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Frequently asked questions about Benji

Why is Benji in your care?

Benji originally came into Mayhew under our Pet Refuge scheme in December 2019.  Very sadly Benji’s owner died in February 2020. Under the terms of the Pet Refuge scheme, ownership of Benji automatically passed to Mayhew and we planned to find an adoptive owner for him.

As with everyone whose animals we care for in this way, our Animal Welfare team explained to Benji’s owner what would happen should he not be in the position to take the dog back, and should Benji not be suitable for rehoming following our assessment process. Our euthanasia policy was also explained and Benji was left in Mayhew’s care on this understanding.

Throughout his stay with us Benji has been cared for by our expert team in our newly refurbished kennels, receiving the stimulation, exercise, enrichment and attention he needs.

 

What does your Pet Refuge service do?

Through Pet Refuge, Mayhew is able to provide temporary care and shelter for the pets of people facing a crisis, ongoing issue or unexpected emergency. This could be due to an owner being hospitalised, going to rehab or needing respite. We ensure that the animal receives the best possible care and is placed in a safe environment for the duration of the crisis period. We can either look after the animal at our Home in London or we can send a ‘guardian’ to take care of them at the owner’s house. For many people facing a personal crisis, our service is a lifeline.

 

What did Benji do? Why did you initially decide to euthanise him?

All dogs we rehome are subject to a wide range of assessments to ensure we can find the most suitable owner for them. During these assessments Benji displayed aggressive behaviour towards another dog. Our qualified and experienced Animal Care and Veterinary teams determined that we would not be able to responsibly rehome Benji, observing him to pose a risk to himself or other animals. It was also felt that the likelihood of finding an adopter with the appropriate skills to handle Benji was incredibly low, likely resulting in a very long period of kennelling which would not be healthy for him. As such, in accordance with our policy and procedures and based on all the facts and circumstances, a decision was made that regrettably Benji should be euthanised.

As an animal welfare charity which has served our community for over 130 years, Mayhew takes its duty of care as a responsible and reputable rehoming organisation very seriously. We have long-standing policies and procedures – in line with other animal welfare charities – which we follow to ensure that we do not rehome animals who may be a danger to themselves, other animals or humans.

The independent assessor, Mr David Ryan PG Dip (CABC) CCAB, also confirmed our assessment.

“The Mayhew assessments roughly mirrored my own and staff correctly identified Benji’s behaviour as unpredictable dog to dog aggression. I found all the staff who assisted me to be competent and knowledgeable in their roles.”

You can read our statement to see why we have been able to pursue a different outcome for Benji.

 

Who makes the decision about whether to euthanise an animal?

Mayhew strives to ensure that no healthy animal in its care is put to sleep. Sometimes however, the decision will be taken to end an animal’s life humanely, and always as a last resort, in line with our euthanasia policy.

All assessments are made by our team of trained and experienced animal care staff, who as a group take into consideration the individual dogs needs in line with the Animal Welfare Act, 2006.

Due to the court proceedings and the large scale public interest in Benji, his case was escalated to the Board of Trustees (Board) for review.

 

You can’t euthanise a dog for dog-to-dog aggression under the Dangerous Dogs Act

Section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act, 1991, sets out the circumstances in which offenses can be caused and punished through ownership of a dog who, while being out of control in a public place, injures a person or assistance animal.

 

Why did you engage your legal team and allow costs to mount?

Mayhew was issued with a court injunction to temporarily block Benji being euthanised. We needed to engage legal representation for the court proceedings.

The court granted both sides six weeks to hopefully resolve the case without incurring unnecessary legal costs. We have sought to keep costs to an absolute minimum. As a charity that receives no government funding, every penny our supporters help us to raise is precious and should go towards helping dogs and cats.

 

Why did you engage an independent assessor and what did he report?

An independent assessment of Benji was undertaken as part of our efforts to resolve the issue during the six-week court stay.

Mr David Ryan PG Dip (CABC) CCAB is an expert witness and behaviourist accredited by the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour as a Clinical Animal Behaviourist.

David holds a post-graduate diploma in Companion Animal Behaviour Counselling – PG Dip (CABC), with distinction. He is a Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourist (CCAB), a founder member of the Fellowship of Animal Behaviour Clinicians, an Animal Behaviour and Training Council registered Clinical Animal Behaviourist and a Home Office accredited police dog instructor and police explosives search dog instructor.

David was employed as a police dog handler and instructor from 1981 to 2007, handling and instructing others in handling general purpose and specialist dogs. He currently works as a dog behaviour consultant. David has assisted in five investigations in which dogs have been involved in the death of humans, and was invited to provide oral evidence on dog behaviour to the 2018 Parliamentary Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Inquiry into Dangerous Dogs: Breed Specific Legislation.

David’s report concluded that:

 

 

Benji / border collies will be stressed in kennels so how could a fair assessment be undertaken?

Benji remains in our refurbished kennels, which last year were redesigned to minimise stress. Benji is in a double kennel to further ensure he has the space he needs.

As we do for all dogs in our care, a tailored enrichment, exercise and care plan was designed for Benji to further mitigate any stress developing.

The period of monitoring and assessment is conducted both in our facilities and in open, public spaces.

 

 

If dog-to-dog aggression can be managed with a behaviour modification programme, why did you decide to euthanise?

Each dog at Mayhew is assessed individually and a tailored care plan is put together. Many of the dogs on our website have specific behaviour management and rehoming criteria that need to be met by potential adopters.

During his assessments Benji displayed aggressive behaviour towards another dog. Our qualified and experienced Animal Care and Veterinary teams determined that we would not be able to responsibly rehome Benji, observing him to pose a risk to himself or other animals. It was also felt that the likelihood of finding an adopter within a suitable timeframe with the appropriate skills to handle Benji was relatively low, which would result in a very long period of kennelling which would not be healthy for him. As such, in accordance with our policy and procedures and based on all the facts and circumstances, a decision was made that regrettably Benji should be euthanised.

The independent assessor, Mr David Ryan PG Dip (CABC) CCAB, also confirmed:

“I understand that the Mayhew staff have a great deal more to consider when making their operational decisions, such as the time they can devote to Benji, the likelihood of finding an adopter with the appropriate skills and the dedication to apply them, the likelihood of a deterioration of both Benji’s behaviour and welfare if long-term kennelled, the ‘kennel-blocking’ effect of long-term kennelling a single dog in a double kennel, which could be used to rehome a number of other, equally worthy and more re-home-able dogs in the meantime.”

 

What is Benji’s rehoming and rehabilitation criteria?

Benji’s specific rehoming criteria are based on the recommendations from the independent behavioural assessor and those of our expert rehoming team. They include restrictions such as no other dogs or children in the home, living in a low dog-populated area, and the owner being a skilled dog behaviour practitioner.

As such, we are only able to rehome Benji to an individual with the experience and skill required or a breed specific registered charity for future adoption.

 

Why can’t he go to a rescue centre without a euthanasia policy?

We have worked with reputable breed-specific rescue centres in the past and will consider moving dogs to such organisations in line with our policies and due-diligence processes. We are now exploring this option for Benji as our statement explains.

We have a duty of care to animals, people and other organisations. We would not consider rehoming a dog to another organisation where we felt that the animal had no opportunity to be rehomed and would therefore spend the rest of its life in kennels.

Dogs in a kennel environment over a sustained period cannot have their five essential needs (as necessitated by the Animal Welfare Act, 2006) met and we would never kennel a dog for life at Mayhew for that reason. Nor would we relocate an animal to a third party organisation or individual who kennelled their dogs for life.

We also only consider relocating to registered charities that meet the ADCH (Association of Dogs & Cats Homes) minimum standards, including having a euthanasia policy.

 

How can APDT dog trainers or breed specific registered charities let you know they are interested in Benji?

We would like to hear from individuals and organisations who have carefully read the above FAQs and our statement on Benji and believe they may be a suitable placement. If you feel you meet Benji’s specific criteria, please email [email protected], outlining your dog behavioural qualifications, border collie experience and/or charity status.

We understand how many people are supporting and following Benji’s story but would urge anyone who does not meet the criteria to avoid getting in touch to allow our limited resources to be spent exploring viable options for him.