COUNTY NEWS: Homeless man 'does not want to live' without his dog
A homeless man whose dog was taken away from him said he 'did not want to live anymore' if he could not get his friend back.
Graham Sawyer was approached by dog wardens with police officers on Wednesday at the Montague Centre in Worthing, where he regularly stays with his pet Dusty. They took Dusty away for a compulsory veterinary exam after they received several complaints about the dog's welfare.
The dog, which has three legs and has arthritis, was deemed unfit to go back to Graham and is currently being looked after by Worthing Borough Council.
Graham, who has had the 13-year-old Labrador-collie cross since it was a five-week-old puppy, said he 'did not want to live anymore' if he could not be reunited with his friend.
He said: "Since I have been homeless, he is the reason to get up in the morning.
"He is the most loyal dog and he has always been so well-behaved, and I'm worried about his problems.
"Someone else might look at him and think 'let's put the poor old boy out of his misery', but I know him and I know he has a few years left."
The 39-year-old moved to the Worthing area from Lincolnshire 15 years ago, and has had spells of homelessness but always had Dusty by his side. The pair found themselves back on the streets a year ago after he was unable to continue living with a friend.
The decision to take his dog away sparked outrage on social media and an outpouring of support for Graham. When we spoke, several people came over asking about Dusty and giving him cups of hot chocolate and pancakes from McDonalds in the Montague Centre, opposite his usual spot.
He said he was 'touched' by the support: "I thought everyone was against me for that to happen, but the last day-and-a-half it has quite touched me how many people are on my side."
Yesterday, Adur and Worthing Police posted on Facebook, saying their role was to 'support' the local dog warden and added: "There were concerns that due to the dog’s age and condition he was suffering in the cold weather conditions. The dog has been seen by a vet who confirmed that the dog has a medical condition that requires daily medication, cold weather does not help this condition and therefore living on the street is not the best place for the dog. The dog is currently being cared for by the council while discussions with its owner continue. "Local homeless services have been open to the owner and continue to be so."
To this, Graham said Dusty was receiving medication and the dog was taken away from him a few months ago but was then returned to him. He also rejected claims the dog was suffering in his care and said he had not heard anything from the police or the council since Dusty was taken. He added that he was not abusive to the dog warden, so police did not need to be involved.
A spokesman for Worthing Borough Council said: "After concerns expressed by members of the public our dog warden service investigated the condition of the dog. A vet has now confirmed the animal is not fit enough to live on the streets. We are now working with the owner to find suitable friends who can look after the dog and allow the owner access."