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 five dogs of his own - a Labrador cross Boxer, a Jack Russell Terrier, a Staffie cross Jack Russell Terrier and two Greyhounds.
You can read Russ' current blog posts on this page below - or read:
Due to the very nature of my role, my blogs vary from week to week. Sometimes there are stray dogs to tell you about but thankfully, we often have quiet weeks on the dogs front and so I focus on current issues, such as the benefits of microchipping, fostering, having pet insurance or different laws in relation to dogs.
When doing so I try to give examples to show the advantages, but ultimately it's the pet owners' choice whether or not they take mine or anyone else's advice on any of the subjects covered.
Last week for example I spoke about two recent incidents in which small dogs received serious injuries, one life changing as she lost a leg. This one came about because of a sufficient gap, in or under the fence, for a larger dog to inflict the injury on the smaller dog. The article specifically stated that blame wasn't being apportioned to any particular dog or owner but was written to offer advice so that similar incidents in the future could be avoided.
Yet despite showing a photo of Sassy whose injuries were so serious that she had to have a leg amputated, a number of people found the article “strange”. Hopefully the article does encourage the majority of dog owners to examine their property boundaries in an effort to keep their own and other dogs safe.
Another scenario that's occurred more than once recently is where dog owners have phoned us to report their dog's missing and some time later they have rung us back, or we have phoned them for an update, to be told that the dog was never missing in the first place - they were safe and sound at home the whole time!
On one occasion the dog was found fast asleep in the children's toy box and on the other the dog was found in an upstairs bedroom snuggled up asleep. The owner told me that her four-legged friend is elderly and has struggled with their hearing of late, so their pooch didn't hear them calling out when they were searching the house. Apparently the friends and family were searching the area for some three hours before they realised the dog was safe at home!
Obviously, still ring us if you believe that your dog is missing. We'll be notified If they've already been found thanks to our great list of local contacts and if there's a chance they're still out there we can keep a lookout. But to save you any unnecessary stress and panic, it's worth thoroughly searching your house and garden before searching further afield.
On the subject of lost dogs, there are a number of groups around the country who will help search for missing dogs and they've been successful locally in the past. A friend of mine has recently joined Drone SAR for Lost Dogs UK.
They were formed about two and a half years ago with the aim of using drones to help find missing dogs. They have grown rapidly, and now have over 1,000 volunteer pilots and over 1,500 volunteer ground searchers across the UK - together helping to reunite over 1600 missing dogs! If you ever needed their help or were interested in volunteering as a pilot or ground searcher you can contact them on their facebook page.
Until next week, take care.
Photo: Some of Russ' previous dogs (Neave, Tiny Tim and Eryn) who sadly are no longer with us, snuggled up together
I hope you’re all enjoying this warm spell we’re having at the moment. Hopefully if you have a dog you are taking the necessary precautions when out walking them and of course not leaving them in the car.
Maybe when you’re out walking your dogs whether it be in parks or along the road, from time to time all of a sudden without warning, you’d hear the sound of a small dog barking from behind a garden gate, or the sound of a larger dog crashing against a fence and barking loudly.
It can be quite unnerving because you’re not expecting it and it can trigger a reaction in your dogs, either to run away or retaliate.
Over a period of time if you’re walking the same route you’ll become aware of the dogs and possibly avoid the area by walking on the other side of the road or you may hold your dogs closer to you as you walk past.
Sadly in the last three months I’ve dealt with two incidents where dogs have been seriously injured because gates have either been insecure or the gaps under or between bars in the gates have been big enough for the dogs either side to make contact with each other.
The first incident occurred when a medium sized dog was being walked on a lead in a residential area and a much smaller dog was alone in the front garden of an address and barked at the larger dog as he passed the garden gate.
It’s unclear if the larger dog was able to get his muzzle through the gaps in or under the gate, or the smaller dog got some of her body through the gaps, or if the gate opened with the force of the larger dog trying to get to the smaller dog. But whichever way it was, the smaller dog who was inside her own garden received three puncture wounds around her shoulder and neck and had to be rushed to a veterinary hospital where she remained for a number of days.
At one point it was unclear if she would survive her ordeal but thankfully she’s made a full recovery. The total vet bill was £1500 which shows just how serious her injuries were.
The second incident occurred just a month ago. A female chihuahua called Sassy was attacked as she was being walked along a public footpath at the rear of a row of houses in Worthing.
There was a small gap under the gate of one of the properties where a large dog was. Sassy stopped to sniff at the gap and suddenly she was being held by the leg by the other dog and as a result had to be rushed to the vet.
Sadly Sassy’s leg was so badly injured that her front right leg had to be amputated. I attended the address and the gap was only a matter of inches from the ground and yet either the larger dog was able to get his muzzle under the gap or Sassy was able to get her leg under the gap.
This blog isn’t about proportioning blame, but to raise awareness of the possibilities of what can happen if a gate is insecure or if there’s even a small gap under or between the bars etc.
If your gate or fence is insecure or has gaps where a dog could get to another dog, please consider securing the area.
Or if you’re worried about a location where you walk your dogs I’d be happy to visit to offer some advice.
Until next week, take care
Photo: Sassy is recovering after her traumatic ordeal
As always it was interesting to read the comments to last weeks blog and, as on more than one occasion, they can be summed up by the quote from the poet John Lydgate and later used by Abraham Lincoln:
“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time'.”
One of the many emails I opened last week was from the Dogs Trust. Every year they carry out a stray dog survey in which they ask every Local Authority in the United Kingdom a series of questions. When the answers have been collated and analysed they're published on their website for all to see.
When I first became interested, okay obsessed with the stray dogs situation in the UK some 15 years ago, I remember comparing the survey with previous years and hoping that each year the number of stray dogs would decrease, but more importantly that the number of stray dogs put to sleep each year would decrease.
Little did I know that three years later I'd join the fight to help stray dogs and later go on to contribute to the survey.
Photo: Stray dog
Thankfully, year on year both figures have decreased, and in some years quite dramatically, in other years less so and with the odd blip every so often.
In 1997 when records were first released there were almost 140,000 stray dogs in the UK that were picked up by local authorities, of which over 23,000 were put to sleep. Many would have been put to sleep because of ill health or due to behavioural issues but I'm sure the majority would have been because of no rescue space being available.
Compare these figures with current times and the survey shows that there were under 70,000 stray dogs and 1,303 put to sleep in 2019 - I'm sure the majority would have been due to ill health or behavioural reasons.
The survey doesn't list individual local authorities nor even counties, but provides regional figures based on TV areas, for example we come under the Meridian area which has 43 separate local authorities within its boundaries.
This isn't ideal as it covers city authorities such as Southampton and Brighton whose figures will be far higher than ours. But it's helpful for the Dogs Trust as they can use the information to target their resources to the regions where most help is needed, which was the purpose for the survey in the first place.
They also do this so as not to shame the Local Authorities that have a put to sleep policy. This can be a bit of a double edged sword because the survey isn't compulsory so perhaps a cynic would argue that the councils with the worse figures won't contribute their data.
Perhaps it's those councils that should be named and encouraged to release their figures.
In the Meridian region last year a total of 4,437 dogs were collected of which 103 were put to sleep. Thankfully none one of our dogs were amongst that figure.
Having just finished our figures for this year, 126 stray dogs were collected, which sadly included Bella who went to sleep after being found last May, barely alive on an allotment in Southwick. She was the subject of my blog in June last year.
Hopefully the rest of the country will report a reduction in strays collected but more importantly a reduction in the number of Bella's.
I hope you all had a great bank holiday weekend.
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I should have some environmentally-friendly news to share with you. Well now I have ...
Our fleet manager recently took delivery of a brand new Dog Warden van which is powered purely by electricity. This means that the van doesn't produce any tailpipe emissions and contributes to helping to improve local air quality.
This is all part of the Councils' commitment to work towards being a carbon neutral council by 2030.
I have solar panels on my roof and as I charge the vehicle at home it makes the van really environmentally friendly. Looking around my study, it's just as well I've got solar panels, my work mobile is on charge, as is my work laptop and very shortly there'll be another device that will need charging, so goodness knows what my bill would be like without them!!
The van itself is an automatic which I've never driven before, so it takes a bit of getting used to. The ideal speed to conserve the battery is between 30 and 40 mph making it ideal for town driving.
In the 12 years I had the old van I've been to Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, Wincanton, Somerset, with a couple of trips to Kent to rehome dogs. Other than that it's all been all local driving, making it the perfect vehicle for my job. Hopefully more will be added to the fleet as and when the current vehicles need to be replaced.
Do I miss the old van? Yes very much so. I got it soon after becoming your dog warden over 12 years ago and so it holds so many memories. The time could be summed up with a quote from Charles Dickens:
“It was the best of times, It was the worst of times.”
But now it's out with the old and in with the new!!
Photos: Russ' new electric dog warden van - and Russ with his old van
In other news ...
I introduced Sadie to one of my favourite local walks which is along the banks of the River Adur from Shoreham up to the bridge where the South Downs Way crosses the river just north of the old cement works on the A283.
I knew that she wouldn't be able to walk the 10 or so kilometres and so rather than walk up one side and down the other, we parked at the Cuckoo Corner car park and stayed on the west bank up to the bridge and back again.
To say she was tired at the end is an understatement, so many people are put off of adopting a Greyhound because they wrongly believe that they need lots and lots of exercise. Whereas nothing could be further from the truth.
A couple of short periods of exercise a day and all they want to do is eat, sleep or lay on the sofa watching the telly. Just like me, come to think of it!!
Photo: Sadie enjoying her first walk on the South Downs
You may remember that about 6 weeks ago I predicted that it wouldn't be too long before there would be another Greyhound or two in my house. Well I'm pleased to announce that I'm now halfway there!!
Having lost my Greyhounds Sally, due to degeneration of her spine in March, and Toff to cancer last October, our house was feeling really empty despite our four remaining dogs. Vicky and I have such affection for the breed and we decided it was time to rescue another.
We adopted Sally from Norfolk Greyhound Rescue and so we contacted them offering to foster a dog. We decided on this approach for a number of reasons but primarily because if we fostered we would be able to help a number of dogs out of their current situation, and care for them until they are adopted and then start the cycle again.
And so, it was arranged that last Thursday we would collect Lady Ard, a female Greyhound after she and other ex-racers had made the journey from kennels in Ireland, across the Irish Sea to find new homes in England.
Unbeknown to us, another Irish Greyhound called Sadie had made the same crossing six weeks earlier. She had been retired after just four races having sustained a leg injury in Ireland. Things were only to get worse for her when she started having seizures.
Thankfully her trainer didn't put her to sleep but asked Norfolk Greyhound Rescue if they would rehome her. They agreed and Sadie was adopted by a lovely young lady living in rural Cambridgeshire.
All was set for Ard's arrival. Vicky and I had booked the Thursday off work when, on Monday evening, we received a text with a photo of a beautiful black Greyhound which read: “ Would you consider Sadie, she has epilepsy” our reply “To foster?” their reply “Not really, ideally to adopt”.
So, what were we to do? If someone has a pet that develops an illness or injury it's their moral duty to stand by them as you would with family or a loved one. But taking on a dog with pre existing health issues isn't for everyone.
There are so many things to consider such as the cost of medication and whether the pet can be safely left alone with other pets in the house. Access to emergency vets out of hours and not least how you would cope with a pet that was having seizures. It's distressing to say the least and the last thing the pet needs is for their owner to panic.
I actually knew the outcome before we even discussed it. Vicky had owned dogs with epilepsy previously and had looked after many more during her 27 years at Dogs Trust.
She works at a local veterinary practice and our other dogs have seen so many foster dogs come and go over the years and were all fine with our other Greyhounds. Importantly the dogs aren't left alone for long periods of time as there's usually someone at home.
We phoned the trainer in Ireland to fill in the gaps in her medical history and the lady who had adopted her just weeks previously, who sadly, through no fault of her own, had a change in personal circumstances meaning that she couldn't meet all of Sadie's specific needs.
So last Thursday, instead of heading clockwise around the M25 with our dogs, we headed east, through the Dartford tunnel and up to a little village in Cambridgeshire.
Our dogs got on fine and after very emotional goodbyes we were retracing our journey south with Sadie. It's been just 5 days but She's settled in so well, it's like she's always been here. I should rename her Shadow because she doesn't leave my side in the house!!
Photo: Sadie seems to be settling in well to her new home!
To say we are over the moon with her is an understatement. We are so grateful to her trainer in Ireland for allowing her to be rehomed and to Norfolk Greyhound Rescue for offering Sadie to us.
I don't have the Irish injury and retirement data to hand - but to give you some idea of the risks to Greyhounds the 2019 figures released by the Greyhound Board of Great Britain show that:
- 710 Greyhounds died or were put to sleep,
- 207 of which were at the track
- and a total of 4,970 Greyhounds sustained injuries whilst racing last year
Photo: Russ with Sadie and two of his other dogs - Button, a Jack Russell Terrier, and Lenny, a Labrador mix
Wow, what a week it's been, literally it was non-stop going from job to job..
It all started last weekend when I was on call. Often the phone doesn't ring all weekend. However, I was called to pick up three strays on the Saturday, thankfully two of which were reunited with their owners, the third, a lovely Staffie, sadly wasn't claimed.
Sunday started with a call reporting concerns for a dog's welfare, describing it was in a poor condition. On meeting the dog, who I shall call Tramp, I took the dog into my care, using my authority under the Animal Welfare Act.
The dog will remain in our care while I prepare a case to put before the courts. Sadly, it will be a few months before I'm able to share any details with you.
Monday saw me collecting Tramp and travelling to our vet who certified Tramp was suffering. Towards the end of the day another call came in that another stray dog had been found.
The dog had an overseas microchip which wasn't registered in the UK and so he was taken to our kennels until the owner could be located. Thankfully, the owner made contact and they were reunited the following morning.
Tuesday saw a rising mountain of paperwork on my desk and with my partner preparing lunch, the phone rang. The local constabulary had just visited a property in the town and had concerns for the welfare of some of the animals housed there, including what was described as a large dog kept in a small crate, without access to water.
On my arrival at the house I was met by a young man who explained the situation and readily signed the dog (which turned out to be a sighthound) over into my care, along with a young kitten.
The advantage of having animals signed over to us is that we don't have to wait seven days in case they're claimed by their owner. They can go into rescue straight away and start a new chapter in their lives to get their forever home.
Wednesday saw an early start so I could get the sighthound assessed and into a local rescue for rehoming. On my way to meet the Senior Animal Rescue Officer (SRO) from another local rescue (who was going to assess a bull breed in our care) I was diverted to a local vet who reported a puppy had been handed in.
So on arrival at our kennels, it was a case of two out and one in, because as well as taking the bull breed the SRO also took the kitten.
Thursday was another early start, as I had to get Tramp to our vet first thing so she could be admitted for surgery. I can't go into any details of her operation, but suffice to say she is recovering well.
I try to use Fridays as a day to clear any reports, inspections or other outstanding admin before the weekend.
After taking last Saturday's Staffie for a pre assessment at a local rescue centre all was going well. I was working towards lunch (which consisted of the last slice of a vegan black forest gateau, baked by a vegan chef and cookery teacher friend) when the phone rang.
Our contact centre reported a dog had been found wandering along a busy road and was believed to have been hit by a car.
As luck would have it I was only two minutes away. I collected him and rushed him to our vet. We can often go weeks without needing the services of our vet but this was my third visit of the week.
Whilst being examined, the owner made contact and explained his dog was being treated for a pre existing illness. He rushed to the vet and collected his companion who appeared none the worse for his adventure.
So 7 days, 7 stray dogs, 5 reunited with their owners, 1 seized and 1 signed over to a local rescue, along with the dog and cat signed over by the owner.
Thankfully the mountain of paperwork has vanished but sadly so has the cake!!
I’ve changed the subject of my blog this week because of two worrying trends that have increased recently. We’ve spoken about both before, but sadly there’s still a minority of people who put their dog’s safety, and in some cases their lives, in danger.
You may have seen the report on Meridian News last week that dog theft has risen 65% since lockdown began compared with the same time last year.
On some selling sites the price of puppies advertised for sale has increased by four times the price they were selling at before lock down. This has attracted criminals who want a share of the vast sums of money some people are prepared to pay for a dog.
People will only steal something if they want it for themselves or they can sell it, consequently if nobody bought stolen goods, there would be very little incentive to steal.
You may remember that Lucy’s law came into effect earlier this year which states that a puppy or kitten under six months of age can only be purchased from the breeder or a rescue centre.
Therefore anyone buying from any other source could well be buying a stolen dog, which has left a family somewhere, heartbroken and not knowing what has happened to their companion. Not to mention that it’s a criminal offence and can attract up to a maximum 14 years imprisonment.
For more advice on how to buy a pet safely visit:
The dangers of the second subject is even more widely publicised and yet over the last few days, when it has been so hot, I still see dogs being paraded around the streets and in town - the advice is simply that you should only exercise dogs during the coolest part of the day and never leave a dog in a hot car.
Below is a simple summary of what a team of researchers at Nottingham Trent University and the Royal Veterinary College published on subject of heat related illnesses in dogs:
"Heat-related illness (often called heatstroke) is a potentially fatal condition inflicted on dogs that will become more common as global temperatures rise. Understanding why dogs develop heatstroke can help to refine prevention strategies through owner education and societal changes.
"This study aimed to determine the most common triggers of heat-related illness in UK dogs, and which types of dogs were at most risk. We reviewed the veterinary records of over 900,000 dogs and identified that exercise was the most common trigger of heat-related illness in dogs. We also found that heat stroke caused by exercise was just as likely to kill as heat stroke from a hot car. Male dogs and younger dogs were more likely to develop heat-related illnesses triggered by exercise. Older dogs and flat-faced dogs were at greater risk of developing heat-related illness just by sitting outside in hot weather. Any dog can develop heat stroke if left in a hot car, but flat-faced breeds were particularly at risk. As the world gets hotter, we need to include our canine companions in our strategies to stay cool, as they can suffer fatal consequences when we fail to keep them safe."
Until next week when I should have some environmentally friendly news to share with you, please keep your pets safe.
Back in April I received a complaint about a dog barking and concern for its welfare.
I went to the property a number of times but there was no reply. Thankfully on one visit the door was answered. I introduced myself and the family were happy to show me their dog who I shall call Martha.
I was taken aback at how underweight she was. I also noted a soreness to the skin on her back which must have irritated her so much.
It was agreed with the owners that I would take Martha to a local vet the following day for her to be weighed, and then if the family followed the veterinary nutritional advice it would soon become clear if Martha was suffering from an underlying medical problem
The following day Martha was weighed and the family were given advice on the amount and frequency of feeding Martha. Advice and medication was also given for a flea allergy. It was also agreed that Martha would visit the vet two weeks later to be re-weighed.
Sadly that appointment wasn't kept and so I took Martha to the vet. Although she hadn't put on weight, the skin allergy was clearing up, which indicated that she was receiving a level of care.
Further visits and missed appointments later, and Martha still hadn't put on any significant weight gain and I expressed my concern to the family, that if they were following the vet's advice on feeding, then she must have an underlying health issue which needed to be investigated. It was agreed that Martha would again visit the vets after two weeks.
I subsequently visited Martha's family to see how she got on at the vet and after much discussion it was agreed I would once again take Martha to the vet to be weighed.
When they brought her to the door my heart sank, the flea allergy was back with a vengeance, far far worse than it was when I first saw her, and she looked thinner than when I had first met her.
When she was weighed, she was exactly the same weight as she was ten weeks earlier when I met her for the first time.
At that point a decision was taken to take action under the Animal Welfare Act. The vet signed the relevant certificate and I took her to our kennels.
Thankfully her family agreed to sign her over which meant that Martha could be found a new home as soon as she was better.
I'm pleased to report that within three days of being at our kennels Martha put on 1.6 Kilos in weight. She is now with a local rescue where she has won the hearts of the staff and is continuing to put on weight.
It could be argued that Martha should have been removed from her owner earlier. However I believed initially that it was a case of the owners needing education rather than a case of them deliberately neglecting their dog. It is also in line with our enforcement policy to use the lowest form of intervention to resolve an issue. In many cases, educating owners can be enough to improve a dog's welfare. Sadly that wasn't the case with Martha.
The best outcome for Martha was for her to be signed over by her owners, and then once she has put on weight and is in a better condition, she can be found a loving new home.
Photo: Russ has adopted many dogs in his life. Pictured here is Poppy when she was about 15 or 16 years old. She passed away in 2018
Back in March at the very start of lockdown Adur & Worthing Councils heard from lots of people who were experiencing problems with accessing food. Not only were some people unable to collect food, but for many it was a struggle to afford.
Amongst the requests that we received were some for pet food which isn't something that is normally donated to food banks.
My fellow blogger Tammy Waine recently approached me and asked if I had any ideas about who could help. As it happens, I'm often given donations of dog food which I either pass on to local rescues and sometimes I pass them to a friend who runs an animal charity here in Worthing that makes regular trips to Greece, and shares it out among the rescues they work with there.
These donations are great and are put to good use but the size and frequency of any donations are unpredictable and so we can't guarantee being able to help anyone in need.
So on that occasion I donated some of my own dog food to the dog owner who requested help. However it set Tammy thinking about the longer term and so she approached one of her football contacts.
So thanks to Tammy, her contact delivered a large quantity of pet food to my house and so when I returned from holiday I needed to think about distribution. I was worried about how to get to the people who needed it most.
If I turned to local social media sites it might not end up with those most in need. It's no secret that some of the people most in need are too proud to ask for help.
For advice I turned to my friend Pia Offord who during the dark days of March of this year, upon hearing how people were struggling when supermarkets were running out of food and other supplies, decided to set up the Worthing Vegan Food Bank Networking Group.
Initially they used the Conscious Cow, Cactus Kitchen Gals and The Field Row Takeaway (now the Vegan bakery company) to receive and distribute donations but within days of their launch on 17th March 2020, lockdown came into force and they were forced to move the operation to her residence.
They still operate from her home but thankfully still have donation boxes at all three eateries.
I then contacted another friend Rebekah Higginson who works tirelessly as a volunteer at the Worthing Soup Kitchen. She put me in touch with Khristina Mccormack who runs the scheme, she confirmed that many of their clients have pets and would appreciate donations of pet food.
Khristina very kindly offered to take care of the distribution if I could take the donation to another volunteer, Lisa Phillips.
Last Friday when we spoke, Lisa told me she had been on the road since 10am delivering food parcels to those in need and would be home by 5pm. When I called back at 5:30pm she was still out delivering and didn't get home until after 7pm.
I think we'd all agree that in Worthing we're really lucky to have groups of volunteers who are giving up quality family time to run the various food banks, the soup kitchen, help at the homeless shelter and other much needed community services.
None of us know quite what's around the corner so to know there are such good people out there willing to give up their own time is most reassuring.
Photo: Donated pet food
Sometimes my job involves working through issues with dog owners who are struggling to care for their pet. Giving up a pet should always be the last resort - but for some people they simply have no choice or it's in the best interest of their dog.
After my holiday, my first week back at work turned out to be an emotional rollercoaster.
Rewinding the clock, a couple of years ago I gave my number to a local dog owner who was having a few problems and said they may need to rehome their dog in the future.
Thank goodness they had my number as a few weeks later I received an urgent phone call saying that the dog who I shall call Beauty was bleeding heavily and they couldn't get her to a vet.
I should add that I don't normally provide a veterinary transport service, and I was off duty when I took the call, but Beauty's complicated circumstances meant I had to intervene on that occasion.
Beauty 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 Beauty be taken there immediately.
When we arrived, the vet nurse and vet were ready and waiting. They carried out some tests which confirmed that Beauty needed surgery. Thankfully the operation saved her life.
So back to last Monday, which was my first day back at work, I received a text from Beauty's owner asking if we could talk. I suspected that he wanted to discuss rehoming.
Later that day we met and it was clear that a lot of thought had gone into the owner's decision and that it hadn't been taken lightly. It was a difficult decision and one that would help both Beauty and her owner no matter how hard it hurt at the time.
Usually I direct dog owners who need to rehome their dogs to the local rescue organisation. However, the circumstances in this case were unusual and complicated and it was in Beauty's best interests for her to be signed over to me there and then. When Beauty came out of the house she clearly remembered me. I decided to take her to the vet for a check up and arrived at the surgery just as they were closing, but just as I knew they would, the vet agreed to see her straight away. As the vet examined her she could feel multiple masses throughout her mammary glands and it was suspected that they were malignant tumors.
This news was devastating. Beauty wasn't a young dog, but for her breed she wasn't elderly and when she was signed over I felt that she would have two to three years in a loving home to see out her twilight years.
The following morning I set the wheels in motion to find Beauty a home where she could receive palliative care. This was well underway when early last Thursday I received a call from our kennels to say that Beauty had taken a turn for the worse. I rushed her to the vets and was given the first appointment of the day.
When I took her in we sat with her as the vet delivered the news that everyone dreads. The only way to help Beauty was to let her go to sleep. I felt that she had been cheated out of her happiness ever after but there really was no alternative.
Thankfully it was peaceful. She was with people she knew and wasn't distressed or in pain and she's now running free over the rainbow bridge.
Photo: Russ, pictured with Scamp, one of his foster dogs
For the last few weeks now I've talked about how we've been getting busier, so last week as the restrictions on hotels, campsites and holiday parks were lifted I decided it was time to take some annual leave.
For the last few years we've been taking our dogs up to Norfolk. There are some lovely coastal walks and miles upon miles of sandy beaches and our dogs, like us, love the area.
It was on our first walk at the local beach as I was watching our dogs playing that it hit me. The last time we were on the very same beach was about 10 months ago when we had our four dogs with us. Now, less than a year later, we only have two.
My mind then wandered back two years to the month when we drove up to Norwich to pick up our Greyhound Sally from Norfolk Greyhound Rescue. She was 11, not in good health, hadn't been looked after particularly well and needed to live out her twilight years in a quiet loving home.
As we walked across the sand dunes and up the slope back to the holiday park, we passed the fork in the path where I remembered Vicky talking to someone about the tests we were having on our Greyhound Toff to establish why he was losing weight.
Little did we know, that he had cancer and that his time with us would be cut short in the cruelest of ways.
A couple of days later on our recent holiday, Button, our Jack Russell, found treasure on the beach in the form of a tennis ball. I threw it for him and it rolled towards the water's edge. All of a sudden I was transported back two years, to a beach just a few miles up the coast towards Cromer, where Nell, our Staffie mix watched as her tennis ball went into the sea and then looked at me to say:
“Aren't you going to get it for me dad, you know I don't like water”.
Bereavement affects different people in different ways, some people wouldn't go back to the same area for a holiday again. Others would always go back because of fond memories. Some people wait years to get another dog, others wait months or weeks before they get another dog.
Some say they'll never get another dog because they can't bear to go through the loss again. In this situation I always remind people that if we thought like this then we wouldn't have children, wouldn't form friendships and relationships in case we lose them.
Personally for me it's not replacing a dog with another one, it's giving another one a loving home.Not having another companion is depriving ourselves of all the love and happiness they bring to our lives over the years.
We've been asked if we want to get any more dogs soon. The truth is there are so many Greyhounds in rescue in the UK, more than any other breed because they are so exploited. I'm reminded of the words of a friend who has twelve dogs. When asked why she wanted so many dogs she replied:
“It's not a case of wanting twelve dogs, it's a case of so many dogs needing help because so many people are letting them down”.
With this in mind I think it's fair to say that in the not too distant future we'll be walking the beaches of Norfolk and of course Worthing with a Greyhound or two.
It is recognised that grieving a pet can be similar to mourning the loss of a family member and some owners experience feelings of deep loneliness and isolation. Some people may not understand the intense feelings of sadness you may feel after losing a pet, but thankfully there are people out there who do understand.
Thankfully, The Blue Cross offers a pet bereavement service which provides free, confidential support to anyone affected by the loss of a pet, and Cats Protection have a confidential phone line called Paws to Listen, a service for any cat owner suffering grief or bereavement of a beloved pet.
Photos: Toff and Sally the greyhounds
After weeks of reporting how quiet things have been it's certainly got busier in the last two to three weeks.
I've spoken before about the main reasons that dog owners give up their dogs. Death, ill health, moving into sheltered or rented accommodation where pets are not allowed. Relationships breaking down, job loss, change of working hours, change in family circumstances, having a baby, getting another dog which doesn't get on with the existing dog ... the list goes on.
Last week I was reminded of two of these reasons, both of which were very sad for the families and the dogs.
I was called by a council housing officer who reported that a tenant living alone with his companion animal had sadly passed away and that there were no family members to take ownership of the dog.
When I arrived I discovered that the owner had planned for this and had registered with the Dogs Trust Canine Care Card scheme. The way the scheme works is that if you pass away, become seriously ill or move into a care home, the Dogs Trust will arrange for your dog to go to one of their rehoming centres.
This gives the owner peace of mind that their companion will be in safe hands after they've passed away or are unable to care for their dog any longer. This meant I was able to take the dog overnight and arrange to take her to Dogs Trust the following day. She's a lovely dog and will make someone a lovely companion.
I know that many people will have, or will know people who have overcome some of the reasons why dogs are taken to rescue centres or even abandoned. Many more haven't been able to overcome the hurdle and have had to reluctantly rehome their companion.
I admire people who, even though it hurts them, have rehomed their dog responsibly because they've had the best interest of their pet at heart. I was met with this scenario last week.
I'd received an anonymous report from a person who was concerned about a dog living at an address in the town. When I investigated, the family said that they couldn't get their dog to put on weight despite providing the best of food.
The dog was certainly underweight, so I suggested they take him to a vet to get him weighed. I also advised that they increase his food and keep a record, and then take him back to be weighed in a week or two. If he hadn't put on any weight by then, I advised that there could be an underlying health issue.
The family did just that and on talking to the vet about the possible health implications, they made the brave decision to sign their companion over to a rescue centre so that his condition could be explored and treated, and the dog could eventually be rehomed.
It's impossible to say what the outcome would have been had I not received the initial call, but the owners certainly had the dog's best interests at heart by signing him over.
I've known many cases where owners have refused point blank and made it as difficult as possible, leaving the dogs to suffer further before the wheels of the legal system have started turning.
Until next week take care.
Photo: Russ holding Tilly, a little stray dog that he fostered 3 years ago
It’s now 14 weeks since the lockdown measures were announced and I think it’s fair to say that many of my colleagues in other local authorities and in rescue centres up and down the country have been holding their breath waiting for an influx of dogs being handed in or abandoned.
Thankfully, to date, in this part of the country this hasn’t happened. In fact only one dog that came into our care during that time remained unclaimed. The dog was transferred to DogsTrust Shoreham and quickly adopted.
However, we have been busier over the last few weeks. There’s various reasons for this but one is certainly that, as lockdown restrictions have eased, more people are now out and about and this means they are seeing and reporting more things. And, of course, if more people are out and about it follows that more dogs will be out and about too.
We had two stray dogs last week and both were a little bit out of the ordinary. First, late one afternoon I got a call from a lady who was concerned about a dog that had been on the beach for three hours, walking up to people as if searching for shade or water.
When I arrived, I was surprised to see just how busy the beaches were. It was easy to see how people looking at the dog would presume that he was with another group. Luckily one beachgoer took the decision to ring us. The dog was microchipped but the owner couldn’t be contacted.Thankfully they soon made contact and I arranged to return their companion to them the following day.
The following morning I was notified about another dog. This one had been found in the middle of the night in someone's garden. The person had let their own dog out for a call of nature only for it to find a friend. The dog was also microchipped but the contact details were out of date so he had to go to our kennels until the owner could be traced.
Thankfully he was soon claimed and reunited with his owner, who explained that he had run off at midnight having been out for a walk.
When I take a stray dog in, it’s important to find out how they got out so I can offer advice to prevent it happening again. With the dog that was found on the beach, it turned out that a number of people live at the address and each person thought the dog was in another room with another family member. In reality the dog had followed someone out of the house and down to the beach.
On another note, during last week’s hot spell it was really disappointing to see so many dogs being walked during the hottest part of the day. Every year vets and animal welfare charities warn of the dangers of exposing dogs to the extreme heat but every year dogs are rushed into veterinary hospitals with heat stroke.
Some dogs are more at risk that others of developing heatstroke:
- Puppies and elderly dogs are not able to regulate their temperature as effectively as adult dogs.
- Brachycephalic breeds ( dogs with flat faces ) such as Pugs, Bulldogs, Boxers and Boston Terriers are more at risk because they have very narrow airways.
- Sighthounds such as Whippets and Greyhounds also succumb more quickly to extremes of heat because they have very little body fat to protect their internal organs. This means they overheat far quicker than other breeds.
This doesn’t mean that it’s okay to walk other breeds on hot pavements while they’re wearing a fur coat in the midday sun. It most certainly isn’t.
Until next week take care and stay safe.
Photo: Dogs with flat faces, such as French Bulldogs, are more susceptible to heatstroke
This week I want to talk about pet insurance again. I can't emphasize enough how important it is if your pet falls ill or is injured.
Every year a number of dogs are signed over to rescue centres because their owners can't afford the vet bills and there's no doubt a number of dogs are abandoned for the same reason.
People often ask why don't charities help pet owners with the vet bill so that the animal can stay with their owner rather than being rehomed. After all, the charity is going to be paying the vets bill if an animal is signed over to them anyway?
Well the answer is, like so many things in life that are set up to help those most in need, the system could be abused. Charities up and down the country are likely to be inundated with pet owners - not all genuine - asking for help with their vet's bills. The charities would soon go out of business, preventing other animals from 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 in the cover they offer.
There are so many different options and most have an upper limit on what the company will pay out per year, or per condition.
But with advances in medicine, animals are now being saved in situations where in the past they would have died. As with humans, the average life expectancy has risen,but this comes at a financial cost.
Many owners choose a life cover policy as, like us, pets often get illnesses which require treatment and medicines for the rest of their life. That doesn't come cheap. One thing to remember though is that even with life cover there may be a limit that the policy will pay out for a condition per year, but the following year it would start afresh.
I'll give you two personal examples.
My own greyhound Sally became ill soon after I adopted her. She was finding it hard to get up and wasn't able to walk properly. She needed an MRI scan, which was in excess of £2,000, to discover the problem. The results showed she had a serious spinal injury and, without an operation, sooner rather than later she would be paralysed.
So, in that situation, without insurance the owner has four choices:
- Find the £6,000 to pay for the operation
- Have their dog put to sleep
- Abandon the dog on the streets, or
- Sign the dog over to a rescue centre
But with the right insurance those decisions don't have to be made. Owners don't have to tell the children that their best friend has to be rehomed or put to sleep because they couldn't pay the vet bill.
As another example, my mother in law had a dear little teacup Chihuahua named Kelsey who suddenly 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, it became clear she would have to let Kelsey go to sleep. The total vet bill was well over £10,000 So not only did she lose her dog, she had to pay over £1,000 of the vet bill.
Having pet insurance enabled her vet to try everything in their power to save Kelsey, which gave her some peace of mind, rather than letting her go because the vet bill was stacking up.
My advice is to get the best insurance you can afford, giving you peace of mind and a long and healthy relationship with your companion.
Photo: Sally the greyhound
A common question I've recently been asked is whether I've seen an increase in the number of dogs being abandoned since lockdown started. Thankfully the answer is not only no, but abandonments are down by 200% compared to the same 3 month period last year.
Another popular question people ask me is what we do on patrol when not dealing with stray dogs.
I've explained the many duties that we carry out in previous blogs and like comments on social media about any of the council's functions, roles and decisions, the quote from the famous 15th century poet and monk John Lydgate, made famous by Abraham Lincoln, springs to mind:
“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time.”
Let me explain why ...
When I've spoken previously about the education and enforcement work we do and where we get our powers from, comments range from:
“Well that's a waste of time, you never catch anyone”
to “You should name and shame!”
and “Why don't you catch more offenders?”
Any punishment, from a £50 fine to life imprisonment, for any offence ranging from littering to the most serious crime in the land is handed out for two reasons. First, to punish the offender and, secondly, to act as a deterrent to anyone else from committing the offence.
It is far better for everyone concerned if a crime is prevented rather than detected. No crime means no victim, no victim means nobody has to be punished and no crime means no costly investigation, no costly court case, etc, etc.
We don't want to prosecute people - and we spend a great deal of our time educating the public to avoid this. But if people are going to ignore the rules, what are we to do?
So, briefly, without going into too much detail, I'll give you an idea of what I've witnessed on some of my recent patrols and what action was taken.
I was patrolling Durrington Cemetery when I saw a dog run in front of a motor vehicle, the dog then proceeded to run across a number of graves. This is a location where I regularly receive complaints about this type of behaviour.
Elsewhere, whilst carrying out enquiries concerning an allegation that dogs were not under control in a public place, I witnessed a person walking 8 dogs. Most were on leads but not all of them. For reference, the maximum number of dogs that one person can walk is 6.
In Cissbury Meadows, an area where I have received numerous complaints about dog fouling, I watched a person walk towards the road from the direction of Cissbury Ring and throw high into the air and into an area of thick hedges and trees a bright yellow dog poop bag that he had been carrying.
This totally baffled me. Why would anyone take the trouble to pick up their dog mess, carry it quite a distance but then throw it into an area where it would harm the environment and be a danger to wildlife?
In each of these cases fixed penalty notices were served and all have been paid. Hopefully this will encourage a change in the behaviour of the offenders and serve as an example to others.
Photo: Person walking a small dog on a lead
Last week I spoke about Lucy's Law that came into effect in April of this year and bans the commercial third-party sales of puppies and kittens in England. Anyone looking to buy or adopt a puppy or kitten must now deal directly with the breeder or with one of the nation's reputable rehoming centres.
I gave some advice about what research you should do before contacting the seller and then when you contact the seller.
When you've done your research and you're satisfied that all is well the next step is going to see the puppy or kitten.This is where you have to be strong and have your wits about you.
When you visit the seller
Don't buy your new pet on your first visit
You should always meet the seller, the mother and the litter in their home before agreeing to a sale.
Only agree to meet in the puppy or kitten's home
Deceitful sellers often suggest meeting in a location that's convenient for you - such as your own home, somewhere nearby, or a halfway point - to avoid showing you the animal's living conditions.
Make sure the mother and the rest of the litter are present
Unscrupulous dealers often separate the puppy or kitten from their family. You should see the animal interacting with its mother and siblings. You should also be able to see and handle the rest of the litter.
If you are given the chance to buy your pet without seeing the mother, or where it was raised, it suggests that it was reared in a low-welfare setting like a puppy farm.
Check for health or behavioural issues
When you meet the puppy or kitten, they should be sociable and alert, with bright eyes and no visible health issues. They should not look nervous or dirty.
Ask for a copy of their medical records
If the breeder claims the animal has been vaccinated and/or microchipped, ask to see records of these. Puppies must be microchipped and registered to the seller before sale. Kittens may not be.
Records include vaccination certificates and evidence of worming and flea treatments. A good breeder will share these with you before sale, and will not claim that they have misplaced the records or that they will send them later.
If you are buying a pedigree pet, ask for proof of pedigree
For puppies, if they are advertised as Kennel Club registered, make sure you get a copy of their Registration Certificate before you buy the puppy. Similarly, for kittens advertised as GCCF registered, make sure you get a copy of the Registration Certificate before you buy the kitten.
All of this takes time but hopefully your companion animal will be with you for 12 to 15 plus years so it's important to get it right.
Animals are not like cars that if it's too big, too small, not economical to run etc you can trade it in for a more suitable model, although sadly that's exactly what some people do.
Your pet is a living breathing animal who will give you lots of love and affection, so the time spent searching for your perfect pet is so worthwhile and an investment into your happiness together.
If you do visit a litter of puppies or kittens, don't forget about social distancing!
Until next week take care ...
With all that's been happening recently, many things that would have made local, national or international headlines haven't been mentioned or if they have the majority of us haven't been aware.
One such news item which I'm sure would have made the national news is the introduction of Lucy's Law. The new law, which came into force on 6th April 2020, bans the commercial third-party sales of puppies and kittens in England. Anyone looking to buy or adopt a puppy or kitten must now deal directly with the breeder or with one of the nation's reputable rehoming centres.
This new law has been made possible as a result of years of campaigning by animal welfare organisations that have been concerned about, and individuals who have been the victims of, unscrupulous puppy dealers who put profit over the welfare of the animals they breed and sell. Although of course the animals themselves are the real victims of the trade.
I've often been astonished and dismayed when I've read stories of people meeting the seller in a motorway service car park or other similar location. Or the seller delivering the puppy to the door like a new pair of shoes from eBay.
This new law should make it so much harder for puppy farmers to operate but it needs buyers to be aware of the new law and report offenders.
Being aware of the signs of unscrupulous sellers can help to tackle illegal or low welfare supply of puppies, kittens, cats and dogs. If you buy a pet from such sellers, you may not only end up with huge vet bills, but you will also help this cruel trade continue. Following this advice from the government on how to buy a puppy safely, so you can welcome a happy and healthy pet into your home.
Before you contact the seller
Check that the animal is older than 8 weeks
Puppies and kittens should never be sold under the age of 8 weeks old. Research the breed so you know roughly how big the animal should be at that age.
Be careful if the pet is advertised with a 'passport'
If a puppy or kitten is advertised as having a pet passport, it may have been imported.
Puppies and kittens need to be at least 15 weeks to travel from the EU and certain other countries, or seven months old from unlisted 'third' countries. If they are advertised as younger than this but with a pet passport, this is a red flag (warning sign).
Search the seller's name and details online
Are they advertising lots of litters from different breeds for sale? If so, then they may be a deceitful seller. Copy and paste the phone number and advert description into a search engine. If the same phone number is being used on lots of different pet adverts, or multiple adverts come up on different sites with different dates, this is a red flag.
Check whether your new pet will be vaccinated and socialised before you take them home
Make sure you understand what medical treatment your puppy or kitten will have had and how it will be socialised for the first few weeks of its life.
Low welfare sellers often won't socialise animals, which can lead to behavioural issues for your new pet.
When you contact the seller
Always ring before you visit
Once you're comfortable that the puppy or kitten seller looks reputable, make sure that you ring them before arranging a visit. If they don't provide a phone number, this is a red flag.
Don't feel under pressure
You should never feel pressured to buy a pet. Does the conversation feel rushed, or are they pushing for a quick sale? If so, this is not a good sign and you should look for a different seller.
A responsible seller will want the puppy or kitten to go to a good home. The seller should be engaged and asking you questions to assess your suitability as an owner. If they are not doing so, this should be a warning sign.
Ask about medical history and microchips
Ask the following:
- Which vaccinations has the animal had?
- Which vaccines or boosters are still required, and when are they needed?
- Has the animal been neutered?
- Does the animal or its parents have any health issues?
- Is the puppy or kitten microchipped?
Ask about behaviour and environment
Ask the following:
- Do the parents or the animal have any behavioural issues?
- How have you socialised the puppy or kitten?
- Will the animal's mum be present?
- Can I see where the animal was bred?
Next week I'll talk about what to look out for when you visit the seller and what to consider if you are going down the compassionate route of rescuing or rehoming - see Lucy's Law - part 2
Until then take care ...
Video: Don't get Petfished. Do you know who's the person behind the pet?
Petfished is a government public awareness campaign run by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Photo: This is Button aka Button Moon, found by Animal Welfare Officers in Brighton 10 years ago. He was 4 weeks old, no bedding, no water, no food, no mum
As the weather hots up, it's time to remind dog owners about the dangers of leaving dogs in hot cars. Every year dogs die an agonising death in what can only be described as being cooked alive.
In less than 20 minutes a hot car can prove fatal to a dog. In a matter of minutes, as temperatures start to rise, dogs will start to:
- pant, whimper or bark
- drool excessively
- become lethargic or uncoordinated
Eventually dogs will collapse or vomit and if left can develop kidney and heart failure and irreversible brain damage.
The dangers are obvious. You only have to touch the dashboard or the car seats on a hot day to know that the temperature inside a car can reach the same as an oven. What many dog owners don't realise though is how quickly a car will heat up once the engine is turned off, even to quickly pop into a shop.
It's not just on hot days when dogs are at risk, vehicles can be death-traps on sunny days when the outside temperature is cooler. Puppies and elderly dogs are not able to regulate their temperature as effectively as adult dogs. Also breeds with short noses such as Pugs and Bulldogs are more at risk because they have very narrow airways. Sighthounds such as Whippets and Greyhounds also succumb more quickly to extremes of heat because they have very little body fat to protect their internal organs. This means they overheat far quicker than other breeds.
My advice to dog owners is to never leave your dog in a parked car on a sunny day, even for a few minutes. It really isn't worth the risk.
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.
If you do have to take your dog out in the car 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 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.
What to do if you see a dog in distress
If you witness a dog in distress in a hot car, you should call 999 immediately. If the situation becomes critical and police can't attend, many people's instinct is to break into the car to free the dog. But please be aware that, without proper justification, this could be classed as criminal damage. Therefore you should tell the police of your intentions and take photos or footage of the dog as well as names and numbers of witnesses.
How to help a dog in distress
If you are present at the rescue of a dog from a hot car that is clearly in distress, seek immediate veterinary advice. The priority is to prevent the dog from getting any hotter.
You can do this by dampening the dog down with cool (not freezing) water to help bring the body temperature down, try to provide shade from the sun and move the dog to a cooler area.
Wet towels can be used to cool a dog but these must be regularly changed or sprayed with water, and placed in front of the air conditioning vent to enhance evaporation on the way to the vet.
It’s been another quiet week for the Dog Warden service, which has given us a chance to spend more time patrolling than we have been able to in recent times.
Recently, whilst in the Honeysuckle Lane area of the Downs I got talking to a dog walker who asked me who decides where we patrol. And my answer was ‘you do’. Let me explain...
Below are two genuine letters I’ve recently received and are shared with the permission of the authors:
"Yesterday, 7th May 2020, there were large numbers of dogs along this stretch of beach. Mostly off leads. This is an area where dogs are not permitted from 1st May until 30th September. As a local, I'm not able to go for a walk with my children along that part of the beach because they are nervous around big dogs. There didn't seem to be any wardens patrolling the area."
"Dog warden: it has come to my attention that more and more dog owners are treating Durrington cemetery as a dog run, letting them off the lead and verbally abusing relatives of the deceased who visit there regularly, one being myself. Imagine the indignity of having dogs go to the toilet on their final resting place. It is beyond credulity and yet nobody seems to care that this is going on, let alone doing anything about it!"
These are just two examples of letters I receive. Most relate to dog fouling, some in parks and open spaces but many refer to residential roads. When I receive a complaint I always walk the area so that I can find out just how bad the problem is.
Once I’ve assessed an area, I then work out how much time to spend in the area and, just as importantly, what time of the day I need to visit the area.
Returning to the first example letter, this is a topic that I receive correspondence about every year.
Worthing has five miles of coast of which two stretches of beach are designated as ‘dog free’ between May and the end of September. This is the area between Splash Point and Heene Road and between the two boat launching ramps in Goring. I always explain to people, locals and holiday makers alike that the reason we do this is to give dog walkers space to walk their dogs off lead and people - like the author of the above letter - an area to enjoy the beach with their family in an animal-free zone.
Our beach patrol team is busy making sure that everyone sticks to the correct area of the beach, but it helps us if people can do their bit too by being considerate to others when out with their animals.
I think this is a good compromise or catering for everyone's needs, or as my late father would have called it ‘a bit of give and take’.
Photo: Russ patrolling Worthing seafront
I hope you are all safe and well as we enter the 8th week of lockdown. Many of us have had to make so many sacrifices in the last two months and have not been able to see the people we've wanted or visit the places we'd planned.
I think it was particularly sad all the plans that had been made for people up and down the country to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe day had to be scaled down to such an extent.
The television stations and Local Authorities marked the event, but I'm sure there would have been street parties and other fantastic outdoor events had things been different.
I was looking forward to seeing the Spitfire flypast but sadly I was on call over the weekend and duty called at just the wrong time and it wasn't to be. I hope you were able to see it if that was your wish.
I came across the following article in a Facebook post from the charity Veterans with Dogs which is the UK's first registered Charity Organisation, training assistance dogs for mental health, for current and former serving personnel of the British Armed Forces:
In the darkest days of the Second World War there were a number of appeals in newspapers and on the radio. One of them was:
“Have you got a big hungry dog? Nothing to feed them? Why not lend them to the Army so they can go to war?"
Pet food was rationed during the war and pet lovers were struggling to feed their animals so the appeal worked, people 'volunteered' their pet dogs to join the British Army. In fact some 7,000 people came forward with their pets, of which around 3,000 dogs were chosen.
These volunteer pets, along with others from Battersea Dogs Home and those from police run lost dogs pounds were put under intense training at a specialist 'war dogs training school' a few miles west of London.
One of the first tests they endured was being exposed to gunfire. They were walked round in groups by their ATS Girl handlers, while the head trainer threw thunder flashes around. Any dog which showed distress was rejected and returned to the owner (if they came forward to collect it). Any successful dog was put into a training squad.
Photo: Four ATS Girl handlers with their dogs (courtesy Veterans with Dogs)
Once trained they were sent to war and they were known to fight from the deserts of North Africa to the final defeat of the Third Reich. They jumped out of storm boats under fire, parachuted from aircrafts, guarded prisoners and hunted for mines.
These dogs were brave and loyal. The lucky ones came home to loving families, some came home but found they no longer had a family to claim them and many sadly didn't return at all.
These pets didn't choose to go to war, families were forced into giving them up through desperation. There is an Animals In War memorial in Hyde Park to remember the brave pets who gave their lives. Perhaps, when we are allowed to move freely, it is somewhere you would want to visit with your family?
Veterans with Dogs was founded for the purpose of training fully accredited assistance dogs to help mitigate the symptoms of mental health difficulties for our Veterans and active-duty service members.
You can find out more about the important work they do at on the Veterans with Dogs website, or @veteranswithdogs on Facebook.
Hi Again. I hope you and your loved ones are safe and well as we enter the 7th week of lockdown. Who would have thought this would be the situation back in the winter when we were so looking forward to the spring.
We were a little busier last week with three dogs coming into our care. The good news is they all went home, but not before having to be taken to our kennels where two had to stay overnight before they could be reunited with their owners.
Out of the three dogs, two were microchipped, but one was not registered and one registered in a foreign country, meaning we couldn't access the owner's details. The third dog wasn't microchipped which is bizarre, as he had recently had an operation and could have been microchipped at the same time, had the veterinary surgeon been asked.
Let's look again at the impact of the dogs straying.
For the dogs, there's the stress of being handled by the finder, put into a car, taken to the vets or the finders home. Followed by meeting another potentially stressful meeting with a stranger, being placed into another strange vehicle, and finally being taken to kennels if the owner can't be traced or contacted. The dog will find itself in a kennel, not knowing why, or if he was going home again.
For the finder, they will have to go out of their way to take the dog to a vet or take it to their own home. They will need to phone around and wait for us to collect the dog.
I've known finders to have been bitten, their own dogs to be bitten. The stray dog they have rescued to have been sick or defecated in the finders car or house. One finder found a dog quite late at night and so kept the dog in her kitchen. The following morning she came down to find the dog had chewed and scratched the units and doors.
Often people find dogs before going to, or on their way to work, but at the risk of being late they stop to help the dog because they're caring people.
On one occasion I picked up a stray from a man at the Ham Road traffic lights who had found the dog whilst on his way to a funeral. Despite his plans, he didn't ignore the dog but took him out of the busy road and held him until my arrival.
If the dogs had been wearing a collar and tag most of these scenarios wouldn't have happened. Dog and owner would have been reunited so much quicker.
For the owner, they face the stress of not knowing if their dog is safe in our care, has been run over, stolen or still running around lost, in danger and afraid.
Owners will also have to deal with the financial loss of paying the release fee if their dog had to go into kennels or if it wasn't the first time the dog had been picked up.
This impact doesn't even take into account the added danger during the current pandemic with people who wouldn't otherwise have met, having to risk breaking social distancing rules to hand over the dog.
The dogs, vets, kennel staff and the council would much rather the dogs be safe at home with their owners than being in our care. Please get a name tag for your dogs and microchip them, making sure the correct contact details are recorded.
I hope you and your loved ones are safe and well and thank you for playing your part in fighting Covid-19.
I can’t think of any situation where every single person, whatever their age, occupation, education or social class has such a vital part to play in this current situation and it’s great to see how everyone has come together.
I stopped writing this to observe the minute’s silence to the key workers who have made the ultimate sacrifice. It was really moving and I feel for those who have lost friends and colleagues. Having attended more police funerals than I care to remember I know exactly how they are feeling.
Hopefully the community spirit and feeling of togetherness continues when we awake from this nightmare and we continue to appreciate what we have and occupations that perhaps we didn’t fully appreciate before.
Some of my colleagues have had a change of roles by providing help and assistance for the elderly, homeless and vulnerable residents or assisting other colleagues at the crematorium.
Others have continued in their normal but vital roles, refuse collectors and cleansing teams keeping our towns clean and tidy. Our parks, gardens and open spaces look beautiful and assist our well-being and provide ideal locations for taking our daily exercise.
So whilst my colleagues have continued carrying out their duties during the five weeks of lockdown I’ve been busy, busy falling in love!!
In early March I took a call to Worthing seafront where a brindle staffie bitch had been found by a member of the public. She wasn’t microchipped and wasn’t claimed and so after 7 days she became the property of Adur & Worthing Councils.
Just days later I got the news, through no fault of their own, rescue centres and sanctuaries were on lockdown and unable to take dogs until further notice. It was clear she was going to be in our care indefinitely.
Some dogs and some breeds cope better than others in kennels, but staffies being real people dogs often don’t cope as well as other breeds. With that in mind, to keep her socialised and stimulated I decided I would spend my lunch breaks with her.
So, for the last 5 weeks Missy, as I called her and I have spent our lunchtimes walking at various locations in the area including Shoreham beach, Widewater, Brooklands and Worthing seafront.
As the days turned into weeks the bond between us grew. On going home each evening my own dogs would register their disgust and jealousy while interrogating me as to who the new dog in my life was.
Late last week I heard from one charity that was happy to take Missy even though they wouldn't be open to the public for some time. You may wonder why I let her go if she wasn’t going to be rehomed imminently. Well the answer is, she has to be assessed, she needs to be spayed and that can be done now so when rescues can reopen, she’ll be ready to be adopted straight away.
Early yesterday, I drove Missy to Widewater where we walked along the path to the Lancing sailing club and back along the beach before driving her to the next leg of her journey to a new life.
The walk was certainly bitter sweet but I know whoever adopts her is going to be very lucky because she is such a friendly and loving dog.
Photo: Russ on a beach walk with a very smiley Missy
I hope you and your loved ones are all safe and well and coping with the restrictions of staying at home to protect the NHS and save lives.
In happier times Easter would normally see the start of various events hosted by charities, groups and other organisations to promote their aims or raise much needed funds.
As I look through my diary, my first fundraising event was due for this coming Saturday followed by the Southwick Spring Fair and dog show on the 9th May. Dogs Trust open day and dog show on the 24th and the Findon Valley fun dog show on the 31st May.
That’s just some events for dog related charities in one small corner of West Sussex for one month. Multiply that for all the charities up and down the country and the revenue lost will be colossal and will have severe consequences.
Every charity will have its own unique needs, most will have buildings and vehicles to maintain. Many will have paid staff but for animal charities furloughing staff isn’t an option because the animals still need to be cared for, regardless of if the sanctuaries or rehoming centres are still open to the public or not.
I support various charities both at home and abroad and the knock on effects will be felt for a long time to come. For example, a charity here in Worthing had agreed to take a number of puppies from a rescue in Romania, the dogs had either been born on the streets, or in a local shelter who had taken in the pregnant mothers.
Just as the dogs were ready to come to England to start their new life, travel restrictions kicked in and now those and hundreds more dogs are in kennels waiting to travel to families in the UK.
While those dogs are occupying kennels, the shelters, with limited space and funds can’t take in more dogs who they desperately want to rescue from the streets.
The same with the Greyhound rescue I follow in China, dogs rescued from the meat markets are in kennels unable to travel and the staff are unable to rescue the many more dogs who will die if they can’t be helped.
I’ve a friend who was a veterinary nurse here in Worthing, she’s now working for a charity in India. She recently posted these words.
“India rapidly went into national indoor lockdown over the weekend for 21 days meaning shops and factories are closed.
"Unfortunately, supply chains in India have ground to a rapid halt. Unlike the UK, we do not know when shelves will be stocked or animal food and medicines will become available again.
"Given that here in Rajasthan shops and factories are closed, we have already run out of rice for our dogs, medicines are getting difficult to source, the staff salaries are not enough to contend with rising black market prices of even basic goods & we were already running on minimal staff with over 500 animals to feed and medically treat with more emergencies coming in everyday.
"Locals have been generous with food donations which will last us a couple more weeks, but we really need help financially to get us through the next few months.
"Witnessing what is happening across the world, but specifically here in India has reiterated just what a privileged position the majority of us are in”.
So that’s a tiny insight about how the pandemic is affecting animals around the world. Hopefully in the long term things will be better for both human and non human animals.
I hope this finds you all safe and well, and for those of you still working and for those of you staying home to protect the NHS and save lives thank you.
It’s been yet another quiet week for the Dog Warden service in terms of stray dogs but what has been reported and I’ve noticed it for myself, is there is a noticeable increase in dog mess on the streets and in the parks and open spaces. This is really disappointing.
The lighter mornings and evenings normally bring with them less dog faeces not more. In the current situation I would have thought people would be more aware of any source of germs, infection or contamination, rather than, as it seems, using the situation as an excuse not to pick up after their dog(s).
Mike and I are still patrolling the district and anyone found not picking up after their dog will be issued with a fixed penalty notice which, don’t forget went up from £50 to £100 last December.
On a more positive note, when on patrol and when walking my own dogs over the Easter holiday I was pleased to see how dog walkers and non dog walkers were not only keeping their social distance of 2 metres from each other, but when on narrow paths everyone was polite, hanging back to let others pass. This has shown a real community spirit and we’re all in this together, which is so good to see.
Over the last 3 or so weeks we’ve been given information and updates concerning best practice regarding handling dogs who don’t belong to us. Just this morning we received an update which I wanted to pass on, because I know although unfortunately a lot of the professional dog walkers aren’t working at the moment, some are still walking dogs belonging to key workers and many of you are volunteering to walk dogs belonging to people who are shielded or otherwise vulnerable or self isolating.
The update we were given is as follows:
- Consider each individual situation and how to safeguard yourself and the person whose dog you are walking.
- Agree in advance the process and time for collecting the dog.
- Find a way to collect and return the dog securely and in a way that maintains the two metre distance between you both and minimises the time spent in the owner’s home.
- Never walk dogs from different households at the same time.
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds using soap and water before leaving your home.
- Where possible, wear gloves for the duration of any contact and dispose of them safely after use.
- Use a different lead to the owner’s lead.
- Don’t handle anything else, such as your phone during any time of contact.
- Maintain your social distance (2 metres) while walking, keep to quiet areas and don’t allow other people or pets to come into contact with the dog.
- Wash the lead with soap and water once the dog has been returned.
- Wash your hands with soap and water as soon as you get home.
If the dog's owner is being shielded or suspects they having Coronavirus please also take the following precautions:
- Avoid any contact with them.
- Walk the dog locally, don’t drive to a location to walk the dog.
- Keep the dog on a lead to avoid people and other pets coming into contact with them.
- Wipe the dog with a disposable pet-safe wipe or clean, damp cloth before the walk and before returning the dog to the owner.
This procedure is recommended by the canine and feline sector group (CFSG) which is made up of several of the national dog and cat charities and welfare organisations.
It should be noted however, there have been no confirmed instances of transmission of Coronavirus (Covid-19) from pets to people. But it’s worth remembering the virus could be passed from person to person via a surface, like a dog’s collar or lead, in the same way as the virus can be contracted through touching a door handle, supermarket trolley or gate post.
Please also remember we are recommending dogs are kept on leads whilst walking, to maintain social distancing.
Take care and stay safe.
I hope you and your loved ones are all keeping well, as we enter the third week of ‘lockdown’.
Much the same as last week, all Councils’ services remain open and all veterinary practices in the area continue to provide an emergency service for your companion animals.
The dog warden service was really quiet last week with no stray dogs being reported.
I know at least two dogs were taken to local vets and quickly reunited with their owners, as thankfully they were microchipped and the correct contact details registered.
I think this is the perfect time to remind owners to check to see if your microchip company has the correct contact details for you. Hopefully you will all have access to your microchip paperwork and if you need to update them with a change of owner, change of address or contact phone number you should be able to do this over the phone or on their website.
Similarly, please check your dog’s ID tag to see if the details are up to date. You’d be surprised how many strays we pick up that have a tag but the phone number isn’t in use.
In these difficult times we need to have as little contact with people we don’t live with as possible. It’s really important not to put people at risk. If a person finds a lost dog, which has a correct number on it’s ID tag, all they need to do is contact the owner and hand the dog over. However, if the ID tag isn’t up to date, or there is no ID tag, they need to call a Dog Warden, who then needs to speak to a vet, and if the dog isn’t microchipped then the dog needs to go to a kennel. Very quickly lots of people have had to meet up who wouldn’t have needed to if the ID number was there in the first place. Not to mention all this adds to the stress put onto a dog.
Being picked up by a stranger, put into their car, taken to a vet, scanned by another stranger and then seeing the dog warden, another stranger, being put into his van and taken to a kennel, where they meet yet another stranger.
Many sociable dogs take this in their stride but many don’t and aren’t used to travelling in cars let alone vans, where they can’t see where they’re going.
As we know many dogs aren’t comfortable in a veterinary or kennel environment, more so as they’re parted from their owner.
If an owner could see the fear in some of the dogs, I’m sure they would try harder to prevent their dog from straying.
Until next week stay safe.
Hi Again, I hope that you and your loved ones are keeping well in these troubled times and that you're managing to adjust to living with the restrictions to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.
I’ve been asked questions and seen comments on social media in the last couple of days which I'd like to clarify.
Firstly the council stray dog service is still operating, as is every council department. With the aid of modern technology many staff, including Mike and myself are able to conduct a lot of our work from our homes meaning we can still work yet practice social distancing.
When we are called upon to go to the aid of a dog we will continue to do so and will of course comply with social distancing guidelines.
I've spoken to staff at various veterinary practises today and can confirm that they are all still open for emergency cases and are also carrying out telephone and video consultations, this will enable them to find out if a patient is an emergency and arrange to see them at the surgery.
I'm sure you'll want to join me in thanking our Veterinary staff for continuing to be there for our companions at this most difficult of times.
Unsurprisingly, it's been a very quiet week but I’m sure you can all relate to this. Sometimes a particular scenario doesn't occur for ages and then by coincidence it happens twice or more in quick succession. Well that happened to me last week.
Last Tuesday evening I'd finished work late and was catching up with the news when my partner gave me the five minute warning, which basically means, stop what you’re doing, dinner will be ready in five minutes.
At that exact moment the phone rang, looking at the ID callers name I knew that dinner would have to wait. Grove Lodge Veterinary Hospital had been alerted by the staff of a well known national supermarket that a dog had been tied up outside their store in Worthing's 'west end' for over an hour.
Staff had confirmed by checking their CCTV that a customer had tied the dog up outside, made a purchase and left the store leaving the dog tied up.
Luckily the dog was microchipped and I was soon able to contact the owner who lived nearby. The person I spoke to had no idea that their partner hadn't brought their dog home from the shop and that he wasn't in the house.
A few minutes later the dog and a very out of breath and embarrassed owner were reunited.
Fast forward 22 hours and having finished work on time my partner and I were using up our one permitted daily exercise period to walk our dogs when once again the receptionists at Grove Lodge vets had other plans for my off duty time!
Staff from the Broadwater store of the same national supermarket chain had reported that a dog had been tied up outside for four hours and so had brought the dog to the vets hoping it was microchipped.
The owner had been contacted but given the circumstances the receptionist wondered if I wanted to speak to the dog's owner in person. Absolutely I did, and so a short time later the dog's owner was explaining to me how her daughter and a friend had been walking the dog and had inadvertently left him outside the shop and returned home etc.
I’ve often warned about leaving your companion animals tied up outside shops, all too often we hear that dogs have been taken, bundled into cars, often never to be seen again. It only takes seconds and yet some owners still take a chance.
Please don't give thieves the opportunity to steal your pet.
Until next week, stay safe.
Photo: Russ' dog Lenny posing outside a shop for his blog picture!
Hi Again ...
Firstly let me say that I hope that you and your loved ones are fit and well at this most difficult of times.
I'm sure we all want to thank the National Health Service staff who are on the front line caring for us during these unprecedented times.
We all have our priorities in our lives and they vary from person to person. For many the health and wellbeing of our companion animals will be high up on our list of priorities.
So particularly for those people living alone, pets will play an important if not a vital role in the coming weeks and months, especially now that so many people have been confined to their homes for so much of the day.
The health advantages to living with a pet have long been recognised. They include decreased blood pressure, decreased cholesterol levels, decreased feelings of loneliness, reduced stress and staving off depression.
It's reassuring to know that there are still staff at veterinary practices who are working through this crisis to help our companion animals with emergency care, and I thank them for their dedication to our pets.
It's a huge relief that we are still allowed one form of exercise a day and for many that will involve walking our dogs. For those of you who for any reason can't exercise your dog or whose dog is used to being walked two or more times a day, there are a number of ways your dogs can be stimulated inside your own home or garden.
These could include dividing meals so that your dog is fed smaller - but more frequent - portions. Using slow feeders or kongs etc., or my favourite (if you use dry food and have a hazard free surface and environment) is to scatter their food so that they have to use their brain to find the food and, of course, it takes them longer.
Your dog's sense of smell is roughly 40 times better than ours! So not only do they love their food, they also love to find it for themselves! I often hide treats around the house and garden and tell my dogs to 'go find'. They might need a little guidance at first, but once they realise the game, you can make your search area larger and larger.
If you have more than one dog, please remember to only do it with one dog at a time in case both dogs reach the food at the same time and a fight breaks out.
It's going to be a good time to do some training with your dog, but please remember to be patient. You know what you want them to do, but they will take time to understand it. Also use only positive reward-based methods, ie lots of praise when they get it right and a treat or their favourite toy etc.
Never stop inventing new games for your dog and watch them to see the activities they enjoy. You can then use this in your training sessions to keep learning upbeat and fun!
Wouldn't training a 'stay' be so much more fun if it always ended in a great game of 'tuggy' with your dog's favourite toy?
Most dogs love to tug and tussle with you over a toy. It is important to let them win this game, especially when they are playing politely and not catching your fingers by accident! If you do find this happening it's a good idea to play with a long toy or even attach a dog lead to your toy to help your dog avoid this.
A top tip is to rotate the toys your dog plays with to keep them fresh and interesting!
Take care everyone and stay safe.
Photo: Watch out that your pets don't eye up your chocolate biscuits!
Hi again ...
This week I wanted to talk about a situation that sadly affects all of us who choose to share our lives with companion animals, and one which Vicky, my partner, and I had to face again last week.
Sixteen and a half years ago Flora and her three siblings were found dumped outside Newcastle dogs home in a cardboard box. They were just four weeks old and were suffering from kennel cough. The dogs' home was full at the time and so the litter was transferred to Dogs Trust Shoreham.
Sadly they all contracted pneumonia and one of her brothers died. The remaining three were cared for at the centre's puppy block until they were old enough to be rehomed. Flora chose my partner Vicky to be her new mummy.
As the years went by, Flora went from being the youngest of her new dog family, being shown the ropes by her older brothers and sisters, to being a mother herself, to the new arrivals my partner Vicky would bring home from time to time, some as fosters and some that would stay.
She always welcomed the new arrivals and became the most affectionate of surrogate mothers to them. As the years went by she developed arthritis and with the help of medication and massages she coped really well, still enjoying short walks on the Downs and pottering around the garden.
But at 16 and a half years old she had become partially sighted and deaf and her body was beginning to wear out and it was time to make the hardest decision that pet owners have to make.
When making the decision, it's important to do what is best for your pet, however tough that may be. Your vet should be your first port of call. Talking to them will help, as they are less emotionally involved, making it easier for them to think about what's best for your pet. They will help talk you through the different options available. Ask them as many questions as you like, no questions are stupid, they're there to offer guidance.
Dog owners often feel like they have little control over their pet's fate during this time, which some owners find difficult. But we can focus on the parts we can control.
For example, you can ask your vet to come to your home, this saves the stress of the journey, gives you privacy and your companion is in familiar surroundings rather than the vets, which many pets find stressful at the best of times.
We always do this with our dogs and I can't tell you how much it helped my partner and me, but it's obviously a matter of preference.
You can also think about where your pet's resting place will be, and if they'll be buried or cremated after they've passed on. There are a number of pet crematoriums where you can request your pet be cremated alone and have the ashes returned to you.
Some people choose to scatter the ashes at a place of significance; some keep them in an urn or box at home and some plant a tree or rosebush in the garden and scatter the ashes there. You can also have items of jewellery made with some of your loved one's ashes.
We always opt for a same day cremation. Whilst waiting for Flora's ashes to be returned to us, we walked around the tranquil setting of the crematorium garden of remembrance reading the headstones and tributes from pet owners.
This would be another option for your loved one's final resting place. I do believe it's worth giving the subject some thought now with a clear head, because when the dreadful time comes, everything may well be a blur.
It is recognised that grieving for a pet can be similar to mourning the loss of a family member and some owners experience feelings of deep loneliness and isolation. Some people may not understand the intense feelings of sadness you may feel after losing a pet, but thankfully there are people out there who do understand. Recognising this, I'm pleased to say that The Blue Cross offer a pet bereavement service which provides free, confidential support to anyone affected by the loss of a pet, and Cats Protection have a confidential phone line called Paws to Listen, a service for any cat owner suffering grief or bereavement of a beloved pet.
Until next week take care.
Photos: Flora shortly before she passed away (left) and back in 2014 when she was 10 (right)
We all know how brave our Armed Forces and emergency services are and we often hear that their selfless heroism has been rightly recognised by way of a medal. In the United Kingdom, the highest military honour is the Victoria Cross with the highest civilian equivalent being the George Cross.
Of course it's not just humans who serve; both the military and emergency services use horses and dogs and I've spoken previously about the contribution pigeons have made in war.
In 1943, during the Second World War, Maria Dickin CBE, who founded the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), was aware of the incredible bravery displayed by animals on active service and the Home Front. She was so inspired by their 'devotion to man and duty' that she introduced the PDSA Dickin Medal specifically for animals in war.
The medal itself is a large, bronze medallion bearing the words “For Gallantry” and “We Also Serve” all within a laurel wreath. The ribbon is striped green, dark brown and sky blue representing water, earth and air to symbolise the naval, land and air forces.
It's the highest award any animal can receive whilst serving in military conflict, and is recognised worldwide as 'the animals' Victoria Cross'. It acknowledges outstanding acts of bravery or devotion to duty displayed by animals serving with the Armed Forces or Civil Defence units in any theatre of war throughout the world.
Since 1943, the medal has been awarded 71 times, plus one honorary medal which was awarded in 2014. The recipients comprise 34 dogs, 32 pigeons, four horses and one cat.
So, what if an animal performs a heroic act that isn't in a military conflict?
Well, in 2001 the PDSA created a non-military counterpart of the Dickin Medal. Named the PDSA Gold Medal, it's an animal bravery award that acknowledges and rewards civilian acts of bravery and exceptional devotion to duty of animals. It is now recognised as the animal equivalent of the George Cross.
When instituted in 2002 the PDSA said:
“Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Animals sometimes display heroic capabilities in extraordinary situations. The PDSA Gold Medal recognises this.”
To date the PDSA Gold Medal has been presented to 29 recipients, all of which have been dogs. Sadly like the Dickin medal, some were awarded posthumously.
Some of the acts performed by the animals who have earned these rewards are remarkable, and what is clear to me is that whatever inspires a human to commit an act of bravery, it must be the same for our loving animals too.
You can read their stories on the PDSA website but you might want a box of tissues nearby!!
Until next time, take care.
Image: Sergeant Reckless, who was awarded the Dickin Medal, with her main caretaker, US Marine Sergeant Joseph Latham
Thankfully it's been a really quiet week so on Thursday I was able to run out to the Raystede Centre for Animal Welfare near Lewes.
About two weeks ago, I collected a lovely little Staffie from a local recreation ground, she wasn't claimed and so last Thursday I took her to the centre. We don't use them to rehome our strays very often but they've always helped when they can and we're very grateful.
For those of you who aren't aware of the charity, it all started in the 1930s when a head mistress called Miss M Raymonde-Hawkins purchased a cottage with a small patch of land just outside of Lewes in East Sussex. She left the education sector to establish Raystede as an animal charity in 1952.
In the early days the charity was based in her cottage and back garden. Sixty years on and the site has expanded across 43 acres where they care for over 2,000 animals a year, rehoming over 1,000 animals and providing sanctuary to even more.
They are one of the most diverse rescue centres in the UK because they care for so many different species of animals including cats, dogs, horses, alpacas, chinchillas, donkeys, goats, sheep, exotic Birds, wildfowl and poultry.
The centre is well worth a visit for a day out and during school holidays they often have special events going on.
Now for some sad news. In the last year or so there have been at least three dogs killed on the roads of Worthing whilst being walked on an extendable lead, sometimes referred to as flexi or retractable leads.
I don't know if the built-in locks failed, or if they weren't applied but whatever the causes, three dogs lost their lives and three families were left devastated.
When on patrol or out with my own dogs, I've often witnessed near misses where one minute a dog has been walking nicely on the footpath several feet in front of the owner or standing beside the owner waiting to cross the road and suddenly without warning the dog has darted into the road.
There are other issues it's probably worth being aware of with this type of lead.
The sudden force of a dog pulling can jolt a leash from your hand. The built in locks on a retractable leash can break or wear out allowing loss of control so you need to keep an eye on that. The combination of loss of control and a split second pulling of a dog can allow them to break free and end up in the middle of oncoming traffic or in contact with another dog.
When dogs on retractable leashes get tangled, there is an even higher risk of injury to the dogs or to the humans attempting to untangle them. Tangled dogs are more fearful and unpredictable, creating an increased risk of bites or cord injuries.
I don't wish to sound alarmist and I'm not saying any of these scenarios occur on a regular basis, but sadly they do happen and so I wanted to talk about it so that you can make up your own mind on the best equipment to use when walking your dog.
Until next week, take care.
Photo: A beagle dog being safely walked on its lead
Firstly let me say thank you for all your messages and kind words regarding Misty who I wrote about in last week’s blog. It was a lovely surprise for me to see her new family posted two photos of her.
Several people asked “what happened to the other dog?’ and why wasn’t the owner prosecuted? I understand how frustrating it is not knowing all the “ins and out” of the story but you will understand I have to respect Misty’s previous owner’s privacy, not to mention data protection (GDPR) applies, so sometimes you have to read between the lines.
Most of last week was taken up with two separate nasty dog attacks which both illustrate why responsible dog ownership is so important. Both incidents received coverage on local news and both are now being dealt with by the police.
The first occurred last Monday in the Offington area of Worthing, a lady in her 70’s was walking along a road with her husband, towards a couple who were walking their dog on a lead.
The dog was allowed to approach the lady, who without warning was bitten on the hand causing a serious injury. She immediately went to Worthing Hospital, but such was the injury that she had to be transferred to a specialist unit at East Grinstead hospital to be treated.
The police issued a press release last Friday and the owners of the dog came forward.
The second incident occurred the same day. A dog walker phoned my colleague to report a dog in her care had attacked a sheep on the Downs above Lancing. I arranged to meet the lady who agreed to take me to the field where the attack took place and after quite a hike from the nearest road, we were able to find and secure the injured sheep.
I then made my way to the nearest dwelling and was able to trace the farmer who attended straight away and took the injured sheep away. The following morning I learnt that sadly two more sheep had been found to have injuries and two of the three had to be destroyed.
It’s so disappointing year on year we hear reports locally of sheep being attacked and killed. Under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953, if a dog worries sheep on agricultural land, the person in charge of the dog is guilty of an offence. You’re risking a fine and, compensation, a criminal record not to mention your own dog’s life if you allow it to worry livestock.
Why take the risk of your dog being good around livestock, even if they won’t attack they can still cause pregnant sheep to abort their lambs if they are chased.
The worst sheep worrying incident in living memory was on the West Dean estate in Chichester in 2016 when 116 sheep were killed. None of them had been attacked but when being worried by a dog, all died from shock after being herded into the corner of the field, or by being crushed by the flock.
Please keep your dogs and the sheep safe. Keep dogs held on a lead near livestock. The fences are to keep the livestock in, not to keep our dogs out, that’s our responsibility.
Until next time take care.
Photo: Sheep on Lancing Ring
I've been waiting 6 months to share this story with you, but until now I couldn't. The time is now right to tell you all about Misty.
What started as a routine day back in August soon became an emotional rollercoaster ride for me. It started when I opened my laptop to view the new reports added to my workload for that day.
I immediately clicked onto a report of a tip off that someone had by chance seen a dog with a severe skin problem at a house in Worthing and was concerned for its welfare.
Having read the information given by the informant, it was one of those where it seemed not only genuine, but quite serious. I went straight to the address and walked along the alleyway at the rear of the property and found I could easily see into the rear garden, just like the person had described when they had caught a glimpse of the dog a few days earlier.
I noticed just how much dog faeces was in the garden and thought there must be more than one dog inside the property. This is useful to know, in case, when you call at an address, the occupant presents a healthy dog for inspection, leaving an unhealthy dog shut away in the property.
I knocked and it took quite a while before the door was answered but eventually I was invited in without hesitation. It was very dark inside as all the curtains were drawn. I asked if there were any dogs in the house and the occupant called out and a dog came running into the kitchen.
It was hard to see its condition as it was so dark and so we went out into the garden and the dog looked fine. Having seen the amount of faeces in the garden and having a specific report of a skin problem I asked:
“Do you have any more dogs in the house?”
The person went back inside and came out again with another dog in what I can only describe as being in an appalling condition. I was absolutely stunned, shocked and lost for words. I didn't expect nor have ever seen a dog in such poor condition.
I'll let the photos below do the talking as I haven't the words to describe just how bad Misty's condition was.
Obviously, I won't go into the following conversation, but after a short time I departed the address with the dog, who I called Misty, signed over to me by her owner. Needless to say we went straight to a local vet and Misty was prescribed several medications to help make her more comfortable and put her on the road to recovery.
As Misty wasn't a stray, I didn't have to wait 7 days before finding her a rescue place, so I set about the task straight away. Clearly her condition would require a lot of time, money and commitment to help her back to good health and within days she'd been offered a space at the Dogs Trust rehoming centre at Shoreham.
As you can imagine, I kept a close eye on Misty's recovery and the staff sent me photos. In just 4 weeks the turnaround was incredible. It just goes to prove with veterinary intervention to prescribe the correct medication and advice on how to regularly bathe the dog, how easy it was to turn Misty's fortunes around for the better.
You may be wondering what happened to Misty's owner in relation to possible Animal Welfare offences. Well, without going into detail, due to a number of circumstances it was felt it wasn't in the public interest to prosecute the owner.
Six months on and Misty has made an incredible recovery physically and mentally. She has been adopted by a lovely family who I was lucky to meet because coincidently I carried out the home check on behalf of Dogs Trust.
Without doubt this was the worst condition I've seen in a dog, but thankfully it had a happy ending, which made it the most rewarding job in my 11 plus years in the job.
Before (left) and after (right) photos of Misty
Some of you may have seen news articles about Lucy's Law and wondered what it means for breeders, buyers, sellers and most importantly the dogs themselves.
Well, it is due to come into effect in England only, in April this year and will mean puppies and kittens can no longer be sold by a pet shop or commercial dealer unless they have bred the animal themselves. Instead, anyone looking to buy or adopt a puppy or kitten under six months must either deal directly with the breeder or an animal rehoming centre.
The law is named after Lucy, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who, when rescued from a Welsh puppy farm 6 years ago, was clearly suffering. Her hips had fused together; she had a curved spine, bald patches and epilepsy after years of mistreatment. She'd been kept in a cage much of her life and was no longer able to have puppies.
But the five-year-old went on to be rehomed and went on to enjoy a full, albeit far too short life, filled with happiness. She had three years of love before she died in 2016, and now her story is helping to change the law.
Photo: A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel type dog (not Lucy)
Adults and puppies alike are subjected to terrible conditions on a puppy farm. Dogs like Lucy are often kept by breeders to produce multiple litters of puppies, which are taken from their mothers at just a few weeks' old and advertised online or sold in pet shops.
Puppy farms are synonymous with unhygienic living conditions, inadequate and overcrowded housing conditions. Frequently breeding dogs and puppies from farms suffer with long-term health and/or behavioural problems as a result of the poor conditions they are bred in, a lack of adequate socialisation and being taken away from their mothers too early.
Local Authorities up and down the country play a key part in the fight to protect animal welfare. Certain activities involving animals including selling pets, breeding dogs for sale, boarding cats or dogs, dog day care, and home boarding for dogs require a licence from the local Council.
Each licence holder is inspected and given a score out of five so prospective pet owners can be assured of the animal welfare conditions.
Here are a few do's and don'ts:
- When considering to board a cat or dog or buy a puppy always ask to see a copy of the traders licence or ask for the licence number so you can check with the local Council
- Never board a cat or dog without asking to see where they will be kept
- Never buy a puppy without asking to see them with their mum and the conditions they live in
Even with all the education on television, newspapers and online I still hear of people buying puppies from the boot of cars at motorway service stations or having their puppy delivered to the door as if it's a pizza, not a living, breathing animal.
I would recommend visiting the breeder to see your prospective puppy or kitten at least twice before buying. That way you get to know them and see them with their mother and see the environment they're living in.
The kennel club's website is very helpful, not only does it give a list of kennel club registered breeders but it has an extensive section on advice of each breeds needs which will help you match a breed to your lifestyle - see: The Kennel Club website - find a puppy
Do your research on the chosen breed before you visit. Don't be afraid to ask questions about the puppy, the breed etc. Reputable dog breeders won't mind answering questions about their pups.
A few years ago a friend of mine went undercover at a puppy farm in Sussex for a television programme called 'Cowboy Traders', you can watch the investigation on YouTube.
I asked her if she had been going as a genuine buyer would she have:
- Purchased a puppy because she wouldn't have realised it was in poor health.
Purchased a puppy knowing it was in poor health but wanting to rescue it from the environment it was living in, so paid the breeder to get it out of the poor conditions or
Walked away without buying one because you know you're only rewarding the breeder and encouraging them to carry on breeding because it's so lucrative.
She told me how hard it would have been to walk away and leave them in the conditions she found them and so she could understand why people brought them even knowing how poorly the puppies were and how wrong it is to be breeding them in those conditions. This is of course how the industry continues to flourish.
None of us would buy a car from a dealer knowing it was faulty and needing several hundred, if not thousands of pounds spent on it but our compassion kicks in and this is what the breeders rely on.
Please don't breed or buy while others die, please consider a rescue.
Those of you who read my blog last week may remember it was my 100th blog. As a result, last Wednesday I was lured into the communications office under false pretences, where I was ambushed by the Director of Communities, Mary D'Arcy, with a card and a lovely Vegan chocolate cake.
It was a lovely surprise and very much appreciated and made all the pressure and stress worthwhile.
Last week we looked at two of the Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs), these were formerly known as Dog Control Orders and historically Byelaws.
This week we can look at the three remaining 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 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, the ‘official' bathing season. 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 head for?
Do they want to have 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 or chasing their beach ball?
Hopefully the enclosed children's play areas are self-explanatory. Parents know their children will be safe from faeces or urine on the ground or play equipment. Also some dogs get excited at children running or screaming and chase or jump up at them. This way everyone enjoys their time in the park.
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 I'd suggest it's not unreasonable for dogs to be excluded from those areas.
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 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 or training 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. 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.
Everyone except those who don't pick up after their dogs are in favour of this law ...
I'm sure everyone has trodden in dog faeces, and perhaps walked it into their house unknowingly.
I often get letters from parents 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 it into the house. Then there are the cases of children treading in or sitting in it in the park when they're playing football, having a picnic, etc.
Who can defend the irresponsible dog owners who can't be bothered to pick up?
In my personal opinion the rules are reasonable and proportionate and help everyone who lives, works or visits the area, to enjoy the coast, countryside, parks and gardens that we are lucky to have on our doorstep.
Hopefully it also shows that Adur and Worthing are far from anti-dog!
I can't believe it's 2 years ago this month that my then head of service Andy Edwards approached me in our office and said:
“Hi Russ, how do you fancy doing a few blogs?”
Usually I decide on the topic of each blog, but occasionally I'm asked to speak about a specific subject or problem and this week I've been asked to revisit the Public Space Protection Orders which give us our powers to issue fixed penalty notices.
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 read people complaining about the restrictions on dogs in the town. I have even heard Worthing described as anti-dog or not dog friendly but as the owner of multiple dogs I can categorically state nothing can be further from the truth.
So, in the first part of two blogs, I'll take a look at the rules and why they are in place.
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.
So after much discussion the limit of six was introduced. Some councils have a limit of four dogs and you may remember that just last year the council proposed reducing the number from 6 to 4 in Adur & Worthing. However after the public consultation the public vote of 52% / 48% went against the proposal and so the plan was dropped.
Some people believe that the original limit of 6 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 the professional dog walkers to maintain standards.
Most take their responsibilities very seriously and are proud of the service they provide to their clients and the quality of life they give to the dogs that would otherwise be indoors all day while their owners go to work.
The limit is intended just to make things more harmonious for everyone. I know several people that have six or more dogs of their own - I myself live with six and I've friends who have 12!
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, some parks and gardens, including Palantine Park, Beach House Park, Field Place. All cemeteries, allotments, Worthing pier and Widewater Lagoon.
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. It was agreed. There was a compromise that dogs would still be allowed on the site. Players regularly complain that before training and matches they have to do a poo pick up off the pitch. Something they shouldn't have to do and if everyone behaved responsibly, something they wouldn't have to do. The situation is similar in other parks across Adur & Worthing which are used for sports.
As for cemeteries, 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 groundsmen work so hard maintaining flower beds, bowling green's 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.
Also covered by this rule is this Order applies to all public roads, pavements and grass verges, which are within 4 metres of the carriageway and are maintainable at public expense and which are subject to a speed limit of 40mph or less.
Next week I'll focus on the other three rules that we have in place across Adur & Worthing the district. Until then take care.
Photo: Russ standing next to his dog warden van, holding a dog
One of the most frustrating things in dog rescue, (and there are many) is not knowing why a dog has been abandoned.
As I reported last week 16 dogs in Adur & Worthing were abandoned last year.
This is a fraction compared to the number in some Local Authority areas in Sussex and in larger towns and cities throughout the UK.
The last published Dogs Trust stray dog survey shows just over fifty six thousand stray dogs came into council care in the year 2017-2018, of which nearly thirteen and a half thousand remained unclaimed and were passed to animal welfare charities. Sadly one thousand four hundred and sixty went to sleep which is approximately 3% of all stray dogs picked up that year.
I've spoken before of the many reasons people give when looking to rehome their dog. These include; allergy sufferer in the family, emigration, having a baby, illness, losing their home and being unable to find alternative accommodation where the landlord is willing to accept pets, losing their job, longer working hours and relationship break down.
However, there's one very common reason missing from that list, and there's no way of knowing what percentage of dogs are given up for this reason.
To explain better, below is the account from one of the 3% dogs who are put to sleep when they are abandoned:
“My family brought me home, all cradled in their arms. They cuddled me and smiled at me and said I was full of charm. They played with me and laughed with me and showered me with toys. I sure did love my family, especially the little girls and boys.”
“The children loved to feed me; they gave me special treats. They even let me sleep with them - all snuggled in the sheets. I used to go for walks, often several times a day. They even fought to hold the leash, I'm very proud to say.”
“These are the things I'll not forget - a cherished memory. Now that I'm in the shelter - without my family. They used to laugh and praise me when I played with that old shoe. But I didn't know the difference between the old one and the new.”
“The kids and I would grab a rag, for hours we would tug. So I thought I did the right thing when I chewed the bedroom rug. They said that I was out of control, and would have to live outside. This I didn't understand, although I tried and tried.”
“The walks stopped, one by one, they said they hadn't time. I wish that I could change things; I wish I knew my crime. My life became so lonely in the backyard, on a chain. I barked and barked all day long to keep from going insane.”
“So they brought me to the shelter but were embarrassed to say why. They said I caused an allergy, and then they each kissed me goodbye. If I'd only had some training when I was a little pup, I wouldn't have been so hard to handle when I was all grown up.”
“‘You only have one day left, I heard the worker say. Does that mean I have a second chance? Do I go home today?”
This time last year I told you the good news that the number of stray dogs we picked up across Adur and Worthing had gone down year on year.
From 2016 to 2018 there was a 60% drop in the number of dogs abandoned which then needed to be rehomed. At the time I said I hoped 2019 would see a further reduction in strays.
Now I can tell you that last year the number of dogs collected and cared for reduced by 20%. In 2018 only 12 dogs were unclaimed, all of whom were subsequently rehomed via the various rehoming charities that we work with. However last year 16 dogs remained unclaimed, 14 of which were rehomed via rehoming charities. Jason, who we told you about over the Christmas holiday, remains in our care and we hope to rehome him soon.
The other one was not so fortunate. Bella, a Collie type was found dying having been abandoned in Hillview allotment in Southwick. Despite the care we provided her, she went to sleep for the last time hours after being found.
A further six dogs were for a number of reasons signed over to us by their owners. All were also rehomed via rehoming charities.
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the owner and all of the staff at the kennels who look after our stray dogs. We often ring them out of hours so that we can bring a dog in, or collect one so they can be reunited with their owner rather than stay the night away from home. The standard of facilities and care offered is also very good.
I'd also like to thank the rehoming charities who have cared for and rehomed the 20 dogs this year, some of whom we've worked with over a number of years now. They include: Dogs Trust, Wadars, Rescue Remedies, Sussex Pet Rescue and Arun Dawn. Others we worked with for the first time, such as German Shepherd Rescue Elite, German Shepherd Dog Welfare Fund, Lurcher Link, Pennine Pen Animal Rescue and Rottie Rescue.
It's worth remembering that it's impossible to measure these figures in terms of performance as the number of strays is out of our control.
When dogs have come into our care and haven't been claimed, we work hard to rehome as many as we possibly can.
Since being handed this responsibility five years ago, we've rehomed all but four dogs who sadly, on the advice of our vet, went to sleep to end their suffering.
Bella was one of those - and it is to her that I dedicate this blog.
I hope you all had a good Christmas, and I'd like to wish you all a happy, healthy and peaceful new year.
Many of you will have seen our post last week regarding Jason the Staffy and Frank the German Shepard who were abandoned during the Christmas period.
Remarkably the post had FIFTEEN hundred shares and attracted 168 comments some of which I'd like to address now, hopefully answering some of the points raised.
Most of our stray dogs are reunited with their owner very quickly. This could be because the dog is microchipped (I'll talk more about that shortly), or due to the owner contacting us to report their dog missing or thanks to our local knowledge one of the Dog Wardens recognises the dog and know where it lives.
As a result very few of the strays we pick up have to spend time in our kennels and if they do they're normally claimed the same day or at the latest the following day. Consequently we rarely need to post stray dogs and this is why we left it until the 30th December to ask for your help for information regarding Jason and Frank. I think it's fair to say, if the owners had wanted their dogs back, they would have claimed them by then.
It's true not everyone is on Facebook, (which is why we don't rely on it) but we do monitor social media including dogs lost and similar sights to see if our strays have been reported as lost or stolen.
Also some people don't know the local authority has the legal duty to collect and care for stray dogs but those people normally phone the Police, RSPCA, Dogs Trust or local vets who always point the owner in our direction.
As for Frank's health, the photo clearly shows his skin condition didn't happen overnight and would have taken months if not longer for it to get that bad.
Photo: Frank the German Shepard - before and after his eye treatment
As I've said before, if a dog's condition is left untreated it's only going to get worse and ending up costing more money. Had his skin condition been nipped in the bud he wouldn't have suffered for months, the vet treatment would have cost a fraction of what it will cost now and would have been a far less intensive treatment, meaning fewer trips to the vets for all concerned and less stress for Frank.
As with so many of our posts and my blogs there's a mixture of news both good and bad. The bad news is, without going into the finer details, Franks medical condition is worse than we first thought.
The good news is our post was shared to a lady called Debbie who's the secretary of the German Shepherd Dog Welfare Fund. When she saw the post she rang us and said:
“Whether he's got two days, two weeks or two months and whatever the cost we want to give him his last days in a home where he will know love and kindness and when it's his time to pass, it will be with dignity.”
I phoned Debbie on Sunday and she has renamed him Finlar, which I'm told is Celtic for handsome warrior. She told me that she is caring for him at her home with her other dogs and that he has settled in well.
Frank is a perfect example of what I spoke about in my last blog when I quoted the parable of the good shepherd. Due to his age and poor health he needs a lot of veterinary treatment costing a considerable amount of money and a lot of charities wouldn't have taken him on because the same money could be spent on helping more than one younger dog.
As I've said before, a stray dog getting help, like so many things, is a post code lottery. I know for a fact that had Frank been abandoned in some other areas of Sussex, never mind the country, the local authority would have put him to sleep.
Thankfully he came into our care and is now safe from further neglect and suffering.
Contact Public Relations & Communications
If you have any enquires please contact:
- 07909 688 132 - Mike Gilson
- 07342 066 216 - Tim Ridgway
- 07795 504 983 - Talia French
Public Relations & Communications,
Adur & Worthing Councils,
Worthing Town Hall,