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Dog Theft Action Summit ‘a success’

THE LONG-AWAITED Dog Theft Action Summit took place last Tuesday, November 15th, hosted by the Kennel Club at its London offices in Clarges Street.

The meeting was organised by Dog Theft Action’s head co-ordinator Margaret Nawrockyi in conjunction with the Kennel Club, chaired by Ian Cawsey MP for Brigg and Goole and attended by several DTA co-ordinators and advisors, senior Kennel Club staff, and representatives from several organisations, including the RCVS, BVA, BSAVA, Dogs Trust, Pet ID, the National Dog Tattoo Register, WAG anti-puppy farm group and Hertfordshire Police.

Delegates heard several first-hand accounts of the impact of dog theft from some of those present, and the discussions that followed covered a wide range of topics including the roles of the police, Government and dog wardens, and what steps need to be taken to combat this growing problem.

Several action points were agreed by the attendees including the setting up of a single national database for lost and stolen pets, the production of a series of leaflets informing the public, vets and dog wardens of what to do in cases of dog theft, and feeding back the results of the meeting to the Home Office, the Government department responsible.

These action points will now be progressed accordingly, most likely by a working party drawn from a number of the organisations present.

All those present agreed that the summit had been a huge success and that it was a great achievement for DTA to have brought together so many different organisations to work together on a common cause.

Margaret Nawrockyi commented: "Dog theft is a growing problem across the UK and this summit allowed a number of keys issues to be aired in an open forum. We were very pleased to see so many organisations coming together to look at ways to tackle this issue and hope that the positive words expressed at the meeting can be turned into positive actions for the benefit of all dogs."

Rosemary Smart, Kennel Club Chief Executive added: "The meeting provided the ideal platform for an invaluable discussion on the important issue of dog theft. The Kennel Club is committed to helping to tackle this problem alongside Dog Theft Action and the other organisations present, and we have already begun work to ensure that the action points agreed at the meeting are dealt with as quickly as possible."

The Canine Press was represented at the DTA Summit by OUR DOGS’ Chief Reporter NICK MAYS, who gives his personal assessment of this historic summit to tackle dog theft.

I’VE OFTEN told people that I’m a dog lover first and foremost and a journalist second. It’s great to be able to combine the two factors in my life (and get paid for writing about that which I love!), but when push comes to shove, dogs will win out over ‘the story’ or ‘the scoop’ every time.

It was for this reason that I couldn’t just ‘stand by’ when I was approached late last year by Margaret Nawrockyi telling me about an organisation she aimed to form with the help of Jayne Hayes and others to combat dog theft and to raise awareness of this distressing issue.

I’d been reporting on the growing tide of dog theft for a number of years and had become concerned that not only were dog thefts increasing in number, but the attitude of the ‘authorities’ – police and Government – to it was getting noticeably less concerned. Thus it was that I found myself reporting on the formation of Dog Theft Action, their first public appearance at Crufts and then finding that I’d become a very willing advisor, one of growing band of advisors who wanted to help Margaret and the DTA, to actually get results, to make ‘the authorities’ sit up and take notice.

Since Crufts, it’s been onwards and upwards for DTA, with numerous public appearances, an amazing symposium in October and then this, their crowning achievement – thus far – the DTA Summit. And believe me when I tell you, the summit was one of those days when history was made. That’s no journo hype either – Margaret’s indefatigable enthusiasm and belief in what she and her fellow co-ordinators and advisors are doing is what brought together representatives from so many disparate organisations in hitherto unheard-of co-operation to tackle one single issue: dog theft.

When Margaret and I walked into the boardroom at the Kennel Club’s Clarges Street HQ at approximately 10.55am on Tuesday, November 15th we both had our breath literally taken away. Tables filed the length of the ballroom, and almost every seat was occupied by someone who was there to help, to offer an opinion, to take part…. to fight dog theft!

Great respect and many thanks are due to Ian Cawsey, Labour MP for Brigg & Goole who chaired the meeting. Ian is an old friend of Margaret’s and has been a staunch supporter of DTA since the very beginning, offering invaluable help and advice at all stages. It’s very easy to knock MPs, especially those in the governing party (I know, I have), but credit where it‘s due – Ian is one of that rare breed of conviction politicians who put issues before party policy, and animals have always been Ian’s passion and he speaks up on their behalf at all opportunities. In fact, during the course of the meeting he was able to offer more invaluable pieces of advice, whilst masterfully chairing the whole proceedings over a tight two-hour schedule and still allowing everyone to voice their opinions and concerns.

Whilst it was tremendously encouraging to see the RSPCA, PDSA, Dogs Trust, GDBA, BVA, DogLost, WAG and the KC and identification registries such as Pet ID, the National Dog Tattoo Register and Petlog all sitting down and working together with DTA, it was at the same time very disappointing that there was no ‘official’ police presence. No one from ACPO or any of the other police governing bodies attended. In fact, ACPO refused bluntly to come and failed to send a representative, even after Home Office Minister Hazel Blears suggested that they should re-think their decision.

That said, it was pleasing to see two serving police officers attending. PC Duncan Askew and Sgt Yvonne Mann of Hertfordshire constabulary both have taken a keen interest in dog theft and expressed several helpful points in how to take the campaign forward. It’s a sad reflection on the police as a whole that senior officers appear to show no interest in what amounts to a major crime epidemic in the UK, but a glowing tribute to the men and women ‘on the beat’ who DO care and put themselves out to actually tackle crime.

It was also unfortunate that Sue Bell, President of the National Dog Warden Association was unable to attend. There was, then, no dog warden representation or input at the Summit. The DTA symposium six weeks earlier had been attended by several individual dog wardens who expressed deep feelings and opinions about dog theft and wanted to be involved – so hopefully some form of dog warden representation can be included in further discussions arising from the Summit.

Thankfully however, some ‘late news’ from the NDWA was included when I read an extract from the proceedings of the Association’s AGM held at the beginning of November, when it was shown that police responsibility for stray dogs WILL continue for at least the next six months as funding for local authorities to take over this function under the terms of Cleaner Neighbourhoods Act has not yet been agreed. In fact, I only came across that piece of information the previous day, so it underlines the need for all organisations to co-operate and share information.

However, these were just minor niggles in a day of great encouragement and mutual co-operation. I firmly believe that one day, people will look back on those two hours in the KC boardroom on November 15th 2005 as the day the tide began to turn and the spectre of dog theft in the UK began to fade. And around 30 people will be able to say with justifiable pride: "I was there the day we beat dog theft."

photo by Paul Keevil
OUR DOGS Chief Reporter Nick Mays makes a point at the summit,
whilst Ian Cawsey and Margaret Nawrockyi look on

DTA Co-ordinator Margaret Nawrockyi and Ian Cawsey MP, who chaired the meeting