The Kennel Club has expressed its dismay at a proposal that could see more dogs being destroyed or sent to rehoming centres, if their owners can’t immediately afford the fine owed, which was discussed last night by Newcastle-Under-Lyme’s Public Protection Committee.
The proposal would replace the current system, in which owners of stray dogs can defer the £70 payment owed to the local authority for handling their lost dog, after the daily kennelling costs have been paid. The new proposal would leave the most financially disadvantaged people in the community facing the prospect of their dog being sent to rehoming, or of those that can’t be rehomed being destroyed, if they cannot afford to pay the fine within seven days of the local authority taking in the dog.
The Kennel Club submitted its position to the committee, which decided to defer a decision on the proposal until another report had been submitted, exploring the options in more detail.
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: “We are pleased that the local authority has considered our advice but we are still extremely concerned that a policy would be considered which could see dogs sent to rescue centres or, in the most extreme cases destroyed, if the owner can’t immediately afford the fee that is owed.
“Whilst we understand that the fee needs to be paid there should be some leeway, to give those who don’t immediately have the money to hand some time to pay what is due, otherwise dog welfare is being traded in for financial expediency. It may be within the letter of the law but we certainly don’t believe this is within the spirit of it.”
Local authorities under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 have an obligation to deal with stray dogs found in the area of the authority. Legislation requires that the fees owed to a local authority are paid before the release of the dog, but currently the council will allow payment to be deferred, which can sometimes result in administrative fees if payees default.
The document which outlines the advantages and disadvantages of the new proposal states that the new proposal will ‘eliminate bad debt’ but also that it ‘may require those with limited finances to either take out loans or forfeit their pet.’ It also states that the current position, to allow deferred payment, ‘minimises the kennelling and potentially disposal costs the authority may face if dogs remain unclaimed.’
Caroline Kisko continued “We are also concerned that, at a time when many local authorities are committed to rehoming dogs and moving away from a policy of destruction entirely, it is still possible that a dog would be destroyed. We are assured that this is only in the most extreme circumstances but we do have concerns about the unsympathetic language of the document presented to the committee, which talked about the ‘disposal’ of a dog and acknowledged that the proposed policy could result in pets being ‘forfeited’.
“We reiterate to all dog owners the importance of ensuring that their dogs are microchipped and the details are up to date with the microchipping database, to ensure a quick and successful reunification with minimal fees needing to be paid.”
The Kennel Club will make another submission to the council ahead its next meeting to discuss this issue, which will be announced in due course.