Senedd Dog of the Year

Senedd Dog of the Year.

Following the success of Westminster’s and Holyrood’s favourite canine event, we are delighted to announce that the inaugural Senedd Dog of the Year competition will be held in May 2024, taking place at Britannia Park in Cardiff.

Click here to read this copy in Welsh.

Senedd Dog of the Year, organised by us and Dogs Trust, is open to all MSs, regardless of breed or ‘pawlitical’ persuasion, and aims to showcase dogs as an important member of the family. This competition will enable us and Dogs Trust to engage with Welsh parliamentarians who are passionate about dogs and to identify those who are willing to raise canine issues and policies in the Senedd.

The media are invited to watch the politicians ‘show’ their dogs and raise awareness of key issues which affect canine welfare. Past issues raised in our other events include the effects of fireworks on dogs and the importance of dogs training and socialisation.

Celebrating a unique bond

The competition celebrates the unique bond between dogs and their owners, and aims to promote responsible dog ownership. All parliamentarians’ dogs are able to enter.

Message from Owen Sharp, Chief Executive of Dogs Trust

Owen Sharp, Chief Executive of Dogs Trust, explains: "We're delighted to extend the pawlitical excitement to Wales and introduce the inaugural Senedd Dog of the Year competition. This won’t be just a typical dog event; judges will primarily be looking for signs of loyalty, devotion and most importantly, friendship. For one day, we will put political persuasions aside and enjoy celebrating the fantastic human-canine bond, while highlighting the importance of responsible dog ownership and advocating for better dog welfare.”

Message from Mark Beazley, Chief Executive of The Kennel Club

Mark Beazley, Chief Executive of The Kennel Club continued: “We are pleased to be hosting the inaugural Senedd Dog of the Year competition with Dogs Trust. The competitions are fun, light-hearted events that serve as an opportunity celebrate the unique bond between people and their dogs, but they also provide an opportunity to raise awareness of the actions that need to be taken to ensure that our dogs live happy and healthy lives.”

More about why we run this event

The media are invited to watch the politicians show their dogs and raise awareness of key issues which affect canine welfare. Past issues raised in our other events include the effects of fireworks on dogs and the importance of dogs training and socialisation.

In a bid to win the ‘pawblic’ vote, MSs will call for their supporters to vote for their four-legged friends. In conjunction with the public vote, judges also assess the pooches based on their heroic deeds and winning personalities in order to crown the overall winner.

Find out more about each finalist:

Jane Dodds MS and Wanda

James Evans MS and Bonnie

Find out more about Jane Dodds MS and Wanda

MS Name: Jane Dodds

Constituency: Mid and West Wales

Dog’s name: Wanda

Breed: Greyhound

Sex: Female

Age: 5

Colour: Black and white

What are your favourite characteristics of your dog?

Loyal and placid

How does your dog enhance your day-to-day life?

Makes me laugh (when she has eaten a cushion or a few cakes) and great company.

What dog welfare issues do you think need tackling?

We all need a dog in our life so support with food and treatment for all families.

What do you think makes a responsible dog owner?

Love, patience, time and a sense of fun

Find out more about James Evans MS and Bonnie

MS Name: James Evans

Constituency: Brecon and Radnorshire

Dog’s name: Bonnie

Breed: Cocker Spaniel 

Sex: Bitch          

Age: 9 Months 

Colour: Chocolate

What are your favourite characteristics of your dog?

My favourite things about Bonnie? Well, let's see...  it's hard to pick just a few!  Her playful energy is contagious, we love going for very long walks and exploring together.  She's also incredibly cuddly and affectionate, always happy to snuggle up on the couch for some cwtches.  And those big, brown eyes?  She also has a very silly personality.  She's got a way of making me laugh every day, and that's something I and Emma and my constituency staff truly treasure."

How does your dog enhance your day-to-day life?

Bonnie brightens my day in so many ways!  Having her by my side, whether it's at work meetings or just around the office, brings a real sense of joy and happiness to Emma and I.  She loves meeting new people, and her playful energy is a guaranteed mood booster for everyone she encounters.  I've seen firsthand how she helps my staff relax and de-stress – a furry cuddle session with Bonnie does wonders for mental well-being!  She's like a little mascot for our office happiness, and I couldn't imagine my days without her positive energy around.

On a personal level, Bonnie has been an amazing support for my mental health.  Just having her presence around calms me down when things get too much.  Her unconditional love and enthusiasm for life are a constant source of positivity, and she always knows how to make me smile, even on tough days.  Bonnie's a true gift in our lives.

What dog welfare issues do you think need tackling?

Dog welfare is a priority here in Wales and the UK, but there’s always room for improvement. One big concern is irresponsible breeding practices, especially in puppy farms. These can lead to dogs with health problems and behavioural issues.  Wales recently banned third-party puppy sales through “Lucy’s Law,” which is a great step forward.

Another challenge is dog overpopulation. Accidental litters and impulse buying mean shelters end up with too many dogs.  Thankfully, there are efforts to promote responsible pet ownership, spaying/neutering, and adoption.

Making sure animal welfare laws have teeth is important too.  Sometimes local authorities lack the resources to enforce them effectively. Here in Wales, they’re looking at ways to give animal welfare officers more power.

Public education is another key piece.  If people don’t understand a dog’s needs and how to train them, neglect and abandonment can happen. Luckily, organizations like the Dogs Trust, Kennel Club & RSPCA offer resources and training programs for dog owners.

Now, there’s also the debate around banned dog breeds. The idea is to prevent harm by restricting ownership of breeds historically associated with dog fighting. Here in Wales and the UK, breeds like Pit Bull Terriers and American XL Bullies fall under this ban. While it’s a complex issue, the focus should be on responsible ownership and training for all dogs, regardless of breed.

Beyond that, there are issues like the welfare of dogs during transport, the need for stricter regulations for animal sanctuaries in Wales, and the rising problem of dog theft, which is heartbreaking for owners and fuels the black market for pets.  Even the popularity of certain flat-faced breeds can have unintended consequences, with some dogs suffering due to their shortened airways. 

Greyhound racing is another area where welfare improvements are ongoing and need to be strengthened.  Wales and the UK have implemented regulations like the Greyhound Racing Act 2019, which strengthens oversight and traceability of racing greyhounds.  However, concerns remain about injuries, post-racing life for greyhounds, unlicensed tracks and the overall suitability of the sport for these dogs.  Further efforts to ensure greyhound welfare throughout their lives are needed to ensure every dog has a good life.

So, while the UK and Wales are on the right track with dog welfare, it's definitely an ongoing process that always needs to be reviewed constantly to address emerging trends.

What do you think makes a responsible dog owner?

In my eyes, a responsible dog owner is someone who prioritises their dogs well-being above all else. It's a commitment that lasts a lifetime, demanding both financial and emotional investment. Responsible owners understand that their dog is part of the family, and they're prepared to care for them through thick and thin.

Keeping a dog healthy and happy goes beyond just providing food and a roof over their head. Regular vet checkups are essential, ensuring your dog gets the preventative care they need. Responsible owners also prioritise a healthy diet and plenty of exercise, which are crucial for both physical and mental well-being.

Training and socialisation are key ingredients in shaping a well behaved dog. Responsible owners invest time and patience in teaching their dogs basic commands and proper behaviour. This not only helps the dog understand expectations but also makes them a joy to be around. Socialisation with other dogs and people is just as important, ensuring your dog feels comfortable and confident in different situations.

Creating a safe and secure environment is paramount for any responsible dog owner. This means dog-proofing your home and keeping your dog on a lead during walks. Having proper identification tags is crucial, ensuring your pup can find their way back to you if they ever get lost. Here in Wales, responsible ownership also includes microchipping your dog by law. Microchips provide a permanent and reliable form of identification, increasing the chances of a lost dog being reunited with their family. Following the rules around dog collars is important too.  Ensure your dog wears a well-fitting collar with your contact information clearly displayed on the ID tag. 

Finally, responsible dog ownership is about being a respectful citizen. Responsible owners clean up after their dogs on walks, keeping their communities clean and pleasant for everyone.  Understanding and respecting local laws around keeping dogs on leads is important, especially around livestock. Keeping your dog on a lead in areas with farm animals protects the safety of both your dog and the livestock. By being mindful of these regulations and showing courtesy to others, responsible dog owners ensure positive experiences for everyone who shares our communities.

In my opinion, of course, at the heart of it all, loving your dog unconditionally is the most important part of ownership. It's the bond and companionship that makes having a dog such a rewarding experience.

Why should your dog be crowned Senedd Dog of the Year 2024?

I think Bonnie should be crowned Senedd dog of the year 2024 because Bonnie is more than just a pet, she's one of the family a source of joy, comfort, and a true companion. Her presence brightens my day and everyone she meets. She creates a positive atmosphere wherever we go.  Whether it's joining me at work meetings with constituents, on the campaign trail or cuddling on the sofa, Bonnie brings a smile to everyone's face.  She's a shining example of the incredible impact dogs can have on our mental well-being and overall happiness.  I truly believe Bonnie would be a deserving Senedd Dog of the Year 2024.

Jack Sargeant MS and Coco

Janet Finch-Saunders MS and Alfie

Find out more about Jack Sargeant MS and Coco

MS Name: Jack Sargeant

Constituency: Alyn & Deeside

Dog’s name: Coco

Breed: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Sex: Female

Age: 3years and 3months

Colour: Black and tan (with a tiny white beard!)

What are your favourite characteristics of your dog?

She’s affectionate and loving, the ultimate lapdog. She adores any attention and will say hello to anyone passing her by on her walks. She also sleeps on the pillow above my head each night and even her loud snoring is endearing.

However, my favourite characteristic of all is her uncontrollable happy tail and bum wiggle when she sees me.

How does your dog enhance your day-to-day life?

Coco’s affectionate nature always brings a smile and comfort on a bad day and taking her for a walk (and watching her waggy tail and bum wiggle) will always lift your mood.

What dog welfare issues do you think need tackling?

Responsible dog ownership is very close to my heart. Coco and I were attacked by two, off lead, dogs who had escaped from their garden and the owner was nowhere to be seen. Luckily six people who were nearby came to our aid after I shouted for help whilst lying on top of her. One even hurt their own hand wrestling one dog’s jaw from around Coco’s neck. She suffered two puncture wounds, one to her throat and another to her neck along with many other bites but was lucky to have been able to recover relatively quickly. The experience though has traumatised us both and she’s now very cautious of other dogs – her tail won’t be wagging when we see other dogs ahead of us on our walk.

Following the attack, I have been raising the importance of responsible dog ownership. In the Senedd I have called for a public awareness campaign encouraging people to do the responsible thing and think carefully about whether or not they are in a position to train and to look after a dog properly before bringing it into their home.

I would like to see any legislation brought forward to commit us to a central hub of information, available online, where prospective and current dog owners can view up-to-date expert advice, and I think it's vital that people are aware of where they can turn if they see their dog displaying aggressive behaviour, and that the support can be put in place before, sadly, it's too late.

What do you think makes a responsible dog owner?

Someone who care for their dog but are also respectful of other dogs, and people, and their needs. What works for one owner and their dog, such as walking off lead, may not for another and I feel all dogs should be kept on their leads when out for a walk.

We know that dogs can be unpredictable. It is the legal responsibility of owners to ensure their dog is always under control. Unfortunately, far too many owners become complacent. Far too many do not take the necessary steps or precautions to ensure their dog is not a danger to others. Being a responsible dog owner means taking the necessary steps to ensure you dog is never a risk to itself or anyone else.

Why should your dog be crowned Senedd Dog of the Year 2024?

Coco has experienced some trauma in the past year, but she’s recovered and continues to be loving to all she sees. If crowned winner, she promises to give a celebratory tail wag and bum wiggle!

Find out more about Janet Finch-Saunders MS and Alfie

MS Name: Janet Finch-Saunders

Constituency: Aberconwy

Dog’s name: Alfie Finch-Saunders

Breed: Red and White Welsh Collie

Sex: Male

Age: 8

Colour: Red and White

What are your favourite characteristics of your dog?

Alfie taps on the door to let us know he wants to come in from the garden

Alfie helps in the constituency office, often sat beside me or my staff in a desk chair

Alfie is best friends with my 2 year old boisterous grandson, Archie. They play together. Their favourite game is fetch!

Alfie is also a sailor. He is a regular on paddle boards with my daughter and loves swimming in the sea.

Alfie is a bed hog. He squeezes in between me and my husband and stretches out, pushing us to the edge.

How does your dog enhance your day-to-day life?

He brings great joy to my family and staff.

What dog welfare issues do you think need tackling?

Sale of dogs on social media

Imports of puppies

Cosmetic aesthetic alterations to many breeds, particularly the flat nosed

What do you think makes a responsible dog owner?

Realising that dogs are human pooches and should be treated likewise

Why should your dog be crowned Senedd Dog of the Year 2024?

Because Alfie is a dog of many talents: an office dog, sailor, gamer, and friend.

Darren Millar MS and Blue

Find out more about Darren Millar MS and Blue

MS Name: Darren Millar

Constituency: Clwyd West

Dog’s name: Blue

Breed: Whippet

Sex: Male

Age: 14

Colour: Black with white chest

What are your favourite characteristics of your dog?

Blue is very loving, affectionate and cheeky!

He is a rescue dog and come to live with us when he was 9 months old.

In his younger days he was always the fastest animal in the local parks and loved nothing more than to rocket along the sandy beach in Kinmel Bay.

Unfortunately, he had to have surgery on his knee following a cruciate ligament problem during the Covid pandemic and suffered a stroke in February last year. He recovered well from both butt is now much slower than he was. He is just as loving as he ever was but spends most of his time sleeping, bar a short walk, or a sniff around the garden.

How does your dog enhance your day-to-day life?

Blue really is a tonic at the end of a busy and long day. He always gets excited when any member of the family gets home, welcoming us with a wagging tail and leading us to the place where we keep his treats and biscuits!

What dog welfare issues do you think need tackling?

Irresponsible breeding.

Puppy smuggling.

Greyhound racing needs to be banned.

What do you think makes a responsible dog owner?

Having time for your dog.

Being able to give your dog a home environment in which they can thrive.

Access to sufficient exercise opportunities.

Being able to afford the costs of owning an animal.

Consideration of other family members (and pets).

Consideration of arrangements for the dog in the event that you are no longer able to care for them.

Why should your dog be crowned Senedd Dog of the Year 2024?

Because he deserves it!

Blue had a tough start to life but has given us so much love over the years. We’d love to see him recognised in this way on behalf of rescue dogs everywhere!

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