The draft Microchipping of Dogs (England) Regulations 2015 have recently been debated in both Houses and will come into force shortly. The regulations require that all keepers of dogs must, by April 2016, have their dogs microchipped. Welfare groups and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have already taken steps to raise awareness of that requirement, and DEFRA will continue to work closely with vets and charities to highlight the new requirement.
The first thing to note is that about 70% of dogs in this country are already microchipped under the voluntary scheme. Our judgment is that we now need to make it compulsory to get to the remaining 30%. We will take a proportionate approach to penalties. In the first instance, somebody will be given an enforcement notice, not a penalty, and 21 days to comply.
Charities are doing a great deal to raise awareness. Officials pointed out to me this morning that a recent edition of The Beano included a storyline put there by the Dogs Trust in which Gnasher had a microchip installed.
You will be aware, Mr Speaker, that I raised with the Prime Minister last week the plight of Murphy, a dog who had been stolen in Bradford—one of a spate of dog thefts in the local area. Does the Minister think microchipping will help to reduce the number of dog thefts, and what other steps is his Department taking to ensure that we see fewer of these terrible instances?
My hon. Friend makes a good point. It is very distressing for families when they have a loved pet stolen. Compulsory microchipping of all dogs will make it far easier to detect such crimes, and we will issue guidance to vets and others that if they suspect a dog might have been stolen, they should report that to the relevant authorities.