Roaming – leave this to your phone network, not your dog.

That’s the key message Central Otago District Council animal control officer Blair Ridgley is promoting throughout the district.

Central Otago residents will be able to spot Mr Ridgley in a newly sign-written van, drawing attention to an all-too-common occurrence – wandering dogs, or dogs that have become lost or separated from their owners.

“The van and the new signage will make the service more visible, and the cheeky messaging is designed to make the dog control service friendly and accessible, while also reminding people of responsible dog ownership,” Mr Ridgley said.

A former Aviation Security Service dog handler from Auckland, Mr Ridgley is a self-confessed dog lover.

Responsible ownership . . . Central Otago District Council animal control officer Blair Ridgley hopes to educate dog owners on their responsibilities. PHOTO: CENTRAL OTAGO DISTRICT COUNCIL

“A lot of my career has been working as a dog handler and with dogs. I always feel a strong sense of responsibility towards a lost or injured dog to get them help, or reunited with their owners as soon as possible, and to reach a happy outcome for all.”

He carries a microchip reader on board his vehicle for instant identification and can also register dogs on the spot.

“A lot of what I do is enforcement, but it’s also a lot about education and helping people think about responsible dog ownership, whether that be picking up their poo and disposing of it responsibly, keeping dogs under control or just ensuring that the dog’s details are up to date.”

Mr Ridgley intends to be spending a few hours in different communities each week in an educational role.

“Don’t be afraid to come and say hello.”