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RSPCA honours man for digging into a badger sett

22 Feb 2008 - BBC News

A man who dug a dog out of hole in Cornwall with his bare hands has been honoured by the RSPCA.

Tony Vincent, 70, was alerted to the plight of the spaniel, trapped 8ft (2.4m) down in a badger sett, by the owners of seven-year-old Chloe. Mr Vincent put aside his fear of enclosed spaces to start digging to reach the dog stuck underground at Glen Silva Farm at Liskeard last December.

Mr Vincent was give the animal charity's Bronze medal.

John Vincent was awarded the bronze animal life-saving medal

Mr Vincent had been at the home of Chloe's owners, John and Jill Chapman, when their daughter, Tessa, arrived in distress with the news that Chloe had been stuck underground for three hours. He returned to his house to pick up lights and tools before arriving at the sett.

Mr Vincent was able to rescue Chloe with other neighbours who helped with the digging, in the dark, wet conditions, using picks and shovels. Just under an hour later the spaniel was retrieved muddy but unharmed.

John Chapman said: "We are so grateful to Tony. Without him it is likely that Chloe might not be with us today."

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Badgerland Advice
Badgers setts are fully protected by the law. NO-ONE - not even the RSPCA or the Police or the Fire Brigade can give a dog owner the legal authority to dig into a badger sett. The best practice with regard to dogs which have been allowed to get stuck in badger setts is to leave the dog in place for 48 hours. In the vast majority of cases, the dog will lose weight from its efforts to get free, which will result in it getting free on its own. After the 48-hour waiting period, Natural England will usually grant an emergency licence to interfere with a badger sett which will allow a fire brigade to put a remote camera into the sett to look for the dog. If the dog can be located, Natural England will then usually allow a recognised badger expert to excavate the sett and retrieve the dog on behalf of the owner.
If the above story (which has been reproduced in full from the BBC web-site) is accurate and complete and Tony Vincent did not obtain a permit from Natural England, he committed a criminal offence under the Protection of Badgers Act. Offences under the Act often result in enormous fines and a jail term. They also result in large amounts of justifiable negative publicity; not some sort of public service award.
If the RSPCA has awarded a Bronze medal to some-one for digging into a badger sett in contravention of the Protection of Badgers Act, lets hope they do the decent thing and withdraw the medal; and admit they made a monumental error of judgement. Let's hope too that dog owners learn to keep their dogs on a lead to stop them going into badger setts - especially at a time of year when sow badgers will defend their cubs using all means necessary.


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