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RSPCA to ‘reward’ local authorities


The RSPCA has launched its Community Animal Welfare Footprint scheme to highlight ‘good practice’ by councils and other bodies involved with pet welfare.

The idea is to reward those organisations which are responsible for the implementation of laws and regulations governing pet ownership. Stray dogs, ‘status dogs’, pets in social housing and contingency planning for emergencies are all considered to be worthy of consideration for Bronze, Silver or Gold ‘Footprints’ as they are to be called.

RSPCA Senior Local Government Adviser, Piers Claughton, told Our Dogs: ‘When it comes to animal welfare, councils are often criticised but seldom rewarded, so we are trying to redress the balance. Dogs being used as weapons on housing estates, stray dogs roaming the streets, houses packed to the rafters with unkempt cats – these are all headlines we’ve seen which may reflect badly on councils. Because of their wide remit,’ he continued, ‘councils can affect animals in many ways, but until now there hasn’t been much guidance as to what they should do, and how they should do it. Through this scheme, the RSPCA is aiming to celebrate those councils that are doing things well, and maybe offer ideas to those who are looking for advice.’

The Kennel Club’s Good Citizen Scheme already presents awards to local government, dog training clubs and other organisations since the scheme began ten years ago. The objectives of the scheme are to promote the benefits that dogs bring to our society and are a way of promoting responsible dog ownership and socially acceptable dogs. It does seem that the RSPCA scheme is firmly based on this far sighted initiative for there are many similarities in approach and detail. What is more – there is money available from the Kennel Club for implementing responsible dog ownership schemes.

Amused

The National Dog Warden Association’s President, Sue Bell, was amused. Having studied the press release sent to her by Our Dogs she said that the categories were those that had been set out quite clearly as the main objectives of the NWDA at their annual three day conference last year, at which Piers Claughton of the RSPCA was an invited speaker. At that Conference, Wirral’s Chief Police Officer asked Mr Claughton why it was that when the RSPCA was asked for help by his officers they were always told it was their problem and nothing to do with the charity. Sue also said: ‘the RSPCA Summer Conference uses many of the speakers on their panel. It is nice to think that the RSPCA are working along the same line as us.’ Sue ended by saying that the objectives of the RSPCA’s welfare ‘Footprint’ were laudable but the main reason that all local authorities could not get a Gold Award (and many could not even manage a Bronze) was because the budgets to achieve those desirable goals were just not available. ‘Dog Wardens need no lessons from the RSPCA’ she said. ‘Councils do not lack guidance - they just lack money’
The categories for which councils and housing providers can qualify for Footprints are:

• Stray Dogs – Up to 2006, local authorities dealt with around 65,000 stray dogs a year, and this is due to increase following the recent hand-over of out-of-hours responsibility from the police. A Bronze level Footprint will be given to councils with basic policies include scanning for microchips and basic dog handling training for officers. A Gold Footprint would require councils to microchip all stray dogs.

• Housing – A poor housing policy can lead to problems such as fouling, straying and the anti-social use of dogs. Bronze level would require written guidelines to ensure that pets can be looked after healthily and without causing a nuisance for neighbours. Gold level would include discounted neutering schemes to prevent unwanted breeding.

• Contingency Planning – Recent incidents, such as flooding, have shown that people may risk themselves if their pets are not cared for. A Bronze Footprint will go to councils with temporary animal shelters and a pet evacuation plan, while Gold would include a proactive campaign to ensure pet owners knew what to do in case of emergency.

• Animal Welfare Principles – Bronze would require a general animal welfare policy based on the Animal Welfare Act 2006, while Silver and Gold would require the promotion of wider animal welfare issues such as fireworks and dogs dying in hot cars, through to a council policy on only using higher-welfare meat and eggs.

In addition to these standards, councils can apply for one of three annual ‘Innovator in Animal Welfare Awards’, which will reward an initiative or project which takes an innovative approach to dealing with an animal welfare issue. (This taken direct from the Kennel Club Good Citizen scheme, incidentally where one of the categories for the most innovative proposal to encourage responsible dog ownership). The awards will be judged in three categories: local authorities in Wales; unitary and county councils in England; and district and borough councils in England.

Councils and other organisations are invited to apply for an award under the scheme. The closing date for entries is 18 July 2008 and you can get more information at www.rspca.org.uk/cawf.