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Three pieces of legislation affecting dogs will be repealed in October 2018 and a new piece of legislation will be introduced covering the licensing of activities involving animals: specifically in the case of companion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 priovision which allowed one additional dog to be boarded with an owner’s own dog without requiring licensing has thankfully been rescinded.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 severley limit numbers which is no bad thing. The prohibition on causing pain and suiffering 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 retsrictions 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. Unfortunately, there is no requirement for competency, although it is implied by the requirements to assess temperament and condition, providing suitable stimulation and to know when to involve a professional. 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. Licence 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.

Against the Grain

There has been an explosion in the availability of grain-free canine diets, not to mention the increasing popularity of meat-based raw diets which accompany the belief that dogs are “natural” meat eaters and little changed from their supposed carnivorous wolf ancestors. Unlike cats, even wolves are not obligate carnivores and eat a varied diet including the grain and grasses in the stomachs of their prey as well as berries.

It bears repeating yet again then, that the domestic dog is not descended from any living wolf but from a mega-fauna wolf that is now extinct. In the initial process of self-domestication, rapidly accelerated when man began to intervene, the dog adapted to new environments and became something utterly unique.

Whole-genome re-sequencing of dogs and wolves has identified 3.8 million genetic variants and 36 genomic regions that are thought to represent targets for selection during dog domestication. Ten of the genes play key roles in starch digestion and fat metabolism which show also that dogs changed as they became domesticated. Mutations in key genes enabled increased starch digestion in dogs relative to wolves, indicating that the early ancestors of modern dogs thrived on an omnivorous diet rich in starch relative to the largely carnivorous diet of wolves. This was a crucial step in
domestication because early dogs probably both scavenged from and lived with man, either way sharing a diet that included starch-based nutrients.

Further evidence that dogs are perfectly well-adapted to eating grain and starch has come from recent research into the Mayan civilisation dating from 1000 BCE to 250 CE. The Pre-classic Period between 1000 BCE and 175 CE provides the earliest direct evidence that live dogs were traded in the Americas as remains of two dogs and one jaguar-type feline, deposited between 400 and 300 BCE, were found to be non-local animals. The remains were recovered from two large pyramids in a central plaza and dated using radiocarbon dating techniques, leading researchers to conclude that that all three animals may have been involved with early ceremonial events at the site. It is thought that the dogs originated from the Guatemalan volcanic highlands and the foothills of central Guatemala and that they were imported via a trade network as gifts or as companions belonging to humans travelling along the route.

Remains of dozens of local dogs proved that they had been eating a diet rich in maize, whilst the two imported dogs showed evidence suggesting that they also consumed less meat than a carnivore. The canines were mostly small and resembled modern Chihuahuas. Butchery marks found previously on ancient dog bones at other Mayan sites suggest that the dogs were raised as a food source and it is possible that maize-fed dogs were a significant protein source for the Mayans before they domesticated turkeys.

We’re Not In Kansas Anymore Irgo

In an update to yesterday’s post, it appears that United Airlines has made another serious error this week when transporting a dog.

A 10 year old German Shepherd should have been travelling with his owners on a 1,641 mile internal flight from Oregon to Kansas. Upon landing, the owners were handed a Great Dane. Irgo the German Shepherd had instead been taken on a 5,026 mile international flight to Japan.

Flying is a stressful event for all animals, let alone an elderly dog and a giant dog. The German Shepherd faced a flight of 6,219 miles to get to Kansas.

United, perhaps well aware of the adverse publicity and exposure of its multiple failures where carrying animals is concerned, flew both bogs back to their intended locations on private charter planes with dedicated handlers.

Death By Airline

It has been widely reported in the world’s media that a United Airlines employee insisted that a dog, travelling in an approved carrier, be stowed in an overhead locker where it subsequently died.

Federal standards for the transportation of animals are set by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, a division of the US Department of Agriculture, which are based on the US Animal Welfare Act (7 USC § 2131). Specific regulations exist to cater for species requirements. The US Department of Transportation has required airlines to report losses, injuries and deaths of companion animals in transit both on internal and external flights operated by a US carrier since May 2015 and makes statistic public. In 2017, United Airlines transported 138,178 animals and reported 18 deaths and 13 injuries to animals in its care. Furthermore, Title 14, Section 234.13 of the Code of Federal Regulations
requires the US Department of Transportation to “work with air carriers to improve the training of employees with respect to the air transport of animals and the notification of passengers of the conditions under which the air transport of animals is conducted”. Two notices were issued to carriers at the beginning and end of 2015 to remind them of their obligations.

Between May 2005 and December 2017, 274 dogs, 54 cats, 7 birds, 3 chinchillas, 5 guinea pigs, 3 rabbits, 2 geckos, 1 monkey, 1 rat, 1 ferret, 1 snake, 1 pig and 3 unidentified animals have died when in the care of US airlines. A further 190 dogs and 16 cats were injured and 39 cats, 13 dogs and 2 birds went missing. 3 of the lost dogs and 1 of the lost cats were reported to have been recovered subsequently. 1 of the lost cats and 5 of the injured dogs subsequently died and 1 of the injured dogs was euthanised.

There is considerable variation in the carriers who take animals and in the numbers transported, but Delta Airlines has a similar poor record with 84 deaths, 33 injuries and 15 losses in the same period. American Airlines reported 57 deaths, 11 injuries and 5 losses, Continental Airlines 49 deaths, 16 injuries and 4 losses and Alaska Airlines 43 deaths, 67 injuries and 5 losses. The remaining 16 carriers reported an average of 30 deaths ranging from (none to 16), 30 injuries ranging from (none to 7) and 19 losses ranging from (none to 5).

The USDA has sanctioned various air carriers for violations of the Animal Welfare Act which include:

Allowing animals to suffer from hyperthermia and hypothermia causing injury and death
Accepting inadequate encloses for transportation causing injuries and loss
Causing death by inadequate ventilation
Causing injury and death by inadequate supervision including causing injury and death by dehydration and starvation
Causing death by crushing an enclosure and death by poor loading techniques and improper handling.

In addition:
Staff placed a dog’s enclosure on an elevated baggage claim conveyor belt
32 out of 106 dogs and 2 cats died and 52 other animals were injured when all but one dog were being shipped by dealers due to inadequate ventilation
50 dogs in a shipment of 81 died and 31 were injured due to inadequate ventilation. 6 of the 31 were later euthanised.

There were also frequent violations of the requirement to carry adequate documentation regarding animal care, specifically food and water, and of requirements to check that enclosures were adequate before permitting transportation.

Statistically of course, the number is extremely small, but each one represents an animal for which airline staff had a duty of care and of course, an animal to which a human was strongly attached enough to pay a not inconsiderable sum for its travel expecting that it would be safe.

In the case of the dog that died on the latest United Airlines flight, the airline has accepted responsibility and acknowledged that the flight attendant was not following accepted protocol. It beggars belief however, that the member of staff did not take further advice having realised that this was not a suitable way for a living animal to travel. In addition, all concerned, including the owner, ignored the dog’s distressed cries. Given that it has been reported to have been a French bulldog puppy, it would in all likelihood have had compromised breathing and poor ability to regulate body temperature.

In many ways, this is a direct consequence of designating dogs as “toy” types and “teacup dogs” and treating them no differently to accessories to be bred, bought, sold and handled as if they were handbags and shoes.

Waiting for the Wolf

It never ceases to amaze me how incorrect information sticks like glue and correct information seems to slide off the consciousness like oil off metal. An erroneous study from the 1940s is deeply etched into the collective psyche so that the myth of the alpha dog is still current and still causes dogs to be abused. Studies that are almost as old that form the basis for non-aversive training of all sorts of animals – including dogs and humans – still have not trickled down to the far corners of the murkier aspects of the dog world.

Some aspects of the origin of the domestic dog are still controversial but one thing we have known for a while: the dog domesticated itself probably approximately 15,000 – 30,000 years ago, possibly in China, then in the Arctic, then in the fertile crescent.

The great Charles Darwin knew that domestication caused outwards changes in plants and animals; he wrote two volumes on the subject. However, it was the unprecedented longitudinal study of silver foxes by Dimitri Konstantinovich Belayev that proved that, in essence, selecting for tameness alone produced foxes that began to resemble collies more and more with each succeeding generation. Floppy ears, piebald coats, smaller skulls (and brains), shorter muzzles and curly tails all came along for free.

Now new research has shown that this occurs in mice too and one of the indicators of tameness was the appearance of white hairs in the coat. Unlike the silver fox fur experiment, the researchers were not intervening in the way that the mice lived their lives other than to release the initial population of 12 mice into an uninhabited barn where they would come into contact with humans. The mice were free to come and go as they pleased through specially constructed “mouse doors” that provided protection from predators and access to freely available food. In just a few generations, the mice became more and more habituated to humans, even running over their feet, and white hairs appeared in their coats, whilst their heads became smaller.

This study is important for dogs because it provides further proof that dogs initially self-domesticated. Along with genetic evidence that points to a now extinct mega fauna wolf as the progenitor of the dog on the hearth, it further removes dogs from the myth that early man tamed wolf cubs until they evolved into a dog. Experiment after experiment has always failed to produce tame wolves: they always revert to the wild, although they can be socialised.

So, as it bears repeating until finally the myths are scotched for ever:

  • No dog on the planet is related directly to any wolf on the planet
  • 13 basal “breeds” of dog evolved without intervention from man but no modern dog can be traced back directly to these evolutions
  • Dogs do not live in packs, although they, like wolves and humans, are social animals
  • Dogs to not breed in alpha and beta pairings because, unlike wolves, they are fertile all year round
  • Dogs do have distinct personalities that may favour one type of behaviour in the majority of circumstances
  • The way that a dog behaves is not just down to genetics and inherited temperament but varies with many environmental factors.

Repeat after me: “DOGS ARE NOT PROTO-WOLVES. DOGS ARE NOT SEEKING TO DOMINATE YOU – OR ANYTHING ELSE – FOR THEIR ENTIRE LIVES. DOGS DO NOT NEED TO BE PUNISHED.”

Once you really, truly believe this, distribute the information to as many dog-punishers as possible and remember that mice helped you to get there.

I Say, I Say, I Say, My Dog’s Got Snow Nose

Well, in spite of the Met Office bombarding everyone with warnings, we have had very little snow in London, but we’ve made the best of the sprinkling that we have had.

Whilst risk-averse transport companies and schools have been closing and the fair-weather cyclists are off the road – or rather pavements (Hooray!!!) – London suburbs have been blissfully peaceful. Sadly, so have the parks. It seems that most dogs are only walked in fine weather. In the 167 acre park that I travel through on my way to work, I saw only three dogs this morning. They made up for the lack of company by racing round the old golf course, bumbling in and out of snow-filled bunkers and burying their noses in drifts.

My dog’s prey instincts have gone into overdrive as he is convinced that every yard of snow is hiding tasty rodents. He has even condescended to make a rare foray into playing with a ball by way of sublimation. Luckily, I trained him to play with an orange rubber ball – handy for snow. Two years of my life weren’t wasted after all. Yes, really, it took two years, and when I say “a ball”, I mean “a ball”. I foolishly put the ball into the pocket of a jacket that I don’t wear very often then, assuming that I had lost it, bought a replacement. Well, I thought that it was: he didn’t. I tried everything – a coating of dog toothpaste, getting as much of my scent on it as possible – nothing worked. He would run up to it and then walk away in disgust when he realised that it was not the original.

Luckily the exact weather for my paddock jacket enabled me to re-discover the contents of the pocket (ball, baler twine and poo bags of course!) and we were in business again.

The only fly in the ointment is trying to avoid the de-icing salt on the pavements that burns paws. Oh, and the fact that everyone that we pass seems to think it original to comment that my dog must be enjoying the weather. Funnily enough they never say that in the summer when it hits the upper 20s and above – just like Siberia.

Kung Hei Fat Choy

Today marks the start of the lunar new year as celebrated across Asia and the diaspora. The lunar new year marked the start of preparations for a new growing season and is based on the moon’s orbit around the earth rather than the western calendar that is calculated according to the earth’s orbit around the sun. Chinese New Year falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice.

Legend tells that the Chinese new year traditions started because villagers drove out the marauding Nian using firecrackers and red lanterns as his winter hunger caused him to eat livestock and villagers. The Jade Emperor, the first Chinese deity, sent an immortal being into man’s world to select twelve guards for his palace. The animals set off towards the Heavenly Gate, determined to be chosen. Rat got up very early but had to stop at a river. He noticed Ox about to cross the river and hitched a ride on Ox’s ear to win first place. The Year of the Rat starts the 12 and 60 year cycle. Tiger and Rabbit came third and fourth. Good-looking Dragon and crafty Snake came next. Kind and modest Horse and Goat followed with Monkey tailing behind. Lastly, Rooster, Dog and Pig became the guards of the Heavenly Gate, the coming 11th in the race because he frolicked along the way due to his playful nature. According to the Chinese horoscope and the Taoist tradition, each animal is either yin or yang. Each in turn is mitigated by fire, earth, metal, wood or water. 2018 is the year of the yang earth dog. The Hour of the Dog is 19.00 to 21.00 and the dog is associated with the ninth lunar month.

There are many myths and legends involving dogs in Chinese culture and various ethnic groups claim to have had a divine dog as a forebear and dogs accompanied and assisted various legendary heroes. Several peoples preserve a myth that a dog provided humans with the first grain seeds, thus enabling the seasonal cycle of planting, harvesting and replanting. The black dog is also a metaphor for a meteor and is thought to eat the sun or moon during an eclipse. In northern China, paper images of dogs were thrown into water during the Duanwu Festival celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month to drive away evil spirits. Paper dogs were also used to protect the dead.

Although not proven conclusively, it is thought that the dog may have first evolved as a domestic animal in China, followed by two major evolutions of the northern basal breeds and then those from the fertile crescent. The Shar Pei and Chow Chow are some of the earliest dogs to have evolved from a now extinct mega-fauna wolf in Asia.

Dogs have mixed cultural associations in China and are, of course still used as a food animal; dog meat restaurants exist in most major cities. As China becomes a wealthier nation, there has been a steep rise in the number of dogs kept solely as companion animals with has been reported that overzealous enforcers confiscate and kill large dogs that have been deemed to have been owned illegally. There are no national welfare or anti-cruelty laws and consequently no prosecutions for mistreatment. Mass culls of dogs still take place when an rabies outbreak occurs. Before we rush to condemn these practices, we should remember that animal welfare legislation covering both companion and food animals in the UK does not prevent suffering and that much legislation is simply not policed or enforced where dogs are concerned. Rabies is largely limited to some bats in Scotland, although of course, all that can change with illegal imports continuing in huge numbers below the radar.

So 2018 is the Year of the Dog. Caution in financial dealings is advised by the CLSA Feng Shui Index. Others predict (not surprisingly) a year of social change and many uprisings throughout the world, but apparently it is worse when the dog year is a Yang Metal year.

Whether you have any truck with these beliefs or not, Happy New (Dog) Year to all and here is my wish list for dogs in 2018:

  • Vastly more resources put into educating owners to improve all aspects of welfare
  • Actual policing and enforcing of all statutes involving dogs
  • The introduction of compulsory domestic passports with mandatory neutering, vaccination and effective worming added to mandatory chipping unless certified as contra-indiciated by a registered veterinary surgeon
  • The cessation of sales of dogs (and all live animals) via websites such as eBay, Gumtree and Pets4Homes
  • The effective policing of canine imports and a ban on importing “rescue” dogs.

What’s on your list?

Proposed Ban on Puppy Sales

DEFRA are calling for responses to a consultation on banning third party sales of puppies. Click on the link to have your say.

If enacted, it could be possible that the commercial sale of puppies and possibly kittens and other animals would no longer be legal from pet shops. Currently, pet shops can apply to their local authority for a licence to sell puppies and are subject (in theory at least), to regular inspection.

However, even if pet shops are capable of providing suitable conditions from which to house and sell puppies which is extremely doubtful, they can only guarantee a regular supply of puppies from mass breeding. As the BBC TV documentary The Dog Factory proved, some of these outlets are a boon for puppy farmers, including those masquerading and even functioning as regular breeders.

This sounds like an excellent proposition, but the only way to prevent it from being just another statute amongst the 50+ laws that deal with dogs in the UK is for considerable resources to be put into enforcing and policing it. That seems highly unlikely in the current climate of severe local authority cuts.

Read the full response from CReDO here…