Kennelling seized dogs places 'burden' on police budgets

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Police forces across England say they are struggling to cope with the cost of kennelling potentially dangerous dogs that have been seized.

A BBC investigation has found that during the past five years more than 7,000 dogs have been kennelled in England, costing £5m.

During the same period, police spent £1m on kennelling 55,000 police dogs.

The Dogs Trust charity said it was "wasteful public spending". Police described the costs as a "burden".

The dogs kennelled by police forces across England include those dangerously out of control, animals suspected of being on the dangerous dogs list and those whose carer is in custody.

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'Stretched police finances'

Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Pritchard, the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) lead for dangerous dogs, said he was "very aware of the burden being placed on already stretched police finances" by kennelling such dogs.

He said: "National guidance will be released shortly which will offer advice to all forces to assist, where appropriate, in the returning of dogs pending the case being finalised at court.

"This decision would follow a stringent risk assessment by the individual force.

"I encourage the use of any procedures that reduce kennelling times to improve animal welfare and minimise cost. However, this should only be done where there is no increased risk to public safety or obstruction of the court process."

The NPCC said police had a responsibility under the Animal Welfare Act, and on humanitarian grounds, to look after a dog if its carer was taken in to custody.

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The BBC sent Freedom of Information requests to all police forces in England asking how many dogs were seized, the cost of kennelling, and the length of each dog's stay in the past five years.

The longest period of time a dog was kept was 985 days, in Hertfordshire, with the average amount spent per seized and dangerous dog being £650.

Nottinghamshire Police said a dog's stay was dependent on the type of offence, the owners and the courts, with the average cost of keeping a dog being £10-£12 per day.

A spokesman said: "The force recognises this is a problem although timescales are largely dictated by the courts.

"Where a dog is being held in kennels, the court will be advised that unnecessary delays will place heavy costs on police budgets and can have an adverse impact on the animal's welfare."

The costs of police dogs are lower as they are kept with their handlers, unless they are on annual leave. Most forces have their own kennels to house police dogs, although some smaller forces use private kennels.

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A spokeswoman from the Crown Prosecution Service said it "does not have a policy relating specifically to dogs being kept in kennels during criminal proceedings against their owners".

She said: "We endeavour to conclude cases as soon as possible to allow a properly informed decision to be made about a dog's future, however, where a decision cannot be made until the conclusion of the case there is no alternative other than to keep the animal in kennels for that period of time."

Police force Longest stay by an individual dog
Hertfordshire Constabulary 985 days or 2 years 8 months
Devon and Cornwall Police 700 days or 1 year 11 months
Bedfordshire Police 643 days or 1 year 9 months
Greater Manchester Police 539 days or 1 year 5 months
Nottinghamshire Police 439 days or 1 year 2 months

Claire Robinson, government relations manager for the RSPCA, said one of the "biggest challenges" was ensuring the CPS and courts service understood that such cases should be expedited and unnecessary delays should be avoided.

"This is an area of work we have identified as needing to do but we are at very early stages on this," she said.

Carlie Horsley, from the Dogs Trust charity, said the organisation believed "such wasteful public spending would have been unnecessary" and "there is a need for a fundamental overhaul of dog legislation and these figures further support this view".

"The current NPCC guidance suggests that there should be a 'stay at home policy' for suspected prohibited dogs until the case comes to court - akin to a bail period. However, Dogs Trust understands that this is not applied by every police force."

But she said the charity welcomed the government's recent amendments to the Dangerous Dogs Act, which would introduce a bail period.

"We believe that the introduction of this bail period, which will give every police force the discretion to allow a suspected prohibited dog to remain with its owner (providing the dog does not pose a threat to public safety), would not only provide significant welfare benefits for dogs that would otherwise be kennelled, but also save the police and public purse money in kennelling fees."

Police forces with the biggest spends Total spent in the past five years
Greater Manchester Police £906,104
Merseyside Police £896,029
West Yorkshire Police £553,989
Thames Valley Police £234,546 (2013-2014)
Bedfordshire/Cambridge/Herefordshire Tri-Force £213,759

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club secretary, said: "The Kennel Club is concerned with the welfare implications associated with dogs being kennelled for unlimited lengths of time after being seized under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

"We recognise that when dogs are being kennelled due to court cases the length of time may vary, so it should be a priority at all times that the dog is provided with regular exercise and mental stimulation, and given the opportunity to socialise with humans and other dogs so long as it is safe for it to do so."

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