The number of stray dogs collected by local authorities in the UK has already risen from approximately 87,000 in the financial years ending March 2007 and 2008 to nearly 113,000 in 20091, but the RSPCA is worried further cuts could reduce dog warden services responsible for dealing with strays.
David Bowles, the RSPCA’s director of communications, said the charity is concerned that animal welfare cuts could be a soft target for local authorities. He said the RSPCA is worried reduced stray dog services could lead to more dogs being left to roam the streets.
He said: “Cutting down on dog wardens or stray dog contracts could help balance a budget in the short term, but long term there will be more costs to deal with anti-social behaviour or clean-up costs arising from more dogs out of control on the streets.
“The RSPCA does not want increasing numbers of stray or uncontrolled dogs on the street to be one of the more visible signs of the cuts backs. Dog licensing would bring in new revenues to local governments to plug some of these gaps and also improve responsible dog ownership. If someone had to buy a license they would think before they got a dog.”
David’s recent report ‘Improving dog ownership: The economic case for dog licensing’2 recently concluded that an annual licence fee of between £20-30 per dog, with discounts for selected dogs (e.g. assistance dogs, neutered dogs) and people (e.g. pensioners), could help fund a scheme that would tackle everything from stray dogs to irresponsible breeders.
He said that money generated by dog licence fees could be ring-fenced to provide a consistent level of dog warden services at local authorities throughout England.
“We have seen in Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK with dog licensing, that numbers of stray dogs are declining, proof that linking the dog with its owner through identification and a licence has a positive effect on dog welfare and local government budgets,” added David.
Neil Burton, chairman of the National Dog Warden Association, agrees that a nationwide standard needs to be created to ensure local authorities offer the same level of stray dog services to residents across the country.
He said: “The way to deal with stray dogs is the same throughout the UK, but there are other factors to consider. Currently some local authorities provide education to dog owners and potential owners, while some don’t. Some provide effective enforcement and some don’t.
“You have to have a generic role for dog control and animal welfare. Stray dog services have to provide the same standardised approach across the whole country to ensure people can expect a recognised level of service.”