Sunday 1 February 2015

Slavering feral packs of dogs roam Stoke?

Has anyone seen the slavering feral packs of dogs which The Sentinel newspaper would like us to think are roaming the city? No, me neither...

Figures obtained by The Sentinel reveal more than 2,700 dogs have been found abandoned in Stoke-on-Trent or seen wandering the city’s streets since January 2012. [...] 2,000 of the dogs were rescued from the streets and taken to kennels. A further 700 animals were reported to be 'roaming' the city.

The Sentinel is sensationally conflating dogs merely reported as "seen wandering" with actually "abandoned" dogs. Despite the Council's growing budget for stray dog catching services — running at £63,000 a year in 2014/15 (the amount is from an FOI request) — there were reportedly 700 uncatchable roaming dogs reported over the last two years. That appears to equal less than one report of a stray dog per day anywhere in the city: of the 'the Council located it and tried to catch it, it wasn't friendly and ran away' type, perhaps indicating it was a hardened stray. But possibly these "700" dogs were actually multiple public reports of the same dogs — The Sentinel gives no estimate of the total for 'identified dogs known to have been on the loose for more than x amount of time'. I'd expect it's no more than a dozen genuine 'one-month abandoned' starving dogs across the whole city, even in the summer.

There is of course a potential impact on wildlife from a build-up of stray dogs, since even normal dog-walking has been proven to scare away around a third of all the birds from parks and conservation areas. So the threat of a build up of stray dogs would need to be dealt with, if it were to happen. It doesn't appear to be happening. Although the City Council has reportedly cut the weekend and evening working hours for its dog wardens, the overall dog-catching budget has actually gone up for 2015, and the cuts to overtime hours don't appear to have made things worse.

I've done a lot of walking and cycling through the city during the last few years, and I don't think I've ever seen a genuine rough-looking stray dog once. The real menace to pedestrians and cyclists is the deranged smaller yappy dog that gets let off the lead in a park by their owner, which then comes hurtling toward you over the grass and either leaps up and/or tries to bite your ankles.

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