Opinion Former Article

RSPCA celebrates animal friendly councils with new awards scheme

The RSPCA has unveiled the first ever winners of a pioneering new awards scheme for local authorities and housing providers that have gone above and beyond the call of duty in protecting animal welfare.

Somerset County Council, Fylde Borough Council in Lancashire and Cardiff Council have been crowned the winners of the prestigious 'Innovator Awards' as part of the first ever RSPCA's Community Animal Welfare Footprints. An impressive total of 49 local authorities and housing providers from across England and Wales have also been rewarded with footprint awards after taking part in the voluntary scheme.

The RSPCA is confident the Community Animal Welfare Footprints and Innovator Awards will become established as a recognised seal of approval for those local authorities and housing providers pioneering new methods of tackling animal welfare issues.

Piers Claughton, the RSPCA's Senior Local Government Advisor, said: "The aim of the Community Animal Welfare Footprints is to recognise and celebrate those that have made an extra effort and gone beyond their basic service requirements to ensure higher welfare standards in some of the services they provide.

"This has been an opportunity to gather information of good practice from England and Wales and allow public service providers to talk up the work they do. I hope by promoting this good practice it can help others find solutions to the problems they have encountered."

Somerset County Council has been crowned the winner of the County and Unitary Council Innovator Award in recognition of the free advice clinics for farmers it has pioneered in partnership with local livestock markets. The authority was praised by the judges for creating a template for other councils that will help proactively reduce the need for enforcement action involving farm animals.

The London Borough of Brent was highly commended, coming a very close second, in the same category for its role in the BARK (Brent Action for Responsible K9s) project, a multi-agency group that aims to promote responsible dog ownership. Judges praised the imaginative, logical and strategic approach the council had taken on tackling the problem of dogs being used as status symbols.

The English District and Borough Council Innovator Award went to Fylde Borough Council, in Lancashire. The authority joined forces with Myerscough College, near Preston, to deliver intensive training courses on understanding canine aggression and for pet shop inspectors. These courses have since been attended by local authority officers from across the rest of the UK.

Cardiff Council and Cardiff Dogs Home scooped the title of Wales Unitary Authority Innovator after judges said they provided a model of good practice for any city to use in tackling the issue of stray dogs. The council-operated dogs home formed a partnership with a canine charity to provide free neutering for 468 dogs and a free microchip for more than 800 in a single year.

The Innovator Awards are run alongside the Community Animal Welfare Footprints scheme. There are four categories of footprint that councils can apply for, which each reflect a different aspect of local authority service provision. The four categories are the Stray Dogs Footprint, the Housing Footprint, the Animal Welfare Principles Footprint and the Contingency Planning Footprint.

Local authorities which met the requirements of an individual footprint will receive a certificate commemorating their achievement, and will be able to use the RSPCA Community Animal Welfare Footprints logo - in gold, silver or bronze - on council publications and their website for the next 12 months.

Bob Mayho, Principal Policy Officer at the Charted Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), was on the judging panel for this year's Footprint scheme.

Mr Mayho said: "I am delighted that the CIEH is associated with this scheme and think this RSPCA initiative gives a welcome focus to local authority animal welfare services. The Community Animal Welfare Footprints have identified areas of best practice that other local authorities can learn from.

"I was impressed with the quality of all the applications for the scheme and thought they showed a great deal of innovation. Hopefully they will encourage even more councils to apply for footprint status next year."

Also on the judging panel was Jeremy Adams, of Cambridgeshire County Council Trading Standards. He said: "This scheme will act as a catalyst for more innovation and new ways of dealing with animal welfare issues."

The panel was completed by Mike Radford, Director of Undergraduate Programmes at the University of Aberdeen School of Law. Mr Radford was awarded an OBE this year for his services to animal welfare law.

He said the judges were unanimous in choosing the winners of the Innovator Awards, and were impressed with the standard of entries throughout the whole scheme. He praised the RSPCA for taking the initiative to create the Community Animal Welfare Footprints.

Mr Radford said: "I am sure there will be a lot of local authorities out there that will say they are doing things just as good as this year's winners, in which case they should put in their entries for next year's Community Animal Welfare Footprints."

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Notes to editors:

More information on the Community Animal Welfare Footprints scheme, Footprint criteria and entry forms are available at www.rspca.org.uk/cawf

1. The following authorities were awarded the Stray Dogs Footprint:

Gold: Luton Borough Council, Ashfield District Council, Norwich City Council, Wrexham Borough Council, London Borough of Hillingdon Council, London Borough of Wandsworth Council, London Borough of Lewisham Council, London Borough of Brent Council, London Borough of Waltham Forest Council, London Borough of Newham Council, Test Valley Borough Council, Manchester City Council, Warrington Borough Council, Stevenage Borough Council.

Silver: Vale Royal Borough Council, Cardiff Dogs Home/Cardiff Council, Southampton City Council, Isle of Anglesey County Council, Ribble Valley Borough Council, Bristol City Council Dog Warden Service, Sedgefield Borough Council, London Borough of Enfield Council, Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council, Wokingham Borough Council.

Bronze: Cherwell District Council, Preston City Council, Ryedale District Council, Caerphilly County Borough Council.

2. The following authorities were awarded the Housing Footprint:

Gold: Wandsworth Borough Council, Wales & West Housing Association.

Silver: Caldmore Area Housing Association Ltd, Sussex Housing & Care, Five Village Home Association.

Bronze: Broomleigh Housing Association, Bournemouth Borough Council, Southampton City Council, West Kent Housing Association, The Wrekin Housing Trust, Eastlands Homes Partnership Limited, Dartington Housing Association, Tendring District Council, Fabrick Housing Group.

3. The following authorities were awarded the Animal Welfare Principles Footprint:

Bronze: Sedgefield Borough Council, Rochford District Council, London Borough of Hillingdon Council, Basildon District Council, Ryedale District Council, Southampton City Council.

4. The following authorities were awarded the Contingency Planning Footprint:

Gold: Northampton County Council/Local Resilience Forum

Bronze: London Borough of Enfield Council

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