Increase in stray dog tax will bite hard

by Emma Cameron.

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Scottish taxpayers are set to face an eightfold rise in the cost of removing stray dogs from the streets.

Scotland largest police force, Strathclyde, has stated that annual bills for supplying kennels to ownerless pets could soar from £50,000 to more than £400,000 by the beginning of 2010. Senior police officers have been forced to increase their spending after the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) raised their charges for the service.

To date, Strathclyde police and other forces have simply handed stray animals over to homes run by the SSPCA for a relatively modest fee. Officers say they ‘managed’ almost 1500 strays last year, incurring charges of £52,000.

The SSPCA has recently announced that, by the end of 2009,  it will charge a flat rate of £250 per animal. Police have said that, even if the number of strays stays put, this rate will push kennelling bills up to £415,000.

In Scotland, under the 1906 Dogs Act, taxpayers, through police and councils, will pick up the tab for stray dogs. Strathclyde Police has asked the Scottish Government to change the law but justice secretary Kenny MacAskill has no plans to do so.

The SSPCA has countered that as a charity who receive no government funding and  are solely reliant on donations, it should not be expected to subsidise police and councils.

A spokesman from Strathclyde Police said that: “This highlights an alarming increase in the costs involved in handling stray dogs and comes at a time when the police budget is facing unprecedented constraints.”

Earlier this week, Strathclyde has warned that it may be facing a financial black hole. As a result, it plans to make up some of this blow from kennelling by recouping costs, including the £250 fee, from any owners they are able to trace.

The SSPCA has financial worries of its own, mainly due to adverts being shown for their English counterpart, the RSPCA and therefore the SSPCA’s  funding being curbed.

Stuart Earley, Chief Executive of the SSPCA, stated that: “All local authorities and police forces in Scotland have a statutory responsibility for kennelling stray dogs for up to seven days and we currently have contracts to house stray dogs with nine local authorities, based in the west of Scotland.”

“However, we analysed the figures and discovered our charges represented less than 20 per cent of the costs we were incurring; in effect we were subsidising the local authorities.”

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