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All about forests, rivers, oceans
Australia orders Japanese whalers to stay away
Esther Woolfson's urban nature diary
Ladbrokes is gambling with fish extinction and so is the government
US wildlife officials propose endangered status for wolverines
The hare's death-scream tells of a history soon over
The ethics of keeping a killer cat
It's as if the landscape and stream are caught amid their own owl dreams
Many more seabirds may be affected by Channel pollution, RSPB says
Leading paper firm pledges to halt Indonesian deforestation
Fishing campaigners urge MEPs to vote for discards reform
Dog attack law to be extended to cover incidents on private property
The return of grey wolves 'not enough to restore Yellowstone's ecosystem'
Oil additive polymer PIB may be responsible for seabird deaths
MEPs vote to ban discards in historic reform of fishing policy
All dogs in England to be microchipped by 2016
Some of nature's mysteries are all the better for going unsolved
First the internet, now Monopoly cats have got our attention
Polar bears 'may need to be fed by humans to survive'
Invasive mussel poses ecological and economic threat to island community
Ancestor of humans and other mammals was small furry insect eater
Conflict in DRC Congo threatens chimpanzee tourism programme
The intruder, a raven, passed through the treetops into view
The horsemeat scandal: could there be much more to come?
Circuses remove last of the big cats from UK's big tops
  Dog attack law to be extended to cover incidents on private property
The government has announced plans to extend legal protection over dog attacks to cover incidents on private property.

The move will be a boost for postmen and women, health visitors and others who call at private addresses but who have not been covered by the law if they are bitten by a dog.

Ministers are also expected to announce compulsory microchipping of dogs, with owners being given three years to comply.

Both measures will cover England and follow a consultation last year on issues including dangerous dogs.

Owen Paterson, the environment secretary, is expected to say the law will be changed to close a loophole that prevents police from taking action against the owners of dogs that attack people on private property.

It is believed police will be given the authority to decide whether a dog subject to court proceedings needs to be kept apart from its owners until the outcome.

Previously, all such dogs had to be kennelled until proceedings had concluded, even if they posed no risk to the public.

About 110,000 stray dogs are picked up by police, local authorities and animal welfare charities each year, with around half unable to be reunited with their owner because they cannot be identified.

Around 6,000 dogs are put down each year, while strays cost the taxpayer and welfare charities £57m a year.

Thousands of postal workers and telecom engineers are attacked by dogs every year, mainly on private property, such as gardens, drives and private roads.

The law has been changed in Scotland and Northern Ireland, with legislation in the process of being altered in Wales.

Eight children and six adults have been killed in dog attacks since 2005, while more than 6,000 people needed hospital treatment between 2010 and 2011. The Dogs Trust, which has been campaigning for compulsory microchipping for more than a decade, said it would welcome any announcement on the issue, adding: "This immediate method of identification is essential to improve dog welfare and we believe it will help to reduce the number of dogs that needlessly end up with an uncertain fate in council pounds and rescue centres when their owners simply cannot be traced."

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Paterson said microchipping would speed up tracing lost dogs to their owners.

"If a dog commits a dangerous act and is then caught, its owner will be traced. If it is not, has not got a chip, the owner, after 2016, will be in trouble," he said.

"It is another tool which I hope will bear down on this problem.

"It is not an insignificant problem eight children and six adults have been killed since 2005, which is absolutely shocking.

"Of course we have problems with postal workers 3,000 postal workers are attacked a year, and some of them quite seriously.

"So it is not going to eliminate the problem, obviously, but I think it is going to be a help."

The British Veterinary Association's president, Peter Jones, said compulsory microchipping was something that vets had long campaigned for.

"Microchipping is a safe and effective way to link dogs to their owners and is an essential part of responsible ownership," said Jones. "Microchipping is a small cost in terms of dog ownership with veterinary practices offering microchipping for around £15-£20 or for free as part of a practice promotion. Dogs Trust and other rehoming charities are also offering free microchipping at their centres and through local authorities."

The RSPCA gave a cautious welcome to the announcement but warned that more preventive measures were needed to improve animal welfare.

David Bowles, the body's head of public affairs, said: "Compulsory microchipping and extending the law to cover private property as well as public spaces is a welcome move. However, on their own we don't believe they will make owners more responsible or ensure fewer dogs bite people or other animals.

"The number of warnings the RSPCA issued to dog owners due to poor welfare last year was up by 12% on 2011, while the number of dog bites that required hospitalisation has gone up by 26% in the past four years.

"If the government is trying to tackle these, we don't see how compulsory microchipping will help reduce either of these figures."
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Geoffrey Matthews obituary
World's largest captive crocodile dies in Philippines
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