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(Updated 09/03/01)

Foot and Mouth Crisis: Shows Cancel


THE ONGOING outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease shows no signs of abating, with close on 20 new cases reported last weekend on farms in England and Wales, and outbreaks now having been discovered in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The current outbreak is far worse than the last major outbreak in 1967 in terms of its range, as Scotland was not affected at that time.


The Dog Fancy, too, is reeling from the effects of FMD, as dozens of shows have now been cancelled or postponed, including the Kennel Club’s own flagship event, Crufts, which was due to take place at the NEC, Birmingham, this week.


Many of the affected events were to have been staged at agricultural show grounds, or in fields in rural areas, so the show and venue hire authorities had no choice but to cancel, due to the risk of spreading FMD further. However, even events being staged in leisure centres in towns are not 100 per cent safe, as exhibitors travelling from rural areas where FMD outbreaks have been reported may still bring the disease to the venue, as FMD virus is a ‘vector’, and may be carried by other animals, on clothing and other items. Exhibitors from such areas who are entered to dog shows are being urged to stay away by both show committees and MAFF, in order to contain the disease.


Several shows at Newark Agricultural Showground have now been cancelled or postponed, due to the decision made late last week by the Newark & Nottinghamshire Agricultural Society to stop the movement of animals and people into the showground, following consultation with MAFF. The Society’s Chief Executive Adrian Johnstone had written to the canine press last week to outline the safety measures put in place to prevent the spread of the disease for dogs and exhibitors entering the showground. The measures included car wheel disinfection pads at all entrance gates, disinfected mats at all building entrances and a stipulation that dogs be kept on leads and only exercised in a designated area at the showground.


However, the Society’s Management Committee took the decision to place a hold on all events until further notice at a meeting late last Thursday.


One of the affected shows due to have been staged at Newark last weekend was Sheffield KA. Show Manager Mick Horan said. “Of course it was a great blow, but we understand what the Society are up against. We had 960 dogs entered, and we attempted to telephone every exhibitor from Thursday onwards to tell them of the show’s cancellation. We also announced the postponement on three local radio stations in the area. Many exhibitors contacted us and, I have to say, not one exhibitor was angry or abusive, none of them demanded their money back. This shows the dog fancy at its best. We send our thanks to everyone for their acceptance of a difficult situation.”


Entries honoured
Mr Horan added that the show would be re-staged at Alfreton Leisure Centre on April 19th and that all entries made for the March show would be honoured. “Anybody who had dogs entered under Puppy or Junior will still be able to have their dogs entered as Puppy or Junior, even if they are out of that age group by April,” he said. “There is a rule which allows us to do this, although not everyone is aware of it.”


Newark’s Chief Executive Adrian Johnstone told OUR DOGS: “This wasn’t a decision we made lightly, but we have to be seen to contain the spread of the disease. We have therefore cancelled all events held at the showground up to and including March 18th, and will be reviewing the situation each Wednesday on a week-by-week basis. This Wednesday we will make a decision whether to open for shows staged between Monday March 19th and Monday, March 26th, although I have to say it doesn’t look promising, due to the large number of outbreaks last weekend.


“Obviously, we regret the inconvenience this has caused dog show societies. It is a costly business, and has cost the Society £125,000 for the loss of just one week’s business. We hope that the situation will return to normal as soon as possible, and please rest assured we are doing all that we can to reach this goal.”


Other shows which may be affected by the closure of Newark Showground include: Rhodesian Ridgeback Open (March 24, North Lincolnshire Canine Society (March 25th) and the Irish Setter Championship Show (March 31st). Exhibitors at these events are urged to contact the show secretaries concerned for further information.


Malvern Showground has closed its doors to canine events, although it did, apparently, allow an Antiques Fair to go ahead last weekend, despite the fact that people will still attend such an event from areas possibly affected by FMD.


Review


The Three Counties Championship Show due to be staged at Malvern on June 10 - 13 is still due to go ahead, although the situation, as with other shows held in the coming months, is under constant review.


Similarly, Birmingham National, due to be staged at the NEC from April 12 to 14 is still going ahead. Show Secretary Jane Valentine told OUR DOGS: “We are still planning on staging the show, but the situation is under constant review. How long will the Foot and Mouth outbreak last? How long is a piece of string? The fact is, no-one knows.”
Shows due to be staged at Wood Green Animal Shelter at Godmanchester, Cambridgeshire, have also been hit by the FMD outbreak.


Derek Smith, Marketing Manager commented: “Basically, we have stopped the public from entering the site, and have isolated all our cloven hoofed animals. We’ve situated disinfected wheel and foot dips at all entrances and are taking constant advice from MAFF and our own Veterinary Surgeon. Although we are still holding private functions in our conference area, all other events held in our halls have been cancelled for the foreseeable future. Our Chief Executive has taken the decision to allow the continuation of the re-homing of animals for the time being and we are reviewing the situation regularly.”


Across the Irish Sea, the St. Patrick’s Day show (17th & 18th March) and the Combined Canine Club Show on April 14th have both been “postponed”. There are tentative plans for new dates, although neither show society has divulged these yet.