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.

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.

Singing The Praises

Pepito New Opera West Humans are hard-wired to recognise patterns and sometimes, it seems that some things in life are circular.

I trained as an opera singer and it never occurred to me that as a canine and feline behaviourist and trainer, that world would re-surface and interact. However, my colleagues at The Bark magazine in the US alerted me to a new “dog opera” dedicated to promoting canine rehoming.

Pepito is a short work created by New Opera West, co-founded by Emily Thebaut and composer Mark Weiser as a non-profit for creating new work. It has been produced as an animation by Esperanza Guevara and Connor Jacobs and a live version.

Many New Opera West company members own or foster cats or dogs and composer Nicholas Lell Benavides was even inspired to adopt a dog after creating Pepito. The Company also worked with Muttville, an organisation that rehomes older dogs.

Taking on a dog is a massive commitment and a dog that has been through the rehoming process maybe multiple times is even more of a challenge. Pepito may be a resource helping to clear the shelters and may even introduce a new audience to the opera art form. Perhaps they might commission a work that will help to prevent the shelters filling up in the first place? Watch this space!

Paws For Thought

It is common for dogs to be refused access on the grounds of poor hygiene even when this is illegal. A survey by Guide Dogs found that 75% of assistance dog owners had been refused access to a restaurant, shop or taxi. 33% of assistance dog owners surveyed were refused entry to a minicab or taxi because the driver claimed an allergy but did not hold a valid medical exemption certificate. 20% of assistance dog owners surveyed said that a minicab or taxi arrived but the driver drove off without even speaking to them.

Owners of non-assistance dogs have experienced similar problems with access being refused unreasonably and often due to ignorance and prejudice.

So it is helpful that a new study from the Utrecht University found that 72% of dog paws were negative for Enterobacteriaceae compared to 42% of handlers’ shoe soles. They also had significantly lower bacterial counts. C. difficile, a concerning source of hospital-acquired infection, was found on the soles of one assistance dog user. 81% of the assistance dog users in the study had been denied access with their current dog once or several times for reasons of hygiene.

The study authors concluded “The general hygiene of dogs’ paws is far better than that of shoe soles…Thus, hygiene measures to reduce any contamination due to dog paws do not seem necessary.”

Lucy’s Loophole

Lucy's Law posterThe so-called Lucy’s Law which banned the third party sale of puppies and kittens in pet shops from April 6th, 2020 was greeted with some scepticism by canine professionals as being unlikely to have much impact on puppy farming.

The dubious sale of puppies and kittens had already largely been via websites and social media and now it seems that the puppy farmers have found a loophole enabling them to shift their animals via pet shops anyway.

A 2019 amendment to the 2018 Regulations permitted breeders to sell puppies under a pet sales licence instead of a breeders licence if a dog was bred “overseas” and thus not under the jurisdiction of English welfare legislation. DEFRA stated that this was to ensure compliance with European Union Directives and World Trade Organisation rules.

Private Eye magazine has highlighted the continuing problem of puppy farming in the six counties of Ireland and in Eire where thousands of puppy farmed dogs are being shipped to England for sale in premises owned by the very same puppy farmers who have managed to obtain 5 star ratings as licensed breeders in their English premises.

Business as usual – unless of course the source of the problem is dealt with, namely the people who buy these dogs in the first place.

A Priti Pickle

Home Secretary Priti Patel has announced that she will investigate the current spate of dog thefts and “go after” the thieves. Iain Duncan Smith has also waded in caller for tougher sentences for thefts of companion animals.

As argued previously here, there are dangers hidden in what might seem like a reasonable approach. If animals are treated as different to other forms of property, it could be the thin end of the wedge to legislating that they have “rights”, something that only a human can have. Biologists have historically described non-human animals by trying to define attributes and behaviours that are supposedly uniquely human. We are frequently finding that this is not the case as presupposed in several areas, but rights are different. Only a human can fight for rights and defend them. It is a vital distinction that humans should have legal responsibilities towards animals but that the animals themselves cannot have rights that they are incapable of comprehending or upholding.

The solution would be to treat animals as a special sort of chattel in the law; in other words, to recognise the difference between a sentient possession and a non-sentient one.

Patel stated “I’m not going to say a new law is on the way, I’m not going to promise something that not’s going to be delivered but I am looking at this right now.”

If the current statutes concerning dogs are anything to go by, “not going to be delivered” is the norm. The fact remains that owners are ignorant of the laws and even when informed, often carry on breaking them as they know that the chances of being caught are virtually non-existent.

It is easy for politicians to appeal to sentiment to gain a few positive headlines, but the fact remains that a great deal of dog theft could be prevented by owners not leaving dogs unattended, training good recall and actually paying attention to their dogs when out. Not buying dogs from puppy farms and back street breeders, often via web sites, and exercising due diligence before purchase would result in the market for stolen dogs evaporating.

…and in the meantime, if you want a Priti Pawtel dog or cat toy, contact Pet Hates Toys.

How Dogs Won The White House – and Georgia

We noted that dogs were coming back into the White House and that the Democrats made a witty add that could have been subtitled All The Presidents’ Dogs (with apologies to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein).

It seems that it was not just DC that scored by playing the canine card. Georgia was a surprise win for the Democrats and it seems that dogs played a part there – well, to be precise, a beagle called Alvin who doesn’t even belong to the successful candidate. It seems that political campaigns are rarely fought without smears and other dirty tricks these days but the US presidential election of 2020 caused even the hardiest of journalists and commentators to run out of superlatives.

Republican scare tactics against the black candidate were not pretty but the Democrats countered by setting up their man as being an apple pie regular guy, complete with borrowed dog.

Alvin must surely go down in history as being the lockdown dog par excellence and, in a country where more than half the population own at least one dog and where approximately 40% of the population are neither Caucasian or Hispanic, the numbers are clearly pro-dog.

Animal Wrongs

RSPCA logo There are not many signs of hope in 2021 so far but some good news was announced by the Countryside Alliance today concerning the RSPCA.

The RSPCA has been a toxic brand for many years. It is hard to find any people responsible for animal welfare that has a good word to say for them and the Charity Commission has been obliged to investigate their governance after several exposés. Membership declined and the board of governors became dysfunctional and politically influenced by the so-called animal rights movement. £330,000 of supporters’ money was spent in unsuccessfully trying to prosecute just two members of the Heythrop Hunt as just one example of scandalous behaviour. There was a glimmer of hope RSPCA To Prioritise Animal Welfare At Last in 2016 when yet another CEO, Jeremy Cooper, acknowledged that the charity had become “too adversarial” and will now be “a lot less political”. He was swiftly sent packing by the board as punishment. By 2018, the Charity Commission had placed the RSPCA in special measures which have now been eased.

It is to be hoped that the RSPCA may return to its original remit to improve animal welfare because, goodness knows, there is still a great deal of need out there.

Passing Out

Dog travel kit and passport At the 11th hour, it has been announced that the UK will be a Part 2 Listed Country within the Pet Passport Scheme.

In brief, current EU pet passports issued in GB will not be valid for travel to the EU or the six counties of northern Ireland from January 1st, 2021.
Dogs, cats and ferrets travelling to the EU or the six counties of northern Ireland for the first time after that date will require an Animal Health Certificate (AHC) instead of a pet passport and must be microchipped (compulsory for dogs in the UK anyway), older than 12 weeks and vaccinated against rabies. Travel is not permitted within 21 days after the primary rabies vaccination. Thereafter, booster vaccinations will be required for further travel. Details must be completed in the passport and must be completely accurate, otherwise travel will not be permitted.

Tapeworm treatment must be given no less than 24 hours and no more than 120 hours (5 days) before arrival and recorded in the passport if entering another country before travelling to Finland, Ireland, Malta or Norway. This is not required if travelling directly from the UK. The treatment must contain praziquantel or an equivalent proven to be effective against Echinococcus multilocularis.

The immediate implications for travel are that it will require considerably more planning. This may mean that owners will chose not to undertake casual travel such as short holidays which can only be of benefit to their animals. It may also have a positive impact in reducing the diseases that are transmitted and imported.

A 2019 study found that 89% of dogs imported to the UK, often so-called “rescue” dogs, were illicitly imported using a Pet Passport rather than via the required Balai Directive. 14.8% of the dogs in the study that were tested for the zoonosis Leishmaniasis were positive; just one example of the risks to humans and other animals from imported dogs.

There is also a possibility that it may reduce the number of puppy farmed dogs being imported, but of course that pre-supposes that sufficient resources are being implemented into border force controls.

China Plates

Chinese dog What we now designate as the territories of China are one of the areas where dogs self-evolved at least 15,000 years ago giving the world Asiastic dogs such as the Chow Chow and Shar Pei. The Chinese are not the only people in the word to take a utilitarian approach to dogs and they have served as many purposes in China over millennia as they have elsewhere – including being a source of food.

However, China has been undergoing rapid social change in recent decades with a wealthier population that is far more open to influence from the rest of the world than ever before.

This has had an effect on companion dog ownership as in all other areas of life, but the attitudes of the authorities have not caught up with the desire for many Chinese dog owners to see their dogs as family members. As in the rest of the world, dog ownership is big business; one indication of changing attitudes to dogs.

Bejing mandated that keeping dogs as companions was forbidden as recently as the 1980s and the effects of the horrific Cultural Revolution meant that keeping animals as companions was regarded as unacceptably bourgeois. All this is changing and, although just 5.7% of households owned a dog in 2019 (10% of the comparable number in the USA), the number is rising and it amounts to approximately 1.36 million dogs. China is also responsible for 20% of the world’s feral dog population.

Tensions between authorities and owners are still evident and, although some areas are bringing in welfare regulations and compulsory microchipping, Yunnan province, notorious for its new annual dog meat festival, mandated on November 13th that dogs must be kept indoors at all times in order to “promote civilised dog-raising habits”. Shanghai, Qingdao and Chengdu have strict one-dog per household policies and Huangshi bans the breeding of dogs larger than 17″ high – that’s about the height of a terrier.

Dog owners, many young, single and female, are not taking this lying down in spite of the fact that the mandate states that, after fining the owner for two violations, dogs will be seized and euthanised if the rules are violated three times. Social media has helped to promote the backlash so let us hope that the emphasis will be on education and responsible dog ownership rather than on causing greater welfare problems and death for dogs.