Dangerous Dogs: Following the Money – where do the police spend the money they spend on kennelling?

The cost of kennelling seized dangerous dogs falls on the police and by extension the council and income taxpayers in England and Wales. The total declared spend by police forces in England and Wales is £2,934,200, but there were some forces who have not chosen to declare the costs they have incurred in kennelling and if we assign the average spend to those forces  the total spend appears to be about £3.8 million across England and Wales.

Almost all forces state that they contract out their kennelling operations, although there is a great deal of secrecy about the identity of the contractors involved.

Before a public authority can enter into a contract, current procurement rules require them to openly tender for those services to ensure transparency and value for money, unless there is a national emergency or a national security issue that makes tendering impossible. Police, fire and ambulance services have a dedicated portal from which to tender.

Part of that database is open to the public and reveals that only Greater Manchester, Kent, Norfolk and Suffolk police forces have declared the award of kennelling contracts for dangerous dogs. It is unclear why other forces have not declared their outsourcing of kennelling as it seems unlikely that they could claim an exemption from open tendering.

Greater Manchester police have chosen not to reveal the identity of their kennelling contractor and neither have they provided details of their kennelling costs this year or to a previous freedom of information request in 2016. The tendering database does suggest the value of the kennelling contract they entered into in January 2020 was £91,000.

By contrast, Kent, Norfolk and Suffolk police all declare that their contract is based in “Norfolk or Suffolk”. Norfolk and Suffolk police have gone further and attached a redacted copy of the contract with their supplier for an earlier contract with the same description. The signature page of that contract identifies a sole named kennels as being the contractor.

That kennel’s website reveals their location and that they provide boarding services and house stray dogs for local authorities. The website provides information about what to do if you lose your dog and provides telephone numbers for Badbergh, Forrest Heath, Ipswich, Mid-Suffolk and St Edmundsbury Council’s dog wardens. If you choose to re-home a stray dog, the kennels charges the new owner a fee of £75.

Norfolk and Suffolk police told us in response to a Freedom of Information request in May that that “the kennelling costs for dogs seized under section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act are incorporated with all kennelling expenditure and is not held as a separate number”. This is surprising, as the tendering portal suggests that separate contracts were entered into for dangerous dogs and other forms of kennelling and good accounting practice would usually enable funds paid to one supplier to be easily identified. We also note that both forces were able to tell as that they spent a total of £16,933 in kennelling dangerous dogs when we made a similar request for information in 2016.

Norfolk and Suffolk were able to tell us that they seized and detained 40 dogs under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. Using the data from the 28 forces who provided details of the number of dogs seized and the amount spent on kennelling costs we know that average cost of kennelling a dog seized under the legislation is £2,093, so the likely payments by these two forces to this sole contractor would appear to be in the region of £83,720.

Kent Police declared that they spent £149,756 kennelling dangerous dogs over the last 12 months, an increase over the 2016 figure, which was £84,699. Both these figures exceed the estimate given for the kennelling contract, which was £81,000.

The position with dangerous dogs seized in Essex, which lies between Suffolk and Kent is not publicly disclosed. Essex police had a declared spend on kennelling, which included contracted out vets’ fees of £52,131.

The publicly available data suggests that holding multiple contracts for the kennelling of allegedly dangerous dogs can provide a substantial and regular income stream to a boarding kennels that obtains such a contract. In this case, the only case where we have been able to link spend to contractor, the annual fees received would appear to be in the order of £230,000 from the three forces involved, to which must be added the fees paid by the local councils for housing strays and the fees collected from the new owners of strays, all of which is in addition to the costs paid for private boarding of dogs.

It is of course important to mention that income does not equate to profit, as there are necessary costs in maintaining and staffing the kennels, as well as providing for food and veterinary treatment for the dogs detained there. None the less the substantial income from obtaining such a contract does provide the opportunity for creating a large and sustainable kennelling business.

Neither does the amount of the fees paid to such kennels enable any analysis of whether the kennels provide a good service and meet the needs of the dogs they detain. Public confidence in that could only be achieved through publicly disclosed inspection, as happens in prisons. Unfortunately, as the secrecy of the forces whose kennelling suppliers could not be identified demonstrates, public scrutiny of such establishments is unlikely to be possible soon.

James Parry

Parry and Welch Solicitors LLP

July 2020

[Parry and Welch Solicitors are grateful for the assistance of Jordan Oakes who conducted an analysis of the tendering portal for us which has enabled us to prepare this article].

[This article has been amended to remove the name of the kennels at the request of Suffolk Police].

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