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
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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