Tue, Nov 07, 2017 - Page 3 News List

COA ‘exploring’ use of facial recognition to control stray dogs

By Lin Yan-tung and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

A top Council of Agriculture official yesterday said it might develop facial recognition technology for pet registration to replace chipping, in an effort to address the country’s growing stray dog population.

Director of Animal Industry Hsieh Yao-ching (謝耀清), who is newly appointed, made the surprising remark during his maiden question-and-answer session at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.

More shelters are urgently needed to help local governments control the stray dog population, but the issue should be tackled at its source, Hsieh said, referring to people abandoning their pets.

“Mandatory chipping has not been a policy success and we are evaluating the viability of using facial recognition,” Hsieh said.

Council of Agriculture Minister Lin Tsung-hsien (林聰賢) told lawmakers that the government is experiencing difficulties in making all shelters in the country “no-kill shelters.”

Since the council started implementing the policy in February, local governments have been reporting overcrowding at animal shelters and an uptick of stray dogs on their streets, sources have said.

“Because of the policy, some parts of the country now have no space in animal shelters at all,” Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chang Li-shan (張麗善) said.

The council had been given all the money it asked for to implement the policy and should therefore do a better job, she said.

Lin Tsung-hsien replied that the no-kill shelter policy had been a rushed decision.

“Frankly, local governments and the general public are simply not ready for it,” he said.

“It is not true that some localities have no available shelters,” Lin Tsung-hsien said. “However, the additional capacity that is needed has generally failed to materialize, because while people want animal shelters, they do not want them in their back yards.”

The “nine-in-one” elections for local government heads and councilors are next year, further complicating handling the issue at the local level, Lin Tsung-hsien said.

The council is having internal discussions to develop a differentiated strategy to deal with the stray animal issue that takes differences between urban and rural areas into account, he added.

The tentative solution would involve some form of collaboration between local veterinarians and municipal or county governments, Lin Tsung-hsien said.

When Hsieh was asked to clarify his comments about facial recognition technology for animals, he said the idea was still being explored.

“I will tell the public more about this proposal after we collect enough information,” he said.

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