After Harvey the poodle disappeared, owner Jude Devine lived in a caravan for weeks to be close to the search area, spending some £8,000 in a desperate attempt to find her pet. Four months later, she got the news she had dreaded: Harvey was dead. Not only that, but his body had been found beside a motorway just 20 minutes after he had vanished.
Now a petition, dubbed “Harvey’s Law”, which seeks to force Highways Agency staff to try to identify pets killed on the roads, has won the support of more than 120,000 people, triggering a debate in the House of Commons tomorrow.
“Imagine the distress caused because of inadequate and unenforced procedures. There are numerous documented occasions where people’s pets have been shamelessly discarded without consideration, respect or compassion for the owners’ rights,” the petition says.
Ms Devine, a 43-year-old teacher, said she was left devastated by the long wait for news about Harvey, who went missing in late 2013 while she was visiting friends in Liverpool. She learned the truth when a message was sent to her Facebook appeal page by a patrol officer who had found Harvey dead on the M62. The officer said she scanned Harvey, but as it was dark she could not find the microchip and collar tag he wore.
Highways Agency contractors are responsible for disposing of dead pets in a respectful and appropriate manner. The bodies are generally kept in cold storage for seven days in case an owner comes forward. As Harvey was not claimed, he was cremated and his ashes scattered at a local pet cemetery.
However, Ms Devine has taken comfort from the popularity of the proposed Harvey’s Law. “I’m delighted now that the campaign has reached Parliament. We’ve had a lot of support from MPs, many of whom are dog owners, and thousands of people have contacted politicians to ask them for their support,” she said.
Graham Dalton, chief executive of the Highways Agency, admitted in a letter to Ms Devine that contractors had not made “sufficient effort to inform other authorities or locate the owner”.
Until 2012, it was mandatory for Highways Agency staff to follow the canine fatality procedure, which involves scanning collars to trace the owners. However, following a government spending review, Highways Agency contractors were encouraged to “maximise efficiency and value for money for the taxpayer”.
A Highways Agency spokesman said: “Our new contracts remove the mandatory policy for handling canine fatalities, although our staff may still scan for a chip when an animal is found and attempt to reunite the owner with the pet where possible.”