Foot & Mouth - precautions are still essential
WHILST THE war on terrorism continues to dominate the news headlines -news of the UK's terrible Foot and Mouth epidemic seems to have been forgotten, or at least sidelined, by most of the media. However, much as the Government and its new Rural Affairs department may be pleased that the crisis - and their mis-handling of it - is no longer big news, the fact is, the disease is still causing major problems in many rural areas.
These 'hotspots' range from as far afield as Devon, Yorkshire and Cumbria - more farmers are having their precious stock destroyed, funeral pyres for the slain animals still send smoke over a wide area, and the army are still out in force helping to get the carcasses buried.
Even with the burial, problems occur, just a few months ago a number of carcasses in one area had to be exhumed and re-buried, as they had contaminated the water supply to two villages.
Dog owners and enthusiasts continue to be affected by the spectre of FMD, although not, of course, to the same extent as the farming industry. Although most public footpaths closed at the height of the crisis are now open, many farmers are justifiably angry that the restrictions of public access have been removed prematurely, as there are still cases of the disease being reported.
There are, however, still many strict guidelines for dog walkers and ramblers to adhere to when visiting the countryside.
Earlier this year, many dog shows were postponed or cancelled due to the crisis, although many canine enthusiasts felt rightfully aggrieved that dogs were being made a scapegoat as potential vectors for the disease. Whilst many venues closed their doors for dog shows, they remained open for antique fairs, motor shows and similar events, drawing in visitors from all over the country - all just as capable of spreading FMD spores as dogs or dog owners.
Of course, Crufts was the biggest show to suffer from postponement, but its re-staging in late May proved successful and without obvious incident. The trail was blazed by the Birmingham National championship show, also staged at the NEC, when the show committee pressed ahead with the event, providing disinfected foot mats for people and dogs to walk on as a precaution. These measures were soon put in place by other show societies and showground authorities, enabling shows to proceed as planned.
Whilst MAFF in the UK dithered and fudged, failing to provide any firm guidelines on the staging of any animal shows in relation to FMD, the Ministry's counterpart in Northern Ireland, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development 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, which were published some weeks ago in OUR DOGS.
Back in the UK, the Kennel Club's view on the matter remains unchanged, and the KC still offers help and advice to societies on the staging of dog shows in or near affected areas.
A spokesman for the Kennel Club told OUR DOGS: "Many Canine Societies throughout the country have been affected by the Foot and Mouth crisis. Whilst some canine events were able to postpone and then reschedule, some had to cancel for 2001. The Kennel Club continues to receive enquiries and correspondence regarding the issue - although not on the scales received between March and August - and remains sympathetic to the societies' predicaments."
OUR DOGS would be pleased to hear from any clubs or societies which is still experiencing problems with the staging of shows due to Foot and Mouth Disease, in order that a further update on the matter can be published.