A TEAM of dedicated council wardens have once again been awarded the Stray Dog Gold standard in the RSPCA’s 2019 PawPrints Awards.

The awards, which were launched by the RSPCA in 2008, are the only scheme across England and Wales which recognises good practice from local authorities, housing providers and contingency planners in relation to animal welfare.

The scheme rewards those organisations exceeding basic and statutory service requirements with the aim of achieving higher animal welfare standards, with bronze, silver and gold award levels each carrying progressively more demanding criteria.

Councillor Jonathan Dulston, Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet member for community safety, said:

“We’re delighted to once again be awarded the Gold standard for our Dog Warden service. This award recognises the hard work of our team to ensure the highest possible animal welfare standards are maintained in the borough.”

One added element that helps enhance the Dog Warden service is the dog food collection initiative, which boasts collection boxes at Asda in Whinbush Way, Wilko in the town centre, and at the council’s Central House Annexe, Gladstone Street.

The initiative encourages shoppers to buy an extra tin or bag of dog food – or cat food - and leave it in a marked box near the exit. The food is then collected by the dog warden and distributed between the Darlington FoodStore Network and Stray Aid Ltd kennels.

Dog food that ends up in the Darlington FoodStore Network goes towards helping families who are finding it hard to feed their pets. Food donations to Stray Aid are always gratefully received and help to drive down the costs of caring for Darlington’s stray dogs.

The council has recently reviewed its arrangements for dealing with stray dogs and has now signed a new agreement with Stray Aid Ltd, which runs kennels at Cornforth Lane, Coxhoe, County Durham.

The new contract offers several benefits including longer opening hours for the public, also Coxhoe is closer to Darlington than the previously used kennels and is on a major bus route, it also offers on-site vets.

In terms of the dogs’ welfare, Stray Aid’s founding principles revolve around securing positive futures for the animal and are primarily a rehoming service. Stray Aid does not release any dog without it being chipped, reducing the number of strays and ensuring responsible and lawful dog ownership.

The RSPCA awards will be presented to the winning organisations at a special Pawprints Winners Reception in London in November.

The Dog Warden service is part of the council’s Community Safety Team and is staffed by Civic Enforcement Officers and Dog Wardens, for more information about their work visit the council's website www.darlington.gov.uk/communitysafety.

For more details about the RSPCA visit www.rspca.org.uk