As of April 6th 2016, it has become a law for dog owners to have their pups microchipped in the UK, a move that follows Northern Ireland, who implemented the law four years ago.
An article by engadget explains that if a dog over 8 weeks old is found un-chipped–or with information that is out of date–owners will be given 21 days to get it done before facing a £500 fine, the equivalent to about $700 US dollars. According to the article, 83% of UK dogs are already microchipped.
As the law goes into effect, a national database will be launched, housing all the information of the microchipped doggies to be easily referenced from one portal.
As explained by engadget, the law has been instituted for a couple key reasons:
Firstly, when lost dogs are easily identifiable, they’re more likely to be reunited with their rightful owners, and more efficiently. This means that less dogs will reside in shelters (and for shorter periods of time), saving the financial resources of these organizations and animal control authorities.
Secondly, the government hopes that this will greatly reduce the trade of stolen dogs (particularly purebreds) that are sold in illegal transactions. At the very least, they may be able to identify a pooch that has been sold and was previously considered missing.
There’s another potential side effect that this article doesn’t mention: when a dog is found abandoned and abused, the chip (assuming there is one) could point authorities to the perpetrator, or at the very least, the rightful owner, who may be able to provide information. (Maybe this chip law paired with an animal abuser registry, like the one launched in the US this year, could help prevent future abuse.)
Then there are uniquely sticky situations where the rightful ownership of a dog comes into question. Perhaps there’s controversy in the midst of a messy custody battle. Maybe there’s some slippery circumstance where ownership is informally passed from one person to another.
Recall the story of Tipsy, the Sheltie whose family was an elderly couple for almost 9 years. When they went on vacation, the dog (presumably with a sitter) became lost and ended up at a shelter, where another family adopted her. When the distraught couple finally located their dog, Tipsy’s “new family” refused to give her back. After weeks of social media backlash, Tipsy ended up getting returned to her original owners, but had she been microchipped, this situation would’ve had a simple solution.
Currently in the UK, the microchipping of cats “will remain optional, since felines are less likely to wander outdoors,” reads an earlier article by engadget.