While 60 percent of Britain’s 8 million dogs already have microchips — small biocompatible chips inserted beneath the pet’s skin that, with a code, are linked to the owner’s contact information — that percentage is not good enough for government officials hoping to cut down on the number of loose and homeless dogs in their country and take the pressure off of animal welfare organizations overwhelmed with homeless pets.
Over the next three years, British officials will put into place a microchip mandate, requiring all dog owners to provide the once-optional precautionary measure for their canine companions.
Beginning on April 6, 2016, owners who refuse or neglect to have their dogs fitted with a microchip could face hefty fines of up to £500 ($800 U.S.).
Great Britain already requires all horses to be fitted with a microchip, and many are praising the government initiative requiring the same of dogs.
“It’s ludicrous that in a nation of dog-lovers, thousands of dogs are roaming the streets or stuck in kennels because the owner cannot be tracked down,” Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said in a statement. “Microchipping is a simple solution that gives peace of mind to owners. It makes it easier to get their pet back if it strays and easier to trace if it’s stolen.”
The British government estimates that more than 100,000 dogs are abandoned or lost each year in the United Kingdom. Capturing and caring for the high number of stray dogs comes with a high price tag of £57 million annually, according to the BBC News, and taxpayers and animal rescue organizations are stuck with the bill.
Other countries within the United Kingdom have different rules regarding pet microchips, the Huffington Post reports. Scotland has no microchip requirement; Wales is considering an official microchip mandate; and in Northern Ireland, microchips are a must.