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Government says all dogs in England must be fitted with microchips by 2016

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This undated photo released on Wednesday Feb. 6, 2013 by the Blue Cross shows a Jack Russell terrier being scanned for a microchip at the Blue Cross Lewknor Rehoming Centre in London. British authorities say that all dogs in England will have to be fitted with microchips from 2016. Britain's Environment Department says the chips will help reunite owners with lost or stolen pets, promote animal welfare and take pressure off shelters. (AP Photo/Martin Phelps, Blue Cross) (The Associated Press)

British authorities say all dogs in England will have to be fitted with microchips by 2016.

Britain's Environment Department says the chips will help reunite owners with lost or stolen pets, promote animal welfare and take the pressure off animal shelters.

Many British pet owners already have veterinarians insert chips under the skin of dogs, cats, rabbits and horses in a bid to keep track of their animals.

The Environment Department says 60 percent of Britain's 8 million pet dogs already have microchips, which can be scanned and matched to their owners' details.

But officials say the option will become mandatory in three years. Owners who refuse to fit their dogs with chips face fines of up to 500 pounds ($800).

It will still be optional for horses and cats.