IF YOU thought the dog fancy got a bad press, with accusations of doping, cheating and fighting (and that’s just the owners), then take heart from the fact that ours isn’t the only animal fancy under the media spotlight.
Recently allegations of drunken assault and the mysterious death of a prize-winning mouse have upset the tranquillity of the National Mouse Club.
Since the story broke in the tabloids, sparked by an initial report in a Midlands newspaper, Mouse fanciers have closed ranks and secrecy surrounds exactly what happened during the NMC’s Spring Cup Show on February 29 at the village hall in Snareshill, near Wolverhampton. However, the incident is being described as the worst scandal in the club’s history.
Allegations against one member are being investigated by the committee of the club, which consists of one hundred and fifty members, drawn from ten regional clubs who breed to standards as stringent as those set for dogs, cats and rabbits.One breeder said that various versions of what happened are now circulating.
"One account says that a member got drunk and punched another member, Bob Chappell, on the nose, then strangled his winning mouse with his bare hands," he told The Times last week.
Mr Chappell, a meat wholesaler from Shrewsbury, confirmed that his prize-winning chocolate tan mouse was found dead in its cage. "It is true there was an incident involving another member who is being investigated, but that is nothing to do with the death of the mouse.
That could have been from a heart attack or a number of other reasons. The altercation with the member was just the last straw which broke the camel’s back after a string of incidents in which he had been involved."
Mr Chappell tried to play down the whole incident, saying: "He was a great little mouse but he’s not the best one I’ve got. Some of the others are fantastic champions. But he had potential and, more importantly, he was a living thing and I never like to see an animal die.
Because of my job at the abattoir, I am surrounded by death, but I have found you can live with it if these animals die humanely.
"I am clinging to the hope that my mouse died very quickly of a heart attack as soon as the row started. I’ve had a few champions in my time but I’ve never had one die on me so soon after winning."
Mr Chappell refused to name the member concerned, but added that if he was found guilty, he would expect him to be banned from further involvement with the club.
"Whatever the outcome, I will respect the Committee’s judgement," he added.
Brian Cookson, the club secretary, who keeps 100 mice in his garage in Bradford, refused to discuss the incident. "Whatever happened is nothing to do with you if you are not a member," he said.
Another local Mouse fancier muttered darkly: "This is a local club for local members. There’s nothing for you here."
It’s rather refreshing that it’s not just the Dog Fancy who attract a bad press is it? Still, we have to be envious that the Mouse Fancy has only had a bad press once in 109 years!
* The National Mouse Club was founded in the same year as OUR DOGS newspaper in 1895 to "promote the breeding and exhibition of fancy mice". Many of the early fanciers were already well known within the dog, cat, rabbit and cavy fancies, such as Enoch Welburn, who became the NMC’s first Secretary between 1895 and 1897, Miss Charlotte Grimston and allrounder Mr T B Mason.
It was OUR DOGS one-time newspaper rival, ‘Fur & Feather’ that was instrumental in the formation of the NMC, acting in the same capacity as the Internet today, to allow would-be Mouse Fanciers from all over the country to elect the club’s first Committee form a number of candidates who threw their hats into the ring.
The club was first founded in 1895 as the British Mouse Club, but its name was changed the following year to the National Mouse Club. The club really took off when its enthusiastic second – and longest-serving Hon Secretary, Walter Maxey took over. Maxey, a stevedore from London’s East End worked tirelessly for the Fancy’s cause over the next ten years, seeing the club grow tremendously and achieve a membership of close on three thousand, whilst several regional clubs were formed.
In 1901, the Club began to cater for fancy rats, which also gained great popularity, causing the club’s name to be changed in 1912 to the National Mouse and Rat Club. However, in 1929, when economic uncertainty threatened the entire Mouse Fancy, many of the regional Mouse Clubs amalgamated back into the parent club, which then reverted to the original name of National Mouse Club.
Nowadays, the membership remains static at around 150 members nationwide, although the Mouse Fancy has spread worldwide to other countries including the USA, Scandinavia and Germany.