Gone to the Dogs
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SINCE its foundation at Holloway in 1860 as the temporary home for lost and starving dogs, the Dogs' Home, Battersea—to where it was removed in 1871—has given food and shelter to well over 2m. stray dogs, and the present yearly average of dogs dealt with is approximately 12,000. About 1,000 cats may also be collected.
By the Dogs Act, 1906, where a police officer has reason to believe that any dog found in a highway or other "place of public resort" is a stray, he is entitled to seize and detain it until claimed by its owner, who must be noti fied if his identity is known. If not claimed after seven clear days, the dog may be sold or destroyed. The majority of dogs, therefore, come to the Home through the action of the police—either directly by seizure or indirectly through persons taking apparent " strays " into police stations.
It is in the collection of animals from police stations in the Metropolitan and City Police areas that the Home's transport is principally used, and for which purpose it must be ready to operate six days a week without fail. Few police stations have really adequate accommodation for strays for more than a temporary stay, and as many of the dogs may have been on the run for days or weeks and be in poor physical condition, it is desirable that they should reach the Home as soon as possible after coming into the hands of the police.
The Home's vans collect dogs from 152 police stations in the Metropolitan and City Police areas, those from some further 22 police stations in the northwestern corner of the metropolis being the responsibility of the home run by Our Dumb Friends' League at Willesden. The area served by the Battersea stretches from Cheshunt and Waltham Abbey in the north to Epsom and Banstead in the south; and from Staines in the west to Dagenham in Essex and Bexleyheath and Frith in Kent to the east.
The police station it Nine Elms, which is the nearest station to the Home, acts as a "clearing house l' for requests from the other -police stations which have dogs awaiting collection. First thing every morning a list of stations is notified to the Home so that the day's rounds may be organized most efficiently and economically. The vans are usually on the road by 9.30 a.m., and they return at any hour of the afternoon.
At present, the Home operates five vans, of which one is held in reserve, the remaining four covering between them an average of 1,300 miles a week. The two newest acquisitions are Austin 1-ton oilers, which are proving particularly satisfactory and which average from 35-38 m.p.g., thus effecting a major operating economy by almost halving the yearly fuel bill of the Home. In addition, there is a Trojan 1-ton oiler which has been in use since August, 1954, and two Austin petrol 2-tonners which have given good service.
The Home has recently introduced women drivers into its service after finding growing difficulty in replacing male drivers, and at present all the drivers are women. Drivers must be good at handling the dogs, for they have no one to help them on their rounds. In addition, the women do all their own minor maintenance to the vans, which must also be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected every day.—T.F.-F.