Sunday, November 21, 2010

Stray dogs

The National RSPCA website has a news item on the concern that dog warden services are likely to be selected for cutbacks. There are some indications that simply abolishing a statutory service as a cost-saving measure is being considered by some politicians—Hammersmith and Fulham's website bluntly states that "Passing the responsibility for stray dogs onto the RSPCA" would save council funds.

Which would be all very well if we really did have limitless funds, which we do not.

It may help if I give a bit of background to explain the current legal situation in relation to stray dogs.

Until 2008, responsibility was shared between the local authority and the Police. The LA was expected to run a dog warden service during normal working hours (9-5 Mon-Fri), while the Police would take in dogs brought to police stations outside those times, or when a dog warden was otherwise not contactable.

The LA was responsible for arranging kennelling for at least 7 days, after which the dog would either be transferred to a rescue organisation, rehomed directly or put to sleep.

In 2008 responsibility was transferred to the local authority, although instead of the dog warden service being expanded to cover 24/7, most LAs simply made some kind of arrangement for "drop-off" points where stray dogs could be taken. The major problem with this is that many people who find stray dogs don't have suitable transport, whereas at least some of them could have walked to their local police station.

Stray dogs never were "the responsibility" of the RSPCA, although most branches take in some dogs from LA kennels; sometimes after the 7 day period is up, and sometimes directly from the dog warden. Sometimes dogs may be taken in directly from the public, either because they're found injured, or because they're in danger, but most animal centres can't take in dogs round the clock. Branches like us which rehome from private boarding kennels can't reasonably expect the staff to turn out at all hours except in very exceptional emergency situations.

I get an impression that many people often believe that the local authority holding kennels are "the RSPCA"—probably in some circumstances because the LA and RSPCA both board dogs at the same private kennels.

We don't ourselves as a branch routinely take in stray dogs from local authorities, although we're occasionally asked to take a dog to save his life and would do our best to stretch funds to accommodate one in that situation.

It looks as though we may be facing a situation in which we are being asked to take up more and more work that's being offloaded from elsewhere.

In which case fundraising has to be our highest priority at the moment. It is no good complaining that we are "all about money". Without money we can't pay vets bills or buy cat and dog food. We can save some costs by getting animals into foster homes, but realistically we still need to use boarding facilities for some animals.

No comments:

Post a Comment