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Technology is not the answer

I admit that typing the above title seems ironic given that I am sitting in a coffee shop waiting for my motorbike to be repaired while typing using a wireless bluetooth keyboard into my iPad and am connected to pretty much all of the information known to our species thanks to WiFi technology that I barely dreamed possible as a child. So, maybe I should be more specific as to what exactly it is that technology is not the answer to.

Techonology is not the answer to all/many of societies problems; however, I am going to suggest that technology is a wonderful way of making it look like a) you care about something; and b) you are doing something about the thing that you care about.

Anyway, the point - yes there is one - is that the Government is now talking about requiring all dog owners to have their doggies microchipped to reduce the number of aggressive dogs on the streets and the number of dog attacks.

This is a classic example of politicians logic (for those who didn't watch "Yes Minister" and "Yes Prime Minister", politicians logic goes something like, "Cats have four legs; my dog has four legs therefore my dog is a cat". Or, more useful when addressing a problem, "This is a problem and something needs to be done; this is something we must do it").

Requiring the mircrochipping of all puppies shows that a) the Government cares about dog attacks; and b) they are doing something to reduce them. But, can a simple microchip do this? I assume the thinking goes along the lines that if people are required by law to spend money on taking their dog to the vet then a number of things will happen: 1) they will get advice from the vet; 2) the expense will put bad dog owners/breeders off of getting/breeding a dog; and 3) people will realise that having a dog is a responsiblity. Unfortunately, this assumes that 1) people will listen to the vet's advice; 2) bad dog owners/breeders will bother having their dogs chipped; and 3) people will suddenly become responsible for having spent around £35.

Yesterday, I went into my local Tesco Metro where a man was waiting by the entrance shouting at his friends who were inside the shop. One of the things he shouted was that he was forbidden to enter the store because the security guard knows that the man in question likes to "rob" from Tesco; he seemed proud of the fact. He had a dog. He may well be a responsible dog owner. But, let's assume he isn't. Does anybody really and truly believe that for somebody who is proud to announce to a store full of people that he is a known thief a charge of £35 and five-minutes of advice from a vet would suddenly reform him? Would having a microchip suddenly turn him away from the irresponsible and into a model member of society? If he ignores the law on theft, would he be any more likely to follow the law on microchipping? I suspect not.

How would this law be enforced? Presumably either with the recruitment of new council dog inspectors or giving the police microchip readers and opening them up to more queries about whether they have no better things to be doing. What if the dog owner refuse to allow the chip to be read? Will the police have the power to physically force the owner to comply? I think that could just cause more problems than it solves. Even if anybody is ever prosecuted, I bet that the maximum sentence would be little more than a Level 1 or 2 fine.

So, what is the result of compulsory dog microchipping? To my mind it seems to be more expense both for the individual and the public and no observable improvement in the behaviour of dog owners.

The last Government had a scheme just as silly but far more expensive, which was to track all motor vehicles at all times and then charge the owner per mile travelled. Again that was an example of a Government wanting a) to show they cared about a problem (environmental change); and b) that they were doing something about it. Nobody seemed to want to point out the obvious that we already pay per mile we drive and that we already pay more when we sit in traffic than when moving and that we pay more the larger our vehicles engine... how's this? Because we pay tax on petrol and we use more the further we drive, more when we sit in traffic and the bigger your engine the more you will use up!


  1. As I see it, the principal advantage of requiring dogs to be chipped is that unchipped dogs can then be confiscated and destroyed without wasting time and money attempting to contact the owner.

    (I make no claim as to whether this is a sufficient advantage to justify the scheme.)

  2. It is really very simple....after the animal has attacked somebody it won`t be able to be hidden away especially if the chip includes a transmitter. I would have thought that it would be more sensible to chip all dog owners.

  3. The chip can only be read with a hand-held device from a distance of less than an inch. I can't see any way of it being used to find a dog that has been hidden.
    It's a tiny unpowered grain of rice size thingie injected under the skin of the neck. Add a transmitter, and inserting it and replacing the battery every so often would need surgery.

  4. I agree with Conor. I also don't see how confiscating a dog without a chip would be easier nor do I think that the public would stand for healthy unchipped dogs being routinely put down!

    I expect most dogs would be taken with the owners knowledge because they would be confiscated on the street or from the home. I doubt Parliament would pass legislation that completely re-wrote the law on ownership and so owners would still sue for the return of their animals and would probably win... even if they didn't the cost to the tax payer of defending such actions would be high I expect.

  5. I haven't a huge amount of experience with chips in dog, but it's mandatory to microchip horses now if you want a passport - and you have to have a passport to sell, breed, move or compete them. Microchips are absolutely not the be all and end all - there have been a number of frauds, accidental / deliberate mis-registration, and duplicated numbers. Additionally, it's common for the chip to migrate/stop working, which means it can be unreadable.
    The difference between horses and dogs is that there is a widespread framework already in place for mandatory contacts with officials (vaccination requirements which people understand and agree with for welfare reasons) in the horse world, so it costs relatively little to enforce mandatory chipping, and horse people are already used to complying with regulations in order to do what they want to do with their horses which reduces reluctance to comply and provides a positive motivating factor. There's no such framework in place with dogs - most are pets, for which vaccination is not complusory - so the only people you could easily motivate to comply are professional show breeders, who are not the problem anyway. Given the way most of us evaluate risk, I can see a whole lot of ordinary people, (even disregarding the badger baiting, dog fighting fraternity who have a positive disincentive to avoid officialdom) deciding it's a risk worth taking given the likelihood of them getting caught. About the only way you could make it work without massive investment in dog catchers and registration boards would be for vets to enforce it - which would be a huge headache for vets, deter people from seeking treatment for sick animals and of course, people who deliberately own seriously dangerous dogs tend not to be particularly emotionally invested in them anyway so tend to not to bother with vets in the first place. Incredibly stupid. But then, politicians across the board often seem to have issues with logical extrapolation.

  6. A Passport for a horse! How the feck do you get them into the booth?

  7. I Liked reading the part about the Technology and in your site every coverage is excellent on Technology. thanks for sharing good coverage..


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