LONDON -- Dog owners who refuse to fit Fido with a microchip may someday find themselves fetching a hefty fine, the British government said yesterday.
All dogs in England will have to be fitted with microchips by 2016, authorities said, meaning that canines will be chasing cars with a tiny circuit embedded in the back of the neck.
Britain's Environment Department said the chips would help reunite owners with lost or stolen pets, promote animal welfare and take the pressure off animal shelters.
"It's a shame 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," Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said. "Microchipping is a simple solution that gives peace of mind to owners."
Many pet owners already have veterinarians insert chips under the skin of dogs, cats and rabbits in a bid to keep track of their animals. The Environment Department said 60 percent of Britain's 8 million pet dogs already have microchips, which can be scanned and matched to their owners' details.
Now officials say what was once an optional extra will become mandatory in three years. Owners who refuse to fit their dogs with chips face fines of up to $800.
Horse owners have had to chip their animals since 2009, an Environment Department spokeswoman said. The chips will remain optional for cats; dogs are out in public more often than their feline counterparts, a spokeswoman said.