Russ Akehurst is one of Adur & Worthing Councils' dog wardens. After a career in the police, he took on the role more than nine years ago.
Russ loves animals and takes his responsibilities very seriously. This includes: dealing with stray dogs, investigating dog related complaints, enforcement of laws to dog fouling and regular patrolling of parks, streets and other open spaces within Adur and Worthing.
Outside of work he has five dogs of his own - a Labrador cross Boxer, a Jack Russell Terrier, a Staffie cross Jack Russell Terrier and two Greyhounds.
You can read Russ' current blog posts on this page below:
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 traveling 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 and 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, and 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.
Hi again. Well it's nearly here and by this time next week it'll all be over - the presents will be unwrapped, the dinner cooked, the dinner eaten and hopefully everything will have gone smoothly with everyone having a great time.
I think it's fair to say that Christmas means different things to different people. For many of course it's about celebrating the birth of Jesus all those years ago in Bethlehem. Another biblical story that I think about at this time of year is 'The Good Shepherd'. I'm sure you're all familiar with the story, but just in case, here's a short version ...
One day one of the animals in the care of a shepherd got lost. He then 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 put the animal on his shoulder and carried it home. The shepherd called his friends, told them how he had found his sheep and they celebrated together.
I see modern day examples of this all the time when people ask me:
“Why does this charity spend so much money or use so many resources on saving just one dog? 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”.
We try and take the same approach as Councils' dog wardens.
Recently we paid a vets bill for an older dog when it would have been a lot cheaper and easier to let her suffer and eventually go to the great dog kennel in the sky. Not every local authority would have taken this approach. But, for us, it was the right thing to do.
I also have had to deal with the issue at home too. One of my animals Sally is nearly 12 and needed operation on her spine which cost a substantial amount of money. It took place last week. Thankfully all went well and she's making a good recovery.
It is hard though as 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 to find them a loving home, there's another five waiting to taking their place. With the advent of 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: Russ at home with his 15 year old crossbreed called Flora and Sally the greyhound, nearly 12
Last week I spoke about keeping your companion animal safe during the Christmas period; this week I'd like to take 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 that 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.
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're used to a crate they can relax in there with a Kong Chew or favourite toy then don't be afraid of encouraging them to stay there.
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, is growling.
I've heard it so many times: “I'm not keeping this dog, it growled at the kids and I'm not having that”. The key to remember is 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: A relaxed dog by a Christmas Tree
As we've now entered December I think it's time to mention the 'C' word. Thankfully there are plenty more shopping days to Christmas, but after a trip to a well known national supermarket chain on Sunday to take advantage of their splendid offer concerning Vegan Baileys (other Vegan options are available) I saw first hand that for many, Christmas shopping has begun.
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, 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.
Sadly 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 & 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 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!
Hi Again ...
Over the last 10 years since I've been lucky enough to serve as your Dog Warden there has been an increase in the number of dogs being imported into this country from outside of the UK and Ireland. There are three main reasons why this is happening:
Some puppies are bred overseas and imported purely for profit. Often the pups have been taken from their mothers far far earlier than the minimum of eight weeks and as a result are often sick and can have behavioural problems in later life because they have been taken from their mothers and siblings too early.
Secondly, the dogs can be returning to the UK with their expat owners or with people emigrating to the UK with their dogs.
Thirdly, dogs are imported by overseas or UK-based rescue centres in an effort to offer them a better life than in the overcrowded, often ill-equipped and underfunded overseas shelters. This improves their chances of being adopted and having a forever home.
I've recently come back from Madeira, and whilst there I wanted to visit a dog shelter run by an animal charity. I knew it wouldn't be pleasant but I certainly wasn't prepared for what I saw when I went inside.
Most of the kennels were approximately 8ft x 3ft and contained between three and five dogs. The noise was deafening, although to be fair they weren't barking until I entered the kennel block. I think what surprised me most was the one food bowl in every kennel which the dogs had to share.
There were no beds or bedding in the kennels, nor were there toys to enrich their quality of life or stimulate them. Having said that, there wasn't room for beds in the kennels and it isn't cold at night but they're still lying / sleeping on a hard concrete surface.
You could also argue that beds or toys in the kennel could lead to fights breaking out, but either way it boils down to the fact that, to their credit, the charity doesn't put the dogs to sleep but there just isn't the money to provide better facilities to have less dogs in each kennel. I want to be clear. I'm not criticising the charity or the staff, they are doing what they can with the money and facilities available to them. The problem is, too many dogs and not enough homes.
Like thousands of others who see shelters such as this or read about them on social media, I had an overwhelming urge to help these dogs who have little or no hope of being adopted in their own country. However it's not as straightforward as it seems and over the next few weeks I will be talking about the pros and cons of adopting a dog from a foreign shelter.
Hi again ...
This week I want to write about a problem that has grown significantly in recent years and is evident when you walk through city or town centres up and down the country including here in Worthing. Many of us have empathy and many feel apathy, but I doubt if any of us would change places with them and, coming into the winter months, the situation worsens. I am of course talking about homelessness.
So why am I writing about the homeless? Well a visit to a local Rough Sleeping Community Hub last week left me counting my blessings and better informed, but with an overwhelming feeling of despair. The hub is in the centre of town and is run by a local community-led homelessness organisation that puts clients and local people at the heart of their aim to end homelessness.
Having phoned in to see if they had a need for some dog food, I popped in and got talking to a member of staff. Just then a gentleman came in with his dogs and I asked the obvious question “How many homeless people in Worthing have dogs”? I expected the answer to be 2 or 3 but the correct answer is at least 9. The exact figure isn't known because not all homeless people engage with the charity so the figure could actually be higher.
The member of staff explained that in the winter months the churches take it in turns to provide a night shelter for the homeless. But because the shelters are run by volunteers, and the space to bed down is open plan, with no way of limiting a dog to one area, it isn't suitable for dogs. So the homeless with dogs have to stay on the streets in the freezing cold so that they can be with their dogs.
I also discovered that when the homeless with dogs are offered temporary housing, (which is a stepping stone to being allocated their own accommodation) there are very few places that are able to accept dogs, leaving them the choice of taking the placement and abandoning their dogs or turning down the chance of having accommodation to call home.
I then remembered something I was told years ago but didn't believe, so I asked:
“Are the homeless given extra money for having a dog”
to which the reply came:
“No, they're actually worse off because if they've got a dog they will find it harder to find housing that accepts animals meaning they won't be getting housing benefit”.
I then learnt that an estimated 70% of the homeless with dogs have the dogs before they became homeless and the other 30% got a dog to help protect them from the obvious dangers of living on the streets.
I think only dog lovers will understand why anyone would choose to keep their dog rather than keep a roof over their head or decline the opportunity of a place to stay because they won't give up their dog. I personally have nothing but admiration for them and would like to think we'd all do the same.
The member of staff then went on to say that there is a huge gap in the market for temporary or overnight fostering of homeless dogs so that the owners could access the night shelter and then collect their dog the next morning. Another option is that you have a suitable business premises near the town centre where a dog could stay overnight before being collected the following morning.
So on behalf of the staff at the Community Hub I’m wondering if anyone could offer to foster a dog on either a casual basis - so that a homeless person could get even one or two nights a week in the night shelter - or on a more permanent basis to allow someone the opportunity to accept temporary accommodation until they are offered their own accommodation.
If you think you could help please contact the hub 01903 680748.
Hi again ...
This week I wanted to talk about a situation that sadly affects all of us who choose to share our lives with companion animals, and one which my partner and I have had to face twice this year.
Three weeks ago we lost our beloved dog, Nell, who at just reached 12 years of age. She had always been fit and healthy which made it so much harder losing her 10 days after she became ill and just three days after learning she had liver cancer.
Deciding on the right time can be the hardest decision ever made by pet owners. When making the decision please remember to do what is best for your pet, however tough that may be. Your vet should be your first port of call; talking to them will help as they are less emotionally involved, making it easier for them to think about what's best for your pet. They will help talk you through the different options available. Ask them as many questions as you like - no question is stupid - they're there to offer guidance.
When I was growing up in Brighton I wasn't allowed a dog at home so I enjoyed spending time with my Aunt Grace because she had dogs. I remember she started off with just one but in time the number had grown to five, all Shelties. I could only have been about 15-years-old but I distinctly remember asking her:
“When do you know the time is right to say goodbye to your dogs?”
and her reply was:
“When they don't enjoy their food or their walks any more”
... and I've always stuck with that advice with my own dogs.
Dog owners often feel like they have little control over their pet's fate during this time, which some owners find difficult. But we can focus on the parts we can control. For example, you can ask your vet to come to your home, so that your pet may be more comfortable. I've done this with my last two dogs and I can't tell you how much it helped my partner and I, but it's obviously a matter of preference.
You can also think about where your pet's resting place will be, and if they'll be buried or cremated after they've passed on. There are a number of pet crematoriums where you can request your pet be cremated alone and have the ashes returned to you. Some people choose to scatter the ashes at a place of significance, some keep them in an urn or box at home and some plant a tree, rose bush etc. in the garden and scatter the ashes there. You can also have items of jewellery made with some of your loved one's ashes.
We opted for a same day cremation and whilst waiting for Nell's ashes to be returned to us we walked around the tranquil setting of the crematorium garden of remembrance reading the headstones and tributes from pet owners. This would be another option for your loved ones final resting place. I do believe it's worth giving the subject some thought now with a clear head because, when the dreadful time comes, everything may well be a blur.
It is recognised that grieving a pet can be similar to mourning the loss of a family member and some owners experience feelings of deep loneliness and isolation. Some people may not understand the intense feelings of sadness you may feel after losing a pet, but thankfully there are people out there who do understand. Recognising this, I'm pleased to say that The Blue Cross offer a pet bereavement service which provides free, confidential support to anyone affected by the loss of a pet, and Cats Protection have a confidential phone line called Paws to Listen, a service for any cat owner suffering grief or bereavement of a beloved pet.
This is my last blog before Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday and for the first time I won't be in the country to pay my respect to my friends and all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for us all. I've always made a point of taking at least one of my dogs to Worthing's War Memorial service on Armistice Day and to the Remembrance Sunday Service, so it'll be strange attending a service abroad without them.
Some of you may have seen or even wear a purple poppy, but for those of you who haven't and wonder what it symbolises, they were first introduced in 2006 by the charity Animal Aid to commemorate the animal victims of war. Their aim was to make it clear that animals used in warfare are indeed victims, not heroes. They did not give their lives, their lives were taken from them because obviously animals cannot volunteer and have no choice in becoming involved in war when they serve alongside human military personnel.
I'm sure you've all seen military dogs working as guard dogs, sniffer dogs etc. and during the war they were used to take the wounded from the battlefield, to deliver messages and move arms and food to the front line. But at least one country used them as suicide bombers, strapping explosives to them and training them to run towards enemy tanks where the explosives would be detonated by soldiers a safe distance away. Another method was for them to lay on railway tracks and the explosives were detonated when an enemy train was approaching.
It's impossible to say how many animals have been killed directly or indirectly as the result of war but it is estimated that nearly 750,000 domesticated animals, mostly cats and dogs, were euthanized in Britain over the course of one week at the start of the 2nd World War. This came about because in the summer of 1939, just before the outbreak of war, the National Air Raid Precautions Animals Committee (NARPAC) drafted a notice: Advice to Animal Owners.
The pamphlet said:
“If at all possible, send or take your household animals into the country in advance of an emergency.”
“If you cannot place them in the care of neighbours, it really is kindest to have them destroyed.”
The advice was printed in almost every newspaper and announced on the BBC. The pamphlet set off a wave of panic. As there were no rations provided for pets, it was thought euthanasia was a humane decision rather than watching a beloved animal die slowly from starvation or disease. As the war progressed across Europe, this same trend went with it. Personally I couldn't see a British government issuing that advice now and I certainly couldn't see many, if any of us, following it; that's for sure.
On a more positive note, in recent conflicts dogs and British forces have come together and helped each other through the horrors they both faced. If you want to read an inspirational tale of compassion and dedication and find out how one man's encounter with a stray dog changed both of their lives forever and how it led to the charity Nowzad being formed, I can recommend Pen Farthing's books 'One Dog at a Time' and 'No Place like Home'. But a word of warning, you may well need a box of tissues on standby!!
Photo: Russ with two of his dogs next to the War Memorial outside Worthing Town Hall
Sadly it’s that time of the year when we have to talk about the F word. Call me a party pooper if you want but for those of you with a companion animal who has a fear of fireworks, it can be really upsetting to see a much-loved dog trembling under a table or behind the sofa while fireworks are going off.
It wouldn’t be so bad if it was just the one night, or maybe the 5th and the nearest weekend, but it’s totally unpredictable when they will be let off in your neighbourhood or mine.
So, to help you look after your companion, I’ve made a list of some dos and don'ts. However it’s important to remember that not everything will work for every dog and it may be that you need to consult your veterinary surgeon or a animal behaviourist who is registered with the Animal Behaviour Training Council (ABTC) or the Association of Pet Dog trainers (APDT).
I say this because the pet training and pet behaviourist industry is unregulated - you or I could watch a couple of episodes of The dog Whisperer and start our own company and advertise our services and there’s nothing to stop us.
Before the fireworks begin:
Walk your dog before dark. Make sure your dog is well exercised and has had a toilet break before the fireworks are likely to begin.
Feed your dog before the fireworks begin. This is because they may become unsettled and not want to eat during the fireworks.
Make sure your house and garden are secure during the fireworks as fear may make your dog try to escape. Over the years I’ve known many dogs escape their garden and once outside they are exposed to many possible dangers.
Try to settle your dog before the fireworks start. If your dog is in familiar safe surroundings it will help them to cope with the noise.
Provide a safe hiding place. At noisy times around Bonfire Night, make sure your dog has somewhere safe in his or her favourite room, perhaps under the table. Close the curtains, turn the lights on, and turn up the volume on your TV or radio to drown out the firework noises. Some dogs feel secure in a den. You can create one by covering the top and three sides of a crate, table or cupboard near the centre of your house, or in a place they have previously hidden. Make it comfortable for them and add a jumper or a t-shirt of yours that will smell familiar to them. But leave the entrance open so they can come and go as they like. They won’t want to feel trapped.
Photo: A colourful fireworks display
During the fireworks:
Don’t punish your dog for cowering or reacting to the fireworks, as this will intensify their fear. You should aim to remain relaxed and therefore provide a good role model to your dog when they are afraid. However, if your dog comes to you for comfort, don’t ignore them and interact with them calmly.
Don’t leave your dog alone in the house during the fireworks period. They may panic and this could result in an injury.
Keep your dog busy indoors. Play games or enjoy some reward-based training to keep their mind off the noises. However if they just want to hide away then don’t force them to come out of their hiding place - allow them to stay where they feels safe.
There are products ranging from collars, thunder coats, plugins and medications to name just a few, which can be purchased from your local vet. However, always seek their advice as a particular remedy may not suit your dog.
So there you have it - some tips to help you look after your dog around fireworks season.
And now, to end with some good news, Scruffy, the star of last week's blog, has gone to Dogs Trust Shoreham and I’m confident that he’ll be snapped up once he’s ready for adoption. Our thanks go to the manager and staff there for placing him in their wonderful care.
Photo: Flora is Russ' 15 year old cross-breed. She used to hate the fireworks, but Russ says that she is so deaf now that they don't bother her anymore!
Hi Again. This last week has seen us looking after a really cute little fella, it all started last Wednesday when a good Samaritan was driving home from work and for some reason took a different route to normal which found him driving along a country road to the west of Worthing where our council boundary joins that of our neighbours Arun District Council.
The man noticed the dog running along the side of the road with a trailing lead and stopped his car and managed to catch the dog and put him into his car. He then drove him to a local vets where a thorough check showed that the dog, who I have named Scruffy after my first ever rescue dog, wasn't micro chipped.
I was alerted by the vets and arrived to be told that Scruffy was really nervous and despite the offer of freshly cooked chicken, Scruffy decided he was staying put in his kennel and no amount of tempting and making funny noises was going to change his mind. Thankfully after a short while a lovely veterinary nurse won him over and he let her carry him to my van. Once inside with his pieces of chicken still uneaten we made the journey to our kennels having first put them on notice to make a kennel up for our new VID (very important dog!).
Most of the time getting dogs in and out of the van is easy but sometimes it's anything but, and different tricks work for different dogs. Luckily Scruffy was only to keen to get out of the van and, as is my custom, we walked the last half mile or so to our kennels. While doing so we passed no fewer than four different species of animal and he was so frightened of all of them. Thankfully we reached the kennels and the owner was waiting ready to care for him.
Needless to say I had a worried evening thinking about how he was coping being away from wherever he knew as home. Some dogs take it in their stride, but if you think about it, for Scruffy or any stray for that matter, becoming lost or being dumped, getting picked up by a stranger and taken to their home or a vets must be more than a bit anxiety-inducing. Then a dog warden picks them up, puts them in a van, drives them somewhere else where they're put into a kennel and then more strangers handle them until either they're claimed by their owners or get a place in yet another kennels where they stay until they're rehomed. That's why it's so important to have a name tag on your dog's collar; it cuts out six links of that chain and hours of stress for the dog.
I wasn't surprised when by the end of the following day Scruffy hadn't been claimed, but thankfully he had settled down in his new environment and has become more relaxed every day since. I've already secured him a place in rescue where he'll go if he's not claimed 7 days after he came to us. There's no doubt he's going to make a lovely companion for some lucky person or family.
Photo: 'Scuffy' the dog
Well thankfully it’s continued to be quiet on the stray dog front, with only one stray coming into our care all week. Sadly for him he had to go into our kennels as his microchip details were hopelessly out of date and he wasn’t wearing a tag. Both of which are of course a legal requirement and either of which would have got him reunited with his owners in minutes rather than 24 hours and would have also saved his owners £55!
In the past I’ve liaised with housing officers from various social housing providers when there’s been complaints of dogs barking or other forms of nuisance.
Occasionally housing officers want me to carry out joint visits with them to offer advice to the owners, sometimes to see if the dogs are being well cared for and sometimes just to ‘go in first’ if the officer isn’t comfortable around dogs.
But on this occasion it was something quite different. I received a call from an officer I hadn’t met before, she reported that a tenant had abandoned a small dog in the property and appeared to be in a poor condition. Luckily I was only about 10 minutes away, but whilst on route the worst case scenario was playing through my mind. Just how ill would the dog be? How long had they been left? Did they have access to food and water etc.
My worst fears were soon put to rest, as I was met by a friendly but bewildered little dog who was certainly underweight but otherwise appeared unaffected by the experience.
It was unclear just how long he’d been left alone, but signs showed it wouldn’t have been more than a day. A quick examination also showed that all was not well in the environment the dog had been living in.
A local veterinary surgery agreed to see him straight away and gave him a clean bill of health, except for problems which are all to common with Brachycephalic breeds and sadly are considered ‘normal’ because they are so common.
Photo: Below is Nelly, one of Russ' dogs, who has a standard shape head known as a Mesocephalic
Personally I find the inability of a dog to breath and exercise properly is anything but normal!
Due to the breed and circumstances I arranged a foster placement and more good news followed a few days later when I got a call from the housing officer saying that the owner wanted to meet me. We had a long conversation and it turned out that the owner was in a dark place, not entirely of their own making, and realised that they could no longer meet the dog’s needs; and credit where credit’s due, signed him over to me without hesitation.
I’m pleased to say that Dogs Trust offered the little one a place and are going to pay for an operation to make his ability to breathe far easier than it is at the moment.
The respiratory disease that affects a lot of “flat faced” breeds, is known as Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) and causes untold misery to the dogs that suffer from it.
Photo: On the left is Doug the Pug and on the right is Claude who is a French Bulldog, both examples of "flat faced" breeds
The surgery to correct this could be something as simple as cutting a small wedge from each nostril to make them wider and or to remove some of his soft palate which could also be causing some of his breathing difficulties - this costs around £1,000.
It’s always nice to feature a success story in these blogs!
Until next time...
Hello again. It's been quite a busy week, with a mixture of some good and sad events. It often frustrates me when writing my blog that I have to sometimes leave out the most interesting parts of my week because of sub judice, or, in some cases, because of the risk that the dog owner could be identified. As we all know, the results of this on social media could be unpleasant, and even adversely affect any future prosecution.
Hopefully though, before too long I'll be able to share some good news about what the councils are doing to deal with the scourge of dog fouling in our communities.
Meanwhile, you may remember Captain, a rather large Mastiff type dog who I previously suggested should have been named Sherman. Well I'm delighted to tell you that I was able to secure him a place at Rescue Remedies, a charity with kennels near Horley. He's the third dog they've taken for us, having successfully rehomed two others.
Rescue Remedies have chosen to focus their rescue work on breeds that are notoriously difficult to re-home - which is why we've turned to them for help in placing the large breeds that are abandoned in the borough. They also take in Staffies and smaller Terrier breeds including Patterdales, who, shall we say, can sometimes be challenging!
My visit to Rescue Remedies was the first for quite some time, and its set up mirrors others up and down the country, where a small group of committed people (and sometimes individuals) make it their mission to rescue and help as many dogs and other animals as they can. Many of these rescue centres rely on the generosity and kindness of their supporters to keep their charity going and the animals alive.
Another organisation doing great work is New Hope Animal Rescue, an independent non-district rescue charity dedicated to helping animals on death row and those with medical and or behavioural needs. It was set up by Niall Lester, a Dog Warden in Kent, and his wife. They also take in other companion animals besides dogs, and sometimes farm animals too.
I had the pleasure of meeting Niall at a recent seminar, and learned that they had just moved to a property with lots of land, to enable them to rescue more animals and keep those who couldn't be rehomed for whatever reason. At about the same time I entered an ultra walking event, the Chiltern 50k, and so I decided to use this as an opportunity to raise funds for New Hope. The walk took place last Saturday from Henley on Thames and covered 31 miles of traditional (but, sadly for me, hilly!), beautiful English countryside and villages, ending at Princess Risborough. I was delighted to raise a total of £1,226!
Hopefully I don't get too many calls to Cissbury or Highdown for a couple of days because, after walking 50km, my feet are now on a go slow!!
Photos: Russ during, and at the end of, the Chiltern 50k ultra walking event
In the last couple of weeks I've had more contact than usual with the many Animal Charities that exist to help our companion animals, and as usual they stepped up to the plate.
I'd been talking to one of the trustees at Sussex Pet Rescue who mentioned that they hadn't had many requests for help rehoming dogs recently, and that they had fosterers waiting to help. (That must have been a first!!).
Out of the blue, I received a call from a pensioner who wanted my advice on how to rehome her dog as she was struggling with certain issues. Obviously this isn't part of the role of Dog warden, we care for stray and abandoned dogs, but of course every dog that has been abandoned is unwanted by their owner. By helping them rehome their dog we are preventing them being abandoned in the first place.
I went to assess the dog, an elderly Terrier to see if she had any behaviour or health issues. I did this not because the charity wouldn't necessarily take her if she had issues, but because it's only fair for the charity to be aware of any issues so they can best match the dog with the fosterer.
It turned out that the dog was in good health, but upsettingly a little nervous with men. Strange how you rarely hear of a dog being nervous of women, I can't think why!
A couple of emails and phone calls later and it was all arranged for the dog to go to a Sussex Pet Rescue foster home, and I've been told since that she's settled in really well there.
Sunday night, like most, I'd just sat down to watch the final episode of The Bodyguard; when suddenly my phone rang.
The call was from a man I'd given my number to a few months ago when I had a dog rescue charity stall at Worthing Pride. He had explained that he was having a few problems and may need to rehome his dog in the future.
He phoned saying that his dog was bleeding heavily from her Vulva and that he had no means of getting her to a vet. After establishing she wasn't in season; my partner, who's veterinary knowledge exceeds mine tenfold, feared she may have Pyometra. This can be fatal and is an infection of the uterus that occurs in unspayed dogs and cats.
His dog was registered with the PDSA in Brighton who are open 24/7 for emergencies, so I rang them explaining the dog's symptoms and they asked that the dog be brought over immediately.
When we arrived the vet nurse and vet were ready and waiting. They carried out some tests which confirmed Pyometra and admitted the dog for surgery.
The charity, which was founded by the animal welfare pioneer Maria Dicken, who during World War One worked to improve the dreadful state of animal health in the Whitechapel area of London. She wanted to open a clinic where Eastenders living in poverty could receive free treatment for their sick and injured animals. Despite widespread scepticism, she opened her free 'dispensary' in a Whitechapel basement on Saturday 17th November 1917. It was an immediate success, and she was soon forced to find larger premises.
It's refreshing that the charity formed to provide care for sick and injured animals of the poor is still going strong over 100 years later. Saving lives and ensuring that owners who might otherwise be unable to have or keep a companion animal can do so.
I hope you enjoyed this week's blog, see you in the next one!
One of the good and sometimes bad things about my job is, you never know what the day has in store for you. Or, as my dad used to say, “what's round the corner”.
So last Monday as I set about writing my blog I had no idea of the highs and lows that laid in wait for me.
It started the day before. I was on call on the Sunday and got a call to pick up an elderly Lurcher stray from Grove Lodge that had been found late Saturday evening. He had lots of large fatty lumps, and was chipped to an address almost one hundred miles away. So when he hadn't been claimed by Monday morning I felt sure would not see his owners again so I set about phoning around rescues to place him.
I then received a call from a vets to say that an stray elderly Staffie had been brought in and that he wasn't microchipped. He was wearing an ID tag but only had 10 digits in the phone number so that was of no use!!
I hadn't even got to the kennels when another veterinary practice phoned to say they had admitted an elderly sheep dog that had been found collapsed at a major roundabout in the area and brought in by a kind member of the public. This dog also wasn't microchipped.
I got to the vets to be told just how poorly the dog was and, that if the owner wasn't traced soon, then a difficult decision would have to be made. There are laws that allow us to make those difficult decisions in the absence of an owner but obviously we would want to locate them to obtain their consent and allow them to be present as their companion makes the journey to The Rainbow Bridge.
The morning only got worse when a call came in from my office to say that someone had reported finding a dog in an East Worthing park. On arrival I was met by a large Mastiff type dog who was built like a tank and just as strong. He was however very friendly and jumped into my van with no hesitation which was just as well or I'd still be walking him to our kennels!!!
After lunch, or what would have been if I'd got any, I learned that the Staffie and Sheepdog were owned by the same family and they'd escaped from their house.
To my surprise I then received a call from the owner of Saturday's Lurcher wishing to claim him. So, when I returned to the kennels, it was to reunite two elderly dogs with their owners.
Sadly the Mastiff who I named Captain (although in hindsight it should have been Sherman or Chieftain) is still with us.
Worse news was to follow when I heard from the vets that sadly there was nothing that could be done for the sheep dog so his suffering is now over.
Most weeks aren't that busy or upsetting; let alone all that in one day! As my dad used to say “you never know what's round the corner”!!
Photo: The Mastiff, who I named Captain, who is still with us
It's now the time of the year when every Local Authority in the United Kingdom is contacted by Dogs Trust and invited to take part in their stray dog survey.
They compile the annual survey for a number of reasons which include being able to target their resources to the parts of the country where they are most needed and to build a picture of any regional trends.
The survey is divided into the TV regions of the UK and we in Adur and Worthing are in the Meridian region.
The survey asks many questions including:
- the estimated number of strays dogs each council dealt with during the previous year
- how many were microchipped
- how many were returned to their owners
- how many were passed to welfare organisations
- how many were rehomed by local authorities themselves, and
- how many were put to sleep
I remember years ago long before I was your Dog Warden, looking at each years statistics and comparing them with the previous years, feeling happy that year on year the number of dogs being put to sleep was falling but sad that they were so high.
In those days the number of stray dogs each year was well over 100,000 per year and over 10,000 were put to sleep.
Slowly year on year that number has thankfully reduced and last year just over 66,000 dogs were collected by Local Authorities and 2,231 were put to sleep.
That of course is 2,231 too many but it's heading in the right direction. It's worth remembering a number of those would have been put to sleep because they were in poor health which would have been why they were abandoned in the first place.
That may surprise some of you, how could they abandon the dog that has shown them love and loyalty for all of it's life you ask? Well, it happens and all to often.
I can recall off the top of my head at least five dogs in the last five or so years that had to be put to sleep to prevent further suffering.
So instead of the dog's owner being there to comfort their dog as they make their journey out of this world and into the next, it's me who's holding and stroking them and telling them that everything's going to be alright when I know darn well it isn't.
Then I go home to my dogs with the image fixed in my brain, knowing that one day, hopefully a long way off I'll be doing the same for them because I'm not a coward and I'll do the right thing for them.
Thankfully a lot of the dogs (most of whom are elderly) which are abandoned and in need of expensive veterinary care but not terminal are taken in by Shoreham Dogs Trust. They take the vets bills on and successfully re-home them.
This includes Humphrey (or Bert, as he is known) who was found wandering at Highdown (photo below). He had a chronic serious untreated ear infection and extremely bad skin infection. Dogs Trust Shoreham took him on and treated him and he was successfully re-homed.
I'd like to kick off with some good news: the lovely Staffie I told you about last week has been given a rescue place with the RSPCA! He will be based at their Mount Noddy centre in Westergate near Chichester. We are very grateful to the staff there for taking him into their care.
You may remember that after the Staffie was handed in, we traced a previous owner who was more than happy to have him back as their circumstances had changed for the better. Sadly he didn't get on with the family's cat, but at least we were able to ascertain that he had lived with young children. This will make him easier to rehome as so many families with young children want to adopt a rescue dog.
This brings me on to a very emotive subject. Over the years I've often heard people criticise some rehoming centres. I've heard comments like: “They don't rehome to families with young children”,“they don't agree with dogs living with young children”, or “they wouldn't give us a dog because our grandchildren visit us”, and so on. Some of the people I hear this from are the people that haven't been able to adopt a dog from a charity themselves, but others have only heard this through someone' else's experience. Unfortunately sometimes this can result in hearsay, gossip or misinterpretation.
Let me give an example. A man goes into a men's outfitters for a suit. He says he doesn't mind what colour or style the suit is as long as it fits him. He finds the shop assistant and asks “Have you got a suit in my size please?”, to which the assistant replies: “I'm really sorry but we don't have your size in stock and I can't say when we will get any in.”
The man becomes very annoyed and wastes no time in telling everyone that wants to listen (and even some that don't) that the outfitters wouldn't sell him a suit. Actually, the truth was that the outfitters didn't have a suit that was appropriate for him.
Rehoming centres are the same. They can only rehome the dogs they have in their care, and of course they have no idea what type of dog is going to be signed over or dumped next. Surely if the charity can't be sure that the dog is suitable to be rehomed with children, it's better to be safe than sorry, rather than risk death, serious injury or permanent scarring.
Imagine the outcry if, heaven forbid, a child was seriously hurt by a dog adopted from a charity. That charity would lose the trust of the public and greatly damage their reputation. They could be sued and see funds and donations from the public plummet. Charities simply have to err on the side of caution and they really do have both the family's and the dog's best interests at heart.
I'm pleased to say that the weather at last week's dog show at Victoria Park was kinder than it was the weekend before. It was lovely to see such a community spirit and so many dogs and families enjoying themselves. In one class I said to the owner of a lovely brindle Staffie-type dog “Where did you get him from?” to which she replied “You, he's called Mutley - you gave him to me”. Mutley was the first dog I fostered since becoming your Dog Warden just over ten years ago. It brought back so many memories and it was so good seeing Mutley again and knowing he's still much loved. It makes my job so rewarding.
Photo: Nell, a Staffie X Springer Spaniel that belongs to Russ
Early last week a dog was ‘found’ by a young man in Sompting. My colleague Mike Barnard the Adur dog warden attended and scanned the dog, a lovely grey and white coloured Staffie. The microchip led him to make enquiries on the other side of Adur at Southwick.
The registered owner explained that they had re-homed the dog some five years ago to a local family who had recently left the area in search of a new life further north. I guess Sompting is north of Southwick – well, north-west anyway! They had presumed that the family had taken the dog with them, but sadly not.
The registered owner went on to explain that, their circumstances now having changed, they would love to have the dog back. I collected him from the kennels and went to their address to do the home check. The circumstances were quite unusual in many ways – I don’t know about other rescues but I wouldn’t normally consider re-homing a dog with a previous owner, as I can’t imagine many would want a pet back after five years!
You may wonder why I did a home check as they had previously owned the dog, but of course the dog is legally ours and we have to be satisfied that the animal is going to a suitable home with a secure garden. Plus, if there are children living in or visiting the address, we need to know if the dog is good with children – and, of course, if the children are comfortable with the dog too.
In this case, there was also a family cat in residence, so this time I actually took the dog with me on the home check (something I would never normally do). Sadly this proved to be the sticking point. The dog absolutely could not live with a cat – he made that quite clear. So today we’ll be ringing around the local rescues to see if they’ve got kennel space for a child-friendly Staffie.
Photo: A family cat enjoying some alone time
You may remember that at the beginning of July the heat wave put paid to the fifth annual Findon Valley Fun Dog Show. This was the first of at least three shows in the area that had to be postponed on animal welfare grounds. Last Sunday, however, the show finally took place. The committee had spent months of hard work organising the event and it promised to be the biggest and best yet with a BBQ, alcohol licence and bouncy castle installed… so you can imagine the disappointment when the weather forecast proved correct and it started raining cats and dogs!
Thankfully, despite the torrential rain, people attended the show in good numbers. Much-needed funds were raised for local charities Paws Animal Sanctuary and Sussex Pet Rescue, thanks to the generosity of the attendees.
This Saturday sees the second Victoria Park Dog Show and Summer Fair, which aims to raise funds for Caring for the Animals Trust (CARAT). Fingers crossed the weather will be kinder to us this time around and that both the attendees and our furry friends have a great day out.
So after my trip to the Peak District there was no chance of a quite week to ease me back into work.
August is traditionally one of the busiest months for us. The school holidays, good weather leads to kids in and out of their houses while doors are left open - all adds up to a recipe for dogs to be straying away from their home.
So far in August there have been 16 stray dogs that have come into our care - that's nearly one a day. I'm sure that's the tip of the iceberg as many more will have been reunited thanks to having a tag with the owner's contact details on or by a microchip (both of which are, of course, legal requirements). Of the 16, the owners of six couldn't be traced straight away, so they spent time in our kennels before being reunited with their owners.
The reason the owners couldn't be contacted were quite varied - not being chipped, chipped to previous owners etc. Sadly one dog came into us twice this month. In the ten years I've been your dog warden, no dog has been in our care as many times and no dog has been with us twice inside 24 hours.
It's really disappointing when you feel you've made a breakthrough with the owner only to get a call 23 hours later to a stray dog in a certain park and, by the description given, you know exactly which dog you're going to find. The inevitable is merely confirmed when you get there, call the dog's name and he's so happy to see you he runs over tail wagging.
As I put the lead on him, the finder told me how he had followed the dog for a while. He witnessed him walk through an open front door of a house into the hallway and back out again, across a busy main road (stopping traffic in his wake) and into the park. The finder spent an hour following the dog, phoning the RSPCA, Sussex Police and then a local vets asking for help as he didn't think the council had a dog warden service at the weekend (most don't). Luckily when the vets rang me I wasn't far away and I was able to get to him with 20 minutes.
What made it worse was when I spoke to the dog's owner they told me the dog had been gone five minutes. When I questioned that they said “maybe 10”. I then explained how I had been with the dog for an hour and what the finder had witnessed for an hour before that - still they were adamant he had only just got out.
I know exactly what some if not most of you are thinking and what you'll post on this blog. Rest assured if there's anything within the law I could do to rectify this situation I would do it. Until then, if the owner pays our release fee, the dog is their property and we must return him.
On a separate note, there can be a happy ending sometimes to dogs found on the streets. Say hello to Flora, my 14 year old dog who was dumped outside Dogs Trust Newcastle with her brothers and sisters. As you can see, she's a very happy girl!
Photo: Flora, one of Russ' dogs
I can't say that last week was a busy week for me. It was time to take some holiday and I was lucky enough to spend it close to the Peak District in Derbyshire. It's not an area I've spent much time in previously and, as two of my dogs are elderly, before going I had researched walks that were on the flat. I wasn't sure how much choice there would be, but I needn't have worried. The area has beautiful canal walks and, thanks to Dr Beeching, also its fair share of disused railway lines which make for lovely peaceful flat walks.
Photo: Russ on holiday in the Peak District with his dogs
It was while walking one of these routes that I got a text which read:
“Hello, just a query, if you don't mind answering please? Where do strays go to if picked up in either Worthing or Littlehampton areas, and does their 7 day period ever get extended? Are the pounds non-kill? Much appreciated and thank you.”
We often get these questions, usually in a Freedom of Information request (FOI) and to tell you the truth I get quite defensive and frustrated that people would even think that 1) our council would kill a dog after the 7 days and 2) that I would be a part of it.
So, as I was walking on a safe flat path a long way from the nearest road, I decided rather than wait until I was back at work, I would ring the person there and then.
It turned out that we had a mutual acquaintance and she had seen my name on a couple of vegan Facebook sites so knew that we were on the same page in relation to animal welfare. We had a lengthy conversation about what the law says about stray dogs and how different councils vary in their approach and care for the dogs they come into contact with and more importantly how well they care for the dogs if they're not claimed.
Every council in England & Wales has a legal responsibility to care for stray dogs. Their duties and powers are set out in The Environmental Protection Act 1990 and allow local authorities to seize stray dogs and recover their costs before the dog is returned to the owner. It also allows the council to dispose of the dog after seven days if the dog is not claimed:
a) by selling it or giving it to a person who will, in his opinion, care properly for the dog;
b) by selling it or giving it to an establishment for the reception of stray dogs; or
c) by destroying it in a manner to cause as little pain as possible;
It is of course option c) that quite rightly worries people and why they sometimes submit FOI requests to us. It's no secret that sadly some local authorities up and down the country see fit to kill dogs that they can't rehome if they're not claimed after 7 days. Only the councils involved know how hard they try to rehome each dog, and how much money plays a part in the decision.
But many of you will remember Stanley the white large Staffy type we had in our care over 2 years ago. He must have been with us for at least 5 months before we were able to find him a place in rescue (Sussex Pet Rescue) who had a foster home for him and eventually found him a lovely forever home.
There's no denying that many councils would have killed Stanley because of the cost of keeping him in kennels, but to be clear, Adur & Worthing isn't one of them. As I said to the lady who text me:
“I care about animals, so stopped eating them over 30 years ago, so why would I be part of an organisation killing them now?”
There was a running theme to three calls that a got this week.
The subject is an all too common problem these days and affects humans as well as companion animals. It's easy to prevent if you have just one thing - willpower. The problem is of course obesity.
When I went to the owner's house I could see that the dog was struggling to breath and that was without exercise. The owner agreed for me to take the dog to a local vet to be weighed and it turned out that the dog was almost 50% over the ideal weight for the breed in question.
There are many implications for overweight dogs. As well as general loss of quality of life, arthritis, ligament strain, slipped discs, heart and respiratory diseases can all be caused by being overweight. Skin disease is also an issue because obese dogs may develop skin folds that restrict airflow and resulting in them becoming moist and prone to infection. Blood flow to the skin may also be reduced due to cardiac or respiratory deficiency while liver insufficiency, diabetes and certain types of cancer can also come about from obesity.
The PDSA report that the causes of pet obesity are fairly straightforward: too much food and too little exercise.
With feeding there are two problems: overfeeding and a good quality diet.
It's fair to say that many owners don't follow feeding guidelines - they guess what's the right amount or they feed on demand, when they think their pet is hungry. Also people feed their pets treats throughout the day, whether that's designated treats or human food such as takeaways, cheese, chips, crisps and meal time leftovers.
Pets really do struggle to burn off those extra calories. When it comes to exercise, the PDSA report estimates that across the country, six million dogs go for a daily walk shorter than an hour long, and a quarter of a million dogs don't get walked at all.
Many of the vets in Worthing run weight clinics free of charge where the dogs are weighed and the owners receive the advice and encouragement needed to return their dogs to a happy healthy weight again.
If you think your dog is overweight please take them to your local vet and then ask what your dog's ideal weight should be. You'll be doing your companion and yourself a massive favour and extending the precious time you have together.
Thankfully it's been a really quiet week on the stray dog front, but there was an important lesson for a few owners on the importance of micro-chipping.
I was called to incidents where two dogs were allowed to breach the security of their homes or gardens. Sadly because their microchips were in the names of previous owners, both dogs had to spend time in the kennels before being reunited with their owners. They were left poorer financially but richer educationally for the experience.
But what it did do was highlight (once again) why owners should keep their microchip details up-to-date.
If you have moved house or changed contact phone numbers since you got your dog(s) or if your dog was already chipped before you got them, please check that the microchip contact details are correct.
You can do it online or by phoning the company that your dog is registered to. It takes no more than a few minutes - after picking up our rescue greyhound Sally last month (photo below), I did it the very next morning. 15 minutes gives you peace of mind and could save you kennel fees should your dog go missing.
So what else has been going on this week?
Well, before the weather took a turn for the worse (or better depending on your preference) I got a call from one of the town's professional dog walkers. While in the fields between Findon Valley and Cissbury Ring, they came across a collapsed brachycephalic (short nose and flat faced) breed dog with no owner in sight. The lady rang me and set about getting the dog into shade and applying water to cool the poor dog down.
Luckily I was close by and arrived to take the dog to a vet when the owner appeared. It turns out that the dog ran off on the scent of something, got lost and was gone for over ninety minutes in the extreme heat of last week that seems all but a distant memory now.
I took the dog and owner to a nearby vet, having phoned them first to put them on standby, and they were brilliant from the moment we walked through the door.
The dog was kept in overnight for observation and rehydration. Thankfully the dog made a full recovery.
I would urge every dog owner to put, not only their own vets phone number into their phone but that of the local emergency vets.
Not every Worthing vet is open 24/7 and not every vet has a vet on site all day and vital minutes could be saved by ringing ahead.
Also this week I received a report that two dogs had been left alone in a house for four days whilst the owners had gone on holiday.
After talking to neighbours it turned out that someone was going in twice a day to feed the dogs, let them out and interact with them. But the dogs were alone all night and barking which alerted the neighbours to their plight.
In total the dogs were going to be left alone for 10 days, which although legal (because someone was coming in to provide food water and generally look out for them), it's far from ideal. In my mind, it is not morally right to expect any dog to spend so long with minimal human interaction.
Luckily for the dogs, and the neighbours who were being kept awake, the carer agreed to take the dogs to her house so they wouldn't be alone all night, and significantly less during the day.
Until next time ...
So it's been another busy week for Mike and I in the Councils' dog warden team.
In the last week we've had seven stray dogs in our care, three of which were found on the same day.
All three were lovely dogs, with a lovely temperament and luckily all three were found by caring loving people who looked after them until I collected them. But what if they've been run over first, or taken by someone not so caring?
The dog lost website is full of dogs that haven't been found and I can't imagine how hard it must be for their owners not knowing if they're dead or alive or if they're in kind hands or otherwise.
All but one of the dogs has been reunited with their owner, the seventh was found by a police patrol in the early hours of Saturday morning walking around Worthing town centre and 'taken into custody'!
The dog is the same one I told you about last week having come into our care after the owner disappeared after asking a lady to hold him whilst he answered a call of nature. So yet again the dog is in a kennel while we desperately try make contact with the owner.
Away from work I have found a new dog too.
About four weeks ago my partner Vicky saw a photo of a 12 year old black (closer to grey) greyhound named Sally who was in the care of Norfolk Greyhound Rescue after her owner sadly passed away.
We agreed a long time ago that our next dog would be a greyhound simply because they are the most exploited breed in the country with more than 1,000 who died in the last year.
Greyhound are normally retired at between three and five years of age but can live up to 14 years. This means every year more and more greyhounds are looking for a place in rescue and a loving home because they are of no further use to their racing owner.
With so many young and middle aged ones to choose from (not forgetting that most dog and cat charities will tell you that black animals are hardest to re-home) we knew that Sally could be waiting a long long time to be adopted.
So last Monday, my partner and I drove our dogs up to Norwich to introduce them to her. They all got on fine and I can honestly say she's been as good as gold and has settled in with us and our other six dogs really well.
It feels like she's been with us for ages.
Photo: Russ with his 7 dogs, with Sally the greyhound on the far right
You may remember that last week I mentioned that Harricane (photo right) was being assessed to see if we could get him into a local rescue centre. Well I'm pleased to say that he passed with flying colours, in fact he played a blinder, was really alert and on the ball, which is more than I can say for a certain person with the same name!!!
Moving on, I also mentioned that by mid-morning last Monday we had collected two strays and that one was about to go home. I posted a photo of the second dog as everything pointed to the fact that he wasn't going to be claimed. We normally know at the point of picking up the stray, or if not very soon after, if they're going to be claimed or not, but in this case both Mike and I got it wrong.
As you all know, we can't go into to much detail and certainly can't give out information that would help identify the finder or the owner of a stray dog but in this case neither are local to the area and when you hear the story I think you'll understand why we thought the handsome boy wasn't going to be claimed!!
So on Monday morning a lady reported that she had been in Worthing town centre late on the previous Saturday evening when she was approached by a male who was worse for wear or as the local constabulary would say, “under the influence” he asked the lady if she would hold his dog whilst he went to the toilet, she kindly agreed, and that was the last she saw of him!!
She took the dog home and kept him until Monday morning, not knowing that unlike many councils up and down the country we at Adur & Worthing operate a stray dog service at the weekend. First thing Monday morning she made contact and handed the dog into our care.
Out of the blue late Tuesday afternoon I received a phone call from a friend of the dog's owner asking if we had any knowledge of the dog. When asked why he waited so long to contact us the friend explained that because the owner wasn't from this country he didn't know who to turn to to report his dog missing. So thankfully dog and owner were reunited and hopefully the next time he ventures into town of an evening he leaves his dog indoors!!
On Saturday my partner and I had a charity stall at Worthing Pride to raise funds for Doris Banham dog rescue. They rescue dogs on death row from council pounds up and down the country. There was going to be a dog show as well, hence the charity stalls, but very wisely the dog show was cancelled due to the heat. I'd like to say a big thank you to Jeanette Barsdell who organised the event for allowing us and CARAT (Caring for the Animals Trust) to raise funds for dogs at home and abroad. Thank you also to everyone who supported us at the event. It was a really good family fun day with a great atmosphere, and it was good to be involved in the first ever Worthing Pride event.
Lastly, I'm hoping to bring you a special blog next week all being well. I'm really excited so fingers crossed ...
Hello again. What a week!
Who would have thought that the heatwave would still be with us? And who would have thought that the England football team would still be in Russia??
In between all that excitement, it's been another busy week for the dog wardens, and social media played its part.
You may remember last week I reported that a teenager was thrown from her horse due to a Doberman that wasn't under the control of the person in charge of it. Well, despite there not being many Dobermans in Worthing, we didn't receive any calls that might have helped us identify the owner / person walking the dog.
However the blog on the same day asking for information regarding the Boxer type dog I named Harricane (after the England striker) resulted in numerous calls and emails. The result is that Harricane has now been signed over to us and I have made arrangements for a local rescue centre to asses him. I'd like to thank everyone who contacted us to help provide information relating to this.
As you can imagine our workload has increased a lot since this unusually hot spell.
Apart from the calls from the public concerned about dogs in cars and being walked in the heat, we also see a large rise in noise complaints. People want their doors and windows open as well as relaxing in their gardens. So if a nearby dog is barking they're going to hear it and possibly complain that the noise is a nuisance at which point we become involved.
We also receive an increase in reports that dogs aren't being housed in an environment suitable for such hot weather. This offence is covered by Section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act. It doesn't seem that long ago that I was talking about dogs living in outdoor kennels needing to be protected from the cold, rain, wind and snow. Now we're at the other end of the scale where I need to remind people that dogs need to be provided with a covered area to protect them from the sun.
It's not just dogs living outside that are in danger, I've had reports of dogs confined to porches or conservatories which, because they are mostly glass has the same effect as a greenhouse and despite how much water you leave your companion animal they will soon dehydrate and develop heatstroke. Pets need to be in a cool room, if need be close the blinds when you go out and put a fan on and give them access to plenty of water.
Lastly, I write my blog on a Monday morning, we collected two stray dogs first thing. One thankfully is about to go home, but the second, by the sounds of it, may be with us a while.
I'll update you all next week along with how Harricane got on at his assessment and hopefully by then “It will have come home” ... C'mon England!!!!
Photo: One of the strays we collected that is still with us
Hi again, It's been another busy week for the Dog Wardens, as nice as the weather is it brings with it a lot of problems. Hopefully you've read the post yesterday about the tragic consequences of exposing your dogs to the heat, please do spread the word to others.
I really can't understand why people would want to take their dogs out in the weather we've been experiencing lately.
On Saturday evening a lady messaged me inquiring if it was OK for her not to walk her dog for a couple of days as she wasn't able to walk them early morning or late evening. My reply was simple - no dog has ever died through not being walked but plenty have died through heatstroke.
I'm really not sure if some people believe their dogs are invincible or that they just don't think! If we're hot wearing shorts and a t-shirt how are they feeling wearing a fur coat? And as for walking them on a boiling hot pavement, if you can't touch the pavement with the back of your hand for five seconds then it's too hot for your dog to be walking on the same surface.
A lot of people including myself have put up gazebos in their gardens and brought paddling pools for their dogs to keep them cool along with having a fan on in the house - simple things to make our loved ones more comfortable in this extreme heat that they're not used to.
In other news last week I received a report from the mother of a teenage girl who on Saturday 16th June at about 4pm was riding her pony, a 13.2 hands Bay, on the Bridle Path at The Gallops in Findon Valley, Worthing.
For those of you that know the area, the council have recently installed an outdoor gym in the South East corner of the open grassed area of the site.
The pony was being walked north past the gym equipment when a Doberman dog ran over from the direction of the basketball court near the covered blue seat and commenced bouncing up at the pony's legs causing it to rear up, throwing the girl off and into a hedge.
The lady in charge of the dog, who had been walking close to the basketball court some fifty yards away, only came down to retrieve the dog after she saw what had happened. She didn't even ask if the girl was OK, if she wanted her to call her mum or an ambulance or anything, not even an apology. All she said was “I thought you had gone”. I would suggest it's hard to miss a girl sitting on top of a horse in the open in broad daylight!
It's every dog owner's responsibility to keep their dogs under control. The lady with the Doberman is described as in her 40's or 50's with grey hair. Anyone with information regarding her identity is asked to contact the dog warden service on 01273 263331.
Lastly I'd like to end on some good news. The 5th Findon Valley Dog Show takes place this Sunday on The Gallops in Findon Valley. Entries are being taken from noon and judging starts at 1pm. There will also be stalls selling goodies, raffle prizes, Tombolas, food and drinks, along with a new dog activity called "Hoopers" with a have a go ring on the day. The organisers have put so much of their time and hard work making sure that the show has got bigger and better each year. It's going to be a fun day out for all the family, not forgetting the main purpose of raising much needed funds for Sussex Pet Rescue and Paws Animal Sanctuary.
It'll be great to see you and your dogs there and do say hello, I'll be the one in the centre of the show ring!!
Photo: Dogs are visibly struggling in this summer sun
Firstly thank you to those who commented on my last two blogs regarding the Public Space Protection Orders. I will pass your comments to the relevant managers and pay attention to the areas mentioned when on my patrols.
Yesterday was my first day back to work after a two week holiday touring the Yorkshire Dales & Lake District national parks with my partner and our four dogs.
The scenery was stunning and being so high up with not another car, road or house as far as the eye could see was unbelievable. I can honestly say the longest hold we had on the road in two weeks was because two sheep stood in front of our car and refused to move.
Sadly I wasn't home very long before having to negotiate the likes of the Grove Lodge roundabout, Lyons farm and the railway crossings - the holiday is now a distant memory!!
On my return I was surprised to discover that in the 17 days I was off Mike, my fellow dog warden who covers Adur, dealt with 13 stray dogs.
In ten years I've never known that many strays in such a small period.
I'm pleased to say that all have been reunited with their owners, most without having to go into kennels. But the reality is that none of them should have been allowed to stray and certainly shouldn't have come into our care.
If they had been wearing a collar and ID tag as the law requires, the finders could have contacted the owners and reunited them with their dogs thus avoiding time and expense for the finder and council. Above all, it would have avoided the stress on the dog being handled by various strangers and taken to kennels.
Most of the dogs were with us for the first time and hopefully it will be the last. But one dog was with us for the eighth time and, as I write this he is with us yet again, having been found wandering yesterday evening.
The last time I mentioned this and another two dogs that had been in our care multiple times, the council drew criticism for not doing enough to prevent this. But I can assure you all that we are exploring every avenue to prevent these dogs from straying and potentially causing harm to themselves or others. I'm pleased to say that since that blog the other 2 frequent strays haven't been picked up since.
Thankfully I can end with some good news - Miley the Mastiff type dog who came to us a month ago, went to Rescue Remedies dog rescue in Surrey today. We are very grateful to them for offering him a rescue place.
Until next time.
Photo: Russ on holiday with his dogs next to a lake in the Yorkshire Dales & Lake District national parks
Hello and welcome back to my blog.
Last week I gave you part one on the policing of the Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs). Formerly known as Dog Control Orders and historically Byelaws, they often divide opinion in our area.
There are five PSPOs concerning dogs that authorised officers like me can enforce. Here's the second piece on my looking at the rules and why they are in place.
Permitting your dog to be in an area where the order applies
This refers to areas where dogs are not allowed at all. The most well known and, to some, controversial is Worthing beach between 'Splash Point' (which is at the end of Warwick street) and Heene Road. There is another less known beach ban between the boat ramps in Goring. Both exclusions run from 1st May until 30th September. Other areas include enclosed children's play areas, Highdown Gardens and Heene Terrace.
Taking the beach ban first, it only covers a fraction of all Worthing's beaches and only for five months out of 12.
Is it unreasonable to ask dog walkers to keep away from the beaches closest to the town, where most holidaymakers and day trippers make for?
Do they want to look out for dog faeces before sitting on the beach and then have to fend off Fido who's taken a fancy to their ice cream?
Hopefully the enclosed children's play areas are self explanatory. Parents know their children will be safe from dogs and know that there will be no faeces or urine on the ground or play equipment.
Highdown Gardens and Heene Terrace are areas where the council spend a lot of time money and effort making it nice for people to relax and enjoy. Both are just meters away from the biggest dog walking areas you could wish for - Highdown Hill and the beach respectively, so it's not unreasonable for dogs to be excluded from those areas I'd suggest.
Walking more than six dogs in an area where the order applies
Historically we used to receive complaints of people driving up to beauty spot car parks, opening the doors and several dogs jumping out and running off in all directions defecating and generally causing chaos.
I defy anyone to be able to look in all directions at once!! And so after much discussion the limit of six was introduced. Some councils have a limit of four dogs and I think our council has been more than fair when passing the legislation.
Some people believe that the limit was brought in because of the rise in the number of professional dog walkers in the area but this is not the case. We work closely with professional dog walkers to maintain standards. It's intended just to make things more harmonious for everyone. I know several people that have at least six dogs of their own - I myself live with six and I've friends who have 12!
Everyone except those you don't pick up after their dogs are in favour of this law ...
I'm sure everyone has trodden in dogs faeces, perhaps walked it into their house unknowingly.
I often get letters from ladies reporting that their children have walked in it on the way to school so have it on their shoes all day, or they've got it on their pram wheels and unknowingly brought the pram into the house. Then there's the cases of children treading in or sitting in it in the park, people standing in it when they're playing football or having a picnic - who can defend the irresponsible dog owners who can't be bothered to pick up?
Of course, these are just my opinion on why the laws are important. It's just an overview of the legislation we work to but I hope it shows that Adur and Worthing is far from anti-dog!
Full details of the PSPOs and the areas they cover can be found on our website:
Hello and welcome back to my blog.
One of the things that divides opinion is the policing of the Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs), which were formerly known as Dog Control Orders and historically Byelaws.
There are five PSPOs concerning dogs that authorised officers can enforce.
I often hear (and thanks to social media, read) people complaining about the restrictions on dogs in the town. I have even heard Worthing described as anti dog or not dog friendly.
As the owner of four dogs I can categorically state nothing can be further from the truth.
So, in the first of two blogs, here's a look at the rules and why they are in place.
Rule one - failing to put your dog on a lead when directed
This refers to areas where normally dogs are allowed to be off lead.
But in certain circumstances an authorised officer of the Council may give a direction under this Order to put and keep a dog on a lead. This is only if such restraint is reasonably necessary to prevent a nuisance or behaviour by the dog likely to cause annoyance or disturbance to any other person or the worrying or disturbance of any animal or bird.
Examples might be:
- Dogs being allowed to run onto a football or cricket pitch when there is an organised game in progress
- People having a picnic etc and a dog being allowed to run into the group
- Dogs running into a nature reserve during the breeding season, etc
I've never had to use this piece of legislation, and any responsible dog owner would see that their dog is causing a nuisance and call it back to put on a lead until clear of the area.
Rule two - failing to have your dog on a lead in an area where the order applies.
This refers to areas of land where dogs must be held on a lead at all times. Areas include the promenade from Windsor Road to George V Avenue, Palantine Park, Durrington cemetery and some parks and gardens.
The promenade is a safety issue - a dog running along with pedestrians and cyclists is a recipe for disaster. I've witnessed a rider go over his handlebars trying to avoid a dog and he broke his collarbone, the bike damaged and the dog injured.
Palatine Park is used by Worthing Town FC and was redeveloped in 2012 at a cost of some £1.6 million pounds funded by the Council with assistance to the tune of over £450,000 from the Football Foundation. There was a compromise that dogs would still be allowed on the site. Football teams regularly complaint that before training and matches they have to do a poo patrol and pick up off the pitch. Something they shouldn't have to do and if everyone behaved responsibly, something they wouldn't have to do
And as for the cemetery, I'd like to think none of us like the thought of dogs running loose around our loved ones graves - not to mention defecating or urinating over them.
The council parks staff work so hard maintaining flower beds, bowling greens etc and to see dogs being allowed to run across the greens and flower beds is so frustrating for them. I've witnessed a man using a ball chucker in Marine Gardens encouraging his dog onto the pitch and putt green; yet 50 yards away he had the whole beach at his disposal. Is this rule unreasonable? I don't think so.
Next week I'll focus on the other three rules that we have in place across the district. Until then....
Full details of the PSPOs and the areas they cover can be found on our website:
Hello and welcome back to my blog.
We deal with all sorts of questions as a Council dog warden service. One of the subjects I'm often asked about is pet insurance. So many first time pet owners have no idea how expensive veterinary treatment can be and it's only when faced with a sick or injured pet that they find out.
Each year a number of dogs are signed over to rescue centres because their owners can't afford the vets bills and there's no doubt that a number of dogs are abandoned for the same reason. A neighbour of mine rescued a dog after he was signed over to a charity having suffered a broken leg.
Some of you will also remember Humphrey (photo below) who last year was dumped up at Highdown suffering from a really bad allergic skin and ear disease. Had he been treated straight away by his owner, the cost would have been a fraction of the £2,000 plus it cost Dogs Trust and us to make him pain free and happy, not to mention Humphrey wouldn't have had months and months of suffering and the loss of one of his ears.
People often ask why don't charities help pet owners with the vets bill so that the animal can stay with their owner rather than being re-homed? After all, the charity are going to be paying the vets bill if an animal is signed over to them anyway? Well, the reasons are the system would be abused, charities up and down the country would be inundated with pet owners, not all genuine, asking for help with their vets bills. The charities would soon go out of business, preventing other animals getting the help they so badly need.
I always recommend that pet owners take out insurance. But not only that, I stress the need to research and compare the different companies and variations of cover they offer. There are so many different options and most have an upper limit on what the company will pay out per year, ie a choice of a maximum of £4,000. £7,000 or £12,000. With advances in medicine, animals are now being saved in situations where in the past they would have died - meaning the average life expectancy has extended albeit at a financial cost.
With her blessing, I often quote my partner's mother's story. Her sweet rescue teacup Chihuahua Kelsey became ill with gastroenteritis. But because of her breeding (abnormally small) the infection took hold and she eventually succumbed to Meningitis. Her insurance limit was £12,000 per year, plus she had to pay the first 10% of any claim. Despite the best efforts of a referral veterinary practice in Hampshire it became clear she would have to let Kelsey go to sleep. The total vets bill was well over £10,000 So not only did she lose her dog, she had to pay over £1,000 of the vets bill.
So had that been someone with a limit of £4,000 or £7,000 or no insurance cover at all, how far would they - or could they - have gone financially?
Could they tell their children that they had to re-home or put their pet to sleep because they couldn't pay the vets bill? More to the point could they look their pet in the eye?
My advice is get the best insurance you can afford.
Hello again. Firstly I hope you all had a great bank holiday weekend.
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the Dogs Trust open day and fun dog show was coming up. Well I'm pleased to say the event was a great success. Any outside event is so weather dependent, it would have been a disaster if the predicted thunderstorms had materialised. But the hard work from the staff and volunteers paid off, with the charity raising much-needed funds and awareness of their work.
Whilst on my way there, I was called to Beach Green, Lancing to a report of a dog being left in a car. It was 26 degrees outside so goodness knows how hot it would have been inside the car. Despite being nearby, on my arrival the car had gone. I'm saddened but not surprised that despite years of publicity, campaigns, news reports of dogs being killed in hot cars that people still do it. It's the same as leaving your dog in a hot oven. I read on social media yesterday that police in Worthing removed a dog that had been left for hours in a car. Well done to those officers and the person reporting it.
Back to the fun day though and I was pleased to say it was well supported by the public. Some of the classes in the dog show must have had almost 60 dogs in. Gazebos with plunge pools inside were provided around the field for shade and a cooling dip or drink, along with one in the show ring for dogs waiting their turn to be judged. Luckily being one of four judges, each class didn't take hours and I couldn't get all the blame if someone's dog wasn't placed in the top six. The downside of course was that not all the dogs I liked were placed because other judges had their favourites as well.
Luckily, once we had picked our top six, we all agreed on the winners of each class and most important of all the best in show which was won by a 16 year old German Shepherd type dog. The owner adopted him from Dogs Trust when he was one year old.
It's so easy to become despondent because we dog wardens so often see the worst side - owners being cruel, neglecting and abandoning their dogs. So It was so nice to see so many happy owners with their dogs, dogs that are clearly loved and well cared for.
Talking of abandonment, I'm sure many of you would have seen our post about Miley, a three-year-old Mastiff type bitch, allegedly found abandoned at Beach Green, Lancing last Tuesday. Her seven days are up today so we will be approaching reputable rescues to re-home her. Until a place can be found she'll remain safe in our care.
Until next time ... Russ
Photo: The on site vet, the Dogs Trust Veterinary Nurse and me at the bank holiday weekend Dogs Trust open day and fun dog show
Hello again after what has been another busy week, resulting in calls to five stray dogs and one fox cub.
Last Monday evening a lovely little Staffie was found wandering in the Salvington area. The finder kindly took her to a local vets. The dog wasn't wearing a name tag and her microchip details were out of date. So when she hadn't been claimed by the following morning it appeared that she had been dumped as I would suggest that, even if a dog owner didn't know that they can contact the council out of hours or check with the local 24 hour to see if their dog's been handed in, they would be on the phone to us first thing in the morning.
However it was the following day, some 40 hours after she was found, that I received a very unexpected call from her owner, explaining she had been on holiday, leaving her dog with a friend who for some unknown reason didn't report the dog lost to anyone and only told the owner of the disappearance on her return. The lady was so relieved her dog was safe, but what if she had been on holiday for longer? The charges would have been higher but much worse the dog could have been re-homed after seven days if not claimed and all because the microchip details weren't up to date.
Friday's stray dog owner was also on holiday. But because the microchip details were correct I was able to contact her straight away and immediately return her dog to the family that her looking after her!!
Saturday was my turn to be on call but the gods conspired against me to ensure I didn't get to watch a certain televised wedding ...
First a call to a Staffie cross in Findon Valley which was claimed the following day, followed by a call to Dogs Trust Shoreham where a Staffie found wandering in Goring had been handed in. No sooner had I left the centre and got the dog to our kennels then the owner phoned to claim him so back to Goring to reunite one happy dog with his owner.
Lastly yesterday (Monday 21st) yet another Staffie cross decided to go walkabout. But thanks to her microchip she was home again in no time.
Of these five dogs, two had jumped out of open windows in the house, one escaped through a cat flap, one was in the front garden one minute and gone the next and one details of escape unknown.
Oh yes, the fox cub, well that was the highlight of the week! Councillor Clive Roberts, who sits on Worthing Borough Council, contacted me early Thursday morning to report that a fox cub had fallen into the basement garden of a property in Liverpool Terrace and had no way out. I then contacted the one and only Billy Elliot, of animal rescue charity Wadars, who despite being on his day off agreed to help. So with my van, ladders and pole and his Spiderman athleticism the cub was back at ground level in no time and ran off without so much as a backward glance at his rescuers.
So all in all a successful week - five dogs back with their owners and one fox rescued, hopefully back with his mum.
Until next time ...
Photo: The little fox cub stuck in a basement garden area
Hopefully, I'm not going to tempt fate, but it's been really quiet on the stray dog front.
Just one stray last week, a really lovely Shih Tzu who was found by a member of the public wandering near her home. The finder did everything right - she took the dog in, put a note on her wall alerting the owner that she had found a dog, but being careful not give a description should a dishonest person claim the dog as theirs. Yes, I'm afraid this does happen, which is why I'm not a fan of people posting pictures of dogs they've found on Facebook without reporting it to us.
Sadly the dog had to spend a night in our kennels before being reunited with her owners and all because she wasn't wearing a collar with her owner's contact details on. She lived less than 100 yards from where she was found and could have been home within minutes. Even when I arrived, she could have gone straight home, but her microchip wasn't registered on any of the UK databases. I urge you all to check with your vets or microchip company to see if your contact details are up to date. It could save you money and anxiety but more importantly, your dog being distressed at being away from home and in a kennel overnight.
On Bank Holiday Monday, I attended my first dog show of the year which was organised by a great bunch of dedicated greyhound rescuers at the Brighton branch of the Greyhound Trust. What made this event different for me was that I wasn't there as a judge or a fundraiser, so I was able to look around the many stalls at leisure and enter some of my dogs in the dog show.
I'm normally asked to judge between three and four local fun dog shows each year, and I'm always conscious that everyone thinks their pet is the best. But of course, not everyone can win, and so some people are going to be disappointed. The thing to remember is that all the money raised goes to help the animals in need and it's a fun event, not to be taken too seriously.
With that in mind, the dog show had mixed fortunes for my dogs. Button, who everyone adores and describes as so cute with an amazing personality, wasn't placed in any of his classes. Yet Nell, my 11 and a half-year-old Staffie mix, won the best veteran class, which qualified her for entry into best in show where she was placed reserve best in show. To say I was a very proud daddy is an understatement!
If you would like to enter your dog at a local fun dog show or spectate, Dogs Trust Shoreham are holding their open day and dog show with lots of stalls, food and entertainment on Sunday 27th May at their Shoreham rehoming centre.
The staff work so hard to ensure It's always a great day out whether you're a dog owner or not as there's something for all the family. I hope to see you there.
Photo: Russ with Nell who won Best in Show
Firstly I'd like to thank those of you who made such nice comments on last week's blog.
Obviously I do what I do for the dogs - they can't help themselves and are totally reliant on humans, they can't choose who they live with or where, if/when they're walked, fed or any other basic needs that we take for granted.
So when I can help a dog or other living animal I will but of course it's always nice to get good feedback and compliments and they're very much appreciated.
There's also been a bit of change for myself and Mike, who is the warden over in Adur. There's been a restructure in the Environmental Services team which means that the Dog Warden service has been moved across to Public Health & Regulation Department based at Portland House in Worthing. This is where the service was when I started 10 years ago so in effect we've 'come home'.
Our new line manager and his manager are both dog owners which is really good news as they can relate to the strays in our care. This helps on the rare occasions when there are difficult decisions to make.
On that note I'd like to use this opportunity to thank our previous managers for their support with the stray dogs over the last three and a half years.
There were more than a handful of occasions when they could have said no to veterinary treatment so that it would have had to wait until the dog was accepted into Dogs Trust or another rescue.
But in the dogs' best interest the treatment and in some cases operations were carried out forthwith thus aiding the dogs recovery time making them more comfortable and pain free.
In at least one case agreeing to keep the dog a number of months when other councils would have put the dog to sleep on economic grounds.
Even though myself and Mike have been 'rehomed', we hope to continue this good work moving forward.
Photo: Stanley the dog
First things first, I guess I owe you all an apology, since last weeks post about the dangers of leaving dogs in hot cars, I don’t think the sun’s been out once!
Due to the length of the post, I didn’t get to mention the stray dogs. Over the last 2 weeks there’s been quite a bit to catch up on, with the usual mix of good, bad and frustrating news.
2 weeks ago a dog was found on the beach in Worthing. On my arrival I was met by a stunning red Labrador, chipped to a previous owner. The dog was taken to our kennels awaiting his owner to come forward.
Photo: The red Labrador found on Worthing beach which is now being looked after in a Dogs Trust foster home. They have named him Simba!
The following afternoon, whilst engrossed in Sky Sports Soccer Saturday, I received a call to Lancing where a dog had been found wandering around the streets. I picked up a sweet little Staffie and returned him home. Sadly his owners weren’t at home and so after leaving a note to let his owner know he was safe and well I took him to our kennels.
Sometimes neighbours offer to look after a dog until the owners return home or ask ”why don’t you put them back into the garden?” Well the answer is simple, if I release the dog into someone's care without the owner's permission or put them back into the garden, and the dog escapes again,( gets run over, bites someone, falls ill etc.) you can imagine the outcry. Ultimately the dog is my responsibility and I’m not going to leave them unattended.
The following day, the owner phoned to claim the Staffie. They described how they had sadly fallen ill and was unable to give the dog the exercise and time he deserved and so reluctantly signed him into my care. The decision wasn’t taken lightly and was by no means a spur of the moment decision. The owner had previously contacted dog rescue centres and was on the waiting list of one of them.
I’m pleased to report that both dogs are now in the care of Dogs Trust Shoreham and have been placed in foster homes where they have settled in well.
Last week we saw the return of 2 regulars who have featured in recent blogs. one was found straying (for the 4th time) on Thursday and claimed on Sunday. The 2nd (for a 6th time) was found on Friday and claimed the following day.
I’m running out of words to describe my frustration regarding these (and one other dog who I mentioned recently who we’ve cared for 8 times ). All 3 dogs are handsome young boisterous entire male Staffies in need of training and exercise. All 3 would be a target for thieves to use for stud, fighting or to sell, yet still they’re allowed to stray time and time again.
Having seen one stray killed on the railway track and another killed on the roads, I’m desperate that no harm to come to these dogs but I do fear for their safety if their owners don’t act responsibly in future.
I can’t believe that within a few weeks of talking about keeping dogs warm and protected from the extreme cold weather, I now need to remind dog owners that dogs die in hot cars. Every year the police, RSPCA, local Authority Animal Welfare Officers and Dog Wardens receive calls from the public who are concerned about dogs shut in hot cars. In under 20 minutes, a hot car can prove fatal to a dog. As the temperature inside the car rises, in just a matter of minutes, the dog’s suffering will become evident through:
- Excessive panting, whimpering or barking.
- Excessive drooling
- Becoming lethargic or uncoordinated
- Collapse or vomiting.
If the dog is not rescued from the car these symptoms will develop into a loss of muscle control, the kidneys will cease to function, the brain will become irreversibly damaged and the heart will stop.
The dangers are obvious, we only have to touch the dashboard or seats on a hot day to know that the temperature inside a car can reach the same as an oven. It's not just on warm days when dogs are at risk, vehicles can be death-traps even in cooler temperatures. Puppies and elderly dogs are not able to regulate their temperature as effectively as adult dogs and sighthounds, because they have very little body fat to protect their internal organs are more vulnerable
My advice to pet owners and concerned animal lovers is don’t leave your dog in a parked car, even for a few minutes.
Even if it seems cool outside it can become very hot very quickly. Parking in the shade and/or keeping the windows down does not make it safe, neither does leaving them with water.
Make sure you keep your dog as cool as possible when driving: avoid travelling during the heat of the day, use sun blinds on the windows and open a window a little to allow a cooling breeze to circulate in the car.
Make sure you have a supply of water and know where you can stop off en route for water breaks. Dogs aren’t able to cool down as effectively as humans so can suffer from heat stroke and dehydration very quickly.
If you are present at the rescue of a dog from a hot car that is clearly in distress, seek immediate veterinary advice. The very first priority is to prevent the dog from getting any hotter, attempt to provide shade from the sun and move to a cooler area.
Dampening the dog down with cool (not freezing) water will help start to bring the body temperature down.Wet towels can be used to cool a dog but these must be regularly changed or spraying them down with water and placing them in front of the air conditioning vent to enhance evaporation on the way to the emergency appointment.
If you witness a dog displaying any of these signs, please call 999 immediately.
More information and an excellent video showing the effects of dogs being left in hot cars can be found at the Dogs trust website.
Photo: A promotional poster for the Dogs Die In Hot Cars campaign
Hello again, it's been another busy week with three strays being found. All were reunited with their owners but with a certain amount of frustration. Why? Because of the three strays, one has now been in our care eight times, meaning despite all of our advice, the dog is still escaping from the house, putting himself and others in danger.
The second belongs to someone who over the years has owned many dogs, several if not all have at one time or another been in our care having been found straying and sadly at least two have been run over and killed. Yet despite this, the owner's dogs are still being put in danger.
The third dog shows us the benefits of social media, good community spirit and lessons to learn for the future. The story begins when Zuri a male Saluki ran off from his owner in fields near Ashington. His owner alerted a charity called Dog Lost who created a missing dog poster (right), hard copies of which were displayed in the area and posts online were shared over and over again far and wide.
I remember seeing the post and sharing it myself and wondering how far the dog will travel or will he go to ground nearby.
Over the next 3 days there were numerous sightings reported to his owner who responded to each and every one. Zuri's route was plotted and it's known that he visited Rackham, Parham House, Storrington and the Duke of Norfolk's Estate at Arundel and Amberley. Sadly by the time his owner arrived at every sighting he had moved, not helped by the fact Zuri was travelling cross country whereas his owner had to travel to each sighting by road.
Last Wednesday evening, some 3½ days after he went missing. A motorist spotted Zuri running up the middle of Titnore Lane towards the A27 and alerted WADARS who in turn rang me. The owner was contacted and made her way to the area, thankfully Zuri changed direction because the next sighting was that he was heading towards Fernhurst Drive, Goring. Then came a flurry of sightings leading his owner to the fields near to Goring Hall where she got her first glimpse of him for over 3 days.
However, 3 days in the wild had left him confused and scared and so he wouldn't come to her. Luckily she had her other Salukis with her who ran over to him. She then called them back and Kuri came back with them.
In the 3½ days Zuri was missing it's estimated he travelled over 40 miles and in the last 2½ hours of his ordeal he covered some 10 miles. The story shows a great example of the power of social media and the charity Dog Lost but of course none of that would have been any good without the community who read the posts and kept the phone number to hand and contacted the distraught owner when they saw Zuri.
It also tells us that when looking for a pet that's run away, they could have gone to ground nearby but on the other hand, they are capable of travelling long distances in a short space of time. I'm really pleased to report that Zuri has now recovered from his ordeal and for the time being at least is being walked on a lead.
Photo: Zuri the Saluki
10th April 2018: If I've learnt one thing over the past ten years, it's that dogs are 'inconsiderate' ...
I hope you all had an enjoyable Easter break, the downside for us is when you go back to work, the emails, complaints and reports of incidents have stacked up and still need to be dealt with.
To make matters worse Mike Barnard (the Adur dog warden) has been very naughty, he's taken 2 weeks leave directly after the Easter break and so I'm covering from the border of Brighton & Hove in the east to the Worthing Arun border at Ferring in the west.
What this means is, when I'm in Southwick there will be a stray dog in Durrington and when I'm in Goring there'll be a stray dog in Fishersgate.
If I've learnt one thing over the past ten years, it's that dogs are inconsiderate; not only do they go missing when you're in the wrong place, but also when you're eating or just about to finish duty - it's always the way!!
Easter weekend was a perfect example of this. As most of you know Adur & Worthing Councils provide an out of hours service at the weekends and bank holidays - very few councils throughout the country do this - and out of the three stray dogs that came into our care last week, two were picked up by Mike over the Easter weekend and Sunday's Pomeranian stray wasn't reunited until her owner came forward on Easter Monday.
Before the beautiful Pomeranian was claimed I visited Worthing's first ever Vegan fair which was held at the Assembly rooms. I happened to know that the organisers were worried if it would be well attended so I was really pleased to see so many people there when I arrived.
Photo: A Pomeranian dog - but not the one that went missing!
It was a good mix of stalls selling ethically sourced vegan beauty products (too late for me!) toiletries, clothes and of course food. My partner was in heaven when she found some garlic mayo to buy and I was in my element when I brought lunch from the Vegan Greek street food stall.
There were also some local charities and groups represented including Cat and Rabbit Rescue Chichester, Worthing Cats Protection, Animal aid and Campaign to close down Brighton & Hove Greyhound Stadium whose stall was run by a long time vegan who has dedicated her life to speak up against the exploitation of animals both at home and abroad.
It's lovely to spend time with like minded people and catch up with old friends. But as we all know, holidays and time off go too quickly and all too soon it's back to work!
Since my last blog I've spent time finishing off my inspections of licensed premises, what's the Dog warden service got to do with pubs I hear you say, well thankfully it's not pubs we inspect it's Animal Boarding Establishments which include Dog and Cat boarding kennels, Pet Shops, Dog day care and home boarding.
All of these premises and the people running them need to be licensed so that the customer can have peace of mind that when they hand over their companion animal, they can do so in the knowledge that the premises are safe and the pet will be looked after by caring professionals who know what they are doing. We also check to see that they have the necessary insurance should anything go wrong.
It amazes me that some people post on social media sites asking for someone to look after their dog, cat etc and have no idea of the person's background when they hand their pet over en route to the airport or whatever. Would we hand our children over to a stranger? Hopefully not.
Dog kennels and Catteries have been around for years but home boarding has become popular recently, this is where a person will look after a dog in their own home (not the dogs home). Our inspections of these premises include checking that the garden is secure, free from hazards, you will be surprised at how many people plant rusty old washing machines, fridges bike frames etc in their garden. Most take root but I've never seen one come into bloom yet!! Ponds are another hazard.
It's a known fact that some people offer this service and are not licensed. Well apart from being illegal,it's potentially dangerous for the pet owner. Not all dogs get on so it's important for the licence holder be restricted to a number of dogs compatible to their accommodation and the number of dogs they have of their own. For example some of my licence holders have two dogs of their own so if I wanted to board 1 of mine and you want to board yours at the same time, then mine and yours have to get on but her dogs have to get on with mine and yours. Many dogs get along on walks but in a confined area 24/7 with toys and food about, that's a totally different thing and a big ask for a lot of dogs.
Some people unfortunately put profit before safety and take on as many as they can but it's an accident waiting to happen. Whereas the license stipulates how many they can board and that all dogs that are going to be on the premises at the same time must be mixed prior to boarding without incident.
If you think this is unnecessary or scare mongering let me tell you that at least 2 dogs have been killed in the last 5 years in Worthing whilst in the care of professional businesses so my plea would be for you to ensure the people you entrust with your companion animal is licensed.
Photo: Three dogs in their bed
Last week I mentioned that of the three strays that had come into our care, one hadn't been claimed and was going to Dogs Trust, Shoreham. I'm pleased to say that she has settled in well at the centre and is a firm favourite with the staff and due to her good looks has created a lot of public interest. Once again we are indebted to Tracey Rae and her staff at Dogs Trust Shoreham for taking her into their care.
We've had three stray dogs this week, two of which escaped from the same house because the teenage son didn't double lock the front door when he went to school. The cunning, working dog jumped up at the door handle thereby opening the front door leading to freedom for him and his sister. A good Samaritan secured the dogs until my arrival and they were reunited with a member of their family.
Rather frustratingly the third stray this week was one of the dogs I mentioned in last weeks blog, meaning he's now been in our care three times. The dog is an entire male bull breed and I fear for his safety if he continues getting out. He could be run over or stolen for breeding or dog fighting and I really don't know what more I can say to make the owners stop him from straying. Sometimes when you try to give advice it's not gratefully received.
Sadly in one park earlier this week a man walking his dog, rather than accept my polite friendly words of advice and put his dog on a lead, felt the need to swear and threaten violence towards me. Some of the incident was witnessed by other dog walkers who reprimanded him on his language only to be told to mind their own business although of course, those weren't the exact words he used!
Thankfully this is a rare occurrence, probably the 4th time in ten years but it highlights why a number of colleagues in other parts of the country have been issued with body-worn cameras similar to those issued to Police. Most people however, are happy to receive advice and after last weeks blog I'm pleased to say this week has been a lot quieter. There have been no more reports of sheep worrying locally so hopefully the mix of education and patrols of the area have paid off, fingers crossed.
Photo: Lenny on left and Poppy who died 2nd Jan this year, relaxing in my garden in happier times
It's been a busy and disappointing week for the dog wardens.
It started last Tuesday when a stray dog was taken to a local vets having been found in the Offington area of Worthing.
The dog, possibly an Afghan mix (see photo below), was underweight, full of worms and still had milk, which meant she had only very recently stopped feeding her pups or had been taken from her pups. Her seven days are up and she has been offered a space at Dogs Trust rehoming centre in Shoreham, to whom we are very grateful.
During the week we've also had two stray dogs that were subsequently claimed. What is disappointing is that we've had both dogs before, meaning that, despite our best efforts to educate the owners (not to mention them having to pay the £55 release fee), both dogs were left in danger by being allowed to roam the streets unsupervised.
Luckily both dogs were found by good Samaritans before they could come to any harm and handed into our care. Both owners were contacted and reunited with their dogs after paying another £55 release fee. Hopefully, these dogs won't be put in danger again by being allowed to stray.
You may have heard that in the past few weeks a number of sheep have been attacked on the Downs near Cissbury. The first attack which happened on 20th January left 3 ewes seriously injured. The second attack on the 2nd February left one Ewe dead and two more injured having received bite marks to the neck. On March 10th yet another attack was reported - this time one ewe lost her life having received bite marks to her rear.
As a result, I worked last Saturday morning, moving between the Storrington Rise and Coombe rise car parks in Findon Valley, advising dog walkers that sheep were present in the area and to keep their dogs on a lead when in the proximity of them.
It's a good opportunity to remind people that it is a criminal offence not to keep our dogs under control around livestock. Any person in charge of a dog found worrying sheep could end up with a criminal record and a large fine not to mention compensation to the farmer. Remember, the farmer, in certain circumstances, also has the right to shoot a dog worrying his sheep.
Most dog walkers were appalled that owners had allowed their dogs to attack the sheep and were supportive of the advice given. I was a little taken aback when at least one person commented that the sheep would soon be dead anyway.
Whilst that is true and impossible to argue against, I pointed out that we (dog owners) can't prevent the sheep dying in the slaughterhouse, we could prevent them being killed by our dogs.
I personally wouldn't want the suffering of any animal on my conscience which is why I became a vegetarian over 30 years ago and now lead an almost vegan lifestyle. But that's another story.
This week I wanted to talk about what is probably every dog owners worst nightmare; Losing your pet.
A sudden death or following a long and agonising illness is hard enough to deal with, but for your dog to be stolen and not knowing what has happened to your loved one is in my mind far worse.
Thankfully dog theft is quite rare in Sussex but there is a cause for concern that it's on the increase.
There are several different motives for stealing dogs and different methods used by those involved in stealing them. This blog is not intended to alarm anyone, but it's better to be aware of what does happen and how to try to minimise the chance of it happening to you.
Reasons for stealing dogs include:
- Gain, either to keep, to sell to someone else or to breed from
- Revenge, ie to hurt someone for whatever reason
- To use in fighting, either as a fighting or as a bait dog
Perhaps what we perceive to be the most common is a dog being stolen whilst tied up outside a shop.
I've long lost count of the amount of times I've been called to a report of an abandoned dog tied up, often for over an hour. On speaking to the owners some are totally unaware of the dangers, some are apologetic and some are quite rude. Please don't tie your dogs up outside shops leaving them to the mercy of an opportunist thief.
Dogs have been stolen from gardens
If your garden can be seen from public view please make sure that not only is your garden secure but that any gates are fitted with bolts fitted on the bottom so that thieves can't just reach over and unbolt them, you should also consider a padlock as well. Many people plant hedges, bushes etc to screen the garden from public view and you could consider prickly ones to deter anyone climbing in!!
Dogs are often stolen during a burglary in the owners home. Sometimes whole litters of puppies have been stolen. Many of these homes are targeted through advertising the pups for sale.
Thieves or their accomplices have been known to phone and enquire about the pups and finding out when was a good time to view them, any time not convenient to the owner could mean nobody was going to be at home. Others actually visit in advance to carry out a reconnaissance of the address, security measures, where the pups are kept, etc.
Be wary of what information you share
When arranging pup viewings with people over the phone, ask for a name and landline number from them and call it to verify. You may be able to write down the registration number of those coming to view your dogs.
Dogs have been enticed away from their owners whilst out walking, often in isolated areas, and on occasions dog owners being approached in the street by people who have brazenly tried to snatch the dog. Train your dog to come back to you on command and don't let them out of your sight when they're off lead. On lead be wary of people engaging you in conversation about your dog.
Please ensure your microchip details are up to date and make sure you have your pets microchip number and contact details of the microchip database to alert them if your pet is lost or stolen and last but not least have lots of good quality photos of your dog, taken from all different angles, particularly concentrate on the dogs markings, two of my dogs have completely unique markings which would positively identify them.
Hello again. I hope that none of you were affected by last week's weather and were able to go about your daily routine without disruption. Looking at the news we certainly got off lightly compared to other parts of the UK and it was sad to hear that the weather claimed at least 11 lives.
What amazes me is the number of people wrapped up in goodness knows how many layers of clothing (not to mention hats, gloves and scarves) who are out walking dogs, often small, short haired breeds, that have no coat on.
People will argue that dogs have got fur and they're descended from the wild and are used to all weathers. But they were domesticated by us thousands of years ago and are now used to living indoors with central heating so it's hardly the same thing at all!
As for “they've got fur to keep them warm”, it's the same fur as they have in the summer. Yet the person walking the poor dog isn't wearing the same clothes as they would be in July!
I didn't walk my dogs for two days last week. It does them no harm at all - you can give them plenty of mental stimulation in the house by hiding their food and or treats, playing with them and doing some training with them.
My colleague and I were busy having received several calls relating to concern for dogs living outside in kennels. One address had a number of dogs who lived outside. The owner was adamant that because their dogs were born outside they were fine with their conditions and that if they put coats on their dogs it would make them wimps. Meanwhile we were all feeling the cold whilst wrapped up in several layers standing beside them ...
The legislation that protects animals in these circumstances is The Animal Welfare Act 2006.
Section 4 of the act makes it a criminal offence to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal, while Section 9 of the act makes it the duty of a person responsible for an animal to ensure that the welfare needs of the animal are met. These needs are often referred to as “the five freedoms” and includes the need for a suitable environment for the animal.
If you have any concerns for the welfare of an animal please do not hesitate to contact us or the RSPCA.
Photo: A dog enjoying a brief run out in the snow last week
Hello again. I'm just back from a week's annual leave which I spent with my partner and three of our dogs in Norfolk, Sadly our old girl Flora couldn't come with us as she wouldn't be able to enjoy the lovely coastal walks available in the area. She stayed at home with family and was very spoilt indeed.
Driving up to Cromer we passed the kennels of Yarmouth Greyhound Homefinders and I made a mental note to visit the rescue during the week. I was already aware of another Norfolk-based greyhound rescue group called Kerry Greyhounds Norfolk and soon found out about a third called Norfolk Greyhound Rescue.
You may wonder why one sparsely-populated county has three rescue centres dedicated to rehoming unwanted greyhounds. Well the answer is of course greyhound racing.
With a human athlete they train to be the best they can, they either succeed to a particular standard whether it be county, national, European, world, Olympic etc - or, they don't. If they don't make that standard, if they receive a career threatening injury and when they retire, their parents or loved ones don't throw them out of home or wash their hands of them.
Sadly with greyhounds it's a different matter. Many are never fast enough to race, many more receive career ending injuries, and thousands of greyhounds retire from the sport, usually before the age of four and they can easily live to twelve years of age or more.
Even with all of the dedicated greyhound rescue centres, it is still estimated that in excess of 10,000 greyhounds disappear each year. Many are sold to countries such as Spain and China where they are raced again and there is evidence to suggest that in China the dogs are sold to eat once their racing career is over.
I've fostered greyhounds and regularly look after my friend's greyhound Luna when she goes away so I can recommend them as an ideal family pet.
Contrary to belief they don't need loads of exercise, just two twenty minutes walks a day are fine, although they can do more if you prefer longer walks. They are often referred to as a couch potato so if they sound like a breed for you, pop along to a rescue home (Dogs Trust Shoreham always have greyhounds and have three at the moment).
You'll be adopting a lovely dog and without doubt, in my opinion, the most exploited breed in this country.
Photo: Russ's greyhound Flora being spoilt at home
Up and down the country there are hundreds of rescue centres, some are nationwide and household names such as Dogs Trust, others such as the RSPCA rehome not only dogs but other companion animals too. You will also find independents, set up by a handful of dedicated animal lovers and some are just one man bands, but they all have something in common; they take in dogs and other pets that the owners for one reason or another can't care for anymore.
Whatever reason the animal's owner gives, the staff or volunteers don't judge, that's not in anyone's interest. If people feel they are being judged it may encourage them to rehome their pet privately or just abandon them instead of signing them over to a rescue centre. It is so much easier for a rescue centre to rehome a pet that has been signed over by the owner than a stray picked up off the street. This is because, much like a used car they come with a history. To be able to say to a prospective adopter:
“this dog is called Rosie, she's 6 years old and has no medical problems, she's lived with young children and cats”
makes it so much easier to rehome her than saying:
“We've called this dog Rosie, we think she's about 5 to 7 years old, she was found as a stray in Ireland”
In this age of social media, I often see adverts saying “dogs free to a good home!!” It's obvious that the person advertising is doing this because they want just that for their dog, however when someone knocks on their door answering the advert they're hardly going to say, “I want your dog for breeding, or as a bait dog for my fighting dog”, instead they're going to say something like “I work from home, we live near the downs / beach / park and we'll take her out twice a day and for holidays.” Another good reason to use a rescue centre when you need to rehome your pet.
I would urge anyone needing to rehome their pet to take them to a rehoming centre, and one that does home checks for potential adopters and also provides Rescue Back Up, (RBU). You've then got peace of mind that your pet's new owner and their home have been checked out, plus if something unforeseeable goes wrong in the future a rescue centre offering RBU will take the pet back rather than being moved from pillar to post.
Lenny, my Labrador cross (see photo right), was rehomed privately at least twice before he was taken to a local rescue centre.
Sadly, through unforeseen circumstances, his adopters couldn't keep him but the rescue centre was there to take him back until a new adopter could be found.
He's been with me for over four years now but the charity is there should Lenny need them.
Hi again. When I'm out and about talking to people, I often hear the words, “I'd love to have a dog but” - then follows a number of reasons why they haven't or can't have a dog. Two of the most common reasons are “I go on holidays a lot and I don't want my dogs to go into kennels” or “I can't afford the vets bills”. Well, there is a way to have a dog without the financial responsibility that goes with it, and which helps a dog and the charity who rescued it. The option is of course fostering.
Most local and national animal charities use foster carers and some rely heavily or totally on them. Sussex Pet Rescue for example only has fosterers because, as a small charity, kennel fees would be too expensive for them. Consequently, if they have five foster carers on their books they can help five dogs but if they had more, they could help even more dogs.
There are a number of Dogs Trust rehoming centres around the UK including of course the wonderful one here at Shoreham. Each centre has a dedicated home from home coordinator who recruits, trains and looks after their foster carers. Dogs Trust staff asses every dog that come into their care, either having been signed over by the previous owner or as a stray from anywhere in the UK or Ireland.
The staff immediately know which dogs won't do well in kennels. Often it's puppies, young dogs, pregnant dogs or older dogs, but also dogs that haven't been very well socialised with humans or other dogs. For these dogs, a foster home is vital as they would quickly suffer both mentally and physically in a kennel environment. The home from home coordinator then matches the dog with the most suitable foster carer available.
At a recent get together I met foster carers who had fostered strays that I'd picked up and it was great being able to thank them for caring for those dogs at the most vulnerable time of their lives. The confused and lonely dogs that had been dumped, often with medical issues to contend with. I also met one of those dogs again, but more about Snowy another time.
Over the years my partner Vicky and her mum have fostered over 40 Dogs Trust dogs, and I've just crept into double figures so I'm well placed to assure you it is a worthwhile and rewarding experience.
The dog is better off in a home environment and can be better assessed to see the best type of home suitable for them in the long term. Other benefits include the charity saves on kennel space or the cost of renting a kennel space.
So for those of you who have the time and love to give to a dog but for whatever reason you can't commit to one full time, fostering may be for you.
Photo: Fostering Scamp
Welcome back to my weekly blog. This is part two of my article on stray dogs.
As mentioned last week, in 2017 we collected a total of 161 dogs - this works out at nearly one every other day!
While we re-home nearly 90 per cent of those, not everyone of those we are able to reunite with their owners. In the last 12 months 22 were took to rescue centres including Dogs Trust Shoreham who took 18.
Let me explain why ...
The legislation that covers stray dogs in England and Wales is The Environmental Protection Act 1990 which states that if the dog isn't claimed after a time period of seven clear days, the officer appointed by the local authority may dispose of the dog:
- by selling it or giving it to a person who will, in his opinion, care properly for the dog
- by selling it or giving it to an establishment for the reception of stray dogs
- by destroying it in a manner to cause as little pain as possible
Thankfully nationwide the numbers of stray dogs and stray dogs being put to sleep has reduced year on year.
You may wonder why any stray dogs are put to sleep by local authorities when there are so many rescue centres up and down the country? The answer is space and money.
Sadly there are more dogs needing homes than there are people wanting them. Many people want a puppy, a pedigree or at least to know the dog's history and will pay well over a thousand pounds for a dog. A rescue dog will cost a fraction of that price and will come, in most cases neutered, vaccinated and vet checked.
Often rescue centres have pups and pedigree dogs too. Only last Friday I did a home check for a lovely family who are adopting a Dachshund puppy from Dogs Trust. By adopting they've rescued a dog and got a pedigree puppy all in one!!
So if a rescue centre can't re-home the dogs in their care, they can't take the ones sitting in council pounds up and down the country. Rescue centres do not receive government funding, so with rising vet bills, running costs, wages etc many, even if they have space, are limited to the numbers they can take in.
Money is also a factor for local authorities if they can't find a place in rescue for their strays or re-home them themselves. The cost of keeping them can soon become very expensive, particularly if ongoing veterinary treatment is required.
At this stage, because the law allows it, some councils will take the decision to put a dog in their care to sleep.
Thankfully at Adur & Worthing, this only happens on the advice of a veterinary surgeon who will only consider the welfare of the dog.
We've only had to do this once in the past year. A lovely Collie called Hamba (see photo right) was found dumped in fields, very poorly. After five days at our vets and undergoing several tests it was decided that she was too weak for surgery, so the decision was taken to let her go to sleep.
I promise you that space or money doesn't come into it before we take such a big decision.
Photo: Hamba the Collie
Hello again, this week I'd like to talk about stray dogs.
In 2017 we collected a total of 161 dogs - this works out at nearly one every other day!
We are normally alerted to stray dogs from members of the public reporting that they've found a dog wandering the streets or in a park or open space on its own with no owner in sight.
Often the caller has already caught the dog and so all we have to do is attend and scan the dog for a microchip. But sometimes the dog is running loose and we have to set about catching it. Contrary to popular belief it's not always easy, they've got twice as many legs as us for a start!
When we have the stray dog we scan for a microchip, which apart from very few exceptions, every dog over the age of 8 weeks should have by law. If the details held on the database are correct (which is also the law) then reuniting dog and owner is normally straightforward.
However, if there's no chip or the details recorded on the database are incorrect, the dog is taken to our kennels to be cared for until we can trace the owner and reunite them with their companion.
Because of this, of those 161 dogs, 138 were reunited with their owners. But it is not always this easy.
Next week I'll focus on those other animals that we are not able to immediately reunite with the owners. Hope you all check back in then.
Photo: Stray dog being returned home
Hello, my name's Russ Akehurst, I'm one of the two Dog Wardens working for Adur & Worthing Councils.
Over the next few weeks I'll give you an insight into the type of work we do and share with you some of the cases I've been involved in - some past and some present, some funny, some sad. I warn you now, some don't have a happy ending.
I've been a Dog Warden for over nine years now, having previously served as a Police Constable for over 30 years. After retiring in 2007 I went to work for Horsham District Council as a Community Warden for the village of Ashington.
But when I opened the Worthing Herald one Friday and saw the advert that Worthing Borough Council (as it was in those days before the merger) were looking for a Dog Warden, I knew I had to apply. After being shortlisted from a field of over 70, I attended an interview at Portland House on the day of my father's funeral and beat six other candidates for the job.
Outside of work, my partner and I have four dogs - a Labrador X Boxer, a Jack Russell Terrier, a Staffie X Springer Spaniel and a Staffie x Jack Russell Terrier. They range in age from seven to 14 years.
Sadly less than three weeks ago we had to say goodbye to Poppy, our 15 year old Patterdale Terrier, who I rescued over nine years ago, just a couple of months into the job. She had been dumped in woods at Storrington and taken to Old Clayton Kennels who, at that time, looked after the stray dogs for Worthing, Adur and Horsham councils.
I'd only lost my previous dog earlier that year. But when I saw her curled up in the corner of her kennel, scared lonely and bewildered having recently given birth and with scars on her face, I knew I had to adopt her.
Little did I know then, what the future had in store for us as she loyally accompanied me to work over the years. Little did I know too how many dogs we'd foster until it was time for her to go to sleep.
Photo: Russ Akehurst with his Dog Warden van
Contact Public Relations & Communications
If you have any enquires please contact:
- 07909 688 132 - Mike Gilson
- 07342 066 216 - Tim Ridgway
- 07795 504 983 - Talia French
Public Relations & Communications,
Adur & Worthing Councils,
Worthing Town Hall,