Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Stray Dog Survey 2009: numbers increase; calls for compulsory microchipping

Our annual Stray Dog Survey is complete... and the results are disappointing.

Figures show that a staggering 107,228 stray and abandoned dogs were picked up by Local Authorities from UK streets in the last year. This represents an unacceptable increase of 11% and is the highest increase recorded since records began in 1997.

We strongly believe that 2008’s change in stray dog law in England and Wales, whereby police no longer hold statutory responsibility for stray dogs, may explain this sudden increase; we also fear that the current financial crisis is contributing to the problem.

Over 9,000 unclaimed stray dogs are being put to sleep by Local Authorities; as a result we feel that the next step is a change in the law. We're asking the Government to introduce compulsory microchipping for all dogs in the UK. By using microchips to reunite lost pets with their owners and trace abandoned dogs back to irresponsible owners, the numbers can start dropping again.

In the last year, of those stray dogs that were returned to their owners, 31% were returned due to being microchipped – with compulsory microchipping many more could be reunited.

The annual survey is conducted by GfK NOP on behalf of Dogs Trust. Sadly, it shows a startling increase since the year before. Despite the sustained efforts of both animal welfare organisations and Local Authorities, on average 12 stray and abandoned dogs an hour are now handled by Local Authorities. Each hour:

• 5 are reunited with their owners
• 3 are taken to welfare organisations
• 1 is rehomed from the Local Authority kennels
• 2 are in kennels for their seven day holding period
• 1 dog is put to sleep

Our Chief Executive Clarissa Baldwin says:
“This is the largest annual increase since our records began in 1997. Previously we had seen a steady decline, but the latest statistics show a huge jump in the number of stray dogs both handled and put to sleep by Local Authorities. Some dog wardens mentioned the recession could have been an attributing factor to the increase, while others cited the change in the stray dog law last April.

We believe that the time is right to review the Control of Dogs Order and are calling on the Government to introduce compulsory microchipping of all dogs in the UK. Microchipping is an essential part of being a responsible dog owner and has helped so many people become reunited with their beloved pets.”

Compulsory microchipping already has significant support in the UK. Over 90% of Local Authorities and veterinary surgeons and almost 90% of dog owners are in favour of its introduction according to our research. To date 45 MPs have signed a supportive Early Day Motion (EDM) for the campaign and the charity has received additional support regionally from local MPs from all three of the main parties.

The introduction of Compulsory Microchipping would:

• Enable lost or straying dogs to be reunited promptly with their owners – meaning fewer dogs will be put to sleep at council pounds
• Permanently identify a dog in such a way that is virtually impossible to alter or remove - a clear advantage for dogs that are stolen
• Enable clear identification of the dog’s owner when prosecution is being considered for dog thieves and antisocial behaviour
• Significantly decrease the workload of all those dealing with stray dogs
• Reduce kennelling costs for Local Authorities and save time
• Allow puppies bred illegally or inappropriately on puppy farms to be traced to their source
• Significantly increase the welfare of racing Greyhounds as they could be traced back to their owners whilst they are racing and once they retire

We invest around £5m each year in neutering, microchipping and education programmes in the worst affected areas of the UK - Northern Ireland, North West, North East and Wales. Since the campaigns began in 1999, over 307,000 dogs have been neutered and 228,500 have been microchipped through these projects.

Responsible dog owners can get their pet chipped at their local vets for an average cost of £20-£30. We will microchip all dogs by appointment at any rehoming centre for a reduced cost of £10 and £5 for those on means tested benefits.

For the full results, broken down by region and compared to 2008's survey, please see our full press release (scroll down to the bottom for table).

Dogs Trust has a non destruction policy, we never destroy a healthy dog.
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