Russ Akehurst - 2019 blog posts archive
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' archived older archived 2019 blog posts on this page below:
I think it's fair to say that Christmas means different things to different people, but for many of course it's about celebrating the birth of Jesus all those years ago in Bethlehem and one of my favourite teachings from the bible is 'the good shepherd'. I'm sure you're all familiar with the story, but just in case it tells us the following lesson ...
One day one of the sheep got lost. The shepherd left his 99 sheep in a safe place and went to look for the missing one. He searched high in the mountains and far into the wilderness. When he finally found his sheep, he rejoiced. He put the sheep on his shoulder and carried it home. The shepherd called his friends and told them how he had found his sheep. They celebrated together.
I see modern day examples of this all the time when people ask me:
“Why does this charity or that charity spend so much money or so many resources on just one dog or saving one particular animal etc. There's thousands more dogs so why bother?”
Well there's a slogan that many charities use which explains this:
“Saving just one animal won't make a difference to the world but it will make the world of difference to just that one animal.”
With that in mind, how can we say that it's worth spending £2,000 of a charity's funds on vet's bills for a two year old Collie but not worth spending the same amount on a ten year old Spaniel? Or that bringing a puppy from Romania to England is worth the cost, time and effort but doing the same for an eight year old from but Greece isn't?
You may remember a few months ago when I wrote about my trip to France to bring back some Greyhounds that had been rescued from one of the meat markets of China. For every one that was saved many were left to be slaughtered but the rescuers saved as many as they could.
A good friend of mine when explaining why she helps bring dogs from Eastern Europe to this country for rehoming said:
“We can only save what's in front of us so that's what we do.”
This time last year our own council paid a sizeable vets bill on an older dog whereas it would have been a lot cheaper and easier to let her go. I know for sure that many local authorities, particularly those who don't have an 'in house' dog warden service would sadly have taken the easier and cheaper option.
Sometimes in Animal Rescue the odds do seem to be so against us. For every dog we save from a pound or rescue from a bad situation and find them a loving home, there's another five waiting to taking their place, and now with social media the world is so much smaller and we hear about animals in countries far away who need our help as well as those nearer to home.
But we can't afford to turn away from the challenge or give up in despair, we have to remember the words of Sir Peter Scott when he said:
“We shan't save all that we would like, but we'll save more than if we hadn't tried”.
So that's the motivation for the people including myself who are involved in animal rescue.
To all those people, and to you reading this, have a great Christmas and a happy and peaceful New Year.
Photo: Santa giving Beemo the dog a packet of dog biscuits
Last week I spoke about keeping your companion animal safe during the Christmas period; this week I'd like to talk about keeping them calm and happy so that everyone can enjoy the festivities.
With Christmas fast approaching and the stress levels rising I wonder how many people consider their dogs stress levels?
All too often we see on social media photos of people putting their dogs in stressful situations, usually to raise a laugh. But is this the right thing to do?
Every day we make decisions for our dogs. We decide which route our morning walk will take. We decide whether we want them to “meet” that new dog in the neighbourhood. We decide whether the kids friends can come over, knowing how noisy they are and how inappropriate they are with the dog. We decide when we hug and kiss them. We decide whether to let the kids use the dog as a pillow, a play thing or a horse.
If we make the wrong choices we are putting undue stress on them.
A well-socialised, happy dog will be able to tolerate more than a fearful or reactive dog. But every time we expose all animals to a situation which makes them uncomfortable we are raising their stress levels.
Christmas only heightens that. There's so many things happening at this time of the year that your dog may not have been exposed to before, or, if they have been, they don't like. This is why most reputable charities don't rehome dogs around the Christmas period.
On the Christmas walk there's likely to be kids playing with new bikes, skateboards, scooters etc. At home there may be more visitors and noise than usual, kids running around shouting because they're so excited. There's the bangs from Christmas crackers, lots of tempting food within reach which they may try to steal from someone's hand.
Many adults and children don't know how to act appropriately around other people's dogs and so the best bet is to take them away from the situation.
If they are used to spending time in a crate, they can relax in there with a Kong, chew or favourite toy.
But be it a crate or just another part of the house, every dog should have a place of sanctuary where they can go to eat, sleep or just relax and feel safe.
Being a good parent to your dog means being able to read your dogs signals. That's why it's also worth keeping an eye out for some of the signs that shows they are stressed and knowing when to remove them from a situation.
A few of a dog's signs that they are stressed include yawning, blinking, nose licking, turning their head away, standing with their tail crouched under and the most important one because you can call it a dog's final warning: growling.
I've heard it so many times: “I'm getting rid of this dog, it growled at the kids and I'm not having that.”
The key is to remember that the growling dog is not being aggressive; the poor animal is just trying to tell the people around that it's had enough of the situation it's been put in and can't take any more.
Think of your dog growling as your boss saying “If you're late for work again you're fired” or your partner saying “If you come home from the pub again in that state you're out on your ear”. Your dog is telling you he's at his wits end so please listen.
By being in tune with the feelings of animals around us then we can make sure that Christmas is fun for all the family humans and canines alike.
Photo: Russ with one of his dogs
So we're well into December, and it's time to mention the 'C' word.
But sadly the time of year is anything but joyous for many animals, dogs included.
I don't think there are many people who aren't familiar with the slogan “A dog is for life not just for Christmas” but less people will be aware that all too often people 'part with' the family dog. This is either to make way for a new puppy, to prevent kennel fees or more commonly, because of all the extra stress involved with arranging the perfect Christmas, the dog becomes a problem that some see as easily solved by giving the dog away.
Also emergency veterinary hospitals see a number of dogs that have become ill over the Christmas period due to accidental poisoning. For example, they report a 780% increase in chocolate poisoning cases over Christmas Day and Boxing day alone.
For that reason I've put together the following list as a guide to help you keep your pets safe this festive time. Christmas foods poisonous to dogs and cats include:
- Chocolate: it contains a stimulant called Theobromine, a bit like caffeine, which, while tasty, is severely poisonous to dogs and cats
- Mince Pies, Christmas Pudding and Christmas Cake: due to the presence of grapes, raisins, currants or sultanas
- Macadamia Nuts: often lurking in biscuits or eaten as a Christmas snack, these nuts can cause severe illness in dogs
- Blue Cheese: it contains Roquefortine C, which dogs are extremely sensitive to
- Leeks,Garlic, Chives and Onion: all allium species are poisonous to dogs
- Alcohol: it can cause severe liver and brain damage in animals, as little as a tablespoon can lead to problems for your pet
This list is not a complete but these are the most common items that vets report having to treat our pets for over the festive period.
Of course it's not just our food that can harm our pets, vets also treat a number of pets that have swallowed Christmas decorations or toys etc.
The list of dangerous items include:
- Tinsel: can cause blockages in the stomach
- Baubles: often made from glass, these can cause injury to the dogs mouth or worse if swallowed
- Snow globes: imported versions may contain anti-freeze which can be fatal to pets
- Candles: Flames can burn paws and the noses of our curious furry friends
- Fairy lights: electrocution and burns
- Salt Dough ornaments: made from flour,salt & water, these can cause salt toxicosis and should be treated as an emergency
- Christmas plants such as Mistletoe, Ivy, Poinsettia, and Lilies: all are mildly toxic to both dog and cats, however lilies are potentially fatal to cats
- Wrapping paper: eating large amounts may cause a blockage in the stomach
Please remember, your own vet may be closed over some of the holiday period so find out in advance who is covering for your vet if they do not provide their own emergency cover and in the case of pet poisoning remember S.P.E.E.D. is of the essence!
S - Stop the pet from eating any more of the suspected poison
P - Phone the emergency vets
E - Emergency appointment (if necessary)
E - Evidence - bring labels/samples/vomit (in a safe manner)
D - Don't delay
Keep safe and have a wonderful time!
So we're into December, the colder weather has now arrived and I guess it's only going to get colder. With that in mind we need to look after not only our own companion animals but others that may not enjoy the comforts that most in this country thankfully do.
There are two separate issues here: how they are housed; and how they are exercised.
What amazes me is the number of people who are wrapped up in goodness knows how many layers of clothing (not to mention hats, gloves and scarves) while their poor dogs have no coat to protect them from the elements.
Puppies, old dogs, short haired breeds and lean dogs such as sighthounds are more at risk from the cold weather.
People will argue that dogs have fur, they're descended from the wild and are used to all weathers. But they were domesticated by us thousands of years ago and are now used to living indoors with central heating so it's hardly the same thing at all!
As for “they've got fur to keep them warm”. Yes they have, and it's the same fur as they have in the summer. Yet the person walking the poor dog isn't wearing the same clothes as they were in July!
Just like during the hot summer, there are cold winter days when I don't walk my dogs. It does them no harm at all. You can give them plenty of mental stimulation indoors by hiding their food and treats, playing games with them and doing some training.
Last winter we received several calls regarding dogs living outside in kennels.
These are of concern to us as, often when animals are housed outside there's insufficient or no bedding. This means that along with having no protection from the cold the dog is liable to get calluses which affects the pressure points, particularly the elbows and hocks as there's no cushioning for the dog when lying down.
Even with adequate bedding the dog's bed should be raised off the ground so that the dog isn't lying on the damp or cold surface.
I remember visiting one address with my colleague. We found a number of sighthounds, who were worked by their owner, and always kept outdoors regardless of the weather. The owner said words to the effect of “if the dogs had comfortable kennels it would soften them up and they wouldn't be as fit and wouldn't want to run”.
I remember thinking, I bet Mo Farah and Usain Bolt don't stay in anything less than 5 star luxury and it doesn't seem to have done them any harm!
I explained that dogs of this nature, which includes Greyhounds, Salukis and Whippets, are the most vulnerable as they haven't got much flesh to protect them from the cold. They also have thin fur so to kennel them outdoors without adequate protection from the cold, wind and rain is certainly not meeting their needs.
The legislation that protects animals in these circumstances is The Animal Welfare Act 2006.
Section 4 of the Act makes it a criminal offence to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal, while Section 9 of the Act makes it the duty of a person responsible for an animal to ensure that the welfare needs of the animal are met. These needs are often referred to as 'the five freedoms' and includes the need for a suitable environment for the animal.
While we will always respond to complaints made to us, if no laws are being broken our ability to act is limited. Sadly, if a dog kept outside is provided with a suitable kennel, the law is not necessarily being broken. This of course can be very frustrating, but we must always act within the confines of the law.
However, if you are worried that a dog may be suffering neglect or abuse, please don't hesitate to get in touch. I'd rather go to 10 addresses where the conditions were adequate rather than miss one address where the animal is suffering.
Photo: Two of Russ' dogs on the beach wearing their coats
Photo: A dachshund dog wearing a red jumper
This week I want to talk about a nasty incident that happened a few weeks ago which you may have read about it in the local press recently.
The story illustrates what can go wrong, and of the consequences if the dog you are walking is not under proper control.
On a Monday morning a lady in her 60s was walking a friend's Cockerpoo-type dog in Tarring Park, Worthing. Also in the park was a lady walking her Boxer-type dog
Both dogs were being walked on leads and the Boxer was allowed to come over and say “hello” to the Cockerpoo.
The two dogs sniffed each other and then the boxer started growling at the Cockerpoo before jumping up and knocking the older lady to the ground. As the pensioner lay on the ground the Boxer was allowed to sniff the lady's face.
This is bad enough, but worse was to follow. The lady was in a great deal of pain and couldn't get up. A witness phoned for an ambulance and waited with the lady as she lay on the ground unable to move for two hours when the ambulance arrived.
The lady who had been walking the Boxer was asked for her address but refused and quickly left the park.
You may think that this was an accident and that nobody was to blame. But to me an accident is where someone slips on the ice or drops a plate when doing the washing up.
In this instance the Boxer was being held on the lead and the dog walker allowed the dog to jump up and knock the pensioner to the ground.
So what does the law say in relation to dogs not under control?
The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 was brought in exactly because of the increase of people being injured and even killed by dogs.
Section 3 clearly states that if a dog is dangerously out of control in ANY place in England or Wales (whether or not a public place) the owner or person in charge of the do, is guilty of an offence. Or if the dog while so out of control injures any person or assistance dog, it is an aggravated offence, under this subsection.
So you will see that a dog doesn't even have to injure someone for the offence to have been committed and in this case sadly the lady who was knocked to the ground suffered received a broken hip and pelvis resulting in being in hospitalised for 19 days.
19 days in hospital because someone wasn't controlling their dog properly. The lady couldn't even walk for the first two weeks after the incident.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the lady walking the Boxer intended for something bad to happen - clearly she didn't. But not having control of the dog you're walking has consequences - really bad ones in this case.
When we take a dog out of our house or when we invite guests into our home we are responsible for that dog's actions and this incident goes to prove that just because a dog is on a lead it isn't necessary under control.
As you would expect, this incident was reported to the Police. If anyone witnessed the incident or has any information please let me know and I will pass your details on in the strictest of confidence.
Photo: Tarring Park - image from Google Streetview
Firstly thank you for all the kind messages I received last week, they were very much appreciated and a great comfort to my partner and myself.
After three serious blogs in a row, fireworks, remembrance and the final goodbye with our companions, I was keen to report on something lighter this week and as luck would have it, this story was provided by the Councils' communications news team, the very people responsible for bringing the Councils' Facebook page and the bloggers to you.
Some time ago, they invited all of the bloggers to a working lunch so that we could get to meet each other, talk about any problems we might be having in relation to writing our blogs, plan future pieces and talk about future projects.
It's also a good networking opportunity too. Believe it or not, we bloggers don't all know each other, partly because the organisation has a few hundred staff and also because we work at different locations, including Worthing Town Hall, Portland House, Commerce Way, Highdown Gardens, Worthing Crematorium and the beach office.
Getting people together in the same place at the same time is always difficult when there's urgent matters to attend to. That was clear when after arriving at the Town Hall, three of the seven bloggers had last minute work commitments that couldn't be changed and therefore wouldn't be in attendance.
This was a shame as I'd not met one of them and I was also looking forward to seeing my ex-line manager who is now working at Highdown Gardens.
There was a slight hiccup when the vegan food I ordered didn't turn up, leaving me with just a bit of fruit to nibble on while others tucked into various sandwiches.
Worse was to follow when it was announced that there would be a short quiz to see if we read each other's blogs and to test our knowledge on other matters blog related!
Well I don't know about you but I can't remember my own name when I'm hungry so I certainly wouldn't be any good in a quiz. But just in the nick of time, courtesy of the event organiser, a man walked in bearing gifts in the shape of two Vegan wraps to accompany my apple, banana and grapes!!
Suitably refreshed, I somehow went on to win the quiz with a total of 10 points, beating my friend and quiz rival Tammy by a clear point!!
It was great to catch up with my colleagues from the news team and my fellow bloggers, and I learned quite a lot, including:
- Only one of the original bloggers is still blogging
- Only one service area in the whole of the council hasn't yet provided a blogger (I won't say which department!!)
- Our council is one of only a handful that allows their staff to interact with the public in this manner and talk openly about the work we do
As a result of this, my fellow bloggers have the full support of their managers because it shows the public the work we do and the challenges we face.
I hope you find it useful and I look forward to continuing to share some of the work I do with you on a weekly basis.
So until next week take care, I've got to go and polish my winning 'trophy' now!!
I saw an article on the internet a while again and saved it because it's a subject I feel strongly about. I'm sharing it now because Toff, one of my Greyhounds lost his fight to cancer two weeks ago.
Previously I wouldn't have dreamt that anyone who was told by a vet that nothing more could be done for their suffering dog would choose not to be with their companion when the vet put them to sleep.
But without going into too much detail, about four years ago I found an elderly stray dog and took him to the vets. I traced the owner and told him where his dog was.
When I told the vet that the owner would contact them, he said that the dog had multiple health problems and the kindest thing to do would be to put him to sleep.
Rather than phone the owner I returned to the house to give him the news in person and to offer him a lift to the vets.
However, to my surprise the owner just replied that he wouldn't be going to the vets but would phone them to give his consent. I was shocked by his reaction, but this is what the article said on the subject.
“Taking a pet into your home, making them part of the family , creating memories with them is one of life's most precious gifts. But unfortunately sometimes we are forced to take them to the vet and with our heart breaking ask to end their life, because the suffering they are going through is harder to witness.”
“But, even with our pets taking a highly important place in our life, some owners just can't bring themselves to be present when their companion gives their last breath. The pain is too much to bear for them so they leave the vet to handle those final moments.”
Now an anonymous vet wants to share the heartbreaking thoughts of those final moments.
Photo: Toff, one Russ' Greyhounds, who went to sleep 30th October
The vet's message:
“When you are a pet owner it is inevitable, the majority of the time, that your pet will die before you do. So if and when you have to take your pet to the vet's for a humane pain-free ending I want you all to know something.”
“You have been the centre of their world for THEIR ENTIRE LIVES!!! They may just be a part of yours but all they know is you as their family. It is a crappy decision/day/time/every time, there is no argument against that and it is devastating for us as humans to lose them. But please, I beg you DO NOT LEAVE THEM.”
“Do not make them transition from life to death in a room of strangers in a place they don't like. The thing you people need to know that most of you don't is that THEY SEARCH FOR YOU WHEN YOU LEAVE THEM BEHIND!!!!”
“They search every face in the room for their loved person. They don't understand why you left them when they are sick, scared, old or dying from cancer and they need your comfort.”
“Don't be a coward because you think it is just too hard for YOU, imagine what they feel as you leave them in their most vulnerable time and people like me are left to try our best every time to comfort them, make them less scared and try to explain why you just couldn't stay.”
“From a tired and broken-hearted vet.”
For me there is only message that I take from that: please owners, we know its hard. But they need us on those final moments more than everything, don't let them die alone.
This is my last blog before Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday and for the second year running I won't be in the country to pay my respects to my friends, colleagues and all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for us all.
Since being your Dog Warden I've always taken at least one of my dogs to Worthing's War Memorial service on Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday Service, so last year it felt strange not doing so.
However with the help of the internet I found a lovely British church and really enjoyed the service which was attended by a large number of British tourists together with the ex pats who made us feel really welcome.
Some of you may have seen or even wear a purple poppy.
For those of you who haven't and wonder what it symbolises, they were first introduced in 2006 by the charity Animal Aid to commemorate the animal victims of war. Their aim was to make it clear that animals used in warfare are indeed victims, not heroes. They did not give their lives, their lives were taken from them because obviously animals cannot volunteer and have no choice in becoming involved in war when they serve alongside human military personnel.
We've all seen military dogs working as guard dogs, sniffer dogs etc. but during the war they were used to take the wounded from the battlefield, to deliver messages and move arms and food to the front line.
At least one country used them as suicide bombers, strapping explosives to them and training them to run towards enemy tanks where the explosives would be detonated by soldiers a safe distance away. Another method was for dogs to lay on railway tracks and the explosives were detonated when an enemy train was approaching.
It's impossible to say how many animals have been killed directly or indirectly as a result of war.
It is estimated that nearly 750,000 domesticated animals, mostly cats and dogs were euthanized in Britain over the course of one week at the start of World War Two. This came about because in the summer of 1939, just before the outbreak of war, the National Air Raid Precautions Animals Committee (NARPAC) drafted a notice called 'Advice to Animal Owners'.
The pamphlet said: “If at all possible, send or take your household animals into the country in advance of an emergency.”
It concluded: “If you cannot place them in the care of neighbours, it really is kindest to have them destroyed.”
The advice was printed in almost every newspaper and announced on the BBC. The pamphlet set off a wave of panic. As there were no rations provided for pets, it was thought euthanasia was a humane decision rather than watching a beloved animal die slowly from starvation or disease. As the war progressed across Europe, this same trend went with it.
On a happier note, in recent conflicts, dogs and the military have come together and helped each other through the horrors they both faced.
If you want to read an inspirational tale of compassion and dedication and find out how one soldier's encounter with a stray dog changed both of their lives forever and how it led to the charity Nowzad being formed, I can recommend Pen Farthing's books One Dog at a Time and No Place like Home. But a word of warning, you may well need a box of tissues on standby!!
“We Will Remember Them”.
Photo: Russ with two of his dogs next to the War Memorial outside Worthing Town Hall
Sadly it's that time of the year when we have to talk about the 'F' word. Call me a party pooper if you want but for those of us with a companion animal who has a fear of fireworks, it can be really upsetting to see our much-loved pet trembling under a table or behind the sofa while explosions are going off.
It wouldn't be so bad if it was just the one night but firework night seems to be spreading further and further away from November 5th. There have been two evenings so far already close to my home.
So, to help you look after your companion, I've made a list of some do's and don'ts. However, it's important to remember that not everything will work for every dog and it may be that you need to consult your veterinary surgeon.
So before the fireworks begin:
Walk your dog before dark. Make sure your dog is well exercised and has had a toilet break before the fireworks are likely to begin.
Feed your dog before the fireworks begin. This is because they may become unsettled and not want to eat during the fireworks.
Make sure your house and garden are secure during the fireworks as fear may make your dog try to escape. Over the years
I've known many dogs escape their garden and once outside they are exposed to many dangers.
Try to settle your dog before the fireworks start. If your dog is in familiar safe surroundings it will help them to cope with the noise.
Provide a safe hiding place. At noisy times around Bonfire Night, make sure your dog has somewhere safe in his or her favourite room, perhaps under the table.
Close the curtains, turn the lights on, and turn up the volume on your TV or radio to drown out the firework noises.
Some dogs feel secure in a den. You can create one by covering the top and three sides of a crate, table or cupboard near the centre of your house, or in a place they have previously hidden. Make it comfortable for them and add a jumper or a t-shirt of yours that will smell familiar to them. But leave the entrance open so they can come and go as they like. They won't want to feel trapped.
Don't punish your dog for cowering or reacting to the fireworks, as this will intensify their fear. You should aim to remain relaxed and therefore provide a good role model to your dog when they are afraid. However, if your dog comes to you for comfort, don't ignore them but interact with them calmly.
Don't leave your dog alone in the house during the fireworks period. They may panic and this could result in an injury.
Keep your dog busy indoors. Play games or enjoy some reward-based training to keep their mind off the noises. I give one of mine a lick mat and it works really well and dry food hidden in screwed up newspaper etc can help.
However if they just want to hide away then don't force them to come out of their hiding place - allow them to stay where they feel safe.
There are products ranging from collars, thunder coats, plugins and medications to name just a few, which can be purchased from your local vet. However, always seek their advice as a particular remedy may not suit your dog.
Hopefully these tips help your pet cope with the fireworks season and stay safe.
Photos: A dog hiding and fireworks
We haven't been asked about rehoming dogs for a long time until last week, just like buses, three came along at once.
Although it's not our job to rehome we're certainly not going to turn our back on someone who's made the brave decision to ask for help. The three requests last week revealed some of the genuine reasons loving owners sometimes have to give up their companions through no fault of their own.
Last Monday the first call came when an owner explained that they had taken a dog from someone who had developed health problems. It was hoped that the arrangement would be temporary but sadly over a year later the original owner's health hadn't improved and the new owner had developed health problems of their own. So the decision was made to rehome the dog so that his future needs were met.
On Wednesday the second call was from a person who explained that someone had brought them a puppy as a peace offering and then disappeared again without contact. The owner wasn't in a position to care for such a young dog who would require lots of training, attention and finance and so asked for help in rehoming the dog.
On Friday the third call was from a family member who explained that a family member was being admitted into hospital and was unlikely to be able to return home and in the long term would be going into sheltered housing. His much-loved companion would have to be rehomed.
Luckily the one and only Billy Elliot, the senior animal rescue officer at Worthing & District Animal Rescue Service (Wadars) was on hand on all three occasions and was able to offer a space for all of the dogs.
Thankfully these owners made not only the right decision to rehome their companions but went down the responsible route of making sure their dogs went to a charity who would carry out home checks before rehoming the dogs. In all three cases the dogs were neutered so as to prevent more unwanted dogs in the future.
Sadly, others go down the road of advertising their pet for sale or 'free to good home'. Whilst this does work in some cases, the owner has no way of knowing if the person answering the advert can offer a good home or if they're interested in the dog for breeding or using a bait dog for dog fighting.
Similarly the person taking the dog only has the owner's word on its temperament, habits and health. Many dogs have been through a number of homes in a matter of weeks having previously been advertised before someone stops the cycle and offers the dog to a rescue.
So all in all a successful and rewarding week. The only downside is that Billy is no longer taking my calls and has blocked me on social media!!
He will however still claim the curry I promised him as an inducement.
Until next week take care ...
Well it's been an interesting week, which included a report of an incident which thankfully hasn't come up before in my time as a Dog Warden and hopefully won't again as it could have resulted in serious injury or worse.
It happened on the South Downs above Worthing, an area popular with cyclists, dog walkers, horse riders, joggers, ramblers and others who want to escape the town and enjoy the peace and quiet of the South Downs National Park which we are so lucky to have on our doorstep.
A horse rider was coming towards Cissbury Ring and a dog walker was walking in the other direction with her dog off lead.
As the horse rider galloped along a bridleway in a field owned by the Cissbury estate, the dog walker entered the same field. But due to the topography of the area, neither could see the other until the last minute when the horse and rider appeared over the hill and scared the dog who barked and chased the horse causing the rider to fall heavily to the ground.
The incident was reported to us and it's fair to say that the rider was very lucky indeed. He suffered whiplash and severe bruising to his side and ribs area which would have been far worse had he not been wearing a hit air vest which works on the same principle as a vehicle's air bag.
On first impression it seems to have been a total accident and neither party were to blame. Neither human or animal saw each other until the last seconds and everyone was taken by surprise.
However on closer inspection the horse was being exercised on a bridleway which by definition is “a path or track along which horse riders have the right of way”.
Dog owners have a duty under Section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 to keep their dog under proper control which clearly wasn't the case.
Every entrance to the field had a sign on the gate warning that the land formed part of a livestock farm and that under the Protection of Livestock Act 1953 dogs must be on a lead.
I think a lot of people fall into the trap that if they can't see any livestock in a field then it's okay to enter with their dog off lead.
However the livestock could just be hidden from view, or in the case of horses, when you enter the field there might not be any there but during your walk one or more suddenly appear.
Also perhaps we think of livestock as cattle, sheep and pigs. But horses are also classed as livestock under the Act.
I think the message is that we all want to enjoy the National Park and we all need to be sensible, vigilant and tolerant of other users of the park.
Cissbury Stables are a riding school and provide livery and training and are keen to encourage children to take up riding so there will be an increase of horses in the area in the future. Had it been a child or novice rider involved in that incident I honestly feel it could have been fatal.
Since November 2010, the British Horse Society has logged more than 1,605 reported horse and dog related incidents. Of these, there have been:
- 24 horse fatalities
- 550 horses injured
- 3 human fatalities
- 487 humans injured
So please take care and keep your animals safe.
Photo: Horse riding on the South Downs
It's been another busy week involving five stray dogs. Two weren't microchipped, two had been rehomed and their new owners hadn't updated the microchip details and one owner had moved address and contact details were out of date.
Sadly, four of the dogs had to stay in kennels (three of them overnight) and all because we couldn't contact the owners. I bet they wished they'd read my blog on microchipping two weeks ago!
Well it was five strays up until Sunday afternoon. I was on call and psyching myself up to tackling some much needed gardening duties, having already had a family dog walk up Cissbury cut short earlier in the day by a stray dog in Southwick.
My phone rang and once the Councils' on-call duty supervisor had told me that a Rottweiler had been reported tied to a bench at Miller's Tomb on Highdown Hill I knew the gardening would have to wait.
That area is one of my favourite locations locally for dog walking and I was tempted to suggest that my partner drive up with our dogs so that we could meet up after I'd sorted the Rottweiler out. But having phoned the person reporting the incident it became clear that I'd be driving to the kennels not walking on the South Downs.
For those of you not familiar with the area, Highdown Hill stands at 266ft and on a clear day you can see the Isle of Wight, Selsey Bill, Chichester Cathedral, Arundel Castle, Brighton and Beachy Head.
With its commanding view in all directions it's easy to see why it was chosen as a site for a settlement in the late Bronze Age and a Hill Fort in the early Iron Age.
The car park leading to Miller's Tomb - that of John Olliver, the eccentric Highdown miller who slept with his coffin under the bed until he died in 1793 - was busy and I only managed to find a parking space because someone was just leaving.
I was hoping that there had been some kind of mistake and that the dog hadn't been abandoned. But as I walked up the hill towards the tomb, the bench and a Rottweiler came into view.
Thankfully the person who reported the dog had stayed with him and better still had kept people away. He reported that when he'd arrived on the scene up to 30 people were surrounding and staring at the dog. The animal must have been so frightened and confused having been taken for what he thought would be a nice walk only to be tied up and left by the person he most trusted in the whole world.
Luckily the dog, now named George, was friendly and allowed me to pop a slip lead on him, then untie the chain and rope that bound him to the bench. He was very strong and pulled all the way back to the car park and happily jumped into the van.
However a ten minute walk to our kennels showed just how unfit he is. There was no pulling and he just about kept up with a normal walking pace.
George is microchipped but I've been unable to contact his registered owners. It's as certain as night follows day that he's been abandoned. Having seen his face as I approached him, bound to that bench by a short rope to a chain, it's hard to describe my contempt for the person or persons responsible.
Photo: George, the Rottweiler, tied to a bench at Miller's Tomb on Highdown Hill
Hi Again. Last week I spoke about the benefits of microchipping including having the correct details registered on the database. But what did all the stray dogs in last weeks blog have in common? Answer, none of them were wearing a collar with the owners contact details attached.
Had they been, most - if not all of the dogs - would have been reunited with their owners within a short space of time meaning little or no stress to the dog, owner or finder.
Let's examine the best and worst case scenarios when stray dogs are found by members of the public, both of which are regular occurrences ...
- A person finds a stray dog and manages to catch him.
- The owners phone number is displayed on a name tag and calls the owner who comes to collect their dog straight away and is very grateful.
- A person manages to catch the dog which has no ID tag.
- The person phones the dog warden who finds that the dog is microchipped but the details are out of date so the dog warden takes the dog to their kennels.
- The dog's owner comes home from work and sees that their dog is missing.
- They call the Council's out of hours service and is told their dog is safe and well at their kennels but they are closed for the night and the dog will be returned to them in the morning but there will be a £56 release fee charge.
I know which one I prefer ...
There are several scenarios in between, such as the dog being chipped and the owner contacted by the vets who comes and collects their dog. That's great but the dog has still had the stress of being put into a stranger's car and taken to the vets, plus the inconvenience to the finder and vet staff. Or the dog is claimed from the kennels before they close for the evening, but still stressful for the dog and the £56 release fee.
The key thing is there is lots of stress, worry and time spent when for the cost of less than £10 all that could have been avoided.
Plus of course you'll be complying with the law which is covered by the Control of Dogs Order 1992 which clearly states that every dog, while in a public place, must wear a collar with the name and address of its owner inscribed on it, or on a disc attached to the collar. Failure to do so could result in prosecution and a fine of up to £2,000.
I know that many people don't like their dogs wearing a collar when they're at home citing the fact that the tag jingles or that the dog might injure themselves by snagging their collar on something when they're playing unsupervised in the home
However if the collar is fitted correctly, there's very little danger. As for the tag jingling, I'm a big fan of the collars with the contact details embroidered into the fabric.
Regarding the wording on the tag or collar, the law clearly states 'name and address of the owner'. However the law was made before mobile phones were widely available and before many dog owners employed dog walkers.
Clearly the law is there to reunite dogs with owners and so I would suggest mobile phone numbers are sufficient if an owner was reluctant to include their address.
I personally have my partner's and my own mobile numbers plus my work number on my dogs' tags which works for me and makes sure our companions will not end up overnight in kennels if they did become separated from me.
Photo: Dog wearing a correctly fitted flat collar with name tag attached
It’s been all go recently. Bearing in mind there’s still one more week in September, we’ve already had 33% more stray dogs than the second busiest month which was August.
A total of 15 strays have been in our care this month. Thankfully 13 have been reunited with their grateful owners. But there’s still the cost involved with all of these cases, most importantly to the dog but also the owner and of course the local authority.
Of the 15, only four were microchipped with the correct contact details. That’s just over 25% of owners complying with the law regarding microchipping which came into effect over three years ago.
A further six dogs (40%) were microchipped but with some or all of the contact details incorrect.
The microchips in two of the dogs weren’t registered while the remaining two dogs (20% of all cases) weren’t even microchipped.
When a dog is microchipped the person performing the implanting fills in a form which contains a unique 15 digit number; the owner’s contact details; and information which describes the dog, name, age, sex, colour, markings, as well as any unusual markings or unique features, such as docked ears, cropped ears missing limbs etc.
Historically the form was then posted to the company who would input the details onto their database so that when a vet, police or dog warden accessed the database quoting the microchip number they could obtain the owners contact details.
Photo: Russ patrolling on Worthing seafront
Both dogs whose microchips details weren’t registered were older dogs probably microchipped some years ago. It’s probably likely that their details were not on the database because the forms weren’t posted, lost in the post or the information wasn’t inputted at the database company for some reason.
Thankfully this is very very rare. More recently most vets and animal charities input the details onto the company's databases themselves which is much quicker and more reliable.
As I said earlier, 13 of the dogs were reunited with their owner but, because of no microchip or out of date contact details at least two of the dogs spent the night in kennels rather than being tucked up at home in familiar surroundings with their loved ones.
This is obviously stressful for the dog. They don’t understand why they are there or how long for. They will be confused and only know that they’re missing their family and home.
It’s also stressful for the owners, but so easily avoidable.
So the message to owners is clear. If any of you have moved house or changed contact numbers since you had your pet chipped. Or if you adopted your pet already chipped I would urge you to pop into your vet and ask them to check if the details held on the database are up to date.
If we as Councils dog wardens come across such dogs we can issue a 21 day notice requiring the owner to have their dogs microchipped or, if chipped, update the information held on the database.
Failure to do so is a criminal offence under the Microchipping of Dogs (England) Regulations 2015 and the owner of the dog may face criminal prosecution and a £500 fine.
Please be assured this is not what we want. We don’t want any stray dogs and those that are, we want them to be reunited with their owners in the shortest possible time.
This week I've got some good news to share with you all.
We recently posted about two of our strays that came into our care and asked for information regarding their owners, etc.
Firstly there was a handsome staffie we named 'Trigger' who was found in the Adur district on 1st September and secondly 'Duchess', a pretty Jack Russell type dog, who was found in Worthing on 5th September.
Sometimes it's easy to guess if a stray dog is going to be claimed or not. Either by the circumstances around how or where they were found or the physical condition of the dog etc. However when I picked up Duchess just 12 days ago I didn't dream for one minute that she wouldn't be claimed.
She was sweet natured, affectionate, in good condition and looked an all round beautiful dog. I immediately decided to call her Duchess, and for once when I arrived at the kennels there was no opposition to, groans or funny remarks from the staff about the name I'd chosen!!!
I didn't collect Trigger but from the circumstances relaid to me from my colleague Mike, it was clear from the offset he wasn't going to be claimed. The good news is that Duchess went to a local dog rehoming centre last Friday and will be assessed before being put up for adoption and Trigger as I write this is travelling up the A23 to a rescue centre just beyond the Sussex border.
When a stray dog, or any dog for that matter, comes into the kennel environment for the first time it's impossible to judge how they will react and cope. Some will take it in their stride and some will struggle, and for some it's clearly better than what they've come from and they feel safe, secure and grateful to be warm and fed. We can only imagine the life they've left behind.
I'd now like to share with you the write up that the owner of our kennels has given to the rescue centre so as to help Trigger settle in as quickly as possible.
“When he arrived he spent 72 hours trembling and was quite shut down. He was quite worried about the hand and being stroked. You would have to slowly put your hand on him and leave it in contact with him as when you removed your hand he would cower. He won't use a plastic dog bed no matter how much lovely bedding is in it. We have found that he loves a duvet type on the floor with a couple of fleece blankets as he likes to cover himself. I have sent a photo as this is how he often is in his kennel. He is good off lead in the paddock and comes back to recall”.
I can't speak highly enough of the kennel staff, time and time again I see first hand how they've gone well beyond the call of duty for the abandoned dogs that have come into our care.
When I hear and read tales from other dog wardens and rescues in other parts of the country, I can assure you we're lucky to have them here for our dogs.
Photos: A handsome staffie we named Trigger and Duchess, a pretty Jack Russell type dog
Alongside the different roles our service undertakes, we are often contacted for advice relating to a number of dog related issues. Recently I received two enquiries relating to sad situations where thankfully I was able to provide information to concerned individuals.
The first was from a dog owner who sadly has a terminal illness and none of the family were in a position to care for the dog when the owner was no longer able to do so.
The second was from a person who through illness was no longer able to walk their dog. They didn't want to rehome their companion but were seriously considering it as they felt they were no longer able to meet the dog's needs. Being on a pension, they were unable to afford the services of a professional dog walker.
As I was talking to these individuals I prompted them both towards a charity called The Cinnamon Trust, who I knew could help in these situations.
Named after her beloved Corgi 'Cinnamon', Mrs Averil Jarvis founded the charity in 1985 with the aim of helping anyone over the age of 65 or those in the final stages of a terminal illness regardless of age.
The central offer is to provide volunteer dog walkers for those owners who are no longer able to exercise their companions, so that owners are able to keep them and meet their needs, ensuring both owner and pets are content.
For people over the age of 65 who are admitted into hospital or in temporary care, the charity has a number of volunteer foster carers who will look after the pet until the owner is able to take over again.
However what I wasn't aware of is a scheme for those pet owners who don't have anyone able to look after their companion upon their death.
The scheme allows for owners to register their companion with the trust who will then profile the dog, keeping a comprehensive record of it's likes, dislikes veterinary history, feeding habits and much much more. This means in the event of the owners passing, the charity can find a carer that best matches their needs.
When the trust are contacted by the owner's emergency contact, a volunteer from the charity will collect the pet and take them to one of their volunteer short term foster homes where the pet will remain until a suitable life long foster home can be found.
The Cinnamon Trust use the term 'lifelong foster home' because the pet will always be owned by the trust and they guarantee to honour all veterinary bills for the remainder of the dog's life and will not put a healthy animal down.
Alongside dogs, they care for other pets such as cats and rabbits. They have also cared for reptiles, a Shetland pony, pigs, ferrets and rescued squirrels who are cared for at their sanctuary in the West Country.
It is a truly much needed charity who like all others can only provide a service with the help of dedicated volunteers and of course much needed funds.
Until next week,
Thankfully the Friday dog didn't appear this week ...
However these last two weekends have seen a flurry of activity on the fundraising front. In my own time I've supported and helped a range of local charities that help us rehome our stray dogs and also charities from further afield.
At the Rotary carnival in Steyne Gardens last Bank Holiday Weekend Wadars organised a dog show and had a stall, as did Sussex Pet Rescue and Doris Banham.
The carnival was well attended and it was good to see a well organised family event that brought local people together to have a good time and raise much needed funds for a number of worthy causes.
Last Sunday saw another Wadars dog show, this time on Broadwater Green. Again Sussex Pet Rescue volunteers were fundraising as were Doris Banham.
Also in attendance was my friend Paulette Hamilton who was raising funds for Tree of Life for Animals (Tolfa).
Founded in 2005, TOLFA is a charity with animal welfare and people's empowerment at its heart. They operate an animal hospital alongside related educational and support programmes in Rajasthan, Northern India.
Since 2005 they have provided medical care, vaccinations, veterinary treatment and spay/neuter services to more than 170,000 animals. Paulette is a local veterinary nurse and devotes a lot of her spare time raising money and awareness for the charity she cares so deeply about. She also travels to India to volunteer at their hospital in Rajasthan.
A charity a bit closer to home is Lumpy Lodge Rabbit and Guinea Pig rescue in Portslade. One of their volunteers was selling Vegan sausage rolls and cake that she'd baked so It was a double whammy for me being able to help her animals and eat great vegan food at the same time!!
Events like this also give like minded people a chance to catch up on the progress of various projects, swap ideas and generally boost moral which is often needed due to the physical and mental demands of the work that avid animal lovers do.
Take Doris Banham Dog Rescue for example. The charity was founded by a lady called Trudie James to temporarily home abandoned dogs from Councils who might otherwise be put to sleep having not been claimed after a period of seven days.
Very often they will wait until the day before the dogs are scheduled to be put to sleep to pick them up. This makes sure all other rescue alternatives have been looked at. It means every dog taken into their care would have been put to sleep if they had not agreed to take them on.
In her own words she describes how the charity came to be:
“When my mother was a young girl living in the inner city, she spent her time caring for animals. Every living creature loved my Mum and her beauty of spirit and selflessness inspired all who knew her. When she died in 2001 I set up Doris Banham Dog Rescue to honour her memory and to encompass all her wonderful qualities in particular her unconditional love and care for the most vulnerable creatures. And who is more vulnerable than the forgotten pound dog, not visible on our streets but suffering and dying behind closed doors, hidden from public view. I wanted to set up a rescue that would make her proud.”
I can safely say she's done that, so many dogs owe their lives to her.
See also: Doris Banham Dog Rescue website
When I joined the council Dog Warden service we had a lovely admin lady who was incredibly efficient and had a good memory.
For those Hercule Poirot fans among you the best way to describe her would be 'Miss Lemon'. If she suggested that the white terrier type dog I'd just picked up in Broadwater fitted the description of one picked up a couple of years earlier by the previous Dog Warden, the chances were, she was right.
This of course was a great help in the days when few dogs were microchipped and I hadn't built up my own local knowledge.
One of the first things she told me about was 'The Friday afternoon dog' ...
This is a stray dog that pops up late on a, yes you've guessed it, a Friday afternoon when you're trying to clear any paperwork before a couple of days off.
If you had planned to go away for the weekend or have a Friday night out planned then you can guarantee a call would be on its way.
The phrase sprang to mind last Friday, which also happened to be a bank holiday weekend, when I got a call to the western point of our boundary at Highdown Hill.
I was almost there - after pretty much driving into East Preston to turn around to get access to the area - when I got the call to stand down as dog and owner had been reunited. That was at 5pm - great! Just some paperwork to finish off, and for once I'd chosen a Friday to go out for dinner. What could possibly go wrong?!!
I'd just settled down to the paperwork and a cuppa when the phone rang:
“Hello Russ, I've just found a stray dog, can you come and collect her?”
Having fought my way through the traffic I got to the address and met a lovely little Terrier. She was chipped, her name was 'Puppy One' and she was from Brighton. This of course meant that the microchip details weren't updated from when the breeder sold her.
Just then came a second phone call from our out of hours service reporting a man who had lost a dog in the next street down.
Great, I'm with a found dog and about 800 yards away there's a man reporting his dog lost. Lets get them reunited! Sadly it wasn't quite that simple, because when I phoned him he explained that he'd found a lost dog, not lost his dog!
When I arrived I was greeted by the same breed of terrier as Puppy One. So I've now got 2 stray dogs, same breed found about 800 yards apart. I thought they must belong to the same person.
Stray number two was also microchipped but to an address on the other side of Worthing. Sadly the phone number went straight to voicemail so I left a message.
The good news is that thanks to their finders, the dogs were safe so I took them both to the kennels, which on a bank holiday tea time took ages.
Thankfully they were reunited with their carer the following day. However due to their night in the kennels, their owner had to pay a fee which could have been avoided had they been wearing name tags or their microchip details been up to date.
It serves up two important messages:
- One is dog owners please make sure you get your pets microchipped (we can do it for £15 if you want)
- The second is for me to never to book a meal out on a Friday evening again ...
When I'm out on my rounds I often get talking to residents who ask me not only how you become a dog warden but what do you have to do to get the role.
This past week, the question took on a different meaning when I was asked “How did I become a Dog Warden”?
So as it's been 'Q' on the dog front this week, (I don't want to tempt fate and use the whole word ...) I thought I'd use this opportunity to answer all three questions in one go.
With some careers, such as the police, nursing and construction, there are always opportunities, even if it means moving from one part of the country to another to secure employment in your chosen career.
However dog wardens do not have that luxury. A decade ago most local authorities only had one or maybe two in post; some didn't have any.
Since then, the numbers have reduced. For many the role was given alongside another role, such as pest control. Others outsourced the role to local dog boarding kennels or private contractors who would collect stray dogs so that the Council had their legal obligation covered. But Worthing decided to go further, covering so many more dog related duties.
That means for anyone wanting to be a Dog Warden, here are so few opportunities.
I believe there are maybe four Dog Wardens in the whole of West Sussex. We're actually rarer than the Giant Panda - but unlike them we're not a protected species!!
So all this makes it really difficult for someone who wants to take on the role.
They could have years of owning dogs, working with dogs, studying animal management or behaviour courses, university qualifications, the whole lot. But if there's no vacancy there's no job.
So I guess what I'm saying is there's no advice I can offer as to “How to become a Dog Warden” or “What do you have to do to become a Dog Warden” - it really is a case of being in the right place at the right time.
That's what happened to me.
I'd got into the habit of looking in the job vacancies column of The Worthing Herald every week when I was about to retire from the Police Service 12 years ago. Although I had a job I was settled in with Horsham District Council (who even back then didn't employ Dog Wardens) I still looked to see what jobs were out there.
One Friday, shortly after losing my companion dog Scruffy, a black Terrier type of unknown parentage who had been left in Dover woods and cared for by Arun District Council Dog Wardens, I turned the page and there it was jumping out at me: Worthing Borough Council wanted a Dog Warden.
I didn't hesitate and, after somehow being shortlisted from a cast of thousands (well 70 odd actually), I was invited to attend an interview at Portland House on the morning of my father's cremation! Somehow I managed to convince the interview panel that they should give the job to me rather than any of the other six candidates.
Over 11 years later I'm still here. Of course I can't rest on my laurels, I know there are an awful lot of people out there with an eye on my job!
I'm not sure how often I've been able to bring you good news stories two weeks running but after recounting lost dog Derek's adventures last week, I've just had some good news that I want to share with you.
About ten weeks ago I took a phone call from a local vet who alerted me that a black German Shepherd dog had been found on the Downs and had been brought in by the finder. They'd scanned him for a microchip but no luck.
When I arrived, the dog was clearly nervous, having somehow become separated from his owner and taken by a stranger to an unfamiliar building, the vets surgery
Eventually I coaxed him into my van and headed for our kennels where I handed him over to the staff. So in the space of two hours Sweep, as we named him, had been in two unfamiliar vehicles, two unfamiliar buildings and met many strangers.
All this without his owner, which for a fiercely loyal German Shepherd can be a big deal. They can be wary and suspicious of strangers, which is why they are popular as guard dogs.
By day three it was obvious that Sweep wasn't going to be claimed, and I arranged an assessment for him at a local rescue centre. But then I heard the news that Sweep, whilst being taken back to his kennel having been playing with his carer, suddenly without warning bit her on the arm causing a nasty wound.
The carer and another member of staff were able to secure Sweep in his kennel and then tend to the carer's injury and take her to hospital. It was at this point Sweep's life hung in the balance.
Section 149 (6) C of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 states that the local authority must care for a stray dog for seven days, after that the dog becomes its property and the dog can be disposed of in one of three ways, one of which is euthanasia.
The owner of the kennels was under no obligation to care for Sweep after the incident and would have been well within their rights to ask us to remove him. The injured carer could have taken the matter further but her only concern was for Sweep's welfare.
I spoke at length with the centre owner and the injured carer, they had got to know Sweep and recognised that Sweep wasn't an aggressive dog but simply had trust issues. He also was underweight when he was found and so food was a huge focus for him.
So we all wanted Sweep to live but what charity would take him, and if one did, who would want to adopt him with his history?
This whole scenario is a minefield. Do you keep a dog alive knowing that he is unlikely to ever be rehomed, thereby condemning him to 12 to 15 years in kennels, or do you put the dog to sleep to avoid a lifetime of incarceration?
After speaking with Niall Lester who runs New Hope Animal Rescue, I contacted Lizzy Brown at German Shepherd Rescue Elite. I explained the situation to her and she agreed to contact the kennels and speak to the staff.
Just three weeks after coming into our care, Sweep was collected and taken to a German Shepherd Rescue Elite foster home where he would be looked after by an experienced German Shepherd dog owner.
Better news was to follow, just last Thursday I received this email from Lizzy:
“Thought you would both like to know that Sweep has been adopted and it is like he has always been there!”
“He actually suffers with Pannus and is so good to give his eye drops and his new mum has got him some special shades to help.”
This is what his new mum says:
“Sweep has settled in so well; loving his walks through the woods. Nothing seems to phase this dog. He's happy to be fed alongside mine; doesn't mind his harness and come up each night for a cuddle before going to his bed”.
Photos: Sweep in the woods, and wearing his sunglasses
As I've said before, there's no way of knowing what's around the corner in this job - the next phone call could be anything from a complaint about barking to a neglected dog.
So when I answered the phone last Friday morning, I had no idea that I was taking a report about a dog, whose name would be the main topic of conversation and concern in the doggy community of Worthing and beyond. His name was Derek.
I spoke to a lady who explained that she was reporting her neighbour's dog lost. He had run away after being scared by another dog whilst out walking. That was bad enough but there were some additional factors which made the situation more difficult.
Derek's owners were away on holiday and he was being looked after by other family members. That in itself isn't a problem but Derek wasn't local and wasn't familiar with the area so probably wasn't be able to find his way home. There were also no familiar walks or parks that he may have gone to, which would be a good starting point in the search for him.
Also Derek had been rescued from a village in Crete just four months earlier and had spent some months living on his wits in the streets. This of course has advantages and disadvantages.
On the plus side, having lived on the streets he should be more streetwise, with better road sense. Also he's used to fending for himself.
On the flip side, he's more likely to be nervous of humans and not want to be caught, being better equipped to avoid anyone who approaches.
There was only one sighting the rest of that day but behind the scenes plans were being made.
Derek's photo was shared, shared and shared again on social media sites and concerned dog lovers were making their way to the area hoping to catch a glimpse of him.
A lady called Julie Briggs who has a wealth of experience searching for lost dogs gave invaluable advice and Derek's human Auntie coordinated all the sightings so that the search party were in the right area.
The following morning concerns grew all over the area as people realised that Derek hadn't been found. Derek's best doggy friend volunteered to give up his weekend and travel from Basingstoke to Sussex to join the search for his friend.
He hoped that if he visited all the sites that Derek had been seen, his scent would lure Derek back to the area. At that point he could appeal to Derek to end his time on the run and give himself up!
At the same time, in their holiday location Derek's mummy and daddy were beside themselves with worry. They hadn't told Derek's human brothers and sisters what had happened for fear of spoiling their holiday. The decision was made for Derek's mummy to book a flight back to England to lead the dog hunt for her boy, who was running rings around everyone. She hoped that her scent and voice would convince Derek that it was in his best interest to hand himself in.
Derek, however, had other ideas. He spent his second night in the wild, evading the growing dedicated army of dog lovers who had willingly given up their time to see him safely reunited with his family.
The dog hunt eventually ended on Sunday evening. A couple driving west along the A259 near Ferring spotted Derek, who had made a rare mistake by breaking cover during daylight.
At the same time Derek's mummy was getting ready to travel to the airport to catch a flight home. Thankfully their holiday was rescued by the quick thinking couple were able to detain Derek without a struggle.
Derek's mummy was immediately informed and was able to resume her holiday with her family, safe in the knowledge that her lovable pooch was safe and well.
I've spoken to his family who are overwhelmed by the support of the local people who gave up their weekends to help search for Derek, and for the hundreds of well wishers who were praying for his safe return. Time and time again we're reminded that we really are lucky to live in such a big dog walking community
During those three days and two nights Derek crossed the A259 several times and would also have been really close to the live railway line.
Maybe luck was on his side or maybe someone was looking out for him. Perhaps it's no coincidence that Dog spelt backwards is God ...
I wonder how many of you remember watching the BBC's reality series A Life of Grime?
The 1990s show featured the work of Local Authority Environmental Health Inspectors. One particular gentleman featured in a number of episodes became a household name.
He was a Polish gentleman named Mr Trebus, who was a very proud man and also what is now commonly termed as a hoarder - he couldn't bear to throw anything away.
Mr Trebus lived in a big house in the London Borough of Haringey which was full to the brim with his belongings as was his large and overgrown garden.
In my 42 years working in the public sector I can't begin to guess how many houses I've visited. But in all that time I've rarely come across any homes that resemble that one in Haringey. Then, without warning, I visit two in the same month or so.
Unlike Mr Trebus, these two households both contained dogs and that's why I got involved.
About two years ago I picked up a stray dog which was microchipped. I returned the dog to the owner who met me on the doorstep, took the dog and thanked me very much.
Fast forward two years and an acquaintance mentioned the dog and the conditions it was living in. Having recorded the neighbour's concerns, colleagues from the Councils' Private Sector Housing Team, the Public Health & Regulation team and I visited the address.
Without going into detail, the dog's owner was living in extremely distressing and hazardous conditions but clearly loved and was devoted to the dog.
The Council staff from the departments I've mentioned above have various powers that can help in these situations. Luckily the dog's owner was willing to work with them, realising that things had gotten out of control in the home which was affecting their health and quality of life.
The dog, although being much-loved, was however suffering from living in the conditions and had various skin and teeth problems that love alone couldn't treat. Realising it was in the best interests of everyone, the owner signed the dog over to me.
The second house hadn't been known to me at all. It was a chance comment made to me by a colleague from the Public Health and Regulation team whilst we were elsewhere which led me to accompany her to this property.
Whilst viewing the garden from the road, a neighbour approached me and voiced her concerns about a dog living at the address. As a result I called at the house and had a chat with the owner.
This was quite different to the first house in that we were refused entry, which of course is any householders right. However from what was said and from what I was allowed to see from the front door it was clear that both dog and owner needed help.
Thankfully, the occupant knew that it was in their best interest and that of the dog, if the dog was signed over into my care. From the sense of relief on their face when it was done, it looked like a great weight had been lifted from their shoulders.
I'm told that 'hoarding' is now a recognised mental illness in it's own right and that it can also be a sign of other forms of mental illness.
Thankfully help is at hand due to the partnership work between local authorities, the NHS and some third sector groups in this area.
My colleagues in the Councils' Private Sector Housing Team and Public Health & Regulation Team can organise the cleaning up of the properties and gardens if the resident is unable to and NHS colleagues can deal with the person's health issues.
With that in mind, if you have any concerns about a family member, neighbour or anyone known to you - whether they own an animal or not - please contact the Environmental Health team. Your information will be treated in the strictest of confidence.
Photo: Russ standing next to his dog warden van
The fact that you're reading this tell me that you use social media and that you look at the Adur & Worthing Councils' Facebook page.
In that case, whether you are a dog owner or not, you've probably seen that the Councils are proposing to amend and extend the existing Public Space Protection Orders for dogs, commonly known and referred to PSPOs.
An existing PSPO last for three years and if the Councils want to renew or change them in any way they have to enter a consultation period with the public. This process has recently started as the current PSPOs expire on the 18th December 2019.
So, what proposed changes do the Councils which to make from the existing PSPOs? Well there are three proposed changes, two which affect Adur while all three affect Worthing.
Firstly, it is proposed to increase the fixed penalty notice fine from £50 to £100
Secondly it is proposed to reduce the maximum number of dogs under the control of a person that can be taken onto land covered by the PSPOs from six dogs to four dogs.
And thirdly - and this covers Worthing only - it is proposed to add an extension to the seasonal exclusion zone on Worthing beach, which currently runs from Warwick Road to Heene Road. The proposed extension zone would be from Warwick Road to Marine Gardens.
For a full explanation and more details about the public consultation please see:
Anyone who wants to make representation about these changes can do so up until 5pm on Friday 6th September 2019.
As a dog owner myself I have my own views (which I will keep to myself!). But, the beauty of living in a democracy is that everyone's views count. There is a consultation period and I would urge everyone who has a view on the proposed changes to make their views known.
Don't think that because you don't have a dog it doesn't affect you.
If you use Worthing beach between Heene Road and Marine Gardens, it clearly affects you whether you have a dog or not.
If you live, work or visit Adur or Worthing, then the proposal to increase the fixed penalty notice fine affects you because, whether you have a dog with you or not, the proposal is aimed to act as a deterrent to people who don't pick up after their dogs and breach the other offences that are covered by the PSPOs.
Likewise you don't have to own or walk five or more dogs to comment on the proposed changes to reduce the number of dogs under the control of a single person.
There have been some strong and valid points of view expressed both for and against each of these points so it really is in your interest to put your view to the Councils before the consultation period ends.
Until next week, take care.
Regular readers of this blog will know how much I love animals, even giving my time away from the day job to ensure that all dogs live the best possible lives.
As a case in point, let me tell you a story.
A friend of mine volunteers for a charity called Candy Cane charity who rescue dogs from meat markets in China, fly them to France and then drive them to England for rehoming.
I've always been interested in the work. So when the chance to support the work (in my spare time) came about, of course I jumped at the chance.
This is why I ended up at 2.30am on Monday leaving my house, clutching my passport and, thanks to the boss at home, enough food to feed a small village!! I jumped into the awaiting van and was driven off towards the channel tunnel by Vaughan, the driver on all the 'Paris Runs'.
Vaughan explained that a volunteer called Karen had flown to China on the Saturday to pick up the lucky dogs from kennels, transported them to the airport and accompanied them on the flight to Paris. My job was to meet her at Paris airport and help bring the dogs through the airport to the waiting van.
Waiting in the arrivals lounge, It wouldn't have taken Columbo to work out that the lady entering the arrivals area pushing two trollies containing dog crates was the lady Karen who I'd heard so much about.
Helping her back to the waiting van I saw that the dogs included two elderly Greyhounds and a very young very cute chocolate poodle type dog. She had been allowed by the cabin crew to make the journey, not in the hold with the other dogs but on Karen's lap in a pet carrier.
The poodle joined Vaughan, Karen and myself in the cab as we left the airport and headed back towards Calais stopping at the earliest opportunity to exercise the dogs and change their bedding.
Photo: Russ at the exercise area at the pet reception in Calais
I then got the first chance to look at the dogs out of their travelling crates. As you can imagine, the two elderly Greyhounds were happy to be out in the fresh air with grass to walk on. The feeling of being involved, even in such a small way with their freedom was really very special and emotional.
One more stop at the border control pet reception, pet passports examined and then full steam ahead to England and the start of a new life for the lucky dogs.
I found it hard to believe that anyone could even think about killing such a cute innocent friendly puppy as the little poodle. But then again, the Chinese would argue that we kill cute little Pigs, Lambs etc for the same reason - to eat, so there's no real answer to that is there?
Interestingly Karen, who has now made five trips to China to escort the dogs back said it's only when she thought about how she felt about the Chinese eating dogs that she felt a hypocrite and decided there and then decided to stop eating meat herself.
People have also said “There's enough unwanted dogs in this country already, without bringing any more in”. Again this is true but a good friend who's involved in rescuing dogs from Eastern Europe once told me “you can only rescue what's in front of you and once you've seen it, it's hard to ignore it”.
Having seen photos of the Chinese meat markets I'm full of admiration for the locals who take, often under threat of violence, as many dogs as they can from the jaws of death. I couldn't imagine how they feel, having to play God as to which ones live and which ones die.
Again, I've heard people say “What's the point?, there's thousands there, you can't save them all” but as a counter argument, there's the famous saying “ Saving just one animal won't make a difference to the world, but it will make the world of difference to just that one animal".
So when I got home 19 hours after setting off, perhaps I held my own dogs a little tighter, for a little longer and appreciated them just a little bit more!
Photo: Russ exercising the two dogs after their flight from Beijing
Due to the extreme weather patterns we've been experiencing in recent years we have a greater duty to look after our companion animals to ensure they can cope.
Whereas we can wear the appropriate layers of clothing, headwear, shoes etc; choose to stay indoors or seek shade outside; choose whether to exercise; choose whether we want cold drinks or hot, our dogs haven't got any of those choices.
Their very life is in our hands. Here are three stories that illustrate this point, especially during the hot weather.
Firstly this is what Briarhill Veterinary Clinic wrote on their Facebook page last week:
“We currently have two patients in the clinic with heatstroke, one, in a critical condition.”
“Please do not take your dog out for a walk, a run around or boisterous play during this extreme heat. The critically-ill patient was playing yesterday at 5pm for just 20 minutes, he was a young healthy strong dog who is sadly now in a comatose state. We are fighting hard to save him.”
“If you own a very old, very young, overweight or brachycephalic dog (short nosed like a Pug, Staffy or Boxer) our advice would be not to take them out in this weather AT ALL: The risk is too high.”
Photo: A pug type dog
Secondly, a far lesser known killer of our dogs is water intoxication. This is caused by excessive water intake by the dog while playing in the water. Symptoms to look out for are loss of coordination, glazed eyes, lethargy, nausea, vomiting and excessive salivation ... if you suspect your dog is suffering from water intoxication, they need immediate medical attention.
These are the words of a family whose dog recently succumbed to this:
“Yesterday after a day filled with fun, fetch and swimming in Lake Windermere, Myself, Lucy & Tiggy had to say goodbye to our best friend Max.”
“He collapsed and was rushed to the nearest vets where he was diagnosed immediately with water Intoxication and put on drips of sodium, potassium and mannitol to increase his electrolytes and relieve pressure on his brain.”
“After 7 hours of determination from the vets and nurses, Max was unable to pull through.”
“We are so unbelievably devastated that a simple game of fetch in the water, something we had done a hundred times before, resulted in such a perfect day turning into our worst nightmare”.
“Water Intoxication was something we knew nothing about. At this time of year, so much awareness is spread about not leaving dogs in hot cars but no one ever mentions the hazardous effects of your dog ingesting too much water whilst playing.”
Photo: A small dog playing in the waves on the beach
And lastly it might seem obvious but hot pavements can burn.
The British Veterinary Association - (BVA) recommend that if it is uncomfortable for your hand to be on the pavement for 7 seconds, it is too hot for your pet to walk on the pavement.
This is another reason why it's advised to walk dogs early in the morning or late in the evening during heatwaves.
Photo: Dog paws on a pavement
So, three very sad stories, one of which proved fatal.
Not what you want to read but I make no apologies because being forewarned is being forearmed.
So summer is here which means I need to remind dog owners of a very important issue - dogs die in hot cars.
In amazes and saddens me that despite educational campaigns, adverts and the power of social media, that even now the police, RSPCA, local authority Animal Welfare Officers and Dog Wardens will receive calls from the public who are concerned about dogs shut in hot cars.
In well under 20 minutes, a hot car can prove fatal to a dog. As the temperature inside the car rises, in just a matter of minutes, the dog's suffering will become evident through:
- excessive panting, whimpering or barking
- excessive drooling
- becoming lethargic or uncoordinated
- followed by collapse or vomiting
If the dog is not rescued from the car these symptoms will develop into a loss of muscle control, the kidneys will cease to function, the brain will become irreversibly damaged and the heart will stop.
The dangers are obvious, we only have to touch the dashboard or seats on a hot day to know that the temperature inside a car can reach the same as an oven.
It's not just on warm days when dogs are at risk, vehicles can be death-traps even in cooler temperatures. Puppies and elderly dogs are not able to regulate their temperature as effectively as adult dogs and sighthounds, because they have very little body fat to protect their internal organs are more vulnerable
My advice to pet owners and concerned animal lovers is don't leave your dog in a parked car, even for a few minutes.
Even if it seems cool outside it can become very hot very quickly. Parking in the shade and/or keeping the windows down does not make it safe, neither does leaving them with water.
Make sure you keep your dog as cool as possible when driving: avoid travelling during the heat of the day, use sun blinds on the windows and open a window a little to allow a cooling breeze to circulate in the car.
Make sure you have a supply of water and know where you can stop off en route for water breaks. Dogs aren't able to cool down as effectively as humans can, so suffer from heat stroke and dehydration very quickly.
And if you are present at the rescue of a dog from a hot car that is clearly in distress, seek immediate veterinary advice. The very first priority is to prevent the dog from getting any hotter, attempt to provide shade from the sun and move to a cooler area.
Dampening the dog down with cool (not freezing) water will help start to bring the body temperature down. Wet towels can be used to cool a dog but these must be regularly changed or spraying them down with water and placing them in front of the air conditioning vent to enhance evaporation on the way to the emergency appointment.
If you witness a dog displaying any of these signs, please call 999 immediately.
If the situation becomes critical and police can't attend, many people's instinct is to break into the car to free the dog. Section 5 of The Criminal damage Act 1971 states that you have a lawful excuse to commit damage if you believe that the owner of the property would consent to the damage if they knew the circumstances. It is immaterial whether a belief is justified or not if it is honestly held.
But please be aware that, without proper justification, this could be classed as criminal damage so make sure you tell the police of your intentions and take photos or footage of the dog as well as names and numbers of witnesses.
So be safe, enjoy the sun but most of all take care of yourself and your four-legged friends.
I had a star in my eyes this week.
It all began a couple of weeks ago when I got a call from a member of the public who had found a small dog wandering in the street. On hearing the location and dog's description, I was pretty certain I was going to meet a dog called Star who I'd seen a couple of times previously.
Upon arrival my hunch proved correct - Star was underweight and had overgrown nails but very was still as bright and affectionate as I'd remembered.
Being unable to contact Star's owners, I took her to our kennels. The following morning I heard that Star, although having eaten well the previous evening, had been sick overnight and was now refusing food.
At about the same time I received a phone call from the owner, who explained that Star had a medical condition which results in a problem with swallowing food which can lead to food being regurgitated.
We had a long conversation about Star's medical problems. Ideally x-rays and blood tests were needed to obtain a diagnosis and establish if an operation was needed or if the condition could be managed with medication.
We spoke about the various options available and about their family circumstances. At their request, I left them to speak with other family members to discuss what action was better for Star in the long term.
Meanwhile now we had some medical history for Star and were able to consult a local vet who was able to offer advice on the best feeding regime.
This involved feeding little and often and having the food bowl elevated at a 45 degree angle so that gravity can help the food to be digested.
The following morning I met Star's owners who had decided that they wanted to put Star's future wellbeing first and made the difficult but sensible decision to sign her over into our care. This meant that I could set about finding a rescue charity who were willing to adopt a dog with ongoing and potential costly medical problems.
I'm pleased to say that my first phone call paid off. Sussex Pet Rescue readily agreed to take Star into their care and meet all necessary veterinary costs.
Fast forward ten days and I was at the kennels today to see that Star had already gained a good weight and was looking far healthier. I tried to be brave as I said goodbye and watched the foster carer drive her away. This was after being shown exactly how and when to feed Star to ensure she continues to gain the weight she needs.
And lastly whilst talking about Sussex Pet Rescue, they were one of the two local charities who benefited from the Findon Valley Fun Dog Show. This year the weather was kind to us and it was the biggest turn out of people and dogs in the show's six year history.
With an entry of 239 dogs my job was never going to be easy. But eventually after seven classes my co-judge and I chose a Greyhound called Dino, who had qualified as best rescue, as our best in show.
Dino came to England in January having been rescued from a meat market in China where he was days from death, destined to be someone's dinner. A charity called Candy Cane work in China and with their network of contacts rescue as many dogs from the markets as they can.
Their founder is a lady called Kerry Lawrence who is also the founder of Birmingham Greyhound Protection who rescue and rehome as many Greyhounds as possible.
Dino was fostered locally and the vet who was treating him fell in love with him, adopting him just three weeks ago. Lucky Dino is now in the best of hands thanks to Candy Cane. Yet without them it would have been so different.
So my last two blogs have described the ups and downs of our work, from the saddest of cases to the one that's given me the most satisfaction.
This week has also had its ups and downs with four dogs coming into our care. Two were claimed straight away. Regarding the other two, it's just a bit too early to go into details yet, but it's looking like they're soon going to be on their way to happier times.
People often ask me:
“Why do people dump their dogs?. They're plenty of rescue centres about”.
Well the answer is for the same reasons that dogs are signed over to the various rescue centres up and down the country.
So many people have genuine reasons, some do it at the first sign of trouble, others rehome only as a last resort.
The frustrating thing for us, rescue centres and ultimately the dog itself, is that with stray dogs we have no idea of their previous medical and antecedent history.
I think back to Bella who, as I told you two weeks ago, was dumped in an allotment like a rusty old washing machine. If only her owner had reached out for help rather than leaving it until she was days from death before discarding her in severe pain, lonely,confused, scared and dying.
Another dog that comes to mind is Baz, who about three years ago was handed in as a stray. The finders, who turned out to be the owners, left the dog at a vets. The dog was clearly fearful when I saw him.
It took ages and copious amounts of chicken to transfer him to my van and then into a kennel. But the next morning the kennel assistant couldn't get near him.
Despite days of trying to gain his trust, he was a danger to everyone who went near him and his quality of life was non existent. Reluctantly after consulting with behaviourists and veterinarians the decision was made to let him go to sleep.
How different that could have been if the owners had consulted a behaviourist before his fear got to that stage.
Failing that they could have sought the help of a rescue centre who could have taken Baz on being aware of his history.
Instead they dumped the problem on us exactly like someone fly tipping hazardous chemicals into the environment. By doing so they put everyone who came into contact with him in danger and made their dog's live the last few days of his life in fear.
I sometimes help a dog behaviourist friend of mine when a dog is referred to her that is scared of strangers. Nine times out of ten it's men that the dogs are scared of which is where I come in.
It's really good of course to help the dogs concerned but also good to meet dog owners who are prepared to seek professional guidance to help their dogs through their problems, rather than give up at the first sign of trouble by rehoming the dog (or even worse having them put to sleep).
And lastly, to end on a positive note - The Findon Valley children's fun run and Dog Show takes place this Sunday (23rd June 2019) at the Gallops in Findon Valley, so if you want a fun day out and help raise money for two local animal rescues. Entries for the Fun Run opens at 10:15am and for the Dog Show at 12pm midday.
It'll be great to see you there.
Hi Again. So after last weeks blog in which I described the worse case in my 11 years as your Dog Warden, I can now tell the story of what's been the most satisfying, if not frustrating case I've dealt with in those 11 years.
It all started on a miserable Wednesday morning last November when I answered my phone in what I expected to be another routine call, but what later unfolded proved to be anything but.
The caller gave me a tip off outlining where and when a certain dog would be, and in the callers opinion the dog was in poor condition.
On arriving, I didn't have to wait long before I saw things for myself. Emerging from an address was what I can only describe as a dog, whose head resembled a large mop, and if the poor dog had been standing still it would have been hard to tell front from back.
It was only by it's colouring that I could identify the dog as an Old English Sheepdog type. The dog looked thoroughly defeated as it was being led by an individual who I believed to be the owner.
Although the dog was wearing a coat which covered most of the body I could immediately see that the dog was unkempt and had trouble walking due to a number of large mats around the legs and feet.
Even wearing the coat, the dog appeared to be underweight. And so I approached the person and seized the dog under Section 18 of the Animal Welfare Act as I believed the dog to be suffering.
At a local vets, the dog's weight was found to be 28.3kg whereas the vet said the ideal body weight should be 38kg, meaning the dog was 25% underweight.
After further examination, the vet had no hesitation in certifying my initial assessment that the dog was suffering. It then took one vet and two veterinary nurses 45 minutes to clip the dog all over to remove the mats which where weighed at 2.75kg.
It's often the case that in this type of situation, the owner will realise that they can't cope for whatever reason and sign the dog over so that it can be re-homed to someone who can meet the dog's needs.
However, in this case the owner refused (as is their right) and so the poor dog had to be housed in kennels until the council could attend court.
After months of preparing a case we recently attended magistrates' court where the three people hearing the case had no hesitation in signing the dog over into our care.
We then had a further three week wait to see if the owner exercised their right to appeal the court's decision. That has now expired which means the dog is now legally ours. He will shortly be signed over to a local rescue who will carry out the re-homing for us.
I've been lucky enough to see the progress the dog has made during these last six months.
The transformation from a dog whose spirit was broken to a happy affectionate dog who loves chasing a ball and playing with toys is unbelievable and due to the hard work and dedication of the staff at the kennels have put in to achieve this result.
It's taken a long time to get to this point. But, on reflection, the time, energy and cost has been worth it to make sure this animal is now receiving the care and attention he deserves.
If you are concerned about the welfare of any animals then contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01903 221064.
Photos: Before and after
This last week has been one of the, if not the worst week for the dog warden service in the 11 years I've been working for the Councils.
Last Wednesday, my colleague Mike, who normally covers the Adur area, received a phone call from a concerned resident to say that a dog had been abandoned in the Hillview allotment site in Southwick.
On his arrival he found a tri-coloured Collie type dog lying on a path in the allotments too weak to stand. She had a large open wound on the side of her chest area and was rushed to an emergency veterinary hospital.
No microchip was found and we gave her the name Bella.
The staff attended to her immediately and upon examination it was established that she had advanced cancer and that many of the tumours had ulcerated.
To end her suffering, a veterinarian helped Bella go to sleep for the last time.
To date, despite extensive enquiries, Mike has been unable to establish Bella's true identity or the identity of her owners. Neither has it been established how Bella came to be in the allotment site which is secure.
It's easy to speculate in cases like this but what is clear, is that at some point Bella was in a home for many years as she wasn't a young dog.
What's also clear is that she will have been ill for some time as the open wound wasn't recent and smelled very unpleasant which must have been noticeable to those around her.
She would have been in considerable pain for quite some time before her release.
The only positive to come from this is that, when released from her pain, she was in the company of people who cared about her and so died with a name and with some dignity rather than alone and unloved.
As I've said it at least one previous blog, our companion animals give us years and years of love and happiness. It's my belief that the least we can do is be with them as they make the journey over the rainbow bridge.
If any of you recognise Bella, or have any information on who her owners were or how she came to be in Hillview allotments in Southwick, you can contact us in complete confidence on 01273 263331 or email@example.com
Hi Again. Thank you all for your interest and positive comments in last week's blog on fostering. I hope it's planted some seeds for the future because every dog in foster care is one less in kennels.
It's getting to my favourite and busiest time of the year now when charities, whether they be a national outfit or a one man band, rely on good weather and the generosity of their supporters to raise the money they need to continue their good work.
For months staff at Dogs Trust, Shoreham were working behind the scenes preparing for their fun day and dog show which took place last Sunday. The hard work paid off as everyone had a great time, the weather stayed dry albeit cold, but it didn't damped the spirits of the owners who entered the dog show.
All six classes, all of which were well supported, gave the judges plenty of difficult decisions to make. Thankfully when it came to best in show, my fellow judges and I were singing from the same hymn sheet and unanimously picked a lovely long-haired Rottweiler.
Also for months now the committee of the Findon Valley Fun Dog Show have been planning their 6th annual dog show which takes place on the Gallops on Sunday 23rd June 2019. Last year the dog show was cancelled because the weather was far too hot for dogs to be out in the extreme heat let alone stand around for a period of time with no shade.
On the morning of the rearranged date in late August the heavens opened up, a good number of people attended and, although everyone was soaked to the skin, we soldiered on in true British spirit because once you're wet through you can't get any wetter!!!
This year there's a new addition to the event in that a children's fun run is being held before the dog show starts.
This will ensure that it's even more of a family event and more funds will be raised for two local animal charities.
There'll be plenty more events this summer for your family and friends to attend to have a fun family day out and raise valuable funds for the charity involved, a real win/win.
I look forward to seeing you at one or more of this summer's events and please remember if you have any under 14's bring them along to the fun run.
Hi again. When I'm out and about talking to people, I often hear the words “I'd love to have a dog but ...” then follows a number of reasons why they can't.
Two of the most common reasons are because they go on holiday regularly or don't want to put their pet in a kennel. Or sometimes they are worried about the vet's bill.
Well, there is a way to look after a dog without the financial responsibility that goes with it, and which helps a dog and the charity who rescued it. The option is fostering.
Most local and national animal charities use foster carers and some rely heavily or totally on them. Sussex Pet Rescue for example only use fosterers because, as a small charity, the cost of having their own kennels would be too expensive. Consequently, if they have five foster carers they can help five dogs but if they had ten, they could help ten dogs and so on.
There are a number of Dogs Trust rehoming centres around the UK including the one here in Shoreham. Each centre has a dedicated home from home coordinator who recruits, trains and looks after their foster carers.
I've mentioned those two charities as they're local and have rehomed several of our stray dogs, but there are many, many more charities who are crying out for foster carers, including charities who rescue dogs from Greece, Romania, and other overseas countries.
Some people say they wouldn't be able to let a dog go if they fostered one, but if you know from the start that you are fostering the dog then it's much easier. Yes some people do end up adopting a dog they've fostered but they'll only do that if it's right for them and the dog. If vets bills were the reason they fostered they wouldn't want to adopt the dog anyway.
Over the years my partner Vicky and I have, between us fostered well over 50 dogs, so I'm well placed to assure you it's a worthwhile and very rewarding experience.
There are so many advantages, including that the dog is better off in a home environment and can be better assessed to establish the most suitable type of home for it.
The charity saves on kennel space allowing an extra dog to be rescued or the cost of renting a kennel space.
The fosterer has the benefits of caring for a dog and a sense of satisfaction of helping a dog without the financial burden or worrying about being away for long periods of the year.
If you foster you can save any amount of dogs and build up experience of several different breeds you wouldn't otherwise have come into contact with.
I never thought I'd have a Yorkie but I've fostered two now and they've been lovely. I'm so pleased to have experienced the breed and wouldn't hesitate rehoming one in the future.
So for those of you who have the time and love to give to a dog but for whatever reason you can't commit to one full time, fostering may be for you.
If anyone's interested in finding out more they can contact:
- Sussex Pet Rescue on 01273 551815 and 01403 864742
- or the Dogs Trust 01273 452576
Photo: Tofu the greyhound I'm fostering on the left and Sally my greyhound on the right
One of the subjects I always talk about when carrying out home checks for various rescue charities that I'm involved with is pet insurance.
Many first time pet owners are not aware how expensive veterinary treatment can be and it's only when faced with a sick or injured pet that they find out.
Every 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 a number of dogs are abandoned for the same reason.
Very recently a young dog was attacked in one of Worthing's parks and as a result received a complicated fracture to one of the legs. A quote of £5,000 was given to treat the dog - clearly a lot of money for anyone to find. But with the right pet insurance it's money that doesn't have to be found.
People often ask “why don't charities help pet owners with the vets bill so that the animal can stay with their owner rather than being rehomed as, 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 that, like so many things in life that are set up to help those most in need, the system would be abused. Charities up and down the country would be inundated with pet owners - not all genuine - asking for help with their vets bills. The charities would soon go out of business, preventing other animals 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 of cover they offer.
There are so many different options and most have an upper limit on what the company will pay out per year, or per condition - such as a choice of a maximum of £4,000, £7,000 or £12,000.
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 at a financial cost.
Many owners chose a life cover policy as pets often get illnesses like us which require treatment and medicines for the rest of the pet's 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 would start afresh.
My own Greyhound Sally became ill last year, finding it hard to get up and not being able to walk properly. It 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 what does an owner do? Say to themselves “I've spend two grand but I can't afford another six for the operation so I must put her to sleep, somehow find the money, dump the dog on the streets or sign them 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 their pet to sleep because they couldn't pay the vet bill.
My advice is to get the best insurance you can afford and have a long and healthy relationship with your companion.
There was quite a response to last week's blog in which I tried to explain why for just five months out of 12 every year, a section of no more than 20% of Worthing's beaches would have a ban on dogs.
Obviously I welcome everyone's views. It's good to get people's thoughts on these issues. It also good to see that there is some work that needs to be done on why explaining why such a ban is in place.
In 2015 Southern Water began a £31.5 million pound investment programme on a Bathing Water Enhancement Programme to improve the water quality along the coast in the region.
I'm pleased to say that Worthing was one of seven sites chosen in Kent, Sussex and the Isle of Wight. As a result a partnership with Worthing Borough Council was formed to help improve bathing water. There's no single way to do this - it will require a real team effort - but quite simply everyone can play their part.
From a Council point of view we have invested extra resources aimed at the education and encouragement side of things. This includes extra dog patrols, more litter bins and prominent signs and flags along the section of the beach ban.
My colleagues at the beach office carry out regular patrols of beach The extra patrols will be carried out in the early mornings, evenings and at weekends using a mix of beach office staff and dog wardens who have the legal powers to issue fixed penalty notices to anyone who is found to be contravening the rules.
Needless to say none of us want to issue fixed penalty notices; we want everyone who uses the beach to enjoy themselves. If they're not local to the area, to come back to the town again and tell their friends and family what lovely and clean facilities the town has to offer.
Let me give you one example. I met one dog walker last week, the proud owner of a beautiful German Shepherd Dog (GSD), who told me he regularly drives from the Horsham area to walk his dog on Worthing beach.
I think that's really impressive - there are numerous lovely dog walking places a lot closer, not to mention other beaches but they come to Worthing, a round trip of 48 miles. That's one lucky GSD because sadly, let's be honest, some dogs are lucky to get a quick walk around the block or a lap of the local park.
Of course it is only one example. But by attracting individuals like of course can only benefit the town by bringing in more revenue. If shops, restaurants and other local businesses are busier there's the potential for more jobs to be created in the town. Simply put, if our beach is winning, everyone wins.
Hi Again. Well here we are at the end of April and I've no idea where the last four months have gone, but I'm certainly grateful for the lighter mornings and evenings and of course the warmer weather.
For those of you who walk your dogs on Worthing beach you'll know the significance of the 1st of May. It's the start of the ban on dogs being on the seashore west of Splash Point to east of Heene Road. There's also a ban on the seashore in Goring by Sea between the slipway west of the Yacht Club and the slipway south of Seafield Avenue.
Every year my colleagues from the Beach Office and myself stop people who are walking their dogs on the beach, to advise them of the restrictions and by and large most people are understanding and move off the beach until they are away from the No Dogs Zones.
Over the years I've spoken to people from all over the country and beyond. Some are on holiday here, some are just down for the day, usually from London but most are local and on their own admission know about the restrictions.
As a dog owner who loves walking my pets on the beach I'd like to share some of the comments people give us when they're spoken to and explain why they are in place.
Number 1: “My dog is well behaved and I always clear up after him”
My answer: The ban is only on two short stretches of the beach. The stretch in Worthing is by far the busiest section of beach as it's near to the town centre and pier etc. Is it not reasonable for people to have a section of beach where they can sunbathe, have a picnic, play games without the possibility of dogs running up to them trying to take their ball, food etc.
Number 2: “There's nobody on the beach except me, what harm are we doing?”
This is a popular comment especially early morning, late evening or weekdays when the weather isn't hot enough to draw in sunbathers.
The problem is, the council can't have a law that allows dogs on the beach if no-one else is there or if it's milder than a certain temperature or outside of set hours. It's just not practical.
I'm sure a lot of us have driven on near empty motorways late at night and thought why have I got to stick to the speed limit but if you got caught by a speed camera you'd still get a ticket.
Number 3: “I didn't see any signs”
There are signs at regular intervals along the promenade, to have them every few metres would be unsightly, not to mention expensive. It's fair to say that many people are already walking on the beach when they walk into the no dogs zones and last year flags were put out every morning by the staff from the beach office advising where the zones started and ended. We're having brand new flags this year and they're even more eye catching than last year.
I really do believe as dog owners we're lucky to have miles of beaches where we can walk our companions during the summer. Some parts of the country are far stricter that's for sure.
And lastly my colleague Pauline Freestone who organises the Southwick Spring Fair in conjunction with the Southwick Street traders has included a Dog Show at the event for the first time.
So if you'd like to bring your dogs along to Southwick Green this Saturday, 4th May 2019 we look forward to seeing you there. Judging starts at 1pm. All proceeds are being donated to Sussex Pet Rescue.
You may have read on social media recently that a number of dogs have been treated at various veterinary practices in the area after it was suspected that they had eaten something poisonous.
Although it is known that one dog was presented to a local vet after the owner witnessed his dog eating an unknown substance and took immediate action. Thankfully that dog suffered no ill effects.
I think it's fair to say that every year there are reports of dogs being taken ill having eaten something, somewhere in the borough and when I phone the local vets to see if there is a pattern they're often bemused.
Obviously I can't say for sure what happened in the recent cases but looking back on some other incidents I think there's a much more likely explanation than poisoning. Wherever you get high concentrations of dogs in one area there will be the risks of the dogs catching infections pretty regularly.
It's just like amongst children in schools, or workers in open plan offices etc, so picking up a bug now and again is almost to be expected. Deliberate poisoning thankfully is exceedingly rare.
It's why boarding kennels, dog day care, and home boarders insist on dogs being vaccinated.
On the subject of poisons though, I need to make you aware of the danger of adder bites.
Adders are an endangered British species and an important part of our natural wildlife. They are our only native snake that is venomous and therefore potentially harmful.
Most adder bites occur between April and July. They are mostly secretive and prefer to avoid contact with other animals and humans, however until their body temperature rises enough they are sluggish and often cannot get out of the way in time when danger approaches.
An inquisitive nose sniffing the ground or a paw put down in close proximity can get a dog into trouble if the snake strikes in self defence - most adder bites are on the head, neck, lower legs or feet.
Adders can vary in colour from pale grey through green brown shade to reddish brown. All colour varieties have a dark brown or black zigzag pattern on their backs but this can be difficult to see in shaded light.
If you suspect your dog may have been bitten by an adder please ring your vet immediately so they can be prepared to attend to your dog as soon as you arrive.
Signs of an adder bite include a very rapid swelling around the area of the bite; bruising or bleeding where bitten; panting, lameness, drooling and vomiting.
Don't panic and remember to try to keep calm, in this way your dog is more likely to remain calm too. Stress and excitement can speed up your dog's circulation and therefore the spread of toxins.
Ignore the snake, don't risk getting bitten yourself and remember that they are a protected species - so harming them is illegal.
And lastly, have a great Easter ... but please remember Hot Cross Buns contain raisins which are of course harmful to dogs, as is chocolate, so please keep your goodies safely out of reach of your companion animal.
In my mind there are four types of people who walk dogs:
- those who never pick up, even if challenged by another dog walker
- those who pick up if they see someone else around, particularly if they think they are being watched
- those who pick up if they see the dog in their care defecate
- or those keep such a close eye on their dogs that they will always see if their dog has defecated.
By far the biggest problem is people not paying close enough attention to their dogs. They may be using their phone, talking in a group or the dog may be a long way in front or behind so consequently the walker genuinely doesn't see the dog defecating.
Despite what some people think, it isn't a defence. If you think about it logically if all you had to do was say apologise because your dog fouled but you didn't notice but then went to clean up then nobody would have to pick up unless they got caught!
If a motorist argued that he or she hadn't seen the red light before driving past they would be unlikely to avoid a fine wouldn't they?
So what can you do if you see someone not picking up after their dog? Well there's a number of things you could do legally but I'd urge you all to consider your own personal safety first and secondly the security of your property.
I know that many people sometimes politely enquire of an owner if they knew their dog had fouled and offer a bag. This approach rarely receives a hostile reply, most people are apologetic and pick up. Those who don't have a bag accept one. A more direct accusation could provoke a hostile reaction.
Some people have taken video and or photographs of the person and or dog and this of course is legal and good evidence. You don't have to capture the offence being committed, just the person and preferably the dog as well. We can only issue a Fixed Penalty Notice on the evidence from a member of the public if they have made a witness statement and are prepared to attend court if the person denies the offence or fails to pay the fine.
I have issued at least three penalties on video evidence from CCTV installed at someone's home or mobile phone and at least seven from members of the public taking down a description and car registration number of the offender but again I can't stress enough, please do not put yourself or your property in danger.
One quite questioned answered. People often ask whether there are any rules for dogs out of control and attacking people? The answer is yes this is covered in Section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. Offences under this act are dealt with by the Police.
I often get asked quite a few questions about our service either when I'm out and about or through this column so I thought I'd take a bit of time to answer some of them.
There are two Dog Wardens to cover the areas of Adur & Worthing Councils. We deal with all the stray dogs, noise nuisance complaints involving barking, concerns for dogs welfare and dog attacks plus a whole lot more. When I was first appointed nearly eleven years ago I was able to spend up to maybe four hours patrolling every day. Now I don't get to patrol every day as the emphasis on the service develops to meet changing demand.
That demand has increased immeasurably and here's why.
I moved to Worthing in 2001 but had never heard of the dog warden until the post became vacant in 2008. Adur District Council never had a dedicated dog warden until 2011.
Yet now, thanks to our high profile work in the community and with social media there can't be many dog owners who don't know we exist and what we do. Consequently we get more calls, enquiries, reports, complaints and requests for help which of course we welcome.
We are also now authorised to act in offences under the Animal Welfare Act, (giving us more powers than the RSPCA) and Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs). These powers are vital to keep dogs safe and the area clean.
Sometimes I'm asked why we don't operate undercover stakeouts in problem areas for dog fouling?
The answer is we do. When we can identify a pattern of behaviour. If we get reports that a repeat offence happens within a manageable time frame, say two hours, we are more than happy to watch the location at that timeframe to see if we can spot the offence taking place.
However, if a call comes in which has the offence taking place over a day or two it is clearly not time well spent watching that spot for such a length of time.
I'll return next week to try to answer some more of your questions ...
Some of you may have seen last week that a person was fined for breaching one of the Public Space Protection Orders that have been adopted by Adur & Worthing Councils.
Whilst I'm not referring to any particular case, I think it's a good time to talk about why any society has rules and punishment and how Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) work and the reason behind them.
I remember as a police cadet, more years ago than I care to remember, being told that society has rules to prevent anarchy. Imagine no drink drive or speeding laws. There would be carnage on the roads.
If there were no laws regarding theft or offences against the person, the strong would be stealing and hurting the weak and life would be intolerable for many.
But there's no point in having laws if there's no punishment for those breaking them. But it's not just to punish the guilty, it's to deter them from offending again and just as important to deter others from committing the same offence whatever that may be.
So when it comes to offences that I'm responsible for policing, the powers are given to local authorities by Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) which allow us to issue FPNs for certain offences. It's the FPN system which I'd like to explain in more detail.
They first appeared in England in the 1950's for minor parking offences and in the 1988 Road Traffic Act the police were able to issue them for a wide range of traffic offences.
More recently they can be issued for crimes such as theft, criminal damage and public order offences. The thinking behind FPNs is simple and everyone ends up a winner.
When I joined the police service many moons ago everyone who offended received a summons to attend court. More often than not several police and civilian witnesses would be at the court and the defendant would plead guilty or maybe not turn up.
Hundreds of man hours would be wasted if you include the court's time and the police staff time getting the file ready for court and goodness knows how many hundreds, if not thousands of pounds, even on minor offences.
Since the introduction of FPNs so much Police time and money has been saved not to mention the court's time, it's also to the advantage of the offender, here's how.
Speaking now for dog related offences, particularly fouling, that the local authority deal with. If a person is witnessed committing one of the offences covered by PSPOs they are issued with a £50 FPN. If they choose to pay it's not even an admission of guilt and it doesn't give them a criminal record.
However anyone issued with an FPN doesn't have to pay it, if they are innocent or believe they have mitigating circumstances and want to have their day in court that is their right. These cases are heard in the magistrates court.
Since Adur & Worthing Councils have been issuing FPNs in 2012, three people have elected to go to court. Of those two were found guilty by magistrates and one person changed their plea to guilty. On top of being fined they were ordered to pay some of the courts costs and a victim surcharge.
So hopefully this explains why Adur & Worthing Councils have adopted the PSPOs and why we issue FPNs. It's as much a signal of intent as anything else. We want responsible dog owners to be able to enjoy their pets but want to send a message to the very small minority who spoil it for others.
Hi Again. Some of you may have been watching the latest series of Crimewatch Roadshow.
As I write this, one of my dogs is on the sofa beside me and one at my feet. I'm sure yours are close by also. We love them so much, it would hurt unimaginably if they were stolen.
But if you saw last Friday's edition you will know that at least sixty dogs were stolen every week in the UK last year.
The programme reported the theft of a dog called Izzie who's owner walked her off lead from her home in Thornbury, South Gloucestershire on the 17th January this year.
In the owner's own words “I don't use a lead because she's very good”. The reconstruction showed the owner on his mobile phone and Izzie running off through a garage compound and into a residential area out of sight.
When he realised he couldn't see Izzie he shouted her name but there was no response, he then turned a corner to see an old white van driving out of a cul-de-sac. He looked around and found Izzie's collar dumped in the road.
The Police Officer leading the hunt for Izzie told the programme that there were many reasons dogs were stolen including for dog fighting and breeding. Organised crime is often involved.
Closer to home, you may have seen a truly shocking account of a dog being stolen in October last year from the Woodingdean area of Brighton. The dog, Pip, was snatched from the owner whilst walking on the Falmer Road near to the Amex football stadium.
Pip, a Great Dane mix, was bundled into a car by three men. His owner was fighting to rescue his dog but was overpowered and the thieves drove off with Pip inside.
Thankfully Pip was recovered some days later and a person arrested.
I recently read about an incident where an owner left a dog tied up outside a supermarket for about an hour. When challenged by an observer on his return that the ago could have been stolen the owner retorted: 'Not everyone's a thief.'
Correct, they're not, but then again would you leave your small child outside the shops for an hour? Not everyone's a burglar but would you go out and leave your house insecure?
It's not just dogs on walks or left unattended outside shops that are vulnerable. Dogs are often stolen from gardens or from unattended vehicles.
Here's a quick list of dos and don'ts.
- Please don't leave your dogs unattended away from your house.
- Please make sure your garden is secure and keep gates locked.
- Please keep your dog's microchip details up to date.
- Please have up-to-date photos of your dog, particularly any identifiable features or markings.
- Please be wary of a stranger taking too much interest in your dog.
If you witness your dog being stolen, make as much noise as possible to attract attention, it may also scare the thief away. Alert the police immediately, including as much description of the thief and any vehicle as possible. A thief can soon change their clothing but if you remember things like tattoos, scars, accent or physical peculiarities, ie a limp, etc.
Make your dog too hot to handle. Post, post and post again on social media. There are specific sites you can use such as 'Dog Lost' and 'Stolen & Missing Pets Alliance'.
Let's be vigilant and keep our own and each others pets safe, and until next time, don't have nightmares do sleep well!
Photo: Dog collar and tag (with inscription - I am microchipped and neutered)
Now we're into March and spring is just around the corner, if you head into the countryside you're sure to see a beautiful sight that sums up William Blake's line in his 1804 poem better known as the hymn Jerusalem. The line is of course “In England's green and pleasant land”.
The scene I'm referring to is sheep and baby lambs grazing on the rich pastures in the rolling hills that make up the south downs, now designated as one of ten National Parks in England.
How lucky are we to live and work so close to the sea and yet so close to such wonderful countryside. I truly believe as dog owners we're so fortunate. However if we choose to enjoy this landscape to exercise our dogs it comes with responsibilities.
Some of you may have read that about ten days ago a flock of sheep were attacked by two dogs at Hastings Country Park. Twelve sheep were either killed by the dogs or had to be euthanised by a vet as their injuries were so severe. Another 20 suffered dog bite injuries and were attended to by a vet.
You may also have read that the farmer shot and killed the two dogs to prevent further suffering to his flock.
I'm sure you're all aware that last year in the Worthing area there were a number of reported incidents and as a result of this Caroline Harriott, the county chairman of the West Sussex National Farmers Union held an information event at the Storrington Rise car park last Friday.
Caroline's own farm suffered 3 attacks last year, several of her sheep being attacked by dogs, one of which resulted in a sheep being shot as the injuries were so severe. In another incident a pet sheep was attacked and injured.
The event included a information stand manned by Rangers from the South Downs National Park, MP for the area Tim Loughton was in attendance along with the leader of Worthing Borough Council, Daniel Humphreys, Cllr Roger Oakley and members of the Findon Valley Residents Association.
Last but certainly not least Sergeant Tom Carter, who is the Wildlife and Rural Crime Officer for Sussex Police, attended for the duration of the event and explained the law in relation to such attacks and indicated that he had identified a suspect in relation to the attacks and that his investigation was at an advanced stage. He also made the following statement:
“We urge people to keep their dogs on a lead while they are walking in rural areas and around livestock. So often in these incidents the owners are horrified by what their dogs have done, but they have to accept that even the most docile of pets can quickly turn into a killer given the opportunity.
“We invariably see a rise in sheep-worrying incidents as spring and summer approaches as more dog owners head for the countryside to exercise their pets.”
“A farmer can legally shoot a dog that is chasing livestock and seek compensation from the person responsible for the animal, so please don't take the risk.”
Photo: Russ' dog Lenny on a lead at the meeting
You may remember a couple of weeks ago, I shared the story of Walter the Staffie who had allegedly been abandoned tied to a tree in Worthing? Well the good news is, I’ve placed him with a charity called Rescue Remedies who are based just over the Surrey border in Horley.
I’ve used this charity a few times now and I’ve been asked: “Why when there are more local dog rescue charities?” Well it’s a very good question and there’s more than one answer, which explains the dilemma rescues face, not just here in Sussex but all over the country.
First and foremost it’s the breed, Walter’s a Bull breed, not only that, he’s a Staffie. So,what’s wrong with that you ask? Well, in itself nothing, Staffies are wonderful family dogs, friendly and loyal, but there’s too many of them and consequently a percentage will end up in rescue.
If a rescue has say three or four of any breed that means they’re having trouble re-homing. Why would they take a fifth which is just going to fill up a kennel which could be used for a dog of another breed which could easily be re-homed in next to no time.
Up until about 4 years ago it was estimated that up to 50% of dogs in open door rescue’s were Bull breeds, mostly Staffies and almost 1 in 2 of our strays certainly were.
It’s because Staffies are so loyal and people friendly, that they don’t cope well in the kennel environment whereas, other breeds cope much better. Consequently their well-being has to be considered if it’s likely that they will be in kennels for a considerable time.
Secondly, space, most rescues, just like hospitals and prisons are full up, it’s one out one in, so if the rescue hasn’t got space it can’t help any dog until one is re-homed. Then when a space becomes available you have to refer back to answer one above.
Thirdly of course is money. Rescues can only help animals in line with the public donations they receive, none are Government funded so in these times of financial hardship, income is down therefore the number of animals they can help will be down.
It’s not only Staffies, in the past we had two Huskies that were dumped on Worthing beach. The first rescue I approached already had six Huskies in their kennels, thankfully another rescue took them on for us.
A couple of years ago I approached a local rescue to take a Lurcher from us but they already had five. Three weeks ago I asked them to take another Lurcher but this time they had 11 Sighthounds in their care so obviously couldn’t take ours.
So this brings me on nicely to my second piece of good news. Four weeks ago a lovely looking Lurcher was found abandoned in Adur, surprisingly he wasn’t claimed and after approaching a contact in greyhound rescue, I was recommended a Lurcher charity who found him a lovely foster home until he finds his forever home.
I met the foster carer at our kennels who had driven all the way down from London. We walked the boy who I’d named Glenn, so they could get to know each other and then he was off to meet his new doggie family. So good to get job satisfaction and the feeling of a job well done.
Photo: Glenn, so named because he was found on a Saturday and I was hoping Glenn Murray would score later in the day for the Albion. How wrong was I...
Talking to Dog Wardens from other parts of the country and from our own experiences here in Adur & Worthing we've noticed a slightly worrying trend emerging - people who find a stray hold onto the dog and try to find the owner themselves through social media.
So what's wrong with that you ask? Well I'll talk about the problems shortly but first let's take a look at the legislation that I and every Dog warden service are legally required to work to.
Section 150 (1) of the Environment Protect Act 1990 states that Any person (in this section referred to as “the finder”) who takes possession of a stray dog shall forthwith either:
(a) return the dog to its owner; or
(b) take the dog to the officer of the local authority for the area in which the dog was found and shall inform the officer of the local authority where the dog was found.
And sub section (5) states that If the finder of a dog fails to comply with the requirements of subsection (1) above he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale.
There's no doubt that most people who find a stray dog that isn't wearing a name tag, either notifies us straight away or takes the dog to a local vet so that the dog can be scanned for a microchip. Of course if the dog is microchipped with up to date details, dog and owner can be reunited straight away.
But some finders, in a case of mistaken loyalty to the owner or the dog, decide to put a photo of the dog on Facebook in an attempt to locate the owner themselves.
I've asked people why they've done this and the reasons given,(in order with the highest answer first) is:
“I didn't want the owner to have to pay the fine”
“I didn't want the dog to have to go into a kennel”
“I didn't want the dog to be put down” and
“I thought the owner might give me a reward”
My worry and the worry of my colleagues is that once the photo has gone on Facebook anyone can contact the finder and claim to be the dog's owner.
You could unwittingly be handing the dog to someone who wants the dog for a whole manner of things, such as breeding, to sell or maybe to keep.
If a certain type of person came to your door and you felt uneasy about him being the genuine owner, would you feel comfortable saying:
“I think I'll phone the authorities, I'm not sure I believe you?"
Another problem - and I've been involved twice myself - is dogs found and reported to us have been stolen.
On both occasions the dogs were stolen in different counties and the genuine owners wouldn't have seen them on local Facebook sites but the people who'd stolen them might have.
There are other problems which have occurred over the years. Dogs have been retained by the finder only to have escaped. How would you explain to the owner?
There's also time to take into account. The data base we have access to means we can reunite dogs really quickly while social media requires on people seeing things by chance. The longer a dog is missing the more frantic owners get and the longer an anxious dog is away from it's home and in unfamiliar surroundings. That's not forgetting that the dog could need medication, or a special diet which of course the finder isn't aware of.
And lastly, surprising as this may seem, not everyone's on Facebook!!
So, I would ask you to please remember:
- We don't put healthy dogs down.
- Very few of our strays even go into kennels, they're usually reunited with their owners very quickly, especially if they're chipped.
- We don't fine owners but we charge them a release fee if they've strayed before as we find it encourages owners to be more responsible in ensuring their dog doesn't keep getting out.
The message to those who find strays and then contact us is always the same - your reward is knowing you've found the dog and kept it from possible harm while making both dog and owner very happy by reuniting them. This is the most rewarding part of my job.
Photo: Russ standing next to his dog warden van, holding a dog
As I've said before no two days are the same in my job and you never know when the phone's going to ring or how serious the call or email is going to be.
A recent email alerted me to the fact that a male Terrier type dog had escaped from an address in west Worthing where he was being cared for by a friend of the animal's owner.
Having read the email I thought to myself that the dog would soon be seen by a member of the public and I would be alerted. Little did anyone know how far from the truth that was!
The following morning came and the dog was still missing. This is very rare as a dog to go missing during the day within a built up area is normally found within hours. For a dog not even to have been sighted for over 18 hours was really worrying. By the end of the second day I was beginning to fear the worst.
However on day three, I got a phone call informing me that the dog had been sighted at Brooklands and was still believed to be in the area.
I made my way there and asked Mike, the Adur Dog Warden, if he could join me. Together with the dog's carer, and some of her friends we searched the vast area for the rest of the morning.
The fact the dog had been sighted was such good news: not only did we know that he was still alive (this had been a big concern of mine as he had gone missing not far from the railway line and dogs have been killed on the tracks before); it also meant that the dog hadn't been stolen. It also gave us an identified area in which to concentrate our search.
The carer made and handed out posters with the dog's photo and a contact number to ring.
Hours later a report came in of a sighting of a dog matching his description in the Newlands Road area of Worthing. By this time it was dark and the weather had taken a turn for the worse, it was wet and windy and visibility was very poor.
Despite the weather, the power of social media saw several people volunteer to join the search and it showed a great community spirit where complete strangers will help a fellow dog lover in their hour of need. However the search failed and the little dog was by now facing his third night out alone with the weather getting worse.
Thankfully day four brought the news we'd all hoped for. A resident near Brooklands opened her front door to find him sitting on the lawn, on seeing the open front door he boldly ran into the house and had a wee!! The resident had been given a poster and rang the number immediately. Not only had he been found but he seemed none the worse for his ordeal.
A local veterinary practice offered to carry out a complementary health check to make sure there were no underlying health problems. Then he was back home.
It was a great end to what could have been so very very different and shows the need to be so careful not only with your own dogs but especially if you're looking after a dog in unfamiliar surroundings. It's such a big responsibility and not one that should be taken lightly.
So already we're into February and don't we know it as far as the weather is concerned!! The good news is all the way through January, very few strays came into our care and those that did all went home.
That is until I received a phone call early Thursday morning the very last day of January, from one of the Veterinary practices in Worthing. They explained that a stray dog had been handed in the previous evening and hadn't been claimed and that the dog wasn't micro chipped.
On arriving at the vets and reading the paperwork it appeared that the finder had found the dog tied to a tree in Worthing. Over the years that's been a few dogs abandoned there, probably because it's close to a Veterinary hospital I'd imagine!!
On meeting the dog, a lovely looking Staffie, it was clear he was nervous and confused after spending a night in a kennel rather than at home, wherever home previously was. Luckily he was eventually won over with the help of fresh chicken and enticed into my van.
He was as good as gold in the van and I gave him a good walk before booking him in at our kennels where he enjoyed the fuss and cuddles from the staff. As is the practice with a dog that hasn't got a microchip we set about naming him.
Normally the stray reminds someone of a previous dog they've owned or a name quickly springs to mind for other reasons, possibly the dog's looks or time of year, Holy, Mary, April etc but between us the only name we could think of was Walter, as in Raleigh or Mitty but I prefer Raleigh!!
Having settled Walter in at his new billet I then decided to update the finder and low and behold, the number provided by the finder doesn't exist, and neither does the address he gave come to mention it.
So it's possible lovely Walter isn't going to be claimed and so we're be making enquiries to get him a place in one of the local rescues. In the meantime we've taken some photos of him, if you recognise him or if you have any information that can help us establish his history or previous owners. Please contact us on 01273 26333. As always, any information will be treated in the strictest of confidence.
Have a great week everyone and take care.
Well who would have thought it, it's now a year since my previous head of service Andy Edwards, approached me in the office and asked me if I'd like to blog on the councils website about the work we do in the Dog Warden Service.
Two things immediately sprung to mind, the first being what's a blog when it's at home? and secondly I'm pretty sure “Would you like to” actually means “You're going to”!! Which was fine by me because it would give me the chance to be a voice for the dogs and promote the work we do. After all if we don't wag our own tail nobody else is going to wag it for us, (no pun intended!!)
So I agreed and shortly after I was given the date Wednesday 17th January 2018 to attend a meeting at the Town Hall where I would meet the communications team, also referred to sometimes as the news team.
As often seems to happen, the date chosen was a date I had booked as annual leave but as I had nothing planned that couldn't be rearranged I went along to learn what this blogging was all about. What I remember most clearly from the meeting is being told “We'd like you to commit to 10 blogs” yes 10 blogs, and here we are one year on and this is the 50th blog. So clearly something's been lost in translation along the way!!
I had a few minutes to spare earlier and so I read some of the earlier blogs which of course brought back memories both good and bad. The lives we've saved and sadly the lives we've lost including my own dog Nell. When I proudly wrote (or should that be blogged) about her doing so well at a dog show last May, I never dreamt that just 6 months later I'd be writing how I was mourning her loss.
I then decided to take a peek at some of the other bloggers work and found myself quite envious that they can go into quite some detail about their day to day work. “Why can't I”, I hear you ask. Well the answer is, some of our work is enforcement based. If we're investigating offences under the Animal Welfare Act, or other legislation designed to protect people or animals we can't highlight it in the public domain while it's ongoing. But rest assured, this type of work is at the forefront of what we do.
And lastly to celebrate a year of blogging our new uniforms have arrived. I'm very pleased with mine, it says exactly what I do, and where I do it, I also think they look very smart, well for the time being at least. They'll soon be covered in mud, dog hair and saliva and that's before I leave the house in the mornings!!
Until next time take care ...
Photo: Russ in his new uniform with two of his dogs
It was always going to happen - after a relatively mild winter, colder weather has now arrived. With that in mind we need to look after not only our own companion animals but others that may not enjoy the comforts that most in this country thankfully do.
There are two separate issues here: how they are housed and how they are exercised.
What amazes me is the number of people who are wrapped up in goodness knows how many layers of clothing (not to mention hats, gloves and scarves) while their poor dogs, often small, short haired breeds, have no coat to protect them from the elements.
People will argue that dogs have got fur and they're descended from the wild and are used to all weathers. But they were domesticated by us thousands of years ago and are now used to living indoors with central heating so it's hardly the same thing at all!
As for “they've got fur to keep them warm”, it's the same fur as they have in the summer. Yet the person walking the poor dog isn't wearing the same clothes as they would be in July!
Just like during the hot summer, there are cold winter days when I don't walk my dogs. It does them no harm at all. You can give them plenty of mental stimulation indoors by hiding their food and treats, playing games with them and doing some training.
Last winter we received several calls regarding dogs that lived outside in kennels.
These are of concern to us as, when animals are outside, often there's insufficient or no bedding. This means that along with having no protection from the cold the dog is liable to get calluses which affects the pressure points, particularly the elbows and hocks as there's no cushioning for the dog when lying down.
I remember visiting one address with my colleague that had a number of sighthounds, who were working dogs and always were kept outdoors regardless of the weather.
I explained that dogs of this nature, which includes greyhounds, Afghan Hounds and whippets, are the most vulnerable as they haven't got much flesh to protect them from the cold. They also have nor fur for that matter so to kennel them outdoors without adequate protection from the cold, wind and rain is certainly not meeting their needs.
The legislation that protects animals in these circumstances is The Animal Welfare Act 2006.
Section 4 of the act makes it a criminal offence to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal, while Section 9 of the act makes it the duty of a person responsible for an animal to ensure that the welfare needs of the animal are met. These needs are often referred to as 'the five freedoms' and includes the need for a suitable environment for the animal.
If you have any concerns for the welfare of an animal please do not hesitate to contact us or the RSPCA.
I'd rather go to 10 addresses where the conditions were adequate rather than miss one address where the animal is suffering.
Until next week which will be my first anniversary as a blogger. Until then, take care.
Photo: Greyhound dog wearing a jumper
This week I need to talk about a subject that none of us wish to contemplate, but for the sake of our loved ones and especially our companion animals, facts have to be faced.
I'm talking about the future of our pets should they outlive us.
It's more common than you may think.
There have been two incidents recently, one of which I was involved in, where sadly people living alone have passed away leaving pets without making arrangements for their care.
Thankfully on both occasions the dogs concerned were placed into rescue centres. But this shouldn't be taken for granted as there is almost always a waiting list. In any event some dogs are easier to place than others and some dogs don't do well in a kennel environment.
What I would strongly urge every pet owner to do is to talk about who you would want to care for your pet if the worst was to happen to you. Many people write it in their will but unless people know their wishes, often other plans are made before the will is read and the pet has been rehomed to someone else, albeit with the best of intentions.
Others make a verbal agreement with a friend. Lots of people have said to me over the years “my friend is going to have my dog when I die”. This is great if the right people know your wishes, but what if they don't? Your next of kin and executor need to know also.
I have personal experience of this. Some 20 years ago my aunt, who is pictured below, was killed in a tragic countryside incident alongside two of her dogs. Thankfully two of her other pets survived and loads of her friends wanted them.
My aunt had it all properly documented so her wishes were carried out. Otherwise my parents wouldn't have had a clue who she wanted them to go to so her wishes wouldn't have been carried out.
Photo: Grace Aldridge (Russ' aunt) on her trike with 5 of her dogs
The Dogs Trust run a scheme called The Canine Care Card. To my mind this offers the perfect solution to those who haven't got anyone in a position to take on their companion dog after their passing. This is how the Dogs Trust website describes the scheme:
“If you pass away and have a Canine Care Card, we will arrange to bring your dog/s to our nearest rehoming centre. Upon arrival they will be examined by our expert vet and cared for by our dedicated, trained staff.”
“Complete an application form and return it to us. Upon receipt, we will issue you with a handy wallet-sized card. It acts in a similar way to an organ donor card and notifies people of your wishes for your dog/s, should anything happen to you.”
“We also strongly recommend that you mention the care of your dog/s in your Will. That way, there can be no confusion about your wishes. We suggest that you include the following phrase in your Will:”
“It is also my wish that Dogs Trust cares for or rehomes any dogs that I may own at the time of my death.”
I hope that is useful and gives you something to think about. Have a good week everyone, take care, see you next week.
Hi again. Firstly let me say I hope you all had a great Christmas. I celebrated as I do every year by eating my own body weight in food and then trying to walk of the excess pounds (or rather stones!) by spending hours walking around Cissbury Ring!
One of the first things I do in the new year is compile the stray dog figures for the previous year. If I'm honest this takes a lot longer than it needs to because as I read through the stray dog register - my mind can't help but reminisce about some of the dogs and their stories.
When I first joined the council in the post of Dog Warden, a local boarding kennels cared for and re-homed the stray dogs on our behalf. But in October 2014 we took over the role and since then we have cared for hundreds of dogs.
The figures that we compile help provide a snapshot of the work that we do.
Of course not every stray dog comes into our care.
Some found by members of the public are wearing identity tags as the law requires. In these cases dog and owner are reunited in minutes, with the minimum amount of distress to the dog and inconvenience to the finder.
When a stray is found and is not wearing an ID tag, the finder sometimes take them to a vets where they can be scanned. If a microchip is found and the details held on the database are correct (sadly often they are not) then dog and owner can be reunited.
If we cannot reunite a dog immediately then we classify them as strays.
The good news is that across Adur and Worthing the overall figures are going down.
From 2016 to 2018 there has been a 60% drop in the number of dogs being abandoned which then need to be re-homed.
Hopefully 2019 sees a further reduction in strays in Adur and Worthing, as well as the country as a whole.
Rescue centres all around the country are full to bursting and short of funds. Please if you are thinking of getting a dog this year, consider adopting a rescue dog.
And lastly may I wish you all a happy and peaceful new year.
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Page last updated: 05 October 2020