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.”

Stop The Crop

Puppy undergoing ear cropping The cropping of dog’s ears is illegal in the UK but, like many other pieces of legislation, it does not stop this horrific multilation from occurring.

The RSPCA has announced a 621% increase in cases since 2015, with 101 cases being reported in 2020 alone. Of course, it is not possible to know how many cases are not reported and it is all too easy to claim that the dog was cropped in a country where it is still legal and then imported. The RSPCA also believe that dogs are being sent abroad to undergo the procedure before being re-imported.

A recent petition to the government requesting that the import of crop-earned dogs be banned garnered 45,161 signatures and the government has stated that it is investigating instigating legislation under world trading rules. There is also a current petition asking for the ban on the import of ear cropping kits which are readily available to buy online.

It goes without saying that this painful and harmful procedure done purely to boost the warped vanity of the owner damages dogs but the harm goes far beyond the immediate pain and possibility of complications. Ears are cropped when the puppy is a few weeks old, well within the vital socialisation period. Such a traumatic experience effectively imprints fear of humans into dogs who then may become very difficult to rehabilitate in later life.

Importing so-called “rescue” dogs has become a major trend in recent years, not least to satisfy the demand for “off the shelf” dogs. There is also an alarming tendency for owners to outcompete each other in virtue signalling, not helped by the number of articles published by dog-owning journalists vilifying people for buying from legitimate, licensed breeders or by those given a platform to tout “rescue” dogs as a cure-all for their anxieties. All of these aspects, together with the Instagram culture of “celebrities” posing with mutilated dogs and dogs with appalling conformation contribute to the danger that cropped ears will join all the other horrors inflicted upon dogs theatre normalised not least because of their ubiquity.

The British Veterinary Association commented “It also seems that in the arms race that is fashion, dogs have moved from being something you might acquire with a certain appearance to make a statement about yourself, to something you might surgically disfigure to enhance your image and status within a peer group.”

Quite.

Masked Menace

Discarded face mask and sock removed from Cockerpoo's gut The domestic dog is an obligate scavenger. The food discarded by humans has played a vital rôle in the domestication of the dog and most dogs in the world continue to live by scavenging from rubbish dumps with some eating scrap food supplied by humans.

Like so many natural behaviours, this can become a maladaption once dogs live in urban environment with their food served up when humans decide that it should be. Dealing with a dog that cannot resist scavenging can be stressful for handlers and even prove fatal for dogs.

Covid-19 has brought many additional stresses into our lives and for dog owners that has meant dealing with the extra burden of discarded face masks and gloves. It wasn’t long into the first lockdown 12 months ago that the first detritus stared appearing on pavements and in parks and that has escalated, along with a horrendous increase in fly-tipping in urban and rural areas.

Puppies explore everything with their mouths but age is no barrier to dogs ingesting unsuitable items. Socks and underwear are favourites because dogs are attracted to the scent that human bodies leave on them. Some American vets even have a competition for the most bizarre object removed from their patients. They of course were the lucky ones that survived.

Riccardo Minelli from Abington Park Veterinary Group in Northampton has provided a video of the procedure that he performed when removing a face mask and a sock from a 3 year old Cockerpoo that was one of the lucky ones.

Don’t let your dog add to the statistics: keep objects out of reach, get help from a qualified, non-aversive trainer to teach your dog to leave discarded objects and food alone when on walks and of course, dispose of PPE responsibly.

Lucy’s Loophole

Lucy's Law posterThe so-called Lucy’s Law which banned the third party sale of puppies and kittens in pet shops from April 6th, 2020 was greeted with some scepticism by canine professionals as being unlikely to have much impact on puppy farming.

The dubious sale of puppies and kittens had already largely been via websites and social media and now it seems that the puppy farmers have found a loophole enabling them to shift their animals via pet shops anyway.

A 2019 amendment to the 2018 Regulations permitted breeders to sell puppies under a pet sales licence instead of a breeders licence if a dog was bred “overseas” and thus not under the jurisdiction of English welfare legislation. DEFRA stated that this was to ensure compliance with European Union Directives and World Trade Organisation rules.

Private Eye magazine has highlighted the continuing problem of puppy farming in the six counties of Ireland and in Eire where thousands of puppy farmed dogs are being shipped to England for sale in premises owned by the very same puppy farmers who have managed to obtain 5 star ratings as licensed breeders in their English premises.

Business as usual – unless of course the source of the problem is dealt with, namely the people who buy these dogs in the first place.

A Priti Pickle

Home Secretary Priti Patel has announced that she will investigate the current spate of dog thefts and “go after” the thieves. Iain Duncan Smith has also waded in caller for tougher sentences for thefts of companion animals.

As argued previously here, there are dangers hidden in what might seem like a reasonable approach. If animals are treated as different to other forms of property, it could be the thin end of the wedge to legislating that they have “rights”, something that only a human can have. Biologists have historically described non-human animals by trying to define attributes and behaviours that are supposedly uniquely human. We are frequently finding that this is not the case as presupposed in several areas, but rights are different. Only a human can fight for rights and defend them. It is a vital distinction that humans should have legal responsibilities towards animals but that the animals themselves cannot have rights that they are incapable of comprehending or upholding.

The solution would be to treat animals as a special sort of chattel in the law; in other words, to recognise the difference between a sentient possession and a non-sentient one.

Patel stated “I’m not going to say a new law is on the way, I’m not going to promise something that not’s going to be delivered but I am looking at this right now.”

If the current statutes concerning dogs are anything to go by, “not going to be delivered” is the norm. The fact remains that owners are ignorant of the laws and even when informed, often carry on breaking them as they know that the chances of being caught are virtually non-existent.

It is easy for politicians to appeal to sentiment to gain a few positive headlines, but the fact remains that a great deal of dog theft could be prevented by owners not leaving dogs unattended, training good recall and actually paying attention to their dogs when out. Not buying dogs from puppy farms and back street breeders, often via web sites, and exercising due diligence before purchase would result in the market for stolen dogs evaporating.

…and in the meantime, if you want a Priti Pawtel dog or cat toy, contact Pet Hates Toys.

Don’t Ignore The Snore

Distressed pug In a world where some people try to designate truth as “fake news”, perhaps it shouldn’t be so shocking that some people are also unable to distinguish severe distress in dogs for “cuteness”. Then again, it’s imperative that it is shocking otherwise we can neither uphold evidence-based factual reporting or make the world better for dogs.

Just as an anorexic needs to adjust there distorted perception to realise that their image in a mirror is not, in fact, obese, owners of brachycephalic dogs need to realise that dogs that can barely survive a night of (greatly disturbed) sleep are not struggling purely for the perverse entertainment of humans.

Pedigree Dogs Exposed has again highlighted the plight of these poor dogs with their Don’t Ignore The Snore campaign and a terrific video.

This video is distressing (I hope). It’s meant to be. It is of course the struggling dogs that I find distressing, but perhaps if people see humans in a similar condition it may, just may, trigger them to get their dogs treated and best of all, to stop buying them in the first place.

Deal Or No Deal

Border Control Dover As the Brexit negotiations reach fever pitch just days before the UK (England, Wales, Scotland and the six counties of northern Ireland)* is due to leave the EU, it is still not clear what arrangements will be made with regard to the Pet Passport Scheme.

There are three possibilities for the Pet Passport on January 1st: Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) could either join the countries that are unlisted, listed in Part 1 or listed in Part 2. If Great Britain is unlisted, and current Pet Passports will be invalid from January 1st, 2021. This would require owners of dogs, cats and ferrets to prepare at least four months in advance of travel, as happened when the scheme was first introduced in the UK. Listing under Part 1 or 2 would ease some of those restrictions.

Brexit is also likely to have other implications for dogs (and other animals) regardless of the political deal that may or may not be negotiated in the next 23 days. A great deal of companion animal feed ingredients are imported, mainly from Ireland, the Netherlands, France, Germany and China. Problems with the flow of goods may cause supply problems at least in the short term. There are potentially going to be similar problems with some veterinary medicines and other essential supplies, and it is expected that prices will inevitably rise.

A £705m funding package to help manage Britain’s borders was announced in July and there is the possibility that it might stem the tide of canine imports, both from puppy farms and of European street dogs. The Mediterranean, Ireland, Lithuania and Hungary have been major sources of poorly bred and feral dogs to supply the demand for instant pets. Many of those dogs are imported illegally using the Pet Passport Scheme rather than under the Balai Directive 92/65/EEC which imposes additional requirements regarding welfare and traceability. Dogs must come from a registered holding, undergo a clinical examination by a vet accompanied by the appropriate health certificates and notice of shipment to the Animal and Plant Health Agency. Their destination must be declared to enable follow up checks.

Whether sufficient resources will be put into place to prevent puppy smuggling remains to be seen but it could well be one of the few advantages to the political mess in which the UK has been plunged.


Can You Help The Royal Veterinary College?

Dog for sale Sales of dogs have gone through the roof during lockdown with many owners buying on impulse with little or no research. The demand for “off the shelf” dogs means that most are inevitably bred illegally and with little or no regard to welfare.

The Royal Veterinary College are undertaking a study into “pandemic puppies”.

If you purchased a puppy in 2019 or 2020, please help the RVC researchers by completing their survey and help them to improve canine welfare.

Wanted Alive Or Dead – Red Squirrels

Red squirrel There are no doubt many of us who have dogs who might be interested in the job of squirrel hunter, but they have been pipped to the post by a spaniel called Rufus.

Humans have enlisted the help of dog’s scenting ability in conservation for many years and now, a spaniel in the six counties of northern Ireland is searching for red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris). In spite of their name, native red squirrels are no longer common in the UK, having been ousted by the American grey (Sciurus carolinensis) which was introduced as an exotic in the 19thC. Grey squirrels are not affected by the squirrelpox virus that is fatal to the red squirrel and they also outcompete the red squirrels for food, having a broader palate.

Rufus locates squirrels so that they can be examined for signs of pox, enabling the disease to be tracked. A 2018 study showed that improvements in pine marten populations have assisted the red squirrel population, not least because grey squirrels form part of the pine marten diet.

A few more dogs like Rufus in addition to a managed marten population could help the return of a much loved native breed.