Concerns over end of dog warden service

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The ManxSPCA has raised its concerns about plans to end the government’s dog warden service.

Environment, Food and Agricultural Minister Phil Gawne told the Manx Independent that the current dog warden service would end on April 1 due to reduced budgets.

But he said that a decision was yet to be taken on what it would be replaced with.

Bill Cubbon, chairman of the ManxSPCA, has written to the Minister with his concerns. The two sides are due to meet on Friday next week (February 28) in the hope of reaching an agreement on the way forward.

In a statement from the charity, it explains DEFA is proposing the service is carried out by the department’s pest control officers.

‘This, in the opinion of the ManxSPCA, is not a viable proposition as these officers work from 9am until 5pm and do not cover weekends or bank holidays.

‘We do not consider the proposed action to be in the best interests of the animals or, indeed, their concerned owners who will have no way of contacting the pest control officers out of hours.’

At present, if a dog is taken by the dog warden it is kept in secure kennels on his premises. If, after the statutory seven-day period it is unclaimed it goes to Ard Jerkyll and the society follows the guidelines of its normal adoption procedure.

If all the rescue kennels at Ard Jerkyll are occupied, the society pays for the dog’s care until it can be brought to it.

But the ManxSPCA understands the £10 cost per animal per day for this ‘could be considerably higher under the new system’.

The charity is also seeking clarity ‘as a matter of urgency’ who would decide the future of dogs unclaimed after seven days, saying it is not confident the decision being in the department’s hands ‘is in the best interests of the animals’.

Mr Gawne said the decision had been taken to end the dog warden service, adding: ‘But as to what we will do instead, there’s no decision. And if there’s a compelling case for a dog warden service, that can be done with less money then we will look at that.’

He said: ‘There’s an assumption everything is agreed and finalised six/seven weeks before the change is implemented. The savings having to be made across government mean we are having to do things at a far quicker pace.’

The Minister added: ‘I genuinely believe a decision is there to be found.

‘I want to make sure we come up with something that works, that’s cost-effective, and most importantly is in the best interests of the animal.’

The ManxSPCA’s statement has received mixed opinions on the its Facebook page.

Joanne Oldbury, who works at Arg Beiyn Veterinary Practice, said: ‘I don’t think we know enough about the skills, training and facilities of the new team to slate them yet.

‘All the facts don’t appear to be on the table, so perhaps it would be pertinent to wait and see exactly what the new process shall be.’

Allie Brophy, who delivers a project to help primary school children understand empathy towards animals, said: ‘The dog warden does an excellent job and this service is very, very much needed.

‘This system already works fantastically in conjunction with MSPCA, it would be a complete shame if this was taken away due to funding.’

In addition to DEFA’s dog warden service, some local authorities employ wardens to enforce dog control byelaws.

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