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”.

Droning On

Droning OnThe Cumbre Vieja volcan0 on La Palma, Spain has been erupting since September. Dogs have been abandoned and are now trapped by molten lava.

Although permits are required to transport dogs by air in Spain, attempts are being made to air lift the weak and hungry dogs using drones.

The drones weigh 50kg and are equipped with wide nets. The drone operators have just 4 minutes to lure the dogs into the nets and another 4 to fly them to safety before the battery capacity is exhausted.

The world is waiting with baited breath to see if this first ever attempt to use this technique will succeed.

 

Hair Of The Dog

Hair Of The Dog Can you knit another dog from the hair that your dog sheds? Do you get through vacuum cleaners at twice the rate of your dog-less friends (if you have any)? Do you have take special measures to keep at least one suit of clothes free from dog hair?

I know how you feel, but nil desperandum – dog hair is not only useful for insulating and waterproofing dogs.

It appears that dog and human hair can be used for cleaning up oil spills. Speaking as a long-haired person who sheds almost as much as my dog, I find that quite cheering. The non-profit organisation, Matter of Trust, collects donations of human and canine hair to make mats and booms with recycled nylon tights (and I can ruin a pair of those just by looking at them, so it’s a win win for me). They particularly want ponytails that are 4 inches or longer (I draw the line there – my 18 inches are staying put). They even take donations of laundry lint.

Alabama hairdresser Phil McCrory invented the hair mat following the Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska and they have been used to mop up oil after many other incidents.

So don’t tear your hair out about your dog (or you) shedding – put it to good use!

 

Coughing Up

Canine infectious upper respiratory tract infection, commmonly known as kennel cough, is very prevalent at the moment.

It is caused by various agents including Bordetella bronchiseptica (Bb), canine adenovirus type 2 (CAV-2), canine distemper virus (CDV), canine herpesvirus (CHV), canine parainfluenza virus (CPiV), canine influenza virus (CIV), canine respiratory coronavirus (CRCoV) and canine pneumovirus (CnPnV). Dogs are likely to carry round some of these pathogens without problems, but an increase in viral load or the amount of the Bordatella bacterium can produce the characteristic signs of a hacking cough, loss of appetite, lethargy and raised temperature. It may sound as of your dog has something stuck in his throat as the cough often ends with a gagging acton, similar to human whooping cough.

It gained the name kennel cough because it is highly infectious and often endemic in kennel environments. Dogs can pick it up from the air, from fomites (human hands, clothing bedding etc) and from infected dogs. Cats and rabbits can also catch it and, very rarely, humans.

Generally speaking, most dogs will recover with rest but always check with a vet if you have a puppy or older dog or the signs are severe. Your vet can advise you about administering cough medicine to help your dog – and you – get some sleep.

Most importantly, keep your dog away from other dogs and keep exercise down to a minimum. You can vaccinate against Bordetella bronchiseptica and it will usually be required (two weeks beforehand to allow immunity to develop) if you board your dog with a reputable kennels.