| All dogs in England to be microchipped by 2016|
|All dogs in England will, from April 2016, have to be microchipped as part of a government attempt to cut the number of strays and make pet owners more responsible for their animals.|
Each year about 110,000 dogs in Britain are abandoned or lost, at a cost of £57m to the taxpayer and welfare charities. In more than half the cases the owners cannot be identified.
Microchips, which are the size of a grain of rice and are fitted under the skin between the dog's shoulder blades, allow vets, councils and charities to find out who owns a dog if it is thought to be a stray.
About 60% of the UK's 8m pet dogs are already microchipped, but from 6 April 2016 it will become compulsory, with the dog registered on one of the authorised commercial databases. Owners will also have to register the details of any new owner if they sell or give the dog away.
Anyone who breaks the rules gets a short period to comply with the law, then the next stage is a fine of up to £500.
The environment secretary, Owen Paterson, said: "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. I am determined to put an end to this and ease the pressure on charities and councils to find new homes for these dogs."
While the microchipping can cost £20 to £30 if done by a vet, the animal welfare charities the Dogs Trust, Battersea Dogs Home, and the Blue Cross, will provide a free microchip for any unchipped dog at centres across the UK.
Paterson also announced new police powers , covering dangerous dogs, extending the laws on dog attacks to cover incidents on private property. At the moment those whose animals injure people on private land escape prosecution.
Eight children and six adults have been killed in dog attacks in the UK since 2005, many of which happened in the home. In the last year alone more than 3,000 postal workers were attacked by out of control dogs, and 70% of those attacks were on private property.
The Blue Cross warned, however, that there should preventive rules concerning potentially dangerous dogs, allowing authorities to act after signs of "antisocial behaviour" but before any attack.
The RSPCA welcomed the rules but said: "We believe preventive measures, such as dog control notices, are required as well as dog registration to improve dog owners' accountability, deter casual acquirers of dogs, and fund owner education services.
"Early intervention with owners prevents suffering to animals as well as protects public safety where owners fail to control their dogs."