Russ Akehurst Dog Warden
Russ Akehurst is one of Adur & Worthing Councils' dog wardens. After a career in the police, he took on the role more than twelve 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 three dogs of his own - a Labrador cross Boxer, a Jack Russell Terrier and a Greyhound.
You can read Russ' current blog posts on this page below:
I hope you all had a good Easter and maybe took advantage of the easing of some of the lockdown restrictions where we can now meet up outdoors either in a group of six (from any number of households), or in a group of any size from up to two households.
My partner and I met up for a dog walk with a friend and five of her dogs. She hadn't met the latest two additions to our doggy family so we had quite a lot of catching up to do.
The following day the three of us met up in the garden of another friend, who happens to be a vegan cake baker. Despite our protests she insisted on plying us with vegan chocolate cake. It really was a tough day!!
With the lighter evenings and hopefully warmer weather we're starting to see more and more people wanting to spend time outdoors. We are so lucky having both the coast and the South Downs on our doorstep and there's certainly enough space for everyone to enjoy what we have, but so often a small minority spoil things for the rest of us.
In the last week we've had reports of horse riders being chased by dogs, causing one girl to be thrown from her horse. We've also received reports of dogs attacking other dogs, chasing cyclists and ruining picnics.
Also, rather disturbingly, my colleague Mike, who normally covers the Adur area, took a report of individuals in Broadwater Cemetery, South Farm Road walking dogs off leads and playing ball with their pets on the graves.
The Council recognises Broadwater Cemetery as a valuable open space for residents, as well as a peaceful place where people come to pay respects to loved ones. When Mike attended the cemetery he found that the majority of dog owners did have their dogs on the lead, however, he issued a handful of dog owners with Fixed Penalty Notices for not walking their dogs on leads within this sensitive site. This is despite clear signage being in place.
Both Mike and I emphasise education before enforcement, and so does our Enforcement Policy. We hope that the fines serve as a reminder that dogs must be on leads in closed spaces such as cemeteries and closed churchyards, so that they can be enjoyed by all users.
Next month sees the start of the year when dogs aren't allowed on certain beaches in Worthing so next week I'll talk about the Public Space Protection Orders, why they are in place and how they benefit everyone, dog lovers or not.
Until then take care.
There's an all too common serious health issue that seems to be getting worse year on year which affects humans as well as companion animals and takes a large helping of willpower to prevent or reverse.The problem is of course obesity.
As well as general loss of quality of life, the health implications increasingly diagnosed in dogs as a result of obesity include arthritis, ligament strain, and slipped discs, heart and respiratory diseases.
Also skin disease because obese dogs may develop skin folds that restrict airflow to some areas resulting in them becoming moist and prone to infection. Blood flow to skin may also be reduced due to cardiac or respiratory deficiency, Liver insufficiency, Diabetes and certain types of cancer and as in humans, pet obesity can reduce life expectancy.
The PDSA reports that the causes of pet obesity are fairly straightforward: pets are being fed too much and exercised too little. With feeding there are two problems. One is overfeeding an otherwise good quality diet. Owners don't follow feeding guidelines - they guess what's the right amount or they feed on demand, when they think their pet is hungry.
The second is people feeding their pets treats throughout the day, both pet food treats but also human food such as takeaways, cheese, chips, crisps and meal time leftovers. These are often in small amounts, but pets really do struggle to burn off those extra calories. When it comes to exercise, the PDSA estimates that across the country, six million dogs go for a daily walk shorter than an hour long, and a quarter of a million dogs don't get walked at all.
I remember going to one dog owner's house, and could see that the dog was struggling to breath and that was without exercise. The owner agreed for me to take the dog to a local vet to be weighed and it turned out that the dog was almost 50% over the ideal weight for the breed in question.
So put into perspective, if the dog had been a human whose ideal body weight was 12 stone, their actual weight would have been 18 stone!
There's no doubt that the owner loved her dog to bits but was actually killing her with kindness. The dog had actually had the owner trained, she would stand at the cupboard where the treats were kept and give her owner the sad face or the puppy dog eyes. The treats were sure to come out and before long you have an obese dog on your hands and once the weight's on it's so much harder to get off.
Until last year many if not all of the vets in Worthing ran weight clinics free of charge where dogs could be weighed and the owners given advice and the encouragement needed to return their dogs to a happy healthy weight again.
With lockdown restrictions, most veterinary practices have had to suspend this service but hopefully it won't be too long before it's up and running again. In the meantime If you think your dog is overweight please contact your local vet and ask if it's possible for them to weigh your dog and advise what your dog's ideal weight should be.
You can use this helpful video from the PDSA to check if your dog is carrying some extra weight, you'll be doing your companion and yourself a massive favour and extending the precious time you have together:
One subject that comes up time and time again both in 'real' conversations and on social media is pet insurance.
Sadly each year a number of dogs are signed over to rescue centres because their owners can't afford the vets bills and there's no doubt that a number of dogs are abandoned for the same reason.
Due to this I always recommend that pet owners take out insurance but not only that, I stress the need to research and compare the different companies and variations of cover they offer.
There are so many different options and most have an upper limit on what the provider will pay out per year, ie a choice of a maximum of £4,000, £7,000 or £12,000
Often the insurance provider will have an upper limit for each condition the pet has. So for example if a dog had a broken leg, the operation, any follow up treatment, medication and physiotherapy for that condition would be included in the sum insured.
But with advances in medicine, animals are now being saved in situations where in the past they would have died, and the average life expectancy has extended but of course this comes at a financial cost.
Take my late Greyhound Sally who went to sleep last year. We rescued her in the summer of 2018 when she was 11 years old. In December we noticed that she couldn't support her weight on her back legs and our vet advised that she needed an MRI scan.
So, an MRI scan costs on average £2,500 but there's no point in having one if you're not prepared to treat what the scan shows, because you'll be throwing £2,500 down the drain.
Her scan showed that she had spinal disc disease and as a result two of her discs had ruptured. We were quoted well over £5,000 for the operation and obviously went ahead. A few weeks later there were post surgery complications which pushed the price up significantly further.
So had that been someone with a limit of £4,000 or £7,000 per year, per condition or no insurance cover at all, how far would, or could they have gone financially?
Could they tell their children that they had to rehome or put their pet to sleep because they couldn't pay the vets bill? Or more to the point, could they look their pet in the eye?
My advice is get the best insurance you can afford.
Let's look at why vet bills are so high, or even if they are actually high.
The vet must cover not just their own time but also the cost of the veterinary nurses, receptionists and other support staff. Plus 20% of the bill will go to the government as VAT.
Vets also need to fund the cost of the equipment they use and will have the usual business expenses including rent, rates, accountancy fees, payment terminals, heating, light and insurance.
A vet's income is generally 20% or less of the fees that they charge. If vets worked for free, pet owners would still have to pay around 80% of what they do now. The cost of healthcare in general is high, but because of the NHS we are shielded from the true cost.
There's a myth that vets earn small fortunes. The reality is that even experienced vets generally earn far less than doctors and dentists. Vets have to study for five years at university to gain their qualifications. If the rewards were too low, we would soon have a shortage of vets.
I can't end this blog without saying that the pressures of running a veterinary practice can be immense and sadly the suicide rate amongst vets is four times the national average.
Hopefully this helps you consider how you would tackle expensive vet bills should you ever be in that position.
Until next week take care.
Photo: On the left is Sally's x-ray showing the two spine implants after surgery, and on the right, Sally is pictured recovering from her operation
Last week I talked about the fears within the animal rescue world that many of the so-called 'lockdown puppies', through no fault of their own will find themselves in rescue centres up and down the country.
Many because their human companions will be going back to work and the dogs may suffer separation related behaviours, commonly referred to as separation anxiety.
Even dogs that were used to their owners being away from home pre lockdown will have gotten out of that routine, and may well suffer when their companion(s) go back to work or school and they are left alone for much of the day.
Hopefully this advice will help many of the dogs that are going to have a big change in their daily routine.
Leaving a puppy alone for the first time:
Before you start training your puppy to be home alone, bear in mind that they won't be ready to be left alone until they are about nine months old. Have you noticed that your puppy likes to follow you everywhere? This is because they need constant care when they are little and need to know that their carer is close by.
Your puppy's dependence on you will decrease as they get older. A sign that they are becoming more independent is when they are happy to spend time on their own in another room away from you.
It's never too soon to start training your puppy to spend time alone - just make sure that you take things at their pace, nice and slowly. Here's five easy steps to teach your dog to be home alone.
How to train your dog to be alone:
Repeat each step until your dog is happy, before proceeding to the next step:
- Encourage your dog to go to their bed, with you close by, and stay there for a short while. Reward them for remaining quiet.
- Ask your dog to stay while you move away. Reward them when you return.
- Start to leave the room - with the door open - before returning, eventually closing the door when you leave.
- Increase the amount of time you stay outside, varying the time before you return.
- When your dog has reached the point of being happy to be left alone for an hour, they should be happy being left alone for longer periods of time.
(see infographic below)
How to prepare your dog for a change of routine:
The return to work and school may come as a bit of a shock to the system with early mornings, busy bathrooms, everyone trying to get out of the house at the same time.
If you got a puppy during lockdown, think about how a return to work and the school run will impact on their routine. Consider how you will keep on top of your puppy's toilet training, and make time for bonding and play.
Puppy training and socialisation:
Training is an important part of your puppy's early years development, so don't forget to sign your puppy up for 'puppy school'. As the UK moves out of lockdown, puppy training classes are likely to resume; but in the meantime, many virtual puppy training classes are being run, which you can join from home.
How to find a good dog trainer:
Unfortunately the dog training industry is unregulated and many people claim to be dog trainers without any qualifications.
To find a properly qualified dog trainer look for one who is recognised by the Animal Behaviour & Training Council (ABTC).
Until next week, good luck and take care.
Infographic image: credit Our Family Dog
Ever since the beginning of the first lockdown back in March of last year, it’s been well documented that many people who previously didn’t own a dog were for one reason or another, rushing out and buying a dog and more often than not, a puppy.
This has continued until the present time and the prices that breeders are charging has gone through the roof. This is because of supply not being able to keep up with demand. Sadly this has also resulted in the well documented increase of dogs being stolen.
However even before this current lockdown a number of dog rescues were reporting a trickle of ‘lockdown puppies’ being handed in to their centres.
As there appears to be light at the end of the lockdown tunnel, the rescue world is bracing itself for a flood of dogs coming in to be rehomed. Many because their owners will be going back to work and won’t have enough time for the dog.
Others because the dog, up until now won’t have been left on its own and could well develop separation anxiety.
Even dogs that were used to their owners being away from home pre lockdown will have gotten out of that routine, and may well suffer when their companion(s) go back to work or school and they are left alone for much of the day.
Hopefully we are all proved wrong but even if the same percentage of dogs are signed over as before Covid 19, the fact that there are so many more dogs now, that same percentage will still mean a lot of dogs coming in at once.
This is going to put such a strain on charities, with a huge reduction in donations from the public both because of people having a reduced income and from the lack of fundraising events funds in the last year, their budgets are going to be stretched to the limit.
To help owners and more importantly the dogs reduce the chance of needing to be rehomed I’ve been given excellent advice which I’ll post next week but below are the reasons why it’s going to be so important to help your companion if his routine is going to change in the coming weeks or months.
Advice from dog experts is that dogs shouldn’t be left alone at home for more than four hours. Many dog owners who work full time use a dog walker or doggy day care to break up their dog’s day. If you need to leave your dog alone for any length of time, they will first need to be trained to spend time on their own.
Even if your dog has previously been used to being home alone, it is still a good idea to go through the process of training them again. During lockdown they will have enjoyed – and got used to – having company all the time. A sudden change in routine and having to spend time alone, could leave your dog feeling anxious. Dogs like company, and can get anxious if left alone. If a dog is feeling anxious about being left alone at home, they may start to:
- Bark and howl when you are away
- Chew and destroy items in the house, including furniture
- Wee or poo in the house.
These are known as separation related behaviours – or separation anxiety – and are often signs that a dog is feeling distressed. Once a dog develops these behaviours it often requires the help of a professional dog behaviourist. By teaching your dog to be left alone you can help them to not feel anxious. More on this next week...
Firstly I’d like to give you all an update regarding Jenny. If you read last week's blog you will remember that she was missing for 3 days, having run off when being handed to her new adopter’s after traveling in a van for some 3 days from Romania.
I’ve just spoken to her owners and she’s bonded well with them during this past week. It’s going to take time for her to gain confidence with new surroundings and situations but her owners are totally committed to the task ahead.
News of Jenny’s escape spread far and wide on social media and so I wanted to raise awareness of nervous dogs being able to slip out of their collar and even a harness, so that hopefully it can prevent similar occurrences in the future.
Here’s some information about the benefits of non slip harnesses for nervous dogs like Jenny. I’d urge you all to read it even if your own dog is comfortable walking on a collar and lead or a conventional harness.
Before Jenny’s escape, my previous 4 blogs had seen me reminiscing about the 3 years between 2014 and 2017 when we housed our stray dogs at Teville Gate, Worthing.
Sadly we all knew that Teville Gate only provided a temporary solution in our quest to find permanent kennels for our strays and that one day the bulldozers would move in. Obviously this worried us as it had been so difficult to find premises back in 2014.
However, we needn't have worried. By the time that we had to move out in November 2017, we had already secured kennel space with our preferred option back in 2014. They weren’t able to accommodate us back then but thankfully were able to now.
More than 3 years on and everytime I drive past Teville Gate I still think about the dogs we saved. Every single one of the 95 healthy strays were rehomed. Looking back they were great times because it gave us continuity, from picking them up on the streets, caring for them and then finding them a rescue place, but there’s no doubt it was emotionally and physically draining.
Constantly worrying about the ones in poor health, if we would have enough kennel space, if we would be able to secure the dogs a rescue place if they weren't claimed. I honestly don’t know how people who run their own rescues or who work in rescue cope year after year.
I’m privileged to know many of the staff past and present from Dogs Trust, Shoreham and the Senior Animal Rescue Officer at Wadars. The work they do is amazing but it takes its toll physically and emotionally over the years.
The smaller charities have the added pressure of having to worry about fundraising. Without donations and volunteers to organise fundraising events many of the smaller rescues would simply fold and I fear for them in the current situation when the traditional fundraising events, such as dog shows, open days, sponsored walks / marathons etc haven’t taken place.
The kennels we use now have been amazing with their care for our strays. Those not reunited with their owners are cared for until we can find them a place in rescue.
As an example, many boarding kennels have sadly but understandably closed during the pandemic because to heat the kennels and pay staff would be more expensive than remaining closed.
Whereas kennels with rescue dogs have remained open, often operating at a loss, such is their dedication and sense of duty to the animals in their care.
Hi Again. I had this week's blog all planned out but as I've said previously, you never know what the next phone call will bring and last Friday was a perfect example!!
I took a call from a lady who described how the previous evening she and her partner were about to welcome a rescue dog into their home. The dog, called Jenny, had been on the road for three days, travelling in a van from Romania along with other dogs when somehow, because the dog was so frightened, she was able to escape when being transferred from the van to the adopters.
Normally the dog would have been taken into the house but because of Covid restrictions Jenny was handed over in the street and because she was so nervous, she pulled free and ran away.
At this point Jenny had already been missing for well over 14 hours and had been out all night. Worryingly there had been no sightings reported to us and so I checked around all the vets to see if she had been handed into any of them, but sadly she hadn't.
Often a dog that runs off will make their way home, back to where they have run off from or to a place familiar to them, a local park etc. But here we had a dog that didn't know anywhere in England let alone Worthing, and hadn't even met anyone, let alone formed a bond with anyone.
The new adopters weren't confident with social media and so I created a post, which was soon shared far and wide and not before long a representative from Lost Dogs UK Recovery South had made contact with Jenny's adopters and offered their expertise help.
The speed at which they worked was impressive; the charity Dog Lost were informed and details were placed onto their website. Posters had not only been designed but printed and were being displayed in shops and other prominent places around the town.
This is so important because as hard as it is to believe Facebook isn't everyone's cup of tea and a good old fashioned advertising poster still has its place in society.
Friday evening saw a sighting of a loose dog near Goring Hall hospital and volunteers targeted the area with posters hoping for fresh sightings, but by Saturday morning no new sightings had emerged.
However, by now everyone in the local dog owning community knew of Jenny's plight and the online poster had been shared goodness knows how many times. Messages of support were coming in far and wide, including Jenny's original rescuer in Romania who was understandably worried sick.
Early Saturday afternoon saw two simultaneous sightings, one not far from where Jenny had gone missing in Worthing, the second in Ferring. With resources about to be split between the two locations, a photo came in of the dog at Ferring. There was no doubt, the dog was Jenny, alive and well after spending two nights sleeping rough.
This was great news but still the hard work was to be done, how do you catch a frightened dog, running on fear and adrenaline? There's only one way and that's to set a trap. This could still take days to work, if at all. The dog might get spooked and move to a different area or just not take the bait so to speak.
Many of you will remember Silk, who went missing in July 2017. Despite a trap being set in the area where she was regularly seen she was never caught and sadly is still missing to this day.
However, after just some 6 hours, Jenny had taken the bait and was secure in the trap set for her. She was transported still in the trap to her adopters home and taken into the house.
As you can imagine, she is still frightened and after her ordeal who can blame her. But with the love and patience of her new family I'm sure she'll soon be more trusting of the world.
Continuing my nostalgic trip down memory lane, someone asked me in the week what the routine was at our kennels in Teville Gate, fitting in caring for the dogs around our other work.
It actually worked really well. During the week our kennel assistant would start work early in the morning to clean, feed and exercise the dogs. Victoria and Homefield Parks were favourite venues due to their close proximity to the kennels.
If there were more than one or two dogs in residence, Mike or I would normally pop down before we started work to help out.
During the day, if I wasn't busy, I was able to call in to keep the dogs company and in the afternoons try to get one or two out for another walk. This helped when it came to place them with a charity because we had been able to assess their temperament.
The kennel assistant would return in the evening and repeat the clean, exercise, feed routine.
On weekends, whoever was on call was also on kennel duty. I would often take my dogs down to the kennel block and leave them in the playroom whilst I exercised the strays.
My girlfriend, who worked at Dogs Trust, had Sundays off but if there was more than one dog in residence she would join me to ensure the dogs got plenty of exercise. It was like a busman's holiday for her.
Our favourite walk was along the prom to George V Avenue and back via the residential streets to give the dogs different smells and mental stimulation.
When Keith Walder, who was my manager at the time, was on call he was able to depend on his wife Kim to join him. It really made a difference to the dogs, us having help. The sooner the cleaning and feeding was done, the sooner the dogs got out for a walk and the longer they could stay out.
So never let it be said that the dog wardens don't know how to show their partners a good time!! And if you hear anyone say that romance is dead you know different!!
Talking about couples, I remember one Christmas it was really busy and we had four or five strays in residence. Paul and Titch, a very well known couple in the Worthing dog walking / rescue community, offered to help me walk the dogs, which was very much appreciated.
More so as they have 12 rescue dogs of their own and also run their own rescue charity, Caring for the Animals Trust (CARAT), which brings dogs over from Greece to be rehomed in the UK, and they fund a neutering scheme for street dogs in Greece.
We really are lucky in Worthing in having such a strong dog rescue community.
Sadly we all knew that Teville Gate only provided a temporary solution in our quest to find permanent kennels for our strays and that one day the bulldozers would move in. Little did we know that that day was just around the corner!!
Photo: Russ and the dogs enjoying a walk on Worthing seafront
Continuing my trip down memory lane, by September 2014 the disused toilet block at Teville Gate was ready for us to move into. Chris Strevett, the council's Maintenance Surveyor and the project manager for the convenience conversion, had done a brilliant job.
The most challenging part was making sure the building was well insulated, to make the dogs comfortable; and installing an acoustic extractor, to allow fresh air but to prevent noise from the dogs disturbing the neighbours. Although there were no residential properties close to the site, this was a requirement by our colleagues in Environmental Health.
Dogs Trust Shoreham had taken the remaining strays from Old Clayton so that no dogs had to be transferred when we made the move to Teville Gate. However we all knew that they wouldn't remain empty for long, and we weren't proved wrong!!.
We soon got into a routine and found there were pros and cons to the new facilities. The pros were that when we picked up a stray dog we didn't have to drive all the way to Storrington. Another advantage was being able to return a stray to the owner out of hours.
Even when we were off duty we were happy to return to Teville Gate after work to reunite a dog with their owner so that they didn't have to be apart until the following morning, whereas previously we didn't have access to the dogs out of hours.
The downside was what to do if we had too many strays in at once. When using boarding kennels we knew that there would always be a kennel for our dogs, but at Teville Gate, we were limited to a maximum of 6; and we couldn't double up unless we knew for certain that more than one dog came from the same house, which was rare.
In our first summer at Teville Gate, 2015, we were full. Stray after stray came in and were not claimed. On the 12th August I received a call reporting that a stray had been handed into a vets. All attempts to trace the owner via the dog's microchip had failed and I was asked to collect the dog before the practice closed.
On arrival at the vet's and wondering where I was going to put the dog, I soon realised that I needn't have worried. The dog, named Womble, was going to find her own accommodation for the night. Having just been given a shower by the nurses and taken up to the reception she set her sights on Mandy Bashford, the receptionist on duty.
Womble, a beautiful white sighthound, took an instant liking to Mandy and performed a play bow and then put her head between Mandy's knees. By the time I got to the reception, Mandy had decided to foster her. Crisis averted and I was able to breathe a sigh of relief. Thankfully we never came that close to being full again.
Some dogs do far better in kennels than others. As you can imagine, when very young, elderly or otherwise vulnerable dogs came into our care, our instinct was to foster them rather than put them into the kennel environment.
We were lucky that Gilly Tidboald, who became our kennel assistant after the original lady moved away, fostered a number of the strays, one of which she adopted. She was a lovely brindle Staffie bitch, a breed and colour which at the time were ten a penny in rescues everywhere.
When the kennels opened I lived with two dogs and was also fostering one of our strays, a lovely sighthound called Hendy who I really wanted to adopt. The only thing stopping me was knowing that if I adopted him I wouldn't be in a position to foster anymore, so when a lovely home came up I knew I had to let him go.
Over the next three years several more dogs found their way into my home, one of whom (Poppy) was responsible for one of my dogs (Mary) temporarily moving out!! Mary is pictured below:
Photo: Russ with Mary
So for those of you that read last week's blog, I was taking a trip down memory lane to 2014 when the dog warden service needed to find alternative accommodation for any stray dogs that came into our care.
My manager at the time, Keith Walder who is still with the council, explored every avenue and followed up every lead (no pun intended) to secure premises for the dogs, but nothing suitable could be found.
After some two years, with time and options running out, the answer was found right under our noses. A building owned by us, sitting empty and waiting to be put to good use, and under half a mile from our office right in the centre of Worthing.
It was of course Teville Gate, or to be more exact, the toilet block under the multi story car park at Teville Gate.
When we heard the news that this was the chosen site, a few eyebrows and concerns were raised, mainly the location and the reputation that the area had since it had become derelict, apart from the car park itself.
There was so much to be done and first on the list was to obtain planning permission for a change of use. The building had to have sound proofing installed so that the noise of dogs barking didn't affect local residents.
We also had to recruit a kennel assistant and a rigorous selection process was carried out before the chosen candidate was selected.
The Council's building services manager was given the task of converting the building and when Mike and I arrived on the day the kennels were handed over to us we were more than pleasantly surprised at the transformation. The block was totally secure and fitted with CCTV.
The former ladies toilet block had been converted into four individual kennels; the dogs had a communal area with a settee and a bath, while the staff had a washing machine!!
The gents toilets were converted into a playroom which was really useful when we had more than one dog from the same family that we could safely leave together unattended. It was also ideal for nervous dogs that were better suited to being away from the sound and sight of the other dogs.
In between was the disabled toilet block which was converted into an isolation block with two kennels if ever they were needed. Thankfully they were never needed, but on more than one occasion they were used as an extra kennel when the number of strays mounted up.
For those that are horrified by the thought that we even thought of housing stray dogs in former public conveniences there are three things to take into account.
The dogs wouldn't know or care that they would be living in former public conveniences.
According to Google, public conveniences in other parts of the UK have been converted into, amongst other uses, family homes, coffee shops, boutiques and florists.
And perhaps most importantly, we didn't abandon the dogs onto the streets in the first place.We were taking them into our care and loving them until they were found either a home or a place with a reputable rescue charity.
So we were now responsible for caring and rehoming the dogs that came into our care. Little did we know that we would be doing so for the following three years, almost to the day.
Next week I'll talk about those three years and who out of the four of us never once used the washing machine!!
Photo: Some of the many dogs that have been kennelled at Teville Gate over the years
To mark his 150th blog, Dog Warden Russ is taking a trip down memory lane!
Hi, I hope that you, your loved ones and your companion animals are keeping safe and well in these difficult times.
Welcome to this, my 150th blog. My first blog was published three years ago on the 23rd January 2018 and it's still on the Adur & Worthing Councils website, along with all my other blogs if you ever have trouble sleeping!!
In the 13 years I've been here, there's been lots of changes but without doubt the biggest one came back in 2014 when it was announced that the dog warden service needed to find alternative kennels to look after our stray dogs.
Up until then, when we collected a stray dog that we couldn't immediately reunite with the owner, we took them to Old Clayton Kennels in Storrington, who cared for them until the owner came forward.
If the dog wasn't claimed, the kennels would rehome the dogs themselves meaning that we didn't have that responsibility. The staff carried out the advertising, home checks, veterinary checks and pre adoption advice. Very importantly, they also offered full rescue backup and to this day they've taken back dogs that they previously rehomed.
In those days I estimate nearly 50% of our strays were Staffies, Staffie mix, or bull breeds of another kind. Old Clayton had a wonderful record of rehoming the type of dogs that were being abandoned in their thousands, countrywide, every year.
That system meant that in effect we were like a taxi or delivery service, because unless the dog needed veterinary care, which sadly some did, we would collect the dog from the finder, take them to the kennels and that was our job done.
Sadly the time came when we had to make alternative arrangements for kennelling our dogs. We knew that we had to not only match the level of care the dogs had, but make sure that they were rehomed as responsibly as they had been up to then.
Luckily we had plenty of notice. Every avenue was explored and no stone left unturned in our effort to find alternative accommodation for the dogs that, through no fault of their own, would find themselves on the streets and in need of our help.
As we saw it, we had three options:
- Find alternative kennels that were within close proximity to us, so as to minimise our time away from the area
- Build our own kennel facility from scratch, taking into account they would have to be within easy travelling distance, the time it would take with planning permission, the actual building and the cost involved to the taxpayer, or
- Find a temporary home until a permanent solution could be found
With time and options running out a solution was found. Eyebrows were raised, opinions shared but a decision had been made and our job was going to not only change but become a whole lot more challenging, yet rewarding.
Next week I'll share what happened next!!
I hope that you and your loved ones are keeping well as we enter week three of the latest national lockdown.
Over the years there have been a number of unpleasant incidents that Mike, the Adur dog warden, and I have been involved in. To the point that we have been keen to be issued with Body Worn Cameras, pointing out that the Police and numerous other agencies have been using them for some years now and have only positive things to say about them.
As a result, I’m pleased to report that we’ve now been issued with them and have started using them operationally.
I know that some people will view them with suspicion, but hopefully this blog will reassure you that they are a positive step forward for our service. After all, they can only record what we can see and hear, so there can be no misunderstanding or ambiguity as to what’s taken place.
These days, nobody can venture far from home without being ‘caught on camera’ one way or another? Even if you’re not in a town or city that has street CCTV, many shops are equipped with them. Many cars are fitted with dash cams. Also more houses are fitted with them now as they offer a level of reassurance.
So what benefit would they be to Mike, myself and the public we serve?
Personal safety - in the past both Mike and I have been threatened with violence whilst carrying out our duties. I believe that many of these incidents could have been prevented had we been wearing body worn cameras. This has certainly been the experience of the Police since they’ve been using them.
Securing evidence thus saving council and court staff time and money - In the past I’ve been called to court as a witness in cases where dog owners have pleaded not guilty to various offences. Had the evidence been captured on camera, this may have saved hours of officer time in preparing evidence for court.
False complaints - Previously both Mike and I have been the subject of false complaints, had we been wearing body worn cameras it would have shown exactly who said what and if we had acted unprofessionally.
As you would expect, strict measures and procedures have been put in place regarding the carrying, recording and retaining of any footage. We are only permitted to begin recording if we have witnessed or believe that there is an offence in progress.
The person will be told that the conversation is being recorded and why. This obviously protects both parties and provides a verbatim record of the conversation. So when we are out and about on routine patrol we will not be recording, nor will we be if we engage in routine conversation with anyone.
Footage is automatically wiped after a short period of time unless we need it for cases we pursue. It is uploaded directly onto the cloud so that it can’t be tampered with, edited or deleted if there’s something that Mike or I were ‘uncomfortable with’.
Apart from all of these benefits I believe it will help enormously when we are investigating offences under the Animal Welfare Act.
In the past I’ve taken dozens of photos in an attempt to capture the horrendous condition of a dog or the conditions it’s been living in, but a short video would leave nothing to doubt regarding its potential suffering.
Until next time, take care and keep safe.
I hope that you and your loved ones remain in good health and that you're adjusting to life back in lockdown to protect the NHS and save lives.
I'd like to thank everyone who shared my post last week on dog thefts. The last time I looked there were over 1,000 shares and it had reached 111,123 people, so the message is getting out. If it saves one companion being from stolen it's a job well done.
As a fan of statistics I look forward to the end of each year ( last year even more so) so that I can compare our stray dog figures with the previous year, and for the 5th year in a row I've not been disappointed as these figures will show.
In 2016 Adur & Worthing Councils took care of 169 stray dogs. 134 were reunited with their owners, 33 were rehomed and sadly for medical reasons some went to sleep.
The following year saw a slight reduction of strays coming into our care but more reunited with their owners. We rehomed 22 dogs but sadly a lovely Collie called Hamba went to sleep having been abandoned with a terminal illness.
In 2018 it got even better. 148 strays came into our care with 134 going home. The remaining 14 were all rehomed.
2019 saw a significant drop in numbers with 108 coming into our care, 94 going home, 13 being rehomed and I'm sure you'll remember Bella, a Collie type dog who was abandoned in allotments in Southwick like a rusty old washing machine.
We were alerted by a member of the public attending her allotment and taken to our veterinary practice where she went to sleep with dignity in the company of people who cared.
Last year saw the figures reduced to double figures for the first time with just 99 coming into our care, 90 of whom went home, with 9 being rehomed.
So in the last 5 years the number of stray dogs in Adur and Worthing has reduced by approximately 40% and a total of 91 dogs were rehomed including 59 to Dogs Trust, Shoreham, 11 to Wadars, 7 to Raystede, 5 to Rescue Remedies, and 2 to Sussex Pet Rescue.
We are forever grateful to those and the other charities who have offered our dogs a place in their care and rehomed them for us.
Also In the last 4 years we have exercised our powers under the Animal Welfare Act and seized 5 dogs, 4 were rehomed and 1 was in our care for over 3 months with constant veterinary care before going to sleep on veterinary advice.
Also, in the last 2 years a total of 16 dogs have been signed over into our care by their owners, 15 were rehomed but sadly one had a terminal illness and went to sleep.
With such a reduction of stray dogs in such a short space of time it can't be just down to one reason, but rather a number of reasons, all of which I've spoken about in previous blogs. Some of the reduction last year will undoubtedly be due to the COVID pandemic and lockdowns, when more people have been at home and with their dogs.
People will point to the introduction of compulsory microchipping, but that doesn't prevent dogs straying. It might prevent them coming into our care if the finder takes the dog to a vet who then scans it, finds the microchip and contacts the owner. Not to mention that it's a legal requirement for dogs to wear a collar and name tag. The finder simply contacts the owner right away thus saving their time, the vets time and the dog stress.
Until next week take care and stay safe.
Photo: Russ with Sadie and two of his other dogs - Button, a Jack Russell Terrier, and Lenny, a Labrador mix
Happy New Year!
As you may have seen on social media recently and at least one national daytime TV show, there has recently been an alarming increase in dogs being stolen.
Lockdown has inspired so many more people to get a dog but there's no doubt that this trend has inspired a far bigger number of dog thefts.
The national charity Dog Lost, report that referrals to them have rocketed this year. The prices being charged by breeders has risen dramatically which has made the trade in dogs even more lucrative and is being driven by supply and demand, with many dogs being stolen to order.
Dog Lost is a national database where owners of lost or stolen dogs can list their dogs with a photo and full details. The charity can also send out email alerts, produce posters and send the details out nationwide on social media. Find out more about them on the Dog Lost website.
It's been reported that some people who have had dogs stolen from their houses have noticed chalk marks, cable ties or other markings on their fences, walls, etc, which would suggest that the property had been under surveillance before the theft took place.
A BBC investigation revealed that at least two criminal gangs had given up drug dealing activities to concentrate on dogs. They have made this decision as they believe they're far less likely to be caught and if they are the penalties in terms of imprisonment, fines etc. are far less and worth the risk. For a crime making millions the fines are described as “small change”.
An RSPCA spokesperson said: “Puppy farming is a big business and we have uncovered large criminal gangs making millions of pounds”.
It's no longer a case of dogs being stolen, having been tied up outside a shop or lifted from a garden when being left out there alone. Sadly gangs are breaking into houses and well secured kennel blocks in order to steal dogs.
Although pedigree dogs and working breeds are really popular amongst thieves, any dog regardless of age, breed and sex can be sold as company for someone or sadly to be used as a bait dog for those involved in dog fighting. My blog is not intended to alarm anyone, but it's better to be aware of what does happen and how to try to minimise the chance of it happening to you.
If your garden can be seen from public view please make sure that not only is your garden secure but that any gates are fitted with bolts on the bottom so that thieves can't just reach over and unbolt them, you should also consider a padlock.
Many people plant hedges, bushes etc to screen the garden from public view and you could consider prickly ones to deter anyone from climbing in!!
Dogs are often stolen during a burglary in the owner's home. Sometimes whole litters of puppies have been stolen. Many homes are targeted after advertising puppies for sale.
Thieves or their accomplices have been known to phone and enquire about the pups and after finding out when a good time was to view them, any time not convenient to the owner could mean nobody would be at home. Others actually visit in advance to carry out a reconnaissance of the address, security measures, where the pups are kept, etc.
Be wary of what information you share! When arranging pup viewings with people over the phone, ask for a name and landline number from them and call it to verify. You may be able to write down the registration number of those coming to view your dogs.
There have also been reports of dogs being enticed away from their owners whilst out walking, often in isolated areas. On occasion dog owners have been approached in the street by people who have brazenly tried to snatch the dog. Train your dog to come back to you on command and don't let them out of your sight when they're off lead. On lead be wary of people engaging you in conversation about your dog.
Please ensure your microchip details are up to date and make sure you have your pet's microchip number and the contact details of the microchip database to alert them if your pet is lost or stolen.
Last, but not least, have lots of good quality photos of your dog, taken from all different angles. Concentrate particularly on the dogs markings - two of my dogs have completely unique markings which would positively identify them.
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Page last updated: 06 April 2021