200 Years And Now What For The RSPCA?

200 Years and now what fr the RSPCA?

200 years ago, campaigners and social reformers managed to get legislation enacted that led to the foundation of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Later granted a royal charter, the organisation appointed its own inspectors and by the 1830s undertook private prosecutions where it deemed that cruelty had been enacted on animals.

It was only in 2021 that the RSPCA announced that it will no longer undertake private prosecutions, decades after other charities abandoned the practice. Whatever the publicly stated reasons for this, the fact is that serious concerns arose when the RSPCA were the main prosecutor of animal welfare offences in England and Wales routinely using private prosecutions against vulnerable individuals and when evidence was weak with little, if any, public interest. This was often supported by the police. There was also growing anecdotal evidence that it was difficult to get the RSPCA involved in cases of serious abuse, rejected in the majority of reviews that the RSPCA have on Trustpilot as just an example.

The RSPCA turned over more than £5M in 2022 and two of its employees earn between £70,000 and £90,000 each. Since its inception, the RSPCA had a blanket opposition to hunting and scientific use of animals. It has also been mired with governance problems since the outset, one of its founder members and first honorary secretary being the Rev Arthur Broom who was obliged to stand aside from the rôle after being declared bankrupt. Another founder member, Lewis Gompertz who was avidly anti-hunting, was also obliged to resign, although a large amount of anti-Semitism was undoubtedly involved too.

Concerns were raised in parliament over political campaigning as the RSPCA oppose the current badger cull which is helping to investigate and prevent the spread of bovine TB. A judgement was raised against them by the Advertising Standards Authority when it concluded that their anti-cull advertisement in the Metro newspaper was misleading following more than 100 complaints from members of the public.

Chief Inspector to the Crown Protection Service, Stephen Wooler published a report in September 2014, highlighting the serious shortcomings in the way in which the RSPCA was acting and the unavoidable conflict of interest engendered in it serving private prosecutions. The question came back to parliament too years later when the RSPCA had made no progress in implementing its conclusions and in 2018, the Charity Commission issued the RSPCA with an Official Warning regarding governance concerns.

Controversy arising over the RSPCA overtly supporting political lobbying groups even led to the Archbishop of Canterbury ending the precedent of patronage by refusing formal association. No doubt many donors who gave to the charity expecting that their money would help to prevent abuse of animals were horrified when the RSPCA spent £300,000 in prosecuting members of the Heythrop Hunt.

There are many instances of real animal cruelty in the dog world, not least puppy smuggling, back street breeding, irresponsible ownership and the breeding of dogs with disabling conformation. Where are the RSPCA in those campaigns?

 

 

Dog Days Of A Dying Government

Dog days pf a dying government As the remnants of the outgoing government struggle to accrue support ahead of next month’s general election, they have ditched the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) Bill (farmers don’t pull in enough potential votes) in favour of the populist Pet Abduction Act.

Of course, both would be preferable.

The Kept Animals Bill was abandoned a year ago with the promise that individual legislation would be passed to cover its remit that could have protected billions of animals. That was after huge amounts of promises were broken with the abandonment of much of the 2021 Action Plan for Animal Welfare.

Companion animal abduction is rife and devastating for those affected. But then again, so it the harm caused to livestock by dogs. Perhaps we could have had both had the government not wasted so much time on yet more knee-jerk and totally ineffective legislation banning XL bullies.

Of course, livestock attacks and much theft are preventable with responsible ownership, including proper training and not leaving dogs unattended or with poor recall.

 

Buck Up Britain

Buck Up Britain Poor conformation in dogs is a major reason that canine welfare is compromised and concerns have been voiced since the 1960s.

It beggars belief that 65 years later, the situation has only got worse, with many breeds of dog suffering hugely.

The Nordic countries are leading the way in tackling resistance to better breeding and purchasing practices. In Sweden, all dogs and cat breeders must be registered and if breeding three or more litters per annum or keeping 10 or more animals must hold a permit. Permits are recorded on a national database. The code of practice covering welfare is compulsory. It is illegal to breed dogs and cats that have genetic conditions such as inherited diseases, inherited disabilities or behavioural disorders.

Breeding dogs with extreme conformation is also illegal in the Netherlands, Norway and Finland.

Research from Sweden covering show judges, breeders, vets and owners of French bulldogs, Boston terriers, pugs, and English bulldogs and Cairn terriers reveals that there is still resistance to improving conformation in dogs that have the potential to suffer from BOAS.

Significantly, all respondents except for show judges were largely in favour of banning breeding brachycephalic dogs.  Only 8.5% of the show judges involved in the study agreed with a partial or full ban. The study found that:

“The majority of show judges agreed fully or partly that it is essential to follow the breed standard even if it can be associated with health issues related to their physical appearance, while all other stakeholders mostly disagreed “.

Whilst it was mostly felt that breed standards should be based on knowledge about the relationship between health and conformity, significant numbers of participants from all categories surveyed disagreed that brachycephalia threatened dogs’ health, including 27.4% of judges of affected breeds. 59.3% of the show judges surveyed agreed, totally or partly, that it is essential to follow the breed standard, even if it is associated with health problems.

Breed standards and instructions have been altered in many kennel club to pay lip service to welfare, but the authors of the study felt that interpretations of, often vague standards, were subjective and may lead to promotion of anatomical exaggerations.

Just 57.7% of breeders of brachycephalic breeds were in favour of banning individual dogs from being bred compared to 87.5% of breeders of non-brachycephalic breeds. Nearly a third of of breeders of brachycephalic breeds disagreed that health problems related conformation posed a threat to the dogs’ health, possibly because clinical signs of distress have been normalised. 35.8% of the breeders of brachycephalic breeds disagreed with proposed improvements to welfare compared to 8.6% of the breeders of non-brachycephalic breeds. 

More worryingly, the study found that the appearance of the dog was an important factor for owners acquiring a brachycephalic dog, in spite of consequential  health concerns.

Until this is addressed, many dogs will continue to suffer and the UK is well behind in even making minimal improvements.

Let’s Celebrate World Vet Day

CMA Vet review Ever moaned about your vet? You are not alone. Veterinary care can be expensive and it’s easy to overlook the fact that owning a companion animal is a privilege, not a right.

However erratic, access to the NHS which is largely free at source hides the true cost of human care. So it can be a shock when vet bills quickly reach three figures.

It might surprise you to learn that vets are not always paid very much. Vet students study for a minimum of 4 years and graduate with an average debt of £70,000. Starting salaries average £32,000 and 50+ hour weeks are standard, including anti-social hours and unpredictable hours.

Between 30% and 60% of vets are injured at work and injuries, even in small animal practice, can be life-changing.

Overheads for running practices can be very high and vets are legally bound by the Veterinary Cascade to prescribe drugs using a strict protocol which means that they do not always have control over what drug is offered.

Veterinary work can be very rewarding but also very stressful. Vets in the UK are 3-4 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population.

There are problems within the veterinary industry that the Competition and Markets Authority are currently addressing. However, in the meantime, give your vet a break. Take a breath before you are about to complain and consider matters from there veterinary staff member’s point of view.

It will make you both feel better.

If you are finding it difficult to take your companion animal to the vet book a Happy Vet Visit Course. Your vet will thank you for it and so will your companion.

Full Marks To EFRA

Full Marks To EFRA The EFRA Committee has always been a champion for animal welfare and is now putting pressure on the government to enact some of the legislation that they promised originally in their manifesto.

The report acknowledges that it is not just missing legislation but improvement that is required to current legislation in addition to providing sufficient resources to police and enforce it.

In particular as far as dogs are concerned, they look at breeding, imports and illegal veterinary procedures. There is a recommendation that all breeders be registered, regardless of the number of litters that they produce. They also recommend reducing the number of litters produced annually to 2 before a licence is required.

There has been huge growth in canine fertility clinics which can operate without any regulation and with unqualified staff. They seem to be used mostly to produce dogs that have been bred so badly that they cannot mate or give birth without human intervention, in particular bull breeds and pugs. Some are performing illegal C-sections without a vet and some are advertising their services specifically for breeding aggressive dogs.

Thousands of dogs are being imported into the UK, many illegally on Pet Passports. Some have forged papers. There is a huge risk of importing diseases, including rabies, and there is concern that cases of brucellosis are increasing, with zoonotic transmission having occurred between an owner and a dog imported from Belarussia.

There are many very good recommendations in this report and it is to be hoped that some legislation can be enacted before the general election.

They’ve Done It Again

They've Done It Again They’ve done it again – or should that be they are still doing it?

The French bulldog selected as best in the utility group was disgraceful. Severely brachycephalic, it bears no resemblance to the UKKC’s own updated breed standard.

As ever, UKKC breeders are responding to complaints by asserting that licensed breeders are responsible and it is the unlicensed breeders who are not. The UKKC has graded this dog as not having a problem because it has not been diagnosed with BOAS. They are tragically blind to the dog’s failings – and that of many others in the showing – because they have normalised the deformities. When they do, so do owners who, as studies have found expect their dogs to snort and snuffle and even take their regular collapse to be normal.

It’s not just confined to bull breeds: compare the German and Swiss shepherds in the Pastoral line up this year. I was too dispirited to even look at the other horrors that I know were perpetrated.

We have to keep chipping away at this, supporting campaigns for better welfare and fighting to stop people breeding and buying disfigured dogs. But first, they have to recognise that they are.

I’m biased, but thank goodness an Aussie won BIS. There’s hope yet.

Dog Theft On The Rise – Again

Dog Theft On The Rise - AgainThe insurer Direct Line has undertaken a survey into dog theft and found that 2,290 dogs were reported as being stolen in the UK in 2023, representing a 6% increase on figures from 2022.

Only 16% were returned which is the lowest success rate in the 9 years since Direct Line have been publishing their survey.

Bull breeds top the list currently, with the trade in stolen dogs being brisk in XL Bullies since the ban was implemented. As expected, implementing a ban has done nothing to deter the criminal fraternity from breeding and selling XL bullies to bolster their activities. Prior to the ban, XL Bullies were not being reported as being stolen, but 37 dogs went missing last year. The decrease in returning dogs to their owners is an alarming 36% since last year.

Most dogs (359) were stolen in London with Kent (138) and West Yorkshire (125) police authorities second and third.  Not all constabularies responded so the figures are likely to be an under estimate and only represent the thefts that were reported.

In spite of this, many owners do not have the legally required tag on their dog when out – indeed, many do not even have a collar. The laws requiring dogs to be on lead when on a road are routinely broken and it is still common to see dogs tied up outside shops and cafés. Even in parks, many owners pay more attention to their mobile telephones and children or other people than their dogs.

Next time it could be you.

For the sake of your dog, pay attention at all times when out, don’t ever leave your dog unattended – and that includes in gardens – and get some training so that your recall is reliable.

Thanks a bunch Scotland

Thanks a bunch Scotland Yet more bad news for those of us who care about canine welfare and want to find effective solutions to problems caused by a variety of dogs and a variety of owners.

The fact that Scotland is implementing a ban on XL Bullies is another blow to the effective management of dangerous situations involving dogs, although, understandably, the large influx of dogs is potentially problematic from he country. Replicating an ineffective and potentially dangerous measure is hardly the answer though.

First Minister Humza Yousaf said “…ultimately, although we do have a very good system of dog control notice schemes, and we do take the approach of deed not breed, we have to respond to the situation as it currently stands and therefore we will do what we need to do to ensure public safety.”

Well they patently do not “take the approach of deed not breed” otherwise the ban would not have been considered. Further, Community Safety Minister Siobhain Brown had warned that it is “important to ensure that Scotland does not become a safe haven or a dumping ground for XL Bully dogs from England and Wales”.

Why not a safe haven? Again, this assumes that there is no such thing as non-problematic XL Bully. Meanwhile there is still some leeway for kennels to register XL Bullies in their care as long as the intake was agreed by October 31st, 2023 and the dog was in their care by December 30th, 2023.

 

How Many Dogs Will Die In 3 Years?

How Many Dogs Will Die In 3 Years? There’s good news and bad news for dogs in South Korea…The government has announced that it will ban the selling of dog meat in three year’s time.

The “grace” period is being deemed sufficient to allow existing businesses to transition to another trade.

Boshintang (dog meat stew) is a traditional delicacy but a 2023 Gallup poll found that just 8% of those polled admitted to having tried dog meat in the previous 12 months, a reduction from 27% in 2015. Fewer than a 20% of those polled said that they supported the consumption of the meat. Even allowing for a reluctance to admit to an unpopular practice, figures are low.

Once the new legislation is in place, convicted dog butchers will face up to three years in prison and anyone convicted of rearing dogs for meat two years. Details have yet to be announced of compensation for dog meat restaurants.

This is no doubt due to the spread of cultural change prompted by the spread of information globally and the rise in the keeping of dogs as companion animals. Whilst it is to be welcomed, it won’t help the dogs that will be butchered, perhaps under less than ideal conditions, over the next three years. However, it may act as an exemplar for other south Asian countries where the practice still continues.

Banned!

Banned!Stop Press! A judicial review of this decision will be considered on January 15th, 2024: watch this space for news. A temporary injunction has been granted for kennels that have taken dogs in after October 31st, 2023 preventing them from being seized or destroyed.

Well here we are, with thousands of owners finding that their dogs are now a banned breed…and here we are with goodness knows how many dogs being dumped, stranded in kennels and worse.

Owners of dogs too young to be neutered have some leeway but that has not prevented abuse. 4,000 dogs had been registered by mid-December, with just 2 weeks to go before the ban came into force. Estimates of the number of XL bullies varies widely but most sources cite many more than 4,000 and there is considerable doubt as to how many dogs may be pulled into the remit when they had not previously been regarded as being an XL Bully.

 

There is plenty of peer-reviewed evidence which shows that breed specific legislation in force across a wide range of jurisdictions does not work, but the current government are not interested in “following the science”. Neither are they interested in putting sufficient resources into tackling the real problems that underly the shocking rise in injuries and fatal dog attacks in the UK.

Needless to say, the fear is that dogs with no previous history of problem behaviour are far more likely to start developing problems if permanently restricted by this tragic and ineffective ban.

Meanwhile, vets, already under great pressure, are faced with impossible options. They are not the police, they are not obliged to euthanise a healthy dogs regardless of the £200 bounty put on the head of every XL Bully by the government. Many owners will not realise that they have to pay for euthanasia and then reclaim the fee; neither do they realise that this may not cover the full cost, including disposal. What are vets supposed to do if they get a request for euthanasia from someone who is not the registered owner?

A BVA Survey found that 90% of vets are owed money by clients and many treat animals without a realistic hope of being paid or provide large discounts on expensive treatments. Even where a debt could be chased, it may not be viable in terms of time and cost to do so.

This knee-jerk reaction that has been railroaded through by a failing government is only going to add to the pressure and result in far worse welfare for dogs. A grim start to 2024.