Peter Purves making a point during his talk
THE LONG-AWAITED symposium staged by the lobby group Dog Theft Action took place in Leamington Spa last Saturday and was hailed as a "great success" by many who attended.
The event had been planned for close on three months and was seen as a test of the group’s credibility to reach a wider audience and to engage with the many diverse organisations that have an involvement to a greater or lesser degree with dog theft. It would certainly seem from the reception given to the DTA and its varied panel of speakers, that the group’s credibility was never in doubt.
The audience numbered over fifty people and comprised many dog wardens from different local authorities, vets, representatives from microchip organisations, at least two serving police officers and several individual dog owners, a number of whom had suffered from the theft of their own dogs.
The symposium was hosted by the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and was staged at their conference facility at Edmonscote Manor, Leamington Spa. Bartfield Chartered Accountants sponsored the refreshments and splendid buffet lunch, whilst advertising for the event had been donated by OUR DOGS newspaper. There was also a great array of raffle prizes on offer, donated by several individuals and organisations, whilst free copies of OUR DOGS newspaper and Dogs Today Magazine were presented to each attendee in a ‘goody bag’ containing various other items of interest.
The symposium was chaired by the GDBA’s own Neil Ewart who brought his own brand of calm, friendly and often amusing commentary to proceedings, especially when he had to chair a lively question and answer session to a greatly extended panel of experts!
The speakers were Steve O’Brien of the National Dog Wardens Association, Nick Mays, the Chief Reporter of OUR DOGS, breeder and dog theft victim Vivien Phillips, accompanied by two of her dogs, Andy Watts of the Prison Service with his drug sniffer dog ‘Mason’, TV personality Peter Purves and Allen Parton of Canine Partners, accompanied by his ever-faithful canine companion ‘Endal’.
The subjects spoken about were many and varied, the approaches all different, but the key factor of dog theft never far from the heart of each speech. Steve O’Brien explained how the dog warden service worked, what the legal requirements on picking up stray or possibly stolen dogs was, and how the police were soon to withdraw from any responsibility for stray dogs due to the terms of the Cleaner Neighbourhoods Bill, and how they should still be required, by law, to keep a register of missing or stolen dogs.
Nick Mays, meanwhile, took the audience on a wide-ranging tour of many of the laws that affected dog owners in the UK and pointed out quite forcefully that dog owners got a very raw deal from the authorities on so many fronts, not least of which was dog theft, because it wasn’t taken seriously. He pointed out that whilst it was gratifying to see some serving police officers in the audience who quite patently did care about dog theft and did their best to make sure it was logged and treated seriously, it was very telling that senior officers from the Association of Chief Police Constables, not any Minister, official or civil servant from the Home Office had chosen to accept the DTA’s invitation to attend either the symposium or the ‘summit meeting’ between several different organisations at the Kennel Club next month.
DTA Co-ordinator Margaret Nawrockyi thanked all the speakers and attendees profusely for their input. "It was so gratifying to see so many people, so many of them professionals in attendance," she told OUR DOGS. "During the lunch break they all spoke to each other, they networked, the DTA made many valuable contacts. All of this will help us in our fight to get dog theft taken seriously by the government and the police. The DTA will carry on its campaign, carry on the fight and it does so with greater strength and support than ever.
"I would like to thank all those who supported us, who sponsored us and who made the symposium possible. We will be staging another symposium next year and it will bigger and even better. But nothing will ever diminish the memory of this, our first symposium, our first DTA event and the day that dog theft was put well and truly on the map."
* A full report of the DTA symposium will appear in next week’s issue
OUR DOGS Chief Reporter Nick Mays makes a fine legal point