Pet lovers in Melton are celebrating after the town was today (Saturday) named as the most dog-friendly in the UK.
A campaign has been running all year with a variety of projects to encourage pet-friendly tourism, improve the mental and physical health of the town through pets, show how animals can build stronger communities and helping owners to care for their pets in the best way.
And an online poll for the annual Dog Friendly Awards, which attracted thousands of votes from across the country, saw Melton take the coveted title.
The campaign was driven by a partnership between Melton Council and Mars Petcare, one of the borough’s biggest employers which has been making pet food in the town for almost 70 years.
Councillor Margaret Glancy, chair of the council’s town area committee, said: “Here in Melton Mowbray we’re a town of pet lovers - so to receive the news that we are officially the most dog friendly town in the country is just fantastic.
“We are already famous for pork pies and stilton cheese, and now we can be famous for being pet-friendly too.
“This has been a community driven campaign from the start and I am very proud of all our local Meltonians who have got behind it.”
Deri Watkins, managing director of Mars Petcare, said: “Pets make our lives better so we’re thrilled to have helped Melton Mowbray become a place where pets can thrive - making residents happier and healthier as a result.
“We now want to encourage other communities and towns to do the same and enjoy the positive effects that a campaign like this can have on the local community.”
Melton MP, Sir Alan Duncan, an avid dog lover himself who with beloved Noodle won the Westminster Dog of the Year title four years ago, said it was a proud achievement for the town.
“Campaigns like the pet-friendly towns campaign are such important community-led initiatives to help promote the benefits that pets have to our health and society as well as responsible pet ownership,” said Sir Alan, who has campaigned for pets to be allowed in Parliament.
“By engaging the community, Melton Borough Council and Mars Petcare have done a fantastic job in bringing to life the pet friendly aspects of this town that already exist. I am delighted by the result and what the town has achieved.”
The initiatives which helped Melton win the award have ranged from community dog walks to advising owners about how to care for a new puppy or kitten.
Around 20 businesses have signed up to the Melton PAW-Some Scheme, a register which inform pet owners about which shops, stores and offices welcome pets through their front doors.
Official PAW-print stickers are displayed by those who have registered and a new guide has been produced to explain why being pet-friendly is good for business as well as a few handy hints and tips on how to go about it.
New exciting activity trails have been installed at Melton County Park to help pets and their owners increase their physical activity in a fun way.
Community dog walking events have been held to raise the profile of these new park facilties.
Melton Mowbray Pet School has also been set up to give pet owners expert advice on how to keep their animals happy and healthy through evening seminars, which have focused on topics including how to treat pets responsibly, vaccinations and neutering and seasonal advice to keep a pet happy and healthy during Halloween, bonfire night and the festive season.
These seminars have been hosted by various experts at Waltham and Mars Petcare, including Dr Sandra McCune, scientific leader for human-animal interaction at the WALTHAM Centre.
Caroline Kisko, secretary of the Kennel Club, which organises the awards, said: “We are delighted to present Melton Mowbray with an award for the best dog friendly town in the UK.
“Dog owners and their pets are a key part of any community and the Leicestershire town has clearly recognised this by going above and beyond for their canine citizens.
“We hope that other towns will now follow their example and benefit from the many rewards a dog-friendly attitude can bring.”