’ kennels will be full
of unchipped dogs of whatever breed
happens to be the flavour of the day at
that particular time.

Oh, if it were just a simple matter
of a new law and a compliant and
responsible human population.
To expect that is either naive or
disingenuous. I would not like to guess
at which of these it is in the case of Mr
Patnelli.

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