Why compulsory microchipping is bad for caring dog-owners

This new law is a charter for busybodies and profiteers that won’t stop irresponsible owners and breeders

9 April 2016

9:00 AM

9 April 2016

9:00 AM

When Laura Rennie was told that the cat she lost as a kitten had been found 18 years after it wandered off, she was overjoyed. An animal welfare officer turned up at her home to say the tabby had been located and traced to her, thanks to its microchip. Toby had been hit by a car, but was alive and at a local vet’s. Even if it were just to say goodbye, or take charge of his veterinary care, Ms Rennie would at least be able do the best for Toby.

What a wonderful story, you might say, and what great proof, as complaints mount over the compulsory microchipping of dogs which became law this week, that pet microchipping is a much-needed resource. Surely this heartwarming tale shows that microchipping will only help loving pet owners, while targeting irresponsible breeders and those guilty of neglect.

Well, not quite. When Ms Rennie, 39, from Glasgow, contacted the vet’s, she was told they couldn’t wait the 20 minutes it would take her to reach the surgery. They put the cat down. The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals later apologised, but its attitude seems to have been more than a little proprietorial. Welfare officers judged it would be too upsetting for the owner to see the cat.

So what, you may well ask, is the point of a pet microchip?

From 6 April, all dogs over the age of eight weeks are required to have microchips which hold the name and address of the owner. The act is retrospective, so nine million dog owners need to comply now and could be fined up to £500 if they don’t. The procedure involves implanting a sterile chip the size of a grain of rice between a dog’s shoulder blades. Plenty of vets believe doing this to very small breeds could be dangerous or even fatal, but the owner no longer has a choice.

There has been a lot of bluster from the charities who pushed for the law change. Once chipped, they say, if your pooch gets lost then the welfare groups or police will be able to scan him and return him to you. Aw! Microchipping a dog at the vet’s will cost only £20, they boast. Pets At Home has a special offer on microchipping at £10 until 15 April. Vets usually charge a consultation fee, however, on top of the fee for any clinical procedure, so they will no doubt start charging nearer £50 at some point. And less scrupulous vets may eventually take the view, as panic-stricken owners rush to comply, that since chipping is compulsory, like car insurance, they can charge what they like.

I should point out that my spaniel Cydney came chipped when I bought her, as did my thoroughbred horse, Darcy. Good breeders have been doing this for a while. But I do not believe the hype about obligatory chipping. Because as usual, all the good people in the world will abide by the new rules while the feckless and irresponsible will ignore them.

This will leave the authorities twiddling their thumbs but — and perhaps here’s the real point — with lots of new powers to use. Once your dog has been microchipped, police and animal welfare charities will be able to scan his chip if he gets lost, trace him to you, and prosecute you for letting him run off. Or if he looks thin after two days on the run, perhaps they will blame you for that.

The new regulations state that dog microchipping ‘will be enforced by local authorities, police constables, community support officers and any other person which the secretary of state may authorise to act as an enforcer’. The ‘any other person’ seems very likely to be the RSPCA, since the charity is the main animal welfare group the police calls on and the only one that regularly prosecutes. The RSPCA insists on its website that it will not be enforcing the new law, but it does add, somewhat ominously: ‘The RSPCA do scan every animal that comes into our care and will be using the new law in our enforcement work as it clearly links an animal with an owner who is responsible for his/her welfare.’

We know from experience what the RSPCA can do to caring pet owners in overzealous prosecutions. Look at what happened to the owners of Claude the cat, taken to hell and back because the animal hobby bobbies deemed their elderly cat too thin and matted.

I can see an argument for forcing breeders to chip puppies before sale. If an abandoned animal can be traced to the breeder, and they can give information about who they sold it to, one might trace the odd neglectful owner. But isn’t it more likely that idiots who buy a puppy and then tire of it will now simply decide to kill the dog and dispose of its body?

And what if a well-intentioned breeder mistakenly sells to an owner who seems legitimate but turns out to be uncaring? Is the breeder liable? Will breeders have to resort to extensive vetting procedures, including CRB checking, to ensure no puppy goes to a potentially abusive home?

Possibly. Because the true motive behind these reforms may well be a drive to restrict pet numbers, by making it too arduous and expensive to breed and even to own a pet. And that’s fair enough, if you are convinced that bringing into the world dogs which could possibly be harmed at some point is worse than breeding millions of animals to be slaughtered and eaten, I suppose.

I have accused the animal welfare lobby of trying to restrict pet ownership before, and they usually threaten to sue. That tells me I am touching a nerve. Tying pet owners up in expensive red tape is one way of stopping an awful lot of people, and certainly the poor and the elderly, from owning pets, if that objective floats your boat.

Of course, there are sensible animal lovers who hope microchipping will crack down on the horror of animal abuse. Abandoned dogs cost the taxpayer and charities £33 million a year, with 110,000 strays picked up off the streets last year. Yes, the new law in theory means microchips might let owners be traced and held criminally liable. But in practice, I don’t see the sorts of yobs who kick puppies down the stairs complying with red tape. Only the law abiders will be traceable. Only the law abiders will be prosecuted and fined.

Will we see families taken to court for neglect because they let their dog escape the garden, when in fact Oscar the cockapoo is a pampered little sod who can get through stock fencing? Again, this is not so farfetched, given that two owners were prosecuted recently for not cleaning their dogs’ teeth.

The RSPCA says if your dog isn’t on an approved database you could be served with a notice. You’ll have 21 days to chip, or you may be liable to pay a £500 fine and face criminal prosecution.

The practical and civil liberties problems seem endless. It also just feels like a blasted imposition for an Englishman to be forced to microchip his best friend.

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Show comments
  • MiddlelandExile

    Rather disturbing headline; I was under the impression that it was the pets that were required to be microchipped.

    It casts a new light on Revelation 13:16-18, I suppose…

  • Shorne

    Pro-hunting journalist welcomes chance to criticise the RSPCA.

    • Here is the states we have a similar faction with –uumm…..(looking for a word wot won’t get my comment nuked) ummm…a most peculiar perception of companion animals…the appalling AKC.

    • Conway

      The RSPCA (whose remit is supposed to be animal welfare, not animal rights) is a charity. It is not supposed to be political.

      • Shorne

        So which Hunt do you follow then?

  • MrBishi

    I blame the BBC – who must always field someone with the contrarian views in any debate – for the rise of newspaper articles which criticise anything and everything for no particular reason.
    If dogs could tell you who their owners are, there would be no need for microchipping.

    • jackcaboose

      “If dogs could tell you who their owners are, there would be no need for microchipping.”

      If everyone was psychic, there’d be no need for detectives. But they aren’t. That last sentence was utterly pointless.

      • MrBishi

        It was hyperbole used in a rhetorical statement.
        Yes, I know, I’m wasting my breath telling you aren’t I?

        • polidorisghost

          Don’t get clever Mr Bishi

          • MrBishi

            Beside you, Homer Simpson looks clever.

          • jeffersonian

            Oh the things one could say to that…….

          • MrBishi

            Don’t be shy.

          • polidorisghost

            I was only being good natured old boy

    • jeffersonian

      ‘I blame the BBC – who must always field someone with the contrarian views in any debate…’

      I agree. Let’s abolish disagreement, since it’s so conducive to conflict.

    • uglyfatbloke

      No, the BBC is quite happy to let certain topics be examined without any balance whatsoever I’m afraid.

      • MrBishi

        I listened to Jacob Rees-Mogg telling us all that Blairmore Holdings was fully compliant this morning and the BBC announcer agreed.

        • Father Todd Unctious

          Rees-Mogg never misses an opportunity to get his gurning mug on telly, or his affected tones on the radio. He is rapidly becoming the Diane Abbott of the Tory party.

  • antoncheckout

    Actually, mocrochipping the owners might be the best policy. Particularly the ones who slink around in the dark of night encouraging their pooch to deposit a kilo of poo on the pavement.

  • Windygirl

    There’s nothing like cherry-picking worst-case scenarios when trying to skew an argument your way. At least in the United States, there is no “consultation” fee for implanting a chip. It is often done by our SPCA and other charities, or if you’re going to your vet for another reason, it would just be an add-on fee. The benefit of being able to find your precious cat or dog far outweighs the risks; as a matter of fact, the rats that developed cancer were rats already prone to cancer genetically. See:

    There have been reports that mice and rats developed cancer associated with implanted microchips. However, the majority of these mice and rats were being used for cancer studies when the tumors were found, and the rat and mice strains used in the studies are known to be more likely to develop cancer. Tumors associated with microchips in two dogs and two cats have been reported, but in at least one dog and one cat the tumor could not be directly linked to the microchip itself (and may have been caused by something else). For more details on the studies, read the AVMA’s literature review on Microchipping of Animals.

    See also the comment (Q&A) about other adverse reactions: 391 out of 4,000,000.


    The numbers of animals killed in shelters due to NOT having a microchip? MILLIONS.

    • norm

      It is done by many charity’s in the UK as well for free to those that can not afford it, and basically if you can not afford £10 then you can not afford to keep a cat/dog

    • Possibly the author missed that class in school about occasional correlation never indicating absolute causation.
      Or perhaps she’s an AKC spokesperson.

      • AnnS

        AKC supports and encourages microchipping — even has a special reduced rate with various companies for new owners registering their puppies.
        You are ignorant

  • Father Todd Unctious

    Our PM is lieing about his dad’s tax avoidance and his own benefits and the Speccie chooses to lead on dogtags. While Toby Young goes on Newsnight to defend the elite.
    Shame on you.

    • flydlbee

      Lying? Proof please!

      • Father Todd Unctious

        Cameron’s dad put the family money into an opaque regime. Cameron must have known. Cameron sold his shares in Jan 2010 as he knew it was wrong .Appears it was okay as leader of the opposition but not okay as PM.
        He is just another rich liar who hopes he is never found out. He didn’t count on Richard Brooks though. Corbyn secret weapon.

        • Tamerlane

          Neither did ‘The Guardian’ by the looks of things. Cracking stuff.

        • flydlbee

          He sold all his shareholdings to avoid any scurrilous accusatons of favouritism or self-interest in his decisions as PM. Most PMs do this or transfer the money into a blind – what you deride as “opaque” – trust.

          • Father Todd Unctious

            So finances only need to be above board when PM. Not an MP, not Minister, not Opposition front bench. I see.

          • flydlbee

            Will you ever get it into your head that tax avoidance is LEGAL while tax evasion is not? What Cameron did was perfectly legal, and spare me the sanctimonious lefty drivel about it being “immoral”.

            Minister normally sell their shareholdings so they cannot be accused of making decisions to favour any company in which they have an interest. MPs and shadow mnisters do not make these decisions, so they are excused

            Labour ministers do not normally sever their trades union connections or forgo their sponsorship: they are bought men who stay bought.

      • Conway

        Cameron has admitted he took money from the funds (just enough to avoid inheritance tax).

        • flydlbee

          He had an investment in the fund which he sold. This would not have been part of the reckoning for IHT. You obviously do not understand IHT – see an advisor!

    • Dominic Stockford

      Toby Young?!!!!!!!

    • polidorisghost

      The story would be significant if he evaded tax. Did he?
      The stupidity of Tory Party members used to be legendary.
      Not anymore. The Tories have been overtaken in the stupidity stakes by the modern left – the kind of people who couldn’t organise a fart in a bake bean factory.

    • Labour and the left have a few t ur ds to complain about, but they don’t for some reason…. here take a peep under the Labour toilet seat:

      Tony Benn left £4.5 million in a trust for his children avoiding substantial death duties.

      Ken Livingston diverted £238000 of earnings into a foreign company to avoid income tax and NI.

      TheMiliband brothers legally wrote an alteration to their father’s will
      with the consent of their mother to avoid substantial death duties.

      The Guardian group which owned AutoTrader moved its ownership to an
      overseas company they created to avoid capital gains tax when it was
      sold for an enormous profit. This profit would have been taxable had
      AUTOTRADER remained in the hands of the Guardian under British tax
      rules. They just sold it off to a made up foreign company for a quid and
      avoided all UK tax liability on the profit.

      Tony Blair famously pays his several million a year fees into a foreign ‘services’ company
      and only pays UK tax on about £80k of his several millions a year of

      • Father Todd Unctious

        ……and of what relevance is that to the incumbent PM being a liar?

        • You need to see what liar means you imbecile. I’m just pointing out the left’s careful choice of targets. Hypocritical I call it.

          • Father Todd Unctious

            That’s politics. He is in the driving seat ,so is fair game.

  • AnnS

    The author is 100% off-base and being hysterical.

    Every critter in my house is chipped – 2 Shelties, 2 kitties (who think the outdoors spiffy if viewed through a window and who run backwards if the exterior door opens) and the 2 Kuvasz (1 retired mobility Service Dog and the 2nd the current working mobility Service Dog.)

    ALL responsible breeders (the kind who drop a few thousand on doing genetic screens on their breeding stock) microchip puppies before they go to their new homes.. Giant breed, large breed, medium small and toy breeds.

    I’m with a breed specific rescue (Shetland Sheepdogs). Every dog that comes into our care gets microchipped – and the chip always goes back to us. We will add the adopters name and info but they can not go into the microchip database and remove us.

    Every responsible breeder – and breed rescue – undertakes to take a dog back if for any reason their new family can not keep them. Doesn’t matter if they are 6 months old or 15 years old — their breeder takes them back and cares for them and rehomes if possible and breed rescues do the same. Anything less is irresponsible.

    It is hardly ominous that the RSCPA checks for a microchip when an animal comes into their care. EVERY shelter and EVERY rescue in the US does the same thing. If we get lucky, we can get them back to their home — we are not self-righteous idiots – we know dogs can get loose and escape from what one would think are escape-proof setups and can tell the difference between “ohmigawd you found my Muffy – he somehow got out of the 6′ high fence around the yard by digging a 4 ft deep hole under” and “oh yeah….you found the dog – he lives outside and we can’t get him to stay in the unfenced yard.”

    I have been training and handling since 9 years old – some 52 years. Since microchips came out some nearly 30 years ago, I have NEVER seen a reaction beyond mild soreness and swelling.

    I have stood there and looked at the vet when I have brought in a waif and said “Not chipped is he? Damn….. if these stupid people would just microchip we could find his people and get him home…..bloody idiots always think their pet can’t possibly escape.”

    Responsible people have been microchipping for 20+ years. This law will help make the careless and irresponsible chip their pets so if they get loose, they can be returned home (and if they really are not a good home. then we can coax them into giving up the dog or use the law to make them give up the dog they let run through the neighborhood and make no effort to protect by keeping him home.)

    Go take a tranquilizer. You are flying off the handle and seeing wild fantasies and conspiracies.

    • AnnieOfArc

      You are arguing means and neglecting ends and first principles. Everything you say can be used to apply to children. It will make the State the final arbiter of relationships (even in this article, a welfare committee decides it’s “too upsetting” to let the owner say goodbye to her pet.)

      As a youth I thought it would be fascists who would bring about 1984. Now I know it’s PC do-good maniacs. Evil, evil, evil.

  • Dalph

    Cats should be chipped too, mine were by the RSPCA when I got them and its the responsible thing to do. I haven’t read the article as time is too short to spend it on really stupid people.

    • fredimeyer

      it is not necessary to chip cats, with the price of antifreeze as low as it is

    • AnnieOfArc

      The responsible thing to do is hook everyone up to a grid? Your argument applies to people as much as pets. Good to know the people will willingly implement 1984.

  • Ivan Ewan

    OK. I don’t really have an opinion on microchipping pets.

    But to those people saying it’s irresponsible not to, does the same apply to microchipping children? And if not, why not?

    • AnnieOfArc

      Exactly. I am an American, and I’m horrified I’ve heard nothing about this. It’s a huge step, and the slippery slope is immense. The day even this proposal to our shores is the day I learn to homebirth, because it won’t stay with pets very long.

  • NorBdelta

    Interesting take on the situation

    • Sue Smith

      He takes the lead on most discussions about dogs, whereas I flea from such things because I don’t want to wind up on the short leash.

  • Jojje 3000

    Why do PC do-gooders turn mean ever so often ?

    • Sue Smith

      Not to be confused with PC poo-gooders.

  • fredimeyer

    argument by anecdote is not admissible.

    in general, any conservative should be against any more government regulations of any kind.

    in switzerland, we tag all dogs and demand police certification for the OWNERS, banning any elderly person from owning a dog at all.

    this reasonable policy is bolstered by a law forbidding any dog off the leash in any inhabited area. this is no strain on the police as almost every swiss is armed.

    i have shot five ‘wild’ dogs, all owned by tourists, and killed one with my car. in each case the police complimented me.

    • joBennet

      What an obnoxious little pratt you are.

  • ben

    In six different studies with mice and rats, ranging from 1996 to 2006, it was reported that 0.8 and 10.2 percent of the animals developed malignant tumors around or adjacent to implanted microchips. It’s a wide range, though the majority of studies had a 1-2 percent tumor rate.

    It makes me ashamed to be British, as for the RSPCA all about money

  • NO RAGRETS ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    If the people let the governments biologically alter animals for their own agendas, this will pave the way to mandatory cat declawing, and mandatory tail-docking, or ear clipping. Mandatory castrations and the microchips will soon grow larger, as they implement GPS technology, until a battery leaks into a dog’s bloodstream and murders it. Then, the GPS will run on a solar capacitor, and the dog will be required to wear a solar panel hat and a muzzle. Please leave my dag alone, he’s just chillin’ ya’ll. Gnome sayin’? Ha ha.