In April of 2016 four out of our five board members took a trip to Ireland, along with other shelter professionals from the US and a few other countries. The goal of the trip was to tour Irish shelters and learn from their organizations. The trip was filled with networking, learning and a rebirth in motivation.
As most of you know I am passionate about looking to the rest of the world to seek answers in solving pet homelessness. I believe this because so many answers are there and we just have to search and evaluate them.
When we arrived in Ireland the topic of conversation within every organization was their newly implemented Micro Chip Law. Starting on March 31st, 2016 it became a requirement for all dogs to be microchipped, with new puppies already having to be microchipped by June 1st of 2015. If dog owners are caught after these dates without Fluffy being microchipped, they would receive a fine of 5,000 Euros.
If you are in any way involved with animal welfare, it is likely that you are in favor of microchipping and should be, but when putting a law like this into place, it is very important to look at both the positives and negatives.
Microchipping is a huge factor in reuniting pets with their owners, saving tax payer money, saving shelter money and resources and has even been used to identify dangerous dogs. In the city of Dublin an array of organizations had put into place numerous free and low cost microchipping clinics for the public to make it easy to comply with the new legislation.
The first issue I observed, was touring a large shelter who was explaining the process of getting your dog microchipped. It was a little more complicated than bringing in your dog and standing in a line. You have to prove the dog is yours, so that people do not steal dogs and try to microchip them in their name. The easiest way to prove the dog is yours is to show that it is registered to you through the government. The problem lies in the large numbers that don’t register their dogs. When asking how to prove that a dog is yours and how you can register him or her and proceed with microchipping, the answers received were cloudy. Proving ownership was a topic that was emphasized on and if you cant prove with paperwork the dog is yours, no microchip.
Besides that, the law seemed great… that is until we got away from the city and began to tour some small organizations hours into the countryside. What the organizations there were experiencing was a vast number of dogs dropped on their doorstep daily, since the microchip law came out. They explained that people out there don’t have access to microchipping or simply cant afford it and in result rather get rid of their dog instead of risking a hefty 5,000 Euro fine.
This is where we have to evaluate, not now, but after their law has been implemented for 5 years, 10 years, 30 years. We are not there yet and I don’t know the answer as it could go either way, but when fighting for legislation it’s important to look to see where it has already been tried. Did it work, did it not work, how can we make it work?
I would like to re evaluate Ireland after this law has made an effect to see if more animals were euthanized or saved, if it reduced the number of pet owners, if it worked outside of the major cities, and if it is worth implementing in other parts of the world.
One of the most mind boggling things about this law was that it was passed in an area known for it’s beautiful rolling hills, acres of sheep and smaller cities. Is a microchipping law most effective here? I guess we will find out!
Microchipping is extremely important and we make sure every animal is microchipped before being adopted. I have also fought for legislation revolving around animals in Colorado on numerous occasions. It is very important to look at what the possible repercussions could be and how you can prevent them. Chances are you can find an example of how something worked somewhere else and evaluate where they succeeded and failed. That is how we will stay productive and grow!