Carried Away

Carried away I freely confess that I am somewhat depressed by electric cars. As a child, I had assumed that Concorde would have been the norm by the time that I became an adult and I never imagined that we would all be encouraged to drive round in milk floats, let alone be actually encouraged to regress to riding bicycles.

However, I do have to admire the latest offering from Korean car manufacturer Genesis (me neither), the X Dog concept  – for its fixtures and fittings rather than its engine. OK, so, even though I am a non-driver, my first consideration would be the engine but maybe other car manufacturers will realise the economic power of the dog owner market and bring out something similar. There is some evidence to suggest that dogs can be more settled and suffer less travel distress in EVs.

Basically, the hatchback is fitted with a box on top of which is a bed and heated dog cushion. It includes a built-in shower (attached to a 1.3 gallon, pressurised tank), dog-suitable hairdryer, pull-out ramp and storage compartments including 230V plug sockets. A leather collar and safety harness enable you to secure your dog to a secure anchor point while on the move. 

Pretty cool huh?

My other car is a fly fishing Bentley.

(I wish)

 

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.

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.

XL Bully Owners Bite Back

XL Bully owners bite back All is not lost,  it seems, in the effort to prevent the XL Bully from being added to the proscribed dogs under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

The Licenceme Group (sic) has raised £150,000 and has already instigated a process which may end in judicial review and could, if successful, perhaps overturn breed-specific legislation altogether.

Licensing probably isn’t the answer to the problem that BSL is trying to address though. It will simply become a tax on dog ownership and irresponsible and criminal elements will evade it. Forgery of paperwork is comparatively easy and there will still be nowhere near enough resources to police the licensing.

We have a model of the problem already with the Pet Passport Scheme which is being roundly abused to allowed the illegal importation of thousands of street dogs as well as puppy farmed dogs, some under the legal age for leaving their mother. None of the national parliaments have done anything about this, so how would a dog licence be any different?

Whilst an overturn of this ineffective legislation would be welcome, a licensing scheme is not a solution to poor breeding and purchasing practices and until we address this, the next “XL Bully” type problem is just aorta d the corner.

XL Error


XL Error
It is sadly no surprise that the government has indeed jerked the knee and brought in a ban on the XL Bully.

There was a lot of wasted breath, words and time spent by those who know considerably more about the problem than the government – indeed who have to deal with the consequences – in trying to explain why this is a colossal error.

Presumably the government thinks that it can get some easy Brownie points and gain popularity with the red tops by doing this. It surely couldn’t have been because it has learned the lessons from banning the so-called pit bull.

Just as with many kennel club breed standards, it is impossible to work out what dog is being described, the DEFRA “definition” of an XL Bully is so wide as to encompass pretty much every large bull breed. Most police officers don’t know one end of a dog from another so it’s likely that a lot of heartache will ensue and a lot of dogs will be condemned to restricted lives without cause or good reason.

Unlike the previous bans, the government are proposing to offer compensation of £200 (£100 for a “rescue” dog) if owners wish healthy dogs to be euthanised. Currently, the British Veterinary Association policy on euthanasia supports fully vet’s right to refuse to euthanise a healthy animal. Quite what the position will be with a proscribed dog remains to be seen.

It is likely that some owners, perhaps many owners, will not be able or willing to pay the £92.40 required to register a dog deemed to be an XL Bully in addition to the cost of neutering and obligatory insurance. Vets are already under pressure, and the prospect of perhaps many hundreds of owners requesting neutering or euthanasia is unlikely to be able to be accommodated within the timeframe allowed by the law. It will be illegal to re-home, sell, buy or transfer ownership of an XL Bully dog to another person, including rescues, from December 31st, 2023.

The prospect of maybe hundreds of dogs simply being abandoned doesn’t bear thinking about, but it is a very real possibility.

I just hope that I am proved wrong.

Wales Takes The Lead


Wales Takes the lead
Although the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 is national legislation and is not devolved, Wales and Scotland are able to consider implementing measures to promote responsible dog ownership.

Accordingly, the Welsh Government has a web page with advice on responsible dog ownership and has called a summit comprising representatives from local government, the police, public health, third sector organisations and canine welfare and public safety campaigns.

This is so much better than the knee-jerk response implementing a ban on XL Bullies from the UK government. Such a response makes it easy to rabble rouse (surely with an eye to forthcoming elections) but does nothing to resolve a grave issue from recurring time and time again. BSL is also expensive and has resulted in the compulsory euthanasia of thousands of dogs that have never been a problem and were never going to be, not least those condemned under the vague designation of being a “pitbull”.

EFRA has released a report on Breed Specific Legislation recommending a focus on prevention through education and early intervention including training courses for dog owners who commit low to mid-level offences similar to the speed awareness courses for drivers.

As with the broken window theory, dealing with this at the lower levels of offences tackles the roots of the problem. It won’t prevent every incident but it may save a lot of dogs and owners from heartbreak.

Where Wales has taken a lead, we should follow.