Monday, 19 May 2008

Don't Ban Bilbo!

Bilbo in action down at Sennen

Now I am a big fan of the RNLI but I read this on The Telegraph website today and I have to say that on this occassion I question the judgement...

Bilbo the dog lifeguard sacked by the RNLI

Bilbo, a seven-year-old Newfoundland, had to pass fitness and swimming tests before he could join patrols on the beach at Sennen Cove in Cornwall and he has been credited with helping save three lives. But the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) - which recently took over the running of the beach from the local council - has decided that his services are no longer required.

A spokeswoman said: "The RNLI is contracted to provide a professional lifeguarding service on the beach and has fully trained lifeguards to do this. Bilbo is a privately-owned dog and does not belong to the RNLI. The RNLI will not be using the dog to save lives at sea but does not have the authority to ban dogs from the beach." Bilbo was a regular fixture on the beach and often seen wearing his lifeguard's vest which carried a number of safety messages on it, warning swimmers about the dangerous areas.

The Newfoundlander's great size and fondness for water makes them well suited to the role of rescue dog. "Everyone loves him and he's become an indispensable part of the team," said Steve Jamieson, Bilbo's owner and the head lifeguard on the beach. "If an alert comes in, his ears start twitching and he knows something is on. Once when we were at an otherwise deserted beach checking equipment he heard some body boarders shouting. He ran into the water and swam out to them. They weren't in any danger and were just enjoying themselves but Bilbo was there in case they needed him."

Mr Jamieson, who patrols the beach on his quad bike with 14-stone Bilbo riding on the back, told The Daily Mirror newspaper he was shocked by the decision. "It's a scandal, an absolute disgrace. Bilbo has had fantastic support."

So he's allowed to hang out on the beach and can still turn up for a photoshoot but I think it is a great shame that the RNLI will not recognise that Bilbo has an official role to play. He is a fantastic asset to the team and regardless of his inability to perform CPR or drive the quad bike he undoubtedly raises awareness about the dangers of swimming in the sea, makes the lifeguards more approachable and has been a fantastic PR for the vital role that Beach Lifeguards play up and down the British coastline... all of which the RNLI should use to their advantage.

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