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Responsibility for strays falls to local councils

TOTAL RESPONSIBILITY for the handling of stray dogs will be transferred away from the police to local authorities in England and Wales from April 2008.

The change, made at the behest of DEFRA, comes as part of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act, which was enacted two years ago.

However, the removal of responsibility from the police for stray dogs – particularly ‘out of hours’- was delayed due to arguments over the funding for local authorities to provide a 24-hour dog warden service.

The plan still appears to have had little thought. In a letter Rory Wallace of DEFRA’s Head, Local Environmental Quality Team to local authorities and other ‘stakeholders’, it is pointed out that £4 million of extra funding has been set aside to help the transition but only for the out of hours service – daytime funding still has to come from the local authority’s budget.

In guidelines issued by DEFRA, it is suggested that authorities with minimum funding can develop ‘a partnership’ approach’ with local kennels and welfare organisations to addressing problems with stray dog in the locality, and even develop contracts with sub-contractors to handle strays, such has been the case in Hampshire, where the police ceased being responsible for stray dogs ahead of the rest of the UK.

The guideline state that ‘Contracts should be reviewed regularly to ensure service delivery is of a consistently high standard and that tendering is competitive.’

A full report on the new guidelines will appear in next week’s OUR DOGS.