Will there be microchip martyrs?Fri, 15 Feb 2013
The proposed mandatory microchipping of dogs in England that commences in 2016 is supported by the National Dog Warden Association but only if it will be equally and robustly enforced for non compliance to provide continuity and a level playing field across the country.
As it now appears that it is going to be the sole responsibility of cash strapped Local Authorities to enforce at presumably no extra cost, will this enforcement actually take place? The 'microchipping fine' as it seems to be called by DEFRA in their recent Twitter 'Q&A' must have to be imposed by a Magistrates Court rather than by a Fixed Penalty Notice type system? How much will it cost for a Local Authority Legal Department to bring each case to court and would it be in the public interest to do so, especially if it runs into hundreds per local authority jurisdiction. There could quite literally be thousands of cases of non compliance.
An issue of great interest is what happens if a dog owner for whatever reason fails to have their dog implanted and the dog is seized as a stray or by some other means it becomes known to the council that the dog is not microchipped. Will the dog owner be told to ensure that the dog is implanted within for example three weeks? If this is not done will the 'authorities' a.k.a the council then give further notice that the dog should be microchipped in say two weeks, then if this is not realised will they proceed with legal action for non compliance?
If the dog owner still refuses to have the microchipping go ahead and is subsequently taken to the Magistrates Court and is fined £500 but still refuses to have the dog implanted, is this contempt of court or a breach of a court order? Can the Magistrates impose an order on a dog owner to have the dog implanted against the personal wishes of the owner? Would the Government have the jurisdiction to forcibly implant a dog against the wishes of its owner?
Once our dog owner has been fined and the council are aware that the dog has still not been implanted, would legal action for non compliance start again? Will the 'authorities' be able to carry out 'stop & scan' of a dog in the street to check whether it has a microchip? There appears to be no similar 'stop & tag' for checking if dog owners are complying with the current legal requirement for a dog to wear a collar and tag with the owners NAME AND ADDRESS on the tag. Will defiant opposition from dog owners in regard to not wishing to have their dogs implanted lead to a microchip version of the Metric Martyrs?
There is mention that as far as certain personages are aware and have written in the press that there have never been any prosecutions under the Control of Dogs Order 1992. This is very wrong as this writer has put several such cases before the Magistrates and there were even some microchipped dogs amongst them. All these prosecutions were successful but they were used against owners of dogs that had been seized on more than two occasions and they still had not put a collar and tag on their dogs despite receiving written warnings.
National Dog Licensing which would be used to support and fund Local Authority Dog Warden Services to provide full and proper service provision that incorporated microchipping as part of the licencing requirement would be much more beneficial for dogs, dog owners and Local Authorities. Until this is recognised by Ministers, animal charities and representatives of local authorities things will not change and there will be a lack of will to enforce something that has no funding or income generation available for the enforcers.
I scanned a stray dog today where I work as a Dog Warden and it was from the Republic of Slovakia. I was able to find out the dogs name of minimal use to me and access an out of date telephone number in Slovakia, a dog allowed into our country. The Border Agency were probably only interested in the microchip number tallying with the Pet Passport to show it is the same dog. The dog has been reunited with the owner by the dog owner going to the local Police station and the Police calling the council. This dog indeed had a microchip but it carried apart from the dogs own name and its owners name, no other information that was of help in reuniting it with its owner.
Where there is a will there is a way, unfortunately Local Authorities have been hammered by budget cuts from the Coalition Government, so where there is no will available, there may be no way to make mandatory microchipping a success and it may become a high tech version of the old Dog Licence scheme.
Copyright 2013. Neil Burton on behalf of The National Dog Warden Association
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