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(Updated 2/5/01)

Northern Ireland shows the way

A SMALL glimmer of hope for an end to the foot and mouth crisis was gained last week when a MAFF scientist noted the slowdown of reported outbreaks of the disease on farms.

This welcome news coincided with a general upward trend of optimism amongst dog enthusiasts as Birmingham National was staged without apparent incident two weeks ago. More and more canine societies are sticking to their guns to stage their shows as planned, despite the continuing concern and, in some cases, over-caution of others involved in the staging of such events.

Meanwhile, MAFF in the UK remain consistent in their failure to provide any firm guidelines or leadership to the animal fancies regarding the staging of shows. However, the Ministry’s counterpart in Northern Ireland, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development have produced clear, comprehensive and far-reaching guidelines relating to dog showing and the transportation of dogs to any such events, both in Northern Ireland and the British mainland.

In response to questions on this matter by Jackie Stubbs, Secretary of the Belfast Dog Show Society, DARD produced the guidelines and recommendations last week. A letter was sent by Brian Murphy from DARD to Mr Stubbs, outlining the Department’s views on the matter:

* No dogs should be allowed to roam on agricultural land.
* Dogs which have, or may have, been on infected land or areas whether in GB or NI, should be kept in a vehicle until they reach their destination and should then be housed for a period of at least 72 hours (a form of house quarantine - Ed).
* All dogs which have, or may have, been in GB or on infected lands or areas should be washed in a disinfectant solution suitable for use on dogs and capable of killing FMD virus. (Ask your veterinary surgeon for advice).
* No dogs should travel from GB to Northern Ireland unless they have a very good reason for doing so.
* There should not be gatherings of dogs, owners, officials or spectators until the crisis is over.

In the face of such unequivocal advice, there seems to be little by way of further explanation required from DARD. However, earlier this week Mr Murphy spoke to OUR DOGS to clarify any remaining points of concern.

Asked what he felt about a large number of exhibitors from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland attending Birmingham National two weeks ago, Mr Murphy said: “Well, obviously we aren’t to know necessarily when a large number of dog exhibitors set off for a show on the mainland, nor would we expect them to contact us. I should think that most of the exhibitors and their dogs travelled by plane, which does limit the problem somewhat.

However, if any took the ferry to England then drove to the venue, I would hope that they would take note of our guideline and ensure that their dogs were confined in their cars for the journey, and for them to kept under control and away from infected areas when out of the cars.

“Basically, we’re asking people to use their commonsense. It would be better, under the circumstances as they are now, for no shows to go ahead in Northern Ireland, but if people are travelling to the mainland to show their dogs, please be aware of the safety precautions.”

Mr Murphy was unable to shed any further light on rumours that dogs brought over to Southern Ireland on ferries from Anglesey had been seized and quarantined due to FMD concerns. “I think if that had been taking place, we’d have heard about it, as we are liaising closely with our opposite numbers in the Republic and also in London,” he added.