ChipMeNot.org.uk - WHAT'S WRONG WITH COMPULSORY DOG CHIPPING?
As Barbara Haywood writes on the Dog Politics website :
If microchips conjure images of tearful and happy reunions - then you are the willing victim of a very successful marketing campaign - one that plays on your fears.
At first glance chipping dogs may look like a sensible idea because it is promoted as an easy way to allow people to identify your dog should it be lost, or a way for the authorities to identify dangerous or abandoned dogs. However there is a lot more to animal chipping than meets the eye.
More evidence is emerging that indicates that implanted micro-chips can cause cancer in animals. A 2007 Associated Press report 'Chip Implants Linked to Animal Tumors'  reported that:
A series of veterinary and toxicology studies, dating to the mid-1990s, stated that chip implants had "induced" malignant tumors in some lab mice and rats.
"The transponders were the cause of the tumors," said Keith Johnson, a retired toxicologic pathologist, explaining in a phone interview the findings of a 1996 study he led at the Dow Chemical Co. in Midland, Mich.
Also in 2007, a report entitled 'Microchip-Induced Tumors in Laboratory Rodents and Dogs: A Review of the Literature 1990-2006'  was published by Dr Katherine Albrecht Ed.D. The report raises serious concerns about the safety of micro-chipping. Albrecht concludes:
The body of research reviewed in this report indicates a clear causal link between microchip implants and cancer in mice and rats. It also appears that microchips can cause cancer in dogs-and that they have done so in at least one case, and quite likely in two. These findings raise a red flag about the continued use of microchips in both animals and human beings.
Since 2007 more cases of micro-chip induced cancer have emerged and several case studies  can be read on the ChipMeNot UK website.
Adverse reactions to micro-chipping
Reliable research and reporting of adverse reactions to micro-chipping animals is slowly emerging. Vets often dismiss chips as a cause for cancer, partly as they themselves chip dogs (and earn money from the practise). This has meant that not enough data has been collected by vets. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the problem is much worse than chip manufacturers would have the public believe. An adverse animal reaction website is currently being set up by ChipMeNot USA to try and collect more data.
Katherine Albrecht is the director of CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering)  and she has campaigned on issues of privacy and against Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips for many years. She has now helped in the creation of our sister site ChipMeNot USA .
Unnecessary suffering and immunity from prosecution
As evidence emerges that chips can cause cancer, it might be possible to prosecute those who implant chips for causing unnecessary suffering to animals. The Animal Welfare Act 2006  Section 4(3)(b) has a provision that means that if chipping becomes compulsory, the suffering will be state sanctioned. As a result, those who implant chips cannot be prosecuted. The Act states:
4 Unnecessary suffering (1) A person commits an offence if- (a) an act of his, or a failure of his to act, causes an animal to suffer, (b) he knew, or ought reasonably to have known, that the act, or failure to act, would have that effect or be likely to do so (c) the animal is a protected animal, and (d) the suffering is unnecessary. [ ... ] (3) The considerations to which it is relevant to have regard when determining for the purposes of this section whether suffering is unnecessary include- (a) whether the suffering could reasonably have been avoided or reduced; (b) whether the conduct which caused the suffering was in compliance with any relevant enactment or any relevant provisions of a licence or code of practice issued under an enactment;
This means that the compulsory chipping of dogs will actually grant immunity from prosecution!
Even if you can overlook the fact that animal chipping carries potentially serious health risks, there are still plenty of reasons why compulsory dog chipping is a bad idea.
What's wrong with a collar and tag?
Dog chipping is a solution looking for a problem. The most simple way of identifying a dog or reuniting him with his owner is the use of a safe collar with a tag that has contact details of the owner. Anyone that can read is able to read the tag, and no special equipment is required.
Some people may argue that irresponsible owners will not put a collar and tag on their dog, so they should be forced to chip their pet. The problem with this argument is that there is already a law in place (Control of Dogs Order 1992 ) which says that a dog in a public place must wear a collar with a tag on it so that the owner of the dog can be contacted if the dog is found. If a small number of owners don't obey this law what reason is there to believe that they will obey a new compulsory chipping law?
Enforcing the current dog collar law would be fairly simple (though expensive) as it is possible to see immediately whether a dog has a collar with a tag. Enforcing a chip law would be much more difficult and even more expensive. Each dog would have to be physically scanned with a special chip reader to know whether it has been chipped. If the microchip-scanner technology is compatible, the reader would display an ID if the dog was chipped (and the chip was located). This ID would then have to be checked against a database containing owners details.
Tracking dogs equals tracking owners - The Database State
Behind a compulsory dog chipping law would be a database of dogs and dog owners. The database is what a compulsory dog chipping law is really about. Responsible (if uninformed) law abiding owners would most likely be the first in line to get their dogs chipped, believing they were doing the right thing. This would facilitate the construction of a government database.
In 2004, when a mandatory dog chipping law was proposed in New Jersey USA, an 'Animal Welfare Task Force Report'  revealed the state's desire to create a database of dogs and owners. The report said:
Without reliable data concerning companion animals, the size and scope of New Jersey's pet population can only be estimated, thus impairing the State's ability to plan for and respond to the problem of pet overpopulation. If, however, a microchip program were to provide accurate population and demographic data, the State could use this when projecting how much money would be needed for animal control and welfare purposes.
Note that when dog chipping is sold to the public it is not sold as a way of constructing a dog owners register. Animal chipping is yet another excuse to expand the Database State and allow the government (and other bodies with access to the database) to track people. In an age when databases are increasingly being used to profile people and determine patterns of behaviour, for applications such as pre-crime style predictive analysis, do we really want to give the government yet another opportunity to snoop on us?
The Chip Bill that ran out of time
Currently there are several privately run dog/owner databases in the UK including PETtrac, Identichip and Petlog which is the largest. A Private Members Bill was introduced in the UK parliament at the end of March 2010 "to require dog-owners to have their dogs micro-chipped". The Bill also had proposals "to regulate access to dog ownership data" . A compulsory dog chipping law would place either the database or the data in the hands of the government. Similar to the UK National ID scheme, which has yet to be scrapped, it will be up to the owner to keep the database up to date or face a penalty. Thanks to the 2010 UK general election, the dog chipping Bill ran out of parliamentary time but a new bill is likely to emerge soon after the election.
Dog chipping is like an ID card scheme for dogs but with the added sting that it's an ID scheme for the owners too.
In the UK, dog chipping is being promoted by many as a way of dealing with dangerous dogs; an issue that has been hyped once again by the media in recent years. Dangerous dogs also hit the headlines in 1991 after a spate of dog attacks - this ultimately led to the introduction of The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 .
In his book 'Bad Laws' , Phillip Johnston writes about the Act:
The media were demanding that Something Must Be Done. The government, which until now had resisted, caved in and introduced emergency legislation. The Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA) is often cited as the classic example of a bad law, a media-driven, knee-jerk reaction to a horrifying incident. For as long as people live near dogs, some will be bitten. If people have large and violent dogs in their homes with babies and young children, they are risking attack. Can this be legislated away?
The answer to this question is obviously no. The Dangerous Dogs Act introduced breed specific bans that did not address the issue of responsible ownership (many of the dog attacks were by "acceptable" breeds that were not banned). The money wasted by introducing and enforcing this law could and should have been used to educate owners and the wider public on how to care for their dogs.
A presentation by the Dangerous Dogs Act Watch (DDAWatch) group  points out that:
Despite the few true statistics we have, banned breeds are not involved in the bulk of incidents and the enforcement of the dangerous dogs act has led to any dog of muscular build, bigger than a breed standard Staffordshire Bull terrier and 'regardless of its temperament' being placed in danger of being seized and destroyed or restricted, for a crime it has not committed. And it's not just the dogs who suffer.
How will chipping de-dangerous a dog?
The latest bad idea dreamt up by the government to deal with "dangerous dogs" is compulsory micro-chipping of all dogs. The government is currently conducting a 'Consultation on Dangerous Dogs' , and the accompanying consultation document  lays out the skewed logic that they are trying to use to justify a chip law. The document states:
The benefit of microchipping is that it may deter people from keeping a dog that is dangerous, as microchipping increases the chances that the dog could be traced back to them.
This logic would only work if the few irresponsible owners that do not properly train their dogs, or purposefully train them to be violent, get their dogs chipped, and the dogs are caught, and the dog is scanned with a reader, and the chip is found, and the reader works, and the details on the database are correct, and the database has been kept up to date. As pointed out above, there is already a law that a dog in a public place must wear a collar and tag so that it may be identified. If some people do not follow this law why would they follow a new law? The government consultation document acknowledges this fact, pointing out that:
However, others would argue that only responsible owners would have their dog microchipped, while irresponsible owners would ignore any such requirement.
Chipping at birth
A report published in January, entitled 'Independent Inquiry into Dog Breeding' , funded by Dogs Trust and the Kennel Club (but claiming to operate independently of both) suggests that dogs could be chipped at birth, It states:
In many quarters the view is strongly expressed that each dog in the United Kingdom should be microchipped, preferably by the breeder.
But once again this will only target the so-called "responsible" breeders and owners, who would no longer be able to choose whether they want to chip their dogs or not. Those that breed dogs themselves for fighting are not likely to be part of an accredited breeders scheme and are not likely to worry about chipping dogs. Even if they did decide to chip their dogs to throw dog wardens off their scent, what would stop them from implanting a chip that is programmed with any old ID number so that if the dog were found someone else would be held responsible.
Chipping is big business
With all of the obvious pitfalls regarding the use of micro-chip identification, why are so many groups in favour of the use of such technology? As so often is the case, money is one of the main drivers. Petlog, the UK's largest dog database, registered over 512,000 pets in 2009. Petlog is operated by the Kennel Club who in their 2008-09 Annual Report  revealed the scale of growth in chipping:
Petlog registrations increased by 3% in 2008. The uptake of the enhanced Petlog Premium service increased by 17% over the year.
Microchipping manufacturers pay a small fee to Petlog to register each dog on the database. Owners have to pay for the initial dog chipping and then again when they change their contact details. Or they can sign up to the Petlog Premium service for a one off fee. A look at the list of supporters of the UK's annual National Microchipping month illustrates the commercial interest in chipping. The supporters include: pet-ID, pet-detect, idENTICHIP, peddy-mark, EEZYTRAC, Mannings RFID, Datamars, Allflex, PetCode, Tracer Advance, and Anibase.
Compulsory chipping would allow these companies and others to rapidly expand their market and increase their shareholder profits. That is why they work so hard to present dog chipping as a caring act of a responsible dog owner and as a way of reuniting pets with their families. Contrast the imagery used by chip manufacturers of friendly family pets being kissed by happy owners with the media hyped images of vicious dogs, teeth bared, straining on a lead. Both types of images are being used to drive the chipping agenda forwards but neither tell the real story.
Normalisation - chipping humans
Chip companies will look to refine their technology in aninals and normalise the public to their assertion that chipping is safe and serves whatever purpose they choose to market it on. Once they have created a level of acceptance in the public they will then seek to expand chipping into other areas, no doubt ending with chipping humans.
See our 'Where Next?' section for a further discussion of where microchip implant technology is headed.
- [ 1] http://www.dogpolitics.com/my_weblog/2006/09/track_all_pets_.html
- [ 2] Chip Implants Linked to Animal Tumors - http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/08/AR2007090800997_pf.html
- [ 3] Microchip-Cancer Report - http://www.antichips.com/cancer/index.html
- [ 4] ChipMeNot case studies - http://www.chipmenot.org.uk/case_studies.asp
- [ 5] CASPIAN - http://www.nocards.org
- [ 6] ChipMeNot USA will launch shortly at http://www.chipmenot.org
- [ 7] Animal Welfare Act - http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2006/pdf/ukpga_20060045_en.pdf
- [ 8] Control of Dogs Order - http://www.opsi.gov.uk/SI/si1992/Uksi_19920901_en_1.htm
- [ 9] Animal Welfare Task Force Report, New Jersey 2004 - http://www.state.nj.us/animalwelfaretaskforcereport.pdf
-  Control of Dogs Bill - http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2010-03-30a.649.0
-  Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 - http://www.statutelaw.gov.uk/content.aspx?activeTextDocId=1540384
-  Bad Laws - http://www.constablerobinson.com/?section=books&book=bad_laws_9781849010108_paperback
-  DDAWatch - http://www.ddawatch.co.uk
-  Defra Dangerous Dogs - http://www.defra.gov.uk/wildlife-pets/pets/dangerous/index.htm
-  Defra consultation document - http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/dangerous-dogs/100309-dangerous-dogs-condoc.pdf
-  Independent Inquiry into Dog Breeding - http://breedinginquiry.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/final-dog-inquiry-120110.pdf
-  The Kennel Club Annual Report 2008-09 - http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/download/6356/annrep0809.pdf