SUPPORTERS of Wirral’s council kennels fear a decision to handle inquiries at a call centre will slash the number of strays being rehomed.

Members of the public who want to get in touch with the Birkenhead-based Dog Warden Service now have to go through Wirral Council’s Streetscene call centre.

The council says with just two animal control officers on duty, the change – which was brought in at the end of August – will help manage demand.

But the Friends Of Birkenhead Kennels are furious at the move – and the former manager of the kennels said he shared the group’s concerns.

Friends’ co-founder Antje Tucker said: “Nine out of 10 calls to the kennels require an immediate response.

“For example it could be someone ringing to say they have lost their dog and wanting to know if it is there.

“It could be someone wanting to re-home a dog or ask about dangerous dogs. People in Streetscene do not know the answers to these questions.

“They will have to send a message to the kennels staff first and all that takes time. It is absolutely appalling.”

David Holden, who was animal control manager for Wirral Council until two years ago, said: “It is putting a barrier between the public and the service. People were able to call up and ask questions about specific dogs.

“Now that just will not happen and it will certainly result in fewer and fewer dogs finding new homes.

“Hopefully it will not impinge on owners trying to find their own dogs but I cannot see how it will not.

“We are all fully aware of the problems with funds and that things are going to get tighter but the service has already suffered greatly.”

The Corporation Road kennels is the only local authority controlled facility of its kind left in Merseyside.

Cllr Brian Kenny, cabinet member for the environment, said it was “early days” for the new system and it was a pilot which would be reviewed regularly.

He said: “To assist in the effective management and prioritisation of the officers’ time, we have introduced a new system which means trained customer service staff will be the first point of contact for those who wish to contact the service by phone.

“People should be assured that any urgent demand for assistance, such as to deal with a dangerous dog, will be prioritised for immediate response by an animal control officer.

“We understand people’s concerns but changes to the way calls into the kennels are handled are necessary to ensure our animal control staff are able to prioritise and successfully deliver the service.”