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 presumably faces a flight of 6,219 miles to get to Kansas.

It was not recorded where the Great Dane should have been.

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.

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…

Anti-microbial Resistance – Are YOU Making Things Worse?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) regards anti-microbial resistance as being “one of the biggest threats to global health”. The Wellcome Trust commissioned a survey in 2015 to evaluate the perception of antibiotic effectiveness and potential problems in the UK. The worrying conclusions were that

“…resistance’ is either not on the radar or misunderstood – everyone assumes it’s the person that becomes resistant”

“There’s a natural tendency to dismiss the idea – or to purposefully blank it out”

“…everyone assumes that the experts will work it out – they are confident that time and money will be spent to find a ‘cure’ and that it will eventually all be ‘sorted’ and some then struggle with what they personally can really do about it”.

The majority of the population alive in the UK today has grown up in a world where antibiotics and mass vaccination are easily available (and often free or heavily subsidised at the point of use). Many of these people have become complacent and latched onto panics when they fail to assess the actual level of risk posed by the miniscule chance that a reaction will occur. Conversely, they are much more likely to ignore the very real risk that resistance is occurring and that the commercial realities of capitalism mean that big pharma mean has not developed an effective new class of antibiotics since 1987.

Antibiotic resistance is not just a problem for humans directly, but for our companion animals and those in the human food chain. Whilst misuse by human and animal health professionals and the public has contributed to the problem, the increasing popularity of raw food diets fed to companion animals may be providing a new source of resistance.

Escherichia coli (E.coli) is just one of the so-called “superbugs” that is causing worry and is prevalent in commercial raw food diets for companion animals examined recently in the Netherlands. The study found that cats and dogs fed raw meat are much more likely to become infected with such antibiotic-resistant bacteria than animals on conventional diets and that shedding of ESBL-producing Enterobacteriaceae was more likely in dogs that ate raw meat.

Campylobacter infection is a serious concern in poultry and, while the FSA has made great strides in working with supermarkets to lower the levels of contamination, the same cannot be said of independent retailers where owners feeding home made raw diets may shop for products such as chicken wings that are not available in supermarkets.

There was “universal agreement” at the recent British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) congress “that homemade raw feeding is dangerous because it is so difficult to get right in terms of nutrients and balance. They also agreed that handling raw meat products is riskier.” Several studies were presented to the congress proving that raw meat diets pose a “serious health risk to the animals concerned, their owners and the wider public”. Mike Davies, a vet who specialises in clinical nutrition stated that veterinary professionals would be “crazy” to recommend raw diets not least because they could be held legally liable and open to prosecution if a person became seriously ill or died as a direct result of them recommending a raw diet. Marge Chandler who practices as a private consultant in small animal medicine and nutrition also concluded that homemade raw diets are too variable, unbalanced and lacking in essential nutrients and that few commercial raw diets have
been properly evaluated in feeding trials. Davies suggested that clients be asked to sign disclaimers if they opt for raw feeding but that would still do nothing to protect staff or the wider public from the effects of pathogens that their animals are shedding. (Veterinary Record 2017 181: 384 doi: 10.1136/vr.j4709)

The presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in raw diets poses a serious risk to animal and human health because infections are difficult to treat and because they contribute to a widespread occurrence of the bacteria in the environment.

Don’t contribute to the problem in the false belief that your animal will be healthier – nothing could be further from the truth.

With thanks to Paul Overgaauw for making the full text of his study [Zoonotic bacteria and parasites found in raw meat-based diets for cats and dogs, Veterinary Record, V182(2)] available as well as published articles discussing the results.

Scotland Sees Sense – Now Come On England

After an outcry when Scotland effectively considered creating a “qualification” in administering electric shocks to dogs in the name of training, MSPs have backtracked and Scotland has issued draft guidance with the aim of advising against the use of shock collars.

Whilst an outright ban would have been preferable, this is still good news for the approximately 820,000 dogs in Scotland and the approximately 590,000 dogs in Wales that are already protected by a ban. The approximately 7.5 million dogs in England and the six counties of Northern Ireland are still waiting.

Of course, even a UK ban would on be the tip of the iceberg in preventing punishment being meted out to dogs on a daily basis by ignorant owners and “trainers”. It would be a great start though.

What’s In Your Pie?

In spite of plenty of peer-reviewed studies and veterinary advice to the contrary, owners are still being conned by the “feed raw” myth.

Well unsurprisingly, another peer-reviewed study has concluded that raw food is often riddled with parasites and bacteria:

  • Escherichia coli serotype O157:H7 (infection can lead to haemorrhagic diarrhoea and kidney failure) – present in 23% of products
  • Extended-spectrum beta-lactamases-producing E coli (can cause urinary tract infections that can also progress to sepsis and which are resistant to many penicillin and cephalosporin antibiotics and other types of antibiotic) – present in 80% of products
  • Listeria monocytogenes (one of the most virulent food-borne pathogens responsible for an estimated 1,600 illnesses and 260 deaths in the USA annually, with 20% to 30% of infections in high-risk individuals proving fatal) – present in 54& of products
  • Other Listeria species were present in 43% of products
  • Salmonella species the second most common food-borne pathogen in Europe) – present in 20% of products.


  • Sarcocystis cruzi (causes acute fever, myalgia, bronchospasm, pruritic rashes, lymphadenopathy, subcutaneous nodules associated with eosinophilia, elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate and elevated creatinine kinase levels. Symptoms may last for five years in humans) – present in 11% of products
  • S tenella (causes similar effects as Sarcocystis cruzi) – present in 11% of products
  • Toxoplasma gondii (can cause changes in human behaviour by altering the effects of dopamine and testosterone causing reduced psychomotor performance) – present in 6% of products.

The study examined 203 products from 21 brands. Alarmingly, the authors noted that warnings and handling instructions on packages were lacking from all but one brand”. Even where that one warning was apparent, it does not mitigate the fact that salmonella in particular are resistant to destruction even when food bowls are cleaned at high temperatures, using detergents in a dishwasher or treated with disinfectant. Salmonellae infection in raw foods varies from 7% to 80% in Canada and 5% to 45% in the USA. A systematic review of case–control studies has shown that direct contact with companion animals plays a major role in human salmonellosis and direct transmission has been reported frequently. Human outbreaks of salmonella infections have been associated with contaminated dried pig ears and contaminated chicken jerky treats as well as raw diets. Animals are exposed directly to foodborne pathogens when they ingest food and humans through direct contact with the food, contact with a contaminated animal by sharing the same bed and allowing licking of the face and hands, contact with household surfaces or by ingesting cross-contaminated human food. Cross-contamination may occur after preparing RMBDs or cleaning infected food bowls.

Unlike in companion animals, L monocytogenes can cause serious illness in human beings. Infection of healthy adults usually leads to influenza-like symptoms, but can be life-threatening, especially in neonates and pregnant women where it may cause abortion. Contaminated food products, including raw meat, are common sources of infection and the bacteria replicate easily in food bowls at room temperature. Vacuum cleaner waste from households with RMBD-fed dogs has also been shown to be more
frequently contaminated with salmonella species than waste from other households because animals fed on raw food will be continually shedding pathogens into the environment.

The authors of the study concluded “The results of this study demonstrate the presence of potential zoonotic pathogens in frozen RMBDs that may be a possible source of bacterial infections in pet animals and if transmitted pose a risk for human beings. If non-frozen meat is fed, parasitic infections are also possible. Pet owners should therefore be informed about the risks associated with feeding their animals RMBDs”.

Dogs and cats may be asymptomatic even though infected. Humans are more likely to develop illnesses picked up from their animals because pathogens remain for much longer in the digestive tract and have the opportunity to multiply. Young, elderly and immuno-compromised people are much more at risk and can be infected by asymptomatic humans as well as their animals. Pathogens can also harm other animals: bitches have aborted when infected by pathogens from raw meat products and fatal septicaemic salmonellosis has killed cats fed on raw meat diets.

So, apart form not providing a balanced diet including all of the requisite nutritional elements for dogs and cats, feeding raw diets could result in illness and death as pathogens are shed by animals into the environment and spread after being handled by humans.

Shocking Decision from Scotland

Maurice Golden MSP, a long-time supporter of the campaign to have electric shock collars banned, said: “Electric shock collars are harmful and have no place in modern dog training. The advice from academia, dog behaviourists and trainers is clear – electrocuting dogs does not help train them.

Scotland could have joined Wales where there is a ban in leading the way in welfare but instead has effectively promoted abuse that is lietrally and figuratively shocking.

Sign the petition to ban shock collars in the UK: https://www.change.org/p/the-scottish-government-ban-electric-shock-collars-in-scotland

In November 2016, the Scottish Government published a consultation on potential controls or prohibition of electronic shock devices in Scotland covering collars and fences and sound, vibration and spray collars. Four proposals were adviocated: retain the unregulated status quo; develop guidance or a statutory welfare code; develop regulations on the use of electronic collars and ban the use of electronic collars. 1,032 responses were received:

60% were from Scotland and 26% from the remainder of the UK. 64% were from companion animal owners, 13% from trainers, 7% from the general public, 4% from animal welfare professionals, 4% from behaviourists, 3% from veterinary staff, 2% from owners of working dogs and 1% from animal care professinals. Unsurprisingly, animal care and animal welfare respondents were opposed to the use of electronic devices: pet suppliers and owners of working dogs were supportive. Owners were fairly evenly divided.

Again unsusprisingly, professionals involved in welfare cited learning theory and scientific evidence in support of the ineffectiveness of the devices, not to mention the cruelty, whilst supporters relied largely on their own perceptions of how the devices worked. 3 in 10 reposndents complained that their business would be
affected by a ban or stricter regulations on static pulse collars. However “The most frequently identified possible effect was dealing with fewer animals
suffering from the negative effects of having been trained with an electronic training aid”. An interesting result given the relatively small number of behaviourists responding.

Scotland however has decided not to ban the use of aversive collars but to introduce regulations that would include a new qualification for up to 100 dog trainers across the country to enable them to promote and use shock collars on dogs. The UKKC state that “…the Scottish Government has been meeting with the Electric Shock Collars Manufacturers Association and dog trainers in Scotland who currently use shock collars, yet has not had any meetings with any of the professional dog training associations who oppose the use of electric training devices”.

There is no legislation in Scotland regarding the manufacture of electronic devices. The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs also undertook research into the use of electric shock collars in dog training (Cooper et al 2010a and Cooper et al 2010b). The authors conducted an internet search in 2007 and discovered more than 170 different models of e-collars available for purchase in the UK. New collars were bought online and one was found to be counterfeit. It was included in the survey because “…as it is obtainable in the UK and was possibly attractive due to its low price”. The collars had up to four functions controlled from a radio control handset: a tone signal, a vibration signal, a short electrical stimulus lasting between 4 and 500mS, and a continuous stimulus lasting for as long as the appropriate button on the controller is pressed, but usually time-limited. The energy dissipated by the e-collars when set to their most powerful level was found to be 81 times greater than that dissipated with the e-collars set to their least powerful level. The electrical output of the e-collars depended on the impedance presented by the dogs’ neck and differed according to whether the dog was wet or dry. “There were considerable differences between tested e-collar models in the voltages, the number of pulses in, and length of each stimulus, but little variation within individual models of e-collars. The peak voltage delivered by e-collars varied significantly with the resistance of the dog, from as much as 6000V at 500kΩ to 100V at 5kΩ”.

The collars are sold with manuals but, the study found that although collar operation was explained clearly, information on using the e-collar in training varied widely. Some suggested using the e-collar before introducing a command, some advised never to use a command and others advised it in specific circumstances. Most advice suggested application of continuous stimuli until the dog showed the desired response. There was little advice on when the momentary stimulus could be used and manuals advocated training at the perception threshold or above. One manual advised the owner to start “at least in the middle of the intensity range” for “serious” unwanted behaviour such as chasing livestock. “Behavioural signs indicative of the appropriate level ranged from the expression of specific behaviours such as attention redirection, to ‘outward signs of discomfort or confusion’. The latter is ambiguous and may be interpreted by inexperienced users as also including behaviours which occur at a high level of stimulation”. Only three manuals mentioned that if the dog vocalises when the collar is used, the level is too high. A follow-up questionnaire completed by owners showed that “Advice in manuals was not always taken up by end-users…”

The authors concluded that the “…project has highlighted the very variable outcomes between individual dogs when trained using e-collars…The combination of
differences in individual dogs’ perception of stimuli, different stimulus strength and characteristics from collars of different brands, differences between momentary and continuous stimuli, differences between training advice in manuals, differences in owner understanding of training approaches and how owners use the devices in a range of different circumstances are likely to lead to a wide range of training experiences for pet dogs…Thus it seems reasonable to conclude that the previous use of e-collars in training is associated with behavioural and physiological responses that are consistent with negative emotional states.

The use of e-collars in training dogs has been proven to lead to a negative impact on welfare. Stress as measured by cortisol levels, was higher at a baseline level in dogs trained using an e-collar suggesting, as with Schilder’s and van der Borg’s study (2004), that stress remained high even when the electric collar was not in use.

A follow up study (Cooper et al 2010b) compared two groups of dogs trained by trainers from the Electronic Collar Manufacturers Association, one with use of e-collars and one without, and a group trained by Association of Pet Dog Trainers members without aversive training of any kind. “In this context dogs showed responses to e-collar stimuli which were clearly discernible…and showed changes in behaviour and physiology that other studies have interpreted as indications of aversive arousal or anxiety…no trainers assessed the dog’s sensitivity to collars prior to training, either choosing a setting they expected to be effective, or checking that the collar was operational using a low but detectable setting, then choosing a pre-determined higher setting for association with sheep chasing”. Dogs in the APDT group “…engaged in more environmental interaction such as sniffing…were less often observed yawning…spent less time tense during training sessions…had their tail in a low position less often and …moved away from the trainer less often”. Dogs in the group trained using e-collars “…yelped more …and panted more…” than dogs in the other groups.

There has been no evaluation into the effects of use of shock collars by inexperienced people nor to the long-term effects in the animals subjected to shocking, for instance to evaluate the extent to which it damages the human-animal bond and/or results in learned helplessness. In a study (Schilder et al 2004) that compared groups of guard dogs trained using electric shock collars, the authors concluded “… that being trained is stressful, that receiving shocks is a painful experience to dogs, and that the S-dogs [shocked dogs] evidently have learned that the presence of their owner (or his commands) announces reception of shocks, even outside of the normal training context. This suggests that the welfare of these shocked dogs is at stake, at least in the presence of their owner”.

This study was the first to look at long-term effects of shock collars in training and demonstrated clearly that the association made with the shock was linked with the handler. This makes for ineffective training because even if the dog makes an association with the undesirable behaviour occurring at the time that the shock is administered (which is totally dependent on the precision of the timing), it has also been demonstrated to be made also some time afterwards with the handler. There is every possibility that this could result in learned helplessness on the part of the dog, robbing it of all mechanisms of self-preservation when it is expected to work in life-threatening situations or at least ones where the prospect of injury is much higher than with a companion dog.

So the very person that the dog should be able to trust and who should guide him through training is clearly associated with fear, pain and punishment, none of which are conducive to learning.

Using punishment of any sort – throwing metal rings at dogs, puffing air or water in their faces, jerking leads and shouting – not only stop the dog from learnign and damage the relationship between handler and dog, they are useless for teaching alternative behaviour. In fact, evidence shows that they create even more unwanted behaviours, including serious redirected aggression.

Cooper J et al (2010a) Effect of pet training aids, specifically remote static pulse systems, on the welfare of domestic dogs, DEFRA Research AW1402 [accessed online 16/8/2017 http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Document.aspx?Document=11167_AW1402SID5FinalReport.pdf]

Cooper J et al (2010b) Studies to assess the effect of pet training aids, specifically remote static pulse systems on the welfare of domestic dogs; field study of dogs in training, DEFRA Research AW1402A [accessed online 16/8/2017 http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Document.aspx?Document=11168_AW1402aSID5FinalReport.pdf]

Schilder MBH et al (2004) Training dogs with help of the shock collar: short and long term behavioural effects, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, V85(3–4), pp 319-334

Sentience and Sensibility

It is probably fair to say that those who voted to leave Europe had absolutely no idea of the implications of their actions and, let’s face it, those who voted to remain probably didn’t in any detail either. Well, the pigeons are coming home to roost thick and fast now.

As far as the EU Withdrawal Bill is concerned, those pigeons are designated as not being sentient. An amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill to transfer the EU protocol on animal sentience into UK law was defeated by 313 votes to 295 in a Parliamentary vote and MPs have argued that both farm and domestic animals are covered by existing legislation, some of which goes beyond EU protocols. There has been widespread outcry from various quarters to this decision, but it easy to have a knee-jerk reaction as we well know, otherwise we would not be in this position in the first place.

The existence and degree of sentience across the animal kingdom is a long way from being fully understood, let alone agreed upon, but few would dispute its existence in the major species that could be affected by the UK’s decision to drop the designation from its legislation. Michael Gove has hinted that specific UK legislation may be tigtened, including a promise to crack down on puppy farming.

At the end of the day, all the legislation in the world cannot protect animals from harm unless it is policed and prosecuted where breaches occur. Many of the more than 50 statutes that supposedly protect dogs alone are routinely breached and that includes statutes that could prevent puppy farming. Let’s face it, the Kennel Club did nothing when one of its members, a prominent breeder and show competitor was exposed as a puppy farmer and it continues to register puppy farmned dogs. If the organisation that purports to care about the welfare of all dogs does nothing, there is little hope in a climate of austerity and maximising profits for the few that much will be done. Whatever government is in office in the near future will have its hands full coping wityh the effects of leaving the EU; puppy farming will only become a priority if it is seen as being politically expedient or as a smokescreen for “burying bad news”.

Oriental Eye Worm – A New Threat

The PETS Passports scheme in combination with the illegal import of thousands of puppies to fuel the online trade in dogs, has led to a huge rise in diseases and infections that were not previously seen in dogs the UK. One recent problem is the spread of the thelazia parasitic worm. A survey in 1978 found that 40% of examined in a Surrey abattoir two year previously were infected by the thelazia parasite. It has now started to affect dogs. usually found in the Far East, Russia and other parts of Europe and also known as Oriental Eye Worm, the species found here is Thelazia callipaeda. If only a few worms are present, dogs can be asymptomatic but, as they multiply, signs include conjunctivitis and excessive watering, keratitis and light sensitivity, spreading to visual impairment and ulcers or scarring of the cornea. if not treated, an infected dog can go blind. Thelazia callipaeda affects cats and humans as well.

The parasite is not transmitted directly on contact but requires an intermediate vector, usually the common housefly (Musca domestica) or blow flies (Calliphora vomitoria) and crane flies (Tipulidae). Adult females release larvae into the tears of the infected animal and are ingested by flies. Infected flies transmit the next stage of the larvae via the eyes or surrounding tissues where they complete development to adult worms in 3 – 9 weeks. Adult worms can live for up to a year in their final host.
Aural ivermectin, milbemycin oxime, moxidectin, injectable moxidectin and spot-on selamectin have been found to be effective in dogs. However, some treatments (not just ivermectin) can be toxic to genetically-prone dogs, particularly collies, so veterinary advice is essential. There is no vaccine available currently.

Although house flies are beginning to die off, it is still very mild for the time of year and peak season for crane flies.

My dog has been infected twice recently by irresponsible owners who have not treated conjunctivitis and let their dogs run freely in the park. Luckily, on both occasions it was just a mild case of conjunctivitis, although the effect on my budget was not so light. It is vital that any eye problem that do not clear up with saline flushing within a few hours are treated by a vet and that the dog is isolated from other dogs until the eyes are clear and/or a course of medication is completed.

A String of (Avoidable) Misery

I have spent a rotten weekend trying to find a suitable home for an unwanted dog. Usual story. Family decide that they want to add a dog to their home in spite of having no previous experience, heavy committments to their childrens’ activities and working full time away from the home. They choose a small terrier because of his size and because he looks cute. They don’t do any other research or bother to train him but then start having difficulties because he is barking and jumping up.

They find a “trainer” who instructs them to buy a citronella collar. He does not assess the dog’s temperament or suggest any other form of training. Their already nervous dog is totally freaked out by the collar. They contact the trainer who shouts at them to “Just get on and use it”. Their son damages his skin trying it out on himself so they, thankfully, throw it away. They try a group class but the pup is now too frightened to cope.

I take over the training and advise that their by now very nervous and withdrawn adolescent dog needs a behavioural consultation. Despite being wealthy, they are unwilling to pay. Non-aversive training gradually helps the dog but they cherry pick the advice and don’t undertake frequent sessions. They work during the day and leave the dog in charge of their ex-nanny because “she has had dogs all her life”. They have been instructed not to take the dog into situations where they know he will be frightened. The nanny ignores this and an incident occurs. The dog is seized by the police under the DDA with no warning and kennelled for a week before being released. The owners do not pay for any rehabilitation or training following the incident. The nanny is given a clicker which she uses as a recall toy. The dog becomes more and more frightened, is still being taken out by the nanny, has lost his understanding of the clicker and becomes reactive to people and other dogs when on lead. The owners admit that they cannot be bothered to do any more with him and so decide to get rid of him.

Feeling very low, I take my dog for a walk with friends. One of them asks to hand on my details because his cleaner has a relative who bought a sled dog puppy at the same time that she was having a baby. Weeks into ownership, they decide that they cannot cope. They want £600 for their puppy. I offer to help to rehome it but only on the understanding that they will not be paid. In fact, I will propbably ask them to pay me for my time and trouble.

Weekend continues on a downer as I am refused the bus because the driver is scared of dogs. I have to miss an event and have wasted money on a bus pass. Hey ho, yet another complaint to TfL.

Monday morning, I get a telephone call as I am preparing to leave for work. An owner, a senior clergyman no less, has dropped his dog off to board with my friend who bred the dog. The owner says that the dog has an occular discharge. He doesn’t. His entire eye is so badly affected that his sight may be compromised. The eye was closed and the poor dog had rubbed the hair away from the surrounding area. The owner did nothing about it, obviously preferring to prioritise his holiday.

On my way through the park I meet another owner, this time without her dog. Her dog was about an inch shorter than mine but nearly two and a half times heavier. When I first saw him a year or so ago, he could still at least waddle. Recently he has only been able to walk a few steps before collapsing. She gave him a huge piece of food to get him up again. Eventually they would make it to the café where she stuffed him full of more food. I’d noticed that he had stopped taking notice of anything other than his food bowl and even that with only a flicker of interest. I last saw her on Wednesday when she asked me what it meant as he was peeing blood. I said “It means you need to go to the vet today”. She ranted on about having seen the vet three days earlier and him not knowing what he was talking about so I cut her short and told her to go to a different vet because it was serious.

It took her two more days before she bothered to go to the vet by which time her dog could no longer urinate. The dog was put down.

He was 5.