Shame of Leeds stray dogs toll

Irresponsible dog owners have been branded a "drain on council tax money" by a Leeds councillor after wardens picked up more than 1,000 strays in a 12-month period.

Coun Robert Finnigan (Morley Borough Independents, Morley), who is lobbying the Government to reintroduce a dog tax licence, said it was a "shocking statistic" and further proof that something needed to be done to make owners accountable for the estimated 92,000 dogs in Leeds.

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The five city council dog wardens collected 1,168 strays in 2009/10, which works out at three dogs a day – twice as many as were found in Bradford during the same period.

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Of these, 547 were reunited with their owners, 433 claimed by rescue centres, 134 claimed by other organisations or individuals and 54 put down.

There is no record of how many dogs were put down because of ill health.

Nationally, the number of strays has fallen, but in Yorkshire, wardens rounded up 12,392 dogs last year – 70 per cent more than in 08/09, according to the Dogs Trust's annual stray dog survey.

"It is a shocking statistic," said Coun Finnigan, who owns a poodle called Toby. "It reconfirms the fact that the City Council was right to campaign for the reintroduction of the dog licence. Dog wardens are overwhelmed and overstretched."

Earlier this year, a resolution to bring back a dog licence was passed by Leeds City Council.

If backed centrally, all owners would be expected to register dogs for an annual 10 fee and to make sure their pets were "chipped". If not, they could have their dog removed.

A dog licence would make sure that dog owners rather than the public purse would pay for dog wardens and complaints about dog fouling, stray and dangerous dogs, Coun Finnigan said.

A charitable contribution could also be made to an animal welfare group, he added.

But Dogs Trust's chief executive Clarissa Baldwin has said that a return to the dog licence would provide no welfare benefit to dogs and was simply a "punitive tax" on responsible dog owners, who already contribute estimated 451 million to the public purse through dog-related tax resources.

Compulsory chipping of dogs so that owners can be traced would be much more effective and fair, she said. Currently, Leeds dog owners can be fined up to 5,000 when a dog is found in a public place without a collar and tag with the owner's name and address on it.

Pets can be chipped by a vet from 20.

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