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2003: that was the year that was - Part Two

JULY

THE GOVERNMENT’S Hunting Bill was given the green light after its Third Reading at the beginning of July, after anti-hunting MPs ‘ambushed’ the Bill during its Second Reading on June 30th. The Bill originally called for the ‘Middle Way’ approach, whereby hunting could continue, but under strict licence.

However, the anti-hunters forced Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael to abandon his own Bill – an unprecedented occurrence for a Government Minister fronting a Government Bill. The antis secured a massive vote for a total ban on hunting with hounds.

After five hours or rowdy and often bad-tempered debate, the anti-hunters won the day, when it became clear to Labour Whips that they had no chance of fending off the rebellion. The scale of the defeat - by a majority of 208 - dealt a severe blow to the Prime Minister, who had, to that point, experienced his worst three months in Parliament, with rebellions over Iraq, foundation hospitals, tuition fees and fire fighters' pay.

Mr Blair had expressed his personal backing for the Government's Bill, which would have set up a system of licensing for fox hunts. But MPs, led by Tony Banks, the former sports minister, defied the Government and in a free vote overwhelmingly rejected its Bill by 362 votes to 154.

The Bill then headed to the House of Lords to be debated in September – but it was expected that Their Lordships would simply amend the Bill to allow hunting under licence, thus setting up yet another confrontation between the Upper and Lower chamber on this most contentious of Bills…

THE first of the Kennel Club’s ‘Roadshows’ took place at Spadesbourne Hall, Bromsgrove this month, when top KC officials met with the ordinary dog showing public. Many of the 80 ‘public’ who attended travelled across from the Usk Showground to quiz the panel of bigwigs on a whole range of KC matters. Two more roadshows were planned for later in the year.

Meanwhile, in November, Prime Minister Tony Blair started his own ‘roadshow’ called ‘The Big Conversation’ where he took to the road to meet ordinary voters. We can only speculate as to where he may have received his inspiration….

THE IKC found itself in the uncomfortable glare of the media spotlight when it found itself censured by the Competition Authority for interfering in the running of the German Shepherd Association Ireland's annual Sieger show.

Although specifics of the IKC's 'interference' was not clarified, it later became clear that the IKC objected to GSA Ireland staging the show along 'Germanic' lines, with Schutzhund displays taking place - all very much against the proscribed IKC line.

A source close to GSA Ireland told OUR DOGS: "Basically GSA Ireland is a working club and wants to run its shows on European lines, with gradings, fewer classes, conditions for dogs, such as hip scoring and qualifications for entry. Essentially, they are raising the standard for exhibition and are gravitating more towards FCI rules. The IKC obviously felt their own level of control was slipping.

"There are several accounts of the IKC contacting judges and exhibitors – largely by word of mouth or via other sources – making veiled threats of ‘consequences’ if they took part in the GSA Ireland’s Sieger show. These consequences could only be that they would be banned from participating in any IKC sanction event. This put GSA Ireland in a difficult position – they hadn’t sought a confrontation with the IKC, so they had no option but to take the matter to the Irish Competition Authority."

GSA Ireland's official statement on their website says: "This in our view is a historic decision and justifies the time and effort we put into ensuring GSD enthusiasts who share in our ideals and commitment to our unique breed can exhibit, trial, train, breed and register their dogs in any manner they see fit, providing it is in compliance with Irish civil law. Although we were never in any doubt that this was in fact the case, our view now has the support of a body with statutory powers. The authority ruled that if the allegations as presented were in fact to take place that it "would give rise to concerns, under the act" (Competition Act 2002)."

Although the IKC did not agree that they had in fact acted in a manner contrary to the Act they gave a number of undertakings to the Authority. These undertakings were given to "ensure future behaviour would be in compliance with the Act".

The IKC Ltd has undertaken to refrain from:

a) Actively deterring, monetarily penalising or otherwise disciplining its members from joining, participating in events that are sponsored by entities that are actual or potential competitors of the IKC Ltd within the Republic of Ireland.

b) Actively deterring, monetarily penalising or otherwise disciplining persons who serve as judges for IKC Ltd sanctioned events from or for serving as judges for events that are sponsored by entities that are actual or potential competitors of the IKC Ltd within the Republic of Ireland.

GSA Ireland's statement added: "As we have stated many times in the past, GSA Ireland is not interested in conflict with any body or organisation. We know there are many who are happy with the system provided for by the IKC Ltd. We wish them well."
The Irish Kennel Club made no comment to OUR DOGS at the time of going to press.

FIREWORKS AT Downing Street when campaigner Theresa Kulkarni called at No.10 and delivered a massive petition bearing over 90,000 signatures calling for a total ban on the retail sale of fireworks. She was accompanied by David Crausby MP who has long since been calling for greater restrictions on the sale of fireworks, largely on animal welfare grounds.

BRITISH AIRWAYS was forced to apologise to a partially sighted woman after refusing to allow her to fly with her Guide dog by her side – in breach of Government guidelines.
Wheelchair-bound Gail Jones who has multiple sclerosis and is registered blind was planning a healing pilgrimage in September to Lourdes, France.

Under guidelines introduced by the Department of Transport in March, companies should not charge extra fees for Guide Dogs. But BA told Mrs Jones that her dog Magic would have to travel in the hold on the flight to Toulouse and also that she would have to pay £300 plus VAT in ‘quarantine’ fees.

Mrs Jones took her business elsewhere, Rival carrier Air France were only too happy to allow Magic to travel in the passenger cabin at no extra cost. As a result, the group organising the pilgrimage booked the trip with Air France instead.

Because of her disabilities, Mrs Jones is supposed to have Magic with her at all times. The 3 year-old Labrador acts as an assistant dog and can pick up her mobile phone, wallet or keys if she drops them and is trained to help her to sit up.

Mrs Jones from Birmingham said: "It’s despicable for BA to behave in this way. Magic is well behaved and is certainly not a health risk."

The Royal National Institute for the Blind backed her up, accusing the airline of acting "immorally".

John Tangney of Tangney Tours, organisers of the Lourdes pilgrimage for 24 disabled people said: "I was amazed by BA’s negative response."

The Department of Transport added: "In March, BA was supportive of our code which meant that guide dogs should travel free with the animal at the disabled person’s feet, But, of course, the guidelines are voluntary."

BA is now changing its policy to allow guide dogs to travel on more of its European routes. A spokesman for BA said: "We apologise to Mrs Jones for any inconvenience. From next month, we will be introducing the Pets Travel Scheme across a number of routes, including Toulouse."

AUGUST

THE EFFECTS of the Hunting Ban which became law in Scotland one year ago this month were being felt in many rural communities. Many on both sides of the hunting divide south of the border were keenly observing these effects if or when a total ban on hunting comes into effect in England and Wales.

A report in the Guardian newspaper told how hunting survives in what the huntsmen call a "mutilated form" in the Borders, where hunters ride to flush the foxes to guns, exploiting a loophole in the Scottish law.

Most hunters had given up their sport, whilst those who do not pursue the ‘flushing’ hunt travel to England where hunting is – for now at least – legal. Before the ban in 2002, there were 10 mounted hunts before the act was passed; nine survive, for now.

According to the report, no official study has been conducted on the ban's impact on rural communities, so there are only anecdotes from opposing sides, and the testimony of country people.

The way in which the fox is killed is crucial to the Scottish ban. The nine hunts survive because the act which banned hunting stipulates that hounds can be used to flush out foxes. But the foxes must then be shot, not killed by hounds. It is an unhappy compromise, designed to protect the method of fox control used in the mountainous north, where there are no mounted hunts. The huntsmen do not like it, and neither do animal welfare groups. It will not be repeated south of the border. "It's how the politicians wanted it," said Les Ward, of the anti-hunting group Advocates for Animals.

"We have always known we would end up with what we have: a hard core of people who continue to get their kicks from terrifying foxes. But the number of people hunting is way down, and it will die out soon."

The Scottish Countryside Alliance admitted that most huntsmen are not prepared to take part in flushing the foxes to guns. According to them, the numbers taking part in Scotland's surviving hunts have reduced by 50% to 75%. Prior to the ban, the 10 hunts employed more than 30 staff directly, a figure which had fallen to six after the ban was enacted.

NEARLY 3,000 huntsmen and women proclaimed their readiness to break the law and defy any ban by the Government on their sport. This month they signed a declaration saying they will openly take part in illegal hunts.

Organisers were hoping to muster as many as 30,000 named individuals prepared to risk fines or imprisonment to defend their liberties in the event of a ban.

The hunting declaration was organised by the right-wing philosopher Roger Scruton, Steve Hill, a former terrierman with the Heythrop Hunt, and Michael Markham, a former businessman turned farmer.

All members of the Countryside Alliance were set to receive a letter from John Jackson, the alliance chairman, highlighting the offensive and enclosing a declaration form. As a political lobbying organisation it cannot advocate breaking the law, but Mr Jackson urged members to "examine their personal conscience" to see if they wish to sign the declaration.

The purpose of the declaration is to show the sheer numbers of people prepared to be named. It was hoped that it would focus minds in the Government.

Hunting sources said they believe police will try to embarrass huntsmen by bringing prosecutions against landowners such as the Duke of Devonshire, who told The Times last year that he will allow illegal hunting on his 12,000-acre Chatsworth estate.

A POSTMAN who runs dog obedience classes spearheaded a campaign to prevent Royal Mail workers from being attacked. Postal worker John Doley, from Flint, north Wales who has been bitten once himself, was urging local dog owners to keep their animals inside when mail is being delivered.

"Some people think it's a joke but you can get quite seriously hurt; a small dog can do just as much harm as a big dog can," he said. "When I was bitten I had to go to hospital but it's not as serious as some people. Dogs can do permanent damage....people have had their fingers bitten off as well."

In north Wales, 98 postmen and women were attacked as they went about their rounds between April 2002 and March 2003.

Royal Mail's area manager for north Wales, Ian Johnstone said dog owners need to help the delivery service.

"The majority of dog owners are very responsible when it comes to keeping our delivery staff safe," he said. "But dog bites are still a major cause of injury to our postmen and women and the effects can cause considerable distress to those concerned."

MEANWHILE the postal service in Germany claimed to have brought the problem of dogs attacking its staff under control by offering workers courses in canine psychology.

Deutsche Post said that the courses have reduced dog attacks by a third and follow other bizarre attempts to reduce the problem which all failed miserably.

In one, the postal service pushed for legislation to force the owners of dangerous dogs to put up small electrified fences. This was dropped when one postman in Hamburg needed hospital treatment after blundering into one such fence, getting an electric shock and then being bitten by the owner's Rottweiler anyway.

Another planned to issue postmen with "contra spray" - a CS gas for use on dogs - was shelved when staff complained that they often found themselves being bitten as they struggled to find the spray, remove the cap, aim and fire it.

In Bavaria, there was a report of how a postman, knocked to the ground by a playful dog, was gassed when the animal trod on the canister, spraying the postman and frightening the dog, which then bit him.

Reinforced trousers also proved useless because they made postmen easier to catch and unable to leap fences. Staff also said that they were unhappy with tough legal action against the owners of dangerous dogs as bringing the court cases after the event did not stop the problem.

However, after the introduction of the dog psychology courses, the number of attacks has dropped by 1,000 a year to just over 2,000. Deutsche Post sent nearly all of its 80,000 postmen and women on the animal psychology and psychoanalytical courses.

The classes included theory and practical elements, such as demonstrations on why it is not possible to cycle faster than a dog can run and how to hand the mail to a person walking their dog on a lead without being bitten.

The postmen were taught how to keep a check on their own body language and facial expressions to help prevent an attack, as well as to mask their fear, move slowly and speak in a soothing voice to calm aggressive dogs.

SEPTEMBER

TOUGHER penalties for negligent vets was the prescription from the Government, following lobbying by a hard core of campaigners whose pets had suffered through poor or incorrect veterinary treatment. Pet lovers who bring complaints to the college have found it disdainful of laymen and "institutionally favourable" to accused vets.

Angry owners formed a 4,000-strong group to lobby for change to call for an independent ombudsman to deal with complaints. The group sent a 4,157-signature petition to the Queen, herself a well-known animal lover, asking for support.

In 2004 the Government is expected to bring a veterinary surgeons Bill to Parliament, reforming the 1966 Act that currently legislates for animal care.

Elliot Morley, a minister at the Department of Environment, Food and Regional Affairs, met the anti-RCVS protesters in May. Meanwhile, David Liddington, shadow environment secretary, indicated that the Conservatives would press for greater rights for pet owners.

"For this number of people to be protesting suggests that there are real grievances that need to be addressed," he said.

Avril Critchley, a pet owner from Sheffield, said: "Most vets work tirelessly for the animals placed in their care. They should not have their reputations tarnished by bad vets who are shielded by a weak system. The college has shown that it is incapable of disciplining its members. Its powers should be removed."

THE FIRST strike amongst RSPCA inspectors in the charity’s history loomed The action, the first of its kind involving a leading fundraising charity was agreed as staff voted to disrupt plans to contract out the work of answering calls about distressed animals to the private sector.

Members of the trade union Amicus rejected an outright strike by seven votes, but gave a two-to-one majority for action short of a strike. The inspectors and other employees narrowly rejected strikes by 218 votes to 225 but backed action short of a strike by 292 to 155.

Management came into head-on collision with staff when the Society’s Director General, former Liberal Democrat MP Jackie Ballard, proposed drastic cuts to eliminate a deficit and protect its dwindling financial reserves.

About 340 jobs would be lost in an attempt to balance the 2004 budget and make £8m savings over two years. Amicus said the dispute focused on Ms Ballard’s plans to close the 10 regional centres which take calls about distressed animals, replacing them with a national call centre run by a private company, probably in London.

Chris Ball, the national secretary, said: "This demonstrates the anger these plans have generated among Amicus members. We will now plan what action to take, but we are calling on the RSPCA to get back round the table for meaningful talks.

"I am calling on Jackie Ballard to stop this cruelty to RSPCA staff and revise this plan, which is accountant-driven and not in the best interests of the public or animal welfare."

Ms Ballard, in her usual robust manner, refused to accept that her plans may have been wrong and said the vote against strike action showed that the union had misjudged its members, "who wanted Amicus to negotiate on redundancy packages rather than take the approach it did."

ANOTHER GUIDE dog ban was fought against by a blind owner – this time a rider taking part in the Paralympic Games. Joan Salmon, the only blind member of the Paralympic horseriding team, claims the Para Equestrian Ireland Committee discriminated against her by refusing her permission to bring her guide dog, Smudge, to the event in Scotland. She argued that blind people should have their guide dogs with them whenever possible and took her case to the Equality Tribunal.

Ms Salmon, who became blind as a result of complications from diabetes, is an experienced horsewoman who competes in dressage and has represented Ireland in the past two Paralympic Games.

The National Council for the Blind of Ireland supported Ms Salmon in her discrimination action. Des Kenny, chief executive of the council, is among the witnesses who testified at the hearing.

The row over her guide dog travelling with her to events began two years ago. Up until then she had attended international events without her guide dog. In 1996, she won a bronze medal for dressage at the Atlanta Paralympics and in 2000 she competed in the Sydney Paralympics, both without Smudge.

When she decided to take her dog to Scotland for an event two years ago, the Para Equestrian Committee told her that the animal could not travel. The committee claimed that it did not have the resources or funding required to accommodate the guide dog, and will deny discrimination at the hearing.

The National Council for the Blind of Ireland offered to provide an escort, who would travel with Ms Salmon and Smudge to Scotland. But the Committee refused this, as her place had already been offered to another rider.

SIX DOGS is the limit anyone can own without needing to apply for planning permission for ‘change of use’ of their home, according to a number of local authorities across the UK.

A well known Shar-pei breeder and exhibitor from Dorset who keeps 18 dogs in kennels on his property was investigated by the local dog warden for an unrelated issue and was then visited by a planning officer. The officer appeared uninterested in the welfare or conditions of the dog, but simply stated that Mr P (name withheld at owner’s request) would have to apply for planning permission as he had over six dogs and this made his home "no longer a domestic dwelling".

Mr P, who is also a local JP – asked the officer (whom we identify as Mr Y) what his home would be re-designated as. "I put it to him that it wasn’t a breeding establishment – most of my dogs are retired, and I only breed one or two litters a year, so I don’t even need a licence. Nor is it a sanctuary, or a boarding kennels. He simply shrugged and said he didn’t know, but stated that ‘in his view owning more than six dogs was not for domestic or residential purposes’," said Mr P.

Soon afterwards, Mr P received a letter from Mr Y explaining that he had 21 days to apply for planning permission or he would receive an enforcement notice requiring him to reduce the number of dogs on his premises to six. Additionally, the cost of planning permission was £220. Mr P pursued the matter further with the planning officer and asked a number of searching questions of the planning officer by letter.

Mr P eventually received a brief reply from Mr Y, who stated, quite clearly that he was "unable to answer [Mr P’s] questions, but that "every case was determined on its merits" and reiterated that he expected Mr P to apply for planning permission for ‘change of use’.

Mr P was somewhat taken aback by this response. "In a nutshell, he has simply ducked the questions, and slides out with 'every case is determined on its merits’. This is highly predictable, and patently unacceptable, in that the applicant is effectively be asked to apply blind, with no idea of what criteria are to be used, or what any precedents are. On top of that the applicant is being asked to shell out £220 up front to find out. In my view, the questions remain fundamental and are basic information that any individual has a right to know BEFORE he applies."

Mr P feels the whole issue is far more insidious and goes far deeper than just a matter of per ownership: "From what he is saying, it seems to me that it all revolves around the word 'incidental', and that they believe THEY have the right to determine what is 'incidental' in YOUR home, even though you may be causing no harm or hindrance to anyone, nor breaking any law. This, I believe, is a fundamental breach of an individual's Human Rights. It may be a different matter if the 'hobby' does cause a problem for neighbours etc. (through noise, smell, inconvenience etc) but those issues are in any case covered by standing environmental law."

By the end of the year, the issue had still not been resolved, although Mr Y had been mysteriously silent on the matter – perhaps simply hoping that the issue, all of his own making, would somehow go away. Meanwhile, Mr P still has to cope with the aggravation this matter has caused him.

THE NEW Kennel Club Gallery opened to the public towards the end of September, displaying many of the items of fine art, sculpture and memorabilia collected during the KC’s 130 years of existence. Artists featured in the collection include such great names as Maud Earl, F T Daviks, John Emms, Frances Farman and Arthur Wardle.

The KC was also in the process of building up a strong contemporary collection, including the work of Jessica Holm, Marjorie Cox and John Silver.

The gallery would also host temporary exhibitions from famous and contemporary artists.

BSL WAS on the agenda again when the Italian Government showed just how pathetically stupid politicians can be when faced with framing laws relating to dogs.

Bowing to pressure from anti-BSL campaigners, the Government did not list Staffordshire Bull terriers as a ‘dangerous’ breed. However breeds such as Border Collies, St Bernards and Corgis were branded as ‘dangerous’ and illegal for criminals and children to own.

As with all new canine laws, the Italian legislation followed a spate of dog attacks that gained a high media profile, prompting calls for political action. In the latest incident, a four-year-old toddler had to undergo facial surgery after a severe mauling by a dog of unspecified breed. Other dog attacks included one on an elderly woman, who had her nose bitten off, and a woman jogger, who almost lost the use of one arm.

Police say that the vast majority of ‘Pit Bulls’ in Italy are bred and trained for organised dog fighting. The fights, and the gambling associated with them, are controlled by criminal gangs - especially by the Neapolitan Mafia, known as the Camorra.

The new legislation, passed by emergency decree after a series of pit bull attacks made front-page headlines this summer, places a number of restrictions on ownership of 92 kinds of "threatening" dogs.

Predictably, the new category included ‘the usual suspects’ such as Dobermanns, Bull Mastiffs and German Shepherds, as well as ‘pit bulls’, of which there are an estimated 16,000 in Italy.

But the law also included Newfoundlands, a breed with a reputation for mildness, as well as Corgis. Although Staffordshire Bull Terriers and American Staffords were excluded form the legislation, mainly as a result of heavy campaigning by anti-BSL campaigners, this led to other breeds not being ‘spoken up for’ and has allowed these to be classified as ‘threatening’ or ‘potentially dangerous’.

A TOTAL of 20,000 hounds would die as a result of a hunting ban – and that’s official, but inevitable according to a Government Minister speaking during the House of Lords debate on the Hunting Bill.

Lord Whitty the Rural Affairs Minister appeared the metaphorically shrug his shoulders at the ‘inevitable’ consequence of the Bill. In a series of increasingly bad tempered exchanges, the Government’s lack of concern towards the fate of the hunting dogs became clear.

Lord Whitty tried to dismiss that matter saying: "…the Hunting Bill does not require dogs to be destroyed. Evidence to the Burns committee suggests that hunts in England and Wales keep around 20,000 dogs solely for hunting. Several thousand dogs are put down every year. If the Bill becomes law it will be for dog owners to decide what to do with their dogs."

Earl Ferrers responded: "I am grateful to the Minister for that astonishing reply. Does he not realise that if the Bill becomes law 11,766 foxhounds, 3,600 beagles, 1,200 harriers, 511 mink hounds, 420 fell hounds, 220 deer hounds, 300 basset hounds and 3,000 unentered hounds will be destroyed because there will be nothing for them to hunt? Is not the noble Lord ashamed of that?"

Again, Lord Whitty tried to shrug off the matter, by sticking to the arithmetic: "That adds up to roughly the 20,000 to which I referred, several thousand of which in practice are destroyed every year because they outlive their usefulness or their ability to join the pack. Therefore, it is not unusual for hunts to destroy hounds. It is difficult to see that all of those hounds would be used for other purposes, but some might.

The packs are bred specifically for something which in all other contexts is anti-social. However, there is a difference of opinion as to whether they could be used for different purposes. That would depend on the temperament of the hounds. The animal welfare organisations have offered to the hunts and to others to see whether the hounds could be re-housed in different circumstances and some undoubtedly could. So, it is unlikely that the number destroyed would match the total figures which have been bandied around."

The Earl of Onslow reacted angrily, demanding of Lord Whitty: "Can the Minister give any other instance of when, quite deliberately, it has been government policy to reduce the number of one species by about 20,000 with no possible thought for its survival?"

Lord Whitty again tried to dismiss the matter, saying: "My Lords, regrettably, there are a number of such instances which necessarily arise in terms of pest control and animal disease. Again, I do not believe that the situation is unique."

Angrily shrugging off a suggestion from Lord Swinfen that he himself might adopt a Foxhound as a family pet he added: "…we all have to make our own choices on this matter. I do not pretend that foxhounds would make a suitable family pet in most instances. I certainly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, in that respect. However, in expert circles it is said that some could be used for other purposes: retrained for farm animals, or whatever. I suspect that that is a minority, but nevertheless there is scope for saving some of these hounds."

The Lords dismissed the Hunting Bill, ‘correcting it’ as they put it, by reinstating its caluses to allow hunting to continue under licence. Furious anti-hunting MPs demanded that the Government bring the legislation back into the next session of Parliament and use the Parliament Act to steamroller the legislation onto the statute books.

OCTOBER

A POODLE’S genetic code would be the starting point for a scientific study of the genes that contribute to canine diseases whilst also shedding light on a number of human diseases.

This was the breakthrough reported by the journal Science, relating to the genetic code of the dog being ‘cracked’ by Dr Craig Venter and Dr Ewan Kirkness of the Institute for Genomic Research in Maryland, USA.

Dr Venter used his own Stanbdard Poodle’s DNA to map the genetic code and thus allow the study to recognise 974,400 common variations in the dog’s genetic code.

TWO GUIDE dogs broke the UK land speed record this month when they travelled at 186mph on the Eurostar train between London and Paris.

Prveiously, blind and vision-impaired people had been unable to take their guide dogs on board the service through the Chennel Tunnel, as the carriage of alll animals was banned.

Eurostar had worked with Guide Dogs for the Blind Associationa nd DEFRA to put in place the faacilities and procedures required to enable thje new cistomer iniative to operate effeciently and effectively, with guide dogs being allowedto travel on Eurostar free of charge.

Helping to promote Guide Dogs’ Access For All Campaign, two guide dog owners – Dr Mike Nussbaum with guide dog Gretl and Colin Davies with Robert joined the other passengers aboard Eurostar for the tans-channel journey.

AFTER MONTHS of wrangling, the New Zealand Government decided to ignore the advice of experts and anti-BSL campaigners and adopt breed specific laws.

The Government’s Local Government and Environment Select Committee decided to implement an import ban on the four ‘usual suspects’, namely; American Pit Bull Terriers, The Fila Brasiliero, Dogo Argentino and Japanese Tosa – the four self same breeds targeted in the UK’s flawed Dangerous Dogs Act. The new law also called for the compulsory muzzling of those dogs in public, although it did not ‘ban’ them via neutering as with the UK law.

The Select Committee opined that breed specific laws had appeared to work in other countries and that guidance could be sought from the authorities in those countries in identifying these ‘types’ of dogs. This did not augur well for Staffordshire Bull Terriers and crossbreeds, many of which were seized as unregistered Pit Bulls in the UK under the DDA.

"The Breed Specific laws are too strong and will see more and more breeds banned," said the President of the New Zealand Kennel Club, Mr Ray Greer.

"The process recommended by Committee before a dog breed can be banned - consultation, an Order in Council and a motion in the House – will not make the banning of breeds more rigorous or accurate and was supported by none of the major submitters before the committee.

"The Committee has also got it wrong in saying that it will be possible to develop accurate and reliable identification guidelines for breeds. No country has been able to do this and the Committee is simply wrong on this point. This will cause endless problems when they try to put the legislation into practice"

Leading anti-BSL campaigner Marion Harding expressed her disgust at the Committee’s recommendations. "I am bitterly disappointed that the select committee didn't bother to take one bit of notice of the expert advice they heard or were given via submissions, articles and reports. They have learned nothing from failed BSL in the countries where it has already been tried. Nothing they have recommended will protect the public," she said.

NOVEMBER

THE SCOTTISH Kennel Club suffered a double blow with the resignation of its Secretary General Mr Allan Sim and his wife, Anna Fox who supervised the the running of the Edinburgh office on a day to day basis.

Mr Sim, a managing partner of Johnston Smillie the Edinburgh based accountants, had been with the Scottish Kennel Club for 26 years and Anna Fox had 23 years experience of canine matters north of the Border.

OUR DOGS understood that Mr Sim’s resignation followed that of Anna Fox who was surprised and upset to receive an e-mail at the SKC office from a group of Executive Council members questioning the attitude and unhelpful approach of staff in the SKC office.

The loss of a secretary General and also several members of the office staff in Edinburgh came at time when the club was hoping to move forward into this century and maintain its relative independence from Clarges Street.

It also robs the SKC of a hard working member of its show team who has been a member of the Kennel Club since 1979 Mr Sim was Vice Chairman of the KC Show Executive, representing the KCLC Shows Council and had just been re-elected to the Council for a further three year term.'

STILL WITH Scotland, dog owners north of the border were warned to be aware of new legislation that came into effect in October covering dog fouling.

Scotland has a separate legal system to England and Wales, so under Scots law corroboration is required before a person is charged, this needing two witnesses to the event or incident in question. However, the new anti-fouling legislation removes the need for corroborative evidence, so evidence from a single witness may be sufficient for prosecution.
Also the new law changes the emphasis from ‘allowing a dog to foul’ in public to ‘failing to clear up’ after it, whilst areas where dog fouling is not allowed are painstakingly spelt out.

Offending owners will be issued with a ‘fixed penalty notice’ by a police officer of authorised local authority officer as an alternative to going to court to answer charges.

The initial cost of the fine was set at £40, rising to £60 if the fine if not paid with 28 days.

A HAPPY ending for a distressing dog theft case was reported this month when a pedigree Shih Tzu named Cleo was reunited with her overjoyed owner, just over three weeks since being stolen from a quarantine kennels.

Cleo, owned by Rachael Collins from Reading was stolen from Airpets kennels near Heathrow airport. She had been held in limited quarantine for health checks and was due to fly out to Cairo to be with Rachael’s parents Janet and Steve a few days later.

According to eyewitnesses, two or maybe three men turned up at the kennels in a van at the same time when the dogs were out of their runs, whilst the runs were being cleaned.

The men engaged a member of staff in conversation and then drove off again. The kennel maid cleaning the runs heard a great deal of barking from the dogs, and on checking them, saw that four year-old Cleo was missing. She was, in fact, the Rachael and Airpets had offered a joint reward of £1,000 for Cleo’s safe return. Despite contacting the media and posting Cleo’s theft on the Internet via various Missing Dog websites, Rachael was beginning to despair that she’d never see her pet again. But a breakthrough occurred when Rachael received a telephone call from a woman who lived many miles outside London. After driving for about 600 miles Rachael met the woman near Ipswich, Suffolk and was finally reunited with Cleo at about 10pm. Apart from looking a little more dishevelled than when she was stolen, Cleo was in good health and ecstatic to see Rachael again.

The woman told Rachael that she had been given the dog by another family who had acquired her recently. The family said they could not cope with dog and wondered if the woman would like her. A few days later, quite by chance, the woman had seen an advertisement placed by Rachael in Loot Magazine and realised that the dog she had been given was Rachael’s. She received confirmation of this when she called Cleo’s name and the little dog responded happily. She duly made contact with Rachael on the Saturday morning and arranged the meeting.

Rachael told OURDOGS: "As I am sure you can imagine, we are absolutely thrilled – Cleo seems no worse off for her little ‘adventure’ and we are now just looking forward to things getting back to normal."

FOXHUNTING was left out of the Queen’s Speech for the new round of Government legislation – much to the anger of anti-hunting Labour MPs. Peter Hain, Leader of the Commons, promised "discussions" on ways of achieving a ban in the face of renewed opposition from the House of Lords, although his comments on GMTV’s Sunday Programme were open to wide interpretation.

It had been widely expected that the Government would re-introduce the amended Bill and use the Parliament Act to overcome the Lords opposition, after angry backbenchers demanded concerted action.

Mr Blair was expected to indicate that the Government would support a private member's Bill by an anti-hunting MP. However a PMB would make it far less certain that a ban would reach the statute book. Previous attempts to outlaw hunting through private members' Bills have all failed.

The Government is concerned that a hunting Bill could run into stiff opposition in the Lords, delaying legislation on asylum, student finance and anti-terrorism
Mr Hain said on GMTV: "It is very important for the future of our democracy and our constitutional stability that the House of Lords recognises that its proper role is as a revising and scrutinising chamber, not a vetoing chamber. The Lords must not be allowed to frustrate important legislation bringing extra security, opportunities, democracy and greater economic stability."

‘LEGALISED’ PUPPY FARMING in Wales was under threat thanks to a concerted campaign organised by OUR DOGS columnist Robert Killick.

The Welsh Assembly welcomed Killick along with representatives from the Kennel Club, Dogs Trust, Barbara Packham of the Ty-Agored Animal Sanctuary, Ms Elisabeth Davies, an animal welfare lecturer from Carmarthen College, who were in attendance to highlight their concerns regarding the Farming Connect Service initiative recently introduced.

This scheme, which is providing grants to farmers looking to expand their agricultural business into commercial areas, is not in the best interests of animal welfare, as it effectively promotes commercial breeding practices, putting profit before welfare. The scheme was first ‘outed’ by Killick in his regular OUR DOGS column and since then, a campaign calling upon the Assembly to reverse its plans steadily gained momentum.

The delegation’s visit was a success, with many Assembly Members pledging their support for the campaign. Alun Cairns, Assembly Member for South Wales West and Conservative Spokesperson on Economic Development and Transport, was particularly proactive in lobbying relevant politicians.

The alliance of campaigners issued a hard-hitting statement to the Welsh Assembly members, saying:

"We are particularly concerned with this policy that provides grants to farmers who wish to convert their premises into commercial dog breeding establishments, thereby effectively promoting commercial breeding practices.

From experience, such establishments breed dogs purely for profit, allowing welfare standards to deteriorate. Concerned parties are at a loss to understand the reasoning behind the decision of the Welsh Assembly. The problem of ‘puppy farming’ is not new to Wales and it is an issue of which many Assembly Members are no doubt aware. To now offer financial incentives for breeding dogs - which will ensure that the already saturated puppy market is affected even further - is surely not in the best interests of animal welfare."

Robert Killick commented: "I believe that the message getting through. There was only one Assembly member who was unpleasant – a Liberal Democrat in fact. He wanted evidence that puppy farmers would be bad, but he was just being obtuse. We need 31 of the Assembly members to sign a motion to get the issue debated. In the meantime, Alun Jones will table a question to the Assembly – so we remain hopeful that this foolhardy scheme will soon be dropped."

PUPPY FARMING was also a hot topic in Scotland this month, thanks to Scots Nationalist MSP Christine Grahame launching proposals for a Member’s Bill on the transportation and sale of puppies in Scotland.

Ms Grahame had co-sponsors from all political parties at the Scottish Parliament and had been working closely with the Scottish SPCA and the anti-puppy farming group the Waterside Action Group (WAG) on details of the proposals.

She said: "This issue is something that I feel very strongly about and I am sure the public will support the proposal for a Bill to safeguard the health and welfare of puppies by restricting their sale until they reach a minimum age. The Bill will also require them to have specified documentation when transported for sale.

"I am particularly pleased that the proposals have come to fruition at a time when high profile cases are being brought to court.

"There was a case just last week of the police stopping a van and discovering 102 puppies, from St Bernards to Jack Russells, being transported ready for sale. The person responsible is due in court the same day that I will be launching my proposals."

DECEMBER

PET INSURANCE costs so much and comes with so many strings attached that many owners would be better off simply saving up and paying any bills themselves, according to the Consumers’ Association.

A survey for the association’s publication Which? found that although pet cover might give peace of mind, a single policy could cost as much as £5,000 over a dog’s lifetime, even if a claim were never made. Owners should shop around before signing up for a policy, and make sure they know what is on offer.

Which? conducted an analysis of 9,000 insurance premiums found that cost average between £50 and £500 a year to insure a dog and £30 to £200 a year for a cat. Premiums and excess payments both rise steeply if the animal is more than eight years old. Some companies even insist that owners foot a percentage of any bill on top of the excess, which very often defeats the object of the insurance in the first place.

The areas where people live also affect premiums. Based on postcodes across the UK, the premiums are higher in London and the South East, where vets’ fees may be higher. A number of pedigree dogs are also more expensive to insure. Whilst some companies point out almost that mongrels are ‘cheap and cheerful’ to insure.

GRIM NEWS just a week before Christmas when the hospital ‘superbug’ MRSA was detected in British pets for the first time, prompting fears that animals could infect their owners.

The discovery that the deadly bacteria had crossed the species barrier would make it harder to limit their spread and could make the common antibiotics used to treat infections far less effective.

MRSA (Methicillin - Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus), which kills 5,000 patients a year, is carried harmlessly by one in three people. But it can prove fatal in the elderly, those recovering from surgery and those who have a weakened immune system. Newborn babies are also susceptible.

During the past year, 12 animals were found to be carrying the bug by infection control experts at the Health Protection Agency in London, who had studied veterinary samples from cats, dogs and a rabbit. The matter was being treated with urgency and an investigation is planned for the New Year - although the British Veterinary Association urged the public not to panic and abandon their pets.

As with humans, animals can carry around the bacteria harmlessly and will only be at risk should they have an accident and need surgery or if they have an open wound.

MRSA was first reported in animals two years ago, with the discovery by Canadian microbiologist Dr Donald Low that an Irish thoroughbred horse had the bug. Since then, Low has confirmed cases in cats, dogs, guinea pigs and horses in the United States.

The British Veterinary Association urged pet owners not to start abandoning their pets. Spokesman Dr Alistair Gibson said: "We don't want to see a massive scare that will make people get rid of their pets. What we need is for research to be done into this. Meanwhile, owners should take a sensible approach, wash their hands regularly and not panic."

GOOD NEWS however, greeted the close of the year with hope for the coming year. The anti-puppy farm group WAG reported that 38 MSP’s have signed up to support the progress of SNP MSP Christine Graham’s Bill to halt the movement of puppies into Scotland from Ireland. However, although this level of support was creditable, was some distance short of the full parliament.

WAG Secretary Ken McKie told OUR DOGS: "We would ask all our supporters to contact their MSP and ascertain whether they will support the progress of this bill.

"Given the due process if unchallenged this Bill could be in effect by Christmas 2004 but most probably be a month or two after that. If we do not get this support then the Bill will not be passed and the suffering of puppies will continue. This year alone we have seen 212 puppies seized from transporters and we MUST act now. Remember your constituents voted for their MSP and they are there to represent your opinions and wishes. Please do not be complacent and remember the poor animals that are continuing to suffer over this cruel trade."

AND FINALLY, just a few days before Christmas, OUR DOGS Chief Reporter Nick Mays made a public declaration of his New Year’s Resolution for 2004.

"my New Year’s Resolution is dead simple – I’m going to start writing the Review of the Year month by month come hell or high water!"

At this point, the OUR DOGS office band struck up a rousing rendition of "And the Band Played Believe It If You Like"

HAPPY NEW YEAR!