Will the reintroduction of the dog licence cause howls of protest?

It was announced recently that the dog licence, long thought to be dead and buried, is to return, zombie-like, from the grave.

Last seen on these shores in 1987, it cost just 37p, which was reasonable even though the country was in the wizened, claw-like grip of Thatcherism and it was a widely believed fact that life for a typical working class family plumbed the depths of poverty typical of the bleakest episode of Boys from the Blackstuff.

However, the price hinted for the mooted new licence has skyrocketed to over £20. The idea of reintroducing the licence has met with approval from the RSPCA, who conducted a report on the matter.

According to them, a licence fee for as ‘little’ as £21.50 per year will help to cut down on the number of stray dogs on the UK’s streets, and help to do something about dog breeders acting in an irresponsible manner.

The study, named ‘Improving Dog Ownership – The Economic Case For Dog Licensing’, estimates that the re-introduction of the license could deliver a vast pot of money to improve the welfare of our dogs. Justifying the licence by comparing it to buying a bar of chocolate a week – roughly 42p – they predict it could bring in over £107 million for the estimated 10 million dogs in the UK. Even if only three quarters of dog owners complied and bought a license, it would mean around £14.50 for each dog.

Ah, compliance. There’s the rub.

Up to now, there are no exact details on how a licence would be enforced. Would the Police have the burden of stopping dog walkers out with their pet on an evening stroll and ask to see their papers, in the same way that a Nazi soldier would confront a suspected English spy in a World War II film? Alternatively, would there be battalions of uniformed officers prowling the streets, itching to write a ticket for a non complying dog owner in the manner of a traffic warden?

In all likelihood, nothing of the sort would happen. The logistics of something like this, and therefore the cost, means that it’s not financially viable. The knock on effect would be that a high proportion of owners would simply not pay, and those that do would feel an understandable sense of injustice. After all, why should responsible owners pay for dogs that will be mistreated by irresponsible owners who don’t pay for a dog license in the first place?

dogs being walked

The case for the re-introduction for the dog licence has been fuelled by figures on the continent. In Europe, 23 countries have a registration scheme, and the Netherlands, Slovenia and Germany report that dog control has improved, along with a reduction in the number of strays, with a compliance rate over 50%.

David Bowles, Director of Communication for the RSPCA, commented:

“In countries which have a dog licence it is seen not as a tax, but as an important part of owning a dog. In Britain we know that a dog licence is welcomed by two out of every three dog owner, more than 70 per cent of who are happy to pay more than £30 for the pleasure and responsibility of owning a dog,”

However, the Chief Executive of the biggest welfare charity for dogs in the UK, the Dogs Trust, demonstrates the old adage that there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.

Clarissa Baldwin, in response to the proposals, points out that a dog licence is a requirement in Northern Island and, although it only costs £5 per year, only a third of owners possess one. It has more stray dogs per head of population than anywhere else in Britain, and the number of animals destroyed represents 34% of the total figure for the UK.

She says:

“Dogs Trust is adamant that a return to the dog licence would provide no welfare benefit to dogs. Dog licensing is little more than a punitive tax on responsible dog owners who already contribute estimated £451 million to the public purse through dog related tax resources.

“Dogs Trust recommends that a system of compulsory microchipping, linking dog to owner, is effective in returning stray and stolen dogs to their owners and which would improve the traceability of battery farmed dogs.”

Until more details emerge of the plans, many dog owners will view the plans for a dog license as unwise, unfair and unworkable.


  • I want compulsory strilization of all newly aquired cats and dogs. Those who wish to breed should pay at least £500 per annum for a breeder’s licence. This would prevent so many unwanted animals. The shelters can’t cope with the problem and thousands of animals are being destroyed. Micro chipping should also be compulsory.

  • “Micro chipping should also be compulsory.”

    The science:



    Did not work in New Zealand and causes adverse reactions.

    MAG recommend implanting in the scruff, veterinary surgeons inject vaccines and other treatment into the same area. Dismissal of reports of adverse reactions at this site are possible because no concrete determination of the cause of the reaction can be proved. Isolation of the cause of the reaction is impossible because of multiple uses of this injection site.

    Who designed the system this way? Why was it designed this way?

    2. Often you are asking the Veterinary surgeon who implanted the microchip to report a reaction. This is hardly going to be something they want to do because the client may litigate or move surgeries.

    3.No legal compulsion to report data exists and no penalty for not reporting data exists. How would anyone know to report it anyway?

    4.Many Veterinary surgeons do not know how to report reactions and therefore could not report them. They do not even know reactions occur.

    5.Adverse reactions need Fine Needle Aspiration biopsies or autopsies for detection. Normal blood tests and x-rays will show nothing. How many owners would autopsy a dead dog to find out the cause of death? How many vets would suggest this knowing the implant may have caused the problem? How much would these specialist tests carried out by specialist laboratories cost? So this is a serious flaw in this poorly thought out system!

    6.If the reaction is not at the site of the implant then how could we connect the microchip to the reaction? Soft Tissue Sarcomas are thought to metastasise in dogs. This occurrence of metastasis may happen one in every four times depending on tumour type according to Betsy Hershy. How do we count these reactions with this system?

    7.Acknowledgment that adverse reaction figures are underreported is often accompanied by figures estimating how much underreporting has occurred. Reactions vary according to stimulus, no estimate could be assumed to be better than a blind guess. Joel Lexchin is associate professor, School of Health Policy and Management, describes this here,“The problems associated with reports are well-known: poor quality of submitted reports; significant underreporting of adverse reactions; difficulty in calculating rates because of incomplete numerator data along with unreliable denominators; and limited ability to establish cause and effect.” So any numbers estimating factors of underreporting by anyone are not scientific because we don’t know how many cases occurred and in this case we cannot gather certain data about the number of implants.

    8. This system has underreported for a number of years. Fred Nind first mentioned this underreporting in the 2003 adverse reaction report when he noted,” 2003 saw a marked increase in the number of reports received through the Adverse Reaction Reporting Scheme. It is significant that several reports were received from some quite small practices while many larger practices filed no reports at all. This suggests that there is an element of under reporting which may be happening for a variety of reasons.” Chris Laurence went further in a conversation I had with him he said, “Undoubtedly, I think drug reactions or anything where you have a voluntary reporting system is inevitably going to be underreported, it would be stupid to deny that, because when you’re talking about practicing vets they, a proportion will be responsible enough to report reactions, equally there will be a proportion that won’t and we try very hard all the distributors try very hard to get people to report reactions. I have written as chairman a couple of articles, I have one going in next month saying, pointing out to people that they should be reporting reactions. I have written to veterinary record they have been clear that people should be reporting reactions, so there is a positive push to get people to report things, you are always going to get underreporting anyone who tells you are not going to get underreporting is talking through their backside basically.” So underreporting is acknowledged but ignored by those using these figures to justify safety and has been for at least seven years.

    9.Add to this that all that is required to implant dogs is a three hour course that 98% of people pass first time and you can see the problems with MRSA and adverse reactions adding up.

    Its animal welfare not animal wealthfare!

    The real issue is education but that doesn’t make money for anyone so it probably won’t be on the agenda for animal welfare types, will it?

  • Yes the licence should at least £50.00 for the first dog and £100.00 for every other dog to the cost of dog wardens to enforce it.There should be a toting up system of points for fouling,not on lead,ill treatment etc and when a set figure is reached the dog is removed.

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