Nobody likes a lost dog. The owners lament her absence. The public fears her bite. And authorities have better things to do than chase down pets. So why not just put tracking chips under their skin?
Well, the British government is sick of wondering and on Wednesday announced that all dogs would be required to be microchipped and logged in a database in order keep better track of them. The measure goes into effect in 2016, and if you don't do it, you face a fine of nearly $800. Officials say that the new chip plan and resultant database of dog owners will help authorities keep track of dangerous animals, reduce the number of strays and eventually save taxpayers and charities nearly $90 million annually, the estimated cost of dealing with strays every year. "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," said Owen Paterson, the United Kingdom's Environment Secretary. "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."
Others think it's a pretty creepy solution. You know, Orwellian and what not. Once the government starts requiring us to microchip our dogs, how long will it tage before we're all carrying chips under our skin? Oddly enough, this idea is sort of already at play with Britain's dog program. "The issue of dangerous dogs is much more about dangerous owners," Paul Green, who advocates for the elderly with the British organization Saga, told The Telegraph. "It should not be law-abiding dog owners who end up suffering and being fined because of these laws." In other words, the new measure from the British government is somehow designed to make sure people are taking care of their dogs. Who could argue with that? Animal rights are awesome.
Doubts remain over whether or not microchipping in general can solve some of the problems that pet owners and everyday citizens alike face. It's proven effective at retuning lost dogs to their owners. It's created a new cottage industry for high tech pet-tracking tools. And seriously, it's scared us into watching Gattaca and reading 1984 in an attempt to regain a sense of the reality that we live in. Because sometimes the future comes too soon.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.