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Stray dogs face postcode lottery

PUBLISHED: 10:06 20 August 2008 | UPDATED: 21:11 07 July 2010

Robyn Greenacre

A postcode lottery in the level of dog control has emerged across Norfolk.

An EDP survey has revealed some of the county's district councils offer a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week service for stray dogs to be collected and cared for, while others just operate within office hours.

A postcode lottery in the level of dog control has emerged across Norfolk.

An EDP survey has revealed some of the county's district councils offer a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week service for stray dogs to be collected and cared for, while others just operate within office hours.

District councils took over responsibility for lost dogs from police in April, with each council obliged to provide dog wardens and kennels, and educate the public on how to look after the animals.

And because the legislation gives councils some freedom, the standard varies dramatically.

Breckland Council has agreed to pay out almost £85,000 up to April 2010 to provide a new 24-hour service, on top of the current dog-control budget of just under £55,000.

Cabinet member Ann Steward said the council was having to foot the bill and was getting no financial help from the government.

“It is yet another responsibility the council has had to pick up,” she said.

Broadland District Council offers collection and return six days a week from 8.30am to 5pm but cannot afford an around-the-clock service.

King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council, which collects four tonnes of dog excrement a week, spends £34,000 a year on a contract, does not have a 24-hour service, but works with the local police safer neighbourhood team.

South Norfolk Council has an annual budget of £107,848 and provides someone on call seven days a week, from 9am to 10pm, with emergency callout if necessary

Norwich City Council has a 24-hour service costing £61,492.42, but adopted the legislation earlier than the rest of the county so is not anticipating a significant rise in the cost of providing it this year.

Great Yarmouth Borough Council was using the contract before the new legislation came in, and at the last review was still on budget.

North Norfolk District Council has three full-time animal-control workers and an informal agreement with vets to be an out-of-hours drop-off point for lost dogs.

Environmental health manager Stephen Hems said: “It's not unusual for residents who find a dog in a district that doesn't provide a 24- hour service to bring it here because they know we will collect and look after it. When the police gave up collecting dogs, they said it didn't cost them very much to provide the service. So we get £6,000 a year. That money is our kennel contract alone. We work with voluntary partners such as vets and the safer neighbourhood team to provide a better service. Just because we don't have the money doesn't mean we won't do the best we can.”

Dogs Trust veterinary director Chris Laurence said: “Dogs Trust is very disappointed with the allocation of just £4m for all local authorities in England and Wales to take sole responsibility for stray dogs. “We are concerned that stray dogs may be left to wander during the periods when dog wardens are not available and particularly at weekends when the number of stray dogs is often greatest. In 1997 police forces across the country estimated that stray dogs cost them around £15m per year. So it seems highly unlikely that £4m, 11 years on, will be anything like enough to help the problem.”

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