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Are Companion Animals receiving a fair crack of the whip?

Introduction

Elliot Morley was the Minister responsible for introducing a review of eleven pieces of animal welfare legislation within the proposed Animal Welfare Bill. These laws have long been seen as outdated and in need of review to better reflect the needs of today.

This task is extremely difficult, and it will place huge demands on DEFRA to meet timetables and to satisfy the aspirations of those organisations, local authorities and the general public involved in the companion animal industry whose interests range from commerce through enforcement to Welfare.

As part of the complicated process to achieve satisfactory outcomes, DEFRA has introduced "workstreams" to deal with the detail of the proposed legislation. This is an on-going work related to listening to differing opinions in order to produce good law.

Secondly, DEFRA has produced an "Implementation Plan" following on from their "Outline Animal Health and Welfare Strategy for Great Britain" (July 2003).

It is this "Work in Progress" (Dec 2003) that has given rise to concerns within the PAC because of the apparent lack of any focus on companion animals outside the Animal Welfare Bill team.

PAC concerns

Historically, there has been a predominance of agriculture and veterinary interest within animal related departments of Government. This has been understandable because of the basis for this input being related largely to farm animal welfare matters. The old MAFF structure took care of the health risks for the food table of this country.

The basis of the Minister's introduction of a new Bill was for companion animal improvements.
The last Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak was a matter of international importance that lead to criticism of the system in place, and the implementation of strengthened control procedures which followed. It is important that these criticisms are reflected into companion animal welfare strategy in order to avoid any repetition of weakened enforcement or undue expenditure due to the "surprise" of any such occurrence.

The outcome of a strategy appears to be coloured by the large difference in immediately related costs and pressures between an "active" and a "benign" set of circumstances preceding the policy production. This has resulted in pushing rightful concerns about companion animal welfare towards the backburner.

The majority of the "Work in Progress" is therefore based upon a strategy for farm animal welfare. Only a couple of pages have been given over to "Animal Welfare." (Para 4. pps 46-48).

The sub-title for this paragraph is "Supporting the strategic outcome of developing a clearer understanding of roles and responsibilities and disease prevention.

The Committee believes that farm animals overshadow the proper concern due to companion animals. In order to add to this debate, we highlight some of the reasons below which we feel should help persuade Government of the need for an additional focus within DEFRA to better support the claims of companion animals for a strategy more in keeping with the detail accorded to farm animals.

Case for Companion Animal policy awareness

It has been alluded to that the strategy for farm animals is wholly justifiable on its national importance economically, and for the safe provision of food for us all. Disease control is an essential corollary to achieve safe food. This is totally acceptable.

For many years this country has operated policies consistent with those proposed within the strategy. Prevention and control of animal diseases has always, and will always, be with us. Veterinary surveillance, plans for emergency procedures, zoonoses awareness, promotion of animal health and well-being, control of cruelty, etc are longstanding measures applied alongside food production.

What Government is rightly doing now is learning from the experience of the Foot & Mouth Disease outbreak, and is encouraging DEFRA to look in some depth at a ten-year strategy to "hold-together" better national controls. This focus on farm animal welfare is needed, but not to the exclusion of companion animal welfare.

If companion animal welfare is not to be totally subordinated to these aims, it is important that DEFRA regard companion animal welfare as a matter of importance, justifying a review of its status within the Department.

Three main points to support the PAC proposition: Economics, Zoonoses, and Health Benefits

1. Economics

Costs and employment surrounding the companion animal market are often undervalued.
The prepared pet food market in the UK is currently £1.5 billion in terms of retail sales value. (PFMA. May 2004)

Employment in the distribution, marketing and sales of prepared pet food, and in the direct supply chain comes to almost 25,000people. However, in total, when a wider view of associated services is taken into account, it is estimated that the industry currently supports 62200 jobs.

With 3,500 veterinary practices supporting around 10,000 veterinarians, there is an estimated annual turnover in the region of £1.5 billion.

Non-prepared pet food sales have been estimated in Germany as representing - 20-25% of retail sales.

In the DETR Report on the Permanent Identification of Dogs (Dec 2000), the press release indicated a variety of costs for Police (£15m), Local Authorities (£11m) and others (Damaged Livestock, attack victims and accidents), which stated that without an active policy being developed, the cost would be in the region of £185 - 226 million over the next ten years.

The Report on the Identification and Registration of Companion Animals produced by the Companion Animal Welfare Council (Oct 2002) provides evidence of costs ranging between £25-60 million per annum for local authorities alone dealing with only dog control.

The animal medicines industry association (National Office for Animal Health) indicates the sales of medicines for animals in 2003 to be in the region of £398 million (ex manufacturer), of which their members accounted for well over 900/0 in the UK animal health market. Over half of this market is for companion animals.

There are a series of related activities including pet shops, breeding establishments (around 90% of which are not licensed), boarding establishments, agricultural merchants, saddlers, shops, supermarkets, garden centres, grooming establishments and ancillary trades like dog walking, pet sitting, pet counselling, etc. which are numbered in their thousands and employ people and record turnover figures which are unknown, but obviously substantial.

Half of all households own a companion animal. Parliamentarians always tell how high their post-box is on matters to do with animals.

There is not only great economic input to the country's wealth, but also huge public interest and concern, and heavy employment within the "industry" of companion animal ownership.

Research in Germany and Australia indicates a relationship between pet ownership, and the reduction of medical visits.

The expenditure on health in Germany per annum is 218.4 billion Euros (2000). This represents 10.7% of GDP. 37.7% (1996), 36.6% (2001) of their population own a pet.

Variations in doctor attendance between owning and non-owning members of the population suggest a 2.560/0 level in favour of pet owners. In other words, there has been a reduction in doctor visits by pet owners compared to non-owners. (The German Socio-Economic Panel Survey. GSOEP. Conducted by the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin.) This amounts to national health expenditure of the order of 5.59 billion euros, or, for every 1 % fall in pet ownership, an extra cost of 262 million euros per year is incurred.

In Australia (1999-2000), there was a A$53.7 billion (8.5% GDP) expenditure on health. 64.3% of the population own pets (2001). - 7.19% doctor visit variations have been revealed, with fewer visits from pet keepers. (International Social Science Survey Australia. ISSS-A.) This would be the equivalent of A$ 3.85 billion expenditure.

Conclusions

Health expenditure and quality of life in general are clearly improved through the keeping of animals. Focusing on an effective strategy is crucial in this context alone.

2. Zoonoses

All diseases transmissible from animals to humans need a sense of perspective. Undue concern should be balanced against the evidence over many years of actual results.
However, as we have seen with Foot & Mouth Disease, preparedness and awareness are of vital importance. A strategy and action plan is needed where any such risk remains possible.

However, any plan without adequate enforcement, would be wholly counter-productive.
The most evident need for control action is for organisms such as: Campylobacter, Salmonella, Rabies, Leishmaniasis, Erlichia, Babesia, Plague, E.coli, MRSA, Hendra and Nipah viruses (See Dept of Health report Sept 2000), parasites, inc. fleas, lice and ticks.

The Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens have a much longer list of zoonoses, the majority of which are not regarded as important. Recognising zoonotic diseases is becoming an issue of increasing global and regional importance, leading specialists from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the Office International des Epizooties (OIE), and the Dutch Health Council met at the WHO's Geneva Headquarters in May 2004 to discuss how best zoonoses can be controlled and how to improve national and international responses (EHJ Greenwatch p185, June 2004).

The world has been plagued by a succession of zoonotic diseases over the last few years, including variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), avian influenza and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The latter affected over 8000 people in 26 countries.

The transmission of zoonotic diseases depends on many factors. These include complex interactions between human and animal hosts, the causative microbial agent and the environment. Identifying future zoonotic disease is extremely difficult. Members at the Geneva meeting called for an inter-disciplinary approach that brings together professionals, including those working in medical, veterinary, population biology, information technology and diagnosis, to improve controls. Also, to integrate animal and human health data at national and regional levels, including an inter-sectoral committee for zoonoses preparedness and control, which they see as crucial to ensuring that international public health is not compromised.

Concerns which add to the risks already attendant with these diseases, include global warming, which may help establish previously non-indigenous organisms: the pet travel scheme, which will allow long-haul travel together with activity within an extended Europe, and the lack of effective database information to assist with disease control in the event of it becoming established in this country. .

The same principles of disease control and observation for farm animals should be applied to companion animals in order to be prepared for the eventuality of a zoonotic disease causing a problem through the close relationship between animals and man, particularly bearing in mind the amounts of illegal imports of meat and animal foods which are continuing to arrive in this country.

Many zoonotic diseases are already preventable in companion animals (for example: leptospirosis in dogs by regular vaccination; toxocariasis by regular worming) - consideration should be given to supporting efforts to ensure awareness of the role good preventive medicine can play in ensuring animal - and human health.

The most effective way to enforce the welfare of all animals is to consider the regionalisation of a body with responsibilities covering all species. In their response to DEFRA in May 2002 ("Animal welfare Reform") the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) stated: Enforcement officers do not have the necessary tools to meet society's expectations with regard to animal welfare. (para 1.3) These deficiencies have resulted in a wide variety of enforcement levels, which are affected by the vagaries of local conditions.
(para 2.2) These variations are seen as inconsistent by the trade. (para 2.3)

Regionalisation would fit in with the direction of local government progress. It would provide a knowledge base, which would improve consistency of enforcement. Strategies and plans could be "test-run" with teams, rather than face a spread of officers who sometimes have to carry out other functions, and who are restricted by the priority allocated from a combination of reducing resources and a wide range of duties requiring fulfilment. It is understood that the Companion Animal Welfare Council (CAWC) is to look at "Enforcement" as an issue. This also shows why PAC's argument is supported by the need for government to take on partners from within a preferred knowledge base to help them in their workings of research matters of the moment.

Conclusions

There needs to be greater public awareness and support for the implementation of a public and animal health infrastructure. Government should evaluate the risks of the zoonotic disease situation, introduce an effective database and help to establish guidelines to assist a risk assessment for emerging zoonoses via a liaison with WHO/FAO/OIE.

3. Health benefits of animal ownership

In the Pet Care Trust report "Pets Are Good For You" there are a number of references to the benefits' to man to be gained from pet ownership:

(Jan 2003)

l 35% of owners' think that their blood pressure is lowered
l 30% say they speed up recovery after illness
l 41 % say pets keep them fit and healthy
l 64% say they reduce stress and anxiety

Pet owning 40-60 year old people had significantly lower levels of known risk factors for cardiovascular disease (Jennings et al)
Simply being in the presence of a dog can reduce blood pressure. (Friedmann et al).
The second most potent factor (to damage of the heart tissue itself) influencing long term survival, was pet ownership. (Katcher & Lynch. Long-term study in the 70's)
Physical & Psychological benefits accrue from exercise due to having pets. (Cambridge Univ's Companion Animal Research Group)


21 % of pet owning senior citizens made fewer visits to their doctor, irrespective of what medical condition they had; or how serious that condition was. (Judith Siegel. Epidemiologist)


Children aged 5-8 have up to 18.5 more schooling a year than non-pet owning children (June McNicholas. Warwick Univ)
Children exposed to pets during the first year of their lives had a lower frequency of Asthma and some allergies (rhinitis). (Hesselmar. Scandirfavia)

Some references:


Dogs as Transitional Objects in the Treatment of Patients with Drug Dependency. Charnaud AB Pub by SCAS

Effectiveness of an Animal Assisted Therapy Program in an Inpatient Psychiatric Unit. Holcombe R Meacham M Pub Anthrozoos 1989

Implications of Service Animals in Health Care Settings. Duncan SL.(American Journal of Infection Control. 2000)

Potential Role for Pets in Child Development. Endenburg N 2002 (Paper to WSPA)
Does Early Exposure to cat or dog protect against later allergy development? Hesselmar B et al 1999 (Clinical & Experimental Allergy)

Animals & Cardiovascular Health. Jennings JL (Baker Medical Research Institute 1995)
Various Papers McNicholas J Univ Warwick 1999-2002
Delta Soc.pub.1992. Jnl of the Royal Society of Medicine. Univ of Camridge Companion Animal Research Group. Serpell J.

Dog Ownership and Control of borderline Hypertension. Allen K 2001
Pet Ownership is Good for your Health & Saves Public Expenditure Too: Australian (German Longitudinal Evidence. Heady B et al Univ of Melbourne.

Stressful life events and the use of Physician Services among the elderly: the moderating effects of pet ownership. Jnl of Personality & Social Psychology. Siegel JM 1990
These are a flavour of developing research and activity demonstrating the benefits of animals to man which have enormous social, physical, psychological and cost benefits, suggesting the importance of including companion animals within a more clearly defined strategy reflecting the true input of companion animals to society. There are likely to be costs of a considerable nature by disregarding available evidence.

PAC sees it as important that effective credibility is given to the "hidden benefits" surrounding pet ownership. A proper legislative acknowledgement of animals' place in society will help keep costs down for the NHS and provide a fitter and mentally happier populace.


Assistance dogs:

Dogs provide help for

l Visually impaired (-5000 dogs)
l Hearing impaired (-700 dogs)
l Physically impaired (-250 dogs)
l Other areas include Work with Parkinson's disease sufferers

Detection of drugs
Prostate cancer detection
Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar)
Rescue dogs (Caves, Mountains, Disasters)
Pets as Therapy (5,000 volunteers with pets)
This work is sometimes undervalued and not taken into account during the production of legislation.

Future cost benefits:

Amongst the biggest problem are as faced by society on the domestic front today include: This work is sometimes undervalued and not taken into account during the production of legislation.

Future cost benefits:

Amongst the biggest problem are as faced by society on the domestic front to day include:

l Increased allergies
l Mental health solutions (prison v. institutionalisation)
l Demands on the NHS Generally Due to increasing elderly population
l Increasing obesity throughout all age groups
l Heart disease as a major killer

These are a flavour of developing research and activity demonstrating the benefits of animals to man which have enormous social, physical, psychological and cost benefits, suggesting the importance of including companion animals within a more clearly defined strategy reflecting the true input of companion animals to society. There are likely to be costs of a considerable nature by disregarding available evidence.

PAC sees it as important that effective credibility is given to the "hidden benefits" surrounding pet ownership. A proper legislative acknowledgement of animals' place in society will help keep costs down for the NHS and provide a fitter and mentally happier populace .
Assistance dogs :

Dogs provide help for


l Visually impaired (-5000 dogs)
l Hearing impaired (-700 dogs)
l Physically impaired (-250 dogs)
l Other are as include work with Parkinson' s disease sufferers
Detection of drugs
Prostate cancer detection
Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar)
Rescue dogs (Caves, Mountains, Disasters)
Pets as Therapy (5,000 volunteers with pets)
This work is sometimes undervalued and not taken into account during the production of legislation.

Future cost benefits:

Amongst the biggest problem areas faced by society on the domestic front today include:
This work is sometimes undervalued and not taken into account during the production of legislation.

Future cost benefits:

Amongst the biggest problem areas faced by society on the domestic front today include:
l Increased allergies
l Mental health solutions (prison v . institutionalisation)
l Demands on the NHS Generally Due to increasing elderly population
l Increasing obesity throughout all age groups
l Heart disease as a major killer

PAC feels that m a k i n g a connection between these increasing costs and the benefits of companion animal ownership in helping to obviate these problems, is something we wish to encourage government to review

Conclusion

Some of the value related to improved health has not been fully evaluated. More research would help demonstrate the benefits more fully. At present, around £150 million has gone into farm animal research, with little equivalent outcome towards companion animals. The need to recognise the reasons that we are supporting this change of emphasis are highlighted within this paper. The demands on DEFRA are known to be substantial, and this presentation is part of the normal PAC process to liaise with Government, and offer new thinking where this is thought to be helpful. We see this as a positive way forward and are in the position to continue this liaison in an effort to suggest more detail to Government should they wish additional input.

commenting last week Phil Buckley of the Kennel Club External Affairs Department said -
‘The vast majority of organisations within the animal care industry have been consulted by DEFRA with regard to the proposed Animal Welfare Bill and have made their submissions. The Kennel Club initially produced it's own paper, requesting that DEFRA consider including issues in the legislation such as the breeding and sale of dogs, the sale of dogs from pet shops, tail docking, electronic shock collars and the overall obligation to ensure good welfare and a duty of care for owners and breeders.

‘The Kennel Club also sits on various committees such as the Pet Advisory Committee, the Association of Dogs’ and Cats’ Homes and is the secretariat for the Dog Legislation Advisory Group, and 'group' submissions have therefore been discussed, agreed and delivered to DEFRA as well.

‘We have also been invited to DEFRA on numerous occasions as part of their breeding and boarding workstreams to discuss various issues face to face with the civil servants in more depth and KC representatives have now visited the Scottish Executive twice recently to play a proactive role in Scottish Parliament's proposed Animal Welfare Bill consultations.

‘I think it is fair to say that the last few years have been politically busy for the Kennel Club External Affairs Department, but we have welcomed the opportunity to be part of the decision making process which has enabled us to continue to protect and promote the dogs roles in society, as well as defending the rights of responsible dog owners.’

Pet Advisory Committee member organisations include: Blue Cross; British Small Animals Veterinary Association; British Veterinary Association; Feline Advisory Bureau; Cats’ Protection; Chartered Institute of Environmental Health; Local Government Association; National Canine Defence League; National Dog Wardens’ Association; National Office of Animal Health; Pet Care Trust; Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association; Royal Society for the revention of Cruelty to Animals ; Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals ; The Kennel Club; Ulster Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Animals.