From April, it will be compulsory for all dogs in Scotland to have a chip with their owners’ details registered and kept up to date in a database complying with certain conditions.
The forthcoming change in the law was highlighted by Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead – the Scottish Government minister responsible for animal welfare – on a visit to the Dogs Trust rehoming centre in West Calder.
Mr Lochhead said: “Compulsory microchipping will help reduce the number of lost and abandoned dogs in Scotland – safeguarding animal welfare and promoting responsible ownership. As well as reuniting pets with their owners, it will allow authorities to directly identify dog owners and hold them accountable for their dogs’ behaviour and welfare.
“Dogs Trust is offering free microchipping at its two rehoming centres in Scotland, as well as at selected veterinary practices until the middle of January, and until March at mobile drop-in events.
“My New Year message to all dog owners is to make 2016 the year of your dog and make the most of the free microchipping offers while they are available.”
The system works with a tiny microchip about the size of a grain of rice being inserted under the dog’s loose skin, on the back of the neck. Using a specially designed implanting device, the microchip is injected through a sterile needle between the dog’s shoulder blades. Dogs Trust say the procedure does not hurt the dog and no anaesthetic is required as the procedure should cause no more discomfort than a standard vaccination.
Microchipping gives the dog their own unique code. If a dog becomes lost or stolen and is picked up by a dog warden or turns up at a shelter or vet’s office, the microchip can be scanned and matched to the owner’s contact details, which are kept on a database.
Susan Tonner, Dogs Trust West Calder Rehoming Centre Manager said: “We were delighted to welcome the Cabinet Secretary to West Calder to meet Stephanie, a six-month -old Shih Tzu puppy, who has been looking for a new home and will happily be joining her new family very soon. Sadly, Stephanie was not microchipped when she was found straying by the local authorities, so they were unable to find her owners.
“Dogs Trust is the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, with our West Calder centre having rehomed 11,000 dogs since it opened its doors in 1994.”
She added: “Reducing Scotland’s stray dog population of over 1,400 dogs is at the very heart of our ethos, which is why we have committed to ensuring dog owners have access to free microchipping at our two Scottish rehoming centres in Glasgow and West Calder, or at one of our many drop-in events across the country.
“We are pleased that from April microchipping will be compulsory in Scotland, but we continue to remind owners that no matter how responsible they are, there is a chance their dog could get lost like Stephanie. Microchipping is the most effective way to assist in a lost dog being returned to their owner, however, to enable this it is important that owners keep their database details up to date.”
The organisation has already microchipped more than 11,000 dogs this year.
Dogs Trust veterinary director Paula Boyden said: “For many years, Dogs Trust has been working with the Scottish Government to bring about the introduction of compulsory microchipping.
“We continue to remind owners that no matter how responsible they are, there is a chance their dog could get lost or stolen – microchipping is the most effective way to assist in a lost dog being returned to their owner.”
MSP Christine Grahame welcomed legislation which will make it compulsory to have dogs microchipped.
Ms Grahame, who chairs the cross-party group on animal welfare in the Parliament, is a firm advocate of compulsory microchipping and has held several events with the Dog’s Trust offering a free service.
She said: “Compulsory microchipping will safeguard animal welfare, promote responsible dog ownership and reduce the number of lost and abandoned dogs.
“As well as reuniting pets with their owners, it will allow authorities to directly identify dog owners and hold them accountable for their dogs’ behaviour and welfare.”