Owners and breeders of dogs and cats spoke out yesterday before a City Council committee against a proposal to require microchip implants in the animals and increase licensing fees - with a greater burden on owners who do not spay or neuter their pets.
The proposals, included in an amendment to a bill narrowly defeated by the City Council in May, would require every cat and dog in the city to have an implanted microchip that identifies ownership and health information.
"The microchip allows us to quickly remove dangerous animals," Dr. Peter L. Beilenson, city health commissioner, told the council's Housing, Health and Environment Committee. "This bill makes it easier to enforce current laws."
Proposed by the city administration and sponsored by Councilwoman Agnes Welch, the measures are aimed at the city's mounting problem of aggressive dogs roaming the streets and an increase in illegal organized dog-fighting, while addressing greater responsibility by pet owners.
Because the microchip displays ownership information, animal control officers would have the authority to remove any animal on the street that lacks the imbedded device - inert and about the size of a grain of rice, according to Robert L. Anderson, who directs the city's Bureau of Animal Control.
Other jurisdictions in Maryland use the technology, he said, explaining how a wand is waved over the shoulder blade of the dog, where the microchip is inserted, and a readout appears on a monitor.
Anderson said that the city's laws on the removal of dogs are nearly impossible to enforce, and that requirement of an implanted microchip would make it easier to discern when an animal on the street should be seized.
Nearly 30 people attended last night's hearing, and most opposed the council's solution, saying it fails to address the source of problem dogs: their owners.
"A vicious dog is taught to be that way," said Alison J. Webb, who owns two pit bulls. "This is not the solution to reduce dog attacks."
Several speakers said the proposed legislation isn't fair to breeders, who would pay higher licensing fees for animals that are not spayed or neutered.