Raw Food Recall Alert

There have been two recalls on raw petfood in recent months, one because of high levels of salmonella and the other because the feed manufacturer had not complied with the legal requirement for inspection. meanwhile, advocates of raw feeding continue to spread supporting anecdotes that have no basis in proven, peer-reviewed fact.

Myth 1: Raw food is the “natural” diet of the domestic dog

Fact: There is overwhelming evidence that domestic dogs evolved by scavenging around human settlements. As most humans changed from being nomadic hunter-gatherers to being settled farmers, dogs evolved to accommodate the change in diet and became capable of digesting more starch. This capability varies from breed to breed, even today, so that northern breeds have fewer starch receptors than, for instance, sight hounds that developed in the fertile crescent. Dogs “natural” diet is whatever man throws away or deigns to feed, possibly supplemented by a small game. This is abundently evident in the 80% of the world’s dogs that live in feral groups.

Myth 2: Raw food is frozen which is sufficient kill pathogens

Fact: Not all raw food fed to domestic dogs is frozen and not all frozen food is free of dangers including helminths (parasitic worms), protozoans (causing giardiasis, toxoplasmosis, cryptosporidiosis and leishmaniasis etc), bacteria, viruses and prions. All however are destroyed by the high temperatures used when commercial cooked foods are prepared. Cooking also makes food more digestible and bio-available. As to the latter, just because it’s present, it doesn’t mean that dog’s body can utilise it.

A recent study in the US found that 20-35% of raw poultry and 80% of raw food diets for dogs tested positive for salmonella and 30% of stool samples from raw-fed dogs tested positive for salmonella. Raw food diets have also tested positive for E. coli and Yersinia enterocolitica (bacteria that may cause gastrointestinal upset). Otherwise healthy dogs may be able to cope with ingestion of these bacteria, but very young, old, or immunocompromised dogs may not be able to do so. Further, the faeces continually contaminate the environment, putting other animals and people at risk.

Myth 3: Raw food is healthier than cooked or commercial food

Fact: Study after study has shown that raw diets are often deficient in calcium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc and can contain excessively high vitamin D levels. Homemade diets are particularly likely to result in medium-long term malnutrition. Whilst some adult dogs can cope with calcium and phosphorus imbalances, they may affect the strength of the bones of growing dogs. Ironically, many owners say that they feed raw because of allergies, but zinc deficiencies may cause skin disorders. It would be interesting to see how many owners of dogs suffering from allergies researched the breed and the likelihood of their dog suffering allergies due to in-breeding before becoming an owner. High quality, commercially prepared complete diets are balanced nutritionally and contain all required trace elements in bio-available forms. This is without even considering the risk that raw diets pose to animal and human health.

Chicken is a popular choice of food for raw feeders, some even feeding chicken wings. Chicken in the Uk has high levels of contamination with campylobacter. The Food Standards Agency has been so concerned about this that it has been running a campaign in conjunction with major supermarket chains and has succeeded in diminishing contamination. However, the FSA stated that this is not the case with chicken sourced from independent butchers, where high levels of contamination are likely to prevail.

Myth 4: Raw diets are better for oral health

Fact: Studies in wild dogs have found that 41% had periodontitis, although only 2% had dental tartar: teeth may appear cleaner but gums may not be healthier. Wild dogs live far shorter lives than domestic dogs who may have to endure painful and harmful damage to teeth and gums for many years if not cared for properly. Bones also chip and crack teeth.

Myth 5: Feeding raw bones is “natural” and safe

Fact: Many owners believe that feeding raw bones is safer than feeding cooked bones, but there is no evidence to support this view. Domestic dogs simply don’t have the power in their jaws to crush uncooked bones and are not likely to be fed hide and hair. Wild dogs possess a protective mechanism that enables undigested hair and hide to wrap around bone fragments as they are excreted and in any case, crush bones far more efficiently and completely.

Moreover, farm animals are reared intensively and quickly causing their bones to be brittle. Chickens often suffer fractures because of rapid growth that does not enable bones to develop fully and because they are bred to have large amounts of muscle which adds further strain. Bones are therefore much more likely to shatter and create potentially lethal shards.

Bones get stuck in the stomach and intestine. If they perforate the gut, consequential infection can be fatal and, at the very least, agonising. Bones get stuck in the oesophagus preventing the dog from breathing which, even if the dog survives, can lead to permanent blindness from hypoxia.

Raw bones are covered in pathogens: if left out, those pathogens will multiply. Although healthy dogs have quite good protection against food that would definitely fell a human, young, old and otherwise compromised dogs can become very ill indeed.

Myth 5: All additives are bad: processing is bad

Fact: Additives in good quality commercial, cooked food ensure that essential trace elements are bio-available and present in the right amounts if fed according to guidelines. This is vital for growing dogs and throughout life. Processing occurs at high temperatures which ensures that pathogens are largely eliminated and increases the shelf life of products. This makes good quality food easily available to all owners with minimal input required other than feeding and storing correctly. Processing (cooking) makes food more digestible; it does not destroy essential digestive enzymes. Processing (shaping) makes food available in small pellets which can be fed gradually and used to assist training and bonding when fed by hand.

Christmas – Chaos or Calm

For many people, celebrating holidays means a major change of routine, whether it is a hectic social whirl or just a chance to unwind. However, it is easy to underestimate how unsettling that can be for dogs.

Security, safety and routine are the bedrock for dogs; they have no way of knowing whether changes to their usual habits are only going to last for a few days or whether their live will always be chaotic. Even without the added risk of ingesting foreign objects or toxic human foods, Christmas holidays can result in sensitive dogs having stress-induced gastric problems and exhibiting unwanted behaviours. It is all too easy to spend far less time with dogs or over-exercise them when on holiday.

A small amount of time taken to ensure that as much of the usual routine as possible is retained over the holidays can make the dofference between a miserable time for you and your dogs or a welcome break.

  • Don’t feed additional or different food
  • Keep exercise levels the same and try to keep to a similar timetable as usual
  • Ensure that your dog can choose to go to a space where he can be alone and away from noise, but monitor him periodically
  • Don’t introduce other companion animals without allowing plenty of time before hand to see if they will be compatible and to make alternative arrangements if not
  • Ensure that exits will be secure and that you know where your dog is at all times
  • Don’t overwhelm your dog with toys and treats – one new toy and the usual amount of treats is suffient: save the surplus for the rest of the year
  • Make sure that guests comply.

Let’s make sure that no vet needs to be called out for the lack of a little forethought and make sure that your dog has a happy holiday too.

RSPCA Censured Officially Yet Again

The standard of corporate governance at the RSPCA remains in question as further problems in the management of the organisation come to light. The RSPCA went two years without a permanent chief executive after Gavin Grant left in 2014 having secured a 45% pay rise when compared to his predecessor. The appointment of Jeremy Cooper in 2016 seemed to hold out great promise as he recognised why the RSPCA is held in such low esteem amongst animal professionals and the general public and he stated, “We are going to be a lot less political. It doesn’t mean we won’t stand up for animals. But we are not a political organisation.” The fact that he remained in post for barely a year in spite of having attempted to impliment a five year strategy for the RSPCA speaks volumes for an organisation that clearly has no intention of mending its ways.

Chris Sherwood was appointed chief executive in August this year against a background of criticism in parliament dating back to 2013 for bringing private prosecutions rather than referring alleged offences to the Crown Prosecution Service and for spending £330,000 in a private prosecutions of the Cheshire, Cheshire Forest and the Ledbury Hunts which, unsurprisingly, did not result in convictions.

Quite apart from views on hunting or badger culls, the general public make generous donations to the RSPCA in the expection that they will investigate cases of genuine animal cruelty. In 2017, the RSPCA received 1,331 calls relating to 4,616 horses and ponies and by their own admission said that “…cases relating to horses were a “crisis” which showed no sign of abating. the same could be said of individual cases of cruelty, never mind the every day casual cruelty meted out to companion animals that goes on day after day. the RSPCA wanted the AWA 2006 and proclaimed it as a triumph. How many of the 40% of people whose dogs are overweight or obese have been prosecuted for over-feeding which is a clear breach of the Act? How many peopl ehave been prosecuted for mis-housing and mis-feeding cats and rabbits and causing suffering? The RSPCA received £143.5M in donations in 2016, £11.5M was in the form of legacies. In the same year, the Information Commissioner’s Office levied fines of £20,000 for breaches of the Data Protection Act 1988 in their fundraising practices following 503 complaints about its practices. The RSPCA blamed it on a “coding change” to their database.

Now the Charity Commission has issued an official warning to the RSPCA after finding that the chair, vice-chair, treasurer and deputy treasurer mis-managed the process of agreeing a very large pay-off to its former acting chief executive, Michael Ward, who was forced to step into the breach when Jeremy Cooper left and that they “…failed to act with reasonable care and skill in relation to the negotiation with the former acting chief executive”.

Chris Sherwood, formerly chief executive of the charity Relate, accepted the poisoned chalice of RSPCA CEO: he may well find that his marriage guidance skills come in handy with his own board. The official warning concludes that members of the council should receive formal training in corporate governance and must ensure that the council adheres to the charity’s code of conduct. They are required to commission an independent report on the processes followed in recruiting and appointing a new chief executive; that will make interesting reading.

Since the passing of the Charities Act 2016, only five official warnings have been issued by the regulator who stated that, in the case of the RSPCA, the level of engagement was “…concerning considering the Charity’s size and importance” and that the “unusually high turnover” of chief executives combined with significant periods of time when the RSPCA was without a substantive chief executive in post were additional matters for concern.

The RSPCA responded that they were confident that they were “heading the right direction” as a “modern charity”. As it happens, I have had reason to have personal experience of the RSPCA in recent weeks and it does nothing to lead me to think that anything has changed.

Meanwhile, as ever, it is always the animals that suffer. Fat cats take payouts whilst barely making in dent in the number of fat cats, beaten dogs, starved horses and any other number of suffering animals.

The Impossible Dream

On paper, rescuing dogs seems like a good thing to do, and vast amounts of money are paid into multiple charities, large and small, to facilitate it. Whereas in the past, dogs mostly needed re-homing because owners became ill or died, that is no longer the case.

Dogs are big business and the illicit trade in imported dogs, bred in appalling conditions is augmented by austerity measures which lead to minimal checks at ports and borders and the willingness of owners to commodify dogs and expect them to be delivered on demand in the same way as they might order a pizza. The best breeders and rescues screen dogs and people to try to ensure a good match but success is limited. Anyone can set up a rescue, but good intentions are not enough, any more than “love” is all that is required to rehabilitate a damaged dog.

As reported earlier, there are various legislative moves afoot and recently enacted to regulate the breeding and sale of dogs and other companion animals that have the potantial to make a real dent in the puppy farm trade. Of course, all legislation is only as good as the resources put into publicising and enforcing it and, at the moment, there is no sign that the resources required will be forthcoming or that existing resources will not be further denuded. Nevertheless, the ground is being laid for a significant improvement in canine welfare.

Many practitioners are beginning to learn lessons from the supply chains that operate in other businesses and to realise that each link in the chain needs to be tackled in order to make a real difference. There is a thriving supply chain creating a demand and a market for dogs that is fuelled by the ease of buying and selling dogs online in which both buyer and seller – and the middle man created by rescue organisations – are perpetrating puppy farming, the exporting of “problem” dogs from abroad and the boomerang dog syndrome. No kill policies mean that rescues cannot keep up with the number of dumped and returned dogs and also find themselves stuck in complex legal situations if they end up with a dog proscribed under the DDA. the Environment Food and Rial Affairs committee (EFRA) have produced a detailed report following an evidence gathering session where the inadequacies of the DDA and breed-specific legislation were considered, with very promising results.

One major victory in the seemingly impossible task of regulating online sales has been scored by the animal welfare charity Four Paws following a petition sent to Gumtree UK (owned by eBay Inc.). The pressure has caused Gumtree to announce plans to introduce a mandatory paywall for people advertising animals for sale on their site which should make it easier to trace animals that have been imported illegally and animals that become ill or die shortly after being sold. Four Paws are continuing to put pressure on eBay to extend this to all their sites.

Looking closer to home, the Kennel Club would like people to think that buying a dog with “papers” is some kind of guarantee that the dog was bred in ideal conditions but anyone taking a glance at the figures will realise that this simply cannot be the case. A Battersea Cats and Dogs Home report estimated that in 2015, 67,125 puppies had been bred by licensed breeders. The KC has 6,000 Assured breeders but registers 250,000 dogs per annum, 30,887 of which in 2017 were French bulldogs, obviously not coming from accredited breeders. Of course there are good breeders out there who do not see any benefit to paying the KC to license an activity which their local authority already licenses and those who have no need to pay the KC to produce a piece of paper to prove the provenance of their dog. However, clearly, not all of these dogs are coming from responsible breeders and equally clearly, the KC could not provide the resources required to check that they were before registering them even if it wanted to.

If we really want to be able to make life better for all dogs, it is time that we took a clear-headed, unsentimental look at the canine supply chain and recognised the elements for what they are. No matter that the intentions of puppy farmers, rescues and purchasers may differ, the effects are the same.

Every dog taken from rescue, or a puppy farm or imported from an unending supply abroad leaves room for another to fill the gap. Even dogs brought from apparebntly legitimate sources may have been bred badly and be destined for the scrap heap. Owners who take on dogs, damaged or otherwise, with little or no ability to look after their needs are perpetrating the misery for themselves as well as the dogs. Look online and you can find sob story after sob story about how guilty people feel when they dump a dog – not usually guilty enough for them not to go out and immediately get another dog without any effort to learn from their mistakes. Just not the right dog for them say the rescues – try another, we have plenty. In the meantime, another boomerang dog gets returned to kennels and the odds of it being re-homed diminish. If owners were obliged to have a dog euthanised or knew that most dogs taken in would be euthanised after a set period of time as used to happen, the supply might very well recede of its own accord.

It might just be better to euthanise the majority of dogs that will never find a home and that will suffer untold distress in the meantime so that there is some hope of giving the remaining dogs a chance. It might also mean that owners are forced to think before they act and rescues can spend the required amount of time supporting dogs and owners so that they stay together. Quite simply, online sales make it easy to buy a dog, often for it to be dumped or die shortly after purchase, and rescues make it easy for people to dump dogs. This would be bad enough if it were just a domestic problem, but the importing of dogs from abroad, often wrenched from living in feral communities in rural areas and then expected to adjust to being a fireside dog in an urban household, maybe spending most of their time with a dog walker or boarded has helped to turn this into a canine crisis. They are of course facilitating the spread of diseases such as parvo virus and leishmaniasis that affect the whole canine population.

Treacherous Thames – Canine Casualties on the Tideway

When most people think of lifeboats they have images of dark and stormy nights, Grace Darling battling huge waves and dramatic launches from seaside slipways. It may be surprising then, to realise that the busiest lifeboat station in the UK is on the river Thames at Tower Bridge, with the other three Thames stations at Chiswick, Gravesend and Teddington being the next busiest. The Thames has had its own lifeboats since 2001 when a safety enquiry following the Marchioness disaster saw the establishment of Tower Bridge station. Uniquely, the Thames stations are manned permanently and vessels are required to be afloat within 90 seconds of being notified of an incident. Chiswick has 3 E-class inshore boats that were designed specifically for the conditions on the Thames: the Chelsea Pensioner (E-003), the Joan and Kenneth Bellamy (E-006) and Dougie and Donna B (E-008). E-class boats are the fastest vessels in service with the RNLI and can reach up to 95% of casualties between Canvey Island and Teddington within 15 minutes.

The Thames is a dangerous place. The tide can rise and fall up to 24ft twice a day and hide all sorts of submerged hazards as well as create treacherous currents and dangerous mud. The average water temperature is 12C (54F); cold water shock can occur at any temperature below 15C (59F). 34 people died in the river between 2000 and 2014. It doesn’t help that charming riverside pubs can create not-at-all-charming drunks who either fall in or think that they are invincible and can swim in all conditions.

Chiswick came into operation in January 2012. Up until the end of 2017, crews had attended 3,328 incidents and rescued 1,707 people, some of whom would otherwise have died.

The dangers aren’t just faced by humans but by dogs too. Involuntary ingestion of river water and the dangers of being infected by leptospirosis (Weill’s disease) can kill dogs and humans. Even the strongest swimmers can and do get swept away by the tide and can get trapped in a variety of hazards by unexpected currents that may not be visible from the bank. Already this year, the Chiswick station, operating between Richmond half lock and Battersea, has been called out for the seventh time to rescue a dog. Crews have also had to rescue handlers who try to retrieve dogs from the water and, as with the seashore, can be in greater danger than the dog that they are trying to bring in. Even if dogs don’t enter the water voluntarily, they can and do fall in not least when banks are slippery with weed and mud (and that’s the polite description, at least until the Thames Tideway becomes operational).

This is what happened when two dogs and their handlers got into difficulty on the Thames this summer.

There were a total of 132 lifeboat launches to dog walking incidents in 2015, with 119 handlers being rescued.

Don’t let yourself or your dog add to the statistics. Respect the water, keep your dog on the lead and/or get a canine lifejacket*. Don’t let your dog swim in the Thames or other tidal waters and make sure that there is no danger from algal blooms and similar in running or still water.

Never go in after your dog.

If your dog does get into difficulties, call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard and keep yourself safe and, if necessary, warm.

Chiswick lifeboat station costs £495,000 per annum to run. The RNLI is completely independent of government and relies on volunteers and fundraising to operate. You can support Chiswick or any other part of the RNLI by taking part in a regular event such as SOS day at the end of January or National Lifeboat day in May or local events or by making a purchase from the RNLI shop* . Drop some change or even notes, into a tin. Even a small donation can help with the annual running costs.

Most of all, you can help by keeping yourself and your dog safe around water.

* CreDO and DogsNet.org do not take responsibility for products advertised on or purchased from third party websites.

Running Commentary

As we are (I hope) coming to the end of a miserably hot summer I find that it beggars belief how many people continued to inflict heavy exercise and exposure to direct sun on their dogs without any apparent concern for their welfare. Most owners have a very poor grasp of how to fulfil their dog’s needs for stimulation and exercise and assume that “a good run” is ideal regardless of the weather or the obvious distress of their dog.

The numbers of people running with dogs and towing them behind bicycles has increased massively in recent years and with it consequential stress and probably injury to dogs. It hasn’t been helped by the heavy promotion of running and cycling and dog ownership as being beneficial (to humans) without a simultaneous education campaign about canine welfare and owner responsibilities.

No doubt the runners soak their own aches and pains in a hot bath or pay for a massage but do they ever consider how sore their dogs are after they have been pounding tarmac for an hour? What exactly possessed the owner whom I see in the park to force his limping, overweight (black) dog to run with him a few short weeks after having cruciate ligament surgery, itself damage exacerbated by her excess weight? But damaged ligaments and sore muscles are not the only danger to dogs that are made to run.

When the message that dogs can die in minutes in a hot car hasn’t got through to professionals, never mind the public, no wonder that owners give little consideration to heat stress in their companion dogs. It is not just people competing with their dogs in sports such as Cani-X, Bikejor and sled racing but individuals who decide that they can kill two birds with one stone by getting the “chore” of the dog walk and their own exercise completed in one go.

A new study investigating the body temperature of dogs competing in Cani-X is therefore a very important step towards establishing reliable guidelines as to the effect on canine welfare when dogs run.

This study and those that it cites confirm that there are many factors that affect whether a dog will suffer from heat stress, or worse, heatstroke, when obliged to run, including the weather conditions on the day. Heatstroke can be fatal condition and can occur after just six minutes of exercise in hot conditions. Owners have little or no understanding of how their dogs regulate heat as evidenced by the number of people shaving off their dog’s coat or swaddling their dogs in raincoats just because they don’t want them to get dirty. The warmer that the environment becomes, taking into account humidity and wind as well as “actual” temperature, the less efficient that the dog’s natural mechanisms of heat loss become.

There are other factors to consider in addition. Dogs measured after competing in Cani-X were significantly hotter than bitches and dark-coloured dogs developed significantly higher temperatures after running when compared to medium-coloured dogs, but not when compared to pale-coloured dogs. The dogs with the hottest post-running temperatures were thus more likely to be male and dark coated. Also, dogs that completed the course in the fastest times had higher post-running temperatures. This would suggest that a sprinter, such as a greyhound, would be hotter after running a typical race than might a Siberian Husky after running a long-distance sled course. Dogs running up a slope also had significantly higher temperatures after racing than those running on the flat.

The study suggested that, theoretically, all racing dogs would exhibit potentially dangerous high temperatures once the temperature reaches 22°C (taking into account the humidity and wind factors). The longer that the dog’s temperature remains high (approximately 3°C above the average resting temperature) the more likely the dog is to sustain long-term damage from heatstroke. In all of the races where dogs’ temperature was measured in the study, at least one dog developed a body temperature that would be considered to be at risk for developing heatstroke, with the highest recorded temperature being 4.5°C above the average resting temperature (bearing in mind that there is some individual variation). All of the dogs returned to a normal body temperature within 10–20 minutes of finishing their race. However, had the ambient temperatures been higher, this may have taken longer and owners also need to realise that dogs do not cool down immediately after stopping any more than people do. Running with a dog and then transporting it in a hot car and/or leaving it in a hot room may inhibit cooling considerably. It must also be noted that some of the dogs that had been raced when it was snowing still exhibited potentially dangerous high temperatures after running.

Owners who compete regularly with dogs are likely to monitor their water intake and regulate their diet with a great level of precision and understanding of their dogs’ requirements. Owners who haul their unfit dogs around the park are not. As the study’s author commented, “An unfit, poorly acclimatised, dark coated male dog may be at greater risk of heatstroke running in late autumn than a pale coated, female dog in regular training, running in the middle of summer”.

It beggars belief that owners with brachycephalic and achondroplastic dogs force them to run but it is easy to see that they do in any park on any day. Small dogs are also less able to regulate their temperature and are often those rugged up at every opportunity, including on warm, wet, muggy days when they too, are forced to run.

Dogs that are only taken out to run with owners have no opportunity to sniff and socialise and are often interpreted as being aggressive by other dogs as they run past in a desperate attempt to keep up with their owners. I have seen extremely fearful dogs quivering with stress as they weigh up whether to risk running past another dog or lose sight of their owner who, more often than not is either oblivious with headphones blasting muzak into their ears or running on whilst screaming at their dog to catch up.

It is amazing, especially this summer, that more dogs do not suffer from heatstroke as a consequence, although the long term damage to their social requirements and toll on their bodies is less apparent.

All owners need to be alert to the potential for heat stroke and over exertion in their dogs and to ensure that they neither drink too much or too little.

Many thanks to Emily J Hall and Anne Carter Pullen for making their research available and for the permission to link to the canine heatstroke website.

It’s in the DNA

DNA sequencing is the process of determining the precise order of nucleotides within a DNA Whole genome sequencing has made the complete DNA sequence of an organism available for analysis and study. The first organism to be sequenced in 1977 was a virus and the human genome project was launched in 1990, with the first draft of the full sequence being published in 2001 and the final draft in 2003. The dog genome was published in 2005 and <ahref=”https://research.nhgri.nih.gov/dog_genome/study_descriptions/publications-study.shtml#genomics_dog_breeds” target=”_blank”>several peer-reviewed publications detail research into the origins of the domestic dog, variations in physical characteristics and canine diseases.

Originally an expensive process, DNA testing and sequencing has become considerably cheaper and 19 laboratories across the globe support commercial provision of approximately 200 DNA tests, most commonly undertaken for disease prevalence and to determine breeds in crosses. However, not all DNA tests are the same. Knowing what breeds constitute a cross may provide a broad idea of temperament but the effects of epigenetics and other environmental factors, not to mention training, play a huge role in determining how a dog will behave. Even where susceptibility to disease and defects are concerned, DNA tests need to be treated with caution, as indeed do other tests such as screening for hip and elbow dysplasia which need to be seen in the context under which the results are reported as well as assessing the validity of the tests themselves. Inaccuracies in human genetic tests can be as high as 40% and with humans and dogs, the tests are often only partial, with companies failing to screen for all known disease-linked mutations. For example, a mutation in the ABCB1 gene occurs in many herding dogs including collies, Australian shepherds and Shetland sheepdogs that renders them susceptible to poisoning by commonly used veterinary medications such as flea and worm treatments., Although there is a genetic test available to screen for one type of this mutation, it appears that two other types are not screened for which may result in dogs being designated as clear when they are not.

An article in the prestigious journal Nature has raised serious concerns about the scientific basis behind DNA testing to predict the likelihood of disease occurrence as well as concerns regarding conflicts of interest. They state that most genetic tests for health are based on small studies where the accuracy and ability to predict health outcomes has not been validated. Owners are likely to come across the results via breeders and/or vets, neither of whom are unlikely to possess detailed knowledge about the limitations of such tests. This can not only lead to owners being misled, but to dogs undergoing invasive and unnecessary testing and even being euthanised on the basis of the results.

As with human DNA testing, researchers look for mutations on “candidate genes” that might lead to future genetically-linked health problems. However, just possessing a mutation is not guarantee that disease will develop: this has only been found to be the case in 2% of human candidate gene studies. In human genetics, collaboration between industry, academia, doctors and patients has resulted in a more detailed and nuanced assessment of the effect of candidate genes. No such collaboration exists, or is likely to in the near future, where canine health is concerned.

There is also plenty of scope for conflict of interest and little or no regulation with a predicted explosion in the availability of relatively cheap testing for dog owners.
The authors of the study are calling for:

  • The establishment of common standards in testing methodology and the reporting of test results
  • The establishment of guidelines drawn up by interested parties and which may form the basis for legislation
  • Comprehensive sharing of anonymised data
  • Recruitment of dedicated expertise to manage and analyse data
  • The development of a cadre of professional genetic counsellors to provide support and advice to owners following genetic tests with potential for affiliation with counterparts in human genetic counselling at leading academic medical centres.

Genetic testing is a vital tool for improving dog health and it would be a tragedy for dogs if commercial incentives and incomplete knowledge were to lead to it being generally discredited because it has been falsely presented. We have seen the damage being wreaked from the false information spread about vaccination. It should serve as a warning.

3 Out 1 In

Three pieces of legislation affecting dogs will be repealed in October 2018 and a new piece of legislation will be introduced covering the licensing of activities involving animals: specifically in the case of companion dogs, all types of boarding and breeding. The requirements for the provisions made for dogs being boarded are more detailed than previously and are explicit regarding permissions for day care and overnight boarding. The provision which allowed one additional dog to be boarded with an owner’s own dog without requiring licensing has thankfully been rescinded.

Main points for overnight boarding include:

  • Dogs may only be boarded in a home
  • Boarded dogs must have direct access to a private, non-communal, secure and hazard-free external area and there must be at least two secure physical barriers between any dog and any entrance to or exit from it
  • Dogs from different households may only be boarded at the same time with the written consent of every owner
  • Each dog must be provided with its own designated room where it can, if necessary, be kept separate from other dogs
  • Any equipment that a dog is likely to be in contact with and any toy provided must not pose a risk of pain, suffering, disease or distress to the dog and must be correctly used
  • Dogs which on the advice of a veterinarian cannot be exercised must be provided with alternative forms of mental stimulation
  • If any person aged under 16 years resides at the home, there must be procedures in place to regulate the interactions between the dogs and that person.

Main points for day care boarding include:

  • No dog may be kept on the premises overnight
  • There must be an area where any dog can avoid seeing other dogs and people if it so chooses
  • All dogs must be screened before being admitted to the premises to ensure that they are not afraid, anxious or stressed in the presence of other dogs or people and do not pose a danger to other dogs or staff
  • Any journeys in a vehicle must be planned to minimise the time dogs spend in the vehicle.

Frankly, I know of very few people boarding dogs currently in their home who would be compliant with the new legislation and, in the case of the immediate area where I live, not one is boarding legally anyway. Abuses that I know of include the women who “boards” dogs overnight in her car which is not even always parked outside her house or the woman who let two dogs run out of an open door, one of which was immediately killed by a devastated, dog-owning driver through no fault of his own. The obligation to provide a designated room for each dog should severely limit numbers which is no bad thing. The prohibition on causing pain and suffering by the use of equipment is interesting and could potentially stop the use of a variety of common restraints. It is particularly good news that there are restrictions on contact between boarding dogs and under 16s.

It would have been useful to have had specific provisions for dogs taken away from the home area such as to farms etc which became more common when parks began to restrict the number of dogs that could be walked at any given time. Sadly, very, very few people dealing with dogs recognise signs of fear, anxiety and stress and often miss the subtle signals that dogs show. The restriction on time spent in vehicles is a bit vague, but at least it could include the provision for demonstrating that there is a written plan.

The legislation covering breeding is more straightforward, but there are still potential difficulties in enactment. It states that “A puppy may only be shown to a prospective purchaser if it is together with its biological mother.” However, the only way to prove that would be to undertake a DNA test and wait for the results. How that could occur in practice and who would pay for it remains to be seen. Licensed breeders “must implement and be able to demonstrate use of a documented socialisation and habituation programme for the puppies” which means that potential owners can request to see it.

There are two major provisions of the breeding section of the regulations that could have an explosive impact if fully enacted. The prohibition on mating any bitch that has had two litters delivered by caesarean section could severely limit the number of dogs bred that are unable to give birth naturally, although again, it is not easy to see how it will be policed.

But the one section that made me really sit up and take notice is this:

“No dog may be kept for breeding if it can reasonably be expected, on the basis of its genotype, phenotype or state of health that breeding from it could have a detrimental effect on its health or welfare or the health or welfare of its offspring.”

That may well be the golden key to preventing the horrors that have been perpetuated for far too long on brachycephalic and achondroplastic dogs. We can only hope.

In the end, as with all legislation, it remains to be seen what resources are put into policing it.

Shocking Stance of CA – Literally

It was with horror that I read the news release from the Countryside Alliance which supports the use of shock collars and makes erroneous connections between the type of electric fencing used to confine cats and dogs with that used to confine livestock.

Comments from Tim Bonner, Chief Executive of the CA include stating that the issue does “not seem like an issue to die in a ditch about” and that the motive behind the proposal to ban shock collars in England is for “the sake of a few headlines and tweets”. he then goes on to suggest that it could lead to “more cats and dogs being euthanased and placed in danger”. He then erroneously equates shock collars and electic boundary fences used in conjunction with shock collars with electric fences widely used to protect livestock.

The CA could take a lead in promoting non-adversive training which many of its members use to train dogs for the field, but instead is now allying itself with the animal abuse which many of its detractors have accused it (erroneously) in the past.

It is not too late for the CA to admit that they are in the wrong here. If you feel strongly and/or train your dog for the field using non-aversive methods, contact them today.

The consultation on the proposed ban on electonic shock collars closes on April 27th, 2018 so there is still time to have your say.

Click here to read the response from CReDO and DogsNet.

A Walk On The Wild Side

When businessman Roger Palmer visited Alaska in the 1970s and encountered wolves for the first time, he could never have imagined the extent of the benefits that would be achieved by the organisation that he eventually founded in 1995 the UK Wolf Conservation Trust.

The UKWCT has since not only housed and socialised wolves but staff and volunteers have enabled countless people to experience them at first hand, as well as making significant contributions towards research and conservation of wolves worldwide. Through their weekly open days, howl nights, wolf experience days and walks with wolves and other educational events as well as their regular newsletters, outreach events and sponsorship opportunities, they have helped to dispel some of the myths and prejudices surrounding canis lupus and brought wolves back to the English countryside after their extinction in the eighteenth century.

It is with a heavy heart then that I discover that, from August 2018, they will not be renewing their Zoo Licence but will revert to holding a Dangerous Wild Animals Licence, meaning that they will no longer be open to the public. They have not disclosed a detailed reason for this decision, but I am sure that it was not arrived at lightly. The wolves will of course continue to live out their days in the best of circumstances available to captive wild animals.

We must be content in the knowledge that the privilege of walking with wolves was available thanks to their efforts.