British dog owners may be forced to microchip their pets and take out insurance, part of a proposed crackdown on the country's dangerous canines.
Postmen are delighted, but civil libertarians grumble that Britain's sprawling surveillance state now wants to track the nation's estimated 8 million dogs. Others complain that the insurance plan would impose a financial penalty on innocent pet owners — while criminals who own violent animals will simply shirk the law.
"This is yet more surveillance and continuous data-grabbing by government who want to have as much information on us as it can possibly have," said Dylan Sharpe, a campaigner with rights group Big Brother Watch. Opposition lawmaker Nick Herbert said the proposal risked "penalizing millions of law-abiding dog owners with the blunt instrument of a dog tax."
The government's proposals are aimed at tackling the growing problem of aggressive canines being used to harass, attack and even kill. In a country where guns are tightly controlled and even carrying a kitchen knife can result in a prison sentence, animal rights experts and politicians say street thugs have turned to dangerous-looking dogs to cow their victims.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said the number of complaints about dog fights had soared 10-fold between 2004 and 2008, the last year for which figures were available. In 2009, London Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse called for action on what he called "weapon dogs."