Six-legged race to ensure that dogs and owners comply with law

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Angus vets have been inundated with dog owners in a last minute rush to make sure that they and their pets comply with new legislation.

From last Wednesday new laws were introduced requiring dogs aged eight weeks old and above to be microchipped, with owners risking fines of up to £500 if they fail to have the procedure carried out.

Every microchip, which is about the size of a grain of rice, has a unique 15-digit code to identify the dog’s owner and is designed to last the lifetime of the pet. The owner’s details are stored on one of seven microchip databases which are accessible to vets, dog wardens and the police.

It means that lost dogs can be reunited with their owners more quickly, saving local authorities and charities money. Around £57 million is spend every year on kennelling lost dogs, more than 50 per cent of which cannot be returned to their owners because they cannot be identified.

This means approximately 6,000 dogs are put down each year because their owner cannot be found.

Gavin Durston, a director of Thrums Vet Group in Kirriemuir and Forfar, said surgeries were busy the two or three weeks before the legislation came into effect.

He said: “We’ve had lots and lots in getting chipped, but that’s a good thing. I think a lot of people left it until the last minute. It has been known about for the last six months but during the last three weeks virtually every second appointment has been chipping a dog and I’d say we’d had between 500 and 600 during the last month or so. We’ll still be busy for the next couple of weeks.

“It doesn’t take particularly long, just a 10-minute consultation and putting the chip in is really just a very quick injection.

“Going forward, dogs have to be chipped by the time they’re eight weeks of age, which should be done by the breeder so when people pick up pups of that age it should have been chipped already.”

He emphasised, however, that the system was only fully effective as long as owners remember to keep their personal details up to date

He added: “It’s important that people remember to update their details. The chip contains a unique number so that’s all that comes up when it’s scanned and to find the owner’s details we have to check a central data base.

“Some people think we get all that while scanning, but that’s not how it works.”

Steven Baker, from the Abbey Veterinary Clinic in Forfar, also said there has been a much greater uptake of identichipping over the last few weeks.

He said: “All of a sudden people are realising that they have to get it done quickly and we’ve had some people bringing in three or four at a time so we’ve definitely noticed a difference and there are more booked in over the news few days.

“Up to now it tended to be more puppies that we microchipped when they were brought in for vaccinations. On their second vaccination we asked the owners if they wanted them chipped, and it was something we were doing regularly and while I don’t know how many more we’ve done compared to last year, it’s certainly and awful lot more.”

In Brechin, vets at the Crofts Veterinary Surgery have also seen an increase in dogs getting micropchipped, again mostly in the three weeks leading up to April 6.

Vet Lindsay Cameron said: “It’s always been a range of ages we’ve dealt with, but over the last three weeks we’ve seen dogs from as young as eight weeks old up right up to dogs that are 15-years-old. We are doing easily five times more microchipping than this time last year-if not more.

“There’s been lots of publicity in the last two weeks that’s brought folk in.”

He also said that, however, there has been a corresponding downturn in the number of cats being microchipped

He added: “All the emphasis has been on dogs, and I think we have microchipped fewer cats in the last month than we usually would.

“We’ve been running a reduced price since the turn of the year and it’s returning to normal at the end of the month so that can be an extra incentive.”

At the time of the law coming into effect, it was estimated that more than one million dogs had yet to be microchipped and the procedure can be the difference between a cherished pet being returned to its owner or being lost forever.