Many people use pet sitting agencies in the mistaken assumption that they will get a competent, trustworthy and accredited service.
Such a false belief within a largely unregulated industry led to the death of a puppy when a sitter ignored the instructions of the owners and walked the dog in her garden and then left him in a conservatory in some of the hottest temperatures that the UK has experienced. The dog had been left briefly on a trial basis before the owners went on holiday abroad.
The agency, Rover.com, is an international brand with a background check on employees that doesn’t even mention competencies for working with animals. Do you want to know that your dog sitter is not on the sex offender register or would you rather know that they have at least enough ability to understand that a young, brachycephalic dog is especially prone to heat stress during an unprecedented heatwave? The background check is no more than anyone can do themselves for a small fee but does not include checking whether the sitter is boarding legally within their jurisdiction.
The case is currently under investigation by the police but Rover.com just promised to “remove the sitter” from their platform and not allow them to take any more bookings.
It can seem too much hassle to run a check via your local authority for boarders but it could result in your dog dying. The legislation is there for a reason but it is obvious that these get-rich-quick companies make empty promises abut checks and you cannot assume that your dog will be safe.
The happy smiling images of the staff on Rover.com’s website say nothing about their competencies. If you look at the careers that they offer, it is clear that they are basically a software platform taking advantage of the fact that too many people think that dog sitting is a sinecure that simply requires them to like dogs – and maybe not even that.
Surely no holiday is worth your dog’s life?
The final bitter irony – if you look closely at the screenshot of Rover.com’s homepage, you will see that they donate £1 to the RSPCA for every new customer.
This time, it is jumping on the bandwagon of the “cost of living crisis” with advice that includes the following:
“…why not explore whether there is a cheaper food that is still high welfare and meets your pets’ needs? You could mix your regular food with a cheaper brand to make it stretch further…
Did you know it can be cheaper to buy medication online? Your vet can write you a prescription for a small fee and you can order medication online which is usually much cheaper than buying direct from the vet…
Ditch the pet-sitter
We all know not to leave our pets at home all day on their own; professional pet-sitters and dog walkers are often a lifeline but they can be pricey. Do you have trusted friends or family who could help take care of your pet when you’re on holiday or walk your dog if you’re out all day? Or why not start up a responsible community group where you all help each other out with pet care? Just remember to introduce your pets to new people gradually and ensure they are comfortable with their new friends before leaving them in charge.’
Well thanks a bunch RSPCA; that really helps to professionalise the industry and ensure that owners employ fully accredited, qualified professionals. Not to mention encouraging owners to feed poor quality, cheap food. Presumably they have not heard that there is plenty of evidence linking behavioural problems with poor nutrition.
They also don’t seem to be able to see beyond the end of their noses: if people choose not to buy prescription medication from their vet then the vets will be undermined and will end up being more expensive as they need to make up for the loss of revenue elsewhere. It is of course also a slippery slope to then buy over the counter preparations that contribute to parasites becoming more prevalent and resistant to prophylactics.
Great for animal welfare – NOT.
Renting accommodation as a companion animal owner can be nigh on impossible. The inability of more and more people to afford to buy means that it can be difficult for existing owners to move or inadvisable to acquire an animal if home-hunting.
Good news then that the Dogs and Domestic Animals Accommodation Protection Bill is currently in a second reading stage in the House of Commons. Tenants will be expected to hold a responsible animal guardianship certificate including obligation for prophylactic treatments and basic training and permission can be rescinded if an animal is considered to be at risk, or causes danger or nuisance.
Landlords will be entitled to obtain a certificate of exemption for groups of dwellings within a building or area, entire buildings or specific orders for families, species or breeds of animal, if the landlord or another tenant has a religious or medical objection or the accommodation is unsuitable for the animal.
Allowing companion animals is now the default position on the government’s recommended model tenancy agreement and landlords cannot issue a blanket ban in a tenancy, although properties can still be advertised as not considering or allowing animals.
Landlords may be entitled to oblige tenants to take out insurance to cover any damage.
As ever, the devil will be in the detail but it looks as if it may be a good thing and it is indicative of a social change in attitude towards companion animal ownership.
Guide Dogs conducted the first ever crash test of an e scooter and found that impact at speeds as low as 15.5 mph could be fatal for a human. Many are ridden illegally and the same survey found that the average speed admitted to was 16 mph. London alone saw more than 500 injuries being reported in 2021 and there were 9 human deaths across the UK. Police in London have seized a mere 3,600 scooters.
Last week, there was one more fatality to add to the list: a 14 year old miniature Dachshund was sent flying by a rider on a pavement and died in his owner’s arms. It seems unlikely that the rider will ever be caught by police.
In spite of this, and not to mention the cyclists, skateboarders, hover boarders and non-motorised scooter riders who add to this daily threat, the government is considering legalising this menace, having done virtually nothing to police the existing criminality.
Pedestrians have been completely ignored by a government that promotes the use of these children’s toys by adults in the public space and even representatives of the visually and aurally impaired and the elderly have got nowhere in raising objections.
Fat chance then, that the death of a dog will drive this horror off the roads and pavements. Something is wrong with a culture that happily infantilises something as vital as transport; perhaps the only hope is that people may just remember that we live in the 21st century not the 19th and that they are actually meant to be responsible adults not superannuated 5 year olds.
May Day saw the widespread introduction of dog bans on beaches across the UK.
This is paradoxical in the light, not only of the hugely increase in the number of dog owners in there last two years, but the realisation of many businesses seeking recovery from two years of lockdown restrictions, that encouraging dog owners makes good financial sense. Because Brexit resulted in changes to the Pet Passport Scheme, it is now harder to travel abroad with dogs, cats and ferrets which may deter there casual traveller (as might the continuing problems with air, rail and ferries).
The stated aim is to provide people with the opportunity to avoid dogs.
What a pity the same cannot be effected for children.
Appeals to the public not to buy puppies from puppy farmers and back street breeders are useless. The “click and collect” mentality has permitted the canine supply chain as attested by the increase in dog ownership over lockdown .
There is a genuine problem in the dog breeding world as many legitimate breeders are ageing or cannot afford to just break even by selling surplus dogs at little ore than cost. This can only get worse as the cost of feed, utilities and transport rockets.
However, something needs to be done as poorly bred and ill-socialised dogs become a social problem as well as a welfare one.
It seems that the HMRC may provide the solution (in addition perhaps to Brexit making the illegal import of dogs harder).
HMRC have launched a hotline for anonymous reporting of illegal breeding and other canine and feline-related activities.
It may well prove that being hit in the pocket is the ultimate solution.
The quotation above comes from the diary of a Ukrainian refugee, Natasha Chychasova, courtesy of Pushkin House.
It has been noticeable how many people have unquestionably included their companion animals in their survival plans which perhaps simply would not have happened a decade or so ago. It is a paradoxical contrast with the explosion of abandoned dogs living as feral in post-Soviet era cities such as Moscow. Some dogs have been abandoned and charities across Europe are trying to re-locate them. DEFRA has put a plan of emergency support in place for refugees arriving in the UK with animals including emergency licensing, help with quarantine, vaccination and microchipping costs and a shortened quarantine period for those already vaccinated against rabies. DEFRA are also prioritising quarantine facilities for Ukrainian refugees.
As Natasha says, “I simply scroll down timelines on Telegram. This is my whole life. Oh, and there’s my dog too…Things are calm with us. The dog runs around the courtyard, so joyful. Maybe someday I’ll remember that feeling.”
The Sibe shown here, a bitch called Zaira, was brought out of Ukraine by her student owner. In the horror that has been unfolding over the last two weeks, it has been notable how many people have not questioned that their companion animals should stay with them when they have been forced to flee from their homes. The poignant image of the green carrier that saved the life of a little dog when the owners were killed by the blast from a mortar will make many wonder what happened afterwards. Did the dog find a home? Did the people who may have taken him in?
The picture of Zaira and her owner went viral when the pictures of other dogs didn’t, no doubt because both are photogenic and goodness knows, no one can deny the balm that good news brings in this nightmare.
But there’s another Sibe that has been in the news in the last couple of days. This one is a “killer” that “savaged” an “innocent” baby in the woods, the wolf at the door.
What makes the difference between a “good” dog and a “bad” dog?
In a complex world where easy answers are hard to come by, this is an exception. At the end of the day, it’s always the people.
Looks like a discarded plastic bag? Don’t be fooled – it’s a Portuguese Man o’ War (Physalia physalis). This one washed up on Slapton Sands last week and is one of several jellyfish species that inhabit the waters around the UK. Actually, it is a community of organisms that are named for their resemblance to a frigate.
Jellyfish are predators that start life attached to coastal reefs; their free-swimming medusa phase is the fifth, reproductive stage in their lifecycle. They kill prey using nematocysts – stinging cells usually located in their tentacles. These cells can remain active even when the jellyfish is dead and tentacles that contain the cells can detach from the body and remain lodged in their prey.
The toxicity of the sting varies, but some are powerful enough kill a human and stings can cause an allergic reaction. Dogs that are stung most commonly present with vomiting or retching, oedema (facial, lips, limb, laryngeal) and hypersalivation.
The Veterinary Poisons Information Service advises the following first aid:
- Use a towel or stick to remove tentacles that are attached to the skin but make sure not to rub
- Irrigated the affected area with seawater – not fresh water
- If the area is large and/or the dog is in distress, immerse the affected area in hot water (about 45ºC) for about 20 minutes once the dog is at home
- Get veterinary advice.
Do not rub the area with sand or use urine, meat tenderiser, ammonia or baking soda as they may provoke further discharges of venom.
Keep your dog in sight and under control at all times, train for reliable recall and keep your eyes peeled when out and about on the beach, especially after stormy weather when jellyfish may be more likely to wash ashore.
An Oslo court has ruled that breeding English bulldogs and Cavalier King Charles spaniels contravenes their animal welfare legislation and is thus now illegal.
On the surface, this might seem like a good move but why stop there? The list of dogs that have poor genetic diversity never mind those that are severely compromised by their distorted phenotypes goes far beyond those two breeds. Should we ban breeding of all such dogs? What about out crossing such as that which eliminated kidney problems in Dalmatians? It is possibly too late for the bulldog but are we willing to make the breed extinct deliberately? Is the bull dog the canary in the coal mine? If so, that bird has been singing in the void for many other breeds for some time now.
We also need to look at where the Oslo legislation is coming from – an “animal rights” organisation. At their extreme, such movements argue that companion animals are “prisoners” and that farmed animals should become extinct in the drive to turn omnivorous humans into herbivores. Indeed, some even try to force dogs and cats to eat meat-free diets. There is also a push to recognise animal sentience in law, again on the surface, a reasonable demand until one looks into it a little more deeply. The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill currently progressing through the English parliament, much heralded by self-appointed groups such as the continually unsuccessful litigants Wild Justice is a thinly veiled attack on field sports and farming that will not only do nothing to protect animals but will, like the politically-motivated Hunting Act 2004 is likely to lead to much suffering and imbalance of wildlife in the town and countryside as well as prohibiting essential countryside stewardship such as controlled burning.
It is already illegal to breed dogs with a compromised phenotype under the AWA 2006, 6(5). It is already illegal to breed and sell dogs for profit without being licensed. There is a complete lack of resources provided to police this legislation and the public remain largely ignorant of the law.
It remains to be seen what the effect of this legislation will be in pratice in Norway but it may be a case of “be careful what you wish for”.