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Bilbo back on the beach

A DOG that was banned from a Cornish beach where he had worked as a canine lifeguard is back on duty as a PR e local council who banned him in the first place.

BilboThe RNLI and Penwith District Council announced plans this week for Bilbo, a privately owned Newfoundland dog used to promote beach safety in West Cornwall. Along with his owner, RNLI lifeguard supervisor Steve Jamieson, Bilbo will spend this summer highlighting safety messages and responsible dog ownership, in schools and at dog friendly beaches.

Bilbo will also make guest appearances on Sennen beach twice a week now that agreements have been reached between the beach owners, the RNLI and Penwith District Council.

As reported previously in OUR DOGS, Bilbo has been part of the lifeguard team at Sennen for the past three years and was praised for helping to prevent a swimmer getting into difficulties. He is ideal for lifeguard work because of his double layer of fur and webbed paws, which allow him, like others of his breed, to swim in the very coldest of Atlantic waters.

He wears a special yellow jacket and can paddle out to stricken swimmers, pulling a rescue float with him.

But his owner, Steve Jamieson, 53, was told by the RNLI when they took over the running of beach safety at Sennen from Penwith District Council earlier this year and has decreed that Bilbo would be unable to patrol as a lifeguard because of a dog ban on the beach and that the concession that that got him round such a ban before was no longer acceptable for ‘safety reasons’.

One local dog owner commented: ‘The RNLI has shot themselves in the foot, because lots of local people who use the beach have criticised them for their high-handed attitude towards Bilbo. He’s been working perfectly well previously without any so-called ‘health and safety’ issues. It’s just petty rules and meddling for the sake of it.’

It appears that the public’s support for Bilbo and the bad publicity his ban generated was the driving factor behind the RNLI’s U-Turn.

Steve said: ‘I’m delighted that Bilbo and I will be able to promote the beach and sea safety messages, which aim to change people’s attitudes and behaviour through education. Bilbo loves visiting schools to help promote beach safety advice, such as the importance of swimming between the red and yellow flags, and he will enjoy twice weekly visits to Sennen beach to meet the public.’

‘If anyone does get into trouble on Sennen beach, they can rest assured that the team of highly trained RNLI lifeguards will be on hand to help, and they work with the local RNLI lifeboat crews at Sennen Cove to provide a seamless beach-to-sea rescue service. There is a full complement of RNLI lifeguards stationed at Sennen beach between May and September, and of course the volunteer crews are on call year-round.’

Arthur Roberts, Head of Operational and Technical Services and Deputy Chief Executive of Penwith District Council says: ‘We are happy to unveil a project for Bilbo that will benefit everyone, including people who visit Penwith each year. Bilbo’s dual role, promoting beach safety and responsible dog ownership, will support the aims of both the RNLI and Penwith District Council. In particular for the council, Steve and Bilbo will be able to encourage responsible ownership of dogs, and that will protect the wishes of the members of the public who choose to visit dog friendly beaches.’

Interestingly, the joint RNLI/Penwith Council press release heralding Bilbo’s duties fails to make any mention of the original ban on the grounds of ‘healthy and safety’. Maybe there is such a thing as bad publicity after all…