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UK pol touts canine chip implants

Doggies digitized for your protection

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Even if your beloved Westie is spending her declining years curled up by the hearth, Home Secretary Alan Johnson suggests she should be microchipped for the protection of her potential victims, and you should pony up for dog-attack insurance.

So goes a proposal that Johnson has floated for consultation in response to what the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has identified as a surge in dog attacks - up 12-fold between 2004 and 2008, according to the RSPCA.

"Britain is a nation of animal lovers, but people have a fundamental right to feel safe on the streets and in their homes," Johnson was quoted in Tuesday's Guardian. "The vast majority of dog owners are responsible, but there is no doubt that some people breed and keep dogs for the sole purpose of intimidating others, in a sense using dogs as a weapon."

The Guardian's Michael White implies that Johnson may have revealed his own personal prejudice in his proposal, noting in his "Politics Blog" that Johnson is himself "a twice-bitten ex-postie".

The proposal would require dog owners to have a tiny chip - presumably an RFID - implanted between their doggies' shoulder blades that would contain the dog's personal ID number, plus information on its name, age, breed, and health, along with its owner's name, address, and phone number. Standard fees for such chippery range from £10 to £35.

In addition to this doggie digitizing, owners would be required to buy liability insurance in case their four-legged friend should go all Cujo on some unfortunate passer-by. Such insurance, according to the Daily Express, could run from £180 to £600 per year - fees which could rise if such insurance were made mandantory, according to the Kennel Club’s communications director, Caroline Kisko.

The proposal would be an update to the oft-maligned Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991, which banned the breeding, advertising, sale, or exchange of Japanese tosas, fila brasileiros, and dogo argentinos, and heavily restricted ownership of pit bull terriers.

Parts of Home Secretary Johnson's reasoning for the proposal is, to put it kindly, a wee bit convoluted. As he told the Express: "We deal with things like guns and drugs and knives, and they're easily concealed. The thing about dogs is that they're not very easily concealed."

Indeed - unless, of course, it's that cute little Westie in mum's market bag.

Alex Deane of Big Brother Watch, however, derides the entire effort as "the very latest in 'you couldn't make it up' nanny statism". He also doesn't think it will fly. As he blogged: "You can tax us to high heaven, you can authorise bullying policemen to push us from pillar to post - people in this country just take it. But any man who messes with the great British pet is a fool - they simply won't manage to enforce this one." ®

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