AS FOOT and Mouth disease continues to spread throughout the countryside, with almost a 1,000 cases now reported, the outlook for dog shows remains grim. More shows have been cancelled and postponed for fear of spreading the virus. However, exhibitors and show committees alike are now beginning to question the advisability of further cancellations.
One exhibitor, who wishes to remain anonymous, spoke out about the postponement of a recent championship show. "The fact is, the venue where the show was due to be held is still open for other events, such as craft fairs, antique fairs and, just the other day, a motor show. Now, people come from all over the country to an event like that, and what's to say that a lot of them aren't from areas where's there's foot and mouth?
"But I didn't see any foot dips, or disinfected carpets at the entrance to the motor show. Why are animal shows being made the scapegoats? If anything, dogs are cleaner and better protected against foot and mouth by their owners than anyone traipsing in to an antique fair or motor show.
"Personally, I think show committees are panicking unnecessarily. If we take precautions, then dog shows shouldn't present any more threat to spreading foot and mouth than any other event."
This exhibitor's views are being echoed up and down the UK as the FMD crisis rages on. Several dog shows are now going to proceed, despite the crisis, with as many precautionary measures installed as possible. Even MAFF, on its own official website, recognises that the risk of indirect transmission of FMD at organised events is low, it does give a few helpful guidelines on how best to stage an event, especially one where animals are present.
These include a change of clothing and footwear, along with a thorough wash of oneself - including hair - with soap and hot water.
As for dog shows, many events are now being staged with precautions in place. The Sheffield Kennel Association's open show, scheduled for March 4 at Newark Showground was postponed until April 19, and will now be staged at Alfreton Leisure Centre. Show Secretary Mick Horan told OUR DOGS: "We've done the best we can. We can only advise people who live in infected areas not to come to the show, and most people are sensible about this and the risk of spreading the disease anyway.
"We have bought a large quantity of mild disinfectant from a pharmaceutical supplier and also a large quantity of carpeting. The carpet will be placed at the entrance to the show hall and soaked in disinfectant, so that people can disinfect the soles of their shoes. This has cost the show committee over a hundred pounds, but it's a worthwhile investment if it means our show can go ahead. I think other shows will be following suit, because I think we can all only do our best to take precautions and keep things as normal as possible."
MAFF, meanwhile, continues to advise that it has no policy on animal shows, but advises that if the show is due to be staged in a rural area where FMD outbreaks have been reported, then it would be best if the show was postponed and relocated to a more urban environment.
. MAFF has set up a helpline for callers wanting general advice on Foot and Mouth Disease. Tel: 0845 0504141 (local rate charges) between 8.00 am and 11.00 pm, seven days a week. Or check MAFF's website for up to date news on Foot and Mouth: www.maff.gov.uk
. Mick Horan, Show Secretary of the Sheffield Kennel Association looks forward to greeting exhibitors to the show, now due to be staged on Thursday, April 19th at Alfreton Leisure Centre from 4.00 pm.
"The Leisure Centre is being renovated at this time," says Mick. "Hopefully, all work will be over by the show is staged, and the venue will be even better than it already is. If there are still any works in progress, which are obviously being carried out by Alfreton Council, then we apologise for any inconvenience these may cause, but we don't envisage them preventing us from staging an excellent show."
For further details of the show, telephone Mick Horan on: 0114 243 5776.