A high-tech approach to keeping Middlesbrough’s canine community safe has won national recognition.
Middlesbrough Council’s Dog Warden Service harnessed the power of online social media when it launched its ‘Facebark’ page earlier this year.
The dedicated page on the hugely popular Facebook social networking site was an instant hit, helping to reunite lost dogs with their owners and find new homes for strays.
Now the page – thought to be the first of its kind in the UK – has scooped a national award from the RSPCA.
The animal protection charity holds an annual award scheme to recognise the work of innovative organisations and Middlesbrough Council was one of five winners of this year’s Community Animal Welfare Footprints (CAWF) Innovator Awards.
The number of entries to the scheme – which has become a recognised seal of approval for local authorities and housing providers pioneering new methods of tackling animal welfare issues – was the highest since the launch in 2008.
The RSPCA CAWF scheme has four categories – stray dogs, housing, animal welfare principles and contingency planning – with either gold, silver or bronze footprints awarded depending on the level of service provided by the authority or organisation.
Five innovator awards are also presented to the entries to the Footprint scheme that the judges consider the most pioneering, with Middlesbrough triumphing in the unitary authority category alongside its bronze Footprint award.
The judges praised the entry as an example of a simple but extremely effective and well managed idea.
The page now has around 1,400 followers with around 20,000 hits every month, and has helped to re-unite and re-homed many dogs. ‘Facebark’ is also used to advertise Middlesbrough’s Doggy Fun Days and microchipping events which help to promote responsible dog ownership.
Judging panel member Mike Radford, senior adviser and director of Undergraduate Law Programmes at the University of Aberdeen, said: “Local government continues to have an essential and unique role in protecting animals and the members and electors of the authorities represented here can be suitably proud of the quality of the work being undertaken on their behalf.
“Given the constraints confronting local government, it is hugely encouraging that authorities such as these continue to explore creative and effective ways of improving animal welfare.”
Councillor Julia Rostron, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive Member for Community Protection, said: “The Facebook page was a truly innovative idea to help reunite lost dogs with their owners and keep the number of strays to a minimum.
“It’s just the kind of creative thinking our Dog Warden Service is known for, so I’m delighted the initiative has gained national recognition.”