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Animal Capture logo no ltd

The UK's leading providers of live animal capture and specialist dog capture services





By Mike Allison, Oct 23 2019 06:53PM


In the past two years, Animal Capture UK/Canine Capture UK have been responsible for the safe capture of 21 dogs using RCI (Remote Chemical Injection) techniques. They are professional darting specialists using up-to-date delivery systems and operating with full veterinary support. In all of those cases, the animal could not have been successfully recovered without the use of this technology and the specialist, qualified operators, whom are trained to use it safely, humanely and effectively.

There are many dog rescue operators totally opposed to the use of such techniques, and several myths that circulate through the dog rescue world that are serving only to increase scepticism and, in some cases, may even increase the risks for dogs that remain un-captured.

The following information has been produced to inform dog owners, carers and rescuers of the real value of RCI, and the circumstances in which the use of RCI technology is appropriate. It is hoped that it will dispel the major myths that drive people to be wary of RCI as a viable dog capture and recovery method.

Myth # 1 – Shooting a dog with a dart is cruel and causes injury to the dog… FALSE! – To many, the thought of darting a dog runs parallel with the thought of shooting it. There is a fundamental difference between the function, intention and effect of a rifle/shotgun, intended to kill the animal, and that of a dart projector.

The dart projector (often referred to as a dart rifle) is designed and used for a completely different function – the main one being to deliver a remote sedative injection humanely, safely and accurately.

Myth # 2 – The dog can be lost after darting… FALSE! – The dart projector, the specialist telemetry darts and the digital tracking equipment used is tested thoroughly before every capture operation. With the equipment’s directional tracking and location capability able to locate an animal up to a mile away. This, combined with the experience of the operators means there is no reason why an animal needs to be lost.

Myth # 3 – The dog must be found in 10 – 20 minutes or it will die… FALSE! – No two live capture operations are identical. Long before a dog is darted, the RCI team gather crucial information on the animal breed, weight, age, sex and behavioural characteristics. The data is discussed with our veterinary surgeon that, in every case, supports the operation.

The appropriate drug type and specific volume is used in each particular case, so in the rare occasions where location and recovery are protracted, the dog will remain stable in sedation. Most dogs are located and recovered within 20 minutes.

Myth # 4 – Sedating is dangerous for the dog… FALSE! – Any sedation carries a risk, as it does with humans and other animals, but in cases where darting needs to be considered, then by default the animal is already facing significant risks from traffic, livestock farmers, malnutrition and disease. Often the risks of the animal not being caught far outweigh the calculated risk of capture using RCI and in all cases darting is the last course of action.

Myth # 5 – Darting is frightening for the dog… FALSE! – Dart impact will naturally come as a surprise to the animal, but the key factor is that prior to impact the dog is naturally wary but is not experiencing fear. By the time the animal is aware that something has happened, the sedative has already been injected and is beginning to work.

For dogs that require capture by any method, their greatest fear is people. As the dart is delivered from a concealed position then fear is not an issue. Dart impact is less frightening for the animal than a malfunctioning trap.

Myth # 6 – Darting should be an absolute last resort… FALSE (to a point)! – In most circumstances there are a range of tactics and equipment that can be used long before darting needs to be considered. However, there are certain circumstances where darting should be considered for a quick recovery.

Such circumstances may include cases where the animal is in danger from traffic, where it may be hit, injured or killed, or where the dog may cause a road traffic collision where human safety is at risk. Where a dog is close to a livestock farm, then the likelihood of the dog being shot if, for example, it is seen in a field with sheep and lambs. Other cases where darting should be considered as a primary option are where the dog is aggressive, or potentially dangerous to humans.

In the case of a vulnerable dog that is particularly fearful, prolonging its time within dynamic circumstances while methods such as trapping over weeks, or even months are attempted can be more stressful for the animal than using RCI.

Forcing a particularly vulnerable dog to make cautious attempts to enter a trap for a feed over a number of nights is not pleasant for anyone to witness and can be mentally torturous for the dog. Darting eliminates the need for the dog to combat its own way through its fears of entering a contained space. In those particularly vulnerable cases, darting may be the very first choice.

Some of the difficult dogs ACUK/CCUK take on are already fearful after enduring weeks, months, or even years of failed capture attempts. Some are also visually vulnerable and unpredictable due to fear. In those cases, the prolonging of such mental fear is certainly not in the best interests of the dog.

So, why Animal Capture UK / Canine Capture UK? – Animal Capture UK / Canine Capture UK are the most experienced and qualified live animal capture specialists in the British Isles. The ACUK operational team have been carrying out the capture of animals for over three decades, with CCUK having extensive experience in a range of dog capture scenarios. They are most experienced, professional and successful team specialising in difficult dog capture in the UK, having provided difficult dog capture advice and services on a local, national and international basis.

The Success Stories

Wendy’s Story – Wendy is a Tunisian rescue dog who escaped in Tinto Hills, Scotland, was captured and recovered by using RCI as farmers were actively seeking to shoot her. With close liaison between CCUK and the rescue in Scotland, meticulous planning and military style timing, Wendy was brought back to safety.

Ruby’s Story – A Romanian rescue dog who escaped in Welshpool, Wales, Ruby was brought back to safety after living in woodlands, surviving on whatever she could find to eat. It was a cold, wet night when ACUK/CCUK’s specialist skills, state-of-the-art equipment and professional expertise were deployed to safely capture and recover Ruby… in complete darkness!

Frank - formerly known as Nero, is a Romanian rescue who escaped in Birmingham and was darted in Coventry after 4 years ‘on the run’. Frank, is enjoying the best life any dog could wish for, and even has his own Facebook page called ‘Frank Coundon’s Littlest Hobo’. None of this would have been possible had it not been for the involvement of ACUK/CCUK who specialise in difficult dog capture cases.

And there are many other cases where ACUK/CCUK have made a huge difference to the lives of, not only the dogs we recover, but to the people who have devoted weeks, months and years to trying to get their beloved pets back. Many have put up with disappointment after disappointment following failed attempts at capture by well-meaning amateurs.

Ria’s Story - Ria was one such case where she had been out for 5 years, each day running the gauntlet of Manchester traffic as she searched for food. Once ACUK/CCUK had been engaged, the owner became instantly aware that the level of professionalism had surpassed everything that she had experienced in the 5 years since Ria’s escape. Meticulous planning, co-operative working with good local people and RCI technology ultimately led to Ria’s safe capture.

Wendy - Captured in Scotland
Wendy - Captured in Scotland
Ruby - Captured in Mid Wales
Ruby - Captured in Mid Wales
Frank - Captured in Coventry
Frank - Captured in Coventry

By Mike Allison, Jun 19 2018 02:54PM

Ruby Awakening in Safety & Warmth
Ruby Awakening in Safety & Warmth
Coming to terms with a safe, new environment
Coming to terms with a safe, new environment

Ruby comes home amid differing views of whether CIT is an appropriate, or indeed an acceptable means of dog capture. The truth is that when all other options have ceased to work, or have failed then there are few other viable options left - and of those that are left, then only CIT ticks the boxes when it comes to safe, humane and effective recovery.

Take 'Ria' for example, a dog that had escaped and survived on the streets of Manchester for over 5 years. Almost every conceivable method of capture had been attempted, all of which had failed. 'Ria's' owner never gave up hope amidst sometimes brutal criticism of her actions - especially when she suggested darting as a solution. Ironically, it was CIT and darting that eventually led to the safe and humane re-capture of 'Ria'.

'Ria' and many more dogs and a multitude of other animals throughout the UK owe their very lives to the fact that CIT exists. However, there are precious few operators in the UK capable of using it safely, efficiently or to its full potential.

This was borne out by the haphazard nature by which an operator attempted to dart 'Ria' without the proper knowledge and experience. Even now, a high-profile case is currently on-going whereby the chances of a safe capture are miniscule for no other reason than a deficiency in technical knowledge, and the reluctance on the part of the opertors involved to seek professional guidance.

In 'Ria's' case, there had been multiple attempts at trapping; netting; drugs in feed; dog 'whisperers' and at least one other attempt at darting - all of which had failed miserably - leaving 'Ria' to scavenge for food, risking injury and death on a daily basis - to not only herself, but to any motorist who might swerve to miss her in the busy streets.

So when should CIT & darting be considered as an option? Well, I could start by stating an old saying and it goes; "When the horse you are flogging is dead... it is time to get off the horse and seek another horse" We can equate this philosophy to many cases of dog capture.

One thing we are NOT suggesting is that CIT should be considered as a first option. We must appreciate that very few capture operations are identical, and an almost endless permutation of circumstances can be encountered in what can be a highly dynamic environment.

So when should CIT & Darting be an option? Well its normally when there is little chance of other methods working, whether its in the form of calm, softly spoken positive reinforcement to trapping, to the use of other less popular methods such as physical restraint or collarums. One thing is for sure, that when a method is simply not working, then it is very unlikely to work in the future - so what would be the point in continuing to flog that particular 'dead horse'?

There is a grave downside to this practice too. Animals (as with humans) will only take so much before they do something drastic to avoid the event, and in the case of dogs, it is usually a profound change in routine behaviour. No matter how well-meaning the action is, it is at these times that the unfortunate animals are unwittingly placed in greater danger.

Only in the last six months such a change resulted in the unfortunate - but avoidable - death of a dog which had changed its behavioural pattern in response to ill-timed human intervention - coupled with the failure to understand the likely consequences.

So what are there risks with CIT & Darting? It would be foolish and dishonest of me to say that CIT is without risk to the subject animal. BUT it would be true to say that the risks are no more than those associated with a badly designed trap, an inappropriate trap, the incorrect use of a Collarum, or indeed the effects of causing an animal to needlessly cross busy roads or railways.

Any form of sedation and/or anaesthesia will always carry risks. There is always the risk of dart trauma through incorrect dart placement. There is always a risk with incorrect drug choice or dose rate calculations.

In order to eliminate or minimise risk as far as possible It is incumbent on the operator of such equipment to ensure that the risks are negated as far as possible. That can only be achieved by training, gaining experience under professional guidance and undertaking ongoing CPD as well as evaluation through operational skills testing, evaluation and assessments.

CIT is not for the faint hearted, mainly because of the multitude of variables that can come into play, and what can initially look like a straightforward process can quickly escalate into a life-threatening environment for both the animal and those involved. It is therefore imperative that only true professionals are engaged to carry out this highly specialised facet of animal capture. At ACUK and CCUK we pride ourselves in having that capability based not simply on certificates, but a solid track record of professional experience.

We all hope for the best in any case of a lost pet, but hope in itself is simply not enough to maximise the chances of getting them home safely. Sometimes there is a need to recognise when something isnt working, and appreciate that the longer it is allowed to go on not working, the more the risks to the animal are compounded.

For full details on the services that we provide in so far as CIT and Darting is concerned, please contact us on 01264 811155, or email us on [email protected]

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