A motorist has complained to highways bosses after being told she could release a dog she had rescued back onto the motorway. Hotel manager Maxine Walsh was on her way to work at the Oaks Hotel in Burnley, Lancashire, when she spotted a Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross dog running around the northbound carriageway of the M66 near its Bury junction. Fearing an accident could be caused as a result and worried about the animal being injured Mrs Walsh, from Farnworth, pulled her Ford Fiesta onto the motorway’s hard shoulder and managed to coax the dog onto her back seat. Phoning the emergency services, she says she was told that as the animal was not a hazard anymore it was not a police matter, but that Highways England, who are responsible for the operation of the motorways, would respond.
Mrs Walsh, 51, stood outside her vehicle because she is scared of Staffordshire Bull Terriers, having once been attacked by one, until a Highways England officer arrived 40 minutes later.
She explained what had happened but she says she was flabbergasted after the official contacted his boss and she was told that they had not had training in handling animals and so she had only two options.
The first was to get in her car with the dog and drive it to an animal shelter.
“His other option was to release the dog onto the motorway and then they would set up a rolling road block to catch the animal,” said Mrs Walsh.
“It beggars belief. I am really mad that I rescued a dog and might have to put it back on the motorway where it could cause a massive accident.
I was absolutely gobsmacked.”
A nervous Mrs Walsh eventually opted to drive off the motorway with the dog, putting on a thick coat in case it bit her.
She took the female animal to her hotel where it wolfed down two English breakfasts and a plate of ham before the Bury dog warden service agreed to collect it.
She was so angry about the response from Highways England that she had written to the organisation complaining and suggesting that they change their animal handling policy.
“To suggest putting this dog back on the motorway was simply madness,” she said.
A spokesman for Highways England confirmed that traffic officers are not equipped or trained to deal directly with stray animals.
“The officer therefore suggested that the lady should either take the dog home and contact an organisation like the RSPCA or drive to the next junction and release the dog locally in the likelihood it would find its way home,” he said.
“He also gave the option of releasing the dog back onto the hard shoulder as she expressed nervousness at having a strange dog in her vehicle.”
The spokesman added that, after Mrs Walsh decided to drive with the dog, the traffic officer followed her car in his own vehicle to ensure she was safe.
He stressed that motorway users are advised not to pick up stray animals or deal with other hazards on the carriageway themselves, but stop and phone for help instead.
“We are currently reviewing our handling procedures and training, but traffic officers are not presently equipped or trained to deal directly with animals that stray onto our network,” said the spokesman.
“But we do have arrangements in place to call on support from other agencies such as the RSPCA, while our officers manage traffic and inform road users in relation to any incidents.”