Dog Owners Are A Force To Be Reckoned With

dog ownership The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has just stated that 29% of households have dependent children. The latest PDSA PAW Report states that 51% of households has a pet with 24% owning dogs.

That should entitle dog owners to a significant voice in their communities and may be a useful statistic to cite when campaigning for better access, facilities and considerations such as flexible working and dog-friendly workplaces.

Scottish Government Review of Shock Collars

ban shock collarsScottish Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead has stated that a consultation will be published “within the next few months” regarding the use of electric shock and vibration collars. Options will include imposing tighter regulation and an outright ban.

The Welsh Assembly Government banned the use of shock collars by passing the Animal Welfare (Electronic Collars) (Wales) Regulations 2010. They are also banned in Sweden, Denmark and Germany. New Zealand has issued guidance on their use and the State of Victoria, Australia imposes legal requirements on the technical specification and use which is permitted only under the supervision and written instructions of a veterinary practitioner or a qualified dog trainer.

DEFRA funded research into the collars in 2011 and concluded that they “do not cause long-term or significant harm to dogs when used as per manufacturer’s instructions”.

As far as DEFRA’s statement is concerned, the same could be said of all aversives including spike collars, citrus sprays and and choke chains. However, the fact is that owners abuse dogs every day, unwittingly and deliberately. There is an owner that I see regularly who thinks that the shock collar that is weighing down his Saluki’s neck is a good way of training recall. I presume that no non-Masochistic human would willingly return to a person who administered an electric shock to their body so I don’t see why a dog would either.

The thinking behind administering an electric shock to “train” recall is that the dog realises that it is being punished for not coming when called and will only oblige when shocked. Nonsense of course. The dog is far more likely to associate being recalled with unexplained pain and fear. Some argue that it works as an aversive for livestock training; so did tying a dog to a ram for a day, but I doubt it did much for the welfare of either.

There can never be any control over the way that owners use such devices and so in permitting use “according to manufacturer’s instructions”, the government is absolving itself of all responsibility. In any case, the manufacturer’s instructions are to administer an electric shock to the dog in some shape or form, with increasing frequency for maximum “efficacy”.

This is neither an ethical not an effective method of training and the entire United Kingdom should ban their sale and use.

Live in West London and Don’t Have a Microchip?

chipHounslow Animal Warden is running a series of free microchipping events across the borough with free tag engraving.

All dogs in England will need to be microchipped from April 6th, 2016 and, most importantly, it will be compulsory to keep details up to date.

Monday 20 July | 11am – 4pm
Thornbury Playing Fields, Isleworth, TW7

Tuesday 21 July | 11am – 4pm
St Dunstans Recreation Ground, Feltham, TW13 4JY

Wednesday 22 July | 11am – 7pm
Hounslow Heath Park, Hounslow, TW4 5AB

Thursday 23 July | 11am – 4pm
Heston Park, Heston, TW5

Friday 24 July | 11am – 4pm
Brent Lea Recreation Ground, Brentford, TW8 8JQ

All dogs must be on leads.

For further information please contact Lisa Nugent on 020 7627 7875 or e-mail

One Law for All – Defending International Biosecurity

illegal The news that Amber Heard has been charged with bringing dogs to Australia illegally should be greeted with approval. The comparative ease with which dogs can now be transported across international boundaries was always likely to bring problems with bio-security and increased ease of smuggling. Although the potential for dogs being smuggled in private aircraft is minimal, there can be no question that the law should apply to all, irrespective of wealth or status.

Ms Heard was recorded on Australian television as saying “I guess everyone tries to go for their 15 minutes, including some government officials”. Perhaps she is incapable of seeing anything outside of the bubble of her supposed celebrity. This is not a matter of being a ‘jobsworth’ but of protecting animals, including her own pets, against disease. Australia’s native fauna have been under threat since the early 19thC when ships’ cats devasated some wildlife.

Rabies remains a serious threat. A major outbreak could result in a widespread cull of vast numbers of animals, including pets. Not taking prophylactic precautions and proving it via the requisite paperwork is vital for all our sakes.

It will be interesting to see whether court action will rely on hitting Ms Heard in her pocket by imposing a fine or by setting an example and choosing a custodial sentence.

26% of Crufts Exhibits Obese

26 pc obese The publication of another study looking at obesity in dogs (Such and German, Best in show but not best shape: a photographic assessment of show dog body condition, Veterinary Record, 2015 DOI: 10.1136/vr.103093) concludes that 26% of the dogs surveyed were overweight. This will not come as a surprise to anyone who walks in the park or on the high street and observes the number of overfed dogs, but some may be surprised to learn that this was a study of dogs shown at Crufts.

It makes a mockery of the Kennel Club’s injunctions to judges to report excessive weight and that is assuming that the judges actually notice. The KC are very keen to tell judges that they are not vets, which, although true, seems that it is more a reason for perpertuating poor health and welfare than any real attempt to root out fundamental problems in breeding and showing. When examining a dog, it is perfectly obvious if the body score is excessive and all owners should know how to tell that, never mind judges. With breeds such as the Pug, Labrador, Beagle and Basset that have a genetic tendency to weight gain, if the top show dogs are overweight, then it is likely that the dogs that the breeders sell on as pets are even more likely to become obese.

Such and German don’t even wait until their conclusion to state that “breed standards should be re-defined to be consistent with a dog in optimal body condition” – they put it in the abstract.

How shocking that something so obvious should need to be pointed out to breeders.

Grazia Magazine – No Thanks

petitionThe news that Grazia Magazine has published an article advising its readers how to make money from back street breeding will not surprise many people. In a society that can even entertain the expression “handbag dog” and where a web site offers to put people in touch so that they can “borrow” a dog, it is just another consequence of the commodification of pretty much everything, living creatures included.

It is gratifying to know that a petition quickly garnered thousands of signatures in protest, but has not elicited a meaningful apology or retraction from Grazia magazine.

Although a weasel-worded statement from Grazia offered a sop for causing “offence”, it of course misses the point. Any “offence” that I may feel as a consequence of Grazia’s actions pales into insignificance at the societal offence of incompetent breeding, unwanted dogs and irresponsible, ignorant owners who form the chain of the backstreet dog trade, fuelled by this type of publicity.

Network Rail Take The Safety Lead

Still from Take the Lead) Network Rail has teamed up with the Dogs Trust to produce a hard hitting video in an attempt to prevent injuries and fatalities on the rail network.

Those who thought that the infamous “Fenton” video was funny should learn a salutary lesson. Network Rail, the company that is responsible for track and rail infrastructure, state that between April 1st, 2010 and March 31st, 2015 there were 181 recorded near misses where train drivers have had to apply their brake and narrowly avoided a collision with a person and a dog.


Think about it.

That’s the average attendance at a small dog show narrowly avoiding being injured or killed every five years.

In the same period, there were five fatalities of people who were with a dog at the time of the collision.

Imagine if the five people in line for Best in Show at the same event were killed every five years.

Full details are available here.

Take care, train and re-inforce recall and if in doubt, clip on a lead or a long line.

Idiot of the Month Award No 1

I have decided to institute an Idiot of the Month Award, although I reserve the right to award it in between for really spectacular stupidity. Of course the “winner” will be as unaware of the victory as they are of responsible dog ownership, but let their various behaviours be a lesson to us all.

This first award is a joint effort.

speeding vanI was disrupted whilst at home on the telephone by a woman outside, shouting into a mobile telephone. She was completely absorbed in her conversation and suddenly veered across the road. It was then, with horror, that I realised that she was accompanied by a Labrador, off-lead. He had stopped to sniff a bin bag and panicked when he looked up and she was no longer ahead. He then heard her shouting and shot across the road, narrowly missing being hit by a van going rather too fast.

She carried on, oblivious.

Idiot number two was sitting on a bench on the corner of the A316 and a side road. He was accompanied by his off-lead terrier for whom he was kicking a tennis ball towards the traffic. He then screamed at his dog as it careered towards passing cars.

Obviously didn’t see that that might be a problem.

So “congratulations” to our first winners – jolly glad that I didn’t have to hose your dog off the side of a vehicle or hone my first aid skills on mangled drivers.

Bad Dog Law

dog ban The UK press reported yesterday that the state of Florida has enacted a law threatening dog owners with 60 days in prison if they “sneak” their pet into a restaurant, aeroplane or other public place by “pretending” that they are an assistant dog.

This is supposed to help people with “real” disabilities. This is the same state that threatened two pastors and a 90 year old with 60 days in prison for feeding the homeless in its attempt to “cleanse” its streets of homeless people. It seems that Florida considers that people with physical or mental disabilities are worth defending but not those that violate the most sacred law that “thou shalt be seen to be rich or not seen at all”.

So why are owners resorting to this action? Surely it is because they have been unreasonably denied access to public spaces when accompanied by their dog. The complaints do not seem to be about problem behaviour (of the dogs that is), so if access is allowed for assistance dogs, why not all (well-behaved) dogs? If some dogs are considered capable of travelling in an aircraft (or ferry) cabin or train carriage, why not all? Airlines could always impose a restriction on the number of dogs allowed in flight – surely not a problem on short flights?

I would have no problem producing proof that my dog is vaccinated and wormed as long as parents are obliged to do the same for their children. I really am not worried about catching toxicara in a cafe or, frankly, even the odd flea bite, although this is not an excuse not to rid your dog of parasites. Dogs also do not harbour or transmit the common cold. I am however always worried about catching chicken pox which I happen not to have had, and about any number of other diseases transmittable between humans that I might catch from unvaccinated children or expectorating adults.

Florida has some well-worded legislation regarding responsible dog ownership, not least its approach to dangerous dogs. What a pity it does not follow through by supporting well-behaved dogs in public places.