Why a spaniel could be key to getting your planning application approved

why a spaniel could be key to getting your planning application approved

dog and digger

Spaniels can sniff out great crested newts, scientists have shown, in a breakthrough that could prevent lengthy building delays hunting for the creatures.

A trained detection dog was able to find the newts underground or at a distance, no matter what type of soil, researchers have reported.

English spaniel Freya was able to pick up the newts 88 per cent of the time, with most of the errors being caused by false positives, rather than missing creatures that were present.

Great crested newts are a protected species under British law, meaning it is illegal to capture, kill or disturb them without a licence.

But it can cause frustration for developers as they have to down tools while conservationists carry out investigations if they suspect the creatures might be present. If found, they need to be caught individually by hand and moved to a new location.

Anyone found guilty of disturbing a newt’s home or breeding site, or taking eggs, can face an unlimited fine and six months in prison.

why a spaniel could be key to getting your planning application approved

newt – Paul Franklin/Oxford Scientific RM

Writing in the journal Plos One, Nicola Jayne Glover from the University of Salford, said: “This pioneering research shows how detection dogs can be a valuable addition to the current toolbox used to locate threatened amphibian species, particularly those using subterranean shelters.

“Locating newts during their subterranean phase with the use of detection dogs can provide novel insights into their terrestrial habitat preferences.”

A loss of breeding ponds and poor water quality has resulted in a decline in the great crested newt population in recent decades and it is now of special conservation concern across Britain, central and northern Europe.

When in the water, the amphibians, which can grow up to 7in long, are easy to spot but they usually live below ground in burrows or rocky crevices and tend to be nocturnal.

Dogs have a sense of smell that is up to 10,000-times better than humans and they are already used to finding missing humans, bodies, drugs and bombs.

More recently, they have been successfully used to trace elusive species such as wolves, lynx, brown bears, badgers, stone martens, pine martens, wild boars, roe deer and even killer whales.

Experts believe newts may be a particularly good species for detection dogs to find because their skin contains glands that secrete a milky, acrid-smelling substance to dissuade predators.

Henry Pryor, a property expert, said: “Detection dogs are used to look for Japanese knotweed, a useful and valuable service, but I’m less convinced of the need to search for newts.”

“I’ve never been asked by a buyer if there are newts at a property but there will be some people who would I’m sure take the issue seriously.”

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