Changes to dog laws will see microchips made compulsory in 2016
New plans to cut a rise in stray dogs have been announced, which require every dog owner in England to have their animal microchipped from 2016.
Each microchip will be coded to include the owners’ details and any owners who do not comply with this law could face fines of up to £500.
The new proposals may also see a legal loophole closed, meaning that owners could be prosecuted over an attack by their dog on private land.
The RSPCA has welcomed these proposals, however, it did state that it doubted these measures alone would “make owners more responsible or ensure fewer dogs bite people”.
The government has released figures that reveal over 100,000 dogs are dumped or lost each year, which then costs the taxpayer and welfare charities a combined £57m.
Ministers are hoping that the change in the law will help to reunite owners with their lost or stolen pets and relieve some of the burden on animal charities and local authorities.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson told the BBC: "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."
He added: "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 new laws will be put into effect in April 2016 and any owners who are found to have an unchipped dog will be given a short period of time to have their dog chipped.
There will also be changes made to laws governing dog attacks. There is currently a loophole which means that dog owners whose animals have attacked people on private property are immune from prosecution, which will be closed.
Speaking to the BBC, the RSPCA’s head of public affairs, David Bowles said: "Compulsory microchipping and extending the law to cover private property as well as public spaces is a welcome move.
"However, on their own we don't believe they will make owners more responsible or ensure fewer dogs bite people or other animals."
He later went on to add that the number of warnings that were issued to dog-owners last year, due to poor welfare, had been up 12% compared to 2011. However, he did state that in the last four years there had been a 26% rise in the number of dog bites requiring hospitalisation.
"If the government are trying to tackle these, we don't see how compulsory microchipping will help reduce either of these figures," he said.
Since 2005, eight children and six adults have been killed in dog attacks and many of these have taken place in the home, according to figures from the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs.
Postmen and women have traditionally had it bad, and the past 12 months have been no different. In fact, over the last year, more than 3,000 postal workers have been attacked by out-of-control dogs with 70% of these attacks happening on private property.
Though the legal loophole is set to be closed, householders will be protected from prosecution of their dog attacks a burglar or a trespasser on their land.
Currently some animal charities, such as the Dogs Trust, Blue Cross and Battersea Dogs and Cats home, offer a free microchipping service to owners.
The procedure, which costs about £20-£30 at a private veterinary clinic, involves inserting a sterile chip the size of a grain of rice between a dog's shoulder blades.
Free microchips, donated by the Dogs Trust, will be circulated to veterinary clinics, although it is currently unclear whether vets will charge for the service.