Russ Akehurst is one of Adur & Worthing Councils' dog wardens. After a career in the police, he took on the role more than nine years ago.
Russ loves animals and takes his responsibilities very seriously. This includes: dealing with stray dogs, investigating dog related complaints, enforcement of laws to dog fouling and regular patrolling of parks, streets and other open spaces within Adur and Worthing.
Outside of work he has four dogs of his own - a Labrador X Boxer, a Jack Russell Terrier, a Staffie X Springer Spaniel and a Staffie X Jack Russell Terrier
You can read Russ' current 2018 blog posts on this page below
This is my last blog before Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday and for the first time I won't be in the country to pay my respect to my friends and all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for us all. I've always made a point of taking at least one of my dogs to Worthing's War Memorial service on Armistice Day and to the Remembrance Sunday Service, so it'll be strange attending a service abroad without them.
Some of you may have seen or even wear a purple poppy, but for those of you who haven't and wonder what it symbolises, they were first introduced in 2006 by the charity Animal Aid to commemorate the animal victims of war. Their aim was to make it clear that animals used in warfare are indeed victims, not heroes. They did not give their lives, their lives were taken from them because obviously animals cannot volunteer and have no choice in becoming involved in war when they serve alongside human military personnel.
I'm sure you've all seen military dogs working as guard dogs, sniffer dogs etc. and during the war they were used to take the wounded from the battlefield, to deliver messages and move arms and food to the front line. But at least one country used them as suicide bombers, strapping explosives to them and training them to run towards enemy tanks where the explosives would be detonated by soldiers a safe distance away. Another method was for them to lay on railway tracks and the explosives were detonated when an enemy train was approaching.
It's impossible to say how many animals have been killed directly or indirectly as the result of war but it is estimated that nearly 750,000 domesticated animals, mostly cats and dogs, were euthanized in Britain over the course of one week at the start of the 2nd World War. This came about because in the summer of 1939, just before the outbreak of war, the National Air Raid Precautions Animals Committee (NARPAC) drafted a notice: Advice to Animal Owners.
The pamphlet said:
“If at all possible, send or take your household animals into the country in advance of an emergency.”
“If you cannot place them in the care of neighbours, it really is kindest to have them destroyed.”
The advice was printed in almost every newspaper and announced on the BBC. The pamphlet set off a wave of panic. As there were no rations provided for pets, it was thought euthanasia was a humane decision rather than watching a beloved animal die slowly from starvation or disease. As the war progressed across Europe, this same trend went with it. Personally I couldn't see a British government issuing that advice now and I certainly couldn't see many, if any of us, following it; that's for sure.
On a more positive note, in recent conflicts dogs and British forces have come together and helped each other through the horrors they both faced. If you want to read an inspirational tale of compassion and dedication and find out how one man's encounter with a stray dog changed both of their lives forever and how it led to the charity Nowzad being formed, I can recommend Pen Farthing's books 'One Dog at a Time' and 'No Place like Home'. But a word of warning, you may well need a box of tissues on standby!!
Photo: Russ with two of his dogs next to the War Memorial outside Worthing Town Hall
Sadly it’s that time of the year when we have to talk about the F word. Call me a party pooper if you want but for those of you with a companion animal who has a fear of fireworks, it can be really upsetting to see a much-loved dog trembling under a table or behind the sofa while fireworks are going off.
It wouldn’t be so bad if it was just the one night, or maybe the 5th and the nearest weekend, but it’s totally unpredictable when they will be let off in your neighbourhood or mine.
So, to help you look after your companion, I’ve made a list of some dos and don'ts. However it’s important to remember that not everything will work for every dog and it may be that you need to consult your veterinary surgeon or a animal behaviourist who is registered with the Animal Behaviour Training Council (ABTC) or the Association of Pet Dog trainers (APDT).
I say this because the pet training and pet behaviourist industry is unregulated - you or I could watch a couple of episodes of The dog Whisperer and start our own company and advertise our services and there’s nothing to stop us.
Before the fireworks begin:
Walk your dog before dark. Make sure your dog is well exercised and has had a toilet break before the fireworks are likely to begin.
Feed your dog before the fireworks begin. This is because they may become unsettled and not want to eat during the fireworks.
Make sure your house and garden are secure during the fireworks as fear may make your dog try to escape. Over the years I’ve known many dogs escape their garden and once outside they are exposed to many possible dangers.
Try to settle your dog before the fireworks start. If your dog is in familiar safe surroundings it will help them to cope with the noise.
Provide a safe hiding place. At noisy times around Bonfire Night, make sure your dog has somewhere safe in his or her favourite room, perhaps under the table. Close the curtains, turn the lights on, and turn up the volume on your TV or radio to drown out the firework noises. Some dogs feel secure in a den. You can create one by covering the top and three sides of a crate, table or cupboard near the centre of your house, or in a place they have previously hidden. Make it comfortable for them and add a jumper or a t-shirt of yours that will smell familiar to them. But leave the entrance open so they can come and go as they like. They won’t want to feel trapped.
Photo: A colourful fireworks display
During the fireworks:
Don’t punish your dog for cowering or reacting to the fireworks, as this will intensify their fear. You should aim to remain relaxed and therefore provide a good role model to your dog when they are afraid. However, if your dog comes to you for comfort, don’t ignore them and interact with them calmly.
Don’t leave your dog alone in the house during the fireworks period. They may panic and this could result in an injury.
Keep your dog busy indoors. Play games or enjoy some reward-based training to keep their mind off the noises. However if they just want to hide away then don’t force them to come out of their hiding place - allow them to stay where they feels safe.
There are products ranging from collars, thunder coats, plugins and medications to name just a few, which can be purchased from your local vet. However, always seek their advice as a particular remedy may not suit your dog.
So there you have it - some tips to help you look after your dog around fireworks season.
And now, to end with some good news, Scruffy, the star of last week's blog, has gone to Dogs Trust Shoreham and I’m confident that he’ll be snapped up once he’s ready for adoption. Our thanks go to the manager and staff there for placing him in their wonderful care.
Photo: Flora is Russ' 15 year old cross-breed. She used to hate the fireworks, but Russ says that she is so deaf now that they don't bother her anymore!
Hi Again. This last week has seen us looking after a really cute little fella, it all started last Wednesday when a good Samaritan was driving home from work and for some reason took a different route to normal which found him driving along a country road to the west of Worthing where our council boundary joins that of our neighbours Arun District Council.
The man noticed the dog running along the side of the road with a trailing lead and stopped his car and managed to catch the dog and put him into his car. He then drove him to a local vets where a thorough check showed that the dog, who I have named Scruffy after my first ever rescue dog, wasn't micro chipped.
I was alerted by the vets and arrived to be told that Scruffy was really nervous and despite the offer of freshly cooked chicken, Scruffy decided he was staying put in his kennel and no amount of tempting and making funny noises was going to change his mind. Thankfully after a short while a lovely veterinary nurse won him over and he let her carry him to my van. Once inside with his pieces of chicken still uneaten we made the journey to our kennels having first put them on notice to make a kennel up for our new VID (very important dog!).
Most of the time getting dogs in and out of the van is easy but sometimes it's anything but, and different tricks work for different dogs. Luckily Scruffy was only to keen to get out of the van and, as is my custom, we walked the last half mile or so to our kennels. While doing so we passed no fewer than four different species of animal and he was so frightened of all of them. Thankfully we reached the kennels and the owner was waiting ready to care for him.
Needless to say I had a worried evening thinking about how he was coping being away from wherever he knew as home. Some dogs take it in their stride, but if you think about it, for Scruffy or any stray for that matter, becoming lost or being dumped, getting picked up by a stranger and taken to their home or a vets must be more than a bit anxiety-inducing. Then a dog warden picks them up, puts them in a van, drives them somewhere else where they're put into a kennel and then more strangers handle them until either they're claimed by their owners or get a place in yet another kennels where they stay until they're rehomed. That's why it's so important to have a name tag on your dog's collar; it cuts out six links of that chain and hours of stress for the dog.
I wasn't surprised when by the end of the following day Scruffy hadn't been claimed, but thankfully he had settled down in his new environment and has become more relaxed every day since. I've already secured him a place in rescue where he'll go if he's not claimed 7 days after he came to us. There's no doubt he's going to make a lovely companion for some lucky person or family.
Photo: 'Scuffy' the dog
Well thankfully it’s continued to be quiet on the stray dog front, with only one stray coming into our care all week. Sadly for him he had to go into our kennels as his microchip details were hopelessly out of date and he wasn’t wearing a tag. Both of which are of course a legal requirement and either of which would have got him reunited with his owners in minutes rather than 24 hours and would have also saved his owners £55!
In the past I’ve liaised with housing officers from various social housing providers when there’s been complaints of dogs barking or other forms of nuisance.
Occasionally housing officers want me to carry out joint visits with them to offer advice to the owners, sometimes to see if the dogs are being well cared for and sometimes just to ‘go in first’ if the officer isn’t comfortable around dogs.
But on this occasion it was something quite different. I received a call from an officer I hadn’t met before, she reported that a tenant had abandoned a small dog in the property and appeared to be in a poor condition. Luckily I was only about 10 minutes away, but whilst on route the worst case scenario was playing through my mind. Just how ill would the dog be? How long had they been left? Did they have access to food and water etc.
My worst fears were soon put to rest, as I was met by a friendly but bewildered little dog who was certainly underweight but otherwise appeared unaffected by the experience.
It was unclear just how long he’d been left alone, but signs showed it wouldn’t have been more than a day. A quick examination also showed that all was not well in the environment the dog had been living in.
A local veterinary surgery agreed to see him straight away and gave him a clean bill of health, except for problems which are all to common with Brachycephalic breeds and sadly are considered ‘normal’ because they are so common.
Photo: Below is Nelly, one of Russ' dogs, who has a standard shape head known as a Mesocephalic
Personally I find the inability of a dog to breath and exercise properly is anything but normal!
Due to the breed and circumstances I arranged a foster placement and more good news followed a few days later when I got a call from the housing officer saying that the owner wanted to meet me. We had a long conversation and it turned out that the owner was in a dark place, not entirely of their own making, and realised that they could no longer meet the dog’s needs; and credit where credit’s due, signed him over to me without hesitation.
I’m pleased to say that Dogs Trust offered the little one a place and are going to pay for an operation to make his ability to breathe far easier than it is at the moment.
The respiratory disease that affects a lot of “flat faced” breeds, is known as Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) and causes untold misery to the dogs that suffer from it.
Photo: On the left is Doug the Pug and on the right is Claude who is a French Bulldog, both examples of "flat faced" breeds
The surgery to correct this could be something as simple as cutting a small wedge from each nostril to make them wider and or to remove some of his soft palate which could also be causing some of his breathing difficulties - this costs around £1,000.
It’s always nice to feature a success story in these blogs!
Until next time...
Hello again. It's been quite a busy week, with a mixture of some good and sad events. It often frustrates me when writing my blog that I have to sometimes leave out the most interesting parts of my week because of sub judice, or, in some cases, because of the risk that the dog owner could be identified. As we all know, the results of this on social media could be unpleasant, and even adversely affect any future prosecution.
Hopefully though, before too long I'll be able to share some good news about what the councils are doing to deal with the scourge of dog fouling in our communities.
Meanwhile, you may remember Captain, a rather large Mastiff type dog who I previously suggested should have been named Sherman. Well I'm delighted to tell you that I was able to secure him a place at Rescue Remedies, a charity with kennels near Horley. He's the third dog they've taken for us, having successfully rehomed two others.
Rescue Remedies have chosen to focus their rescue work on breeds that are notoriously difficult to re-home - which is why we've turned to them for help in placing the large breeds that are abandoned in the borough. They also take in Staffies and smaller Terrier breeds including Patterdales, who, shall we say, can sometimes be challenging!
My visit to Rescue Remedies was the first for quite some time, and its set up mirrors others up and down the country, where a small group of committed people (and sometimes individuals) make it their mission to rescue and help as many dogs and other animals as they can. Many of these rescue centres rely on the generosity and kindness of their supporters to keep their charity going and the animals alive.
Another organisation doing great work is New Hope Animal Rescue, an independent non-district rescue charity dedicated to helping animals on death row and those with medical and or behavioural needs. It was set up by Niall Lester, a Dog Warden in Kent, and his wife. They also take in other companion animals besides dogs, and sometimes farm animals too.
I had the pleasure of meeting Niall at a recent seminar, and learned that they had just moved to a property with lots of land, to enable them to rescue more animals and keep those who couldn't be rehomed for whatever reason. At about the same time I entered an ultra walking event, the Chiltern 50k, and so I decided to use this as an opportunity to raise funds for New Hope. The walk took place last Saturday from Henley on Thames and covered 31 miles of traditional (but, sadly for me, hilly!), beautiful English countryside and villages, ending at Princess Risborough. I was delighted to raise a total of £1,226!
Hopefully I don't get too many calls to Cissbury or Highdown for a couple of days because, after walking 50km, my feet are now on a go slow!!
Photos: Russ during, and at the end of, the Chiltern 50k ultra walking event
In the last couple of weeks I've had more contact than usual with the many Animal Charities that exist to help our companion animals, and as usual they stepped up to the plate.
I'd been talking to one of the trustees at Sussex Pet Rescue who mentioned that they hadn't had many requests for help rehoming dogs recently, and that they had fosterers waiting to help. (That must have been a first!!).
Out of the blue, I received a call from a pensioner who wanted my advice on how to rehome her dog as she was struggling with certain issues. Obviously this isn't part of the role of Dog warden, we care for stray and abandoned dogs, but of course every dog that has been abandoned is unwanted by their owner. By helping them rehome their dog we are preventing them being abandoned in the first place.
I went to assess the dog, an elderly Terrier to see if she had any behaviour or health issues. I did this not because the charity wouldn't necessarily take her if she had issues, but because it's only fair for the charity to be aware of any issues so they can best match the dog with the fosterer.
It turned out that the dog was in good health, but upsettingly a little nervous with men. Strange how you rarely hear of a dog being nervous of women, I can't think why!
A couple of emails and phone calls later and it was all arranged for the dog to go to a Sussex Pet Rescue foster home, and I've been told since that she's settled in really well there.
Sunday night, like most, I'd just sat down to watch the final episode of The Bodyguard; when suddenly my phone rang.
The call was from a man I'd given my number to a few months ago when I had a dog rescue charity stall at Worthing Pride. He had explained that he was having a few problems and may need to rehome his dog in the future.
He phoned saying that his dog was bleeding heavily from her Vulva and that he had no means of getting her to a vet. After establishing she wasn't in season; my partner, who's veterinary knowledge exceeds mine tenfold, feared she may have Pyometra. This can be fatal and is an infection of the uterus that occurs in unspayed dogs and cats.
His dog was registered with the PDSA in Brighton who are open 24/7 for emergencies, so I rang them explaining the dog's symptoms and they asked that the dog be brought over immediately.
When we arrived the vet nurse and vet were ready and waiting. They carried out some tests which confirmed Pyometra and admitted the dog for surgery.
The charity, which was founded by the animal welfare pioneer Maria Dicken, who during World War One worked to improve the dreadful state of animal health in the Whitechapel area of London. She wanted to open a clinic where Eastenders living in poverty could receive free treatment for their sick and injured animals. Despite widespread scepticism, she opened her free 'dispensary' in a Whitechapel basement on Saturday 17th November 1917. It was an immediate success, and she was soon forced to find larger premises.
It's refreshing that the charity formed to provide care for sick and injured animals of the poor is still going strong over 100 years later. Saving lives and ensuring that owners who might otherwise be unable to have or keep a companion animal can do so.
I hope you enjoyed this week's blog, see you in the next one!
One of the good and sometimes bad things about my job is, you never know what the day has in store for you. Or, as my dad used to say, “what's round the corner”.
So last Monday as I set about writing my blog I had no idea of the highs and lows that laid in wait for me.
It started the day before. I was on call on the Sunday and got a call to pick up an elderly Lurcher stray from Grove Lodge that had been found late Saturday evening. He had lots of large fatty lumps, and was chipped to an address almost one hundred miles away. So when he hadn't been claimed by Monday morning I felt sure would not see his owners again so I set about phoning around rescues to place him.
I then received a call from a vets to say that an stray elderly Staffie had been brought in and that he wasn't microchipped. He was wearing an ID tag but only had 10 digits in the phone number so that was of no use!!
I hadn't even got to the kennels when another veterinary practice phoned to say they had admitted an elderly sheep dog that had been found collapsed at a major roundabout in the area and brought in by a kind member of the public. This dog also wasn't microchipped.
I got to the vets to be told just how poorly the dog was and, that if the owner wasn't traced soon, then a difficult decision would have to be made. There are laws that allow us to make those difficult decisions in the absence of an owner but obviously we would want to locate them to obtain their consent and allow them to be present as their companion makes the journey to The Rainbow Bridge.
The morning only got worse when a call came in from my office to say that someone had reported finding a dog in an East Worthing park. On arrival I was met by a large Mastiff type dog who was built like a tank and just as strong. He was however very friendly and jumped into my van with no hesitation which was just as well or I'd still be walking him to our kennels!!!
After lunch, or what would have been if I'd got any, I learned that the Staffie and Sheepdog were owned by the same family and they'd escaped from their house.
To my surprise I then received a call from the owner of Saturday's Lurcher wishing to claim him. So, when I returned to the kennels, it was to reunite two elderly dogs with their owners.
Sadly the Mastiff who I named Captain (although in hindsight it should have been Sherman or Chieftain) is still with us.
Worse news was to follow when I heard from the vets that sadly there was nothing that could be done for the sheep dog so his suffering is now over.
Most weeks aren't that busy or upsetting; let alone all that in one day! As my dad used to say “you never know what's round the corner”!!
Photo: The Mastiff, who I named Captain, who is still with us
It's now the time of the year when every Local Authority in the United Kingdom is contacted by Dogs Trust and invited to take part in their stray dog survey.
They compile the annual survey for a number of reasons which include being able to target their resources to the parts of the country where they are most needed and to build a picture of any regional trends.
The survey is divided into the TV regions of the UK and we in Adur and Worthing are in the Meridian region.
The survey asks many questions including:
- the estimated number of strays dogs each council dealt with during the previous year
- how many were microchipped
- how many were returned to their owners
- how many were passed to welfare organisations
- how many were rehomed by local authorities themselves, and
- how many were put to sleep
I remember years ago long before I was your Dog Warden, looking at each years statistics and comparing them with the previous years, feeling happy that year on year the number of dogs being put to sleep was falling but sad that they were so high.
In those days the number of stray dogs each year was well over 100,000 per year and over 10,000 were put to sleep.
Slowly year on year that number has thankfully reduced and last year just over 66,000 dogs were collected by Local Authorities and 2,231 were put to sleep.
That of course is 2,231 too many but it's heading in the right direction. It's worth remembering a number of those would have been put to sleep because they were in poor health which would have been why they were abandoned in the first place.
That may surprise some of you, how could they abandon the dog that has shown them love and loyalty for all of it's life you ask? Well, it happens and all to often.
I can recall off the top of my head at least five dogs in the last five or so years that had to be put to sleep to prevent further suffering.
So instead of the dog's owner being there to comfort their dog as they make their journey out of this world and into the next, it's me who's holding and stroking them and telling them that everything's going to be alright when I know darn well it isn't.
Then I go home to my dogs with the image fixed in my brain, knowing that one day, hopefully a long way off I'll be doing the same for them because I'm not a coward and I'll do the right thing for them.
Thankfully a lot of the dogs (most of whom are elderly) which are abandoned and in need of expensive veterinary care but not terminal are taken in by Shoreham Dogs Trust. They take the vets bills on and successfully re-home them.
This includes Humphrey (or Bert, as he is known) who was found wandering at Highdown (photo below). He had a chronic serious untreated ear infection and extremely bad skin infection. Dogs Trust Shoreham took him on and treated him and he was successfully re-homed.
I'd like to kick off with some good news: the lovely Staffie I told you about last week has been given a rescue place with the RSPCA! He will be based at their Mount Noddy centre in Westergate near Chichester. We are very grateful to the staff there for taking him into their care.
You may remember that after the Staffie was handed in, we traced a previous owner who was more than happy to have him back as their circumstances had changed for the better. Sadly he didn't get on with the family's cat, but at least we were able to ascertain that he had lived with young children. This will make him easier to rehome as so many families with young children want to adopt a rescue dog.
This brings me on to a very emotive subject. Over the years I've often heard people criticise some rehoming centres. I've heard comments like: “They don't rehome to families with young children”,“they don't agree with dogs living with young children”, or “they wouldn't give us a dog because our grandchildren visit us”, and so on. Some of the people I hear this from are the people that haven't been able to adopt a dog from a charity themselves, but others have only heard this through someone' else's experience. Unfortunately sometimes this can result in hearsay, gossip or misinterpretation.
Let me give an example. A man goes into a men's outfitters for a suit. He says he doesn't mind what colour or style the suit is as long as it fits him. He finds the shop assistant and asks “Have you got a suit in my size please?”, to which the assistant replies: “I'm really sorry but we don't have your size in stock and I can't say when we will get any in.”
The man becomes very annoyed and wastes no time in telling everyone that wants to listen (and even some that don't) that the outfitters wouldn't sell him a suit. Actually, the truth was that the outfitters didn't have a suit that was appropriate for him.
Rehoming centres are the same. They can only rehome the dogs they have in their care, and of course they have no idea what type of dog is going to be signed over or dumped next. Surely if the charity can't be sure that the dog is suitable to be rehomed with children, it's better to be safe than sorry, rather than risk death, serious injury or permanent scarring.
Imagine the outcry if, heaven forbid, a child was seriously hurt by a dog adopted from a charity. That charity would lose the trust of the public and greatly damage their reputation. They could be sued and see funds and donations from the public plummet. Charities simply have to err on the side of caution and they really do have both the family's and the dog's best interests at heart.
I'm pleased to say that the weather at last week's dog show at Victoria Park was kinder than it was the weekend before. It was lovely to see such a community spirit and so many dogs and families enjoying themselves. In one class I said to the owner of a lovely brindle Staffie-type dog “Where did you get him from?” to which she replied “You, he's called Mutley - you gave him to me”. Mutley was the first dog I fostered since becoming your Dog Warden just over ten years ago. It brought back so many memories and it was so good seeing Mutley again and knowing he's still much loved. It makes my job so rewarding.
Photo: Nell, a Staffie X Springer Spaniel that belongs to Russ
Early last week a dog was ‘found’ by a young man in Sompting. My colleague Mike Barnard the Adur dog warden attended and scanned the dog, a lovely grey and white coloured Staffie. The microchip led him to make enquiries on the other side of Adur at Southwick.
The registered owner explained that they had re-homed the dog some five years ago to a local family who had recently left the area in search of a new life further north. I guess Sompting is north of Southwick – well, north-west anyway! They had presumed that the family had taken the dog with them, but sadly not.
The registered owner went on to explain that, their circumstances now having changed, they would love to have the dog back. I collected him from the kennels and went to their address to do the home check. The circumstances were quite unusual in many ways – I don’t know about other rescues but I wouldn’t normally consider re-homing a dog with a previous owner, as I can’t imagine many would want a pet back after five years!
You may wonder why I did a home check as they had previously owned the dog, but of course the dog is legally ours and we have to be satisfied that the animal is going to a suitable home with a secure garden. Plus, if there are children living in or visiting the address, we need to know if the dog is good with children – and, of course, if the children are comfortable with the dog too.
In this case, there was also a family cat in residence, so this time I actually took the dog with me on the home check (something I would never normally do). Sadly this proved to be the sticking point. The dog absolutely could not live with a cat – he made that quite clear. So today we’ll be ringing around the local rescues to see if they’ve got kennel space for a child-friendly Staffie.
Photo: A family cat enjoying some alone time
You may remember that at the beginning of July the heat wave put paid to the fifth annual Findon Valley Fun Dog Show. This was the first of at least three shows in the area that had to be postponed on animal welfare grounds. Last Sunday, however, the show finally took place. The committee had spent months of hard work organising the event and it promised to be the biggest and best yet with a BBQ, alcohol licence and bouncy castle installed… so you can imagine the disappointment when the weather forecast proved correct and it started raining cats and dogs!
Thankfully, despite the torrential rain, people attended the show in good numbers. Much-needed funds were raised for local charities Paws Animal Sanctuary and Sussex Pet Rescue, thanks to the generosity of the attendees.
This Saturday sees the second Victoria Park Dog Show and Summer Fair, which aims to raise funds for Caring for the Animals Trust (CARAT). Fingers crossed the weather will be kinder to us this time around and that both the attendees and our furry friends have a great day out.
So after my trip to the Peak District there was no chance of a quite week to ease me back into work.
August is traditionally one of the busiest months for us. The school holidays, good weather leads to kids in and out of their houses while doors are left open - all adds up to a recipe for dogs to be straying away from their home.
So far in August there have been 16 stray dogs that have come into our care - that's nearly one a day. I'm sure that's the tip of the iceberg as many more will have been reunited thanks to having a tag with the owner's contact details on or by a microchip (both of which are, of course, legal requirements). Of the 16, the owners of six couldn't be traced straight away, so they spent time in our kennels before being reunited with their owners.
The reason the owners couldn't be contacted were quite varied - not being chipped, chipped to previous owners etc. Sadly one dog came into us twice this month. In the ten years I've been your dog warden, no dog has been in our care as many times and no dog has been with us twice inside 24 hours.
It's really disappointing when you feel you've made a breakthrough with the owner only to get a call 23 hours later to a stray dog in a certain park and, by the description given, you know exactly which dog you're going to find. The inevitable is merely confirmed when you get there, call the dog's name and he's so happy to see you he runs over tail wagging.
As I put the lead on him, the finder told me how he had followed the dog for a while. He witnessed him walk through an open front door of a house into the hallway and back out again, across a busy main road (stopping traffic in his wake) and into the park. The finder spent an hour following the dog, phoning the RSPCA, Sussex Police and then a local vets asking for help as he didn't think the council had a dog warden service at the weekend (most don't). Luckily when the vets rang me I wasn't far away and I was able to get to him with 20 minutes.
What made it worse was when I spoke to the dog's owner they told me the dog had been gone five minutes. When I questioned that they said “maybe 10”. I then explained how I had been with the dog for an hour and what the finder had witnessed for an hour before that - still they were adamant he had only just got out.
I know exactly what some if not most of you are thinking and what you'll post on this blog. Rest assured if there's anything within the law I could do to rectify this situation I would do it. Until then, if the owner pays our release fee, the dog is their property and we must return him.
On a separate note, there can be a happy ending sometimes to dogs found on the streets. Say hello to Flora, my 14 year old dog who was dumped outside Dogs Trust Newcastle with her brothers and sisters. As you can see, she's a very happy girl!
Photo: Flora, one of Russ' dogs
I can't say that last week was a busy week for me. It was time to take some holiday and I was lucky enough to spend it close to the Peak District in Derbyshire. It's not an area I've spent much time in previously and, as two of my dogs are elderly, before going I had researched walks that were on the flat. I wasn't sure how much choice there would be, but I needn't have worried. The area has beautiful canal walks and, thanks to Dr Beeching, also its fair share of disused railway lines which make for lovely peaceful flat walks.
Photo: Russ on holiday in the Peak District with his dogs
It was while walking one of these routes that I got a text which read:
“Hello, just a query, if you don't mind answering please? Where do strays go to if picked up in either Worthing or Littlehampton areas, and does their 7 day period ever get extended? Are the pounds non-kill? Much appreciated and thank you.”
We often get these questions, usually in a Freedom of Information request (FOI) and to tell you the truth I get quite defensive and frustrated that people would even think that 1) our council would kill a dog after the 7 days and 2) that I would be a part of it.
So, as I was walking on a safe flat path a long way from the nearest road, I decided rather than wait until I was back at work, I would ring the person there and then.
It turned out that we had a mutual acquaintance and she had seen my name on a couple of vegan Facebook sites so knew that we were on the same page in relation to animal welfare. We had a lengthy conversation about what the law says about stray dogs and how different councils vary in their approach and care for the dogs they come into contact with and more importantly how well they care for the dogs if they're not claimed.
Every council in England & Wales has a legal responsibility to care for stray dogs. Their duties and powers are set out in The Environmental Protection Act 1990 and allow local authorities to seize stray dogs and recover their costs before the dog is returned to the owner. It also allows the council to dispose of the dog after seven days if the dog is not claimed:
a) by selling it or giving it to a person who will, in his opinion, care properly for the dog;
b) by selling it or giving it to an establishment for the reception of stray dogs; or
c) by destroying it in a manner to cause as little pain as possible;
It is of course option c) that quite rightly worries people and why they sometimes submit FOI requests to us. It's no secret that sadly some local authorities up and down the country see fit to kill dogs that they can't rehome if they're not claimed after 7 days. Only the councils involved know how hard they try to rehome each dog, and how much money plays a part in the decision.
But many of you will remember Stanley the white large Staffy type we had in our care over 2 years ago. He must have been with us for at least 5 months before we were able to find him a place in rescue (Sussex Pet Rescue) who had a foster home for him and eventually found him a lovely forever home.
There's no denying that many councils would have killed Stanley because of the cost of keeping him in kennels, but to be clear, Adur & Worthing isn't one of them. As I said to the lady who text me:
“I care about animals, so stopped eating them over 30 years ago, so why would I be part of an organisation killing them now?”
There was a running theme to three calls that a got this week.
The subject is an all too common problem these days and affects humans as well as companion animals. It's easy to prevent if you have just one thing - willpower. The problem is of course obesity.
When I went to the owner's house I could see that the dog was struggling to breath and that was without exercise. The owner agreed for me to take the dog to a local vet to be weighed and it turned out that the dog was almost 50% over the ideal weight for the breed in question.
There are many implications for overweight dogs. As well as general loss of quality of life, arthritis, ligament strain, slipped discs, heart and respiratory diseases can all be caused by being overweight. Skin disease is also an issue because obese dogs may develop skin folds that restrict airflow and resulting in them becoming moist and prone to infection. Blood flow to the skin may also be reduced due to cardiac or respiratory deficiency while liver insufficiency, diabetes and certain types of cancer can also come about from obesity.
The PDSA report that the causes of pet obesity are fairly straightforward: too much food and too little exercise.
With feeding there are two problems: overfeeding and a good quality diet.
It's fair to say that many owners don't follow feeding guidelines - they guess what's the right amount or they feed on demand, when they think their pet is hungry. Also people feed their pets treats throughout the day, whether that's designated treats or human food such as takeaways, cheese, chips, crisps and meal time leftovers.
Pets really do struggle to burn off those extra calories. When it comes to exercise, the PDSA report estimates that across the country, six million dogs go for a daily walk shorter than an hour long, and a quarter of a million dogs don't get walked at all.
Many of the vets in Worthing run weight clinics free of charge where the dogs are weighed and the owners receive the advice and encouragement needed to return their dogs to a happy healthy weight again.
If you think your dog is overweight please take them to your local vet and then ask what your dog's ideal weight should be. You'll be doing your companion and yourself a massive favour and extending the precious time you have together.
Thankfully it's been a really quiet week on the stray dog front, but there was an important lesson for a few owners on the importance of micro-chipping.
I was called to incidents where two dogs were allowed to breach the security of their homes or gardens. Sadly because their microchips were in the names of previous owners, both dogs had to spend time in the kennels before being reunited with their owners. They were left poorer financially but richer educationally for the experience.
But what it did do was highlight (once again) why owners should keep their microchip details up-to-date.
If you have moved house or changed contact phone numbers since you got your dog(s) or if your dog was already chipped before you got them, please check that the microchip contact details are correct.
You can do it online or by phoning the company that your dog is registered to. It takes no more than a few minutes - after picking up our rescue greyhound Sally last month (photo below), I did it the very next morning. 15 minutes gives you peace of mind and could save you kennel fees should your dog go missing.
So what else has been going on this week?
Well, before the weather took a turn for the worse (or better depending on your preference) I got a call from one of the town's professional dog walkers. While in the fields between Findon Valley and Cissbury Ring, they came across a collapsed brachycephalic (short nose and flat faced) breed dog with no owner in sight. The lady rang me and set about getting the dog into shade and applying water to cool the poor dog down.
Luckily I was close by and arrived to take the dog to a vet when the owner appeared. It turns out that the dog ran off on the scent of something, got lost and was gone for over ninety minutes in the extreme heat of last week that seems all but a distant memory now.
I took the dog and owner to a nearby vet, having phoned them first to put them on standby, and they were brilliant from the moment we walked through the door.
The dog was kept in overnight for observation and rehydration. Thankfully the dog made a full recovery.
I would urge every dog owner to put, not only their own vets phone number into their phone but that of the local emergency vets.
Not every Worthing vet is open 24/7 and not every vet has a vet on site all day and vital minutes could be saved by ringing ahead.
Also this week I received a report that two dogs had been left alone in a house for four days whilst the owners had gone on holiday.
After talking to neighbours it turned out that someone was going in twice a day to feed the dogs, let them out and interact with them. But the dogs were alone all night and barking which alerted the neighbours to their plight.
In total the dogs were going to be left alone for 10 days, which although legal (because someone was coming in to provide food water and generally look out for them), it's far from ideal. In my mind, it is not morally right to expect any dog to spend so long with minimal human interaction.
Luckily for the dogs, and the neighbours who were being kept awake, the carer agreed to take the dogs to her house so they wouldn't be alone all night, and significantly less during the day.
Until next time ...
So it's been another busy week for Mike and I in the Councils' dog warden team.
In the last week we've had seven stray dogs in our care, three of which were found on the same day.
All three were lovely dogs, with a lovely temperament and luckily all three were found by caring loving people who looked after them until I collected them. But what if they've been run over first, or taken by someone not so caring?
The dog lost website is full of dogs that haven't been found and I can't imagine how hard it must be for their owners not knowing if they're dead or alive or if they're in kind hands or otherwise.
All but one of the dogs has been reunited with their owner, the seventh was found by a police patrol in the early hours of Saturday morning walking around Worthing town centre and 'taken into custody'!
The dog is the same one I told you about last week having come into our care after the owner disappeared after asking a lady to hold him whilst he answered a call of nature. So yet again the dog is in a kennel while we desperately try make contact with the owner.
Away from work I have found a new dog too.
About four weeks ago my partner Vicky saw a photo of a 12 year old black (closer to grey) greyhound named Sally who was in the care of Norfolk Greyhound Rescue after her owner sadly passed away.
We agreed a long time ago that our next dog would be a greyhound simply because they are the most exploited breed in the country with more than 1,000 who died in the last year.
Greyhound are normally retired at between three and five years of age but can live up to 14 years. This means every year more and more greyhounds are looking for a place in rescue and a loving home because they are of no further use to their racing owner.
With so many young and middle aged ones to choose from (not forgetting that most dog and cat charities will tell you that black animals are hardest to re-home) we knew that Sally could be waiting a long long time to be adopted.
So last Monday, my partner and I drove our dogs up to Norwich to introduce them to her. They all got on fine and I can honestly say she's been as good as gold and has settled in with us and our other six dogs really well.
It feels like she's been with us for ages.
Photo: Russ with his 7 dogs, with Sally the greyhound on the far right
You may remember that last week I mentioned that Harricane (photo right) was being assessed to see if we could get him into a local rescue centre. Well I'm pleased to say that he passed with flying colours, in fact he played a blinder, was really alert and on the ball, which is more than I can say for a certain person with the same name!!!
Moving on, I also mentioned that by mid-morning last Monday we had collected two strays and that one was about to go home. I posted a photo of the second dog as everything pointed to the fact that he wasn't going to be claimed. We normally know at the point of picking up the stray, or if not very soon after, if they're going to be claimed or not, but in this case both Mike and I got it wrong.
As you all know, we can't go into to much detail and certainly can't give out information that would help identify the finder or the owner of a stray dog but in this case neither are local to the area and when you hear the story I think you'll understand why we thought the handsome boy wasn't going to be claimed!!
So on Monday morning a lady reported that she had been in Worthing town centre late on the previous Saturday evening when she was approached by a male who was worse for wear or as the local constabulary would say, “under the influence” he asked the lady if she would hold his dog whilst he went to the toilet, she kindly agreed, and that was the last she saw of him!!
She took the dog home and kept him until Monday morning, not knowing that unlike many councils up and down the country we at Adur & Worthing operate a stray dog service at the weekend. First thing Monday morning she made contact and handed the dog into our care.
Out of the blue late Tuesday afternoon I received a phone call from a friend of the dog's owner asking if we had any knowledge of the dog. When asked why he waited so long to contact us the friend explained that because the owner wasn't from this country he didn't know who to turn to to report his dog missing. So thankfully dog and owner were reunited and hopefully the next time he ventures into town of an evening he leaves his dog indoors!!
On Saturday my partner and I had a charity stall at Worthing Pride to raise funds for Doris Banham dog rescue. They rescue dogs on death row from council pounds up and down the country. There was going to be a dog show as well, hence the charity stalls, but very wisely the dog show was cancelled due to the heat. I'd like to say a big thank you to Jeanette Barsdell who organised the event for allowing us and CARAT (Caring for the Animals Trust) to raise funds for dogs at home and abroad. Thank you also to everyone who supported us at the event. It was a really good family fun day with a great atmosphere, and it was good to be involved in the first ever Worthing Pride event.
Lastly, I'm hoping to bring you a special blog next week all being well. I'm really excited so fingers crossed ...
Hello again. What a week!
Who would have thought that the heatwave would still be with us? And who would have thought that the England football team would still be in Russia??
In between all that excitement, it's been another busy week for the dog wardens, and social media played its part.
You may remember last week I reported that a teenager was thrown from her horse due to a Doberman that wasn't under the control of the person in charge of it. Well, despite there not being many Dobermans in Worthing, we didn't receive any calls that might have helped us identify the owner / person walking the dog.
However the blog on the same day asking for information regarding the Boxer type dog I named Harricane (after the England striker) resulted in numerous calls and emails. The result is that Harricane has now been signed over to us and I have made arrangements for a local rescue centre to asses him. I'd like to thank everyone who contacted us to help provide information relating to this.
As you can imagine our workload has increased a lot since this unusually hot spell.
Apart from the calls from the public concerned about dogs in cars and being walked in the heat, we also see a large rise in noise complaints. People want their doors and windows open as well as relaxing in their gardens. So if a nearby dog is barking they're going to hear it and possibly complain that the noise is a nuisance at which point we become involved.
We also receive an increase in reports that dogs aren't being housed in an environment suitable for such hot weather. This offence is covered by Section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act. It doesn't seem that long ago that I was talking about dogs living in outdoor kennels needing to be protected from the cold, rain, wind and snow. Now we're at the other end of the scale where I need to remind people that dogs need to be provided with a covered area to protect them from the sun.
It's not just dogs living outside that are in danger, I've had reports of dogs confined to porches or conservatories which, because they are mostly glass has the same effect as a greenhouse and despite how much water you leave your companion animal they will soon dehydrate and develop heatstroke. Pets need to be in a cool room, if need be close the blinds when you go out and put a fan on and give them access to plenty of water.
Lastly, I write my blog on a Monday morning, we collected two stray dogs first thing. One thankfully is about to go home, but the second, by the sounds of it, may be with us a while.
I'll update you all next week along with how Harricane got on at his assessment and hopefully by then “It will have come home” ... C'mon England!!!!
Photo: One of the strays we collected that is still with us
Hi again, It's been another busy week for the Dog Wardens, as nice as the weather is it brings with it a lot of problems. Hopefully you've read the post yesterday about the tragic consequences of exposing your dogs to the heat, please do spread the word to others.
I really can't understand why people would want to take their dogs out in the weather we've been experiencing lately.
On Saturday evening a lady messaged me inquiring if it was OK for her not to walk her dog for a couple of days as she wasn't able to walk them early morning or late evening. My reply was simple - no dog has ever died through not being walked but plenty have died through heatstroke.
I'm really not sure if some people believe their dogs are invincible or that they just don't think! If we're hot wearing shorts and a t-shirt how are they feeling wearing a fur coat? And as for walking them on a boiling hot pavement, if you can't touch the pavement with the back of your hand for five seconds then it's too hot for your dog to be walking on the same surface.
A lot of people including myself have put up gazebos in their gardens and brought paddling pools for their dogs to keep them cool along with having a fan on in the house - simple things to make our loved ones more comfortable in this extreme heat that they're not used to.
In other news last week I received a report from the mother of a teenage girl who on Saturday 16th June at about 4pm was riding her pony, a 13.2 hands Bay, on the Bridle Path at The Gallops in Findon Valley, Worthing.
For those of you that know the area, the council have recently installed an outdoor gym in the South East corner of the open grassed area of the site.
The pony was being walked north past the gym equipment when a Doberman dog ran over from the direction of the basketball court near the covered blue seat and commenced bouncing up at the pony's legs causing it to rear up, throwing the girl off and into a hedge.
The lady in charge of the dog, who had been walking close to the basketball court some fifty yards away, only came down to retrieve the dog after she saw what had happened. She didn't even ask if the girl was OK, if she wanted her to call her mum or an ambulance or anything, not even an apology. All she said was “I thought you had gone”. I would suggest it's hard to miss a girl sitting on top of a horse in the open in broad daylight!
It's every dog owner's responsibility to keep their dogs under control. The lady with the Doberman is described as in her 40's or 50's with grey hair. Anyone with information regarding her identity is asked to contact the dog warden service on 01273 263331.
Lastly I'd like to end on some good news. The 5th Findon Valley Dog Show takes place this Sunday on The Gallops in Findon Valley. Entries are being taken from noon and judging starts at 1pm. There will also be stalls selling goodies, raffle prizes, Tombolas, food and drinks, along with a new dog activity called "Hoopers" with a have a go ring on the day. The organisers have put so much of their time and hard work making sure that the show has got bigger and better each year. It's going to be a fun day out for all the family, not forgetting the main purpose of raising much needed funds for Sussex Pet Rescue and Paws Animal Sanctuary.
It'll be great to see you and your dogs there and do say hello, I'll be the one in the centre of the show ring!!
Photo: Dogs are visibly struggling in this summer sun
Firstly thank you to those who commented on my last two blogs regarding the Public Space Protection Orders. I will pass your comments to the relevant managers and pay attention to the areas mentioned when on my patrols.
Yesterday was my first day back to work after a two week holiday touring the Yorkshire Dales & Lake District national parks with my partner and our four dogs.
The scenery was stunning and being so high up with not another car, road or house as far as the eye could see was unbelievable. I can honestly say the longest hold we had on the road in two weeks was because two sheep stood in front of our car and refused to move.
Sadly I wasn't home very long before having to negotiate the likes of the Grove Lodge roundabout, Lyons farm and the railway crossings - the holiday is now a distant memory!!
On my return I was surprised to discover that in the 17 days I was off Mike, my fellow dog warden who covers Adur, dealt with 13 stray dogs.
In ten years I've never known that many strays in such a small period.
I'm pleased to say that all have been reunited with their owners, most without having to go into kennels. But the reality is that none of them should have been allowed to stray and certainly shouldn't have come into our care.
If they had been wearing a collar and ID tag as the law requires, the finders could have contacted the owners and reunited them with their dogs thus avoiding time and expense for the finder and council. Above all, it would have avoided the stress on the dog being handled by various strangers and taken to kennels.
Most of the dogs were with us for the first time and hopefully it will be the last. But one dog was with us for the eighth time and, as I write this he is with us yet again, having been found wandering yesterday evening.
The last time I mentioned this and another two dogs that had been in our care multiple times, the council drew criticism for not doing enough to prevent this. But I can assure you all that we are exploring every avenue to prevent these dogs from straying and potentially causing harm to themselves or others. I'm pleased to say that since that blog the other 2 frequent strays haven't been picked up since.
Thankfully I can end with some good news - Miley the Mastiff type dog who came to us a month ago, went to Rescue Remedies dog rescue in Surrey today. We are very grateful to them for offering him a rescue place.
Until next time.
Photo: Russ on holiday with his dogs next to a lake in the Yorkshire Dales & Lake District national parks
Hello and welcome back to my blog.
Last week I gave you part one on the policing of the Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs). Formerly known as Dog Control Orders and historically Byelaws, they often divide opinion in our area.
There are five PSPOs concerning dogs that authorised officers like me can enforce. Here's the second piece on my looking at the rules and why they are in place.
Permitting your dog to be in an area where the order applies
This refers to areas where dogs are not allowed at all. The most well known and, to some, controversial is Worthing beach between 'Splash Point' (which is at the end of Warwick street) and Heene Road. There is another less known beach ban between the boat ramps in Goring. Both exclusions run from 1st May until 30th September. Other areas include enclosed children's play areas, Highdown Gardens and Heene Terrace.
Taking the beach ban first, it only covers a fraction of all Worthing's beaches and only for five months out of 12.
Is it unreasonable to ask dog walkers to keep away from the beaches closest to the town, where most holidaymakers and day trippers make for?
Do they want to look out for dog faeces before sitting on the beach and then have to fend off Fido who's taken a fancy to their ice cream?
Hopefully the enclosed children's play areas are self explanatory. Parents know their children will be safe from dogs and know that there will be no faeces or urine on the ground or play equipment.
Highdown Gardens and Heene Terrace are areas where the council spend a lot of time money and effort making it nice for people to relax and enjoy. Both are just meters away from the biggest dog walking areas you could wish for - Highdown Hill and the beach respectively, so it's not unreasonable for dogs to be excluded from those areas I'd suggest.
Walking more than six dogs in an area where the order applies
Historically we used to receive complaints of people driving up to beauty spot car parks, opening the doors and several dogs jumping out and running off in all directions defecating and generally causing chaos.
I defy anyone to be able to look in all directions at once!! And so after much discussion the limit of six was introduced. Some councils have a limit of four dogs and I think our council has been more than fair when passing the legislation.
Some people believe that the limit was brought in because of the rise in the number of professional dog walkers in the area but this is not the case. We work closely with professional dog walkers to maintain standards. It's intended just to make things more harmonious for everyone. I know several people that have at least six dogs of their own - I myself live with six and I've friends who have 12!
Everyone except those you don't pick up after their dogs are in favour of this law ...
I'm sure everyone has trodden in dogs faeces, perhaps walked it into their house unknowingly.
I often get letters from ladies reporting that their children have walked in it on the way to school so have it on their shoes all day, or they've got it on their pram wheels and unknowingly brought the pram into the house. Then there's the cases of children treading in or sitting in it in the park, people standing in it when they're playing football or having a picnic - who can defend the irresponsible dog owners who can't be bothered to pick up?
Of course, these are just my opinion on why the laws are important. It's just an overview of the legislation we work to but I hope it shows that Adur and Worthing is far from anti-dog!
Full details of the PSPOs and the areas they cover can be found on our website:
Hello and welcome back to my blog.
One of the things that divides opinion is the policing of the Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs), which were formerly known as Dog Control Orders and historically Byelaws.
There are five PSPOs concerning dogs that authorised officers can enforce.
I often hear (and thanks to social media, read) people complaining about the restrictions on dogs in the town. I have even heard Worthing described as anti dog or not dog friendly.
As the owner of four dogs I can categorically state nothing can be further from the truth.
So, in the first of two blogs, here's a look at the rules and why they are in place.
Rule one - failing to put your dog on a lead when directed
This refers to areas where normally dogs are allowed to be off lead.
But in certain circumstances an authorised officer of the Council may give a direction under this Order to put and keep a dog on a lead. This is only if such restraint is reasonably necessary to prevent a nuisance or behaviour by the dog likely to cause annoyance or disturbance to any other person or the worrying or disturbance of any animal or bird.
Examples might be:
- Dogs being allowed to run onto a football or cricket pitch when there is an organised game in progress
- People having a picnic etc and a dog being allowed to run into the group
- Dogs running into a nature reserve during the breeding season, etc
I've never had to use this piece of legislation, and any responsible dog owner would see that their dog is causing a nuisance and call it back to put on a lead until clear of the area.
Rule two - failing to have your dog on a lead in an area where the order applies.
This refers to areas of land where dogs must be held on a lead at all times. Areas include the promenade from Windsor Road to George V Avenue, Palantine Park, Durrington cemetery and some parks and gardens.
The promenade is a safety issue - a dog running along with pedestrians and cyclists is a recipe for disaster. I've witnessed a rider go over his handlebars trying to avoid a dog and he broke his collarbone, the bike damaged and the dog injured.
Palatine Park is used by Worthing Town FC and was redeveloped in 2012 at a cost of some £1.6 million pounds funded by the Council with assistance to the tune of over £450,000 from the Football Foundation. There was a compromise that dogs would still be allowed on the site. Football teams regularly complaint that before training and matches they have to do a poo patrol and pick up off the pitch. Something they shouldn't have to do and if everyone behaved responsibly, something they wouldn't have to do
And as for the cemetery, I'd like to think none of us like the thought of dogs running loose around our loved ones graves - not to mention defecating or urinating over them.
The council parks staff work so hard maintaining flower beds, bowling greens etc and to see dogs being allowed to run across the greens and flower beds is so frustrating for them. I've witnessed a man using a ball chucker in Marine Gardens encouraging his dog onto the pitch and putt green; yet 50 yards away he had the whole beach at his disposal. Is this rule unreasonable? I don't think so.
Next week I'll focus on the other three rules that we have in place across the district. Until then....
Full details of the PSPOs and the areas they cover can be found on our website:
Hello and welcome back to my blog.
We deal with all sorts of questions as a Council dog warden service. One of the subjects I'm often asked about is pet insurance. So many first time pet owners have no idea how expensive veterinary treatment can be and it's only when faced with a sick or injured pet that they find out.
Each year a number of dogs are signed over to rescue centres because their owners can't afford the vets bills and there's no doubt that a number of dogs are abandoned for the same reason. A neighbour of mine rescued a dog after he was signed over to a charity having suffered a broken leg.
Some of you will also remember Humphrey (photo below) who last year was dumped up at Highdown suffering from a really bad allergic skin and ear disease. Had he been treated straight away by his owner, the cost would have been a fraction of the £2,000 plus it cost Dogs Trust and us to make him pain free and happy, not to mention Humphrey wouldn't have had months and months of suffering and the loss of one of his ears.
People often ask why don't charities help pet owners with the vets bill so that the animal can stay with their owner rather than being re-homed? After all, the charity are going to be paying the vets bill if an animal is signed over to them anyway? Well, the reasons are the system would be abused, charities up and down the country would be inundated with pet owners, not all genuine, asking for help with their vets bills. The charities would soon go out of business, preventing other animals getting the help they so badly need.
I always recommend that pet owners take out insurance. But not only that, I stress the need to research and compare the different companies and variations of cover they offer. There are so many different options and most have an upper limit on what the company will pay out per year, ie a choice of a maximum of £4,000. £7,000 or £12,000. With advances in medicine, animals are now being saved in situations where in the past they would have died - meaning the average life expectancy has extended albeit at a financial cost.
With her blessing, I often quote my partner's mother's story. Her sweet rescue teacup Chihuahua Kelsey became ill with gastroenteritis. But because of her breeding (abnormally small) the infection took hold and she eventually succumbed to Meningitis. Her insurance limit was £12,000 per year, plus she had to pay the first 10% of any claim. Despite the best efforts of a referral veterinary practice in Hampshire it became clear she would have to let Kelsey go to sleep. The total vets bill was well over £10,000 So not only did she lose her dog, she had to pay over £1,000 of the vets bill.
So had that been someone with a limit of £4,000 or £7,000 or no insurance cover at all, how far would they - or could they - have gone financially?
Could they tell their children that they had to re-home or put their pet to sleep because they couldn't pay the vets bill? More to the point could they look their pet in the eye?
My advice is get the best insurance you can afford.
Hello again. Firstly I hope you all had a great bank holiday weekend.
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the Dogs Trust open day and fun dog show was coming up. Well I'm pleased to say the event was a great success. Any outside event is so weather dependent, it would have been a disaster if the predicted thunderstorms had materialised. But the hard work from the staff and volunteers paid off, with the charity raising much-needed funds and awareness of their work.
Whilst on my way there, I was called to Beach Green, Lancing to a report of a dog being left in a car. It was 26 degrees outside so goodness knows how hot it would have been inside the car. Despite being nearby, on my arrival the car had gone. I'm saddened but not surprised that despite years of publicity, campaigns, news reports of dogs being killed in hot cars that people still do it. It's the same as leaving your dog in a hot oven. I read on social media yesterday that police in Worthing removed a dog that had been left for hours in a car. Well done to those officers and the person reporting it.
Back to the fun day though and I was pleased to say it was well supported by the public. Some of the classes in the dog show must have had almost 60 dogs in. Gazebos with plunge pools inside were provided around the field for shade and a cooling dip or drink, along with one in the show ring for dogs waiting their turn to be judged. Luckily being one of four judges, each class didn't take hours and I couldn't get all the blame if someone's dog wasn't placed in the top six. The downside of course was that not all the dogs I liked were placed because other judges had their favourites as well.
Luckily, once we had picked our top six, we all agreed on the winners of each class and most important of all the best in show which was won by a 16 year old German Shepherd type dog. The owner adopted him from Dogs Trust when he was one year old.
It's so easy to become despondent because we dog wardens so often see the worst side - owners being cruel, neglecting and abandoning their dogs. So It was so nice to see so many happy owners with their dogs, dogs that are clearly loved and well cared for.
Talking of abandonment, I'm sure many of you would have seen our post about Miley, a three-year-old Mastiff type bitch, allegedly found abandoned at Beach Green, Lancing last Tuesday. Her seven days are up today so we will be approaching reputable rescues to re-home her. Until a place can be found she'll remain safe in our care.
Until next time ... Russ
Photo: The on site vet, the Dogs Trust Veterinary Nurse and me at the bank holiday weekend Dogs Trust open day and fun dog show
Hello again after what has been another busy week, resulting in calls to five stray dogs and one fox cub.
Last Monday evening a lovely little Staffie was found wandering in the Salvington area. The finder kindly took her to a local vets. The dog wasn't wearing a name tag and her microchip details were out of date. So when she hadn't been claimed by the following morning it appeared that she had been dumped as I would suggest that, even if a dog owner didn't know that they can contact the council out of hours or check with the local 24 hour to see if their dog's been handed in, they would be on the phone to us first thing in the morning.
However it was the following day, some 40 hours after she was found, that I received a very unexpected call from her owner, explaining she had been on holiday, leaving her dog with a friend who for some unknown reason didn't report the dog lost to anyone and only told the owner of the disappearance on her return. The lady was so relieved her dog was safe, but what if she had been on holiday for longer? The charges would have been higher but much worse the dog could have been re-homed after seven days if not claimed and all because the microchip details weren't up to date.
Friday's stray dog owner was also on holiday. But because the microchip details were correct I was able to contact her straight away and immediately return her dog to the family that her looking after her!!
Saturday was my turn to be on call but the gods conspired against me to ensure I didn't get to watch a certain televised wedding ...
First a call to a Staffie cross in Findon Valley which was claimed the following day, followed by a call to Dogs Trust Shoreham where a Staffie found wandering in Goring had been handed in. No sooner had I left the centre and got the dog to our kennels then the owner phoned to claim him so back to Goring to reunite one happy dog with his owner.
Lastly yesterday (Monday 21st) yet another Staffie cross decided to go walkabout. But thanks to her microchip she was home again in no time.
Of these five dogs, two had jumped out of open windows in the house, one escaped through a cat flap, one was in the front garden one minute and gone the next and one details of escape unknown.
Oh yes, the fox cub, well that was the highlight of the week! Councillor Clive Roberts, who sits on Worthing Borough Council, contacted me early Thursday morning to report that a fox cub had fallen into the basement garden of a property in Liverpool Terrace and had no way out. I then contacted the one and only Billy Elliot, of animal rescue charity Wadars, who despite being on his day off agreed to help. So with my van, ladders and pole and his Spiderman athleticism the cub was back at ground level in no time and ran off without so much as a backward glance at his rescuers.
So all in all a successful week - five dogs back with their owners and one fox rescued, hopefully back with his mum.
Until next time ...
Photo: The little fox cub stuck in a basement garden area
Hopefully, I'm not going to tempt fate, but it's been really quiet on the stray dog front.
Just one stray last week, a really lovely Shih Tzu who was found by a member of the public wandering near her home. The finder did everything right - she took the dog in, put a note on her wall alerting the owner that she had found a dog, but being careful not give a description should a dishonest person claim the dog as theirs. Yes, I'm afraid this does happen, which is why I'm not a fan of people posting pictures of dogs they've found on Facebook without reporting it to us.
Sadly the dog had to spend a night in our kennels before being reunited with her owners and all because she wasn't wearing a collar with her owner's contact details on. She lived less than 100 yards from where she was found and could have been home within minutes. Even when I arrived, she could have gone straight home, but her microchip wasn't registered on any of the UK databases. I urge you all to check with your vets or microchip company to see if your contact details are up to date. It could save you money and anxiety but more importantly, your dog being distressed at being away from home and in a kennel overnight.
On Bank Holiday Monday, I attended my first dog show of the year which was organised by a great bunch of dedicated greyhound rescuers at the Brighton branch of the Greyhound Trust. What made this event different for me was that I wasn't there as a judge or a fundraiser, so I was able to look around the many stalls at leisure and enter some of my dogs in the dog show.
I'm normally asked to judge between three and four local fun dog shows each year, and I'm always conscious that everyone thinks their pet is the best. But of course, not everyone can win, and so some people are going to be disappointed. The thing to remember is that all the money raised goes to help the animals in need and it's a fun event, not to be taken too seriously.
With that in mind, the dog show had mixed fortunes for my dogs. Button, who everyone adores and describes as so cute with an amazing personality, wasn't placed in any of his classes. Yet Nell, my 11 and a half-year-old Staffie mix, won the best veteran class, which qualified her for entry into best in show where she was placed reserve best in show. To say I was a very proud daddy is an understatement!
If you would like to enter your dog at a local fun dog show or spectate, Dogs Trust Shoreham are holding their open day and dog show with lots of stalls, food and entertainment on Sunday 27th May at their Shoreham rehoming centre.
The staff work so hard to ensure It's always a great day out whether you're a dog owner or not as there's something for all the family. I hope to see you there.
Photo: Russ with Nell who won Best in Show
Firstly I'd like to thank those of you who made such nice comments on last week's blog.
Obviously I do what I do for the dogs - they can't help themselves and are totally reliant on humans, they can't choose who they live with or where, if/when they're walked, fed or any other basic needs that we take for granted.
So when I can help a dog or other living animal I will but of course it's always nice to get good feedback and compliments and they're very much appreciated.
There's also been a bit of change for myself and Mike, who is the warden over in Adur. There's been a restructure in the Environmental Services team which means that the Dog Warden service has been moved across to Public Health & Regulation Department based at Portland House in Worthing. This is where the service was when I started 10 years ago so in effect we've 'come home'.
Our new line manager and his manager are both dog owners which is really good news as they can relate to the strays in our care. This helps on the rare occasions when there are difficult decisions to make.
On that note I'd like to use this opportunity to thank our previous managers for their support with the stray dogs over the last three and a half years.
There were more than a handful of occasions when they could have said no to veterinary treatment so that it would have had to wait until the dog was accepted into Dogs Trust or another rescue.
But in the dogs' best interest the treatment and in some cases operations were carried out forthwith thus aiding the dogs recovery time making them more comfortable and pain free.
In at least one case agreeing to keep the dog a number of months when other councils would have put the dog to sleep on economic grounds.
Even though myself and Mike have been 'rehomed', we hope to continue this good work moving forward.
Photo: Stanley the dog
First things first, I guess I owe you all an apology, since last weeks post about the dangers of leaving dogs in hot cars, I don’t think the sun’s been out once!
Due to the length of the post, I didn’t get to mention the stray dogs. Over the last 2 weeks there’s been quite a bit to catch up on, with the usual mix of good, bad and frustrating news.
2 weeks ago a dog was found on the beach in Worthing. On my arrival I was met by a stunning red Labrador, chipped to a previous owner. The dog was taken to our kennels awaiting his owner to come forward.
Photo: The red Labrador found on Worthing beach which is now being looked after in a Dogs Trust foster home. They have named him Simba!
The following afternoon, whilst engrossed in Sky Sports Soccer Saturday, I received a call to Lancing where a dog had been found wandering around the streets. I picked up a sweet little Staffie and returned him home. Sadly his owners weren’t at home and so after leaving a note to let his owner know he was safe and well I took him to our kennels.
Sometimes neighbours offer to look after a dog until the owners return home or ask ”why don’t you put them back into the garden?” Well the answer is simple, if I release the dog into someone's care without the owner's permission or put them back into the garden, and the dog escapes again,( gets run over, bites someone, falls ill etc.) you can imagine the outcry. Ultimately the dog is my responsibility and I’m not going to leave them unattended.
The following day, the owner phoned to claim the Staffie. They described how they had sadly fallen ill and was unable to give the dog the exercise and time he deserved and so reluctantly signed him into my care. The decision wasn’t taken lightly and was by no means a spur of the moment decision. The owner had previously contacted dog rescue centres and was on the waiting list of one of them.
I’m pleased to report that both dogs are now in the care of Dogs Trust Shoreham and have been placed in foster homes where they have settled in well.
Last week we saw the return of 2 regulars who have featured in recent blogs. one was found straying (for the 4th time) on Thursday and claimed on Sunday. The 2nd (for a 6th time) was found on Friday and claimed the following day.
I’m running out of words to describe my frustration regarding these (and one other dog who I mentioned recently who we’ve cared for 8 times ). All 3 dogs are handsome young boisterous entire male Staffies in need of training and exercise. All 3 would be a target for thieves to use for stud, fighting or to sell, yet still they’re allowed to stray time and time again.
Having seen one stray killed on the railway track and another killed on the roads, I’m desperate that no harm to come to these dogs but I do fear for their safety if their owners don’t act responsibly in future.
I can’t believe that within a few weeks of talking about keeping dogs warm and protected from the extreme cold weather, I now need to remind dog owners that dogs die in hot cars. Every year the police, RSPCA, local Authority Animal Welfare Officers and Dog Wardens receive calls from the public who are concerned about dogs shut in hot cars. In under 20 minutes, a hot car can prove fatal to a dog. As the temperature inside the car rises, in just a matter of minutes, the dog’s suffering will become evident through:
- Excessive panting, whimpering or barking.
- Excessive drooling
- Becoming lethargic or uncoordinated
- Collapse or vomiting.
If the dog is not rescued from the car these symptoms will develop into a loss of muscle control, the kidneys will cease to function, the brain will become irreversibly damaged and the heart will stop.
The dangers are obvious, we only have to touch the dashboard or seats on a hot day to know that the temperature inside a car can reach the same as an oven. It's not just on warm days when dogs are at risk, vehicles can be death-traps even in cooler temperatures. Puppies and elderly dogs are not able to regulate their temperature as effectively as adult dogs and sighthounds, because they have very little body fat to protect their internal organs are more vulnerable
My advice to pet owners and concerned animal lovers is don’t leave your dog in a parked car, even for a few minutes.
Even if it seems cool outside it can become very hot very quickly. Parking in the shade and/or keeping the windows down does not make it safe, neither does leaving them with water.
Make sure you keep your dog as cool as possible when driving: avoid travelling during the heat of the day, use sun blinds on the windows and open a window a little to allow a cooling breeze to circulate in the car.
Make sure you have a supply of water and know where you can stop off en route for water breaks. Dogs aren’t able to cool down as effectively as humans so can suffer from heat stroke and dehydration very quickly.
If you are present at the rescue of a dog from a hot car that is clearly in distress, seek immediate veterinary advice. The very first priority is to prevent the dog from getting any hotter, attempt to provide shade from the sun and move to a cooler area.
Dampening the dog down with cool (not freezing) water will help start to bring the body temperature down.Wet towels can be used to cool a dog but these must be regularly changed or spraying them down with water and placing them in front of the air conditioning vent to enhance evaporation on the way to the emergency appointment.
If you witness a dog displaying any of these signs, please call 999 immediately.
More information and an excellent video showing the effects of dogs being left in hot cars can be found at the Dogs trust website.
Photo: A promotional poster for the Dogs Die In Hot Cars campaign
Hello again, it's been another busy week with three strays being found. All were reunited with their owners but with a certain amount of frustration. Why? Because of the three strays, one has now been in our care eight times, meaning despite all of our advice, the dog is still escaping from the house, putting himself and others in danger.
The second belongs to someone who over the years has owned many dogs, several if not all have at one time or another been in our care having been found straying and sadly at least two have been run over and killed. Yet despite this, the owner's dogs are still being put in danger.
The third dog shows us the benefits of social media, good community spirit and lessons to learn for the future. The story begins when Zuri a male Saluki ran off from his owner in fields near Ashington. His owner alerted a charity called Dog Lost who created a missing dog poster (right), hard copies of which were displayed in the area and posts online were shared over and over again far and wide.
I remember seeing the post and sharing it myself and wondering how far the dog will travel or will he go to ground nearby.
Over the next 3 days there were numerous sightings reported to his owner who responded to each and every one. Zuri's route was plotted and it's known that he visited Rackham, Parham House, Storrington and the Duke of Norfolk's Estate at Arundel and Amberley. Sadly by the time his owner arrived at every sighting he had moved, not helped by the fact Zuri was travelling cross country whereas his owner had to travel to each sighting by road.
Last Wednesday evening, some 3½ days after he went missing. A motorist spotted Zuri running up the middle of Titnore Lane towards the A27 and alerted WADARS who in turn rang me. The owner was contacted and made her way to the area, thankfully Zuri changed direction because the next sighting was that he was heading towards Fernhurst Drive, Goring. Then came a flurry of sightings leading his owner to the fields near to Goring Hall where she got her first glimpse of him for over 3 days.
However, 3 days in the wild had left him confused and scared and so he wouldn't come to her. Luckily she had her other Salukis with her who ran over to him. She then called them back and Kuri came back with them.
In the 3½ days Zuri was missing it's estimated he travelled over 40 miles and in the last 2½ hours of his ordeal he covered some 10 miles. The story shows a great example of the power of social media and the charity Dog Lost but of course none of that would have been any good without the community who read the posts and kept the phone number to hand and contacted the distraught owner when they saw Zuri.
It also tells us that when looking for a pet that's run away, they could have gone to ground nearby but on the other hand, they are capable of travelling long distances in a short space of time. I'm really pleased to report that Zuri has now recovered from his ordeal and for the time being at least is being walked on a lead.
Photo: Zuri the Saluki
10th April 2018: If I've learnt one thing over the past ten years, it's that dogs are 'inconsiderate' ...
I hope you all had an enjoyable Easter break, the downside for us is when you go back to work, the emails, complaints and reports of incidents have stacked up and still need to be dealt with.
To make matters worse Mike Barnard (the Adur dog warden) has been very naughty, he's taken 2 weeks leave directly after the Easter break and so I'm covering from the border of Brighton & Hove in the east to the Worthing Arun border at Ferring in the west.
What this means is, when I'm in Southwick there will be a stray dog in Durrington and when I'm in Goring there'll be a stray dog in Fishersgate.
If I've learnt one thing over the past ten years, it's that dogs are inconsiderate; not only do they go missing when you're in the wrong place, but also when you're eating or just about to finish duty - it's always the way!!
Easter weekend was a perfect example of this. As most of you know Adur & Worthing Councils provide an out of hours service at the weekends and bank holidays - very few councils throughout the country do this - and out of the three stray dogs that came into our care last week, two were picked up by Mike over the Easter weekend and Sunday's Pomeranian stray wasn't reunited until her owner came forward on Easter Monday.
Before the beautiful Pomeranian was claimed I visited Worthing's first ever Vegan fair which was held at the Assembly rooms. I happened to know that the organisers were worried if it would be well attended so I was really pleased to see so many people there when I arrived.
Photo: A Pomeranian dog - but not the one that went missing!
It was a good mix of stalls selling ethically sourced vegan beauty products (too late for me!) toiletries, clothes and of course food. My partner was in heaven when she found some garlic mayo to buy and I was in my element when I brought lunch from the Vegan Greek street food stall.
There were also some local charities and groups represented including Cat and Rabbit Rescue Chichester, Worthing Cats Protection, Animal aid and Campaign to close down Brighton & Hove Greyhound Stadium whose stall was run by a long time vegan who has dedicated her life to speak up against the exploitation of animals both at home and abroad.
It's lovely to spend time with like minded people and catch up with old friends. But as we all know, holidays and time off go too quickly and all too soon it's back to work!
Since my last blog I've spent time finishing off my inspections of licensed premises, what's the Dog warden service got to do with pubs I hear you say, well thankfully it's not pubs we inspect it's Animal Boarding Establishments which include Dog and Cat boarding kennels, Pet Shops, Dog day care and home boarding.
All of these premises and the people running them need to be licensed so that the customer can have peace of mind that when they hand over their companion animal, they can do so in the knowledge that the premises are safe and the pet will be looked after by caring professionals who know what they are doing. We also check to see that they have the necessary insurance should anything go wrong.
It amazes me that some people post on social media sites asking for someone to look after their dog, cat etc and have no idea of the person's background when they hand their pet over en route to the airport or whatever. Would we hand our children over to a stranger? Hopefully not.
Dog kennels and Catteries have been around for years but home boarding has become popular recently, this is where a person will look after a dog in their own home (not the dogs home). Our inspections of these premises include checking that the garden is secure, free from hazards, you will be surprised at how many people plant rusty old washing machines, fridges bike frames etc in their garden. Most take root but I've never seen one come into bloom yet!! Ponds are another hazard.
It's a known fact that some people offer this service and are not licensed. Well apart from being illegal,it's potentially dangerous for the pet owner. Not all dogs get on so it's important for the licence holder be restricted to a number of dogs compatible to their accommodation and the number of dogs they have of their own. For example some of my licence holders have two dogs of their own so if I wanted to board 1 of mine and you want to board yours at the same time, then mine and yours have to get on but her dogs have to get on with mine and yours. Many dogs get along on walks but in a confined area 24/7 with toys and food about, that's a totally different thing and a big ask for a lot of dogs.
Some people unfortunately put profit before safety and take on as many as they can but it's an accident waiting to happen. Whereas the license stipulates how many they can board and that all dogs that are going to be on the premises at the same time must be mixed prior to boarding without incident.
If you think this is unnecessary or scare mongering let me tell you that at least 2 dogs have been killed in the last 5 years in Worthing whilst in the care of professional businesses so my plea would be for you to ensure the people you entrust with your companion animal is licensed.
Photo: Three dogs in their bed
Last week I mentioned that of the three strays that had come into our care, one hadn't been claimed and was going to Dogs Trust, Shoreham. I'm pleased to say that she has settled in well at the centre and is a firm favourite with the staff and due to her good looks has created a lot of public interest. Once again we are indebted to Tracey Rae and her staff at Dogs Trust Shoreham for taking her into their care.
We've had three stray dogs this week, two of which escaped from the same house because the teenage son didn't double lock the front door when he went to school. The cunning, working dog jumped up at the door handle thereby opening the front door leading to freedom for him and his sister. A good Samaritan secured the dogs until my arrival and they were reunited with a member of their family.
Rather frustratingly the third stray this week was one of the dogs I mentioned in last weeks blog, meaning he's now been in our care three times. The dog is an entire male bull breed and I fear for his safety if he continues getting out. He could be run over or stolen for breeding or dog fighting and I really don't know what more I can say to make the owners stop him from straying. Sometimes when you try to give advice it's not gratefully received.
Sadly in one park earlier this week a man walking his dog, rather than accept my polite friendly words of advice and put his dog on a lead, felt the need to swear and threaten violence towards me. Some of the incident was witnessed by other dog walkers who reprimanded him on his language only to be told to mind their own business although of course, those weren't the exact words he used!
Thankfully this is a rare occurrence, probably the 4th time in ten years but it highlights why a number of colleagues in other parts of the country have been issued with body-worn cameras similar to those issued to Police. Most people however, are happy to receive advice and after last weeks blog I'm pleased to say this week has been a lot quieter. There have been no more reports of sheep worrying locally so hopefully the mix of education and patrols of the area have paid off, fingers crossed.
Photo: Lenny on left and Poppy who died 2nd Jan this year, relaxing in my garden in happier times
It's been a busy and disappointing week for the dog wardens.
It started last Tuesday when a stray dog was taken to a local vets having been found in the Offington area of Worthing.
The dog, possibly an Afghan mix (see photo below), was underweight, full of worms and still had milk, which meant she had only very recently stopped feeding her pups or had been taken from her pups. Her seven days are up and she has been offered a space at Dogs Trust rehoming centre in Shoreham, to whom we are very grateful.
During the week we've also had two stray dogs that were subsequently claimed. What is disappointing is that we've had both dogs before, meaning that, despite our best efforts to educate the owners (not to mention them having to pay the £55 release fee), both dogs were left in danger by being allowed to roam the streets unsupervised.
Luckily both dogs were found by good Samaritans before they could come to any harm and handed into our care. Both owners were contacted and reunited with their dogs after paying another £55 release fee. Hopefully, these dogs won't be put in danger again by being allowed to stray.
You may have heard that in the past few weeks a number of sheep have been attacked on the Downs near Cissbury. The first attack which happened on 20th January left 3 ewes seriously injured. The second attack on the 2nd February left one Ewe dead and two more injured having received bite marks to the neck. On March 10th yet another attack was reported - this time one ewe lost her life having received bite marks to her rear.
As a result, I worked last Saturday morning, moving between the Storrington Rise and Coombe rise car parks in Findon Valley, advising dog walkers that sheep were present in the area and to keep their dogs on a lead when in the proximity of them.
It's a good opportunity to remind people that it is a criminal offence not to keep our dogs under control around livestock. Any person in charge of a dog found worrying sheep could end up with a criminal record and a large fine not to mention compensation to the farmer. Remember, the farmer, in certain circumstances, also has the right to shoot a dog worrying his sheep.
Most dog walkers were appalled that owners had allowed their dogs to attack the sheep and were supportive of the advice given. I was a little taken aback when at least one person commented that the sheep would soon be dead anyway.
Whilst that is true and impossible to argue against, I pointed out that we (dog owners) can't prevent the sheep dying in the slaughterhouse, we could prevent them being killed by our dogs.
I personally wouldn't want the suffering of any animal on my conscience which is why I became a vegetarian over 30 years ago and now lead an almost vegan lifestyle. But that's another story.
This week I wanted to talk about what is probably every dog owners worst nightmare; Losing your pet.
A sudden death or following a long and agonising illness is hard enough to deal with, but for your dog to be stolen and not knowing what has happened to your loved one is in my mind far worse.
Thankfully dog theft is quite rare in Sussex but there is a cause for concern that it's on the increase.
There are several different motives for stealing dogs and different methods used by those involved in stealing them. This blog is not intended to alarm anyone, but it's better to be aware of what does happen and how to try to minimise the chance of it happening to you.
Reasons for stealing dogs include:
- Gain, either to keep, to sell to someone else or to breed from
- Revenge, ie to hurt someone for whatever reason
- To use in fighting, either as a fighting or as a bait dog
Perhaps what we perceive to be the most common is a dog being stolen whilst tied up outside a shop.
I've long lost count of the amount of times I've been called to a report of an abandoned dog tied up, often for over an hour. On speaking to the owners some are totally unaware of the dangers, some are apologetic and some are quite rude. Please don't tie your dogs up outside shops leaving them to the mercy of an opportunist thief.
Dogs have been stolen from gardens
If your garden can be seen from public view please make sure that not only is your garden secure but that any gates are fitted with bolts fitted on the bottom so that thieves can't just reach over and unbolt them, you should also consider a padlock as well. Many people plant hedges, bushes etc to screen the garden from public view and you could consider prickly ones to deter anyone climbing in!!
Dogs are often stolen during a burglary in the owners home. Sometimes whole litters of puppies have been stolen. Many of these homes are targeted through advertising the pups for sale.
Thieves or their accomplices have been known to phone and enquire about the pups and finding out when was a good time to view them, any time not convenient to the owner could mean nobody was going to be at home. Others actually visit in advance to carry out a reconnaissance of the address, security measures, where the pups are kept, etc.
Be wary of what information you share
When arranging pup viewings with people over the phone, ask for a name and landline number from them and call it to verify. You may be able to write down the registration number of those coming to view your dogs.
Dogs have been enticed away from their owners whilst out walking, often in isolated areas, and on occasions dog owners being approached in the street by people who have brazenly tried to snatch the dog. Train your dog to come back to you on command and don't let them out of your sight when they're off lead. On lead be wary of people engaging you in conversation about your dog.
Please ensure your microchip details are up to date and make sure you have your pets microchip number and contact details of the microchip database to alert them if your pet is lost or stolen and last but not least have lots of good quality photos of your dog, taken from all different angles, particularly concentrate on the dogs markings, two of my dogs have completely unique markings which would positively identify them.
Hello again. I hope that none of you were affected by last week's weather and were able to go about your daily routine without disruption. Looking at the news we certainly got off lightly compared to other parts of the UK and it was sad to hear that the weather claimed at least 11 lives.
What amazes me is the number of people wrapped up in goodness knows how many layers of clothing (not to mention hats, gloves and scarves) who are out walking dogs, often small, short haired breeds, that have no coat on.
People will argue that dogs have got fur and they're descended from the wild and are used to all weathers. But they were domesticated by us thousands of years ago and are now used to living indoors with central heating so it's hardly the same thing at all!
As for “they've got fur to keep them warm”, it's the same fur as they have in the summer. Yet the person walking the poor dog isn't wearing the same clothes as they would be in July!
I didn't walk my dogs for two days last week. It does them no harm at all - you can give them plenty of mental stimulation in the house by hiding their food and or treats, playing with them and doing some training with them.
My colleague and I were busy having received several calls relating to concern for dogs living outside in kennels. One address had a number of dogs who lived outside. The owner was adamant that because their dogs were born outside they were fine with their conditions and that if they put coats on their dogs it would make them wimps. Meanwhile we were all feeling the cold whilst wrapped up in several layers standing beside them ...
The legislation that protects animals in these circumstances is The Animal Welfare Act 2006.
Section 4 of the act makes it a criminal offence to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal, while Section 9 of the act makes it the duty of a person responsible for an animal to ensure that the welfare needs of the animal are met. These needs are often referred to as “the five freedoms” and includes the need for a suitable environment for the animal.
If you have any concerns for the welfare of an animal please do not hesitate to contact us or the RSPCA.
Photo: A dog enjoying a brief run out in the snow last week
Hello again. I'm just back from a week's annual leave which I spent with my partner and three of our dogs in Norfolk, Sadly our old girl Flora couldn't come with us as she wouldn't be able to enjoy the lovely coastal walks available in the area. She stayed at home with family and was very spoilt indeed.
Driving up to Cromer we passed the kennels of Yarmouth Greyhound Homefinders and I made a mental note to visit the rescue during the week. I was already aware of another Norfolk-based greyhound rescue group called Kerry Greyhounds Norfolk and soon found out about a third called Norfolk Greyhound Rescue.
You may wonder why one sparsely-populated county has three rescue centres dedicated to rehoming unwanted greyhounds. Well the answer is of course greyhound racing.
With a human athlete they train to be the best they can, they either succeed to a particular standard whether it be county, national, European, world, Olympic etc - or, they don't. If they don't make that standard, if they receive a career threatening injury and when they retire, their parents or loved ones don't throw them out of home or wash their hands of them.
Sadly with greyhounds it's a different matter. Many are never fast enough to race, many more receive career ending injuries, and thousands of greyhounds retire from the sport, usually before the age of four and they can easily live to twelve years of age or more.
Even with all of the dedicated greyhound rescue centres, it is still estimated that in excess of 10,000 greyhounds disappear each year. Many are sold to countries such as Spain and China where they are raced again and there is evidence to suggest that in China the dogs are sold to eat once their racing career is over.
I've fostered greyhounds and regularly look after my friend's greyhound Luna when she goes away so I can recommend them as an ideal family pet.
Contrary to belief they don't need loads of exercise, just two twenty minutes walks a day are fine, although they can do more if you prefer longer walks. They are often referred to as a couch potato so if they sound like a breed for you, pop along to a rescue home (Dogs Trust Shoreham always have greyhounds and have three at the moment).
You'll be adopting a lovely dog and without doubt, in my opinion, the most exploited breed in this country.
Photo: Russ's greyhound Flora being spoilt at home
Up and down the country there are hundreds of rescue centres, some are nationwide and household names such as Dogs Trust, others such as the RSPCA rehome not only dogs but other companion animals too. You will also find independents, set up by a handful of dedicated animal lovers and some are just one man bands, but they all have something in common; they take in dogs and other pets that the owners for one reason or another can't care for anymore.
Whatever reason the animal's owner gives, the staff or volunteers don't judge, that's not in anyone's interest. If people feel they are being judged it may encourage them to rehome their pet privately or just abandon them instead of signing them over to a rescue centre. It is so much easier for a rescue centre to rehome a pet that has been signed over by the owner than a stray picked up off the street. This is because, much like a used car they come with a history. To be able to say to a prospective adopter:
“this dog is called Rosie, she's 6 years old and has no medical problems, she's lived with young children and cats”
makes it so much easier to rehome her than saying:
“We've called this dog Rosie, we think she's about 5 to 7 years old, she was found as a stray in Ireland”
In this age of social media, I often see adverts saying “dogs free to a good home!!” It's obvious that the person advertising is doing this because they want just that for their dog, however when someone knocks on their door answering the advert they're hardly going to say, “I want your dog for breeding, or as a bait dog for my fighting dog”, instead they're going to say something like “I work from home, we live near the downs / beach / park and we'll take her out twice a day and for holidays.” Another good reason to use a rescue centre when you need to rehome your pet.
I would urge anyone needing to rehome their pet to take them to a rehoming centre, and one that does home checks for potential adopters and also provides Rescue Back Up, (RBU). You've then got peace of mind that your pet's new owner and their home have been checked out, plus if something unforeseeable goes wrong in the future a rescue centre offering RBU will take the pet back rather than being moved from pillar to post.
Lenny, my Labrador cross (see photo right), was rehomed privately at least twice before he was taken to a local rescue centre.
Sadly, through unforeseen circumstances, his adopters couldn't keep him but the rescue centre was there to take him back until a new adopter could be found.
He's been with me for over four years now but the charity is there should Lenny need them.
Hi again. When I'm out and about talking to people, I often hear the words, “I'd love to have a dog but” - then follows a number of reasons why they haven't or can't have a dog. Two of the most common reasons are “I go on holidays a lot and I don't want my dogs to go into kennels” or “I can't afford the vets bills”. Well, there is a way to have a dog without the financial responsibility that goes with it, and which helps a dog and the charity who rescued it. The option is of course fostering.
Most local and national animal charities use foster carers and some rely heavily or totally on them. Sussex Pet Rescue for example only has fosterers because, as a small charity, kennel fees would be too expensive for them. Consequently, if they have five foster carers on their books they can help five dogs but if they had more, they could help even more dogs.
There are a number of Dogs Trust rehoming centres around the UK including of course the wonderful one here at Shoreham. Each centre has a dedicated home from home coordinator who recruits, trains and looks after their foster carers. Dogs Trust staff asses every dog that come into their care, either having been signed over by the previous owner or as a stray from anywhere in the UK or Ireland.
The staff immediately know which dogs won't do well in kennels. Often it's puppies, young dogs, pregnant dogs or older dogs, but also dogs that haven't been very well socialised with humans or other dogs. For these dogs, a foster home is vital as they would quickly suffer both mentally and physically in a kennel environment. The home from home coordinator then matches the dog with the most suitable foster carer available.
At a recent get together I met foster carers who had fostered strays that I'd picked up and it was great being able to thank them for caring for those dogs at the most vulnerable time of their lives. The confused and lonely dogs that had been dumped, often with medical issues to contend with. I also met one of those dogs again, but more about Snowy another time.
Over the years my partner Vicky and her mum have fostered over 40 Dogs Trust dogs, and I've just crept into double figures so I'm well placed to assure you it is a worthwhile and rewarding experience.
The dog is better off in a home environment and can be better assessed to see the best type of home suitable for them in the long term. Other benefits include the charity saves on kennel space or the cost of renting a kennel space.
So for those of you who have the time and love to give to a dog but for whatever reason you can't commit to one full time, fostering may be for you.
Photo: Fostering Scamp
Welcome back to my weekly blog. This is part two of my article on stray dogs.
As mentioned last week, in 2017 we collected a total of 161 dogs - this works out at nearly one every other day!
While we re-home nearly 90 per cent of those, not everyone of those we are able to reunite with their owners. In the last 12 months 22 were took to rescue centres including Dogs Trust Shoreham who took 18.
Let me explain why ...
The legislation that covers stray dogs in England and Wales is The Environmental Protection Act 1990 which states that if the dog isn't claimed after a time period of seven clear days, the officer appointed by the local authority may dispose of the dog:
- by selling it or giving it to a person who will, in his opinion, care properly for the dog
- by selling it or giving it to an establishment for the reception of stray dogs
- by destroying it in a manner to cause as little pain as possible
Thankfully nationwide the numbers of stray dogs and stray dogs being put to sleep has reduced year on year.
You may wonder why any stray dogs are put to sleep by local authorities when there are so many rescue centres up and down the country? The answer is space and money.
Sadly there are more dogs needing homes than there are people wanting them. Many people want a puppy, a pedigree or at least to know the dog's history and will pay well over a thousand pounds for a dog. A rescue dog will cost a fraction of that price and will come, in most cases neutered, vaccinated and vet checked.
Often rescue centres have pups and pedigree dogs too. Only last Friday I did a home check for a lovely family who are adopting a Dachshund puppy from Dogs Trust. By adopting they've rescued a dog and got a pedigree puppy all in one!!
So if a rescue centre can't re-home the dogs in their care, they can't take the ones sitting in council pounds up and down the country. Rescue centres do not receive government funding, so with rising vet bills, running costs, wages etc many, even if they have space, are limited to the numbers they can take in.
Money is also a factor for local authorities if they can't find a place in rescue for their strays or re-home them themselves. The cost of keeping them can soon become very expensive, particularly if ongoing veterinary treatment is required.
At this stage, because the law allows it, some councils will take the decision to put a dog in their care to sleep.
Thankfully at Adur & Worthing, this only happens on the advice of a veterinary surgeon who will only consider the welfare of the dog.
We've only had to do this once in the past year. A lovely Collie called Hamba (see photo right) was found dumped in fields, very poorly. After five days at our vets and undergoing several tests it was decided that she was too weak for surgery, so the decision was taken to let her go to sleep.
I promise you that space or money doesn't come into it before we take such a big decision.
Photo: Hamba the Collie
Hello again, this week I'd like to talk about stray dogs.
In 2017 we collected a total of 161 dogs - this works out at nearly one every other day!
We are normally alerted to stray dogs from members of the public reporting that they've found a dog wandering the streets or in a park or open space on its own with no owner in sight.
Often the caller has already caught the dog and so all we have to do is attend and scan the dog for a microchip. But sometimes the dog is running loose and we have to set about catching it. Contrary to popular belief it's not always easy, they've got twice as many legs as us for a start!
When we have the stray dog we scan for a microchip, which apart from very few exceptions, every dog over the age of 8 weeks should have by law. If the details held on the database are correct (which is also the law) then reuniting dog and owner is normally straightforward.
However, if there's no chip or the details recorded on the database are incorrect, the dog is taken to our kennels to be cared for until we can trace the owner and reunite them with their companion.
Because of this, of those 161 dogs, 138 were reunited with their owners. But it is not always this easy.
Next week I'll focus on those other animals that we are not able to immediately reunite with the owners. Hope you all check back in then.
Photo: Stray dog being returned home
Hello, my name's Russ Akehurst, I'm one of the two Dog Wardens working for Adur & Worthing Councils.
Over the next few weeks I'll give you an insight into the type of work we do and share with you some of the cases I've been involved in - some past and some present, some funny, some sad. I warn you now, some don't have a happy ending.
I've been a Dog Warden for over nine years now, having previously served as a Police Constable for over 30 years. After retiring in 2007 I went to work for Horsham District Council as a Community Warden for the village of Ashington.
But when I opened the Worthing Herald one Friday and saw the advert that Worthing Borough Council (as it was in those days before the merger) were looking for a Dog Warden, I knew I had to apply. After being shortlisted from a field of over 70, I attended an interview at Portland House on the day of my father's funeral and beat six other candidates for the job.
Outside of work, my partner and I have four dogs - a Labrador X Boxer, a Jack Russell Terrier, a Staffie X Springer Spaniel and a Staffie x Jack Russell Terrier. They range in age from seven to 14 years.
Sadly less than three weeks ago we had to say goodbye to Poppy, our 15 year old Patterdale Terrier, who I rescued over nine years ago, just a couple of months into the job. She had been dumped in woods at Storrington and taken to Old Clayton Kennels who, at that time, looked after the stray dogs for Worthing, Adur and Horsham councils.
I'd only lost my previous dog earlier that year. But when I saw her curled up in the corner of her kennel, scared lonely and bewildered having recently given birth and with scars on her face, I knew I had to adopt her.
Little did I know then, what the future had in store for us as she loyally accompanied me to work over the years. Little did I know too how many dogs we'd foster until it was time for her to go to sleep.
Photo: Russ Akehurst with his Dog Warden van
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