A PLAN to ask people to look after stray dogs they find overnight has been criticised by an animal charity.
The move to withdraw its current 24-hour collection services was announced by the council-run Darlington Dog Warden service after it was forced to move to alternative premises.
Posting on Facebook, a spokesman wrote: “From Tuesday 18 March we can no longer provide an out-of-hours collection or kennelling service for stray dogs.
“If you find a dog out of working hours (which are Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm), please keep the dog until the next working day.”
It goes on to say that dogs can be taken to Deerness Kennels, 18 miles from the centre of Darlington, on Saturdays between 9am and 5pm and Sundays between 11.30am and 1.30pm.
Leading charity Dogs Trust UK said the decision was disappointing and could present a danger to dogs and those who find them.
A spokeswoman said: “We are concerned that stray dogs may be left wandering the streets during times when dog wardens aren’t available, causing a potential danger to themselves and others.
“Whilst we accept that there is no legal requirement for local authorities to provide a round-the-clock call out service, they should, where practicable, provide at least one acceptance point to which stray dogs can be taken outside office hours.
“The acceptance point proposed by the Council isn’t in Darlington and we believe this is unacceptable as it’s expecting too much for a finder to have to travel miles with a stray.”
Darlington residents took to social networking sites to criticise the decision.
Lynn O’Neill said the scenario could see strays running in packs throughout Darlington.
She added: “Sheer stupidity! I know cutbacks are across the board but this is a bad idea. How on earth can you take an unknown, more than likely distressed, nervous dog into your house?”
Clare Hadden said: “Members of the public surely cannot be expected to home strays who may be aggressive or carrying disease – what about children and other pets who could be at risk?”
In response to the concerns raised, a Darlington Borough Council spokeswoman said the authority was now looking into alternative options and understood that not everyone would be comfortable looking after a stray.
The authority has also agreed to extend the 24-hour service until the end of the March.