While the RSPCA’s interest in the stray dog issue is rooted in animal welfare, the service that local authorities provide has an impact on other areas, from street cleanliness
and fouling to public protection and anti-social behaviour.

With public budgets tightening further across England and Wales, it is more important than ever for the RSPCA to highlight the vital role that local authority stray dog/animal welfare services play in the local community as the sole statutory responder to stray dogs and stray dog-related issues.

Since the scheme’s inception in 2008, this footprint has been the most popular, with achievers inspiring others to develop and improve their service.

Entry criteria

The main aim of this footprint is to set a level of good practice for stray dog provision by acknowledging local authority services that have mechanisms and policies to ensure dog welfare, provide staff training, and promote responsible dog ownership. It also aims to encourage local authorities to look at this important and often undervalued service and address any resource and service issues that may help them to meet the footprint criteria in the future.

This footprint was developed after discussions with local authority officers, with input from the RSPCA’s inspectorate and science teams, and some of the Society’s branches.
The Stray Dogs Footprint is open to all local authorities in England and Wales that provide a stray dog service (unitary, metropolitan, London borough, Wales unitary and district councils).

If you contract-out your stray dog service you can still receive a footprint provided you prove that the minimum requirements are requested in your procurement policy for this service, and that your service provider meets them.

Evidence of
  • Dog handling, welfare and behaviour training for all officers responsible for stray dog collection (including holiday cover) in a safe environment.
    • This will ensure consistency of service and help ensure dog welfare, as well as health and safety for all officers involved in stray dog collection – even if just covering holiday.
  • Procedure in place to get treatment for injured and sick stray dogs efficiently and humanely, including those found by the public.
    • This will ensure that the length of time a stray dog suffers from injury or sickness will be minimised. In any procedure, consideration should be made for members of the public
      who find and report injured strays, particularly out of hours. This should also include clear procedures to ensure cover for staff sickness and holiday, as well as disease outbreaks.
  • Written procedural policy to scan (or check for other identification) all stray dogs collected or received by the local authority and reunite those that have an up to date microchip with their owner.
    • Although most local authorities scan and check for the identification of strays, it is important that a procedural policy is in place to ensure this happens every time. This could reunite owners and stray dogs faster and could help to remind owners it is a legal requirement to get their dogs microchipped.
  • Written procedural policy to scan or check dead dogs (and cats and other pets) for microchips and other forms of identification.
    • Dead animals are often collected by waste management rather than the service responsible for stray dogs.
  • The council or contractor’s stray dog kennels and out-of-hours reception centre has clear facilities, protocols and procedures that meet the five needs defined under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
    • This will ensure that the local authority maintains the welfare standards required under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. For further information see the RSPCA and CIEH’s publication: A good practice guide for enforcement bodies – meeting the welfare needs of seized dogs in a kennel environment.
  • Staffed out-of-hours kennels/reception centre.
    • This is essential to ensure the welfare of the dogs should an emergency occur.
  • Information provided to owners reclaiming strays on how to prevent the animal straying again.
    • Educating the owner will help reduce the chance of a dog straying again.
  • Records kept, and regularly updated, of all strays received and how they were disposed of.
    • Clear records will help local authorities when focusing resources on reducing the problem of straying dogs. These records should include the number of dogs returned, rehomed, euthanased on medical grounds, and euthanased on non-medical grounds.
All of Bronze, plus evidence of
  • A clear rehoming policy for kennels to ensure all dogs rehomed are assessed – behaviourally and physically – and permanently identified, and that potential new owners are vetted.
    • This policy will reduce the likelihood of dogs being returned to the kennels, thus reducing the cost to local authorities of rehoming again and, in turn, improving the quality of life for the dog. The policy should apply to any third-party kennels that the council may use after the statutory seven-day period. Where rehoming is not possible, clear evidence must be provided to demonstrate that efforts have been made to address this.
  • Active promotion through council website and leaflets of the legal requirement to microchip and that details must be kept up to date, neutering and the duty of care under section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
    • The provision of easily accessible information plays an important part in preventing welfare issues occurring due to ignorance. This in turn can reduce the likelihood of dogs straying, fouling and causing a nuisance. Information given should include specific advice for those buying a puppy reminding them of the breeder’s legal responsibility to microchip puppies before they’re sold, and of the requirement for owners to update the database with their details.
  • Compulsory microchipping or other permanent identification of  all stray dogs before being returned to owners or rehomed.
    • This policy will ensure that the dogs are more likely to be returned to their owner if they stray again, are complying with the law, saving the local authority money and the owner time searching.
All of Bronze and Silver, plus evidence of
  • Provision of an out-of-hours service that meets the requirements of the local community to ensure animal welfare. This should include evening and weekend provision where dogs can be collected or deposited by members of the public.
    • Please evidence with an explanation of reasons for level of service and how the welfare of the dogs is ensured out of hours.
  • Regular proactive work to encourage responsible pet ownership.
    • Proactive work can help to reduce the number of noise complaints from dogs barking, reduce the amount of dog faeces left and improve the relationship between dog and non-dog owners in the community.

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