JAYNE HAYES founder of the groups Dog Theft Action and Doglost.co.uk was kindly asked to address the problem of dog theft at the National Dog Warden Association Seminar held at the Lion Hotel, Shrewsbury on Thursday last week, (17th March).
Hayes found that the issues being brought to her attention by owners of missing dogs were also being encountered by dog wardens all over the UK.
The issue of Police co-operation was greeted with great animation - with the majority of the audience agreeing that the Police do not seem to take the issue of missing and stolen dogs seriously. However some Wardens have managed to form working relationships with some concerned Police forces that increase the process of re-unification.
Concern was raised over the Clean Neighbourhood and Environment Bill which, if passed, will in effect take the out of hours responsibility for missing dogs away from the Police and onto the local Authorities. Although, ironically, this may in fact be a good thing in the future - if well thought out- due to the lack of communication in many cases between the Police and owners and Authorities.
However it appears that DEFRA have not thought this legislation through or indeed spoken to the organisations involved. In fact, not one Animal Warden in the Hall had been notified and worryingly not even the Kennel Club or Battersea Dogs Home were consulted.
No other system has been put in place to cope with "Out of Hours" dogs and the issues of who is to fund a 24hr service, has not been raised. Indeed one Warden has said that her own Police force are already operating the system of not being responsible for missing dogs before the bill has been passed!
Grant McPhee a spokesman from DEFRA actually said the government wanted the bill to be passed before the General Election – expected in just a few weeks’ time – leaving no time at all for the local authorities to make alternative arrangements for the collection and kennelling of strays.
A few concerns were made that small ads may appear in local papers offering to collect strays out of hours that the public may revert to using if there is no other "collection" available, this could be prone to misuse by unscrupulous people.
Derek Conway MP for old Bexley and Sidcup expressed his concern and apologized for the lack of scrutiny on behalf of the Government and summed the bill up as a very unsatisfactory piece of work and a bizarre way to create a new law, a law that will not work.
One local Authority who already who already implement a 24hr pick up policy stated that this year they have already picked up over 200 dogs out of hours - what is going to happen to these dogs if the bill is rushed through with out an infra-Structure in place?
Jane Hayes is concerned that hers and other volunteer sites will be inundated with calls from the public who do not know what to do with dogs they have found ‘out of hours’.
Another issue brought up was automatic microchip scanning of all new animals at vets. Some Wardens said that they would like to see mandatory identification by microchip or tattoo which would make re-unification easier and also to help address the problem of ‘dumped’ dogs.
Hayes also announced, the forthcoming unique Dog Warden Pages to be added shortly to her group’s website Doglost.co.uk. Basically all Wardens would be given a user code so they could put their found dogs on site with a photo.
There would also be a contact page so Dog Wardens could send emails to all other dog wardens via DogLost’s mass efax system- by either selecting areas of UK or individual Dog Wardens, this page would be in their own user area and not accessible to the general public.
All present seemed to be in agreement but were concerned their local Authorities would not pay for such a service. However when told it would be free, they indicated that they were fully behind the need to communicate with each other more fully.
Hayes told OUR DOGS how one Dog Warden who was made more aware of Doglost actually went on site the day after the conference and was amazed to see that two dogs she had picked up on March 15th (not micro-chipped) were on the lost list and she was able to re-unite them with their relieved owners.
"This emphasizes the need for communication," Added Hayes. "Another Dog Warden actually said he had done a survey amongst his dog owners on who they should contact if their dog goes missing - unfortunately the top answer was the Police, the next answer was the RSPCA and the bottom answer was the Dog Warden! All at the seminar were in agreement that the public need to be aware of their services."
Hayes found the Question & Answer session at the seminar extremely informative and was impressed with the dedication of the Dog Wardens to their work and in most cases their absolute passion for their dogs.
Hayes’ speech was greeted warmly by those assembled and proved, yet again, that individual organisations cannot afford to stand alone in making sure that the welfare of dogs is considered seriously by the Government and authorities. "Unity is the keyword here," said Hayes. "Dog loss, dog theft, stray dogs, dog welfare – it’s all part of the same equation and together we must all work to do our very best for dogs."