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Tuesday, 3 April, 2001, 17:06 GMT 18:06 UK
Dog tag scheme is bone of contention
Dog
Microchips would be implanted under the dog's skin
Proposals for the electronic tagging of dogs in Scotland have been examined by parliamentarians.

Tough new legislation which would make it compulsory for dog owners to have their pets identified using either microchips or tattoos should be introduced, MSPs were told.

The Scottish Parliament's Local Government Committee heard that such a scheme was the best way to deal with the problems posed by the 10,000 stray dogs which roam Scotland's streets every year.

A voluntary tagging scheme, recommended in a government report, would not deliver the required level of participation, the committee were told.

Dog chain
The move would tackle the problem of lost dogs
The committee's inquiry follows recommendations in a report by the Dog Identification Group (DIG), set up by the UK Government in 1999.

The DIG called for a voluntary identification scheme to be set up with the aim of having 75% of dogs registered within the next five years.

But several witnesses who gave evidence to the committee argued that irresponsible dog owners would simply ignore any voluntary identification scheme.

Colin McKerracher of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland said a compulsory scheme was the best way of achieving the DIG's aims.


Voluntary schemes are fine, but not everybody will take part. I think 75% is a good target, but it would be more achievable if it was a compulsory scheme.

Colin McKerracher of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland
He said: "Voluntary schemes are fine, but not everybody will take part. I think 75% is a good target, but it would be more achievable if it was a compulsory scheme.

Peter Ewing, manager of the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home, said his organisation offered microchipping to dog owners at a reduced rate in a bid to encourage more owners to get their pets registered.

He also agreed that a compulsory scheme, coupled with increased education on the merits of dog registration, was the best way forward.

The committee also heard that microchipping and tattooing were the two most accepted forms of modern dog identification.

The microchip, which is about the size of a grain of rice, is implanted under the skin of the dog and its unique identification can be read using a special scanner.

Difficult to read

Tattoos are normally etched on the inside of a dog's ear, but the committee was told this can be problematic.

It can often become obscured by the dog's hair or can be difficult to read if the pigmentation of the animal's skin changes.

Libby Anderson of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) said the group had even encountered more macabre ways of obscuring tattoos.

"Tattoos can be covered up and we have details of greyhounds being found with their ears cut off to hide the tattoo," she said.

"We are persuaded that the microchips are the best option for the moment."

The SSPCA says it would not go as far as to recommend a compulsory scheme.

Current legislation

"We support the proposal of promoting voluntary identification schemes with a target of 75% uptake in the next five years," the society said.

The Local Government Committee has to report its findings to the Scottish Executive by May 11.

Committee convener Trish Godman, Labour MSP for Renfrewshire West, said she believed the current legislation regarding dog ownership does not go far enough.

She said: "It seems to me that the legislation needs a fundamental review."

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See also:

07 Jul 00 | Scotland
Scotland 'worst' for strays
24 Aug 99 | Scotland
Highlands top stray dog table
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