Helping ensure a dog's life is happy

Pounding the beat at the dog shelter

WE may have a reputation as a country of animal lovers, but more than 100 dogs abandoned in Falkirk last year might beg to differ.

Between April 2005 and March 2006, 143 dogs from across the district were taken to kennels.

Mel Bryce, environmental enforcement officer at Falkirk Council, is in charge of the dog wardens.

He said: "We operate with dog wardens in Stirling and Clackmannan, as well as working in conjunction with Central Scotland Police.

"Any stray dogs found in the Falkirk area by dog wardens are taken to Bandeath Dog Shelter in Throsk where they are kept until they can be rehomed.

"Stray dogs are not a huge problem in this area, especially since the introduction of dog wardens.

"Our officers are multi-skilled, and deal with a range of issues including pest control and dog fouling as well as responding to stray dogs and collecting dogs which have been taken in by the public."

The Dogs Trust rescue centre in West Calder also takes in abandoned and stray animals.

Assistant manager Karen Hobbs said: "There has been an increase of two per cent in the number of strays in Central Scotland.

"Happily though there has been a decrease in the number of dogs being put to sleep as more are being rehomed.

"I think a lot of the time people don't realise that having a pet is a lifelong responsibility.

"We always promote the fact that dogs should be neutered to avoid any unwanted puppies too."

Dogs Trust also wants all dogs to be microchipped, and all strays at the centre are neutered and chipped when they are taken in.

The charity's chief executive Clarissa Baldwin added: "Local authorities do a fantastic job trying to reunite dogs with their owners or rehoming them, but the situation will not improve unless owners take responsibility for their pets.

"It is unacceptable that we are prepared to treat animals as throwaway commodities, and dog owners must take responsibility.

"The message is clear. Get your dog neutered to prevent unwanted litters, and make sure he is microchipped and has an ID tag to ensure that, if he does get lost he can be easily returned to you."

Gillian Smith, who lives in Tamfourhill, is a helper for website

She said: "If a dog goes missing in this area, I do what I can to help the owner find it."

At the moment, a 15-week-old black labrador called Skye is missing from Clackmannan and is believed to be in the Falkirk area.

Gillian has helped with the search for Skye by hanging posters and flyers around the area.

"I've been a helper for six months but this is the first dog I've been involved with finding,'' she said.

"I think missing dogs are a problem, but I don't think it's well publicised.

"People don't know who to tell when their dog goes missing. Hopefully we can raise awareness of what people should do if they find or lose a dog.

"Also, people need to know that if they find a stray dog, they can't just keep it."

Gillian (28) also advised dog owners to get their pets micro chipped.

She added: "It means you can prove ownership if your dog does go missing. It also means if your dog has an accident, the RSPCA can get in touch with you."