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DNA reveals sad truth about Jester

THE FATE of ‘Jester’, the Rottweiler upon whose name the Jester’s Law Road Traffic Accident campaign is based was finally revealed last week with confirmation that Jester had, indeed, been killed by being hit by a vehicle on a busy major road close to his home.

As reported previously, the campaign was started by Nikki Powditch of dog theft lobby group Dog Theft Action to ensure that the bodies of dogs that have been run over are scanned for microchips and checked for tattoos and other forms of identification has been incorporated into a nationwide policy by the Highways Agency.

Nikki was devastated earlier this year when three-year old Jester disappeared on a walk in Twyford Woods in Colsterworth, Lincolnshire. She was later advised that the body of a large black dog had been removed from the A1 by the Highways Agency’s Managing Agent Contractors;
AMScott. It appeared that the dog had been ‘processed’ along with other road casualties in a matter of hours. Nikki was horrified to discover that the remains of canine road casualties are not routinely scanned for microchips!

On the day of the accident, Nikki visited the spot where the dog’s body had been removed and found a few remains of internal organs and body hairs that had been left by the contractors after removing the dog’s body. Nikki carefully pushed the remains up onto the grass verge alongside the road and covered them over so that nothing would eat or disturb them. Later on, her husband returned with a container and collected some of the remains which Nikki kept in a freezer, with a view to having a DNA test done to determine whether or not the dog was Jester.

"A friend offered me the money for the tests as they were expensive," Nikki told OUR DOGS. " I had found a lab that could do them - Quest Gen Forensics in Davis, California. My own vet sectioned the remains as required and I sent them to America along with one of Jester’s toys that had saliva inside, along with hairs that I knew were his."

The lab conducted a series of DNA tests on the remains and the samples on the dog toy and found that they all matched.

"Of course I was devastated to learn the truth at last," adds Nikki. "I’d pretty much accepted that Jester was probably dead, although there was a question mark over the remains due to an eyewitness saying about the dog wearing a different coloured collar that that which Jester was wearing. But I now have closure. The toy is being returned to me and then, together with the remains that I have left here, it will all be cremated. I'll have the ashes back home where they belong as should have been the case in the first place."

However, Nikki takes heart from the fact that Jester’s death was not in vain and that the Jester’s Law campaign has achieved so much in such a short space of time. Last month, Nikki received an e-mail from Graham Littlechild of the Highways Agency, confirming that, following meetings between the Agency and various officials that the Agency would be issuing an Area Management Memorandum, a document that gives guidance to our Agents on the introduction of new procedures for 'Managing and Identifying Canine Fatalities on the Network'.

Mr Littlechild added: "I will be forwarding the details on to AMScott today although a lot of it is based on procedures that they had either already auctioned or were looking to implement. All other Managing Agent Contractors or Term Maintenance Contractors will be notified by the relevant Highways Agency Area teams over the coming days.

Nikki was delighted that the HA had incorporated all her suggestions as a national policy and said that it was a vindication of DTA’s ethos that polite persistence can pay off in the long run.

Nikki told OUR DOGS: "Dogs being incinerated or otherwise disposed of when found dead without being scanned should never have been happening in the first place. I'm devastated to have been the one who had to suffer the possible death of my own dog in order to bring this to the attention of the HA, dog lovers and general public.

"Having said that, I'm really pleased with the way in which the HA took everything on board, Area 7 purchasing the scanners initially and now a National Procedures Team implementing Jesters Law and subsequent suggestions from the meeting – storing bodies in freezers, informing the police, dog wardens, vets and so on, with better data collection and identifying in general. They could so easily have refused to act, but they took my comments on board and acted upon them.

"Jester’s name will live on forever, his legacy will, I hope, save many other dog owners from the heartache I had to go through if they are unfortunate enough to lose their dogs in this horrible way."