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.

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.