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7/1/02
Gloom as 2001 closes
NICK MAYS concludes his Review of the Year

September

An animal rights activist who was caught with one of the Beagles stolen from the Wye Valley Hunt's kennels in January was sentenced to 60 hours community service. "Sextant" had been found by police in the possession of Julian Greensides (35), after a vet became suspicious when Greensides brought the dog in for treatment for an infected ear where someone had tried to tamper with his tattoo.

The dog had also recently been castrated. Greensides claimed he had not been involved in the raid in which the dogs were stolen, saying that he found the dog wandering by his house. Despite a large amount of animal rights literature found in his house, there was nothing to link Greensides to the actual theft.

Sextant was reunited with the remaining members of the pack, which had been augmented with the help of neighbouring hunts. A number of Sextant's puppies, sired before his theft, had taken their place in the new pack, ensuring continuity of the long-established hunt. No trace was ever found of the 46 other Beagles stolen in January, which led the Hunt to assume that the activists had destroyed them, being unable to rehome them as pets.

The Scottish kennel Club proved itself to be a force to be reckoned with when it fined a number of judges for judging an an unlicensed show, despite the lack of a licence being a mistake. The show in question was the dog section of the Turriff Agricultural Association Show, held in Turriff, north of Aberdeen, in August 2000.


Photo courtesy of Northampton Chronicle & Echo l Dino with owner Carly Lamont.

It appeared that, due to a change of Show Secretary at the Turriff & District Agricultural Association, the licence for the 2000 show was not applied for, but the SKC only discovered that the show was unlicensed when it was brought to their attention that a replacement judge had been required and they investigated the matter further.

In the course of this investigation, the SKC allegedly decided to withhold the licence for the 2001 show as a penalty. Bruce Ferguson, Show Secretary of the Turriff District Agricultural Association, was naturally disappointed by the SKC's response to what, he says, was a simple oversight. "The SKC only found out about the lack of a licence when they were notified of a replacement judge being required.

Their response, I have to say, surprised me greatly. I pointed out that this was a genuine error and that I had been unaware of the licensing situation. But their attitude was extremely unhelpful. They imposed a fine on the Association and on each judge who officiated at the show, which, to me, seems extreme, to say the least." SKC Secretary General Allen Sim explained that he felt the SKC's Committee had acted entirely correctly in the matter. "The Association did not have a properly constituted dog section committee and this is an essential requirement under SKC rules and regulations.

We have pointed this fact out to the Association to take on board." "I think it was perfectly correct to fine the judges," he said. "It is essential that judges DO check whether a show is licensed before they officiate, otherwise there is no point to our having a licensing system if they don't check. Kennel Club rules state that the licence for the show must be clearly displayed and obviously it was not.

There's no point having rules if they will not be adhered to. Staging an unlicensed event is a very serious situation." The Hessian Administrative Court, Germany, came to a decision regarding the very strict rules and regulations governing dog ownership in Hessen.

This decision was awaited eagerly as all dog owners thought it would be a "signal" for other administrative courts throughout the Republic. The result turned out to be a mixed blessing. The court found that there was to be made no distinction between "The Irrefutable Supposition of Dangerousness" of the group 1) dogs (American Pitbull, American Staffordshire Terrier and Staffordshire Bullterrier) and "The Principal Dangerousness" of the group 2) dogs (American Bulldog, Bullmastiff, Bullterrier, Dogue de Bordeaux, Dogo Argentino, Fila Brasileiro, Kangal, Kuakasian Owtscharka, Mastiff, Mastin Espanol, Mastino Napoletano and Tosa Inu). This means Hessen now has one group of "dangerous dogs" and the prohibition to sell dogs of group 1 was rescinded. The court also found that the "dangerousness of a breed" and the "listing of breeds" is acceptable and that the dangerousness of a dog can be tied to a breed.

In an Interview the Hessian Minister of the Interior Volker Bouffier stated that the court decision was "a great success for his ministry". In Scotland, MSPs voted to ignore the recommendations of their own Rural Affairs Committee and to push ahead on the proposed total ban on hunting in Scotland, by 84 votes to 34. The parochial concerns of dog clubs and shows - and indeed most 'ordinary' activities - were overshadowed by the worst terrorist atrocity in history when two hijacked passenger planes were deliberately crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre, New York, while a third plane crashed into the Pentagon - all with an horrific loss of life.

The Twin Towers collapsed soon after each plane had impacted, killing thousands of office workers and scores of emergency services personnel who were trying to help people escape from the buildings. The area that was once the World Trade Centre was soon dubbed Ground Zero and with good reason.

The scene, as millions of people around the world saw on their TV screens and in newspapers, is apocalyptic, yet the rescue workers continue their grim work, their faces streaked with grime, their clothes a uniform grey thanks to the ever-present dust cloud And amongst these brave men and women of the emergency services and volunteers, were over a hundred four-legged heroes, somewhat unnoticed and unsung amidst the carnage all around.

These were Search and Rescue Dogs, many from New York, the others from all over the United States. Together with their dedicated handlers, these SAR Dogs working virtually around the clock, with short breaks for rest, play and meals, diving into the smallest of crevices within the twisted, piled rubble, sniffing and scratching, seeking survivors from this, the worst terrorist outrage in history.

The SAR Dogs comprised mainly German Shepherds, although their ranks also included Belgian Shepherd Malinois, Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Cocker Spaniels, Irish Setters, Boxers, Border Collies, Pointers and crossbreeds.

Advocates of Breed Specific legislation should have been humbled to learn that there was at least one American Pit Bull Terrier toiling alongside the other breeds, showing as much dedication and tenacity as any of them. Perhaps the words of Paul Morgan, a SAR Dog handler who worked at Ground Zero with his Golden Retriever 'Cody', sum up the sheer brutality and hardship that those brave people and dogs faced every hour, every day: "My buddy, Hal Wilson, and I went into the pile at 11.00 on September 12th with our search dogs, Cody and Sue. You couldn't believe the teamwork and the silence with hundreds of fire fighters stumbling through the mess.

On the way in through rubble, we walked past deserted restaurants with white and checkered table cloths, saw fully stacked bars, wine on tables and menus posted in hallways.......then the full realisation of the disaster hit us. "We linked up with four state police K-9 teams which were the dirtiest, filthiest dog teams we had ever seen, covered with grey dust, mud and torn up clothes.

They were pulling out as a fire officer deployed us on to the site. The troopers and their dogs being relieved were absolutely expressionless with that thousand-metre stare. "As Hal and I were escorted to the pile and up on to tons of debris, wrecked police and fire vehicles, hose lines, steel girders, pieces of aluminium, drywall, broken glass and steel rods that reminded me of punji stakes in Vietnam, we stumbled a dozen times.

Then a lieutenant brought us to a burned out rig that had been a hose truck from a rescue unit. It was grey and the cab was cleaned out...no seats, steering wheel, dashboard, nothing... "The lieutenant asked Cody and me to climb down into a pit ten feet deep and search for any signs of life. I called into the back of the hose truck several times but there was no response. Then Cody, my golden retriever, began scratching the earth and whimpering.

I told the fire fighters above me, 'We have a body down here!' "My dog and I were lifted out of the pit by about a dozen fire fighters and the digging began with pikes and shovels. Minutes later the call came out....'Body bag!' An orange body bag was sent into the pit and out came a fire-fighter's remains. Six firemen with a basket lifted the remains to the top of the pile and then they started stumbling towards the restaurant area and the morgue truck parked outside. "A battalion chief asked me, 'How good is your dog?' I didn't have to answer, for Cody was scratching into a hole on the hose line.

Within thirty seconds he came up with blood on his paws. 'Body bag!' was heard again..... and a new team of fire fighters with a basket and an orange roll of plastic asked my dog and me to step aside. We turned away and were directed to another team of fire fighters standing around a steel girder and an enormous slab of concrete which had been a wall just the day before. We were directed into the hole under the steel girder and the slab where a fire fighter had punched a hole into a pile of debris. "I sniffed into the hole and smelled gas. Then Cody began scratching to my left and I made eye contact with another fire officer directly behind me. I nodded my head and the officer called out for another body bag. But this time I was trapped! I couldn't get out from under the slab.

It was like being caught under a stairway in a dark basement. I didn't panic but I couldn't go forward and I couldn't back out with my boots caught in some other concrete chunks. Then Cody turned me around pulling me to the left. He was gasping for air and desperate to escape from the hole. I held on to his lead and crawled out. Then the firefighters above me pulled me out and lifted Cody to the surface. "Three bodies recovered in thirty minutes was more than I expected from that dog.

But we were exhausted so we climbed up on to the top of the "pile" and waited for another mission. We sat there under steel girders that looked like a giant's fingers about to claw at us. "A building nearby began to crumble and the order came to pull out. My helmet was buried in my backpack under three days of rations for Cody. I was too tired to search for it so I just stumbled away looking for my buddy Hal and his dog, Sue.


Roger Helmer MEP pictured with Swan, a dog that is being trained to assist a disabled person.

They were searching at another rig buried under the rubble. "When I got back to the ruins where the restaurants were, two nurses gave me some water and another gave me a glass of orange juice. My buddy, Hal, and his dog, Sue, were right behind me. Hal found a metal tray in a trash pile.

The dogs needed an awful lot of water. Then out of nowhere a line of fire fighters with dirty grim faces passed by, each of them pouring out their own water into the metal tray. Another fire fighter gave us two sandwiches and some more water. The dogs consumed every drop of water . three or four quarts and then the buildings began to crumble again. We were ordered out of the pile. It was now 1430 ."

October

One of the most ridiculous cases concerning laws relating to dogs gained massive publicity when an Aberdeen District Court ordered the destruction of West Highland Terrier 'Sam' due to his constant barking. Sam's owner William Shaw, 56, launched an appeal to save his pet's life after the court ruling.

The complaint had been brought by Mr Shaw's neighbour 84 year Mhairu Hay who said her life had been "blighted" by Sam's incessant barking - despite a Civil Court Order imposed upon Mr Shaw in 1996 and several fines for failing to comply with the order by trying to prevent the noise nuisance.

The biggest ever upset to hit the Kennel Club for many years occurred when Newfoundland breeder Phyllis Colgan took the KC to the High Court to appeal against the five year ban imposed on her by the KC in April 1999 after she was convicted by Leicester Crown Court for 'allowing' a number of her dogs to accidentally die of heatstroke. Mts Colgan had received an absolute discharge which effectively meant she was only 'technically guilty' - the court's acknowledgement that she had not wilfully contributed to the dogs' deaths.

The KC's ban, imposed under Rule A43 which also applies in America where Mrs Colgan is now living, was challenged under Human Rights laws in which her defence barrister pointed out that she had been "deprived of her living" by the KC ban and that she was not given the opportunity to conduct a defence before the KC General Committee, as there was "...no oral hearing, no representations and of right of appeal."


The Domino stand at Discover Dogs was visited by Andrew Rosindell MP.

The High Court justices agreed with Mrs Colgan's submission and cut her five year ban from five years to three, effectively allowing her to show again. Mr Justice Cooke said that the ban was "manifestly excessive and disproportionate" to "the object of the rules and the offences for which she was convicted." The case cost the KC over 100,000 to defend and led to their immediate revision of the 'A' regulations.

November

On a more positive note, the KC-led "Domino Campaign" which was set up in 2000 to fight Breed Specific Legislation worldwide opened a new chapter in October with the foundation of DominoDogsDeutschland (DDD).

German citizens, appalled by their country's anti-dog attitudes and stringent canine legislation, were already in the process of building a membership database and asked the UK founder members to assist them with their Campaign.

Quoted at the time, Harald Wiegand, Chairman of DDD said, "We are in the process of printing brochures, flyers, membership application forms and posters and DOMINO have kindly given us permission to use their logos and leaflets. We are planning to encourage dog loving people in other European countries to follow the UK example and found their own DominoDog Associations."

The High Court was again the setting for a landmark decision on dog-related matters when the case of 'Dino', a GSD condemned to death for accidentally biting the owner of another dog which had attacked him, was considered to determine when a dog "constitutes a danger to public safety".

The action was brought by well-known dog defence solicitor Trevor Cooper. Magistrates issued a destruction order in January this year after Dino became involved in a fight with another dog. The other animal's female owner stepped in to separate them and Dino bit her, breaking her finger. The Lamonts challenged the destruction order at Northampton Crown Court in September, but Mr Recorder Edelman upheld the magistrates' decision, saying that Dino had attacked the other dog without any provocation and continued to pose a danger to public safety.


Tyson - more an oversize labrador/stafford cross.

However, the application was dismissed by Lord Justice Laws and Mr Justice Crane, who both agreed the Crown Court and magistrates had acted reasonably and within their powers. Lord Justice Laws said that if a defendant could not demonstrate to the satisfaction of a court that a dog was not a danger to public safety, "the court was bound to make a destruction order".

This then led to a further appeal by Trevor Cooper who pointed out that the justices' ruling would have serious ramifications for the future operation of the Dangerous Dogs Act after its amendment in 1997 which allowed courts the option to impose control orders upon 'guilty' dogs. The Justices granted Mr Cooper a further two weeks to present his evidence which may lead to an appeal being granted to the House of Lords.

There was better news north of the border, however, for Westie 'Sam'. Appeal court judges in Edinburgh overturned the destruction order which was imposed on Sam earlier in the month. The decision to have the eight-year-old pet put down sparked a campaign to save Sam, which won the backing of animal lover and film star Brigitte Bardot. A petition calling for the terrier to be reprieved also gathered some 1,700 signatures.

The judges ruled that Sam should be placed in the care of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) with a view to finding him a new home. The National Canine Defence League in West Lothian had been retraining the dog over the last three weeks in an attempt to correct his behaviour.

The court was told that the terrier did not bark more than other dogs, although he had caused distress to an elderly neighbour. Despite hearing that measures were being put in place to ensure that Sam was quiet at home, the appeal judges ruled he should be given to the SSPCA to rehome. Local MSP Nicol Stephen has questioned why the case had to come to the highest court in the land instead of being heard by a sheriff in Aberdeen.

As November drew to a close, the KC General Committee announced that it was considering plans to 'open up' membership of the Club to existing associate members in an attempt to democratise the KC. Lawyer Norman Ziman told the Committee that the time was right to increase the membership base "if the Kennel Club was to go forward in the 21st century and to continue to represent the world of pedigree dogs, the political pressures from anti-dog legislation, and generally the various disciplines which now form part of the show scene."

There was an alternative idea to introduce another class of membership which might allow the benefits open to associates, but permit full voting rights. However, proving that the club still had its priorities right, it was solemnly declared that his class would, naturally, preclude access to the social club in Mayfair. Vive La Revolution!

December

Another sad loss to the world of dogs came with the death of Ken Woosnam at the relatively young age of 55. Ken's Saxonsprings Lhasa Apsos were famous the world over, with many BIS wins to their name. OUR DOGS 'celebrated' the tenth anniversary of the Dangerous Dogs Act becoming 'active' (November 30th 1991) and recalled the events leading up to this infamous piece of 'knee-jerk reaction' which had led to seizure and deaths of hundreds of innocent dogs, merely because of their resemblance to pit bull 'type' dogs.

Despite the promises of politicians, the DDA continues to wreck havoc a decade on, albeit mainly now under Section 3 of the Act which applies to any dog 'dangerously out of control in a public place.' Fears of an organised dog theft ring operating throughout the UK were highlighted with a study of just some of the cases in which pedigree - and mongrel - dogs had been stolen form under their owners' noses... and how ransoms were demanded by persons unknown for the dogs' safe return. Cases had peaked in Kent, with 49 thefts reported up to November.

The Kent police denied there was a problem, with a spokesman even going to far as to say that he could find no records of any dog thefts being registered! Norfolk MP Malcolm Moss had damning words for the police and their attitude to the dog thieves. "This is a national problem and it needs addressing nationally," said Mr Moss. "From the evidence I have seen, it is an organised crime ring which operates with inside knowledge and steals people's pets." Mr Moss wrote to Jim Denham, Minister of State for the Police at the Home Office, expressing his concerns, especially at the lack of interest from police forces around the country. To date, he has received no reply. "The Home Office cannot allow this to go by default and I will be demanding concerted action.

If anybody was extorting money from shopkeepers on a national basis in this same manner, then there would be an outcry and action would be taken by the police. "Dog owners have a right to the same protection of the law as any other taxpaying citizen and I intend once again to make this point very clearly to the Minister and demand that these cases are taken seriously." The Home Office simply commented that any investigation of dog thefts was "an operational matter for the police" and should be "addressed to the Chief Constable of the appropriate police force."

As Christmas approached, the prospect of the traditional Boxing Day hunt meets going ahead as usual became a reality when the Government relaxed the ban on hunting imposed due to the outbreak of foot and mouth, which was now confined to just a handful of locations... at great cost to farmers everywhere. Hunting resumed on Monday December 17th. A handful of hunts, including those in north Wales and Northamptonshire, will ride for the first time in 10 months.

All forms of hunting with dogs - apart from stag hunting - were to be allowed in disease-free areas, although hunts will avoid areas bordering any infected county or region. 'Buffer Zones' have been set up as a further safeguard where the disease is prevalent in an adjacent county or region. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural stated that only three counties remained affected by the disease; Durham, Northumberland and Cumbria. Hunting was initially suspended voluntarily by all hunts when the disease broke out in February, some time before the Government acted to ban it as part of the belated safety precautions to prevent the spread of the disease.

The Countryside Alliance's Simon Hart said the move was "a huge boost both economically and in terms of morale in rural communities". However, pro-hunting critics derided the conditions outlined last month in the the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' guidelines on the resumption of hunting, accusing Labour of initiating a 'back door ban' to 'nobble' hunting as an alternative to a legislative outright ban.

Plans to make hunts responsible for the activities of hunt saboteurs who often try to disrupt hunting meets have been met with an outcry from hunts. Alistair Jackson, director of the Masters' of Foxhounds Association, said he was delighted the sport would resume, but added that the new licensing scheme could become a virtual 'saboteurs' charter' as permits could be refused if hunt organisers failed to control the activities of anyone following on foot. And thus ended 2001. Not the best of years for anyone, by any means, and a very significant one for dogs and dog owners.

Many issues remain unresolved as 2002 dawns. Will the government impose the European Convention for Pet Animals? Will hunting be banned in Scotland and, later, in England and Wales? Is Foot and Mouth eradicated or will it flare up again? Will membership of the Kennel Club be extended? Will that membership be extended to Robert Killick? Will Dino the GSD live or die and will the High Court ruling undermine the DDA?

Will Lacey the Staffie be freed before she chalks up nine years in custody? All of these questions - some serious, some not so serious, some downright flippant and unbelievable will, we hope, be answered in the pages of OUR DOGS in the coming twelve months. To all our readers, a very Happy New Year - and whatever 2002 and may bring, it is sure to be interesting!