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!

K Pup

One Man's Meat South Korea’s president has announced that a ban on dog meat is a possibility in the wake of waning popularity. The may millions of dogs slaughtered annually had dwindled to approximately 1 million and three major dog meat markets have closed. Nevertheless, there is likely to be opposition to the ban with the financial consequences largely hitting the country’s poorest people who rely on the trade.

Support for a ban may be a popular issue in forthcoming elections, with consumers being in a minority, but there is also a vociferous section the public that, although not consuming dog meat, opposes a ban on libertarian grounds. It remains t be seen whether it will be an easy vote winner or a source of polarisation and division.

Meanwhile, 53 dogs were rescued by police from an illegal trader who has been a significant player for two decades. It is claimed that he was slaughtering up to 30 dogs per day.

As with South Korea, the consumption of dog meat is a minority choice but the effect of animal welfare out of all proportion. Many of the dogs are stolen from owners and the trade has been blamed for spreading zoonoses, including rabies.

2 Dogs 3 Deaths

2 Dogs 3 Deaths Yesterday, two dogs were uppermost in my mind for very different reasons. A boy was killed by a dog in Caerphilly in a rare, but headline-grabbing incident. Details are still emerging, but the dog was shot at the scene.

The other situation could not have been more different but still resulted in the death of the dog. This dog had been entrusted to a dog walker who allowed the dog off lead on a cliff edge.

What links the incidents, quite apart from the devastation of the losses to the people concerned, is that they were both entirely preventable. In the first case, there are simply too few resources available to promote responsible dog ownership, starting with the breeding and purchase of dogs. In the second, too many unqualified, inexperienced people are entrusted with care of dogs. We will never eliminate accidents but it beggars belief that anyone would allow a dog off lead in such a potentially dangerous environment. It is never worth the risk. Whether it’s attacks on livestock or dogs off lead alongside roads, owners and carers of dogs need to stop being so arrogant as to think that their dog will not cause an incident and maybe lose its own life in the process. We also need to professionalise dog care with accredited training and licensing a requirement for all. Of course all the licensing and training in the world will only work if owners check documentation and not hand their dog over without proper interviews and full, written instructions to carers.

Action Plan for Animal Welfare

UK Government Action Plan for Animals DEFRA launched an Action Plan for Animal Welfare last month detailing many reforms that affect companion animals in addition to farm and working animals. Briefly:

  • The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act will increase the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty from six months to five years from June 29th, 2021
  • Legislation will be drafted to introduce a new system of penalty notices for animal cruelty
  • The number of dogs, cats and ferrets that can be moved under non-commercial travel rules will be reduced
  • The minimum age that dogs can be moved or imported commercially into Great Britain will be increased
  • Restrictions will be placed on the movement of pregnant dogs into Great Britain
  • It will be an offence to import docks with cropped ears or docked tails or other cosmetic procedure that impacts on welfare
  • A taskforce has been established to crack down on theft
  • Microchipping will be compulsory for cats and a review will be undertaken of current microchip database systems, including consideration of making it compulsory for vets to scan microchips before euthanasia
  • Pursue the licensing of animal sanctuaries, rescue and rehoming centres
  • Ban remote controlled electronic training collars (‘e-collars’)
  • Consider further protections for racing greyhounds
  • Review the dangerous dogs legislation.

There is much that is laudable in this plan but, as ever, it will only be effective if backed by sufficient resources.

‘Til Divorce Do Us Part

A dog is for life not just for the honeymoon? Throughout the decades from ten to fifty years of marriage, an average of a third will end in divorce. Cohabitation appears to lead to a greater chance of splitting up later in the relationship.

Many more couples are deciding not to reproduce which can mean that dogs and other companion animals become substitutes. Of course, many people get dogs because they want to live with a dog and, if they don’t want children anyway, have nothing to substitute. However, lots of companion animals are ending up being the subject of disputes when relationships collapse. A 2019 survey undertaken on behalf of insurers Direct Line found that 28,500 divorce cases a year involves custody of a companion animal, an average of 90 per day.

This causes huge problems because, of course companion animals are regarded in law as chattels but require as much care and consideration, as human offspring. Sensible couples are discussing such possibilities before they live together and can now avail themselves of a legal agreement. Divorce lawyers Lloyd Platt & Co have collaborated with the Blue Cross to produce pro-forma documents in an attempt to reduce the number of animals that are surrendered for re-homing as well as to reduce the amount of acrimony caused by fighting over care.

There are two forms available; a simple Deed of Agreement that sets out who will take ownership in the event of a break-up and a more detailed Pet Nup. The Deed of Agreement can be used by anyone with joint care of a companion animal, for instance siblings or friends and considers designated ownership, responsibility for care and financial obligations. It also requires regular review. The Pre Nup goes into more details including who will be registered on the microchip database, who will be legally responsible in the event of any breeches of the law, rights for selling on or otherwise disposing of the animal to a third party, default ownership in the event of lack of compliance with the agreement, finances, including vet fees, holiday arrangements, breeding, accommodation (for instance landlord’s consent) and changes to or ending of the agreement.

Neither agreement overrides the law regarding companion animals, but Lloyd Platt believe that there is no reason why it should not be enforceable and at least indicates the intentions of the parties involved. Considering such an agreement also means that the subject is raised in advance – prepare for the worst, expect the best!

The Snip

Neutering dogs Vets in Greece have been on strike since last week in protest at the government’s proposal to introduce compulsory neutering for dogs and cats.

Greece has a serious problem with feral dogs and cats – or rather humans dumping dogs and cats when they can’t be bothered to look after them. TNVR programmes have failed elsewhere because they simply cannot keep up with the number of fresh abandoned and neutered animals and they have also been controversial in Greece. There is a legitimate argument that on its own, TNVR or TNR does nothing to improve welfare or social responsibility. Greece has attempted to remove large number of dogs from Athens with disastrous consequences. Athens alone is estimated to have 2 million feral dogs and cats, a population no doubt exacerbated by the Greek financial crisis. It also remains to be seen if Brexit cuts off the trade in street dogs that have usually been imported illegally into the UK under the Pet Passport scheme to fuel the current craze for owning a dog and to satisfy owners who won’t wait to get a dog from a breeder or who have been refused a dog from a domestic rescue.

The new bill proposes to introduce prison sentences and substantial fines for illegal trafficking of animals and theft of companion animals and penalties of up to €50,000 are stipulated for abuse including “poisoning, hanging, drowning, crushing and mutilation” of animals.

All well and good but it does seem that there is no provision for legitimate breeders to retain stud animals and there are fears for the preservation of local breeds such as the Cretan Hound.

The bill is due to be voted on following public consultation in June and the result could have implications for the many other countries that face similar problems.

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.