CAMPAIGNS AND EDUCATION
An annual survey undertaken by NOP (latterly MORI) for Dogs Trust has consistently
shown that over 100,000 dogs a year stray. The number of strays euthanased has reduced
from 40,000 in 1992 to less than 8,000 in 2006, partly as a result of public education
campaigns and as a result of pro-active neutering by animal welfare charities and some
local authorities. This is a reflection of owner attitudes and therefore education of owners
is a crucial technique in reducing the number of strays.
Many local authorities find themselves with a growing population of kennelled dogs with
no hope of finding their owner, or new homes for them. Even when the owner is known,
the prospect of paying a fine, lack of transport, and other reasons may lead to the dog
remaining unclaimed. As a result a significant proportion of stray dogs impounded by
local authorities are destroyed.
In recent years many local authorities have seen the benefits of expanding services
beyond the legal minimum remit required by the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and
Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act 1996. Innovative campaign schemes have been introduced,
often in partnership with animal welfare charities or the private sector, to tackle the root
causes of poor dog ownership as a ‘prevention is better than cure’ approach. Two initiatives,
which tackle many of the issues above effectively, are microchipping and neutering.
Reducing the number of strays
There are various ways that local authorities can facilitate microchipping schemes within
their area. They can provide venues for voluntary organisations to visit and hold clinics.
Many have started their own microchipping service, training their staff to implant the
microchips, and these have been variously provided at reduced cost, cost price, and free
of charge. Authorities can provide local knowledge of their area, highlighting areas where
stray dogs are more prevalent and assist with the publicity of events planned. Effective
animal welfare officers know their target audience.
Experience has shown that microchipping schemes reduce the stray dog population, and
because stray dogs cannot pick up their own mess, complaints about fouling reduce
accordingly. One local authority reported that, one year after the introduction of a
microchipping scheme, there was a 20 per cent reduction in the number of stray dogs
handled, and an 18 per cent reduction in the number of complaints about dog fouling.
Thus a clear relationship between microchipping, stray dogs, and dog fouling was identified.
Microchipping provides an instant benefit, as many of the target animals stray every day,
and therefore the stray dog population has the potential to reduce immediately.
● Each dog microchipped is one less potential unclaimed stray to kennel and dispose of
● Each time a dog is microchipped, it provides an opportunity for educating the owner
about responsible dog ownership
● The chance of identifying a dog that fouls are improved
● Each dog microchipped has the potential to save the local authority money.
The practical issues for officers enforcing this legislation are that there is often little or no
contact between the owner and veterinary surgeons, so vaccination, worming, flea
treatment, microchipping and neutering never arise as an issue until the owner has either
lost his dog, or an unwanted litter is produced. These duties can provide officers with an
excellent opportunity to offer advice to owners in relation to their responsibilities and how
best to care for their dog.
Neutering is a generic term to cover castration in dogs and spaying in bitches, both surgical
procedures to prevent mating resulting in a litter. Neutering schemes are aimed principally
at preventing the unwanted litters that are associated with stray dogs but there are also
medical benefits for the individual dog as well. Neutering therefore benefits dogs and
bitches, their owners and local authorities. Neutering has a number of beneficial effects
on the dog:
● Preventing unwanted litters, many of which could be dumped or rehomed
● Helping to control aggression and hyperactivity
● Preventing bitches coming into season, eliminating mess in the house, and
preventing the attention of stray male dogs
● Preventing or reducing the risk of uterine infections in bitches and testicular cancer
● Reducing the urge to stray
● Reducing the risk of dogs forming packs
● Controlling inappropriate sexual behaviour, particularly in male dogs.
Neutering schemes can run within local authorities in partnership with charities and welfare
organisations. Neutering schemes can target key hot spot areas of straying and
fouling.The impact of neutering schemes is less immediate than microchipping, simply
because reaching reproductive age and actual reproduction takes time. It is never possible
to say exactly how many dogs have been prevented as a result of neutering one animal.
However most bitches, given the freedom to breed, will have one or two litters a year and
may have up to 10 puppies in each until relatively late in life. Each bitch puppy may start
breeding at six months of age and so contribute themselves to the population.
Tackling dog fouling
Local authorities generally have three levels of intervention with dog fouling:
Picking dog mess up off the streets
This is the lowest level of intervention, but deals with the immediate problem of street
cleanliness. It does nothing to catch the perpetrators or change behaviour. Simply picking
up waste could be seen as condoning and even encouraging dog fouling to occur.
Furthermore the costs to local authorities are significant, with one estimate being £22 million
in England alone.
Faeces disposal bins
The provision of disposal bins is an essential public service to assist keepers of dogs in
their public duty to pick up faeces after their dogs. The number of bins has increased
significantly over the past decade and local authorities are encouraged to provide them,
especially in public areas where dogs frequently exercise.
Enforcing the dog fouling legislation
Although enforcement may be difficult and expensive (it is difficult to witness and requires
lots of resources) it is an essential element of any control programme. A temporary increase
in officer resources can assist in public education about legislation and encourage support
for the authority in controlling fouling among dog owners as well as the general public.
A successful education campaign is the most effective form of intervention because it
secures a permanent change in behaviour.
Poop scoop campaigns
Giving away poop scoops is one of the most cost-effective methods in changing behaviour.
Because much of the dog fouling occurs outside of regular office hours, the cost of one
evening patrol at overtime can buy approximately 10,000 poop
scoops to give away! If only half of these are used it still means
much cleaner streets and smaller cleaning-up costs. No other
method can bring about such a benefit with so little effort.
Grab it Bag it Bin it
Poop scoops can also be used to advertise council services and get across key messages.
They can be given away during microchipping and neutering events and by park rangers,
street wardens, and ward councillors. Some authorities give awards when they see
responsible owners picking up.
The power of the media can never be underestimated. Press releases are free and local
media are usually looking for stories and will support campaigns which can help to:
● Promote positive messages about using poop scoops
● Advertise neutering and microchipping work
● Promote enforcement work. Experience has shown that the prospect of being
caught is the deterrent that stops offences
● Publicise prosecutions and name and shame offenders
● Encourage witnesses to come forward
There may be campaigns to join, such as National Pet Month, which can be used to
supports all these objectives.
In the longer term a concerted media campaign can change behaviour amongst irresponsible
dog owners in a way that one to one contact never can, because dog fouling becomes
socially unacceptable throughout the community.
Working with schools
Children are the dog owners of tomorrow and
their education can change attitudes in the long
term. Many animal welfare charities provide free
education materials to schools which are
designed to fit within the national curriculum.
Animal welfare officers can talk to groups or a Photo: Clive Tagg
school assembly in accordance with the agreed Education officer with children
format for school talks. There are a number of recommendations for working with children.
Most of these are for the animal welfare officer’s own protection.
● The local authority must be in possession of a full Criminal Records Bureau (CRB)
check for the animal welfare officer, which should include the section ‘Access to
● The officer should be accompanied by a member of the school staff at all times and
never be left alone with children
● The officer should not touch or come into physical contact with children.
● Children should not be frightened by the presentation which should be given in a
language and tone of voice appropriate to the age of the children
● It is the responsibility of the accompanying member of school staff to chastise
● Written permission must be obtained from the head/organising teacher to take
photographs for publicity. It is advisable to seek further advice on this matter from
the legal department.
● Taking a dog into a school can be both an attraction and a distraction. It is important
to obtain the permission of the school. Authority must be obtained before taking a
dog into school and public liability insurance checked. Some children may be frightened
by the dog and it should be removed if this is the case.
● A dog should be of known suitable temperament and confident in the presence of
children. It should be kept on a lead, closely controlled, well groomed and have
been wormed within the past three months.
● The welfare of the dog must be a primary consideration and it should be removed if
any signs of stress are shown. Obviously if the dog defecates on the school premises
faeces should be removed immediately and the area washed with disinfectant if
Dog training classes
Dog training classes are usually run by enthusiastic and experienced individuals. However
they may have no formal qualification and quality can vary. Animal welfare officers should
be aware of classes available in their area and their quality. Anyone who recommends a
dog training facility, be they vet or animal welfare officer, should understand what is good
and what is not. All training should be achieved by kindness and reward and methods
causing pain are not recommended.
Working with the Kennel Club
The Kennel Club licenses over 7000 canine events every year but the management of
these events lie in the hands of approximately 2000 dog clubs in the UK, catering for
every breed and every interest in the dog world. These dog clubs have all been set up by
enthusiasts and some have been in existence as long as the Kennel Club itself. There are
several categories of clubs all catering for people with different interests. Animal welfare
officers may be invited to various club functions throughout the year, plus it may prove
beneficial to build relationships with the various organisations.
Good Citizen Dog Scheme
Many dog owners start dog training via the Kennel Club’s Good Citizen Dog Scheme
(GCDS). The scheme is the largest programme in the UK with over 110,000 dogs and
owners passing through the Scheme since its inception in 1992. It teaches responsible
dog ownership as well as training for everyday situations. The scheme is open to all dogs,
large and small, regardless of age or breed and its primary aim is to promote responsible
dog ownership and, in turn, help make the community aware of the benefits associated
with a well behaved dog. Through the Scheme, dog training courses, lasting eight to 10
weeks, are organised by over 1000 dog training clubs, adult education centres and councils
throughout the country. The Scheme is deliberately non-competitive and is made fun for
both dog and owner alike. There are three levels - bronze, silver and gold - and areas
covered include cleanliness and identification, sit, stay, rejoining the handler on command
and walking on the lead under control. At the end of each course a testing session is held
by a Kennel Club approved organisation and the examiner will be either an animal welfare
officer, recognised Kennel Club judge, member of the British Institute of Professional Dog
Trainers, or a police/service dog handler. Animal welfare officers can qualify as examiners
and, as great emphasis is placed on educating dog owners about their responsibility to
their local community, for example ensuring that owners are aware of local byelaws, clean
up after their dogs and keep their dogs under control at all times, GCDS Clubs will certainly
be of benefit to the animal welfare officer’s role.
Safe and Sound
The Kennel Club Safe and Sound Award Scheme was launched in November 2003 as an
educational website. Its purpose is to promote the safety of interaction between children
and dogs. The constant development and updating of the scheme ensures that parents,
teachers, children or other enthusiasts can continually learn the ‘safe and sound’ principles.
For more details contact the Kennel Club. Their details are in the useful contacts section.
There are over 200 breeds of dog recognised by the Kennel Club and nearly all breeds
have at least one breed club. More unusual breeds have only one club, but really popular
breeds, like the cocker spaniel, boast over 20 clubs. The people who set up and belong
to these clubs are breed enthusiasts who may have been involved with a particular breed
all their lives, or be keen newcomers. Dog owners who are serious about showing their
dog usually become a member of their breed club as they offer more expert advice on the
chosen breed. As these clubs are for breed enthusiasts, they will be involved with all sorts
of activities that promote the well being and understanding of their particular breed. As
well as societies dedicated to specific breeds there are hundreds of clubs catering for
dog lovers on a regional basis.
General canine societies
Many clubs are geared towards more general interests and to scheduling shows and
some also run classes. There are hundreds of clubs set up specifically to cater for the
sports of obedience, agility and flyball, working trials, and field Trials and gundog working
tests and many of these clubs cater for more than one discipline. For further information
contact the Kennel Club (see contacts list).
Other animal clubs
Animal welfare officers may encounter a number of different clubs devoted to all animals
including birds, horses and exotics. National organisations to which such clubs may be
affiliated are listed in the useful contacts section at the back of the Handbook.