Congratulations Manchester – Buck Up Nottingham

Following a three month trial. It looks as if Manchester are going sanction canine travel. About time too.

They will limit it to two dogs per person and not allow dogs on at busy times, but at least it’s a step forward.

Unfortunately Nottingham still restricts access to assistance dogs (they have no choice as it’s a legal requirement) or insist that dogs are carried in bags – not possible for many breeds. Come on Nottingham: 26% of the country own at least one dog and not everyone can drive and they have a right to travel too. Surely, even if people d drive, it’s better that they use mass transport anyway.

Dartmoor Dog Restrictions Proposed

dog staring at pocket Dartmoor National Park Authority members are voting on proposals to restrict dogs to lead-only walking between March 1st and July 31st to protect livestock with young and ground-nesting birds. There would also be a limit of six dogs per person at any one time. Rangers can require owners to keep dogs in lead at any time if they are deemed to be out of control.

It is irresponsible owners who have led to restrictions being imposed and it had become a necessity for farmers to protect their livelihoods, never mind for the welfare of stock and wildlife. A farmer lost 37 ewes earlier this year in a dog attack, at a financial cost to him of £4,500, never mind the emotional distress.

There were 108 cases of dog attacks on stock in 2021 and 78 in 2020 when the country was in lockdown. Enough is enough.

All dogs have the potential for prey drive, regardless of their demeanour at home. Too few owners train their dogs in even the basics and too many think that the countryside is their playground by right.

Ewes and cattle can abort when distressed, never mind the risk from diseases picked up from canine faeces. Farmers are having a tough enough time as it is without irresponsible dog owners adding to it, so the irresponsible cohort will have to suffer restrictions due to their actions.

Dogs On Beaches – Have Your Say

dogs on beach at North Foreland Cornwall Council have opened a consultation onto their summer restrictions on dogs on beaches.

This is a welcome opportunity for dog owners to represent their case, not least their legal obligations under the AWA 2006.

Only 20% of the population has children but 27% own at least one dog. Children are often not only a nuisance to other beach users and dogs but parents allow them to use the beach as a lavatory or dump used nappies.

Every beach user has moral and legal obligations to behave well and it is unfair that dogs have been excluded.

Have your say now – the consultation closes in November.

Woof Roof

Woof Roof Renting accommodation as a companion animal owner can be nigh on impossible. The inability of more and more people to afford to buy means that it can be difficult for existing owners to move or inadvisable to acquire an animal if home-hunting.

Good news then that the Dogs and Domestic Animals Accommodation Protection Bill is currently in a second reading stage in the House of Commons. Tenants will be expected to hold a responsible animal guardianship certificate including obligation for prophylactic treatments and basic training and permission can be rescinded if an animal is considered to be at risk, or causes danger or nuisance.

Landlords will be entitled to obtain a certificate of exemption for groups of dwellings within a building or area, entire buildings or specific orders for families, species or breeds of animal, if the landlord or another tenant has a religious or medical objection or the accommodation is unsuitable for the animal.

Allowing companion animals is now the default position on the government’s recommended model tenancy agreement and landlords cannot issue a blanket ban in a tenancy, although properties can still be advertised as not considering or allowing animals.

Landlords may be entitled to oblige tenants to take out insurance to cover any damage.

As ever, the devil will be in the detail but it looks as if it may be a good thing and it is indicative of a social change in attitude towards companion animal ownership.
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Beach Bummer

Beach Bummer May Day saw the widespread introduction of dog bans on beaches across the UK.

This is paradoxical in the light, not only of the hugely increase in the number of dog owners in there last two years, but the realisation of many businesses seeking recovery from two years of lockdown restrictions, that encouraging dog owners makes good financial sense. Because Brexit resulted in changes to the Pet Passport Scheme, it is now harder to travel abroad with dogs, cats and ferrets which may deter there casual traveller (as might the continuing problems with air, rail and ferries).

The stated aim is to provide people with the opportunity to avoid dogs.

What a pity the same cannot be effected for children.

Sting In The Tail

Looks like a discarded plastic bag? Don’t be fooled – it’s a Portuguese Man o’ War (Physalia physalis). This one washed up on Slapton Sands last week and is one of several jellyfish species that inhabit the waters around the UK. Actually, it is a community of organisms that are named for their resemblance to a frigate.

Jellyfish are predators that start life attached to coastal reefs; their free-swimming medusa phase is the fifth, reproductive stage in their lifecycle. They kill prey using nematocysts – stinging cells usually located in their tentacles. These cells can remain active even when the jellyfish is dead and tentacles that contain the cells can detach from the body and remain lodged in their prey.

The toxicity of the sting varies, but some are powerful enough kill a human and stings can cause an allergic reaction. Dogs that are stung most commonly present with vomiting or retching, oedema (facial, lips, limb, laryngeal) and hypersalivation.

The Veterinary Poisons Information Service advises the following first aid:

  • Use a towel or stick to remove tentacles that are attached to the skin but make sure not to rub
  • Irrigated the affected area with seawater – not fresh water
  • If the area is large and/or the dog is in distress, immerse the affected area in hot water (about 45ºC) for about 20 minutes once the dog is at home
  • Get veterinary advice.

Do not rub the area with sand or use urine, meat tenderiser, ammonia or baking soda as they may provoke further discharges of venom.

Keep your dog in sight and under control at all times, train for reliable recall and keep your eyes peeled when out and about on the beach, especially after stormy weather when jellyfish may be more likely to wash ashore.

Speaking In Code

dog and cow Natural England and Natural Resources Wales launched a new countryside code on the inauspicious date of April 1st, 2021.

The Countryside Code guidelines were first issued in 1951 and last updated a decade ago. There have always been problems with litter, fly tipping, livestock being harmed and damage to agricultural land and levels have been increasing in recent years. Covid-19 restrictions have seen horrific examples of fly tipping and littering and the increase in the number of new and irresponsible dog owners has probably, in part, been responsible for the increase in incidents of harm inflicted on livestock.

With this in mind, what are the priorities of the new code?

“New advice for people to ‘be nice, say hello, share the space’ as well as ‘enjoy your visit, have fun, make a memory’”

“A refreshed tone of voice, creating a guide for the public rather than a list of rules – recognising the significant health and wellbeing benefits of spending time in nature.”

It is difficult to know whether to cry or scream.

The countryside is not a giant theme park laid out for the pleasure of ramblers and casual visitors. It is the place that grows and rears our food, balances our climate, manages a balanced population of wildlife. It is the place where those custodians live and work, often extremely precariously. What would people think if they invaded towns and cities deposited manure in gardens, savaged pets and then went away again having demanded their right of access?

While those responsible for litter, fly-tipping and dog attacks on livestock are busy boosting their health and well being and making jolly memories of their incursion into the countryside, they leave the cost in time, effort and money of clearing up after them. That willingly continue to get worse until someone with considerably more sense and knowledge of the problems is allowed to create a proper revision and implementation of the Code.

Uber Alles

A landmark ruling in the USA holds out a ray of hope for the many people in the UK who are regularly refused access to hire vehicles when accompanied by their assistance dog.

Ride-share company Uber has been obliged to pay out $1.1M in compensation after a blind woman was repeatedly refused access by its drivers and even stranded short of her destination. Ultimately, she was sacked from employment following multiple cancelled rides. Uber used the same excuse that it has made in attempts to elude responsibilities towards its employees by claiming that the company itself is not able because the drivers are contractors. This was rightly rejected by an independent arbiter, the second time that Uber has been rebuked for such violations.

It is of course too late to repair the damage once appointments have been missed and jobs lost, but hopefully this ruling may serve as a warning to all drivers that they cannot use the excuse of anti-canine prejudice to run roughshod over the law.

A Right Old Dog’s Dinner

It was inevitable that Brexit would cause a great deal of disruption, not least to the ease of travelling with dogs, cats and ferrets.

Some of this may be beneficial, especially if it deters people from taking dogs on short holidays, thus risking harm to them and other by importing parasites and diseases. It may also slow the illegal import of dogs, especially feral dogs, that should be imported using the Balai directive – or not imported at all. If fewer dogs are taken from the streets to supply owners in the UK, perhaps there will be more incentive to prevent overbreeding and dumping in their home countries and to improve the conditions under which they live as feral dogs.

No doubt people will still wish to travel with companion animals and, of course, people need to travel with assistance dogs and the aggressive stance on Brexit taken by the incumbent government has now revealed an unexpected angle: it is much harder to cross EU borders with animal feed and amounts are severely limited.

No more than 2 kg of a prescription diet may be imported and then only if it is intended for the animal accompanying the passenger, does not require refrigeration, is a packaged proprietary brand products for direct sale to the consumer and that the packaging is unbroken unless in current use.

Even if travellers use a well-known brand, it may not be readily available in the destination country and changing to a local production addition to the stresses of travelling may cause gastrointestinal upset. Not good for the dog and not much fun for a holiday either.

It remains to be sen how this will pan out, but it is likely that, as travel opens up, a fair few people will get caught at the border and left without food.

Paws For Thought

It is common for dogs to be refused access on the grounds of poor hygiene even when this is illegal. A survey by Guide Dogs found that 75% of assistance dog owners had been refused access to a restaurant, shop or taxi. 33% of assistance dog owners surveyed were refused entry to a minicab or taxi because the driver claimed an allergy but did not hold a valid medical exemption certificate. 20% of assistance dog owners surveyed said that a minicab or taxi arrived but the driver drove off without even speaking to them.

Owners of non-assistance dogs have experienced similar problems with access being refused unreasonably and often due to ignorance and prejudice.

So it is helpful that a new study from the Utrecht University found that 72% of dog paws were negative for Enterobacteriaceae compared to 42% of handlers’ shoe soles. They also had significantly lower bacterial counts. C. difficile, a concerning source of hospital-acquired infection, was found on the soles of one assistance dog user. 81% of the assistance dog users in the study had been denied access with their current dog once or several times for reasons of hygiene.

The study authors concluded “The general hygiene of dogs’ paws is far better than that of shoe soles…Thus, hygiene measures to reduce any contamination due to dog paws do not seem necessary.”