Dog Walker Fatality

2022 was the worst year on record for fatal incidents involving dogs and now, barely half way through the first month of 2023, we have another.

A dog walker was killed in what seems to be a case of re-directed aggression. The fate of the eight dogs has yet to be established. If, as has so far been surmised, the dogs were in a ruck and the walker became entangled in their leads, it only goes to show how poor the skills of so-called professionals are. Whilst anyone can be involved in an accident, dog walkers need to know that it takes more than just holding the lead, liking dogs and taking clients’ money to be a professional.

Dog walkers need to be fully trained and licensed as well as regulated and we desperately need the resources to police it. Moreover, as this item emphasises, people should not get a dog unless they are prepared to mostly look after it themselves. We all need help from time to time, but if it’s on a daily basis, what’s the point in having a dog?

Dartmoor Dog Restrictions Proposed

dog staring at pocket Dartmoor National Park Authority members are voting on proposals to restrict dogs to lead-only walking between March 1st and July 31st to protect livestock with young and ground-nesting birds. There would also be a limit of six dogs per person at any one time. Rangers can require owners to keep dogs in lead at any time if they are deemed to be out of control.

It is irresponsible owners who have led to restrictions being imposed and it had become a necessity for farmers to protect their livelihoods, never mind for the welfare of stock and wildlife. A farmer lost 37 ewes earlier this year in a dog attack, at a financial cost to him of £4,500, never mind the emotional distress.

There were 108 cases of dog attacks on stock in 2021 and 78 in 2020 when the country was in lockdown. Enough is enough.

All dogs have the potential for prey drive, regardless of their demeanour at home. Too few owners train their dogs in even the basics and too many think that the countryside is their playground by right.

Ewes and cattle can abort when distressed, never mind the risk from diseases picked up from canine faeces. Farmers are having a tough enough time as it is without irresponsible dog owners adding to it, so the irresponsible cohort will have to suffer restrictions due to their actions.

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.

Law Or Lottery?

There are more than 50 statutes in the UK that deal with dogs and, in many ways, legislation has, at least on paper, offered the chance to greatly improve canine welfare.

Laws are useless though, without resources to enforce them.

I was judging at a local dog show this weekend and hardly any of the competitors had legal tags. Many had purchased customised engraved tags from a local branch of a large chain. More than one had been told that it was “illegal” to have there dog’s name on the tag (it is not illegal, bit it is inadvisable). The others had not been told that they must, by law, display their surname and full address.

The number of fines and prosecutions are low in comparison to the number of offences – especially dogs off lead on roads, fouling and illegal boarding.

Local authorities are allowed to levy their own fines for many offences and this places offenders in a national lottery. Some authorities are very active, others not at all, even with fixed penalty fines. North Somerset handed out 1,313 fixed penalty notices, Bristol just 2.

It is good that people are being called to account for their actions, but it shouldn’t be a gamble.

(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.

 

Woof Roof

Woof Roof Renting accommodation as a companion animal owner can be nigh on impossible. The inability of more and more people to afford to buy means that it can be difficult for existing owners to move or inadvisable to acquire an animal if home-hunting.

Good news then that the Dogs and Domestic Animals Accommodation Protection Bill is currently in a second reading stage in the House of Commons. Tenants will be expected to hold a responsible animal guardianship certificate including obligation for prophylactic treatments and basic training and permission can be rescinded if an animal is considered to be at risk, or causes danger or nuisance.

Landlords will be entitled to obtain a certificate of exemption for groups of dwellings within a building or area, entire buildings or specific orders for families, species or breeds of animal, if the landlord or another tenant has a religious or medical objection or the accommodation is unsuitable for the animal.

Allowing companion animals is now the default position on the government’s recommended model tenancy agreement and landlords cannot issue a blanket ban in a tenancy, although properties can still be advertised as not considering or allowing animals.

Landlords may be entitled to oblige tenants to take out insurance to cover any damage.

As ever, the devil will be in the detail but it looks as if it may be a good thing and it is indicative of a social change in attitude towards companion animal ownership.
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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.”

Good Dog, Bad Dog

The Sibe shown here, a bitch called Zaira, was brought out of Ukraine by her student owner. In the horror that has been unfolding over the last two weeks, it has been notable how many people have not questioned that their companion animals should stay with them when they have been forced to flee from their homes. The poignant image of the green carrier that saved the life of a little dog when the owners were killed by the blast from a mortar will make many wonder what happened afterwards. Did the dog find a home? Did the people who may have taken him in?

The picture of Zaira and her owner went viral when the pictures of other dogs didn’t, no doubt because both are photogenic and goodness knows, no one can deny the balm that good news brings in this nightmare.

But there’s another Sibe that has been in the news in the last couple of days. This one is a “killer” that “savaged” an “innocent” baby in the woods, the wolf at the door.

What makes the difference between a “good” dog and a “bad” dog?

In a complex world where easy answers are hard to come by, this is an exception. At the end of the day, it’s always the people.