A new council-run kennels for stray dogs would stop animals being put under stress by ferrying them to and from Crawley or Hailsham – and free up time for officers to work with badly behaved abandoned dogs and save them from being put down.
The city council currently kennels most strays at Crawley, and outsources care for strays found at evenings and weekends to a private contractor which uses other kennels in Hailsham.
Councillors will next week consider plans to build a new kennels and cattery at Hangleton Bottom, which its intended will help pay for itself by hiring spaces to the police, NHS, other councils and the general public.
A report due to be considered by next Tuesday’s policy and resources committee says: “Currently provision is a mix of private providers based in Hailsham and Crawley. Journey times can be lengthy depending on the time of day and create stress for the animals during transit.
“A kennelling facility in the city will reduce this by providing better journey times and less stress for animals. It will also free up officer time to rehabilitate abandoned dogs in our care with behaviour issues, reducing the need to euthanize them.
“Currently customers have to wait until an animal warden is free to travel to Crawley or Hailsham to collect a dog once the finder has come forward. There are currently no returns at weekends.
“A facility in the city will mean a dog can be returned faster to its owner, reducing the cost to the council of over weekend stays. It will also reduce the stress on the animal being kennelled for a longer period of time.”
At present the animal warden team, which employs two full time wardens, cares for about 200 stray dogs every year.
If the new animal shelter is built, the council will end the contracts with its current providers and employ a kennel manager and another four full time kennel staff, who will be joined by volunteers and possibly apprentices from Plumpton College.
The voluntary group Brighton Dogwatch, which won the council’s City Innovation Challenge award in 2016 for a range of ideas including providing volunteering support for the animal warden team, would be a key partner.
The shelter would also be used by Adur and Worthing councils and the NHS, and be used to shelter animals belonging to city residents who have to be evacuated because of any emergencies.
The proposals come after several failed attempts to find a different solution to providing an out of hours stray dog service. The police, which used to have responsibility for this, was not interested in continuing to provide it with council funding.
An arrangement with the council’s existing out of hours officers stalled because staff found it difficult to fit the extra duties in, and the contractual relationship with a private kennels in Newhaven proved difficult.
A three-month trial using a local vet practice as a drop off was ended by the vets over concerns for their staff’s safety in dealing with potentially violent dog owners.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, existing council staff have not been keen to take on antisocial hours working, and the RSPCA and Dogs Trust and a private company called The Animal Wardens have also been invited but declined the offer to run the service.
The report adds: “Every 3 years the outsourced part of the service is re-procured. Organisations such as the dogs trust, RSPCA, local vets and other local kennel providers are invited to tender.
“Historically only our current providers bid for these contracts. There is therefore a risk that should one of these suppliers fail the service may not be able to find another supplier.
“Moreover, there is also a risk that future price rises by these contractors may put pressure on the regulatory services budget.”
The proposed shelter will have 14 kennels and 25 cattery units, plus offices for both the animal warden and pest control team.