Changes to the government’s dog warden service could save £20,000 a year, MHKs were told.
But Environment Minister Phil Gawne told the House of Keys his department has agreed to put off any changes for three months following concerns raised, by the ManxSPCA, about the welfare of animals if the service was to be reduced.
Replying to a question from David Quirk (Onchan), Mr Gawne said the current service, provided by an external contractor, typically collected up to 400 stray dogs a year (309 last year), most of which were picked up by, or returned to, their owners within a matter of hours. Just nine dogs were rehomed as their owners could not be identified.
He said the service was there to protect the public from the risk of dangerous dogs on the loose. However, last year only three of the dogs were perceived as acting in a way that was dangerous to the public, with the majority simply being lost.
Mr Gawne said it cost his department £100-£140 per dog to return a pet to their owners yet currently the service only charges for kennelling costs, with no charge for collecting and returning animals to owners who have allowed them to escape.
‘The department is therefore exploring opportunities to reduce the cost either by reducing the service level, of by introducing a proportionate charge for returning lost dogs to their owners,’ he said.
The Minister told MHK that during the working day the service could be provided by pest control officers. However, it is expected to continue having the out of hours collection and overnight kennelling services provided by contractors. ‘It is anticipated there is scope to save over £20,000 a year by this approach,’ he said.
Mr Gawne said with discussions ongoing with several interested parties over the potential changes, it had been agreed to extend the current contract, which had been due to expire on March 31, by three months.
He praised the professionalism of the contract dog warden.