Figures revealed by the RSPCA show huge public backing for the introduction of “an affordable and well-enforced dog licensing scheme”, but Dogs Trust has slammed the idea as “extremely naïve”, instead championing compulsory microchipping as the most effective means of registration and identification.

Figures revealed by the RSPCA show huge public backing for the introduction of “an affordable and well-enforced dog licensing scheme”, but Dogs Trust has slammed the idea as “extremely naïve”, instead championing compulsory microchipping as the most effective means of registration and identification.

The battle rages on: dog licensing or compulsory microchippingIn a new survey commissioned by the RSPCA (carried out by Reading University), 2 out of 3 dog owners (66%) said they would be in favour of a licensing scheme to tackle dog welfare problems in England and provide funding for issues that are poorly funded by central and local government. Further, 76% of respondents agreed that a dog licence should be enforced in England to help curb problems such as puppy farms, stray dogs, stolen dogs and animal abandonments.

In a statement released today (March 31) the RSPCA claims a licence would be “hugely beneficial” in addressing many welfare concerns and points out that similar schemes currently operating throughout Europe and in parts of Australia and New Zealand have proven success rates in reducing problems with disease, enforcing microchipping and neutering and in turn encouraging responsible pet ownership.

The charity will be submitting the survey results as part of its response to the consultation on dangerous dog legislation recently launched by DEFRA.

David Bowles, head of external affairs for the charity, said: “The RSPCA has been seriously considering a dog licence scheme as we feel it would provide an effective mechanism for tackling a whole raft of dog welfare problems. The income should be ring-fenced and ploughed into services such as an effective local dog warden service which could make a real difference to both dogs and their owners at a local level.

David Bowles, image courtesy Andrew Forsyth“An annual scheme would also help to ensure that contact details of owners are kept up to date so they can be reunited with their pet more easily if it is lost or stolen,” he added.

However, in response to the announcement, welfare charity Dogs Trust claimed it was “very surprised” that the RSPCA believes such a scheme could be beneficial to animal welfare when the dog licence is simply “a tax on dog ownership”.

In a statement released today, the trust claimed: “This view is extremely naïve; responsible owners might struggle to pay what is likely to be a punitive annual licence.

“The dog licence has also been shown to be an ineffective measure in the UK. In Northern Ireland, where the dog licence is still a requirement, only an estimated one-third of all dog owners currently have their dogs licensed. Northern Ireland still has the highest number of stray dogs per head of population of any region in the UK and the number of dogs put to sleep in the region represents a staggering 34% of the total UK figure.”

Dogs Trust logoInstead, the trust recommends compulsory microchipping as the most effective means of registration as well as identification of a dog – a measure that involves a small one-off fee rather than an annual fee.

The trust claimed: “Microchipping a dog should infer legal ownership and reinforces the responsibilities of the owner under the Animal Welfare Act. The introduction of compulsory microchipping would allow stray dogs to be quickly returned to their owners, make easier the identification of owners who persistently allow their dogs to stray or cause nuisance, and make all puppies traceable to their breeder, helping to reduce the widespread problem of battery farming of dogs.”

DEFRA’s dangerous dogs consultation was launched on March 9 and will run until June 1, 2010.

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