Idiot of the Month

man kicking dog I was enjoying a peaceful walk in the park early this morning when the pleasant start to the day was shattered by a man with two Staffie types. My dog was on the lead and I had stopped to pass the time of day with the senior park warden.

Two men approached with two dogs, off lead. One, a small, fawn Staffie type approached my dog in a relaxed and happy manner but wasn’t confident enough to make contact with my dog or me when I stretched out the back of my hand to be sniffed. The dog glanced anxiously back at the owner. Meanwhile the other, larger dog was rigid with tension, the pilo erection extending throughout his hackles along his back. He looked very worried and had a tense face with a closed, tight mouth.

I was about to walk onwards to avoid potential problems when one man swung his leg out and kicked his dog squarely on the hip. Both dogs cowered and moved away.

I think that I was remarkably restrained under the circumstances, limiting myself to calling the man “a fool” for potentially setting off a fight, not to mention the injustice of kicking a dog. Boy did I unleash a mighty ego.

The man didn’t give a toss about what he was doing to his poor dog or what could have happened had he provoked re-directed aggression. He was incandescent at the thought that I had called him a “fool”.

Needless to say, the park warden was pretty astonished at his reaction too.

How sad that these poor dogs have to put up with this behaviour when what they need is some guidance and reassurance. No wonder the small dog is too nervous to approach and the larger one too frightened when seeing another dog is associated with a hefty kick.

Would You Visit A Freak Show?

ugly dogs Human “freak shows” were popular pastimes in England from the mid-16th century until the 19th century, by which time they had spread to the United States. Popularised by figures such as PT Barnum, they were extremely successful commercially and often the best way of people with disabilities making a good living and preserving some dignity. I doubt, however that many modern audiences would find them acceptable, so why is it that we deem it permissible to exhibit such dogs?

Skeleton of a dog with short-spine syndrom

Skeleton of a dog with short-spine syndrom

A congenitally deformed dog called Quasi Modo (says it all) has just been “awarded” the title of the “World’s Ugliest Dog” in a competition in a state fair in California, USA. She is owned by a vet who has twice entered the “competition”, coming second last year and now winning it. The vet stated that “The Chinese crested and Mexican hairless ones [in the competition] were all rotten teeth, missing fur and tongues hanging out.” The vet’s dog, by contrast, is suffering from short-spine syndrome that not only results in extreme shortening of the spine, but corresponding shortening of the ligaments, a sloped profile, elongated front legs and cow hocks in the rear legs. The tail is usually absent or bobbed in such dogs. It is a genetic deformity caused by in-breeding.

Deliberate in-breeding by humans.

The vet makes many protestations, perhaps anticipating that her support for this “competition” might draw criticism. “This isn’t about making fun of her, it’s about celebrating our differences. We don’t think she’s ugly, but we love her enough that we can have a little joke”.

Her “little joke” is at the expense of a dog with fused vertebrae that result in her being unable to move her head. “She still has to turn her whole body to look at anything.” Are we meant to celebrate this level of in-breeding? Does this vet seriously think that because she “loves her enough” it makes it all right?

This is a list of the descriptions of some of the previous winners:

  • Blind
  • Bug eyes
  • Long, wagging tongue
  • Hunched
  • Peculiar walk
  • Bi-pedalism
  • Malformed nose
  • Short tufts of hair
  • Protruding tongue
  • Long, seemingly hairless legs
  • Short snout
  • Beady eyes
  • Huge-headed
  • Duck-footed
  • Deformed lips
  • Deformed eyelids.

A vet supporting this “competition” is also supporting an abysmal standard of animal welfare. I’m sure that this little dog, and perhaps others that are similarly afflicted and in caring homes, have a good quality of life but in the end, such competitions are no different to Victorian freak shows. They don’t demonstrate “love” for dogs but the fact that we have chosen to perpetuate genetic mutations such as hairlessness or colourings such as merle, piebald and white, which in some breeds goes hand in hand with congenital deformities, for no other reason than a love of novelty or the vanity of having something that draws attention to ourselves. I’m glad that there are people who are prepared to take these dogs in and give them good homes. Perhaps they think that by highlighting their own dogs that they will automatically prevent more from being bred, but that is certainly not the way that most of the media (and probably the general public view it).

When “ugly” means deformed dentition, skeletal abnormalities, ocular and aural problems and similar issues there is nothing to celebrate, even if the individual dog has a comparatively good life. Making the existence of such dogs acceptable goes hand in hand with the widespread acceptance of conditions such as severe brachycephaly and achondroplasia that cause misery for millions of affected dogs and lead to much reduced lifespans.

The prevalence of brachycephalic and achondroplastic dogs such as pugs, French bulldogs and dachshunds in recent advertising campaigns and in online posts, where their respiratory distress, limited physical ability and chronic associated illnesses are seen by many as being “cute”, is the other side of the coin. When judges and vets accept ataxic, wheezing, gasping dogs as champions, there is something surely very, very wrong.

Before anyone attempts to make a comparison with the lives of people with physical disabilities, we should remember that we have deliberately bred dogs to look like this and that for every dog that may be just plain “ugly” there are many more that suffer the consequences of our (preventable) actions. Many of those dogs, we are told, are the epitome of “beauty”. We should recognise deformities for what they are and we should regard deformed dogs as ugly – not in themselves so much as the fact that they represent some of the worst things that humans have done to dogs.

I hope that the vet is donating her $1,000 winnings and any other money that she may make as a result of her appearances to a campaign to improve dog welfare so that this competition can simply die out through a lack of entries.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

stay or go What should the British bulldog do and what will happen to the resources? Do we get to keep our own bones or do we have to hand them over to Europe?

Regardless of your opinion on the European Union referendum next week, the fact remains that leaving the European Union may have  major effect on the ease of travel using the Pet Passport and on dog welfare, with potential changes to import and export restrictions. According to government figures for 2015, just under 92,000 Britains left and returned to Britain with one or more dogs, the vast majority having been on holiday. Of course there are also unrecorded numbers of dogs entering illegally, mostly traded as puppies. A Dogs Trust report (The Puppy Scandal) states that between 2011 and 2013 the number of dogs entering the UK legally from Lithuania increased by 780% and from Hungary 663%.

Already vets in Eastern Europe (and possible elsewhere) have colluded with dog dealers and issued pet passports with falsified data, including puppies not seen, under age puppies, dogs banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act and dogs with false
vaccination stamps indicating that rabies vaccinations had been administered. As the Dogs Trust wonders, will a vet who is prepared to falsify rabies vaccinations bother with tapeworm treatment or measures to prevent other diseases? Echinococcus multilocularis is a cyclophyllid tapeworm that is endemic in some countries that are parts of the PETS travel scheme. It is zoonotic, often asymptomatic for several years and can be fatal if untreated. It is already increasing in urban areas, largely due to the spread of urban foxes. Dogs Trust and journalists including Sam Poling have provided evidence revealing ineffective controls at UK border ports enabling puppies to enter the UK illegally virtually unhindered. There are no Animal and Plant Health Agency staff or Trading Standards personnel on duty at the main ports of entry at the weekend and puppy transporters are rarely stopped even during the week. Not all ports have a continual presence of officers, including the major port of Dover which just has APHA staff on call to respond to reported welfare concerns. There is no penalty if they are caught travelling with incorrect paperwork and the likelihood of paperwork being questioned or their vehicle searched is low. They can declare up to five puppies and smuggle in any number of puppies hidden in their vehicle which will remain unchecked. There is little or no sharing of intelligence amongst key agencies.

The Dogs Trust filmed 15 dealers who sold underage puppies ranging from 7 -12 weeks and who stated how easy it is to bring banned pit bulls into the UK and four vets from Lithuania and two vets from Hungary who admitted falsifying pet passports. They purchased pet passports from a vet that recorded false birth dates and vaccinations, including rabies, for fictitious puppies. They purchased a puppy from an online advert that had been brought into the UK from Lithuania at just ten weeks old without a rabies vaccination and two puppies in Hungary from a breeder who provided passports with false dates
of birth and fake rabies vaccination details which they subsequently rehomed in Hungary.

The Dogs Trust has called for the European Union to manage the spread of canine diseases across member states including requiring inspections of all puppies and dogs at member states’ borders. They are also calling for EU-wide improvements in breeding standards and mandatory identification and registration across all EU Member States. There is a the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals, but Britain is not a signatory. Leaving the European Union may make it harder for dogs to be imported from unscrupulous people in member states but it will also be much harder to achieve the spread of effective welfare legislation. In the meantime, diseases have no respect for national boundaries, even on islands.

One would hope that no one would make such a vital decision based on the effects on dogs alone, but there is plenty of food for thought there nonetheless.

Two Thumbs Up One Thumb Down

distraction Normally, most of the things that I see people doing while with dogs annoys me. So, I was gratified to see two owners on consecutive days using successful distraction techniques as I walked past with my dog on a lead. Perhaps non-aversive training is beginning to percolate through after all.

thumbs down busMeanwhile, a bizarre conversation with a bus driver gets the thumbs down for TFL. I boarded the bus with my dog whereupon the driver thumped his window at me as I was moving towards the rear. Assuming that he hadn’t seen my pass, I went back only to be informed that “There’s a baby on the bus”. As I do not suffer from deafness or anosmia, I was only too aware of the fact. My reply: “Yes, and?” The driver just repeated himself and I carried on being wilfully obtuse. Eventually he said “I’m not taking responsibility….”
This time, I replied “I’m a bit worried that my dog might catch something from the baby but I think that the risk is quite low and I aim to keep well away from it, so I’ll take full responsiblity.”
I’m glad to report that my dog is showing no ill effects from the journey.

Summer Solstice Lychee and Dog Meat Festival

stop Yulin The China Kennel Union and its partners have been working on the design and implementation of various campaigns aiming to make Chinese legislation address animal welfare issues. There have been several initiatives aimed at dogs, including establishing winter housing facilities for strays and aiming to stamp out the practice of dog meat eating festivals, especially Yunin. Several charity events have been run between March and May, culminating in the establishment of the Anti-abuse to Animals Legislation Network Vote Platform prompting more than 150,000 people to cast their votes.

The Companion Animals Cultural Exhibition will be implemented nationwide from May to October, with an exhibition planned for June. The last ten days of June are scheduled as the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, an important focus of the activities.