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Too Many Unwanted Dogs

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USA AND CANADA

An alternative and more humane method of pet population control is the modern concept of spaying and neutering animals on a large scale.

The findings of a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship to the USA and Canada to study the Role of Low Cost Spay/Neuter Clinics in the Control of Stray and Unwanted Animals' provides conclusive evidence that these clinics can and do play a vital and humane role in any animal control programme.

This evidence is used to support the argument for the adoption of a comprehensive animal control programme in this country consisting of:

1. A low cost spay/neuter clinic.

2. A licence/registration fee. (With differential to furnish a compelling incentive to have animals sterilised).

3. An aggressive public education programme.

4. Strict law enforcement.

5. All animals leaving ‘Dog and Cat Homes' and RSPCA Shelters must be sterilised.

A COMPREHENSIVE ANIMAL CONTROL PROGRAMME

In 1976, the Department of the Environment's Report of the Working Party on Dogs' acknowledged the seriousness of uncontrolled breeding and the stray animal population, which they suggested was upwards of 1 million. In referring to the close and long standing relationship between man and animal, the report stated:

This relationship is sometimes mocked, occasionally cheapened and often ignored, but for many people dogs are indispensable as companions and working helpmates. It is regrettably true that they are also treated by many others as mere objects to be used without feeling and discarded without compunction. The fact that so many of the dog problems which now cause concern in this country are the result of unintentional or thoughtless cruelty should not disguise the fact that the cruelty exists and, particularly since the victim is both trusting and defenceless, is an affront to any civilised society.

None of the Working Party's recommendations were implemented and successive Governments have failed to deal with this contentious and emotive issue. Indeed, in 1988 the Government abolished the dog license despite making it clear in their 1985 Consultation Paper that to do so would be to throw away the means of financing proper dog control, throw away the obvious way of tracing the owner of a stray, throw away the potential deterrent to casual purchases, throw away all hope of improvement in dog control in the future.

If the Working Party's proposals had been accepted, local authorities would have the power and revenue to implement their own animal control programme and is confirmed by a recent Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship to Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Ottawa and Vancouver, where comprehensive animal control programmes' are in operation, should consist of the following essential requirements:

L0W COST SPAY NEUTER CLINIC

A low cost spay/neuter clinic' is a veterinary establishment where owners can have their pets sterilised at a reduced cost. (Spay for a female animal and Neuter for a male animal).

These clinics are staffed by qualified veterinarians and their assistants and eligibility requirements are in the main, that the owner must either be a resident in the local authority area or member/donor of the animal welfare organisation, depending on who operates the scheme. No other veterinary services are offered at these clinics, other than sterilisations and vaccinations. It is generally felt that a sterilised animal is less nervous and restless, is not so eager to escape and stray, and becomes quieter and enjoys better health.

Prior to such clinics being established in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Ottawa and Vancouver, these cities were experiencing a growing animal population which was getting out of control under their conventional framework of animal control techniques.

Like present day Britain, they relied on destruction to solve their problem. However, after public pressure and concern calling on them to take humane' action to resolve the situation, sterilisation programmes using low Cost spay/neuter clinics' were introduced to strike right at the heart of the problem, namely overbreeding and the unwanted litter. Their hopes have been realised and the results impressive, for example in the category of destruction:

LICENCE/REGISTRATION FEE

As well as providing revenue and linking dog to owner by including a licence/registration fee differential for sterilised animals, public participation in spaying and neutering is encouraged. We also believe that those who intend to use their bitch to breed should pay a breeding fee of say five times the cost of the standard fee.

The Study found that this fee differential resulted in an overwhelming response from the public with appointment books in each clinic visited, full weeks ahead. It seems that a consumer-orientated public readily accepts a scheme which grants them advantages as owners.

AN AGGRESSIVE PUBLIC EDUCATION PROGRAMME

Those involved with the protection of animals from cruelty have been confronted with three major areas of concern. First, cruelty as a result of kindness; second, cruelty due to ignorance, and third, deliberate cruelty.

Cruelty, as a result of kindness or ignorance, is of an insidious nature. In the former instance, cruelty as a consequence of kindness has roots in common misconceptions - the well meaning little-old-lady who feeds her dog chocolates because she enjoys them so much regardless of the fact that her dog, through her good intentions, is becoming diabetic; or the owner who believes it necessary to allow their bitch to have one litter of pups.

Similarly, cruelty attributable to ignorance is a simple case of not knowing. For example, every summer many pet owners allow their pets to remain in their cars, with the windows wound up - or left open just a crack, while they do their shopping. On their return to their car, they are horrified to find that the dog has succumbed to heat prostration or has even died.

Deliberate cruelty more often than not is where the animal is used as a medium to express frustration, anxiety, and hostility brought about by the sociological tensions of every-day living.

An education programme is therefore necessary to increase animal owner knowledge and responsibility and to inform owners of the benefits in having their pets sterilised. With support from the Dog Wardens, Local Authorities have ample opportunities to publicise the clinics as well as to distribute educational material, with access to schools, libraries and community centres, in addition to which they are in contact with every houseowner in their area at least once a year through the Community Charge or Poll Tax.

From the Study, the Secretary-Manager of the Vancouver Regional Branch of the B.C.S.P.C.A. had this to say about their ‘comprehensive animal control programme':

"There have been very substantial changes in the attitudes of the pet owning public, not only in the reduction of animals destroyed, the number of injured animals that have had to be serviced, the high claim rate by the pet owning public, but also a general atmosphere of more responsible pet ownership. A Spay and Neuter Clinic does engender very responsible pet ownership."

STRICT LAW ENFORCEMENT

In order to enforce strict compliance with the law, all local authorities should establish a ‘Dog Warden Scheme' for this purpose as well as to play an educational role. Penalties and fines should be increased accordingly.

STERILISATION

ALL ANIMALS LEAVING ‘DOG AND CAT HOMES’ AND ‘SPCA SHELTERS’ MUST BE STERILISED

Animals adopted from ‘Dog and Cat Homes' and SPCA Shelters should be sterilised prior to leaving or within 14 days of leaving. The fee for surgery to be included in the adoption costs. By taking this preventive measure immediately at source stops any chance of future offspring from these adopted animals suffering a similar or worse fate.

CONCLUSIONS

1. A low cost spay/neuter clinic.

2. A licence/registration fee. (With differential to furnish a compelling incentive to have animals sterilised).

3. An aggressive public education programme.

4. Strict law enforcement.

5. All animals leaving ‘Dog and Cat Homes' and SPCA Shelters must be sterilised.

WOLVERHAMPTON

Wolverhampton, like many other similar towns, has suffered a stray dog problem for many years. In order to tackle the problem, the council appointed a Dog Warden in 1981 to catch strays and although the Warden has been catching on average about 900 dogs a year, there does not seem to be any significant reduction in the number of stray animals which have been seen running around the Borough. Consideration was therefore given to initiating a spaying and neutering scheme which was more likely to produce a positive result provided that it could either be carried out on a large scale or else over a period of years.

In addition discussions were held with each of the six veterinary practices which were operating in the Borough to obtain their views and also to draw an average of their respective fees. All of the vets agreed to fully participate in any scheme which might be introduced. The following details are of the scheme as operated at this present time within the Borough.

1. Extent

Persons eligible for financial assistance were restricted to residents of the Borough who were entitled to certain state benefits. These benefits are as follows:

1. Attendance Allowance

2. Family Credit

3. Housing Benefit

4. Income Support

5. Invalid Care Allowance

6. Old Age Pension

7. Sickness Invalidity Benefit

8. Severe Disablement Allowance

9. Training Allowance

10. Unemployment Benefit

11. War Disability Pension

12. War Widows Pension

13. Widows Allowance

DUNDEE & KIRKLEES

The Scheme applied to the owners of cats and dogs only. In conclusion, the collaborative efforts of the various voluntary Animal Welfare Organisations and this Authority has enabled the scheme to be both highly successful and economical in terms of the minimum level of administration costs.

Dundee District Council has operated a spaying programme since 1989 whereby all bitches sold from the Local Authority Kennels are spayed at the Council's expense. Furthermore they actively seek out those owners whose bitches have produced unwanted litters and organise spaying operations.

The programme is successful in that the number of puppies brought into their kennels has been reduced by 54% since the introduction of the scheme. Also, the number of dogs having to be destroyed has reduced by 83% in the same period.

The council, on receipt of a number of donations towards the spaying programme, has agreed to match £1 for £1 any such donations.

______________________________

Kirklees Metropolitan Council and the Huddersfield Branch of the RSPCA evolved a scheme for low cost neutering of dogs from 1 April 1992 to 31 March 1993. Local vets were canvassed, and as a result five practices agreed to take part in the scheme, which was funded mainly by Kirklees Metropolitan Council, and a contribution of £5000 by the Huddersfield branch of the RSPCA.

The cost of the scheme was £25 to Kirklees residents, but only £5 to those who qualified for a Kirklees Passport (ie Low Income groups who can register for a passport which entities them to discounts on various Council Services).

In this scheme, only bitches were spayed - does were not included. The cost to Kirklees Metropolitan Council was £40 + VAT per bitch spayed.

From 1 April 1993, we have commenced an amended scheme - again, in partnership with the Huddersfield Branch of the RSPCA. Our current scheme is for Kirklees Passport holders only - the cost to them is £10, but under this scheme, both dogs and bitches can be neutered. The cost to Kirklees Metropolitan Council is £47 per bitch, £30 per dog (both inclusive of VAT).

In their 92/93 campaign, a total of 884 bitches were spayed. Kirklees Metropolitan Council, and those members of the RSPCA who were involved, are delighted with the results and feel that it is money well-spent.
 

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