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Jester’s Law adopted by Highways Agency

THE CAMPAIGN by Nikki Powditch of 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 been incorporated into a nationwide policy by the Highways Agency.

In July, OUR DOGS’ original feature ‘Microchips in the Gutter’ written by reporter Heather Harley first highlighted the campaign to get all road casualties scanned for microchips that was started by Nikki and taken up by DTA.

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 just one month later, in early August, 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.

Last month, just days after the DTA Summit held at the Kennel Club’s London HQ where the wide-ranging matter of dog theft was discussed by several organisations and at which an update on the progress of ‘Jester’s Law’ was given, Nikki received an e-mail from Graham Littlechild of the Highways Agency, confirming that, following meetings between the Agency and various officials that the Agency would be issuing an Area Management Memorandum, a document that gives guidance to our Agents on the introduction of new procedures for 'Managing and Identifying Canine Fatalities on the Network'.

Mr Littlechild added: "I will be forwarding the details on to AMScott today although a lot of it is based on procedures that they had either already auctioned or were looking to implement. All other Managing Agent Contractors or Term Maintenance Contractors will be notified by the relevant Highways Agency Area teams over the coming days.

"This does of course mean that it is now too late to forward your request to incorporate Jester's name in the memo. Even so, it is essentially an official Civil Service document and numbered accordingly and unfortunately I would doubt that my colleagues would have been able to accede to your request. Nevertheless your unfortunate experience with Jester has certainly lead to the Agency acknowledging that technology has moved on and that dogs are not only identified with a collar, but also through microchips and ear tattoos. As you say, things are being done to hopefully ensure that no one else has to go through the uncertainties that you have had to go through."

Persistence pays off

Nikki Powditch was delighted that the HA had incorporated all her suggestions as a national policy and said that it was a vindication of DTA’s ethos that polite persistence can pay off in the long run.

Nikki told OUR DOGS: "Dogs being incinerated or otherwise disposed of when found dead without being scanned should never have been happening in the first place. I'm devastated to have been the one who had to suffer the possible death of my own dog in order to bring this to the attention of the HA, dog lovers and general public.

"Having said that, I'm really pleased with the way in which the HA took everything on board, Area 7 purchasing the scanners initially and now a National Procedures Team implementing Jesters Law and subsequent suggestions from the meeting – storing bodies in freezers, informing the police, dog wardens, vets and so on, with better data collection and identifying in general. They could so easily have refused to act, but they took my comments on board and acted upon them.

Being a Government Agency the HA has really shown the way for all other authorities to follow, the only wish not answered was for the new procedures to be held under Jester’s name, but I can live with that. To me it will always be ‘Jester’s Law’."

Trains too

An email to DTA from Surrey-based Animal Warden Mandy Dorman highlighted a similar matter of concern. Nikki found out that railway track workers bury deceased dogs where they fall, again without making note of identifying features or tattoos, scanning for microchips or retrieving collars.

Mandy Dorman said: "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."

Nikki immediately contacted Network Rail, the agency responsible for the UK’s thousands of miles of railway lines and managed to make progress in getting them to incorporate similar practices to those now adopted nationally by the HA. Nikki adds: "Network Rail is also looking into incorporating Jesters Law into working practices which is great but I am still waiting for their full report on this. But it’s good progress and I’m pleased at the positive attitude of Network Rail."

Campaign continues

The Jesters Law Campaign is continuing with some success in obtaining information on all the deceased dogs killed on the roads and railways, along with records held by other agencies including Network Rail, dog wardens etc, with the aim of ensuring that some other unfortunate dog owners may possibly find closure on the fate of their missing pets.

Nikki Powditch concluded: "I find it incredible that just one person, along with the support of DTA, can unearth the "Hideous Truth" and then bring something good out of it for the nation’s dog owners. It's actually rather hard to take in especially when Graham Littlechild mentions ‘Civil Service Document’. That’s my campaign, that’s Jester’s Law – it’s been used and hopefully will help hundreds of other dog owners who face the same awful predicament that I have over Jester.

"I couldn’t have succeeded without the huge support from DTA and OUR DOGS, who have publicised Jester’s Law in the past few months, and for that I will always be grateful."

* Anyone wanting further information about aspects of Jester’s Law can contact Nikki Powditch on or 01664 464529

Dog Theft Action