Sharnie’s escape from Lowestoft home sparks dog tag warning

When Paul Casbolt and Shirley Doy realised their beloved pet husky was missing, they were fearful for her safety.

After a frantic search and phone calls, they were relieved to hear that four-year-old Sharnie had been found safe and well near Lowestoft town centre and had been taken to a Waveney District Council kennel.

But they were shocked to learn that they faced a �175 bill – because she had no tag and was classed as a stray.

Although the couple managed to get this fee reduced to �25 because Sharnie had been microchipped days earlier, the council says the case once again highlights the need for all owners to ensure their dogs have proper ID tags.

The family's problems began after Sharnie managed to slip out of their home in Beckham Road. As they began searching for her, they were unaware she had been found safe and well near Roman Hill Primary School and sent to a kennel as the council believed she had neither a microchip nor an ID tag, as legally required.

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Mr Casbolt and his partner, who live with their four children and a grandchild, were told by the council they would have to pay �160 to reclaim Sharnie after just one day in the kennel. But the size of fee – which would have increased daily – meant the couple, who are both unemployed, could not afford to bring her home.

Fortunately, Sharnie had been microchipped a week before she escaped which meant she should not have been categorised as a stray, and the council was unaware of this as the paperwork had not been processed.

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When the council realised, it reduced the fee to a �25 'statutory charge' instead.

Mr Casbolt, 38, and who used to be prison worker, said: 'The council told us that if we paid the full fee we could have her back straight way but warned us the fee would go up to over �200 for the second day then continue to rise daily – until seven days, at which point she would be re-homed. I can't believe how much the fee was.

'There must be vulnerable or older people who could not afford to pay to get their dog home. We'd only had Sharnie microchipped recently and the paperwork had not been done. I'm very glad now that we'd got it done!'

Mr Casbolt and Ms Doy, who live with their children Kirsty, Melissa, Jacob and Callum and Kirsty's grandaughter Kyra, have now bought a dog tag – and they are urging other owners to ensure they do the same..

A Waveney District Council spokesman said collecting stray dogs cost it more than �23,000 a year and to help offset this, it had increased its fees for kennelling and collecting them. It now charges a fixed fee of �125, a �25 statutory charge, daily kennel fees and any veterinary charges incurred.

This saw the number of strays drop to 116 in 2011/12 compared to 202 in 2009/10 and 157 in 2010/11.

A council spokesman said: 'This was the first time this dog had been brought to us and it was not wearing a tag. Therefore it was not identifiable either to us or to the member of the public who brought the dog to us.

'However, the dog had been micro-chipped during the previous week and although insufficient time had passed for the chip registration details to be recorded, the council decided it would be appropriate to acknowledge the owner's attempts to be a responsible owner and we waived all of the fee, save a �25 statutory charge. This was a departure from our policy because the owner had sought to do the right thing by having her dog chipped.

He stressed: 'It is an offence to allow a dog out in a public place without a tag bearing ID details of the owner.

'Microchips are not reliable as an alternative to this, since the average member of the public who finds a stray dog cannot read a chip without specialist equipment.

'This is why the law specifies a tag which, when purchased for less than �10, enables a stray dog to be returned to its owners by the finder without involving the council.'

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