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Jester’s Law is well on the road

THE CAMPAIGN by the 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 made significant steps forward in just over a month since the matter was raised with the Highways Agency.

The feature published in the July 1st issue of OUR DOGS ‘Microchips in the Gutter’ by reporter Heather Harley first highlighted the campaign to get all road casualties scanned for microchips that was started by owner Nikki Powditch.

Nikki was devastated earlier this year when her three-year old Rottweiler, 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!

Dog Theft Action were delighted to report progress in the August 5th issue of OUR DOGS (Dog Theft Action Hail Jester’s Law), saying that following a meeting between DTA, the Highways Agency (HA) and AMScott, all road casualties found in area 7 which covers Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Derbyshire will be scanned prior to disposal.

Ben Cook of AMScott told Nikki: "As discussed we are currently reviewing our procedure to identify dogs found on the area 7 road network. Our new steps will help to trace the owner by making it obligatory to scan the dog for a microchip. This will help to relieve any unnecessary distress and prevent recurrence of the recent unfortunate incident. We will also make sure that our new procedure is discussed at our best practice working group forum, as promised."

Spurred on by this positive outcome Nikki wrote to the other thirteen HA ‘Areas’, responsible for the design, works and maintenance of the motorways and trunk roads in the UK. In a promising reply from HA, Area 3, which covers Berks, Bucks, Dorset, Hants, Surrey and Oxon, Jen Cantillon said: "I can assure you that I have spoken in great detail with Ben Cook from AMScott in area 7 about the scanners they are purchasing and how they are organising the implementation - so that I could make a firm recommendation to our contractors."

This was followed by a response from Mac Booker from Area 5 South Traffic Operations, which has responsibility for Berks, Buck, Essex, Herts, Kent and the M25 in Surrey. Mr Booker assured Nikki: "I do genuinely sympathise with you over the loss of your dog. I too am an owner of dogs and know well the extreme sadness experienced when a cherished pet is lost. I should point out though, that dogs close to main roads should be kept on a lead, as they can be a major threat to road safety. I believe this is covered by The Road & Traffic Act (1988)."

After stating his intention to add Jester’s Law to the next Service Review meeting, Mr Booker contacted Nikki again after receiving output from the Highways Agency ‘Best Practice Group’. He wrote: "It seems you have created quite a stir, Nikki. The result of the meeting is that Area 7's Managing Agent has decided to acquire 2 scanners for use in identifying dead animals recovered from their patch. So it looks as if the precedent has been set and the Best Practice Group appears to think it prudent to consider further introduction."

DTA Co-ordinator Margaret Nawrockyi commented: "This is excellent news. DTA hopes that the remaining HA Areas will obtain scanners as soon as possible and use them correctly, scanning the whole body – not just the neck -to try to identify deceased pets killed on our roads. We also hope that they will consider storing the remains for a short period of time to give owners the opportunity to discover their pet’s fate and make alternative arrangements for disposal if they wish."

So is the Jester’s Law campaign over? The answer from mother-of-two Nikki, is a resounding no! She says: "There’s along way to go. I don’t know for sure that Jester is dead! I don’t know that the dog collected from the A1 was my dog – no collar was found - yet Jester was wearing his new black, leather, half-check collar. If the A1 dog was Jester - who removed his collar?"

Witnesses reported seeing a red collar on the deceased dog and one witness, a veterinary nurse said the dog was wearing baler twine round its neck. Nikki is interested to know if someone removed the collar and also which vehicle hit the dog. In the sight of these ambiguities and in desperation to achieve closure on this distressing incident, Nikki retrieved tissue debris from the roadside. She hopes someone will come forward to help her obtain DNA testing to discover unequivocally if the dog killed on the A1 was in fact, Jester.

A recent email to DTA from Surrey-based Animal Warden Mandy Dorman has highlighted a similar matter of concern. She notes that rail track workers bury deceased dogs where they fall. Again without making note of identifying features or tattoos, scanning for microchips or retrieving collars! Mandy says: "If a car driver kills a dog on the road they have to inform the Police, it's the law, so why not Network Rail?" She continues: "The Local Authority Street Cleansers in my area carry a scanner and say they scan all cats and dogs. They would then inform the owners direct. They are meant to inform me but I am aware of a couple of dogs that I wasn't told about. So the system isn't infallible."

Jester’s Law has exposed these areas where owners of microchipped dogs are not getting what they believe they have paid for. At a recent meeting between DTA, Doglost UK and the Kennel Club, Jayne Hayes said: "Microchipping was set up originally to reunite missing dogs with their owners and for pet passports. When Doglost UK was founded only one in four dogs reported missing or stolen was microchipped now four in five dogs are chipped. However the people who have paid for this service expect support from their Local Authorities, the Highways Agency and Network Rail. Doglost applauds individuals like Nikki Powditch for bringing this issue into the public eye."

So although responsible dog owners are taking care to permanently identify their dogs, either by microchip or tattoo, they do not necessarily receive the support they expect from the agencies that might come into contact with their dog if it should stray.

Margaret Nawrockyi concludes: "The question we have to ask is, if these agencies would follow AMScott’s lead and make it obligatory to identify by scanning and/or other means, the remains of deceased dogs, how may cases of missing/stolen dogs could be solved? How many owners could obtain closure, grieve for their much-loved pet and move on – instead of living with uncertainty for ever?"

Anyone wanting further information about aspects of Jester’s Law can contact Nikki Powditch
on Nickspea@aol.com or 01664 464529

Dog Theft Action website: www.dogtheftaction.co.uk
E-mail: admin@dogtheftaction.info