The government has announced plans for new legislation that will require all pet dogs in England to be fitted with a microchip by 2016. The idea is that it will make it easier for the 100,000 stray dogs picked up every year to be reunited with their owners.
But what will it cost?
New lawsThe government's plans were announced by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, who said: "It's ludicrous that in a nation of dog lovers, thousands of dogs are roaming the streets or stuck in kennels because the owner cannot be tracked down."
"I am determined to put an end to this and ease the pressure on charities and councils to find new homes for these dogs. Microchipping is a simple solution that gives peace of mind to owners. It makes it easier to get their pet back if it strays and easier to trace if it's stolen."
The move was welcomed by the RSPCA which said it was 'long-awaited' and a 'step in the right direction'.
Claire Horton, Battersea Cats' and Dogs' Home Chief Executive added: "Battersea warmly welcomes today's Government announcement on microchipping in England as it will make a real difference to the welfare of dogs. It's so worrying for owners when a dog strays from home, yet a tiny microchip the size of a grain of rice means charities like Battersea can often reunite pets with their owners within hours. Having no chip in a dog can mean any reunion can take days to happen, if it happens at all. So we'll help all we can by offering dog owners free chipping."
Current rulesAt the moment dogs are picked up by the dog warden employed by your local council, or in some instances they will arrange for the RSPCA to take them in at your local RSPCA reception point. The total cost of looking after stray dogs, finding owners, and in some instances having the animal put down, is around £57 million.
TV actress Sheridan Smith (pictured) has first-hand experience of the difference a chip can make, when her Shar-pei went missing in East London. She says: "My dog Enid went missing three years ago and wasn't chipped. She was taken to Battersea and they were able to reunite us thanks to my posts on twitter. Battersea microchipped Enid for me and now I have peace of mind that should she ever get lost again, I'll get her back quickly and safely. I found out the hard way how important it is to have your pet microchipped, and think compulsory microchipping is a great move and will help so many more dogs find their owners."
The costThe chips themselves can be inserted easily by a vet using a needle, and the whole things costs between £20 and £30. The Dogs Trust has confirmed that once the new legislation is introduced it will supply vets with the chips free of charge, although it will be up to the vet whether they charge for implanting it.
If this sounds a bit steep, a number of charities will carry out the procedure for free, including the Dog's Trust, Battersea Dogs' and Cats' Home and Blue Cross. However, they are all registered charities that rely on public generosity, so they would appreciate a donation if you can afford it.
If you fail to get your dog chipped, if the local council picks it up and you are reunited, you will have a short period of time in which to get it chipped. If you miss the deadline you could face a fine of up to £500.
It seems therefore that for a small cost - or for free - dog owners can save the government and charities a small fortune, and ensure they are more likely to be reunited if they lose their pet. The only significant cost will come if you fail to comply, which sounds like a great idea all round.
But what do you think? Do you have your dog chipped? Would you mind being forced to do so? Let us know in the comments.