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…

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in administering electric shocks to dogs in the name of training, MSPs have backtracked and Scotland has issued draft guidance with the aim of advising against the use of shock collars.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.

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”.

Accessible and Safe – Not Much To Ask

The ability to exercise dogs in open spaces has come under increasing threat from restrictive by-laws in recent years and several campaigns have sought to protect long-used access. However, in addition, a new threat was brought home to me this weekend when a dog was killed by an event organiser in a local park.

Many parks and open spaces that were run by councils for the general benefit of the public have been privatised and are now run by large companies such as Mitie, Carillion and Amey that have fingers in several pies. There are approximately 27,000 public parks in the UK, although it is difficult to arrive at an exact figure as many councils do not have accurate records and planning guidelines no longer define public parks. Most are owned by local authorities, although there are “royal” parks in London such as Hyde park, Bushey park and Richmond Park that are owned by the crown and run by a government agency. Some parks were deliberately created in the early 19thC in an attempt to prevent Chartists from holding “monster” rallies and some, including the “royal” parks, were hunting grounds. Many parks were created when philanthropists bequeathed them in perpetuity for the benefit of local people. The latter is true of the park where the dog was killed and should be protected by a set of covenants that attempted to restrict building and other uses to ensure that the public would always have free access.

Parks had traditionally been funded by local authorities with support from community groups that volunteer and raise funds. There are approximately 5,000 such organisations across the UK generating about £30M annually. A Heritage Lottery Fund report found that 86% of parks had revenues cut in the three years prior to the study. Almost half of councils are planning to dispose of some of their green spaces with 19% considering outright disposal of parks. Many more are selling off sections of parks for development and/or running multiple, intrusive events, claiming that the revenue generated will fund upkeep.

The park where the dog was killed occupies 186 acres of land and includes Grade II listed buildings and many extraordinary plant and tree specimens. It is a much valued resource for local dog walkers and is one of the few parks in the area not to impose on-lead restrictions. Since it was gifted to the public in 1926, it was run jointly by two local authorities who spent much of the last 35 years or so passing the buck in a perpetual rally that resulted in the buildings going to wrack and ruin, the planting being overgrown and the tress neglected – sometimes dangerously so. Recent lottery funding has seen huge improvements being made to some of the buildings, but staffing levels remain low and some planting has been ripped up to save on maintenance costs. Management of the park will be handed over to a so called “Community Interest” Company (CIC) which, in the council’s own words “provides freedom for the park to operate in a commercial manner”. This has included winning a successful licence to run multiple commercial events including sound systems, alcohol and vehicles all year round and increased the finishing time from 21.00 hrs to 23.00 hrs. Up to 10,000 people would be licensed to attend for the larger events and in total, events are allowed to be held for 28 days every year. This of course does not include the setting up and striking of events which typically occupies several days either side of public access. In spite of 109 written objections and opposition at the hearing, which ran for four hours until nearly midnight, permission was granted in full.

Opposition to the event at the weekend had run for many years as it was clearly seen by many to be breaking the covenants on the use of the park. The original owners had sold off adjacent land after World War I resulting in the park being fringed by housing and local residents were (rightly) worried about the levels of disruption. Permission was however granted and the organisers began to set up for the 2017 last week. The event occupies the old polo grounds and was not segregated from the public during set up. Fencing was erected on the day of the event to prevent revellers from accessing the existing café and the staff member there was in turn prevented from accessing the lavatory which was subsequently damaged. It could be deduced from these actions that the fencing was there primarily to protect revenues rather than people.

Complaints had been made by several park users about the speed at which vehicles were traversing the park. Great care has been taken during the building works to ensure that plant and other vehicles travel within the 5mph limit and plant is accompanied by a supervising pedestrian. No such care was taken by the event organisers and, in spite of being warned by park staff, one of their member ran into a dog. The dog subsequently died of its injuries.

The increasing use of parks for commercial events not only deprives the users for whom it was intended of facilities, it further restricts the ability for dog owners to exercise their dogs in a relaxed environment. Parks, towpaths and pavements are already major hazards for pedestrians and dogs due to illegal and reckless cycling. Even if dogs are safe and segregated, few will want to access parks whilst amplified sound is being blasted out and hordes of people are crowding the spaces.

This should be a spur to all to redouble their efforts to save and preserve open spaces as havens of peace and quiet in an increasingly tumultuous world. A dog should never again been sacrificed to commercial gain just by engaging in natural and essential behaviour.

Cornwall Cool Dog Campaign

It seems sadly inevitable that on a baking hot bank holiday weekend a woman left three dogs in a hot van from 11.00 hrs – 15.30 hrs. Luckily, attendees at the Newlyn fish festival intervened and saved her dogs from certain death. It remains to be seen whether she will be prosecuted.

Meanwhile, Cornwall Live are running photographic competition to find the coolest dog in Cornwall.

Bear in mind that forcing your dog to wear clothing as shown in many of the images may make them even hotter than they are already.

Royal Mail Dog Awareness Week 2017

Royal Mail workers make deliveries to more than 29 million addresses across the UK. Not all of them come away unscathed.

An average of seven postal workers are attacked by dogs each day. Attacks increase during the school holidays and in the summer months especially when dogs are left unsupervised in gardens, allowed to roam or taken out off lead. Owners who do not keep their dogs under control could be in breach of the Road Traffic Act, The Control of Dogs Order and/or the Dangerous Dogs Act to name but three pieces of legislation. Since 2013, the DDA has covered attacks by dogs that occur on private property. The majority of the dogs reported as stolen have been left unsupervised in gardens, so, it is not just postal workers who are at risk.

2,471 postmen and women were attacked by dogs between April 2016 and April 2017. Some were left with permanent, disabling injuries. 71% of attacks happened in gardens or on the doorstep. No one should work in fear of their safety and no one should be traumatised or injured through preventable causes.

All dogs have the potential to be a danger to postal staff, regardless of their size. What you might perceive as being boisterous and friendly may seem frightening to your postman and even the tiniest of dogs can inflict nasty injuries. Even if your dog’s intentions are benign, your postman should not have to endure being jumped on, scratched or barked at every day. (Neither should anyone else for that matter). Every time that your dog barks at someone delivering letters and they go away, his confidence increases because he has defended his territory from an intruder. (A territorial dog is not protecting you, he is asserting his possession). The next time that you have to open the door to sign for something or receive a parcel, your dog may escalate his defensive aggression and bite.

  • Keep your dog away from the front door every time that visitors call – use a child gate or shut the door
  • Do not allow children to open the door and make sure that they do not allow the dog out if confined
  • Train your dog to lie quietly on a mat when visitors call and reward him for staying there
  • Control your dog’s greeting behaviour and do not allow jumping up, scratching or over-excited barking
  • Control territorial barking – get professional help if necessary
  • Do not leave a dog unattended in a garden and secure the garden so that your dog cannot get out
  • Always put your dog on a lead before you leave the house even if you are putting your dog in the car
  • Fit a secure mail box on the property boundary or a wire receptacle behind the door to contain the mail so that postman cannot get bitten when using the letterbox and to prevent your dog from damaging the mail.

Postal workers’ safety is YOUR responsiblity.

KC Plays Tail End Charlie

The KC has just published a report entitled What the Kennel Club does for Dog Health

Many dog owners may feel that the title is a bit rich given that canine health would probably not be in such dire straits were it not for the KC’s implementation of closed stud books and perpetuation of breeding for looks.

The Kennel Club has been playing tail end Charlie in the court of public opinion since at least 2008. Its brand is being seen as being increasingly toxic and any efforts that it makes to improve the situation are likely to be doomed to irrelevance in the face of the scale of the problem that is, after all, largely of their own making.

Is it too little too late?

Read more…

RSPCA – How Is Your Generosity Treated?

rspca You don’t have to look far in the dog world and beyond to come across horrendous cases of cruelty, never mind the daily grind of neglect and abuse inflicted upon dogs and other animals. The RSPCA state that they receive calls to their cruelty line in England and Wales on average every 30 seconds, totalling 1,118,495 calls in 2015. They investigate more than 140,000 complaints of cruelty and neglect annually. So when you drop money into the collecting tin for the RSPCA, purchase something in one of their shops or attend a fundraising event on their behalf, where do you expect your money to go?

The RSPCA state that 82p in every £1 donated is spent on animal welfare, 1p on governance and 17p on fundraising and that £10 could provide a day’s boarding for a horse, £25 PPE for an inspector and £50 van equipment. Not surprisingly, they do not produce a breakdown for external barristers fees which have been recorded as being £800 – £1,200 per day in their prosecution against the Heythrop Hunt. In spite of having their own legal department, the RSPCA chose to engage Mr Carter-Manning QC who submitted costs of £73,310.80. His assistants added another £90,000 to the bill. This represents approximately 244 hours of the QC’s time which he spent watching amateur video footage. The four charges that were eventually brought against hunt staff are regarded as being so minor that they are classified as “non-recordable”. The remaining charges were dropped. In previous situations when the RSPCA has lost a case, defendants’ costs have been borne by the taxpayer. In addition, the RSPCA admiited to euthanasing 3,400 animals for non-clinical reasons in 2011 in spite of having an official no kill policy.

The RSPCA must already have marked 2016 down as being an annus horribilis following a submission to a Parliamentary committee by the National Police Chiefs Council which recommended that animal welfare prosecutions should be carried out by “a single agency, preferably a statutory body funded by Government”. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has also questioned whether it is appropriate for the RSPCA to bring forward private prosecutions when it is also involved in campaigning and fundraising. Owen Paterson, Secretary of State, warned the RSPCA to be “wary” of muddling charity and politics. The charity regulator further ordered the RSPCA to conduct an inquiry into their organisation and structure using independent auditors. RSPCA inspectors were banned from rehoming animals unless an indepdent vet attests to have personally seen evidence of suffering following over-zealous actions against pet owners. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, animal welfare groups have the power to investigate cases, but the decision to prosecute lies with the state.

Much of the impetus behind the recommendations follows aggressive persecution of hunts, including the Heythrop. Their case cost the RSPCA £325,000 as opposed to the average cost of £2,500 per case. Other cases such as that against Cattistock Hunt in March have collapsed and, in the Cattistock case, the RSPCA withdrew all its “evidence”. The cost to charity to take the case and similar cases that far has not been revealed. Persecuting hunt staff is therefore regarded as being 100 times more important than any of the cruelty cases that they use to tug at your heart – and purse- strings.

When new CEO Jeremy Cooper took over in spring this year, it seemed that the RSPCA might extricate themselves from the mire into which they have been wallowing since following an aggressive anti-field sport agenda in the mid 1970s. He apologised for the charity becoming “too political” and referenced both hunting and the government badger cull that aims to eradicate TB in cattle. He was forced to eat his words almost immediately by the RSPCA’s governing body.

Just when it seemed that it could not get any worse, shocking revelations have been made by the Information Commissioner, responsible for dealing with the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 amongst other legislation.

The RSPCA has been fined £25,000 on the RSPCA (and the British Heart Foundation £18,000) for “wealth screening” donors. The RSPCA has paid “wealth management” companies since 2010 to trace and target new or lapsed donors illegally and pursue them for more donations by piecing together personal information obtained from other sources and trading personal details with other charities. Donors were not informed of the charity’s practices and so had not opportunity to consent or object to their use of personal data. The Information Commissioner stated “The millions of people who give their time and money to benefit good causes will be saddened to learn that their generosity wasn’t enough”. Indeed. They might also consider it a massive betrayal of trust. The RSPCA confirmed that the practice has now ended but disagreed with the Information Commissioner’s conclusions and may appeal against the decision – no doubt spending even more money on legal fees.

Whilst the RSPCA are not alone amongst charities of pursuing aggressive and even it seems illegal practices, they are one of the few that exist to help dogs and other animals. Surely the thousands of abused animals that they are supposed to protect deserve to benefit from their not-inconsiderable funds more than lawyers?

A Thousand Little Insults

tight-lead I was walking alongside a local common this weekend, as it happens, without my dog. I noticed, coming towards me from the opposite direction, a woman walking a Cavalier King Charles spaniel on an extendable lead. The dog was several feet ahead of the woman and, as she got nearer, she let it veer across to the other side of the path to carry on sniffing. This meant that about 10 feet of lead was stretched across the path about a foot from the ground.

When she got to within a foot or two of me, the woman suddenly jerked the dog by the neck and, without reeling in the lead, hauled it across the path, simpering at me to show how considerate she had been.

The dog was extremely startled and, needless to say, the woman oblivious to its feelings.

I wondered how many times that this woman inflicts this treatment on her dog. Then I wondered how many owners are meting out exactly the same treatment to their dogs, day after day.

This week most right-thinking people would have been outraged by the thug who throttled his Staffy, booted his head and then swung him against the side of a train carriage. There is a petition to ask the prime minister to intervene and increase his sentence from a meagre 21 weeks. Punishment alone is unlikely to change his behaviour but this does seem a pretty feeble reaction from the judiciary who no doubt would have imposed a much tougher sentence had it been a child. The poor dog died three days later.

It is easy to feel outraged by blatent cruelty such as this, but most people are oblivious to the daily cruelty that they inflict on their dogs, choking them, shouting at them or just being mostly cross. Not training a dog to walk properly on the lead (or to cope with the environment in which they are forced to live) and lazily using gadgets such as flexi-leads, halters and headcollars in lieu of their own lack of input inflicts constant, continuous insults on dogs and damages their trust in the very people that no doubt, declaim their “love” for their pet.

Which is worse: a sudden, voilent assault or constant daily battery? Not much of a choice is it.