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?

Congratulations Manchester – Buck Up Nottingham

Following a three month trial. It looks as if Manchester are going sanction canine travel. About time too.

They will limit it to two dogs per person and not allow dogs on at busy times, but at least it’s a step forward.

Unfortunately Nottingham still restricts access to assistance dogs (they have no choice as it’s a legal requirement) or insist that dogs are carried in bags – not possible for many breeds. Come on Nottingham: 26% of the country own at least one dog and not everyone can drive and they have a right to travel too. Surely, even if people d drive, it’s better that they use mass transport anyway.

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.

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.

(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.

 

Foot In Mouth Disease

RSPCA logo Not for the first time, the RSPCA has proved how out of touch it is with the public whom it purports to serve.

This time, it is jumping on the bandwagon of the “cost of living crisis” with advice that includes the following:

“…why not explore whether there is a cheaper food that is still high welfare and meets your pets’ needs? You could mix your regular food with a cheaper brand to make it stretch further…

Did you know it can be cheaper to buy medication online? Your vet can write you a prescription for a small fee and you can order medication online which is usually much cheaper than buying direct from the vet…

Ditch the pet-sitter

We all know not to leave our pets at home all day on their own; professional pet-sitters and dog walkers are often a lifeline but they can be pricey. Do you have trusted friends or family who could help take care of your pet when you’re on holiday or walk your dog if you’re out all day? Or why not start up a responsible community group where you all help each other out with pet care? Just remember to introduce your pets to new people gradually and ensure they are comfortable with their new friends before leaving them in charge.’

Well thanks a bunch RSPCA; that really helps to professionalise the industry and ensure that owners employ fully accredited, qualified professionals.  Not to mention encouraging owners to feed poor quality, cheap food. Presumably they have not heard that there is plenty of evidence linking behavioural problems with poor nutrition.

They also don’t seem to be able to see beyond the end of their noses: if people choose not to buy prescription medication from their vet then the vets will be undermined and will end up being more expensive as they need to make up for the loss of revenue elsewhere. It is of course also a slippery slope to then buy over the counter preparations that contribute to parasites becoming more prevalent and resistant to prophylactics.

Great for animal welfare – NOT.

Beach Bummer

Beach Bummer May Day saw the widespread introduction of dog bans on beaches across the UK.

This is paradoxical in the light, not only of the hugely increase in the number of dog owners in there last two years, but the realisation of many businesses seeking recovery from two years of lockdown restrictions, that encouraging dog owners makes good financial sense. Because Brexit resulted in changes to the Pet Passport Scheme, it is now harder to travel abroad with dogs, cats and ferrets which may deter there casual traveller (as might the continuing problems with air, rail and ferries).

The stated aim is to provide people with the opportunity to avoid dogs.

What a pity the same cannot be effected for children.

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.

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”.