DOG lovers and vets in Cheltenham have welcomed proposals to microchip their pets under plans aimed at cutting the number of strays.
The Government has announced that from April 2016, every dog owner in England will have to microchip their animal – or face a £500 fine.
Tiny chips planted under the dog's skin will be coded with owners' details – meaning they are easily traceable.
The move comes after it was revealed more than 100,000 dogs were dumped or lost each year – at a cost of £57 million to the taxpayer and welfare charities.
Dan Farmer, manager at the Honeybourne Veterinary Centre, in Overton Park Road, Cheltenham, said it would put an end to much of the heartbreak caused to owners who lost their pets.
"I'm all for it," he said. "When you think of the sadness it causes families to lose their pets – especially children – this will go a long way towards stopping that.
"Injecting the microchip is relatively easy – it's only about the size of a grain of rice and it goes underneath the skin between the shoulder blades.
"It's a sure way of enabling that animal can be traced."
The announcement comes after animal welfare workers in Cheltenham revealed there had been a surge in the number of dog thefts in the area, with some breeds of puppy being flogged illegally for up to £600. Deb Barron, at Cheltenham Animal Shelter, said compulsory microchipping would help stop criminals prospering.
Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood, who has campaigned for this measure for years, also welcomed the move, saying: "This move has been a long time coming but I'm delighted the Government is now going to do the right thing.
"Microchipping will help to bring down the number of unidentified strays. It will also help the authorities to identify dangerous dog owners who allow their animals to hurt other animals and pose a threat to human beings."
Dog owners will be able to have their pets microchipped for free today by the borough council's dog warden on the Honeybourne Line, between Waitrose and the railway station, from 11.30am to 1.30pm.
The council said it would await Government guidance on enforcing the regulations.