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Review of the Year 2002 - Part Two

MAY

A WHITE Standard Poodle who was ‘misappropriated’ from an RSPCA shelter was reunited with his Australian owners after he was discovered wandering by a Liverpool river.

Prince was owned (coincidentally) by Norman and Carol Prince from York. The Princes lived in Australia for many years until returning to England two years ago. Prince was microchipped twice, once in Australia and once in the UK, and also wore a collar with a name tag.

The couple were staying at a relative’s house in Liverpool over the Easter weekend when their dog escaped by accident.

Soon after Prince was taken in at the RSPCA’s Higher Road, Liverpool centre, a couple visiting the centre made a fuss of Prince. The couple said they were looking for a replacement dog and expressed an interest in Prince, However, no rehoming was being undertaken at the time, so staff at the centre took a name and address from the couple.
This later was checked and found to be false.

Shortly after Prince had been taken in, a woman telephoned the centre to say her sister’s standard poodle Prince was missing. Staff told her that Prince was at the kennels and a man came to the centre and claimed him.

It was then established by Carol and Norman Prince that at no time was Prince scanned for his microchips, despite RSPCA policy that all strays being brought to rescue centres are scanned as a matter of course.

The Manageress did not ask for proof of identity of ownership of the dog from the man who claimed him, again in breach of RSPCA protocols.

Thankfully, Prince was found wandering by the river at Otters Pool the following day, Saturday, by young mother Jeanette Earle. Miss Earle took the dog home and fed him, finding him to be extremely hungry. A friend told her that she had seen the posters indicating that Prince was missing, so contact was duly made with Norman and Carol.

There was an emotional reunion between dog and owners after they drove back to Liverpool to collect him.

Helen Briggs, a press officer for the RSPCA told OUR DOGS: "It is very unusual for an incident like this to happen. We will be carrying out an investigation to find out what has happened and why. At this stage it would appear that a mistake has been made and our usual policy has not been followed."

THE RSPCA were in the news again with the publication of their cruelty statistics which made grim and depressing reading. Of the 1,971 cases prosecuted by the Society during 2001, 1, 761 (89%) were basic neglect cases. Interestingly – and perhaps offering slight encouragement, cruelty to dogs in 2001 stood at 871 cases, whereas ten years before in 1991, it had stood at 1,333 cases.

THE CONSULTATION period for the Animal Welfare Bill formally came to an end, but speculation was rife when several national newspapers published stories claiming that the Government was planning a ‘Bill of Rights’ for animals. The RSPCA pre-empted comments by Minister Elliot Morley by calling for a ‘Duty of Care’ for animals, which several newspapers interpreted as a ‘Bill of Rights’.

OUR DOGS spoke to Phil Alder of DEFRA, who has been undertaking receipt of all communications during the consultation stage of the Bill. Mr Alder said: "I can categorically confirm that DEFRA, not Mr Morley has any intention of introducing a ‘bill of rights’ as referred to in the press recently. This appears to have emanated form some other source. All communications from all parties are now being sifted through and considered before the draft law is even framed.

"There have been no decisions taken as to what may or may not be included in the Bill."
OUR DOGS’ spoke to Ann Grain, head of Press at the RSPCA and put some direct questions to her regarding the ‘Duty of Care’ charter which the charity would like to see introduced, preferably as part of the draft Animal Welfare Bill, as well as some of the Society’s plans for further enforcement of the animal cruelty laws. Answers, however, were not particularly forthcoming

NM: With regard to the minimum standards of housing etc for cats, rabbits, rats etc, has the RSPCA consulted with any specialist organisations and fancies on these animals' requirements?

AG: Everyone should have an opportunity to say what would be in their standards. We haven't developed the specifics - that's for the Government to do.

NM: How would these minimum standards be enforced?

AG: The laws will be enforced in the way they have always been enforced. And the RSPCA would follow up complaints in the way we have always done.

NM: Most people would agree that stiffer sentences and bans on animal keeping are needed for serious cruelty offenders. But is it true that the RSPCA is seeking the power to enter a person's premises - without a warrant - on the mere suspicion of animal cruelty being perpetrated or about to be perpetrated? Surely this is a form of 'sus' law?

AG: We agree that we would like see increased penalties for certain categories of cases and greater use of lifetime bans. However, in our proposal we have not sought to gain entry into premises without a warrant. We have, however, asked for clarification of police powers in the area of animal welfare.

NM: If all smaller animal rescues and charities are licensed and have to pass some sort of test, would this not, in some cases, compromise animal welfare? Several small rescues (which I have spoken to) take in animals which the RSPCA cannot, for whatever reason, take in. Some of these charities and rescues refuse to put animals to sleep simply because homes cannot be found for them, which of course, the RSPCA has to do in some cases.
AG: It is only right that institutions taking in animals meet certain criteria in providing for these animals. The Government has made statements recognising the issue of small sanctuaries and is keen not to see them close down.

NM: If a "Duty of Care" was enshrined within the Animal Welfare Bill, who would decide or arbitrate on what is adequate care? Would this be the RSPCA alone?

AG: The 'Duty of Care' should come from a code of practice that has been adequately consulted upon.

Ms Grain added: "Just to reiterate, a lot more work needs to be done before codes of practice are drawn up for any species, and that would have to be done as part of a wide consultation process. Any interested body would be entitled to submit draft codes to the government for consideration. At this stage, the RSPCA is merely putting forward as a principle the duty of care expected based on the recognised Five Freedoms - as outlined in our recent press release."

SAD NEWS with the announcement of the death of a hardened political campaigner this month. Staffordshire Bull Terrier ‘Spike’, owned by Conservative MP and long-time campaigner for dogs’ rights Andrew Rossindell.

Mr Rossindell, 35, is a life-long dog lover and has been accompanied by Spike throughout his political career, first as Chairman of the Young Conservatives, then as a Councillor for Havering Town Council and in two previous General Election campaigns. It was a case of 'third time lucky' when Andrew hit the campaign trail, accompanied as ever by the faithful Spike sporting his special Union Jack waistcoat.

"I owe so much to Spike," Mr Rossindell said at the time. "There's no doubt that people warmed to me through him, and our obvious patriotism. I think people respond to anyone who genuinely believes in what they're saying and that's why the people of Romford voted me into office. But there was a huge Spike vote, and I'll always be grateful to him for that."

Spike had been somewhat off-colour for several weeks leading up to his death, but on the morning of Tuesday, April 23rd, he seemed reasonably happy and delighted at sitting out in the Rossindell family garden in the warm sunshine.

It is believed that Spike suffered a massive heart attack and died instantly and was found lying by his food bowl as though he’d just fallen asleep.

Spike was by my side through three General Election campaigns and several local election campaigns," recalls Mr Rossindell. "It was thanks to Spike that Havering Town Hall admitted dogs. I was a new councillor and pretty rebellious and I used to take Spike into the town hall with me. Somebody pointed out that there was a ‘No Dogs’ sign there, and the matter was raised in the council chamber. But despite the Leader of the Council being a very left-wing Labourite, he was a dog lover and he suggested that rather than ban Spike, they should lift the ban, so the sign was removed and all dogs were welcomed to Havering Town Hall!"

Spike was admired by many people, but surely his most high profile fan was Baroness Thatcher who was delighted to be photographed with Spike – and Mr Rosindell – on the hustings during the 2001 General Election.

"She adored him and took to him straight away," says Mr Rosindell. "She stroked him and talked to him, much to the delight of the press photographers."

ANIMAL RIGHTS were high on the political agenda in Germany this month when a majority of lawmakers in the Bundestag voted on Friday to add "and animals" to a clause that obliges the state to respect and protect the dignity of humans.

The main impact of the measure will be to restrict the use of animals in experiments.

In the end 543 lawmakers in Germany's lower house of parliament voted in favour of giving animals constitutional rights. Nineteen voted against it and 15 abstained.

Animals in Germany already are protected through legislation defining the conditions in which they can be held in captivity, but activists claimed it did not go far enough to control the use of animals in research.

With the new measure, the federal constitutional court will have to weigh animals' rights against other entrenched rights, like those to conduct research or practice religion. This could translate bring tighter restrictions on the use of animals for testing cosmetics or non-prescription drugs.

There was no indication that the new animal rights laws will have any impact on Germany’s ‘Fighting Dogs’ legislation, either at Federal or Regional States level. However, certain areas of the dog legislation could be in direct conflict with the new animal rights legislation , such as the ‘short leash and muzzle’ restrictions, and the definition that some breeds should have non contact with other animals or human beings.

JUNE

ALL CHANGE at the KC this month when the General Committee elected Ronnie Irving to become Chairman of the Club, with Bill Hardaway as his ‘number two’. OUR DOGS reported that Mr Irving is a third generation Border terrier man whose grandfather, railwayman Wattie Irving first showed the breed in 1923.

A GLIMMER of hope for ‘dangerous’ St Bernard Yogie this month when he was released ‘on bail’ and allowed to return to the home of his master, Steve Prestage.

The dramatic move came just 24 hours before Yogie’s case was to be heard by jury, the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the charge under Section 3 of the DDA and opted instead for a lesser charge under the less draconian 1871 Dogs Act.

Sussex police commented that the bitten police officer Sgt Huntley was only carrying out his normal duties – despite the fact hat he ignored Mr Prestage’s warnings – and felt that some form of restriction upon Yogie would be appropriate. The case was re-scheduled for June 20th.

OUR DOGS’ owner David Cavill clocked up his 60th birthday this month and was treated to a surprise birthday party by his much younger wife Angela. The couple toasted the event with champagne and with David ‘putting on the Ritz’ in top hat and tails.

A CROSSBREED rescued from the streets of New Delhi by a kind-hearted British airline cabin crew attendant and brought to the UK was seeking a good home with suitable owners, after a false start with new owners who mistreated him.

"Taj" was rescued thanks to the efforts of Dina Khazragi, a senior cabin crew member with Virgin Atlantic and her friend Jo Robertson, who became concerned for his plight when they saw him as a puppy scavenging with a pack of dogs in the streets of New Delhi.

Animal lover Dina, 29, from Cardiff, always takes a huge sack of dry dog food to feed the local strays in New Delhi during her long-haul flight stopovers in the Indian city. Although most of strays are ‘transient’ and may only be seen once, there is one particular pack of street dogs, which she feeds regularly.

"Then one day last year when my friend Jo and I were on stopover and feeding the regular pack, the bitch came along with a rally adorable puppy in tow. He was too young to have become wary of people and he came bounding up to us, full of bounce, smiling all over his little face. He didn’t want us to go, and kept following us, so we decided there and then to pool our resources and bring him back to the UK with us and try to give him a good life with a loving family."

Sadly, Taj had a false start when Dina rehomed him to a couple who initially seemed ideal owners for the young dog.

"I thought I had found him the perfect home with a middle aged couple who
lived by the beach," says Dina. "They had another dog and seemed very excited at having him so I didn't think I needed to look for another prospective home.

"However I wasn't aware of the problems they had within their relationship. The husband proved to be very controlling over his wife and resented Taj, even going as far as refusing to allow Taj in his car when he, his wife and other dog went out for the day.

"As soon as I was made aware of this, six weeks later, I fetched Taj home with me.
Although he was nervous of everything when he came out of quarantine he had a lovely nature and I never heard him growl or bark. After his six weeks away he was even more nervous and had a dislike of men, growling when one came near him. He also growled at my niece and nephew when previously he had allowed them to pet him."

Taj was taken to the Royvon Dog Training School in Wales, where he came under the care and training of owner Darren James, 30,who attempted to ‘reprogramme’ Taj and help him adjust to domestic life and general canine obedience.

But here, the story takes an unexpected – and romantic – twist:

" Darren and I had struck up a rather special friendship and decided we were a match made in heaven!" smiles Dina. "Darren decided to adopt Taj as they both got on so well and being a trainer, he knew how to handle him. "The three of us are now very happy together and keep having to pinch ourselves to believe it’s true. We’ll be getting married in the next few months and Taj, of course, will be our page boy!"
"Things have a funny way of working out don't they?"

JULY

CAMPAIGNERS AGAINST Germany’s draconian ‘Fighting Dog’ laws were celebrating a long-overdue victory this month after a top German court ruled that one State’s list of ‘dangerous’ breeds was illegal.

On Wednesday July 6th, the Senate of the Supreme Administration court in Berlin decided to cancel the directive of the state Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony) along with its list of ‘dangerous’ dog breeds.. (Just a few weeks previously, another court ruled in favour of the breed list set by the State of Brandenburg)/

The Berlin judges said that the content of the directive goes to far for a directive which is made by a single minister. The law infringes too deeply on the individual rights of the people, such a law may only be passed by a State Parliament.

The breed list was not the only point the judges criticised. For the first time since the breed lists in Germany has been come to force two years ago, it was stated that there is NO scientific evidence that any one dog breed is more dangerous than another. The judges backed the breed experts and scientists’ findings that it requires several components which make a dog dangerous.
German anti-BSL campaigner Cathie Dettmar spelt out the upshot of the ruling. She told OUR DOGS:

"The entire dog law was thrown out. This means no more breed list, no more sterilisations, muzzles and short leashes!!!

"This ruling has been made by the same court we are taking the case for the Bull Terrier breed to, to remove the breed from the national Federal German ‘dangerous’ breed list. This ruling has sent a message to the other 15 states in Germany that their dog laws may also not hold

Phil Buckley of the Kennel Club commented on the court’s decision:

"The Kennel Club is delighted to learn of the positive news from Germany that the Lower Saxony Court have ruled that the draconian canine legislation is 'null and void' within that Lander. German citizens now feel that it will be far easier to convince judges that are dealing with this issue on a Federal level that the legislation is clearly flawed and should be disbanded, and they feel very positive about their campaign. Cathie Dettmar and all of her campaigners in Germany obviously have full Kennel Club support on this issue.

" We are also aware that Dr Brian Hill, a Bull Terrier enthusiast resident in the UK, has contacted the European Commission saying that the German Legislation breaches the 'Principle of mutual recognition' under the Single European Act, and Dr Hill's demand that his complaint be referred to the European Court of Justice has been registered by the Commission. Whilst this is obviously no guarantee that the matter will be pursued, Dr Hill feels that the Commission has accepted that there is a case to answer. We will continue to monitor developments in Germany with interest, whilst assisting where we can."

ASSISTANCE DOG ‘Endal’ who won a major achievement award at the OUR DOGS Golden Bone Awards earlier this year was filmed for the BBC’s top fly-on-the-wall documentary ‘Airport’ accompanying his disabled owner Allen Parton on a flight form Heathrow to Manchester for the awards ceremony.

The programme cranked the tension up as whether Endal would win or not, but somehow managed to neglect to mention which publication staged the awards in the first place. Ah well – broadcast media never did understand print media.

Well done Endal though!

OUR DOGS did, in fact, make the news itself this month by helping to save the life of a Bull Terrier condemned to death under the DDA, thanks a last-minute intervention by the newspaper on the day the dog was due to be destroyed.

"Rickson" is a 2 year-old Bull terrier, owned by Elizabeth Holland of Norris Green, Liverpool. Mrs Holland has eight grandchildren, all of whom have played happily with Rickson with no fear of attack.

There had been various disputes between Mrs Holland and the Ambrose family next door, including several disputes over the fencing dividing the two properties. Mrs Holland described the Ambrose family as "neighbours from hell" and alleges that they were responsible for the break in the fencing which enabled Rickson to wander into their garden on March 4th 2001, when 8 year-old Kathryn Ambrose was playing in the back garden, being there to visit her grandparents.

It is alleged that the dog grabbed Kathryn’s ankle and lunged for her leg and chest. Police investigated the incident and Mrs Holland was subsequently charged under Section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act, and Rickson was seized and taken to council kennels.

Mrs Holland initially engaged a firm of local solicitors to represent her, pleading Not Guilty at a preliminary magistrates Court hearing and opting for trial at Crown Court. However, due to pressure from her Barrister, she was persuaded to change her plea to Guilty at Liverpool Crown Court last November. The solicitors were ill prepared for the case and had not sought an expert assessment of Rickson’s temperament. Defence evidence that the dog was being "teased and beaten with sticks" before the incident occurred was not accepted by the Recorder at the Court, who fined Mrs Holland £250 with £250 costs, imposed a destruction order on the dog and a ten year ban from owning dogs on Mrs Holland.

Shortly afterwards, Mrs Holland made contact with the Fury Defence Fund who advised her to contact solicitor Trevor Cooper immediately. Mrs Holland had, in the meantime, lodged her own appeal. Legal Aid was granted, but only for the services of a Barrister, not a Solicitor.

Mr Cooper’s work was pro bono (i.e. free of charge). Mr Cooper then instructed barrister Pamela Rose, who has extensive experience in presenting DDA defence cases.

The Appeal against the sentence was heard at the Court of Appeal in London’s High Court on Tuesday, June 18th, 2002 but was dismissed and the destruction order against Rickson stood.

Mrs Holland had sought to appeal to the House of Lords against the Appeal Court decision, and had, with the help of Mr Cooper and the FDF, been gathering evidence to present her case to the Appeals Committee.

However, the paperwork took a long time to organise and the appointed time for Rickson’s destruction – 21 days after the court hearing – drew near. This time was due to elapse on July 19th and John Dixon, Line Manager at the council dog kennels where Rickson was being held waited a day to seek clarification form the Crown Prosecution Service to proceed with the destruction.

Mrs Holland frantically faxed all the relevant appeal paperwork to the kennels last Friday morning as proof that her appeal was ongoing, and telephoned to advise the staff that this was underway.

"One man I spoke to said he hadn’t seen any paperwork and that Rickson was going to be killed that morning," said Mrs Holland. "I was distraught and he wasn’t prepared to go and check if my fax had arrived. I called Juliette Glass of the Fury Defence Fund in a panic and said she’d get help from a journalist she knew at OUR DOGS newspaper."

Juliette Glass immediately contacted Nick Mays, OUR DOGS Chief Reporter and told him of Mrs Holland’s plight and he in turn made contact with John Dixon, Line Manager at the kennels who located Mrs Holland’s fax and, in turn, contacted the CPS to tell them that the appeal had been lodged and Rickson was not to be destroyed.

Mr Dixon told OUR DOGS: "We could have had Rickson put down the day before, but I wanted clarification before I did that. The dog would be better housed elsewhere, to be honest, as our kennels aren’t designed for long-term accommodation. But we will continue to care for him to the best of our ability whilst he is here and I give my categorical assurance that he will not be put down whilst the appeal is in process and until we are otherwise legally instructed."

Mrs Holland praised Nick Mays for his timely intervention, as did Juliette Glass.
"I can’t thank Nick enough, he saved my dog’s life," she said. "I’ll always be grateful to Nick and Juliette and to OUR DOGS for publicising Rickson’s case. I’ve got new heart to fight on, and I’ll take this appeal to Europe if needs be."

A LESS FORTUNATE dog was ‘Khan’ an English Bull Terrier who was strangled to death by a police officer after the dog was alleged to have bitten a member of his owner’s family.

The dog, was bought by Bedford-based Val Allen for her son Mark and his partner Andrea Deards four years previously. Mrs Allen is an experienced dog breeder, having bred and shown Dobermanns for 25 years. She has also worked with problem dogs alongside an experienced dog trainer for several years.

On the evening of Tuesday, July 9th, Miss Deard’s uncle, Tony Green was playing in Miss Deard’s garden with a number of children, including Miss Deard’s son and those of her friends who were visiting. Mr Green, described as a ‘loud man’ shouted at the children, causing Khan to become protective towards them. The dog ran towards Mr Green and bit him on the bottom. Mr Green yelled for help, and Miss Deards attempted to telephone Mrs Allen for help, although the latter was not at home. She then telephoned for an ambulance. The emergency services themselves alerted the police and four officers turned up at her home.
The officers made no attempt to subdue the dog and called for back up.

Mr Green, a slightly built man, had apparently "wrestled the dog to the ground".

Three other police officers duly arrived, one of which, PC Birch, was a dog handler.

Miss Deards had expected that the officers would arrive with a grasper pole to restrain the animal, but PC Birch came equipped only with a choke chain and lead.

The officers ordered Miss Deards, her friends and children back into the house and then set about restraining Khan, having called for a vet to attend. However, the officers did not wait for the vet and attempted to deal with the dog themselves.

According to one of Miss Deard’s friends, who observed the scene from the kitchen window, the officers put the choke chain on Khan with no apparent difficulty and then two of them held the dog down, by putting weight on the back end of the dog’s body, whilst PC Birch knelt on the dog’s neck, pulled hard on the lead and strangled the dog to death. The dog’s head was observed to be at a strange angle and PC Birch was seen to yank on it.
The vet turned up 15 minutes after being summoned, and pronounced the dog dead.

According to Miss Deards and Mrs Allen there was a metal post in the garden to which the dog could have been attached whilst waiting for the vet to arrive.

It was later discovered Mr Green had suffered some bruising and one small puncture wound needing a single stitch. The police officers were not bitten.

Mrs Allen told OUR DOGS: "If they could get a lead round his neck why couldn't they have used that to restrain him until the vet arrived, and why on earth did they come without a grasper?

"When I spoke to PC Birch about this, he first tried to tell me that it was the dog warden’s responsibility, but as he knows, they do not work after 6pm and this incident took place between 8 and 10pm. He also told me that there was no room in his van to carry a grasper, which I find ridiculous.

"There’s a lot which I am not being told here. The bottom line is, Khan did not need to be killed. Tony Green is slightly built, so how did he manage to wrestle the dog down to start with? If three officers managed to restrain Khan for 15 minutes, knowing the vet was coming, with no injuries to themselves, why did PC Birch have to take it upon himself to strangle Khan?"

A police spokesman said: "Two divisional officers and a dog handler had to restrain the animal which was dangerously out of control. They had already called the vet in the hope that the six-stone bull terrier could be sedated. Unfortunately the dog died before the vet arrived.

"As this situation was an emergency the dog section officer was unable to get to police headquarters to pick up the protective equipment referred to. This equipment cannot be carried on patrol vans because of lack of space."

A veterinary post mortem, carried out on Khan at Mrs Allen’s insistence confirmed that the dog had died as a result of strangulation.

The family made an official complaint that was due to be investigated by the Chief Constable of the Bedfordshire Police Force, Mr Paul Hancock. The RSPCA has confirmed it has received a report of the incident and is also investigating.

A spokesman for the National Canine Defence League said: "The NCDL is appaled. We will be writing to the police force in question to get more facts on what actually occurred and asking them to take steps to ensure that a similar incident never happens again. Our deepest sympathies go to the dog's owner and her family."

AUGUST

THE RSPCA faced some negative publicity with claims that the Society could be forced to cut back animal welfare services and close one of its wild animal hospitals in the face of a financial crisis caused by stock market falls and controversial spending decisions.

Critics within the organisation claimed too much money had been spent on political campaigns, a food labelling scheme and the new £16 million headquarters.A member of the society's ruling council said: "When the little old lady in the street puts her money in the box, she expects it to be spent on animals."

Despite an income of £70 million in 2001, including £40 million from legacies, the charity has suffered because its investments were devalued in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks and in the stock market slide of mid 2002.

Funding was under threat for a new animal hospital in Birmingham, a proposed clinic at Merthyr, in South Wales, and a planned animal home at Felledge, near Newcastle. Other proposed cuts include the closure of Stapeley Grange Wildlife Hospital at Nantwich, Cheshire.
Some council members were also highly critical of the Society’s "Freedom Food" brand and are trying to close the operation down or sell it off completely. The Freedom Food brand is said to have cost the society £1.6 million in direct grants in the last year.

THE SCOTTISH hunting ban was officially outlawed in Scotland f4rom August 2nd after the 11th-hour failure of countryside campaigners to overturn the legislation through the courts.
The grouping of individuals and hunt organisations vowed that they would continue their fight after failing to convince Scotland's top civil court that anti-fox hunting legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament infringed their human rights.

Lord Nimmo Smith, at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, dismissed their call for a judicial review and agreed with the Scottish Executive that compensation should not be paid to rural workers who lost their jobs.

Allan Murray, director of the Scottish Countryside Alliance, said he was disappointed by the ruling but not surprised. The alliance was now considering an appeal against the decision, and Mr Murray promised that pro-hunt campaigners would continue to argue their case "in every court of the land" to protect individual rights over "political dogma".

Some of Scotland's 10 hunts were expected to continue to offer a service to farmers, using hounds to flush out foxes to be shot by waiting guns. But Trevor Adams, 43, master of foxhounds for the Duke of Buccleuch's Hunt - who was one of the petitioners - said he was now facing the prospect of losing his job and having to kill his hounds.

"My main concern is not for myself or my family but for my hounds. Some of these hounds have blood lines going back to 1860 and a lot more thought has gone into their breeding than most of the politicians who passed this Act."

The Scottish Countryside Alliance was also planning to take its protest to the European Court of Human Rights if further legal protests in the UK founder.

A LITTLE light relief in a potential DDA case, thanks to officers of Somerset constabulary who earned a stern rebuke from a judge for wasting the court’s time after they arranged a bizarre ‘identity parade’ of Border Collies after one of them had been accused of biting a delivery woman.
The police’s case rested on the identification of one of the dogs - 11-year-old Ben – who had bitten a delivery woman who disturbed him as he slept on a farmhouse doorstep.

The canine identity parade was perhaps the most bizarre feature of a year-long police investigation that ended this week when magistrates dismissed the case against Andrew Melrose for not keeping a dog under control.

The bench in Wells, Somerset, also ordered Avon and Somerset police to pay Melrose's defence costs of £752.62.

A police spokesman said: "An animal identity parade is not something I have personally heard of before. But if the victim made a complaint it is our duty to investigate thoroughly."

RICKSON, the English Bull Terrier languishing in Liverpool City Kennels whilst the legal arguments to pursue his case under the DDA rumble on, received a prison visit in mid August, thanks to the efforts of the Fury Defence Fund and very much against the wishes of the officer prosecuting Rickson’s case, WPC Wheeler, who had consistently refused permission for Rickson’s owner, Elizabeth Holland to visit him.

However, after intervention from Janet Payne of the Fury Defence Fund, a senior police officer, Inspector Bacon overrode PC Wheeler’s edict and granted permission for Mrs Holland to visit Rickson at the city kennels.

The visit took place on Friday, August 16th. Janet Payne and a friend accompanied Mrs Holland into the kennels to see Rickson, whilst Juliette Glass, co-ordinator of the Fury Defence Fund waited outside. OUR DOGS newspaper reporter Nick Mays attended the meeting, whilst the proceedings were filmed by an independent TV production company who have followed Rickson’s story as one segment of a TV documentary about people and their pets, which is due to be screened in the autumn by the BBC.

The kennels were closed to the public for half an hour whilst the meeting took place, amidst what can only be described as conditions of quite extraordinary security. Mrs Holland and Ms Payne were met at the kennels main office by a senior kennels officer who explained that there was to be no physical contact with the dog apart from stroking it through the bars of the pen. Mrs Holland would not be allowed into the pen to see the dog in case "a situation" took place. Furthermore, there was to be no photography by any party. The reason for this was given as the case being subjudice and that publication of any photographs of the dog in kennels could prejudice the case. Further, the meeting would be observed on CCTV and if any of these strictures were breached, the visit would be terminated.

A police officer accompanied Ms Payne and Mrs Holland throughout the meeting.
The conditions imposed on the meeting were given in the form of legal advice by solicitors representing the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and Liverpool City Council. Indeed, a council press officer attended at the kennels to observe the meeting, even though, when questioned by the media, she was unable to give any meaningful answers, as she "was not familiar with the case."

Janet Payne described the meeting between owner and dog exclusively to OUR DOGS: "We were treated reasonably courteously throughout," she said. "We were led through the various kennel blocks to one particular block where a number of other dogs are held. Rickson was in the end pen, which was clean – having been recently cleaned in my observation. He had a clean, dry blanket and a toy, and seemed in reasonably good spirits."

The meeting between Elizabeth Holland and her pet was, naturally, quite emotional, although Rickson was quite restrained in his greeting.

"I think he was glad of some attention," continues Payne, "We were told by the kennel maid who attends to him that he does not receive one-to-one attention, but also that he has never displayed any aggression towards her nor, indeed, to anybody else at the kennels in all the time he has been held there.

"Rickson appeared to be in good condition for a dog that has been incarcerated in kennels for 17 months, his weight appeared adequate and I could find no fault with his actual care or the conditions in which he was kept, given that he is confined to a Spartan pen, although it is reasonably spacious and has an outdoor run attached. However, he is not taken out for individual exercise sessions."

The meeting ended after half an hour, during which time Rickson had been given biscuits by Mrs Holland and had enjoyed the unaccustomed attention. Ms Payne and Mrs Holland then left the kennels and were interviewed again by the TV production company, before returning to Mrs Holland’s home in Norris Green.

Animal Behaviourist Dr Roger Mugford later agreed to visit Rickson and assess his temperament and compile a report accordingly. Dr Mugford will be giving his services free of charge.

AMERICAN AIRLINES hit back at critics of its high-handed imposition of BSL on the owners of certain dog breeds after an isolated incident when a Pit Bull Terrier escaped form its crate in the hold of domestic flight.

American Airlines announced its new policy on August 7th via an internal Cargo Service Advisory bulletin stated: "Effective Immediately, the following restrictions are in Place.
American Airlines will no longer accept the following breeds of dogs: American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffor(d)shire Terrier (sic), Bull Terrier, Doberman Pinscher, Rottweiler
The statement continues: "Puppies of these breeds between 8 & 12 weeks of age may be accepted.

The breed and age of the dog must be indicated on the health certificate. Crossbreeds containing one of the above breeds, when indicated on the health certificate are also prohibited."

The message was soon flashed across the Internet via the anti-BSL group DogHolocaust and led to the airline being deluged with complaints from dog owners across the world, although predominantly those based in America. It is American dog owners who would suffer most from the breed ban, as AA flights are used extensively for domestic cross-country journeys.
According to an AA spokesperson, the pit bull was held in an approved airline travel container in the hold of a 757 on a domestic flight from San Diego to New York’s JFK airport.

Apparently flight personnel did not discover that the dog was free until the plane landed, and the pilot summoned the dog’s owner, who was aboard the same flight, to capture the animal. Apparently the dog had caused "some damage" to the hold, although the extent of this was not revealed, but airline staff took photographs of the damage.

Soon after this, the airline consulted insurers about the incident and queried which dogs should be banned to prevent such an incident occurring again – apparently oblivious of the fact that any breed of dog could escape under similar circumstances.

According to the spokesman, the insurers came up with a lost of breeds which were considered ‘dangerous’ and the Airline introduced the ban immediately.

After a series of false starts, OUR DOGS then forwarded a number of questions to Don Carty, head of Corporate Communications. Within a few hours, a response had been received via e-mail from Gus Whitcomb, the Managing Director of AA’s Strategic Communications department, acting as Ombudsman to the Corporate Communications section, presumably at Mr Carty’s request.

Asked which "experts" identified the listed breeds as dangerous, Mr Whitcomb said: "Although you may think it semantics, no one listed the breeds as dangerous. Working with groups who have to make similar tough decisions such as the insurance industry, we banned breeds associated with aggressive behaviour and any animal of any breed that exhibits aggressive behaviour during the acceptance or boarding process."

When asked how can a breed specific ban be introduced based on one incident Mr Whitcomb simply answered: "Every day, hundreds of thousands of people entrust their lives to American Airlines and we take the responsibility for their safety as the most serious aspect of our jobs.

"We were very fortunate that this incident did not impact the safety of flight. However, to further reduce that risk, we've made a tough decision by banning these animals. We are not out to inconvenience any group of people. Remember, we're giving up substantial revenue - the animal transportation fees and the accompanying passenger fares - by making this decision. But nothing is going to compromise our commitment to safety.

"As emotional as this issue is, I trust that your readers will stop and think about what conversation we'd be having if that plane had gone down."

SEPTEMBER

BSL received a severe kick in the teeth with an historic court ruling in the USA. An Alabama court ruled that there was no genetic evidence that one breed of dog was more dangerous than another, simply because of its breed.

The action in Alabama was brought by the Washington Animal Foundation (WAF) against the city of Huntsville, which had claimed that American Pit Bull Terriers were ‘genetically dangerous’.

The case centred on four Pit Bulls held in an animal shelter and adopted by three local women.

The dogs were survivors of a group of over 50 Pit Bulls seized in a raid on a dog-fighting ring in April 2000. Half of the dogs died from injuries or disease, whilst the reminder –including four puppies - were held at the City pound and put up for adoption.

Shelia Tack, an emergency room nurse at Crestwood Hospital, adopted two of the puppies that she named Justice and Elizabeth. Whilst they remained impounded, she visited them twice a week.

The other puppies, David and Nellie, were adopted by Kay Nagel, a military officer’s wife and resident of Redstone Arsenal, and Loyce Fisher, a civil service worker from Cullman.

However, the City Council refused to release the dogs, stating that they were a potential danger to human beings, although none had apparently displayed any aggression.

The matter was referred to court for a legal decision on the dogs’ fate. During a hearing last year, lawyers representing the city, Michael Fees and Greg Burgess, told Madison County Circuit Judge Joe Battle the animals were vicious and should not be rehomed.

The Women, who did not have a lawyer, argued the animals were never trained to fight and conditioning can suppress any vicious tendencies the dogs might have.

Judge Battle agreed and on Nov 13 2001, declared the four young Pit Bulls were not dangerous because they were never trained to fight. The court allowed the city to destroy 21 adult Pit Bulls which had been used for fighting.

However, the City appealed Battle's ruling to the Alabama Supreme Court and asked the court for an order preventing the women from taking custody of the dogs.

At this point, Seattle-based WAF became involved in the case and appointed Huntsville lawyer Mike Seibert to fight their case, based on evidence they gathered to counter the City lawyer’s claims that all Pit Bulls were ‘genetically dangerous’.

WAF filed an Amicus (third party) submitting genetic proof that Pit Bulls are not dangerous. The city of Huntsville were backed by the extremist animal rights organisation PETA that Pit Bulls were genetically dangerous, with evidence provided by veterinarians, none of whom was an expert in any specific canine or genetic field.

WAF cited case laws under Due Process of the law, and stated that it was unconstitutional to rule a specific breed of dog as ‘dangerous’ in this way. They also claimed it was ‘genocide’ to try to eradicate the Pit Bull breed.

WAF co-founder Glen Bui told OUR DOGS "Huntsville's entire case rested on affidavits from veterinarians claiming they examined the four Pit Bull pups and that were would pose a danger to the community because Pit Bulls are genetically dangerous. They also claimed the women had no legal right to adopt the pups, this was also addressed in the amicus brief."

On Friday, August 30, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in WAF’s favour and ordered that the dogs should be released for adoption, accepting the evidence but forward by WAF that no breed of dog is genetically dangerous.

GUIDE DOGS For The Blind was reeling this month from a £20million loss on the stock market which had forced the charity to make economies and to close all its residential training centres, with the potential loss of 150 jobs.

The charity also set out a range of radical proposals to cut costs and deliver better services by "fast tracking" training operations.

A two-year programme to introduce 31 district teams to replace 15 training centres - two of which were closed at Middlesbrough and Exeter earlier this year - will take help to visually impaired people closer to home, the charity said.

Guide Dogs' chief executive Geraldine Peacock said: "It is imperative that we keep pace with the changing needs of our service users whilst also securing our long-term financial future.
"The proposals we are now putting forward will enable us to be more flexible in our local service delivery and put our finances on a firm footing.

"By removing much of the Association's fixed overheads, we will be investing in people and services, not bricks and mortar."

PRO-HUNTING campaigners made their voices heard as part of the 400,000 strong Liberty and Livelihood March through London on Sunday, September 22nd. The hunting lobby made their presence felt on the London streets, blowing hunting horns, carrying placards and effigies of Prime Minister Tony Blair – many showing him as a hunted fox. Their message was clear – ban hunting at your risk, Prime Minister.

But in a show of typical political arrogance, the Government said it was pressing ahead, without delay, with plans to introduce a fox-hunting Bill. The march organisers warned that the country would "erupt in fury" if the Government ignored its demands on hunting.

The Kennel Club, in common with so many of the other clubs in the St.James area of Piccadilly took the unprecedented step of opening its doors to members on a Sunday. Over 50 lunches were served during the day, indicating the strong presence of a large contingent of KC members, as well as members of staff, adding their voices to those in protest.

The KC was no longer sitting on the fence, no longer politely rising above the political and personal arguments over the implications of a hunting ban. The implications are all too clear: Thousands of hounds will be destroyed if a hunt ban is enacted, therefore the Government’s planned Bill is anti-dog.

In another unprecedented move, the KC also dropped its dress code for the day, and several officers and staff were seen in the unfamiliar apparel of jeans and sweatshirts. Civilisation did not collapse around the KC’s ears as KC Chief Executive Rosemary Smart and Field Trials Secretary Rosemary Hill stood at the top of Clarges Street holding a banner which proclaimed the KC’s support for the hunters and its opposition to any Bill.

In amongst the first 10,000 marchers to be counted were OUR DOGS Editor Bill Moores and Advertising Manager John Holden, marching alongside KC grandee, former Crufts Chairman and BVA President Mike Stockman. Many other OUR DOGS breeder correspondents and contributors joined the march and added their support, while hundreds of working dog enthusiasts and field trials participants also took part, either as individuals or in club groups.

KC Secretary, Caroline Kisko said: "The Kennel Club staff and members were pleased to attend the March on Sunday, complete with banners, and were delighted to note that over 400,000 people turned up to represent the 'Countryside' and demonstrate the depth of feeling that this issue is causing. We were also delighted to see so many people present on the march from the world of dogs covering all the different disciplines and we were glad that we could lend our support to the march".

OCTOBER

PRINCESS ANNE, the Princess Royal faced prosecution under the Dangerous Dogs Act after one of her dogs allegedly attacked two Asian children in Windsor Great Park.

The Princess and Commodore Tim Laurence, her husband, were summonsed to appear before East Berkshire magistrates in November.

The incident took place in April when the Princess, 52, and her husband were exercising their dogs in the park. It is believed that one dog was let off its leash and attacked the children who were cycling nearby.

Speculation as to which of the Princess’ dogs bit the children was rife. It was assumed initially that 13 year-old bitch Eglantyne, who had displayed aggression on two previous years – albeit many years ago – was the culprit. In the event it later turned out that a younger dog, Dolly had bitten the children.

NORWAY planned to ‘upgrade’ its already draconian BSL dog laws, prompting anti-BSL campaigners around the world to launch a robust defence against the Norwegian Government’s planned extension of Breed Specific Legislation which, if enacted, could see several breeds of dog banned.

The Norwegian Ministry of Justice was considering a ban on The American Staffordshire terrier, The Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the Bull Terrier.

Norway introduced BSL in the mid 1990s, based on the UK’s own flawed Dangerous Dogs Act, even going as far as banning the four breeds named in the DDA, named the American Pit Bull Terrier, the Japanese Tosa, the Fila Brasiliero and the Dogo Agentino.

This time around, the Norwegian Government is studying Germany’s draconian ‘Fighting Dogs’ laws, and plans legislation based on these, for no other reason, it seems, than the fact that the German Government enacted the laws. Although no other breeds are listed in the extended BSL, the Ministry intends to frame the law in such a way to make it possible to ban any new breed ‘comparable to fighting dogs’ according to its physical attributes, in much the same way as the German laws encompass many breeds purely on the basis of size.

German anti-BSL campaigner Cathie Detmar told OUR DOGS: " I have spoken with a friend in Norway who is fighting these planned laws. Some excellent progress has been made, although some of the news may not be so good.

"The proposal for the new law is set to come out in the next two to three weeks. It won't become official until after next March, so there is still some time to fight.

"The most disturbing comment made by the Justice official (and he is the man responsible for the drafting of the new law), he said that he looked at the German situation and said: "if Germany has made laws to protect its citizens from fighting dogs/dangerous dogs...then why shouldn't Norway do the same?" It is this kind of thinking that is damned scary!"

TIBETAN DOGS faced an uncertain future, as reported this month, thanks to an edict from the Chinese authorities in Tibet limiting the number of dogs which can be owned by individuals. Lhasa Apsos, the holy temple dogs of Tibet, believed to be the reincarnations of dead ancestors are particularly under threat, as the Chinese authorities see all dogs as pests and potential health hazards. OUR DOGS columnist Juliette Cunliffe reported the atrocities perpetrated against dogs – and their owners – via first hand accounts witnessed by her friend, Tibetan monk Bhagdro. Juliette’s report finished with the heartfelt words: "One day Governments throughout the world may see sense and give Tibet, its people and its dogs the support they deserve."

DINO’s legal appeal against destruction continued when his European appeal was formally lodged with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg by solicitor Trevor Cooper.

Mr Cooper told OUR DOGS that the European appeal had been given a case number. The case will now be placed before a judge who will act as the ‘rapporter’ in deciding whether the case has sufficient merit for further consideration. This being so, the case will then be placed before a legal committee who will make a preliminary ruling as to whether the case is valid to be heard by the European Court itself.

"If the committee were to decide to the contrary, then the whole case would end then and there," said Mr Cooper. "It will take about three weeks for the committee to make their decision and then notify us. Obviously, we remain hopeful that the appeal can proceed and Dino’s life will be spared."

NORTH OF the border, the first hunt to fall casualty to the Scottish Hunting ban was also one of the oldest -the Dumfriesshire Hunt disbanded because it was no longer allowed to use the fields over which it has hunted for more than 150 years.

Sir Rupert Buchanan-Jardine told the organisers that he could face prosecution if he continued to give the hunt access to his 20,000-acre estate. Under the Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act, landowners can be taken to court if an illegal mounted hunt is held on their property.

Sir Rupert, 79, a keen supporter of the hunt, said: "I regret having to do this but the decision is not mine -it has been forced on me by the Scottish Parliament. To tell the hunt my ground was no longer available wasn't something I did lightly because I know hunting is a way of life in the countryside, certainly in this part of the world."

John Carruthers, the Hunt Kennelman, said he and his wife Isobel and their 10-year-old son faced an uncertain future. Some of his distinctive black and tan hounds have been sold to hunts in France, Ireland and England.

"What is it to those in towns and cities what we do in the countryside," he said. "I'm heartbroken at losing my hounds. I'm keeping only one, Pytchley, which is my favourite.The black and tans are unique to this hunt. They were specially bred with French hunting dogs in the 1920s to create larger hounds that have a loud cry that can by heard in dense woodland. Some people might try to keep the breed going. But the end of my hunt is an end of a way of life and I feel bitter and angry."

THE BIGGEST news of the month – and possibly of the whole year - was the long-awaited publication of the Government’s Animal Welfare Bill, although it seemed to pose more questions than answers when DEFRA issued its formal press release about the Bill mid-month.
Animal sanctuaries may have to be licensed under the new animal welfare legislation, while dog walkers and pet sitters would also need to be licensed if the new laws are introduced.

Outlining the proposals for the new Animal Welfare Bill, Elliot Morley, the environment minister, denied that it was an animal rights Bill. "This does not give your cat the right to sue if it does not get the comfy chair next to the fire and 10 snacks a day."

Mr Morley also recognised that there were concerns about children buying pets. He said: "Children get whims for pets and sometimes these whims do not transfer into the proper care and attention. Often they will buy a pet without parental permission and with no facilities at home, which leads to pets being abandoned. Pet ownership is a good thing, but it should be properly considered and with the support of parents."

Children of 12 can buy animals from a pet shop. Some pet shops do not sell animals to unaccompanied children. The new Bill will raise the minimum age that a child may purchase a pet to 16.

The proposed new law will also apply to private cat and dog breeders who sell animals. The breeders will have an obligation to ensure that buyers are suitable owners and know how to care for pets.

Worryingly, DEFRA was also "looking again" at the Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals. The main components of the Convention could be included in the new bill. The Convention, among other things, would ensure that proper account is taken of welfare needs when setting breeding standards, in co-operation with breed societies. This is a highly contentious area which has seen the outlawing of certain cat breeds in other countries. For example, Germany has banned outright the breeding of blue eyed white cats for the fact that individual cats may suffer form deafness. Devon Rex cats have also been affected by this legislation which has prevented overseas exhibitors from entering Rexes at German cat shows.

Mr Morley said: "I want the resulting Act of Parliament to stand the test of time. That is why it must be robust but flexible so that we can adapt with the times and in line with changing views. The 1911 Act set the pace for animal welfare in the 20th century. We now intend to set the pace for the 21st century.

"The British are generally animal lovers, but that doesn’t stop some horrific offences taking place. We want to stop cruelty, encourage good welfare and yet avoid the trap of excessive legislation. We recognise that few people are intentionally cruel to animals but rather more neglect welfare by failing to understand animals’ needs.

"Raising the age at which children can buy pets unaccompanied by an adult and the licensing of animal sanctuaries are two examples of useful steps, so that those responsible for animals are fully aware of what they are taking on."

Tail docking would also be banned if the Bill was enacted. Mr Morely added: "Today we are also publishing a review of the scientific and veterinary aspects of tail docking in dogs. This is an issue which interests a lot of people on both sides of the fence. Therefore, I believe it is timely that we take another look at the subject from a scientific and veterinary perspective. The conclusions indicate that, with the exception of a few specific health reasons, tail docking in dogs has no real benefits for the welfare of the animal.

"Under the new proposed bill, I do not believe there will be any place for docking of dogs’ tails for cosmetic reasons. There may be some occasions when tail docking may be necessary for welfare reasons and these should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

The Anti-Docking Alliance, set up by Dogs Today Editor Beverly Cuddy, whose members include such luminaries as TV vet Emma Milne welcomed proposals to ban docking. The Alliance said that 52 breeds of dog are still being docked, mainly varieties of spaniel, sheepdog and terrier.

However, Mr Morley appeared to have paid scant attention to views expressed by those who responded to the consultation process, said the Council of Docked Breeds.

l More than half of the 33 vets who responded on docking said it should not be banned

l All 113 dog breed clubs which responded, representing 12,744 members, said docking should not be banned

l 1590 members of the public commented on docking, 80% of whom opposed a ban on docking

"It is very disappointing indeed that Mr Morley has not taken more seriously the strongly held views of so many dog owners, breeders and veterinarians, and is intent on a ban," commented Peter Squires, President of the Council of Docked Breeds.

The next stage was for a further period of consultation before a definitive Bill is drafted to be brought forward to the House of Commons.

Thus far, no date has been set for parliamentary time, although DEFRA have stated that it is hoped that, following the further consultation period, legislation would be introduced by the year 2004.

However, with a General Election expected the following year, it remains to be seen whether the legislation would reach the statute books in time for any new laws to take effect.

THE RSPCA acquired a new Chief Executive in the form of ex-Liberal MP and vehement anti-hunt campaigner Jackie Ballard, appointed amid much rancour by the charity’s ruling body.
An RSPCA source said during the selection process: "Ballard is vehemently anti-hunting, but there's much more to running the RSPCA than that.

"Her past is as a social worker, a college lecturer and an MP. She hasn't run a large organisation and has no experience with finance, and that's where the RSPCA faces real problems at the moment.

"Members of the panel were also concerned that, despite living in Iran after losing her seat at the election last year, she didn't seem very well informed about the animal welfare issues surrounding halal meat."

Mrs Ballard was supported by Dr Richard Ryder, the charity's chairman and one of the panel of six members of its ruling council interviewing her earlier this week. Dr Ryder was himself a Liberal Democrat candidate and this fact was pointed out by those opposing her appointment.

CANINE SOCIETIES were left reeling from a new Kennel Club’s diktat that with effect from January 2004, general canine societies could be limited to staging one Open show per year and, if they fail to meet the criteria set to ensure better class averages, they may stage no more than two shows per year in total, to maintain ‘consistency of standards’.

The KC’s decision was greeted with consternation from all areas of the canine world, as evidenced by the sheer volume of readers’ letters received on the subject in the following weeks.

NOVEMBER

FIREWORKS and their effect on animals was high in the news this month with Bonfire Night being the key date of the calendar when the majority of fireworks displays would be held although, as OUR DOGS and others observed, the nuisance of fireworks lasted for several weeks before and after November 5th.

A MORI poll, commissioned by the RSPCA, shows 71 per cent of pet owners questioned thought loud fireworks should only be allowed at public displays – a sentiment backed by 78 per cent of adult RSPCA members and a staggering 87 per cent of young RSPCA members who took part in Society surveys.

Pet owners are right to be concerned about the effect fireworks have on their animals, according to a shocking new RSPCA survey of vets in England and Wales. Last year 4,825 animals were treated for firework-related injuries and/or were prescribed sedatives because they were so frightened. Sixteen animals were put to sleep because of their injuries, and three animals were believed to be the victims of deliberate attacks.

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association had joined forces with local people to tackle nationwide abuse of fireworks. The charity called on readers to sign its own ‘Regulate Fireworks Now’ petition, which calls for an end to disruption and distress caused to guide dogs and their owners by fireworks.

Every year, guide dogs and other working dogs are forced to retire after being traumatised by the irresponsible use of fireworks. Others have to be sedated, and some even retrained, leaving their owners without mobility for weeks at a time. Guide Dogs receives regular reports on the damage and disruption caused to guide dog partnerships. Over recent years, as fireworks have become more widespread, the problem has escalated.

Although members of the British Fireworks Association – which makes up 95% of the UK Firework Industry had agreed, after pressure from Consumer Minister Melanie Johnson to place a voluntary ban on the sale of single tube air bombs – which are responsible for nearly half of all firework injuries in the street – and on small whistle/bang rockets from January 2003, many MPs – and pet owners – felt that this move did not go far enough.

Whether the cross-party calls for action would be heeded by the Government in the next Parliamentary session however remained to be seen.

A CONTROVERSIAL casting decision for a film about one of the world’s greatest and best-known canine icons sparked vehement dispute this month.

A £5 million production about the life of Greyfriars Bobby promised to "set the record straight" after the allegedly less than accurate version made by Walt Disney some years ago.

But the producers have infuriated dog experts by choosing a West Highland terrier for the leading role rather than the less photogenic Skye terrier.

The Skye Terrier Club said that, while Bobby was "not the prettiest" dog, it was definitely the Skye breed and far more faithful than a West Highland terrier, which would have "gone off with a new owner in a minute".

A Westie was chosen, according to Christopher Figg, the producer, because its white coat would stand out in the dark and because its eyes would not be hidden from the camera by a fringe.

He disputed claims that Greyfriar's Bobby, which became a tourist attraction in 19th century Edinburgh for staying at the graveside of its master Jock Gray following his death in 1858 until its own death in 1872, was in fact a Skye terrier.

PRINCESS ANNE was fined £500 after she pleading guilty under the Dangerous Dogs Act after Dotty, one of her English Bull Terriers bit two boys in Windsor Great Park.

But District Judge Penelope Hewitt spared three-year-old Dotty's life, opting to impose a contingent destruction order on the bitch, which means that if she attacked again the death sentence will be automatic.

The Princess was ordered to ensure that her dog was kept on a lead at all times in public places. It was further ordered that Dotty would be sent for behavioural training.
She was ordered to pay £250 compensation to each of the boys, as well as £148 costs, and given seven days to pay.

But the boys' families maintained that they remained traumatised by the attack. In a statement issued after the case, the two families, who could not be identified for legal reasons, criticised the dog's reprieve.

"We do not think justice has been done. The dog is still free and is a danger to society," they said."Therefore the decision made today is neither moral nor just. Our children were lucky that they avoided grievous injuries - other children may not be so lucky.

"Our children have been psychologically affected and are fearful of going out on their own. They have become very fearful of all dogs and still have nightmares. If the dog had been put down, it would have been recognition of this and helped our children psychologically."

The families’ comments after the case are at odds with earlier reports whilst the case was waiting to come to court when ‘a family friend’ had said that the family had no axe to grind and had not wanted the Princess charged and taken to court. "I don’t think the family wanted Princess Anne to be taken to court, but the police probably want to make it an issue to prove that nobody is above the law. It is not personal."

THE VERDICT in the Princess’ DDA case was somewhat at odds with that of Dino – a case with similar elements and a guilty’ plea by the defendant. Solicitor Trevor Cooper pointed out a pertinent legal disparity between the two cases and referred the matter to the Crown Prosecution Service in the hope of having Dino’s original conviction and the basis on which it was applied overturned.

HOPPING ACROSS to the KC’s own ‘court’, the General Committee re-examined the 10 year ban from all canine activities imposed under Rule A43 on sisters Mary and Caroline Gatheral. The ban had been imposed two years previously after the sisters were found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to a number of dogs in their care, which were removed by the RSPCA.

The KC was forced to re-consider the sisters’ case after Newfoundland exhibitor Phyllis Colgan successfully had her own suspension under the same rule reduced .

In the event, the General Committee halved the sisters’ ban. It was observed that the sisters were rather dismayed that the ban was not reduced further, but were said to be considering their options as to whether to wait until 2005 when they could resume canine activities or to mount a legal challenge through the courts.

QUARANTINE FOR dogs and cats entering the UK from the USA and Canada would end in December, as the Government announced that the US and Canada would be included in the Pet Passport Scheme.

However Mike Wykeham, Chairman of the Quarantine Association feared that the likelihood of rabies entering the UK would be greatly increased by this move.

"My biggest concern, I have to say, is Raccoon rabies," says Mr Wykeham. "From the information I’ve found, raccoon rabies is on the increase down the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. In fact, every US state has rabies, except for Hawaii – which has quarantine.

Interestingly, you cannot take a dog from Colorado to Hawaii without it going through quarantine, but you can take a dog from the UK to Hawaii without the need for it to go into quarantine, because the UK is rabies free.

"As for Canada, raccoon rabies is also causing concern in Quebec and, let’s remember, raccoons can quite easily cross the US and Canadian borders."

Mr Wykeham was not at all surprised that, after a ‘risk assessment’ of the relaxation of quarantine from the US, that DEFRA acted so quickly in setting the date for the US’s inclusion I the PETS scheme.

"The announcement was long heralded, and, given the body language coming out of DEFRA, it came as no surprise whatsoever. What concerns us and should concern public is that Canada, in their risk assessment, dates the rabies risk in terms of ‘expect a case of rabies in a country every few years’. The UK’s rabies risk as envisaged under the PETS scheme as it is until 10th December is for us to expect a case of rabies every 28 years. However, after the US and Canada come on board from 11th December that risk is increased to expect a case of rabies every 24 years – a 15% increase in risk."

Mr Wykeham is also gravely concerned about what would happen if there ever was an outbreak of rabies in the UK, given that many quarantine kennels, where animals would be expected to be held, will have closed down. "There are contingency plans, but DEFRA are notorious for this – they remain confidential," said Mr Wykeham.

The future of the British quarantine industry looks bleak after the PETS Scheme is extended. Mr Wykeham added: "We expect that the impact of this announcement will lead to between 20 and 25 quarantine facilities closing down, a 35% reduction in the market. Quarantine kennels do play a part in control of contingency plans for rabies – especially urban rabies. As the likelihood of rabies is increasing, quarantine kennels that would be expected to play a part are being forced out of business. Quite bluntly, that facility would no longer be available."

DECEMBER

AS THE year drew to a close, one long standing story finally reached its conclusion. Yogie, the St Bernard was finally freed by Crawley Magistrates Court who imposed a Control Order, whereby Yogie would have to be muzzled in public and securely fenced in at home. Yogie’s owner Steve Prestage was ordered to pay £200 costs. However, no order for compensation was made to Sgt Huntley who must surely have regretted ignoring the earning signs and calls form Mr Prestage when he marched up Yogie’s driveway earlier that year.

ANOTHER long running saga looked set to run that bit longer when the Government published its new anti-hunting bill, which once again offered three options for the future of foxhunting, with the Government favouring the ‘Middle Way’ option of licensing various hunts, but banning stag hunting and hare coursing outright.

Labour MPs described the new Bill as a "fudge", while Downing Street said Mr Blair believed that the compromise was the right way forward. But hard-line opponents of hunting served notice that they would press for an outright ban on all hunting with dogs by 2004. In an attempt to resolve years of argument, the Government proposed a complex system to regulate hunting fox, hare and mink with dogs.

Hunts would apply for permission to an independent registrar. Registration would be granted only where it could be shown that hunting was the most effective and least cruel method of pest control. Hunts whose applications were rejected could appeal to a national tribunal headed by a senior legal figure. Hunting without being registered would be an offence - with fines of up to £5,000 but no plans for jail sentences.

Hunts would be allowed to continue while their applications were being considered. The Government refused to give any indication of how many fox hunts would be allowed to continue.

But only hunts in upland areas of Wales and Cumbria and possibly Northumberland are likely to be able to demonstrate that hunting is less cruel and more necessary than shooting or poisoning.

The cross-party Middle Way Group of MPs, who have backed regulation, gave the legislation a cautious welcome. But Alun Michael, the Rural Affairs Minister, was left in no doubt that many Labour MPs felt let down.

Since Labour came to power in 1997, the Commons has twice voted for an outright
Much would depend on the attitude of Conservative MPs, who would also have a free vote.

Their initial response was hostile. But if they join forces with Mr Blair they might be able to vote down the hard-line opponents of foxhunting. The Bill - either in its original form, or amended to make it tougher with a ban – will most likely go to the House of Lords around Easter. The Upper House remains opposed to the Bill and would almost certainly return it to its original form and knock out any provisions for an outright ban. Mr Michael told MPs in March the Government would be ready to use the Parliament Act to ensure that the Bill
would be passed in whatever form it had been amended to, should the Lords block it.

FINALLY, AS fireworks were set to light up the sky yet again on New Year’s Eve, there were renewed calls from campaigner Terersa Kulkarni for the abolition of private firework sales – a move backed by many readers of OUR DOGS.

2003 promises more of the same all round …