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.

Dead Dogs and Dogwalkers

Yet another story of a dog walker allowing a dog to run into the road where it was killed was reported this week. In this instance, the owners have also initiated a petition calling for dog walkers to be regulated, the so-called Digby’s law.

Of course dog walkers should be regulated and trained by an accredited training provider but the fact remains that the owners of this dog also bear responsibility for their puppy’s death.

It is vital to undertake due diligence when placing your dog in the care of strangers, whether it is a dog walker, boarder or groomer.

Even when warned, many owners do not bother checking that boarding suppliers are licensed – my own clients included – and yes, both of their dogs were injured and they had a big vet bill because they also did not pursue a case with the illegal boarder. She is of course free to do it all again and maybe the next dog will die.

There are simply not enough resources to police this and it behoves owners to report illegal boarding businesses and negligent dog walkers as far too few come to the attention of the law. Signing a petition is the easy bit.

For dogs’ sake don’t place your dog in the hands of untrained or poorly trained or unlicensed people; it may be for the last time.

(Not) Licensed To Kill

Dog boarding agency Every owner needs help with looking after their dog sometimes but how many bother to check the credentials of their sitter?

It is a legal requirement for anyone boarding a dog in England and Wales to have been inspected and licensed by their local authority.

Many people use pet sitting agencies in the mistaken assumption that they will get a competent, trustworthy and accredited service.

Such a false belief within a largely unregulated industry led to the death of a puppy  when a sitter ignored the instructions of the owners and walked the dog in her garden and then left him in a conservatory in some of the hottest temperatures that the UK has experienced. The dog had been left briefly on a trial basis before the owners went on holiday abroad.

The agency, Rover.com, is an international brand with a background check on employees that doesn’t even mention competencies for working with animals. Do you want to know that your dog sitter is not on the sex offender register or would you rather know that they have at least enough ability to understand that a young, brachycephalic dog is especially prone to heat stress during an unprecedented heatwave? The background check is no more than anyone can do themselves for a small fee but does not include checking whether the sitter is boarding legally within their jurisdiction.

The case is currently under investigation by the police but Rover.com just promised to “remove the sitter” from their platform and not allow them to take any more bookings.

It can seem too much hassle to run a check via your local authority for boarders but it could result in your dog dying. The legislation is there for a reason but it is obvious that these get-rich-quick companies make empty promises abut checks and you cannot assume that your dog will be safe.

The happy smiling images of the staff on Rover.com’s website say nothing about their competencies. If you look at the careers that they offer, it is clear that they are basically a software platform taking advantage of the fact that too many people think that dog sitting is a sinecure that simply requires them to like dogs – and maybe not even that.

Surely no holiday is worth your dog’s life?

The final bitter irony – if you look closely at the screenshot of Rover.com’s homepage, you will see that they donate £1 to the RSPCA for every new customer.

 

Foot In Mouth Disease

RSPCA logo Not for the first time, the RSPCA has proved how out of touch it is with the public whom it purports to serve.

This time, it is jumping on the bandwagon of the “cost of living crisis” with advice that includes the following:

“…why not explore whether there is a cheaper food that is still high welfare and meets your pets’ needs? You could mix your regular food with a cheaper brand to make it stretch further…

Did you know it can be cheaper to buy medication online? Your vet can write you a prescription for a small fee and you can order medication online which is usually much cheaper than buying direct from the vet…

Ditch the pet-sitter

We all know not to leave our pets at home all day on their own; professional pet-sitters and dog walkers are often a lifeline but they can be pricey. Do you have trusted friends or family who could help take care of your pet when you’re on holiday or walk your dog if you’re out all day? Or why not start up a responsible community group where you all help each other out with pet care? Just remember to introduce your pets to new people gradually and ensure they are comfortable with their new friends before leaving them in charge.’

Well thanks a bunch RSPCA; that really helps to professionalise the industry and ensure that owners employ fully accredited, qualified professionals.  Not to mention encouraging owners to feed poor quality, cheap food. Presumably they have not heard that there is plenty of evidence linking behavioural problems with poor nutrition.

They also don’t seem to be able to see beyond the end of their noses: if people choose not to buy prescription medication from their vet then the vets will be undermined and will end up being more expensive as they need to make up for the loss of revenue elsewhere. It is of course also a slippery slope to then buy over the counter preparations that contribute to parasites becoming more prevalent and resistant to prophylactics.

Great for animal welfare – NOT.

Hitting Them In The Pocket

Appeals to the public not to buy puppies from puppy farmers and back street breeders are useless. The “click and collect” mentality has permitted the canine supply chain as attested by the increase in dog ownership over lockdown .

There is a genuine problem in the dog breeding world as many legitimate breeders are ageing or cannot afford to just break even by selling surplus dogs at little ore than cost. This can only get worse as the cost of feed, utilities and transport rockets.

However, something needs to be done as poorly bred and ill-socialised dogs become a social problem as well as a welfare one.

It seems that the HMRC may provide the solution (in addition perhaps to Brexit making the illegal import of dogs harder).

HMRC have launched a hotline for anonymous reporting of illegal breeding and other canine and feline-related activities.

It may well prove that being hit in the pocket is the ultimate solution.

Sometimes I feel like my dog is braver than I am

The quotation above comes from the diary of a Ukrainian refugee, Natasha Chychasova, courtesy of Pushkin House.

It has been noticeable how many people have unquestionably included their companion animals in their survival plans which perhaps simply would not have happened a decade or so ago. It is a paradoxical contrast with the explosion of abandoned dogs living as feral in post-Soviet era cities such as Moscow. Some dogs have been abandoned and charities across Europe are trying to re-locate them. DEFRA has put a plan of emergency support in place for refugees arriving in the UK with animals including emergency licensing, help with quarantine, vaccination and microchipping costs and a shortened quarantine period for those already vaccinated against rabies. DEFRA are also prioritising quarantine facilities for Ukrainian refugees.

As Natasha says, “I simply scroll down timelines on Telegram. This is my whole life. Oh, and there’s my dog too…Things are calm with us. The dog runs around the courtyard, so joyful. Maybe someday I’ll remember that feeling.”

Bully For Them

An Oslo court has ruled that breeding English bulldogs and Cavalier King Charles spaniels contravenes their animal welfare legislation and is thus now illegal.

On the surface, this might seem like a good move but why stop there? The list of dogs that have poor genetic diversity never mind those that are severely compromised by their distorted phenotypes goes far beyond those two breeds. Should we ban breeding of all such dogs? What about out crossing such as that which eliminated kidney problems in Dalmatians? It is possibly too late for the bulldog but are we willing to make the breed extinct deliberately? Is the bull dog the canary in the coal mine? If so, that bird has been singing in the void for many other breeds for some time now.

We also need to look at where the Oslo legislation is coming from – an “animal rights” organisation. At their extreme, such movements argue that companion animals are “prisoners” and that farmed animals should become extinct in the drive to turn omnivorous humans into herbivores. Indeed, some even try to force dogs and cats to eat meat-free diets. There is also a push to recognise animal sentience in law, again on the surface, a reasonable demand until one looks into it a little more deeply. The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill currently progressing through the English parliament, much heralded by self-appointed groups such as the continually unsuccessful litigants Wild Justice is a thinly veiled attack on field sports and farming that will not only do nothing to protect animals but will, like the politically-motivated Hunting Act 2004 is likely to lead to much suffering and imbalance of wildlife in the town and countryside as well as prohibiting essential countryside stewardship such as controlled burning.

It is already illegal to breed dogs with a compromised phenotype under the AWA 2006, 6(5). It is already illegal to breed and sell dogs for profit without being licensed. There is a complete lack of resources provided to police this legislation and the public remain largely ignorant of the law.

It remains to be seen what the effect of this legislation will be in pratice in Norway but it may be a case of “be careful what you wish for”.

A Dog In Wolf’s Clothing

A Dog In Wolf's Clothing These images were captured in South Hams this week where farmer
Rich Rossiter asked “How many more sheep and lambs need to be chased off cliffs, into roads, pushed into cattle grids and bitten…”

He may well ask. It’s not the only recent attack in the area, certainly not a rare occurrence across the country and the figures are not heading in the right direction. Livestock worth an estimated £1.3m were attacked by dogs in 2020, representing an increase of more than 10% on 2019.

Research undertaken by the National Farmers Union underlines some of the reasons why this is getting worse. A survey of 1,200 dog owners found that 88% of respondents walk their dog in the countryside of which 64% allow their dog off lead and 50% admit to poor recall. Only 40% accepted that their dog could harm livestock.

Ewes are in lamb all across the country, with some farms starting lambing this month. Even if a dog does not make contact, those lambs could abort, causing them distress and the farmer huge disruption and losses.

Meanwhile New Forest Commoner Tom Gould lost 18 calves three days ago in 38 cattle due to neospora which is carried in canine faeces.

The message isn’t complex. Pick up waste and put your dog on the lead in the countryside: it’s not your playground, it’s peoples’ homes and supports their livelihoods. Then go and get training.

Tip Of The Iceberg

Tip of the iceberg Would you pay £20,000 for a dog that could barely walk, couldn’t breathe properly, could never give birth naturally and was high likely to suffer from a variety of diseases including severe skin problems?

Plenty did. Enough to net Karl and Victoria Shellard £372,531 and provide them with assets of more than £1m.

The Shellards bred 67 litters over six years, with bitched being inseminated at every season and one bitch being forced to produce 6 litters in just 4 years.

They were fined £19,000 and ordered to pay back illegal earnings of £372,531 and costs of £43,775. That will still leave them pretty well off – and their main crime being considered to be not having a breeding licence.

Judge David Wynn Morgan assuredly missed the point when he told them “You could have run an extremely profitable business if you were properly registered…”

Just look at their dogs in the image here: animals so severely contorted that their shortened lives will be misery even without being forced to breed. Under The Animal Welfare (Breeding of Dogs) (Wales) Regulations 2014 , Condition 3: Health, “The licence holder must take all reasonable steps to protect dogs from pain, suffering, injury and disease.” Well that would rule out the dogs that the Shellards were producing for a start.

Tragically for dogs, the Shellards are the tip of the iceberg and until people stop paying obscene amounts for distorted travesties of dogs, the majority will go unpunished and dogs will yet again suffer.

Quo Vadis 2022?

Quo Vadis 2022? It goes without saying that 2021 was an odd year for all of us. Maybe not as awful as 2020 but still one that most of us would not regret passing. But what did we accomplish for dogs and what can we expect for them in 2022?

Gadgets
Gadgets remain fashionable – not just restrictive halters, harnesses, leads and collars that are use in stead of training but now DogTV. I suppose that it was only a matter of time before colour-adjusted programmes would be broadcast, but, as my ex-boss and vet Stewart Halperin said when asked about it, it may be better than leaving a dog with nothing but it is not a substitute for company, exercise and direct stimulation.

The same must be said of monitoring cameras and trackers used as a substitute for training decent recall.

Non-aversive training
As more professionally certified, non-aversive trainers become qualified, it is to be hoped that more owners will be exposed to better and kinder training techniques.

Dog Theft
FOI requests made by the UKKC in July 2021 found that 98% of dog thieves criminals are never charged and in more than half of cases, a suspect is never identified. There were
196 cases of dog theft every month, a 7% increase from the previous year. Police forces found that criminals switched from county lines drugs trade which had been made difficult during lockdowns to a come in which they were guaranteed easy returns and little chance of consequences.

More than 500 dogs were estimated as stolen across the UK since the government’s Taskforce set up to tackle the issue in May 2021. Owners are still leaving dogs tied up unattended, walking them off-lead along roads (mostly illegal anyway) and not training reliable recall. Many new owners just want a “click and collect” dog and don’t ask questions as to where their “rescue” came from.

Legislation
The government has planned a lot of legislation including a new dog abduction offence announced in September 2021 as part of their Pet Theft Taskforce. The offence will be part of the proposed Kept Animals Bill which is currently in the report stage in the Commons.

This Bill proposes an extension of the penalties and definitions of livestock worrying with 2021 seeing a year on year increase in the number of animals injured and killed. There will also be enhanced powers of entry and seizure of suspected dogs, with JPs being able to order entry and search. Control orders can be applied to owner and offender if the latter is different and in the absence of either at the time of the attack. Penalties can include a destruction order and disqualification form keeping or owning dogs. Worrying is defined as chasing, causing injury or suffering, or causing abortion or loss of or diminution in produce and
being at large in a field or enclosure in which there are relevant livestock. The lists of species defined as livestock has also bene extended.

The number of dogs, cats or ferrets that can be brought into the UK legally in a vehicle would be reduced to 5 mainly in an attempt to stem the illegal import of dogs. (98% of “rescue” dogs are imported illegally). Regulations will also be implemented to restrict the age at which a dog or cat can be imported and the importation of pregnant dogs and ban the import of docked or crop-eared dogs.

The Petfished Campaign continues to educate people as to how to source dogs and cats ethically.

There are proposals to license animal sanctuaries and rescue and rehoming centres which could see the end of the illegal importation of dogs and lack of behavioural assessment and support. Let us hope.

In 2022, we could at last see a ban on e-collars, although no mention has been made of electric fences used to confine dogs.

The government also state that they will “Ensure that dangerous dogs legislation continues to provide effective public safety controls”. Not sure why they say “continue” as it is clearly ineffective.

Let us hope that all or most of this legislation passes and here’s to a happier 2022!