New rules may leave
strays to roam the streets
By Jasper Copping
Thousands of lost pet dogs could
be left to roam the streets under new Government plans to deal with strays,
animal welfare groups have warned.
In December 2007 Jasper Copping of the Daily Telegraph wrote:
Police, who are normally responsible for runaways out of office hours,
will no longer take them in - and there will be no standing instruction
for councils to care for them either.
Groups such as the RSPCA, the Kennel Club and the Dogs Trust say it will
lead to an explosion in the number of strays roaming the streets and reduce
the chances of owners being reunited with pets that run off.
Last year, just under half of the 105,000 stray dogs found were later reclaimed
by their owners. Almost 8,000 were eventually put down.
At present, council dog wardens look after strays found during normal office
hours, but at night and at weekends - when many dogs go missing - police
take responsibility for them.
From April, that duty will be handed over to local councils. But new guidelines
from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) do not
compel local authorities to provide an out-of-hours service - they merely
recommend it "where practicable".
Chris Laurence, veterinary director of the Dogs Trust, said: "The Government
is bringing in this new system without thinking it through. It is absolute
"Dogs will be left out over weekends, wandering around the streets and
coming to harm. You will have more being hit by cars and fewer people will
be getting their pets back."
The Government has given only £4 million extra to the 410 local authorities
in England and Wales, which works out at just £9,750 per council,
but even that is not "ringfenced".
This is despite a study in 1997 that found it cost police £15 million
a year at that time to deal with stray dogs.
Where councils do decide to offer an out-of-hours service, people who find
strays will have to take them to the dog pounds themselves, often a long
Claire Robinson, of the RSPCA, said: "There won't be an effective service
and it's going to pose major problems. We're really worried about the consequences.
More dogs will be going stray for longer and that increases the danger to
Cuthbert Jackson, from the National Dog Wardens Association, said: "The
Government has destroyed an infrastructure that has always worked, and they
are not creating a new one.
"It has been dumped on local authorities, who are expected to provide a
gold standard service on grit standard finance."
A spokesman for Defra said: "Local authorities will be receiving more central
government funding to deal with the increased service."