This year marks a significant change in dog ownership - with new laws being introduced from April that requires all dogs to be micro-chipped by their owners.
From April 2016, every pet dog in England and Scotland will need to be micro-chipped by law, in a move which the Government says will help reunite people with lost or stolen pets and track down the owners of vicious or illegal dogs.
Micro-chipping for dogs in Wales became law in March 2015, while Northern Ireland introduced compulsory chipping as early as April 2012.
Lost and stray dogs cost the taxpayer and welfare charities £33 million per year. A microchip makes it much easier to reunite a dog with its owner.
The announcement has been welcomed by many responsible dog-owners in Nottinghamshire, after figures revealed that more than 5,600 dogs were picked up by wardens in just two local authority areas in the last five years.
In some years less than one in six dogs were claimed by their owners, putting massive strain on animal shelters.
According to figures provided by Mansfield District Council, hundreds of dogs are found roaming the streets every year.
In Mansfield, between April and December 2015, a total of 547 strays were picked up by council wardens - making the town by far the worse from the four local authority areas surveyed by the Chad.
Meanwhile, in Ashfield, the figure is 253 over the same period - demonstrating a probable reduction for the authority on the previous year.
According to the figures, in Mansfield 606 dogs were picked up in 2010, 613 in 2011, 693 in 2012, 627 in 2013, and 611 in 2014.
For the authority, 2012 was the worst year on recent record for our canine companions, with almost 700 stray dogs picked up on the district’s streets, of which just 109 were safely returned home.
A total of five of these were put to sleep.
In 2014, of the 611 strays picked up in the district, just 98 were returned home. A total of three of the strays were put to sleep.
Despite the authority dealing with more strays year on year than Ashfield District Council, Chesterfield Borough Council and North East Derbyshire District Council combined, Mansfield District Council says the numbers are coming down due to an ongoing drive to promote responsible dog ownership.
The council’s portfolio holder for public protection Councillor Mick Barton said: “It should be noted that the council does a considerable amount of work in education on dog control and in promoting responsible dog ownership, which could also have had a positive effect on seeing a steady reduction in the number of dogs picked up in the district.
“We are very keen to encourage owners to get their pets micro-chipped – something that will be a legal requirement from April.
“This will make it easier to reunite lost dogs with their owners.
“As an authority, we also regularly use opportunities to hand out advice to owners on how best to prevent their dogs escaping and straying, and on the wider responsibilities, realities and costs of owning a dog.”
In Ashfield, while the number of dog abandonments is lower than in Mansfield, the numbers have increased significantly on 2010’s figures.
However, according to the statistics, provided after the Chad made Freedom of Information request, the council has seen drops since numbers peaked in 2013.
Figures until the end of November 2015, when the request was made, show a total of 253 strays were picked up in the district during the year.
From these, 184 strays were reunited with their owners - more than two-thirds. Just two dogs were put to sleep and the remainder were either rehomed or placed in animal shelters.
In 2010 a total of 294 strays were picked up in the district, of which 155 were reunited with their owners - rising to 359 in 2011 with 223 returned.
The numbers dropped in 2012 to 305 with 176 returned. In 2013, 387 dogs were found straying in the district, with 242 returned, while 2014 saw a slight drop to 366 - with 254 returned.
The authority said that its environmental protection team has worked together with the various kennelling contractors used over the last decade to constantly improve the service whilst reducing the costs associated with it.
Ashfield District Council is one of only three councils in the whole of the UK to be awarded the RSPCA Animal Welfare Gold Footprint Award for Stray Dog Services since it was launched in 2007.
Councillor Tim Brown, portfolio holder for the environment, said: “The council has a strong commitment to promoting responsible dog ownership and is recognised as being one of the best councils in the UK for offering successful animal welfare and educational initiatives to help people look after their pets.”
Figures released by the RSPCA demonstrate a spike in 2013, with figures for this year returning to roughly those of 2010.
In 2010, the charity dealt with a total of 705 unwanted dogs in Nottinghamshire, compared with 704 to early December 2015. In 2012, numbers soared to 1,010, before dropping to 905 in 2013 and 894 in 2014.
Under the Micro-chipping of Dogs (England) Regulations 2015 – new laws that were made in February 2015 – it will be compulsory for all dogs over the age of eight weeks to be fitted with microchips.