The move, part of a wider package of measures designed to clamp down on dangerous animals, had been called for by major animal charities, including the RSPCA.

DEFRA minister Jim Paice (left) explained that compulsory microchipping could help tackle the problem of irresponsible owners and ease the overwhelming number of strays that are put down when an owner cannot be identified.

The move would be popular with the public ? 84% of respondents to a consultation in 2010 said they wanted to see compulsory microchipping introduced, and 58% of dog owners have already had their dogs microchipped voluntarily.

DEFRA has denied press reports that its proposed changes to the dangerous dogs law could lead to homeowners being prosecuted if their dogs attack burglars.

A spokesman said: ?Law abiding homeowners will not be penalised and burglars will not be protected.?