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Charity expresses concern at change in stray dog law


THE DOGS Trust fears a change in stray dog legislation will leave citizens frustrated and not knowing which way to turn. From April 6th 2008, police in England and Wales will no longer have responsibility to take in stray dogs, leaving local councils with the sole responsibility of accepting lost or unwanted dogs.

The change, put in place by section 68 of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 means that if a person finds a stray dog, they can no longer simply take it to their local police station. Local authorities will have the responsibility of creating ‘acceptance points’ where stray dogs can be taken – but the Dogs Trust fears that vague wording in the guidance on the new law could lead to dangerous loopholes in the service.

As reported previously in OUR DOGS, DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) says each local authority must provide at least one 24 hour acceptance point ‘where practicable’.
Dogs Trust Veterinary Director Chris Laurence explained the difficulties of the issue: ‘We are concerned that stray dogs may be left wandering the streets during times when dog wardens are not available, such as weekends.’ The problem lies with the wording of the new system due to take place in April: ‘Authorities must, where practicable, provide at least one point of acceptance to which dogs can be taken round the clock.’

The Trust feels that with the use of the phrase ‘where practicable’ there is a risk that councils could claim that caring for every stray dog was not ‘practicable’.

OUR DOGS will be featuring the changes to the law in next week’s issue

• After the law changes what should you do if you find a stray dog?

Contrary to popular belief, rehoming charities such as Dogs Trust cannot accept strays from members of public. Dogs can only be signed over by owners or brought in by dog wardens.
Clarissa Baldwin OBE, CEO of Dogs Trust, explained: ‘Dogs Trust does not take in stray dogs directly from the public, however we do take them in from local authorities once they have completed their seven day statutory period in their care.

‘Sadly, many people are unaware that local authorities have the right to destroy a dog after seven days. Dogs Trust never destroys a healthy dog and we help as many strays as we can.
‘This is a timely reminder to dog owners to make sure their dog is under control at all times.’

• If you find a dog

- If you find a stray dog it is your legal responsibility to reunite the dog with the owner, keep him until the dog warden can collect him, or take him yourself to the local acceptance point.

- If you find a dog with an ID tag, the simplest thing is to return him to his owner
directly.

- If he has no ID, you must contact your local authority so that a report can be created and the dog can be collected.

The first and most obvious action is to do a search of the area where he went
missing.

Contact your local dog warden, vets and local authority to let them know your dog has gone missing.

If he is microchipped or has an ID tag, inform the relevant companies.
You can also try web-based organisations such as DogLost UK and Dog Theft Action (www.dogtheftaction.com)