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Animal Health & Welfare Strategy comments on the consultation document by the Scottish Kennel Club

It is recognised that the main thrust of the document is in relation to farm animals and food production; however, the document makes it clear that the consultation is intended to be all-encompassing and therefore includes companion animals, in which The Scottish Kennel Club has a close interest.

The Scottish Kennel Club is a full-time organisation, serving around two thousand five hundred members and the dog world at large. It is responsible for licensing dog shows and other canine events in Scotland and its main thrust is in the promotion of responsible dog ownership. The Club is the prime source of information and advice on canine matters in Scotland.

The Club operates a register of breeders, all of whom sign a declaration which binds them to the basic tenets of good practice in relation to the breeding and sale of dogs.

Club objects

The two main Club objects in relation to canine health and welfare are:

To Promote and Encourage the Improvement and Well-Being of dogs
To Promote Education and Study in relation to this
The Club’s logo bears the strap-line ‘Caring for Dogs’.

Scope of club’s interest

The Club’s interest in dogs extends to people who:

Keep dogs purely as companion animals
Keep dogs for showing and participation in other canine events
Keep dogs for sport
Keep working dogs
Keep dogs for participation in community service
Breed dogs
Care of dogs in kennels, homes, etc.

Need for a strategic approach to animal health and welfare

The Club is in agreement with the basic outline of the strategy and agrees that a need for it exists. It accepts that the outline vision covers the main issues.

Need for separate companion animal strand to the strategy

Certain aspects of animal health and welfare will apply to all owners, keepers and vendors of animals; however the strategy in respect of companion animals may diverge from that applicable to animals kept for food production in certain circumstances.

The relevance of the Strategy to companion animals may also be better understood if it specifically refers to them.

Consistently high standards of health and welfare

The standard of health and welfare in dogs is generally high and the continuous programme of research into animal diseases by the Animal Health Trust and others has been well documented. Canine breed standards are also designed to ensure that breeders and owners strive to produce an animal which is constructed for its original purpose and which can adapt to our changing environment as required.

As a result of the experience gained from this activity, the Club believes that any Strategy should include the following requirements:

1. A general Code of Ethics applicable to all animal owners, keepers and vendors.
2. A key role for the promotion of health and disease-free animals in all breeding programmes.
3. The availability of affordable animal insurance and healthcare to facilitate healthy animals

Improved public health

The Club recognises the need to link animal health and welfare with improved public health.

Whilst this may be largely in relation to food production, any strategy in relation to companion animals should include reference to the responsibility for ensuring that public health, and indeed safety, is not compromised by companion animals. At the same time, it is important that any dangers to public health are not exaggerated and this should be recognised in the strategy.

At the same time, the strategy should recognise the significant positive contribution which dogs (and other companion animals) can make towards the improvement of public health and well-being.

Accordingly, the following points are made for inclusion in the strategy:

1. More promotion and education in respect of removal of dog fouling.
2. More responsible approach to the education of the public on the effect of disease transmission from animals to the public.
3. Greater promotion of the therapeutic aspects of animal ownership.

Legislation

Any strategy must have a coherent link to relevant legislation and that legislation must be clearly understood by those who require to abide by it. Accordingly, the following proposals are made:

1. A direct link between the previously mentioned Code of Ethics and relevant legislation.
2. Consolidation of, and improvement in, legislation relative to animal health and welfare to facilitate its understanding and application by those concerned.

Cost sharing

Animal health and welfare is largely funded by the non-profit making and charitable organisations in this country. The funds available are governed by the whims and vagaries of public generosity and it cannot be assumed that this generosity will either continue at present levels or, indeed, increase in proportion to the needs involved.

There is therefore a need to generate partnerships between government and these organisations in order that financial considerations do not frustrate the advancement of the strategy.

Docking of tails

The Club recognises that the docking of tails is an emotive issue which continues to interfere with the promotion of the canine world’s concern for animal welfare. There has been much ill-informed publicity on the subject over the years and its origins have been much misunderstood. In recent years, the law has mitigated this somewhat through the requirement for the process to be carried out by a qualified veterinary surgeon.

The Club’s policy has supported the docking of tails where the standard of a particular breed has indicated that the tail is ‘customarily docked’. This is on the basis that the standard of the breed should reflect as closely as possible the origins of the breed but especially to ensure that the dogs concerned do not suffer through tail damage which can occur through working and exercise and result in pain and distress to the dog concerned.

Transportation of animals

The Club has encouraged the lifting of quarantine restrictions and the introduction of the Pets Passport legislation. This has greatly expanded the horizons of the canine world in respect of competition and companionship. However, it is recognised that there are dangers associated with the transportation of animals on their own or accompanied by their owners.
These dangers apply to other companion animals.

Accordingly the Club proposes that a Code on Companion Animal transportation should be established as part of the strategy.

Education

It will be seen that a key part of these proposals in relation to the strategy relates to education. The establishment of codes of conduct provides those concerned with clear guidelines and the direct link to legislation provides a legal framework, within which they are expected to operate and a disciplinary process as the ultimate sanction for those who are not in sympathy with the basic tenets of animal health and welfare.