WIGAN Council has had to spend almost £100,000 on dog control in the past year, shocking new figures have revealed.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request showed the local authority’s expenditure for dealing with the borough’s roaming strays and dogs needing picking up in 2013/14 was £99,897, down from £118,052 in 2012/13.
The data also showed the scale of the task facing Wigan’s dog warden service, which attended no fewer than 1,975 incidents in 2013/14.
This included 884 secure pick-ups, which occurs when a resident finds a stray dog and keeps it safe somewhere, often in their own home, for the dog wardens to come and collect.
Wardens also fielded 476 inquiries about lost dogs, dealt with 353 roaming stray dogs and answered 263 requests for advice, which could include anything from tackling animals’ anti-social behaviour to neutering pets, during the same 12-month period.
As the Wigan Evening Post’s Jade’s Law campaign to reintroduce dog registration gathers pace – with support from Wigan Council, local politicians and some animal welfare organisations – the FOI figures show clearly the scale of the problem.
Dealing with the borough’s four-legged population and tackling the consequences of poor or irresponsible dog ownership is adding pressure on town hall staff due to budget constraints.
The tragic death of Jade brought into sharp focus the need for a tightening of the dog laws in some form or other.
Jade was killed in 2013 when she was mauled to death by a pack of dogs as she stayed at the home of a schoolfriend in Atherton.
Since then her family, local MP Julie Hilling and council officers, have worked tirelessly for a change in the law to prevent others suffering like Jade.
Terry Dunn, director for environment at Wigan Council, said: “As our figures show our dog warden service is a busy one which responds to a variety of calls throughout the year.
“We urge people to be responsible dog owners and assist us by getting their dog micro-chipped and keeping those details up-to-date.
“This is especially relevant if someone is the new owner of a dog whose previous owner’s details will be on the microchip.
“As well as reacting to reports of stray dogs and helping to keep the public safe we will continue to promote responsible dog ownership in the borough through information roadshows.
“A change in law from 2016 onwards will make it compulsory for all dogs to be microchipped. This will help make it more likely that lost dogs will be reunited with their owners quickly.”
Wigan Council now has just one full-time dog warden dealing with the issue of stray dogs as well as an out-of-hours service for residents to report incidents.
From April 2016 it will be compulsory for all dogs and puppies to be microchipped, with owners failing to comply with the law facing fines.
A total of 188 dogs have already been chipped at the three roadshow events held in memory of 14-year-old Jade Lomas-Anderson who was mauled to death by a pack of dogs at a house in Atherton in 2013.
However, campaigners for dog licensing say this and changes to anti-social behaviour legislation following Jade’s tragic death do not go far enough, calling for registration to making owners fully accountable and ring-fence a budget for enforcement.
Wigan Council chief executive Donna Hall, who also supports the reintroduction of registration, said: “The reintroduction of dog licensing would help to ensure that owners are prepared to look after their dogs responsibly, which in turn would help to prevent the number of homeless dogs and the number of animal cruelty incidents.
“But we also think it’s important to educate owners about the importance of responsible dog ownership, to prevent tragedies like Jade’s death from happening again.”