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The James Wellbeloved/Dobermann Club Symposium
For the health of your dog


Line up of speakers and officials: l to r: Nick Mays, Sue McKay, Mike Mullan, Lisa Corbishey and Ken Wyke of James Wellbeloved, Ann Robinson, Richard Allport


The annual James Wellbeloved/Dobermann Club symposium was staged last Sunday at the Sports Connexion complex in Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Warwickshire. This year the proceeds from the event would go towards the rebuilding of the Dobermann Club’s pavilion that was burnt down by vandals earlier this year.

The title of the symposium was ‘For the Health of Your Dog’ and boasted four speakers, all speaking on quite diverse fields within this heading.

The first speaker was homoeopathic vet RICHARD ALLPORT. Judging by the warm reception he received – and the clamouring for signings of his books afterwards – Allport was clearly a popular choice of speaker – a fact borne out by his friendly and chatty approach to the audience, involving them in his whole talk from the start, making it a totally interactive experience. He even kicked off with three terrible jokes that more than broke the ice – especially when talking about how to unfreeze a herd of cows! (You need Thora Hird).

Allport then got into his stride, explaining that he was a trained vet, but had come to realise the benefits of homeopathy later on, and now worked exclusively as a homeopathic veterinary practitioner, mainly dealing with referral cases where conventional treatments could not help.

He defined homoeopathy as part of holistic treatment, that is, to consider – and hopefully treat, the whole of the animal’s health, which was a process of thinking differently. Using the example of Samuel Hardiman, the first homeopathic practitioner, Allport explained that Hardiman's approach was not just to treat the symptoms, but to consider the cause – "Where, What and How."

Perhaps surprisingly to some of his audience, Allport said that whereas there was a lot to be said for the Bones and Raw Fish (BARF) diet, he didn’t think it was good for fogs all the time. "I give my dogs BARF, but I also give them commercial prepared complete food too," he said.

"Their diet is varied, because it suits them. BARF doesn’t suit every dog. We should use the diet that is most practical for us."

Prime

Continuing on this theme, he spoke about the environment – as this was "all around us". But was open air fresh air, even in the countryside? There was radiation, microwaves from mobile phones, which were all around us and even going through us. Even Geopathic Stress could affect our homes and make them prime sites for illness. This is where the holistic approach to an animals’ ailment was needed – and could also take in genetic faults, as the canine gene pool was so not what it should e in many ways.

On the subject of vaccines, Allport had some strong words, but delivered calmly and without the evangelical zeal that often accompanies advocates of ‘alternative’ therapies. "When I qualified as a vet, the received wisdom was to vaccinate for everything," said Allport.

"Antibiotics, steroids, everything. It is all too easy for a vet to use drugs to suppress a problem, but it doesn’t cure that problem. Vets and doctors dispense far too many antibiotics these days… but a leading medical scientist has said that within 12 years antibiotics will not work, because too many are dispensed and they are in danger of losing their effect. I will still advocate the use of antibiotics in an acute situation, but it only suppresses the problem. Natural medicines get to the root of the problem."

However, Allport had a few surprises for his audience when, turning to the subject of annual immunity vaccinations, he said: "I’, not anti-vaccination/ I have two dogs and they’ve both been vaccinated. My 10 year old dog has never had a booster in her life, the puppy might never get one either. I believe that too regular boosters can reduce the effect of the vaccine. Research has been carried out in the USA and vets there are now advocating boosters only every 3 or 5 years."

Allport even went further surprising his audience – and neatly leading onto the subject of vaccines covered by later speaker Ann Robinson – by saying that Nosodes, cultivated from a disease itself could be used as a vaccine, but that no antibody tests could establish whether the animal had immunity. He pointedly stated: "I wouldn’t rely on nosodes entirely."

Allport concluded his talk with a very interesting and often entertaining question and answer session, earning him warm applause from the audience, who obviously found his talk both informative and, even more importantly, accessible, delivered in an informal way – an approach which many speakers fail to grasp.

Vet and Nutrionist SUSAN MCKAY, was the next speaker. McKay explained that she had practiced as a vet for many years and had set herself up in business as a nutritionist, acting as advisor to various commercial pet food companies. Naturally enough, the subject of her presentation being Canine Nutrition From Puppy To Senior. Despite the overhead projector not displaying her acetate sheets correctly, McKay made a good fist of things, running through the 4essential requirements for a healthy canine diet, listing the ‘Must Haves’ within that diet.

Despite at times lapsing into some very technical explanations, which completely lost her audience, McKay was at her best when she came out with some nuggets of little-known information, such as recent obesity research in human beings which indicated that agitation had an effect on body weight. People who fidgeted a lot were the human equivalent of Springer Spaniels, burning up lots of energy, and thus very often not having a weight problem.

Temperature in relation to food requirements was touched upon, with the example of huskies in colder countries burning far more body fat than dogs in more temperate climes.

McKay spoke at length about the whelping feeding regime for nursing mothers, and for a growing puppy’s nutritional requirements, pointing out that the interim stage ‘Junior’ foods were now falling from favour, never having been a bestseller in any event, leading the manufacturers splitting food for older puppies and adults according to breed, this being dictated by the size of the morsels.

One revelation, thanks to new research was the turning on its head of the assertion that senior dogs needed less protein in their foods. "No, keep it up!" said McKay, "They lose protein as they grow older, and so their protein levels need building up. This in turn boosts the immune system and the effects can be seen in the dog’s coat, which would otherwise lose condition with lower protein levels."

McKay pointed out that the ‘Low Protein’ strategy for seniors had come about as a result of research on laboratory rats, but that this research was now discredited. Proof indeed that what’s good for a rat isn’t necessarily what’s good for a dog.

McKay’s talk straddled the lunch break, when, somewhat nourished by the cold buffet, the audience returned and took part in an question and answer session that covered a wide range of nutritional beliefs and strategies.

The third speaker was vet ANN ROBINSON, who proved herself not to be the weakest link by any means, despite having one of the most contentious subjects – her talk being entitled ‘Canine Vaccination, When, If, Why’.

Joking that she felt like "Daniel in the Lion’s den", Robinson laid out her credentials in a very ‘up front’ manner, pointing out that she’d been a vet for 17 years, 6 years of that time being spent at the PDSA where she "saw lots of unvaccinated dogs, with all their attendant problems." She went on to say that she had undertaken research to develop a vaccine to protect cats from ringworm, and now worked for Pfizer, the pharmaceutical conglomerate who manufactured vaccines, amongst other things.

"As a vet, I strive to do my best for the animals who come to me for treatment, including dogs, using the best means at my disposal," said Robinson. "And that includes advocating regular vaccination against diseases."

Although she was careful not to appear scornful, Robinson dismissed what she termed "anecdotal" evidence concerning individual dogs that had suffered a suspected adverse reaction to vaccination. She pointed out that it was necessary to be careful to avoid broad generalisations about the ‘failure’ of vaccines and that it would be necessary to carefully investigate what else was "going on with the dog" in a case of a suspected adverse reaction.

Robinson then entered into a detailed, yet essentially ‘user friendly’ explanation of what a vaccine was and how it worked, carefully explaining the differences between ‘live’ and ‘dead’ vaccines and how immunity was developed in an organism – whether dog or human – against a specific disease.

There was some heated discussion from a couple of members of the audience on the Local Authority licensing requirements for owners of commercial boarding kennels to ensure that all dogs they boarded were vaccinated. Robinson calmly stood her ground and said she praised the officials who enforced that law, because when several dogs were gathered in a small, enclosed environment like kennels, diseases could easily be passed from dog to dog.

Robinson then detailed each of the main canine diseases that vets vaccinated against, taking in Distemper, which could be passed on feacally, adding that 1 billion distemper viruses could inhabit one gram of faeces. She went on to list Infectious Canine Hepatitis, Leptospirosis and Kennel Cough, Canine Herpes Virus (the so-called ‘Fading Puppy’ syndrome ailment), adding in the ‘new’ disease threats since the removal of quarantine and the introduction of pet passports, Rabies and Leishmaniasis, as well as Tetanus and Canine Corona Virus. The latter condition only occurred in conjunction with Parvo, and should, she felt, be vaccinated against.

A question and answer session followed, leading to a polite round of applause, although it was quite obvious that some sections of the audience had come with preset ideas about vaccination and remained to be convinced of its necessity.

The final speaker of the day was NICK MAYS, the Chief Reporter of OUR DOGS Newspaper, speaking on all aspects of canine law under the intriguing title of ‘Fairy Tale Dogs Law Is A Real Dog’s Dinner’.

Mays began his talk by explaining that, as a journalist, he came across so many stories of injustice to dogs and dog owners, most of it through bad laws, but by the nature of his profession had to steer a reasonably ‘neutral’ line on the subject. "However," he added, to giggles from the audience, "today I can speak my mind!"

He added that he was borrowing a phrase from his friend Richard Allport in taking an ‘holistic’ approach to dog laws, as in considering one dog law, you had to consider them all, as they were all inter-linked. Also, the legislation against dogs and dog owners was, in his opinion, part of the general downward trend in the law that failed to punish genuine wrongdoers by penalising the innocent, law-abiding citizens.


Happy

Taking the audience along with him, Mays geld up a book a Fairy Tales, saying that fairy tales could help teach our children about life - although life didn’t always have a happy ending – but that the lessons of right and wrong were very clear… and this extended to bad laws.

Using one aspect of the tale of the Sleeping Beauty, Mays pointed out that, in order to protect his daughter form death by pricking her finger on a spinning wheel, King Stefan has decreed – no doubt on the advise of his advisors – that all spinning wheels in the kingdom would be destroyed. This led, no doubt, to the Dangerous Spinning Wheels act, leading to the seizure of any wheel "of the spinning type" which would have led, in turn, to the collapse of the kingdom’s textile industry (not to mention any cart with ‘spinning wheels’ attached), and causing great poverty, hardship and heartache to many thousands of subjects.

But just such a ridiculous law was passed in 1991, when John Major’s Conservative Government introduced the Dangerous Dogs Act, a cruel and ill-thought out piece of legislation that led to the seizure of thousands of pet dogs of the so-called pit bull ‘type’, as well as other dogs who caused ‘apprehension’ to anybody in a public place.

To illustrate his point, Mays called upon three volunteers from the audience, namely veteran Bull terrier judge John Branch, anti-DDA campaigner Janet Payne and responsible dog owner Elaine Howe to play ‘Mrs Nice Dog Owner’ who was out walking her (toy) special, when an officer of the law approaches her and says that eh believes the dog to be "of the pit bull type" and hauls her off to court, where the prosecution vet (Payne) claims that the dog is a pure bred Pit Bull, and proudly boats that she has examined 10,000 Pit Bull at her surgery just that week alone. The defence expert (Branch) states that in his many years experience as a Kennel Club judge that he believes the dog not to be ‘of the type’, but is ridiculed by the Prosecution Barrister (Mays in a bad wig) who says that he is merely "an enthusiastic amateur, whereas the vet is a professional." This view is borne out by the presiding judge (Mike Mullan) who orders the dog to be destroyed.

Although the impromptu sketch drew gales of laughter form the audience, Mays pointed out that everything that had been said had happened in various DDA court cases over the years.

From there, Mays took his increasingly horrified audience through some of the worst DDA cases, including ‘Bullseye’, the Staffordshire Bull terrier gunned down by police in a suburban street, and ‘Otis’, the Great Dane cross who as the so-called ‘unmuzzled pit bull in a car’ – the car being a ‘public place’.

The spread of Breed Specific Legislation worldwide was covered, with horror stories from Germany, the proposed laws in New Zealand and the legal challenges to BSL in the USA by the Washington Animal Foundation. Mays was also able to exclusively reveal WAF’s intentions to mount a human rights-based legal challenge against the DDA in the UK, on the hope to cause BSL worldwide to collapse in a domino-effect.

From there the pace quickened, to take in dog fouling, oppressive council legislation, the insidious ‘Six Dog Rule’, arbitrary bans against dogs by organisations and authorities and the need for all dog owners to unite, using their democratic right and powerful voting voice to force politicians to listen to them, and not to oppress dogs and dog owners, because dogs were a valued part of society in so many ways.

"And when we’ve made them listen to us," concluded Mays, "maybe the when can turn the page, close the book, and tell our children that they all lived happily ever after."

This produced a huge burst of applause from the audience and rounded off the symposium on a very high note, underlining the success of the whole gathering.

Organiser Mike Mullan told OUR DOGS: "We had four exceptionally interesting speakers, yet this year we were well down on the number of tickets we usually sold. I wrote to 160 dog clubs about the symposium, told them who the speakers were, because dog people are always asking about vaccination, nutrition, health and the law, but the response was abysmal. Some of them didn’t even put a notice of the symposium in their club magazines. If this is the lack of interest on the part of club officials, then it’s no wonder dog people are so often in the dark about things."

Despite this, Mullan was pleased to say that a good amount of money was raised and was donated by the sponsors, James Wellbeloved to the Dobermann Club’s Pavilion rebuilding project.

"Hopefully we’ll be up and running again soon," said Mullan, "This will be good news for dogs and dog owners, because we exist to help people train their dogs to be good canine citizens."