Yesterday, two dogs were uppermost in my mind for very different reasons. A boy was killed by a dog in Caerphilly in a rare, but headline-grabbing incident. Details are still emerging, but the dog was shot at the scene.
The other situation could not have been more different but still resulted in the death of the dog. This dog had been entrusted to a dog walker who allowed the dog off lead on a cliff edge.
What links the incidents, quite apart from the devastation of the losses to the people concerned, is that they were both entirely preventable. In the first case, there are simply too few resources available to promote responsible dog ownership, starting with the breeding and purchase of dogs. In the second, too many unqualified, inexperienced people are entrusted with care of dogs. We will never eliminate accidents but it beggars belief that anyone would allow a dog off lead in such a potentially dangerous environment. It is never worth the risk. Whether it’s attacks on livestock or dogs off lead alongside roads, owners and carers of dogs need to stop being so arrogant as to think that their dog will not cause an incident and maybe lose its own life in the process. We also need to professionalise dog care with accredited training and licensing a requirement for all. Of course all the licensing and training in the world will only work if owners check documentation and not hand their dog over without proper interviews and full, written instructions to carers.
The wearing of red poppies to commemorate war dead began in France in 1921 but is not without controversy. Phrases such as the “glorious dead” conflicted with those who wished to recognise that ordinary men and women should be commemorated, but that there is nothing glorious about war.
Recently, the contribution that animals made and continue to make alongside humans in conflicts has been acknowledged by a purple poppy and, of course, by the dramatic Animals In War Memorial in Hyde Park, London.
So this year, why not go purple and support Murphy’s Army and their beneficiaries across canine services.
I’m adding a white poppy too.
The 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.
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.
So don’t tear your hair out about your dog (or you) shedding – put it to good use!
If you got a dog over lockdown or got a dog without waiting then the chances are that you got a dog from an illegal back street breeder or a puppy farm. 200 dogs were seized from a puppy farmer in Wales on September 17th. Some were fly-struck, 15 were seriously ill. In total there were 5 bitches nursing 18 puppies, 5 gravid bitches and 20 more adult dogs. Bichon Frises, Shih Tzus, Cockerpoos, Cavaliers, Labradors and Cocker Spaniels were all seized.
If you were expecting to get a dog in the next few weeks then maybe one of these was destined for your home.
Some of the dogs will be bale to find new homes but every time that ne of these dogs is sold or “rescued”, a space is created for another one.
There is an easy way to stop this trade.
Don’t expect to get a dog as if it were a click and collect item and think twice before going to a small “rescue”. That fashionable Cockerpoo that you got on demand was fuelling the abhorrent trade in dogs and you are as much a part of the problem as the criminals profiting from it.
Want advice on buying a dog or cat? Go to a qualified professional.
Do dogs lie? Although people often attribute dogs with far more cognitive ability than they are capable of (and far less for that matter), a new study suggests that dogs practice deception.
260 dogs were trained to find hidden food in one of two covered bowls. The dogs then learned to follow the suggestion of a person they had never met who indicated which bowl contained the food. The dogs appeared to trust the new person and, once this was established, the dogs watched as another person moved the food from the first to the second bowl. The communicators were either in the room and also witnessed the switch or were briefly absent. In both instances, the communicators then recommend the first bowl which was now empty.
Half of the dogs followed the communicator’s misleading advice if the communicator hadn’t witnessed the food switch. However roughly two-thirds of the dogs ignored the communicator who had witnessed the food switch but still recommended the empty bowl.
This is more complicated, cognitively, than it appears as it suggests that dogs have at least partial theory of mind – the ability to understand and take into account another individual’s mental state.
This is video of my late dog being distracted – did Lily know what she was doing?
Dogs can have a lot of safe fun, but never let a dog go into water that you don’t know. Hidden hazards include débris, currents, tangling weed and pollutants. be especially careful of water that is an unusual colour; toxic algae can turn water turquoise, green, blue, red and brown and can be fatal to dogs and humans. Seawater can make a dog’s skin dry and flaky and the coat dull, particularly if they are susceptible to skin irritations. Always rinse off seawater with freshwater and make sure that your dog does not drink it. Seawater can be polluted and contain harmful flotsam especially after heavy rains when sewage may have been discharged directly from outflows.
Rivers can be dangerous at low tide as mud can engulf dogs and humans very quickly.
Use a harness and a long line so that you can control your dog at all times and if you do get into trouble, contact the coastguard on 999.
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.
DEFRA launched an Action Plan for Animal Welfare last month detailing many reforms that affect companion animals in addition to farm and working animals. Briefly:
- The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act will increase the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty from six months to five years from June 29th, 2021
- Legislation will be drafted to introduce a new system of penalty notices for animal cruelty
- The number of dogs, cats and ferrets that can be moved under non-commercial travel rules will be reduced
- The minimum age that dogs can be moved or imported commercially into Great Britain will be increased
- Restrictions will be placed on the movement of pregnant dogs into Great Britain
- It will be an offence to import docks with cropped ears or docked tails or other cosmetic procedure that impacts on welfare
- A taskforce has been established to crack down on theft
- Microchipping will be compulsory for cats and a review will be undertaken of current microchip database systems, including consideration of making it compulsory for vets to scan microchips before euthanasia
- Pursue the licensing of animal sanctuaries, rescue and rehoming centres
- Ban remote controlled electronic training collars (‘e-collars’)
- Consider further protections for racing greyhounds
- Review the dangerous dogs legislation.
There is much that is laudable in this plan but, as ever, it will only be effective if backed by sufficient resources.
A dog is for life not just for the honeymoon? Throughout the decades from ten to fifty years of marriage, an average of a third will end in divorce. Cohabitation appears to lead to a greater chance of splitting up later in the relationship.
Many more couples are deciding not to reproduce which can mean that dogs and other companion animals become substitutes. Of course, many people get dogs because they want to live with a dog and, if they don’t want children anyway, have nothing to substitute. However, lots of companion animals are ending up being the subject of disputes when relationships collapse. A 2019 survey undertaken on behalf of insurers Direct Line found that 28,500 divorce cases a year involves custody of a companion animal, an average of 90 per day.
This causes huge problems because, of course companion animals are regarded in law as chattels but require as much care and consideration, as human offspring. Sensible couples are discussing such possibilities before they live together and can now avail themselves of a legal agreement. Divorce lawyers Lloyd Platt & Co have collaborated with the Blue Cross to produce pro-forma documents in an attempt to reduce the number of animals that are surrendered for re-homing as well as to reduce the amount of acrimony caused by fighting over care.
There are two forms available; a simple Deed of Agreement that sets out who will take ownership in the event of a break-up and a more detailed Pet Nup. The Deed of Agreement can be used by anyone with joint care of a companion animal, for instance siblings or friends and considers designated ownership, responsibility for care and financial obligations. It also requires regular review. The Pre Nup goes into more details including who will be registered on the microchip database, who will be legally responsible in the event of any breeches of the law, rights for selling on or otherwise disposing of the animal to a third party, default ownership in the event of lack of compliance with the agreement, finances, including vet fees, holiday arrangements, breeding, accommodation (for instance landlord’s consent) and changes to or ending of the agreement.
Neither agreement overrides the law regarding companion animals, but Lloyd Platt believe that there is no reason why it should not be enforceable and at least indicates the intentions of the parties involved. Considering such an agreement also means that the subject is raised in advance – prepare for the worst, expect the best!