Idiot of the Month

train window I was travelling on a crowded bank holiday train last Friday with my dog and a small amount of luggage. It was not easy to walk through the train, and all of the nearby table seats had been colonised by people with huge buggies, all of whom refused to fold them to prevent them from blocking other seats.

I ended up sitting on a dickie seat in the corridor opposite the (broken) loo. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the constant too-ing and fro-ing of restkess passengers meant that relaxation was all nigh impossible. I had hoped that the train would empty a little at the first stop when the local passengers disembarked, but no. Just when I thought that it couldn’t get any worse, a large family with copious amounts of luggage boarded. In addition to their hyper-active, noisy offspirings, they were towing a small terrier-type dog on an extendable lead. For some inexplicable reason, the poor creature had a large teddy bear strapped to its back which the owner kept adjusting. Needless to say, they let it rush straight into my dog’s face. Mr Implacable, bless him, remained lying at my feet and ignored all provocation until he was stepped on by one of the sprogs. Even then, he simply shuffled politely sideways without a sound and, to his credit, the father told the child off.

That didn’t stop him letting his dog make rushes at mine until I suggested through gritted teeth that it wasn’t a good idea to let his dog play in a confined space when both were on lead and surrounded by luggage and passing passengers. Alas, he saw this as an opportunity to attemopt to engage me in conversation and, although it failed miserably, he kept up a monologue about his dog for a while nonetheless. At that point, I gave up all attempts at doing the crossword and dug out a book. Thus, ostentatiously waving my copy of Dog on Dog Aggression, I tried to blot out the racket.

He finally gave up attempts to quiz me about my dog as the monsyllabic, non-eye contact replies sank in so looked around for something else to do. His solution to boredom? He picked up his little dog and stuck its head out of the window, regaling it with a childish monologue about passing cattle, sheep, trees and fields. By some miracle, there was no passing traffic but the dog eventually wrestled itself from his grasp and jumped from his full height to land splat on the floor. Unpeturbed, he adjusted the dratted teddy bear.

Relief came about an hour later when, in spite of nearly letting the dog fall between the gap as he alighted with the lead on full extension, they finally got off.

Where to begin?

Déjà Vu

deed not breed Some things recur as regularly as rain in an English summer: cyclists continue to ride up the blind side of lorries and get killed and people abuse dogs and get killed. The only difference is that, on the very rare occasions when dogs kill people, it is often not the original perpetrator of the abuse that dies. I nearly wrote “that is the victim”, but of course the initial victim is the dog.

In the last couple of days a Staffie has bitten several children and yesterday a man was killed by one of his dogs in Cumbria. The poor dog, reported to be a pitbull, was tasered before it was executed.

It doesn’t take much imagination to conjure up the life that the dog had led beforehand, nor the owner for that matter.

I am just finishing reading Simon Harding’s excellent book Unleashed: The Phenomena of Status Dogs and Weapon Dogs which looks at the social and political changes that have led to the rise in dog-on-human attacks. He also considers the changes to dogs caused by in-breeding and selective breeding for aggression. Far more research is needed in this area, but it is probable that some breeds of dog have been both bred and trained to maximise aggressive traits. Large numbers of dogs are abused by ignorance and poor handling even if owners do not intend that they should cause deliberate harm.

There also seems to be something of an arms race where, in areas where gangs are common, non-gang members (mostly young males) buy dogs that they think will appear to be aggressive and be a deterrent for anyone who might attack them. If they came from the local pool of back street-bred dogs, they may already be the products of selection for aggression. Although it is by no means a guarantee, the likelihood that these dogs are housed in poor conditions, largely untrained and fed a poor quality diet is high. They may be exercised on lead only or even chained up outdoors for long periods. As we reported earlier, 6% of owners surveyed by insurers More Th>n admitted to administering protein shakes so that their dog “would look more impressive in public”. Damaged trees in city parks all over the country attest to the owners who encourage their dogs to hang off branches to “toughen their jaws”.It is also possible to see ropes slung from tress with a stick tied to the bottom that dogs dangle from.

In turn, the people that own them see little future away from the depravation and “post code wars” that confine them to a few run-down streets. they too often expect life to be cut short prematurely. Even the gangs and violence don’t get them, poor health often will.

Until we address the social and political problems that give rise to the breeding and keeping of dogs that cause harm, the headlines will continue to appear with depressing regularity.

Summer Hazards

blue-green algae Three dogs have died, a fourth is close to death and a further six are ill after the drinking water from Brooklands Lake in Dartford, Kent.

Investigations are being carried out but the most likely culprit is blue-green algae.

Blue-green algae belong to the cyanobacteria group of nitrogen fixing bacteria that can produce neurotoxins, cytotoxins, endotoxins and hepatotoxins.They can reproduce explosively under certain conditions resulting in algal blooms that pose a danger to humans and animals.Contaminated water can appear as green, blue-green or greenish brown and may smell musty or earthy.

The Environment Agency recommend that “Not all blue-green algae blooms and scums are toxic, but you can’t tell just by looking at them, so it’s best to assume [that] they are.” They request that all blooms are reported to the
incident hotline on 0800 807 060.

If water is green or otherwise not clear, do not let your dog drink from it or swim.

Also, make sure before your dog enters water that there is nothing on which he can cut paws or become entangled and that he has free access in and out.

RSPCA To Prioritise Animal Welfare At Last

It seems that the hope that the RSPCA would reform for the better was premature: a later statement seems to censure Cooper and return to the old, tired, adversarial rhetoric:
Update from the RSPCA council

Watch this space.

CReDO welcomes the statement from the new chief executive of the RSPCA Jeremy Cooper which acknowledges that the charity had become “too adversarial” and will now be “a lot less political”. The spending of £330,000 bringing a private prosecution against the Heythrop pack brought criticism from the presiding judge and from parliament. Further criticisms from the Charity Commision over intereference with a legal badger cull pushed the RSPCA into the realms of having a “toxic” brand, although its reputation has long been tarnished in the eyes of many members of the public.

As the Countryside Alliance have noted, the dual role of the RSPCA in investigating and prosecuting cases is problematic, so Cooper’s announcement that future cases will be passed over to the CPS is to be welcomed. Cooper has promised that the charity will now focus on the illegal puppy trade, something which concerns the public far more than hunting or even the problems of TB in cattle.

There are many areas where the public need to be educated to improve pet welfare and to understand their duty of care under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and other legislation. It is to be hoped that the RSPCA will now play a major role in promoting those campaigns rather than pursuing the agenda of the so-called “animal rights” movement.

Idiot of the Month

judge This month’s award is a bit special in that it goes to someone who professes to not only have expertise with dogs but to prioritise their welfare.

In this case, “idiot” is probably too polite word but I also acknowledge that this is possibly at the mild end of the scale under the circumstances.

This “idiot” judges at companion dog shows and is quite happy to tell a bulldog owner that the observable waist in his bulldog is a fault and that the dog, already overloaded on his stunted legs and breathing stentoriously through his flat face and narrow nares should be “fatter”. He is a very sweet dog and the owner is very caring, but nonetheless, he shows a dog that struggles to breathe, cannot cope with heat, has multiple allergies and distorted dentition. He is frequently told at KC Championship shows that his dog is too slim, but fortunately, at least in this respect, he puts his dog’s welfare first.

The same judge also told another bull dog owner that the dog should have his feet forced inward as he would look better if pigeon-toed. This is of course another dog with dreadful breathing, carrying too much weight and is also very timid. Not a notable bull dog trait. The owners also want to championship show. This advice was extended to the owner of a long dog who was told that she should walk her dog on a pebbled beach so that it would be forced to clench its toes and turn them inward.

Oh how I wish that I could force this judge to teeter in her high heels on cobbles all day until her toes were also forced inward – and of course make her wear a fat suit and limit her breathing to the same extent as the poor bull dogs.