When you’ve been a vet for your entire adult life it’s sometimes hard to get a sense of what is common knowledge. I seem to pick up on every little tit-bit of animal news which would probably pass most people by. I’ll say things like ‘oh look darling a new cat toothpaste.’ It is with this slightly skewed sense of perspective that I say micro-chipping has been big news recently. Northern Ireland has introduced compulsory micro-chipping of dogs and it may well be brought in for England too. This seems a reasonable response from the government to try and halt the problem of poor dog ownership but may be missing the point.
The majority of puppies that are brought in to me are micro-chipped, or will be soon, these are the lucky ones. They’ll go on to live a charmed life of long walks and belly rubs and never be a problem to anybody (bar the odd minor indiscretion!). The dogs at which this legislation is aimed probably won’t come in to see me though and they won’t get chipped. They’ll go on to be the anxious, under-exercised, under-socialised dogs that run amok in parks and people’s front rooms. The problem dogs. I doubt these dogs will be chipped at or near birth, if the primary motive is profit then spending £20 inserting a microchip is unlikely to be high on their agenda. I’m concerned that anxiety about not having a microchip will be another reason for these dogs not to come in to the vets.
Another issue is; what will be done about the dogs that aren’t chipped? Police already have powers to confiscate dangerous dogs or banned breeds but they rarely use them. Taking someone’s dog away from them seems like a rather draconian measure for all but the worst of doggy crimes. I think this gets somewhere closer to the nub of the question. The teenager with the baggy trousers and a hoody loves his dog. He loves his pit bull on a choke chain just as much as I love my little spaniel in her Burberry fleece. He just doesn’t know what to do with it. He doesn’t understand that love requires some sacrifice on his behalf, that it can’t be picked up and tossed away like last year’s trainers and that to feel it is not enough it must be reflected in his actions. This is the sadness, people who don’t understand how to love or be loved. Unknowingly inflicting a life of distress, confusion and anxiety on the one thing in their lives that love them unconditionally, their fearful, aggressive dogs the product of their own difficult lives. This is a problem that can’t be fixed with a microchip.