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Review of the Year 2004 - Part Three

AUGUST

STRICT LAWS to control the use of Fireworks came into effecting early August, some months after a record number of MPs voted for Labour MP Bill Tynan's Private Member's Bill - which received Government backing - to restrict the use and purchase of fireworks.

From now on people who let off fireworks late at night and teenagers who carry them in public places will face fines of up to £5,000 or six months in jail under the laws, which form part of a new initiative to combat antisocial behaviour.

There is also a complete ban on letting off fireworks between 11pm and 7am, and under-18s will be committing an offence if they carry them in public. Shops will also be banned from selling fireworks louder than 120 decibels.

Exceptions have been made for special occasions, with revellers celebrating the New Year, Diwali and the Chinese New Year given until 1am to let off fireworks. However, traditional November 5 bonfire displays must be over by midnight.

Consumer Affairs Minister Gerry Sutcliffe, said: "Fireworks can be fun but can also cause misery for communities, especially for vulnerable people, such as the elderly, and animals.

"Introducing a curfew and a noise limit balances the law to ensure that people can still enjoy fireworks while cracking down on their antisocial use."

However, the RSPCA has criticised the Government for missing an opportunity to prevent the suffering of thousands of animals due to loud fireworks.

The Society also expressed concern that the draft regulations focused on the impact on people of anti-social behaviour involving fireworks and neglected the plight of animals - and this continues to be the case.

In a MORI poll, 78 per cent of people agreed loud fireworks should only be allowed at public displays. In addition, 90,000 people signed a petition in support of quieter fireworks that was delivered to 10 Downing Street in November 2003.

Steve Cheetham, the RSPCA's chief veterinary officer, said: "This legislation does nothing to alleviate the suffering of animals and the Government has missed a great opportunity to do something about it. Its failure to sufficiently reduce the noise level of fireworks means that thousands of animals will continue to suffer. We have received a huge amount of support for our campaign for quieter fireworks and there will be many disappointed pet owners up and down the country."

It was announced that two cloned kittens had been born using a new procedure that could lead to the production of replica pets. The kittens, named Tabouli and Baba Ganoush, carried similar markings to the adult female cat from whose cells they were cloned - suggesting that it may be possible to produce almost exact copies of favourite animals.

When 'CC', the first cloned cat, was born two years ago, her colour and markings were very different from those of her biological mother, a Tortoiseshell raising doubts as to whether cloning could create replica pets.

Genetic Savings and Clone, the company behind the births, said that a new technique known as chromatin transfer might have solved this problem. "These two kittens should put to rest the issue of resemblance between clones and their genetic donors," said Lou Hawthorne, the company's chief executive, whose own 1 year-old Bengal cat, Tahini, was the donor.

"When performed by a skilled team using sufficiently advanced technology, clones resemble their donors to an uncanny degree. It's a happy day for our clients."

Chromatin transfer (CT) involves pre-treating the cell of the animal to be cloned to remove molecules associated with cellular differentiation. The technology is more advanced than nuclear transfer (NT), the method used to clone Dolly the sheep and most other animal clones. CT has been shown in various animal studies to be more efficient than NT, and to result in healthier animals. GSC holds an exclusive license to use CT for cloning pets.

Genetic Savings and Clone reiterated that they were on track to produce the world's first cloned dog as part of their long-running 'Missiplicity' project.

 


Genetic Savings & Clone CEO Lou Hawthorne with cloned kittens Tabouli and Baba Ganoush



TERRORISM and growing drug crime had created such a demand for police dogs that forces were considering setting up a national breeding programme to make up the shortfall in canine recruits.

Senior officers said the terrorist threat after the September 11 attacks of 2001 has increased the need for dogs trained to hunt explosives. Indeed, many Forces were experiencing severe shortages of German Shepherds for daily policing.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) was consulting the 43 forces in England and Wales on a potential breeding programme.

Forces are being questioned about the sources for their animals and their calibre. Many police dog units rely on rescue dogs and puppies donated by the public.

Only a few forces, including the Metropolitan Police and the West Midlands Police, operate their own breeding programme. Other forces compete with the Prison Service, Customs and Excise and the Armed Services for suitable puppies.

Steve Allen, the president of the British Police and Services Canine Association, said: "The procurement of dogs is a growing problem."

He said the police and services have to compete with companies using sniffer dogs at the doors of nightclubs and in schools to search for drugs. Explosives dogs are also being bought for clearing mines abroad, he said. "More and more the security industry is branching out into specialist search dogs."

A spokesman for ACPO said: "Some forces are finding it difficult to get suitable dogs and forces are now buying abroad including dogs from Dutch police."

TORRENTIAL rain marred the month of August for many holidaymakers – but for some the rain posed a more immediate threat. Families on holiday with their pets in the Cornwall were caught up in the terrible floods that devastated the port town of Boscastle. Miraculously, none of the pets – or their owners – perished in the floodwater, although it was a close thing for many of them.

The Harrison family from Surrey, who were staying in a holiday cottage, managed to get out of the house themselves when the ten foot-high flood wave hit the village, but they had accidentally left their black Labrador, Kassie, stranded in the house.

Luckily, a door had been left open and Kassie was able to swim to safety.
Martin Harrison said: "She swam out in a matter of minutes, we then tried to make our way up the hill but the higher we got, the worse the torrent of water became."

His 14-year-old daughter, Chloe, said Kassie became increasingly agitated once they gathered in the town hall along with other flood victims.

Another holidaymaker described how he spent two and a half hours in neck-high floodwater in Boscastle, saving his family's two dogs. Andy Trethewey, a security officer, held one pet against the ceiling above the water and put the other in a fridge freezer that was floating past.

Mr Trethewey, from Badshot Lea in Surrey, was staying in a flat in Boscastle. His drama began when the river overflowed and began taking cars with it.

Mr Trethewey, a first-aider, was trying to help local residents hit by the water.
"Suddenly I remembered the two dogs in the flat and when I got there they were sat on a chair floating in foot-deep water."

He began moving items to a higher level in the flat but within two minutes the river swept away the shop opposite, pumping more water into the area.

Mr Trethewey explained how he had crawled on to the work surface and put his Staffordshire bull terrier, Boycey, into a foot-high space between a cupboard and a ceiling.

"I held him there with one hand. The water rose to just below my neck, and I thought 'This is it, we have had it'.

"I called Rafter, our staffordshire-boxer cross, and he paddled over and put his legs on my shoulders. A fridge freezer was floating by and I put him inside." He then held on to the dogs for around two and a half hours, before shouting to a passing fireman, who came to their assistance.

Les Sutton, the RSPCA's inspector for Cornwall, was last night able to give a full list of all the animals that had been rescued at Boscastle and had either been returned to their owners or found a safe home.

SEPTEMBER

Still on their quest for top-notch police dogs, it was revealed that some police forces were planning to breed dogs using artificial insemination to ensure that they are faster, stronger and have a better sense of smell, under plans drawn up by senior officers. The aim is ultimately a 'Super Police Dog' that excels on all levels.

The Association of Chief Police Officers announced that it was to search for canine sperm donors across Europe to breed dogs that are suited for crowd control, and drug and bomb detection.

This would be the first national - or indeed international - breeding programme for working police dogs. Individual constabularies at present train animals donated by welfare charities and owners, but only one dog in 11 has the right temperament.

Barbara Wilding, the association's spokesperson on police dogs and Chief Constable of South Wales Police, said: "Nationally, we are experiencing difficulties obtaining good quality dogs for the wide range of police work. We will establish if a national breeding programme could be feasible using artificial insemination, utilising not only British but also European donors."

Animal welfare charities were concerned, however, that a national breeding programme could increase the number of unwanted dogs in Britain.

Chris Laurence, the veterinary director of the Dogs Trust, Britain's largest canine charity, said: "The big problem will come if they produce dogs through a breeding programme that are not suitable for police work. What will happen then?"

A spokesman for Battersea Dogs’ Home said: "I would prefer it if they took dogs from us."
HUNTING dominated most of the month of September (indeed, most of the Autumn and Winter) with politicians lining up to debate the Government’s long-awaited ‘final’ attempt to secure a hunting ban in England and Wales.

Meanwhile, across the channel, French hunts were having their own problems. Hunters in south-western France were outraged and disappointed at having to start the hunting season without their dogs because of a rabies scare.

They were ordered by Government decree to keep their dogs at home until October 8 after a dog illegally imported from Morocco in August died from rabies. After then, only vaccinated dogs were to be allowed to hunt.

The decree affected 99,000 hunters in the Gironde, Dordogne and Lot-et-Garonne departments (regions). Anyone who broke the decree faced a fine of £1,000 and the possible destruction of their dogs.

Hunting federations asked for the army and veterinary students to help the area's 500 vets vaccinate some 50,000 hunting dogs.

"It's like confiscating a child's Christmas tree on Christmas Eve," said an emotional Gerard Gauville, a member of the hunters' federation of the Dordogne, who insisted that a third of the region's hunting dogs were already vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the authorities were still trying to locate five people and five dogs that are at risk of contracting rabies. Traditionally, the French have regarded the fear of rabies as a peculiarly British obsession, although they were now rapidly revising that opinion after the European Commission issued an EU-wide rabies alert when a dog was found carrying the deadly disease in southwest France, where hundreds of thousands of tourists spent the summer holidays.

Federations in two of the affected French had already filed for charges against the owner of the dead rabid dog, from Bordeaux. He faced a 15,000 Euro (£10,000) fine and a two-year jail sentence.

The rabid puppy was reportedly illegally imported from Morocco and brought into France on July 11 by the new owner. A European Commission spokeswoman said there was no question of the dog having entered the EU under currently changing EU rules for pets travelling between EU countries.

Since 1977, 19 cases of human rabies have been reported in France. All of those infected contracted the disease abroad. The Commission spokeswoman said there were on average one to three rabies cases in the EU per year.

Back in the UK, the battle to fight a hunting ban kicked off when campaigners from across the north of England left Prime Minister Tony Blair in no doubt whatsoever about the depth of feeling that existed against his Government's anti-hunting Bill.

Demonstrators turned up at Mr Blair's constituency home in Trimdon, near Sedgefield, County Durham, when Mr Blair was in residence, to show their determination to oppose Government plans to ban hunting.

The demonstrators, some with dogs, blew hunting horns and held up pro-hunting banners asking: "Are foxes more important than people? Get real, MPs."

The scale of the demonstration, which lasted three hours, caught police by surprise with only two close protection officers and two uniformed officers on duty at his home. Reinforcements were swiftly brought in.

The Prime Minister eventually agreed to see a five-strong delegation from the protesters, who included Otis Ferry, son of Bryan Ferry, the singer. Sam Butler, who led the delegation, said: "Mr Blair said he was under a lot of political pressure from MPs to ban the sport."

Mr Butler claimed that the proposed two-year transitional period, which would allow the ban on hunting to be gradually phased in, was like "telling someone they were going to be shot tomorrow but not today". He added: "We continue to make the case that this ban will affect a lot of people and their livelihoods and we reminded him that over 500,000 people had protested in London two years ago against a ban."

The Prime Minister later left for a series of constituency engagements. As he drove away, one pro-hunt campaigner was arrested on suspicion of breach of the peace.

Mr Blair was later forced to meet with hunt campaigners for the second time in 36 hours as the roads around Chequers were brought to a stand still by a Countryside Alliance protest on Saturday night, disrupting a party for the PM's wife's birthday .The protest ensured that several guests who were en route to Cherie Blair's party were turned away on the advice of police officers.

Protest leaders Polly Portwin and Emma Pearce agreed to lift the blockade only after the Prime Minister met them. Mr. Blair claimed, as he had when faced by the delegation in Trimdon on Friday, that there was 'nothing he could do' to stop legislation to ban hunting because of the obsession of Labour backbench MPs with the issue.

THE GOVERNMENT’S controversial Bill to ban hunting was passed – as expected –by a convincing majority on Wednesday, September 15th. At the same time, outside the House of Commons, riot police form a cordon in Parliament Square to protect Westminster as a huge demonstration by pro-hunters and rural campaigners degenerated into violence.

As a group of hard-core protesters fought with police outside Parliament, a security nightmare unfolded inside as protesters stormed the chamber of the House of Commons. Armed police were drafted in to guard the chamber after the extraordinary invasion during the debate on the Hunting Bill by five demonstrators wearing white pro-hunt T-shirts who evaded all Parliaments’ security checks to reach the floor of the House. This was the first time in living memory that such a breach has happened – and it exposed the ease with which security could be breached by terrorists and others intent on less peaceful forms of demonstration.

Their action provoked outrage among MPs, who would have been defenceless to attack had the men had any violent intent. It succeeded in bringing proceedings to a halt for 20 minutes after the Deputy Speaker suspended the sitting.

The security breach and the violence in Parliament Square overshadowed the vote itself which anti-hunting campaigners hope will signal the death knell of foxhunting. The Bill, which was supported by 356 votes to 166, went to the House of Lords for debate, but it was clear that some time over the next two months it would be forced on to the statute book under the procedures of the Parliament Act. The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, whose officials said earlier that he regretted that a compromise had been impossible, did not vote.

MPs voted by 342 to 15 on an amendment to bring the ban into force in July 2006 instead of the Government’s own target date of November 2006, meaning that next year’s hunting season would be the last.

Alun Michael, the Rural Affairs Minister told the House that the Government had been "patient" and had "tried to get the two sides to listen to each other and to find ways forward that were less divisive than the two extremes which are so shrill on this debate". But, he added, "It has become clear that the views are so polarised that it’s impossible to deal with in that way."

THE month ended with the sad news that the canine charity PRO Dogs was to cease operations in 2005 after 28 years. The charity was founded by the late Lesley Scott-Ordish at a time when there were few organisations representing the world of pedigree dogs.

Trustees took the decision to wind the charity up from January 1 2005, for a number of reasons, although they stressed none of these were financial, pointing out that the charity was perfectly solvent, despite the evaporation of commercial support. The trustees felt that PRO Dogs had more than achieved its original objectives and that on-going activities could be entrusted to other organisations that had greater resources. Dwindling membership had been a factor, despite vigorous efforts to recruit new members.

The well-known Pets As Therapy scheme had grown out of PRO Dogs – again masterminded by Lesley Scott-Ordish and had split form the parent group some years before, and remained extremely successful.

PRO Dogs CEO Mike Findlay said: "Lesley had a vision and many were sceptical when she launched PRO Dogs, but she has been completely vindicated. True, it was a long and hard battle and she devoted her life to it – she was incredibly successful and totally achieved her objectives."


David and Angela Cavill celebrated their fortieth wedding anniversary on 1st August
with a lunch for close friends on the preceding day as David had inadvertently accepted
an appointment to judge at Newmarket on the 1st!.


OCTOBER

WITH the prospect of a hunting ban looming, pro-hunters were able to console themselves with a new pastime, one that seemed to be growing in popularity since the new Bill was pushed through the House of Commons the previous month - hunting the Minister.

Alun Michael, the Rural Affairs minister, was the pro-hunters' top target and protesters dogged his steps since MPs voted to ban hunting. Like a wily fox or fleet-footed stag, however, the Minister managed to elude the chase on a few occasions. One morning in early October, he outfoxed protestors by not taking his customary train when he headed down to Exeter to speak at the National Parks conference.

In the end, they caught him in his car as he left the meeting. Pelting his car with eggs, the furious 300-strong crowd surged towards the 60 police officers and steel barricades keeping them back. One protester was arrested for hurling himself over the bonnet of the car and at least one protester was said to be hurt.

The minister agreed to meet a small delegation from the Countryside Alliance for what he called a "courteous" meeting. He told them the hunting ban was now in the hands of the House of Lords and appeared to rule out the possibility of a last-minute compromise.

Mr Michael said: "I always said I am willing to listen to people, particularly if they have strong opinions, but today has not produced a magic formula. I'm not sure a magic formula exists."

Alison Hawes, the South West regional director of the Countryside Alliance, replied: "You can listen but you don't necessarily hear."

Minister Peter Hain, Leader of the House of Commons was targeted by a large group of hunting protesters outside his home on weekend. Mr Hain accused the protesters of turning off his water supply, but eventually agreed to meet a small delegation in his driveway, where, in the true British spirit of discussion, they sat on camping chairs and drank tea. However, the discussions failed to see an agreement reached, although the protesters did allow Mr Hain to leave later on Government business.

PUPPY FARMING continued to make the news in 2004, with many demonstrations around the UK, many of these at ferry ports in protest at ferry companies allowing puppy farmers to import dogs from Ireland into the mainland. This month, the Irish Government announced regulations governing the breeding of dogs in an attempt to crack down on the proliferation of illegal - and legal - puppy farms in the Republic.

Environment Minister Martin Cullen unveiled the new rules during a visit to an animal welfare centre in Sallins, Co Kildare.

The regulations on the management of dog-breeding establishments were drawn up following a series of raids on a number of breeding establishments earlier in the year, at last two of these being in conjunction with authorities in Northern Ireland and the Ulster SPCA.

Dogs were found to be living in filthy, overcrowded conditions and were removed by the welfare officers. At least 100 puppy farms are believed to be operating in Ireland, but at present, there is no legislation to control such operations.

The Minister announced the establishment of an official body to investigate the operation of puppy farms in Ireland, prior to legislation being drafted.

Mr Cullen said the body, which included representatives from 11 animal welfare organisations, would review the management of dog-breeding establishments and produce a report on the matter before Christmas.

However, a leading anti-puppy farm group denounced the Government's plans as a shambles, because the official body allegedly includes individuals involved in the puppy farm trade.

Ken McKie, Secretary of WAG, based in Scotland, where many of the Irish-bred puppies end up commented: "Normally WAG would be delighted that the Government in Eire is having a consultation on this subject but sadly this is not the case here. A number of those on the consultation group are either representing puppy farmers or may themselves be puppy farmers.

Even worse, the intention is to bring in self-regulation by the puppy framers. This is the most amazing piece of crassness that we have yet heard. At the moment they are self-regulating, in fact no regulating is taking place. If the puppy farmers in Eire were really interested in improving the welfare of dogs and puppies then they would close down!

"To consult with those who are causing massive cruelty and inhumanity to animals on changing this is stunning in its stupidity. Ireland is now seen as the puppy farming capital of the world and can only change by closing these premises down."

THE FUTURE of a breeding kennels from which 180 Labradors were rehomed by the RSPCA was uncertain, as no decision appeared to have been taken regarding the renewal of the breeder’s licence. – despite much media and public interest in the matter.

Commercial breeder Christina Cade, who registered her dogs under the Crisella affix called on the RSPCA for help after the population of young dogs at her kennels in Swanton Moreley, Norfolk escalated and remained unsold, due to a number of personal problems and the fact that Miss Cade was technically in breach of her licence conditions, which led to her licence being suspended.

The dogs ranged in age from four months to two years, and were mostly black Labradors.
At the end of September, the RSPCA collected the puppies from Miss Cade’s premises and officers distributed them to around 20 other rescue centres around the country. The charity said that they would have no trouble finding homes for the dogs and this was borne out after GMTV featured the story, prompting over 40,000 telephone calls to the charity from people registering an interest. A charge of about £200 per dog was made to cover the cost of their care while with the RSPCA, plus vaccination and microchips.

The RSPCA was keen to emphasise that there were no welfare concerns with the dogs nor had there ever been any such concerns.

A spokesperson that plans to remove the dogs were being put in jeopardy because of
Fifty of the young labradors were given a temporary home at Block Fen Animal Centre at Wimblington, near March, where crowds of eager pet-lovers crammed into the entrance foyer as soon as doors opened at lunchtime on Saturday, October 2nd, eager to secure a Labrador of their own. Within minutes, tickets had been allocated on a first-served, first come basis, and the puppies logged to their potential new owners, subject to satisfactory home checks by the RSPCA.

On the subject of her breeding operations, Miss Cade explained that her breeding licence had expired in August this year and she had decided not to renew it until an RSPCA official had met with Breckland Council’s Environmental Services department late last week to discuss the matter, having reduced the number of dogs on her premises.

"The RSPCA have been absolutely marvellous an they are helping me with matters connected to the breeding licence. Both sides will discuss the matter and hopefully reach an agreement on my being able to continue.

"One of the things the council want me to do is to put my whelping bitches and puppies in the soundproofed building and it’s not suitable for them, and this is one of the points we’re discussing. Breckland have admitted that whelping bitches do not make a noise, so there shouldn’t be any problem with them being housed in their own special building. I believe - and the RSPCA agree with me - that whelping bitches and puppies need peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of other dogs."

Asked whether there had been complaints about noise caused by the dogs, Miss Cade said: "There will always be complaints about kennel noise, which is why we spent £90,000 building a soundproof kennel block. So this is why we’ve had this thin out so we can get all of the animals into the block so they’re not causing any noise whatsoever, except the whelping bitches and puppies."

The Kennel Club’s Breed Records Supplement shows that between 1997 and 2002 she registered 78 litters. However, in 2003, no Crisella litters were registered.

MEANWHILE, it was a dream come true for young rugby fan Jamie Cobb on Tuesday when his favourite ruby player, Northampton Saints team member Shane Drahm presented him with his new RSPCA puppy, named Drahm after his hero.

Jamie Cobb (10) had wanted a dog for years - but when he reached his 10th birthday his parents decided that, with their help, he was ready for the responsibility of owning a pet. And when Jamie set his heart on rehoming one of the 180 Labradors shown on television last month, his dad decided he would do his best to get him one.

Dad Ivan Cobb went to the RSPCA's Block Fen Animal Centre, Wimblington, Cambridgeshire, at about 2pm on Friday 1 October, and stayed there overnight, sleeping in his car. He was first in the queue when the animal centre finally opened its doors to the public at midday on Saturday 2 October. Jamie then joined his dad so he could choose his puppy.

Ivan said: "It was an extremely emotional moment. Jamie burst into tears he was so happy and it was very touching. After the initial surprise, Jamie was beaming from ear to ear."

Jamie added: "I saw the puppies on television and I really wanted to rescue one of them. I love Drahm and I'm looking forward to taking him to agility classes when he gets older. It's brilliant to be meeting Shane as he's my favourite rugby player and I'm glad I named Drahm after him."

There was no doubt about what Jamie would call his dog - it had to be Drahm, after his favourite rugby player. Jamie, who lives in Cambridge and goes to Fen Ditton Primary School, Cambridge, attends Northampton Saints matches regularly with his dad and has a collection of Shane Drahm's autographs. When Shane heard that Jamie had named his new dog after him, he agreed to meet his young fan and hand the dog over to him.

Tim Wass, Superintendent for the RSPCA's East region said: "We are delighted that Jamie and his family were able to rehome Drahm and that Shane wanted to meet them both. We had a fantastic response to the appeal for homes for the Labradors and we thank everyone for their support. All these dogs, and many more animals in need, have been rehomed thanks to this appeal."

RSPCA Inspector Sue Walpole joined Jamie and Shane when Drahm was handed over at the Northampton Saint’s rugby ground.

THE LONGEST-running case under Section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act – and one of OUR DOGS’ longest-running stories – came to an end on October 15th when ‘Dino’ a GSD sentenced to death for nipping another dog’s owner when she attempted to separate her dog and Dino from a fight –had his death sentence quashed.

This was the first DDA case to be referred back to the courts by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. The case was described by presiding judge Mr Patrick Eccles QC as being unique, although he made it clear that his eventual ruling did not set a precedent for other DDA cases.

Seven and a half year-old Dino, belonging to Bryan and Carol Lamont, was under sentence of death from a destruction order made by Northampton magistrates under Section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act in July 2001, following an altercation with a Jack Russell Terrier, whose owner was bitten – allegedly by Dino – in the resulting melee. Dino should have been destroyed in twenty-one days of the order, however no warrant was made to arrest the dog and enforce the ruling.

Following the magistrates’ court case where the destruction order was made, the Lamonts engaged the services of solicitor Trevor Cooper and an appeal was launched. The appeal failed but determined not to give up, Mr Lamont took the case to the High Court, then to the House of Lords, all of who rejected any appeal. Determined to fight on, the Lamonts finally appealed to the European Court of Human rights, only to hear that the case could not be heard. In the meantime Dino was still living at the Lamonts home in Northampton.

Trevor Cooper commented, "Having the appeal turned down by the European Court, I went back to the books, and discovered that Dino’s case might be suitable for a review by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. This organisation was set up in 1995 and has so far reviewed cases from the sixties and earlier, where the accused is no longer living and the appeal has been held posthumously. Not only was Dino’s case uniquely made on behalf of a dog, but also, it was the first case of a retrial, being held for an accused that was still alive". Since 1997 the Commission has heard 6,292 cases and allowed re-trials for 194 cases, which is just 3% of the total reviewed.

On Friday, October 15th 2004, an anxious Bryan Lamont sat in Northampton Crown Court alongside Trevor Cooper, behind them the three expert witnesses, Trevor Turner, former Chief Veterinary Surgeon for Crufts, Championship Show Judge and behaviourist Mike Mullan, and Canine Behaviourist Roger Mugford, who had each handed in reports to the court testifying to their belief that Dino posed no real threat to the public. Barrister Shiraz Ruston then rose to present the defence case.

Mr Lamont was called to the stand to answer questions and confirm he had properly undertaken securing his property, including placing a box to catch post on the front door, so that Dino had no access to the postman’s fingers. Dr Mugford was also called to answer questions put by the magistrates, about Dino’s character and state of health, and confirm that the measures taken to secure the house and garden were sufficient. After this and closing submissions, Judge Eccles and the two magistrates sitting with him retired to consider the evidence.

On their return Mr Eccles QC said that due to the considerable interest the case had attracted he would like to read out a statement before pronouncing the decision on Dino’s future. In the statement he referred to Mr Lamont’s efforts on behalf of his dog, saying, " ‘Every dog will have his day’ the bard said – and Mr Lamont’s devotion to his certainly allowed Dino his day in court. If a Scotsman with deep pockets and spirit takes on the judiciary to vindicate his dog, the contest is likely to be vigorous and prolonged. Dino had spent half his life on canine death row, happily without consciousness of the awful fate that might await him". As soon as Mr Patrick Eccles announced the destruction order had been lifted a happy Mr Lamont looked across the court room, smiled and winked at his daughter Carly, sitting in the public gallery.

Bryan Lamont told OUR DOGS that he was surprised by the amount of interest the case generated. "The amount of coverage totally blew me away," he said. He first became aware of the media interest when, on arrival, he was asked to walk into the building twice for the cameras stationed outside. On leaving court he and daughter Carly were faced with a wall of cameras, journalists and photographers.

Dino was now free to go about his life without the unwarranted sentence of death hanging over him.


Dino - free after three years in legal limbo. A large team of legal expertise and expert witnesses - including Kennel Club members - were behind his eventual ‘release’.



BREED SPECIFIC LEGISLATION was firmly back on the agenda this month – this time in the province of Ontario, Canada, where the regional Government was set to introduce BSL with a ban on Pit Bull Terriers and ‘associated breeds’.

In grim echoes of the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act in the UK and the Kampfehund laws in Germany, public outrage and media hysteria over a spate of vicious pit bull attacks during the summer prompted Ontario to say it will become the first province to ban the breed.

Attorney General Michael Bryant he announced that legislation would be introduced within a month, the first such provincial law in Canada. Mr Bryant spelled it out unequivocally: "We are banning pit bulls in Ontario."

If passed, the proposed legislation would allow current owners of pit bulls and dogs of the ‘type’ to keep their pets, but they will face "severe restrictions."

"They will be muzzled, they must be leashed and they must be neutered or spayed," Bryant said, the restrictions being an almost complete ‘lift’ of the discredited DDA.

In addition to the ban, the proposed law would double fines to $10,000 and allow jail sentences of up to six months for irresponsible owners of any breed of dog that is dangerous and bites, attacks or poses a threat to public safety.

The legislation also would make it easier for animal control officials and police to obtain a warrant to enter premises where a dangerous dog has been reported, Bryant said.

The controversial ban was met with applause from attack victims and condemnation from dog owners.

"I don't make excuses for bad dogs," said Natalie Kemeny with Advocates for the Underdog, a group that fighting the ban on the breed recently implemented in Windsor, Ontario.

"Every dog is a responsible and as friendly as it's owner makes it," she said. "An irresponsible dog is owned by an irresponsible owner."

The onus of identification of a dog would be put on the owners who will have to prove it's not a pit bull, Bryant said, clearly indicating that, as with the DDA, the burden of proof will be reversed – and ‘guilty until proven innocent’ will be the way cases will proceed.

But the legislation will spell out clearly what breeds or cross breeds are considered to be a pit bull type, he said, adding that other jurisdictions have not had a problem identifying the dogs. Mr Bryant was obviously being economical with the truth, as identification of pit bull ‘types’ in the UK saw pedigree Staffordshire Bull Terriers seized, along with any muscular mongrel – and at least two Labrador crosses.

The battle was, however, only just beginning, as thousands of anti-BSL campaigners around the world joined forces with the Dog Legislation Council of Canada and vowed to fight the ban at every turn. Michael Bryant was in for a very rough ride…

HUNTING again dominated the political agenda in the UK when, as expected, the House of Lords voted by an overwhelming majority to amend the Government’s Hunting Bill to allow hunting to continue under licence – the so-called ‘Middle Way’ option, which was said to be favoured by the Prime Minister.

During the debate, Lord Whitty, the Rural Affairs Minister, told peers that the Lords would be exceeding its powers as a revising chamber if it substituted a Bill banning hunting with one allowing hunting under licence.

Peers ignored his warning and voted by 322 to 72 to overturn the ban sought by MPs and replace it with a system of registered hunts authorised by tribunals similar to that first proposed in the Government’s Bill until it was amended to call for a total ban by backbenchers.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Cabinet allies launched a last ditch attempt to persuade Labour MPs to allow hunting to continue under licence.

The Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, indicated a new attempt to find a compromise by voting for the amendment to the total ban. He was one of several ministers who backed the compromise in the Lords. More senior ministers were expected to give their support for an amendment and there are signs that Mr Blair was also preparing to vote for compromise, having studiously avoided voting any way on the issue previously. In fact, 58 Labour peers voted for compromise. Only 53 voted for a ban.

A TV Vet who faced disciplinary charges from the profession’s governing body following her outrageous comments on television earlier this year about ‘unhealthy’ Bulldogs escaped censure by the RCVS – but was warned to be more careful about making such public pronouncements in future.

Vet Emma Milne had appeared on the BBC’s investigative programme Real Story in June of this year, the subject of the programme being ‘unhealthy;’ breeds of dog. Milne had commented that Bulldogs were inherently unhealthy, due to their breeding and went onto describe them as "mutated freaks" and that "there wasn’t a healthy one in the country". She repeated the allegation on live TV the next day when she appeared alongside a Bulldog breeder on GMTV.

Many outraged Bulldog owners complained about Milne’s comments to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. Initially, the college sided with the vet and declined to take any action.

However, following hundreds of further complaints, the RCVS Preliminary Investigation Committee launched an investigation into the matter and met on Thursday, October 14th to discuss the matter. Milne defended her comments, saying that her contribution to Real Story had been edited to appear stronger than it was, although she had no such defence for her comments on ‘This Morning’, which was broadcast live.

The RCVS Press Office declined to make any comment to OUR DOGS on the hearing the following day, seeming almost to deny all knowledge of any such hearing. However, one of the breeders who complained to the RCVS, Mrs Ginette Elliott of Thorpe-le-Soken, Essex, subsequently received a letter from Oliver Codrington of the Professional Conduct Department who informed her that the Committee had found no disciplinary charges to answer.

Mr Codrington wrote that the Committee had taken into account all comments on both sides of the argument, together with various press articles concerning Milne’s broadcast comments.

Mr Codrington wrote: "The views of the Preliminary Investigation Committee are that Miss Milne’s comments, while clearly edited to be hard hitting, were illustrative of a viewpoint that is shared by many in the veterinary profession and were arguably defensible.

"The complaints against Miss Milne provoked considerable discussion on the merits of either side of the argument (for and against the breeding of Bulldogs) but ultimately the Committee were, as a whole, in agreement that the College cannot interfere with veterinary surgeons expressing personal viewpoints on issues of animal welfare –indeed, this is one of the obligations of the profession."

The letter went on to state that the Committee could find no evidence of serious professional misconduct against Milne and considered the matter closed. He added: "The Committee were, however, minded to issue Miss Milne with some advice on ensuring that viewpoints are expressed in less inflammatory language and clearly attributable as personal views than those of the profession at large."

Ginette Elliott told OUR DOGS: "I didn't expect too much as I believe the RCVS is managed largely by vets who have little or no experience of being in practice. However, at the very least, they should ensure that their members stick to established facts when talking to the media and not their personal opinions.

"Miss Milne speaks with authority on subjects she knows very little about unfortunately, she misuses her MRCVS as her stamp of authority and does not rely on established facts."

Emma Milne told OUR DOGS that she had nothing to add as "the letter is self-explanatory". She added that she stood by her comments about bulldogs and was happy to be quoted as saying so.

NOVEMBER

A COALITION of organisations dedicated to fighting the Ontario ban on pit bulls under the umbrella ‘Banned Aid’ announced that they had retained renowned Toronto lawyer, Clayton Ruby, to assist in their efforts.

Mr. Ruby is a partner with Ruby & Edwards in Toronto, Ontario. Since being called to the Bar in 1969, Mr. Ruby has maintained an extensive criminal, constitutional and administrative law practice. Throughout his career, Mr. Ruby has served as counsel in numerous high profile human rights, aboriginal and criminal cases.

The coalition retaining Mr. Ruby included five organisations:

* The Dog Legislation Council of Canada,
* Advocates for the Underdog,
* The Golden Horseshoe American Pit Bull Terrier Club,
* The American Staffordshire Terrier Club of Canada,
* The Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club of Canada.

Banned Aid had already received support from responsible dog owners across Canada and numerous breed clubs opposed to the Ontario government's proposed breed ban. The coalition expects a number of other groups to join with them by the end of the week, including other breed clubs, veterinary associations, kennel clubs, and humane societies.

"Most people believe that this legislation is just about pit bulls", said Steve Barker, Ontario Director of the DLCC. "We are hoping to make it clear that this proposed legislation seriously affects every dog owner, regardless of the breed they own.

"It is our opinion, based on precedent and on the experiences of other countries, that this legislation, even if passed by the Liberal Government, is doomed to failure in a court of law. We feel that it is irresponsible of the province to expect the Ontario taxpayer to foot the bill for this when history tells them that the law will fail."

MEANWHILE, the BSL situation escalated in Canada with several news items showing just how seriously the whole issue was being taken.

Dogs and their owners were being physically attacked in Ontario as a direct result of media and political hype about 'pit bulls' and 'dangerous' dogs in the wake of Michael Bryant's BSL plans. In a grim echo of the savage attacks and assaults on dogs and owners in Germany after the Government announced harsh measures to control 'dangerous' breeds, mob rule seems to have taken over in Ontario with no sign - as in Germany - of any governmental condemnation.

Lee Ann O'Reilly, President of the anti-BSL group the Dog legislation Council of Canada told OUR DOGS: "Dogs and dog owners in Ontario are under attack. The irresponsible actions of Michael Bryant - who says he wants to increase public safety - have resulted in dog and dog owners 'bashing' similar to what we say with gay bashing in the late 1980s. Every dog owner, regardless of the breed they own, must be warned."

A 'fluffy yellow' Golden Retriever / Labrador cross was attacked when four young men wearing ski masks swarmed over the dog and its owner. One man had a baton and he beat the dog - when he struck the front leg the dog went down. The dog's leg having been broken by the blow.

Just a few weeks before a German Shepherd was attacked on its property - the attack was incredibly vicious and the dog's eye was literally hanging out of the socket and part of its badly damaged tail had to be amputated.

"The police are investigating and are looking for the people who did this," said O'Reilly. "But whether they'll find them is another matter entirely."

A PIECE of political theatre slowed down the Ontario Government's plans to introduce draconian breed specific legislation to the province. Attorney General Michael Bryant moved the second reading of the Dog Owners’ Liability Act in a lengthy session in the Ontario Legislature in Toronto on November 4th, fully expecting that the Government would carry the day, due to the Liberal Party's large majority.

However, Bryant's plans were to be frustrated thanks to a barnstorming performance by Joseph Tascona. Leader of the Opposition, who filibustered the remainder of the session, talking out the Bill and delaying its enactment. In the process Tascona not only talked the session out, he methodically destroyed many of the Attorney General's often spurious claims about 'dangerous' dogs and the efficiency of BSL.

Tascona used the UK’s BSL experiences to undermine Bryant’s claims that the legislation had been a success, saying: "The Attorney General has also gone on to state a number of things. 'The Attorney General publicly stated that the United Kingdom didn't have much difficulty identifying the pit bull-type dog, but that the other fighting breeds cause the identifications problems'. And yet the United Kingdom's own parliamentary documents state otherwise, that the pit bull dog did indeed present significant identification problems, and that the total number of dogs from other breeds was less than half a dozen. Documented evidence of identification difficulties abounds throughout the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States. The Attorney General has based a large part of his legislation on the UK model, a model which has been studied in universities in England as an example of extremely poorly thought-out legislation."

The debate ended, the session having run out of time and a frustrated Attorney General left the chamber, knowing that not only would he have to try to present his Bill for a second reading again, but that he was likely to be facing calls for public hearings to justify his proposals.

Responding to a question from OUR DOGS as to whether the RSPCA had advised Ontario's Attorney General Michael Bryant in the drafting of BSL, Katy Geary of the RSPCA Press Office denied this to be the case. Ms Geary told OUR DOGS:

"Our Chief Officer of Inspectorate, Andy Foxcroft meets Michael Bryant a number of times each year - the meeting where this was discussed wasn't specifically called to deal with this matter and, as far as I'm aware the decision to introduce the legislation seemed to have already been made.

"However Andy did voice concerns and said that we were worried about going down such a course [of BSL] and that it would be better to act on the 'deed

THE CITY of London, Ontario, not content with the plans of Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant to introduce Breed Specific Legislation throughout the province planned to enact its own brand of BSL, even more closely modelled on the UK's discredited 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act.

Any dog in the city that was perceived as 'threatening' could be ordered to be muzzled, in a grim echo of the DDA's Section 3, where any breed of dog can be seized on the mere 'apprehension' caused to a individual.

London dogs will be presumed guilty unless proven innocent under proposed 'dangerous dog' controls. Jay Stanford, city manager of environmental programs, acknowledged the proposed bylaws are controversial.

"Yes, that's the way it would work. But from a safety perspective, we believe that's the best way," Stanford said following a meeting on the issue last week before city council's Environment and Transportation Committee.

But as with the UK, there was a strong risk of abuse if false complaints being made about dog behaviour, possibly as a result of long-standing feuds or disagreements between individuals or simply as a result of dog haters targeting any dog.

"False reports could occur, yes," said Stanford, when asked if habitual barking could prompt a false report. "We will need more animal patrol officers and there will be avenue for appeal," he said. "But this is about public safety."

HOWEVER in A rare display of political enlightenment, one city in Ontario has steered clear of introducing Breed Specific Legislation when considering tighter laws to tackle 'dangerous' dogs.

Timmins City Council gave its nod of approval for a bylaw to help reel in dangerous dogs even as the Ontario government considers a province-wide ban on pit bulls.

Though the bylaw passed at a November council meeting does not make any reference to specific breeds, stricter regulations have been designed to identify "dangerous dogs" to reduce potential attacks.

"There's a section on how we treat dangerous dogs. That's really the new area within that bylaw," said city clerk Jack Watson. "The new bylaw is similar to the previous dog bylaw except for some minor changes to wording. But the main thrust of (the new) bylaw was to address the dangerous dog issue."

Councillor Gary Scripnick said that he was satisfied with the new bylaw because it considers mitigating factors that make dogs react aggressively - a fact often left out of similar legislation enacted in or considered in many other cities - including London, Ontario which is introducing laws that are an almost complete 'lift' of the UK's 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act.

"We're realising that dogs can bite people if the circumstances are correct and we can't punish dogs for that," Scripnick said.

Similarly, Liberal MPP Kelly Lamrock took up the concerns of dog owners in the Province and urged New Brunswick city council to vote against breed specific laws but instead to toughen up existing dog control laws which place emphasis on the owner of a dangerous dog, rather than penalise a whole breed or type.

The tougher laws were to be drawn up in consultation with the Dog Legislation Council of Canada.

The fact that Mr Lamrock, as a Liberal MPP, had publicly opposed BSL - and indeed is openly critical of it – was deeply embarrassing to Liberal Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant in his increasingly difficult quest to introduce BSL throughout the province.

HUNTING WITH dogs in Britain was outlawed amid extraordinary scenes in both Houses of Parliament on the night if Thursday November 18th as the ancient countryside tradition enjoyed by monarchs and peoples of all classes for more than 300 years was made a crime. From February 19th 2005 it will be illegal to hunt foxes, deer and mink, and hare coursing will also be abolished.

Prime Minister Tony Blair faced the prospect of a General Election campaign marred by rural demonstrations and civil disobedience, despite his last-ditch attempts to get his own party’s backbench MPs to accept a compromise motion which would have allowed hunting to continue under licence.

Extraordinarily, it was the pro-hunting House of Lords that refused to save the Prime Minister from such embarrassment by rejecting for a final time, the Bill as passed, which would have allowed hunting to continue until June 2006. By refusing to accept the Bill, the Lords then forced the Speaker of the House of Commons to use the Parliament Act to force the legislation onto the statute books – within 90 days.

The Bill had see-sawed between the two Houses of Parliament during the course of the previous two days and twice on Thursday. Thus it was that at 9.02pm – almost at the very close of the Parliamentary session on Thursday, November 18th, 2004, Michael Martin, the Speaker of the House of Commons, announced that the Hunting Bill had met all the provisions of the Parliament Act and would become law. To a mixture of cheers and cries of "shame" from MPs on both sides of the House and indeed, on the same benches, he said the Bill was being sent to the Lords for Royal Assent.

Hunts all over Britain were confronted with swift and painful decisions about what to do with their hounds and horses and whether to defy the law – as many said they would do - and carry on hunting.

Peers rejected an attempt by the Government to delay the implementation of the Bill until July 2006. MPs had voted for the delay but peers threw it out in their final vote on Thursday night. The Lords argued that it was a measure dreamt up by the Government purely to prevent foxhunting being an issue at the general election, expected in May, rather than to allow hunts time to adjust to a ban and to wind down or adapt their operations, and they should not go along with it.

Baroness Mallalieu, the Labour peer and president of the Countryside Alliance, told the House of Lords: "This House has done the countryside proud. It has also done liberty proud. Let those who despise both use the Parliament Act on this miserable Bill if they can but let us not help them to avoid the consequences of what they are doing."

Peers rejected warnings by Alun Michael, the Rural Affairs minister that it would be "perverse" to reject a delay in order to give the hunting community time to adjust to a ban.

The view of pro-hunting peers was that Labour MPs should face the consequences of their decision. But Government lawyers were alleged to be discussing whether ways could be found of delaying implementation to avoid a string of prosecutions before the election.

THE PRO-HUNTING campaign, led by the Countryside Alliance immediately took its fight to the courts the day after the Hunting Act was passed when a challenge to the 1949 Parliament Act was lodged, but the prospects of the courts challenging Parliament were thought to be slim.

The second challenge was lodged for the payment of compensation to everyone whose livelihood depended on hunting under the Human Rights Act.

At a press conference the same day, Mr Blair appeared agitated by the questions about the ban and said: "I have tried for the best part of two years to find a compromise and a way forward, since there are people who feel passionately on either side of this debate.

"For many people in the country, they would like to have seen a situation in which we dealt with the arguments as to cruelty whilst at the same time understanding the feelings of those who regard this as integral to their way of life. It was not possible to find a compromise in Parliament."

A spokesman for the Countryside Alliance said that Mr Blair "should not try to shirk his responsibilities by allowing the ban to go through. A total ban is unnecessary, unjust and unenforceable. People have said they are prepared to go to prison rather than stop (hunting)."

John Rolls, the RSPCA’s director of animal welfare, welcomed the ban as "a watershed in the development of a more civilised society".

SEVENTY PER CENT of the public believed that the police should not enforce the ban on hunting when the legislation comes into effect in February.

An opinion poll, conducted in late November by ICM for The Sunday Telegraph, found that seven out of 10 of those questioned believed that police officers should concentrate on other, more important areas of crime.

Only 20 per cent questioned said that they thought the police should be used to enforce the ban. Seven per cent said that officers should give equal emphasis to tackling hunting and other crimes.

The poll also found that half the public supports the ban, while 35 per cent oppose it. More surprisingly, 23 per cent of Labour supporters were against it. Opposition to the ban was strongest among lower earners, bearing out claims by the pro-hunting lobby that the sport is not the preserve of "toffs". A clear majority of those questioned opposed extending a ban to other country sports such as shooting or fishing.

SENIOR police chiefs ventured the opinion that the hunting ban would be almost impossible to enforce, police chiefs said last week. Senior lawyers also predicted that the level of proof required for a successful prosecution would be difficult to obtain.

Photographs or a video of riders chasing a fox or deer would be needed to prove that unlawful hunting had taken place.

Alastair McWhirter, the Association of Chief Police Officers’ spokesman on hunting with dogs, said that prosecutions would go ahead only if people admitted that they were hunting or if an animal were seen during a chase.

In a statement which will come as a serious blow to supporters of the ban, Mr McWhirter said: "It is not an offence to wear red or pink coats or jackets, it is not an offence to exercise hounds or keep up traditions of using horns or meeting for a ride on horseback on private land. Unless someone owns up, you need a wild mammal in the picture to show that someone has committed an offence. However, we would enforce the law to the best of our ability."


The Irish Kennel Club’s Cloghran showground suffered grass and ground damage in December after a ‘Cool Nights’ custom car event. It is thought that the outdoor rings area was damaged after visitors to the event removed cones which were in place to prevent cars using the grassy areas in front of the venue.

In an e-mail to OUR DOGS earlier this week Mrs Wendy Jackson, PRO to the IKC commented, ‘Of course what has occurred is regrettable but if the showgrounds are hired out, and they are, then there are risks attached. Our contract with any group who rent the grounds would naturally cover us against any damage.

‘These people have hired the premises from us on two previous occasions without problems and this time unfortunately the grounds were subjected to unreasonable use resulting in damage to the grass.’

 

DECEMBER

Don Wieden


The death of Don Wieden robbed the international show scene of one of its true individuals. His ability to simplify arguments and then reflect the views of the ‘little people’ endeared him to OUR DOGS’ readers, who avidly sought his views on all matters canine. He once thanked me for allowing him to write for the paper saying that it had been a cathartic experience, as once headlong on his 500 word bi-weekly column that it was difficult to stop! So much so that when he left for the states for the last time only four months ago, his parting shot was to e-mail enough material to last the year. Prophetically it did and he passed away with only two columns in hand.

William Moores




TIGERS WERE voted the world's favourite animal in a survey published this month. The biggest of the big cats narrowly beat dogs, traditionally man's best friend, in the poll carried out in 73 countries.

More than 50,000 viewers of the Animal Planet cable and satellite channel were asked to choose from a shortlist of 10 animals. In an incredibly close poll for the top spot, Tigers received 10,904 votes, just 17 votes more than dogs, pushing the ever-loveable dolphin into third place. The domestic cat, however, did not make the top ten, although perhaps cat lovers can console themselves that two big cats made the top ten, with the Tiger in first place and the Lion in fifth place.

Around 10,000 viewers in the UK took part in the poll in September and October. The top three animals mirrored the global result, which surprisingly didn't demonstrate a wildly divergent set of choices depending on different cultures.

Animal behaviourist Dr Candy d'Sa, who worked with Animal Planet on the list, said: "We can relate to the tiger, as it is fierce and commanding on the outside, but noble and discerning on the inside.

"In contrast, the dog is a loyal and respectful creature and brings out the lighter, more communicative side of human nature.

THE GOVERNMENT'S draft Animal Welfare Bill raised many important and often complex issues which had to be resolved before the long-awaited final Bill was introduced to Parliament, according to a report released this month by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select (EFRA) Committee. The Committee made no less than 101 recommendations for changes to the draft Bill - but not all of these are likely to meet with approval from animal fanciers, animal sanctuaries, commercial breeders and, indeed, many pet owners in general.

Chief amongst the Committee's concerns was what exactly constituted an "animal". According to the report, the Committee believed that a strong case has been made for the inclusion of octopus, squids and cuttlefish, and of crabs, lobsters and crayfish, in the draft Bill's definition of "animal" (although the protections contained in the draft Bill would not extend as widely as the definition of animal). There is a risk that the draft Bill could extend to protect wild animals, living in the wild-for example, commercial and recreational angling could constitute an offence- and the Committee had recommended that the Government remedy this.

With hunting all but banned, it was clear that many anti-bloodsports groups and animal rights organisations were targeting pastimes such as shooting and fishing, so the definitions of 'animal' need to be tightened up and clarified to prevent the Bill extending 'into the wild'.

The Committee was unconvinced by the Government's justification for the breadth of the powers that it seeks to have delegated to it under the draft Bill. The Government intends to use these powers to regulate on wide-ranging and significant areas of activity, including licensing pet fairs, greyhound racing tracks and the use of performing animals, and tail docking of dogs and rearing of game birds. The Committee stated that it is disappointed by the Minister's reluctance to consider redrafting the powers and recommends that the Government should explicitly be required to consult on draft regulations, and that the Committee itself should scrutinise future draft regulations.

According to the Committee, tail docking in dogs should be banned for cosmetic reasons but permitted for therapeutic reasons. An exemption for prophylactic docking is acceptable provided that certain safeguards are met, including microchipping of docked dogs. However, DEFRA Minister Ben Bradshaw publicly stated earlier in the year that he did not consider a change to the docking law to be a necessity.

The Committee's recommendations on the future of tail docking were welcomed by the Countryside Alliance, particularly with regard to the docking of working dogs.

A group of organisations including the Countryside Alliance made representations to DEFRA proposing that docking could continue for animal welfare purposes. The proposals were accepted by DEFRA and have now been endorsed by the EFRA Committee.

Alliance Chief Executive Simon Hart commented: "We are extremely pleased that the Committee has accepted our proposals on this issue, as there was serious concern that the EFRA committee would support a ban on all tail docking.

"It is widely acknowledged that many working dogs - not only shooting dogs, but terriers, and those used in falconry, by the army, by the police and by HM customs - should have their tails docked at a young age in the interests of animal welfare."

GERHARD SCHRÖDER, the German Chancellor, and his wife had been criticised for allowing their voracious Border Terrier to be used to promote canine products made in China, rather than promoting German-made products. German businesses and trade groups expressed anger at the Schröders' backing for Winston Holly products, from water bowls to winter coats. Named for the Schröders' family pet, 18-month-old Holly, who appealed on all advertising material, the discounted products have been gaining market share at the expense of dearer products made in Germany.

Although a share of the profits from the sale of Winston Holly products goes to animal charities, and none goes to the Schröders, the Chancellor and his wife, Doris, had infuriated the pet industry. "Frau Schröder is insulting the whole German pet-shop business and threatening German jobs," Klaus Oechsner, head of the German Pet Shop Federation, said. "The fact is that most supplies sold by discount chains are produced in low-wage countries such as China and Thailand. There is no other way they can keep prices down so low."

"Is Holly the Chancellor's Dog destroying jobs?" asked Der Spiegel magazine.
THE GOVERNMENT was said to be backing a new form of 'legal hunting' that allows people and dogs to simply ‘chase’ foxes, deer or any other wild mammal away from crops or any other animals.

The revelation was described by pro-hunt MPs as raising a serious anomaly in the new law banning hunting with hounds.

The all-party Middle Way group, which backs licensed hunts, was astonished to learn that lawyers at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs had invented this new form of hunting.

The group immediately accused DEFRA of "backtracking" on the Hunting Act and causing confusion in the countryside.

The loophole emerged after a query from a farmer led to DEFRA making this definition, much to the horror and anger of anti-hunters. Legally, however, the loophole appeared to stand up.

STILL WITH hunting, ministers made clear they were still willing to back a "snap" Bill to delay a hunting ban for 18 months and avoid clashes with countryside rebels in the run up to the general election.

Peter Hain, Leader of the Commons, said that such a Bill could be pushed through Parliament in a day if peers instigated the Bill and guaranteed there would be no wrecking tactics.

The Countryside Alliance indicated that pro-hunt peers might be prepared to accept such a delay. The reason it had been opposed originally is that it was linked to a vote for a hunt ban. Now that the benefits of the loophole are clear to see, most pro-hunting peers might be persuaded to back it.

An Alliance spokesman said: "I am sure that peers would consider the animal welfare and wildlife management benefits of a delay."

A MAGISTRATE tendered his resignation from the North Avon Bench after 19 years because he says he cannot administer the ban on hunting with dogs.

Derek Pearce, 59, who hunted for 35 years and is a member of the Beaufort Hunt, said the new law was "not based on evidence but on prejudice", and was an "abuse of power" by the Government.

He was not prepared to sit in judgment and fine somebody who defied the ban. "I don't see it as my job," he said. "I am against the whole principle of the law.

"Magistrates have been trained to recognise prejudice against minority groups, and we are encouraged as responsible members of society to help stamp it out. It is ironic that we now have this."

The Constitution Secretary, Lord Falconer, warned that magistrates must enforce hunting laws passed by Parliament or resign.

A MASTER of Hounds accused of breaching the ban on foxhunting in Scotland was cleared by a court of deliberately breaking the law hunting with hounds.

Trevor Adams, 46, joint master of the Duke of Buccleuch's Foxhounds, was charged with hunting a fox with 20 hounds, two months after the sport was outlawed in Scotland. But a sheriff found that he was "searching" for foxes, not hunting them.

Under the ban imposed in Scotland, hunts can use hounds to flush foxes from cover to be shot by waiting marksmen. They only break the law if they deliberately chase and kill a fox in open country.

Adams appeared at Jedburgh Sheriff Court charged with deliberately hunting a fox with 20 dogs at Courthill, near Kelso, Roxburghshire, on October 16, 2002. The case was the first time someone had gone on trial for an alleged breach of the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002.

In what was considered a test case, Sheriff Kevin Drummond ruled Trevor Adams, 46, had not broken the law introduced in 2002. Sheriff Drummond said: "I have found he was searching for foxes for the purpose of flushing them from cover in order that they might be shot. He acted to ensure that that was done."

Alex Fergusson, rural affairs spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives, said the ruling vindicated hunt supporters who warned that the legislation was "unenforcable and unnecessary".

He added: "This ruling has shown that it will be virtually impossible to prosecute anyone, as flushing out foxes for the purpose of control has been proved to be entirely different from hunting for all legal purposes."

Outside the court, Mr Adams, a staunch campaigner against the ban, said he had never been accused of a crime before and was "very relieved", adding: "I am very glad that justice has prevailed and I am looking forward to getting on with my life. I will continue in my job as a huntsman for the Buccleuch Foxhounds and will continue to offer the pest control service the landowners and farmers have requested from us.

"I am personally very pleased that our interpretation of the new form of hunting has been supported by this judgment."

Buccleuch Foxhounds spokesman Joe Scott-Plummer said: "This confirms our belief that the fox control service that we have been offering landowners and farmers over the past two-and-a-half years has been undertaken within the bounds of the law as we and our advisers have interpreted it.

"All hunts in Scotland had to restructure as a result of the legislation and, in consultation with police forces, agreed a form of pest control permitted by the act." "The hunting community in Scotland are a vital part of the rural economy and a necessary operation for farmers and landowners.

"We hope that they will continue to contribute to the rural community in this way for many years to come."

Meanwhile, Mike Hobday, the spokesman for the League Against Cruel Sports, said there was no evidence that Mr Adams was chasing a fox with a pack of dogs and it was right that he had been found not guilty.

But he added: "The message to other people in Scotland is very clear: if you go out and deliberately chase a fox with a pack of dogs, you will be brought to court and if there is evidence that you chased a fox with a pack of dogs, you will be convicted."

The Crown had argued that after the hounds passed two marksmen carrying shotguns without a shot being fired, they were effectively hunting. But Sheriff Drummond said it was up to the Crown to establish that an accused person had deliberately hunted a wild mammal with dogs.

The case was brought after Ian Hutcheson, 50, a tenant farmer, called the police after hounds crossed his farm.

He told the court: "It was basically hunting from what I saw and heard. I phoned the police because I thought hunting was banned, like the rest of Scotland thought."

However, Mr Adams told the court the hounds were only out of his control for about five minutes.
All 10 Scottish hunts are still operating, and twice as many foxes are being killed each year by the 'fox control' method of flushing them to waiting guns. So the ban, designed to 'protect' foxes, has led to many more being killed.

THE EIGHT pro-hunting demonstrators who entered the House of Commons chamber during a debate on a Bill to ban fox hunting denied charges of disorderly conduct when they appeared in court this month, having been charged under section 5 of the Public Order Act after the incident on September 15th when they burst into the debating chamber in the House of Commons when the Government's Hunting Bill was being discussed and huge demonstrations were taking place outside Parliament.

The men, including 22-year-old Otis Ferry, the son of rock star Bryan Ferry, and Luke Tomlinson, 27, a close friend of Princes William and Harry, appeared before Bow Street magistrates court.
All eight pleaded not guilty to using threatening behaviour or insulting words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour within the sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress.

The men were granted unconditional bail.

The next hearing, a pre-trial review, will take place on January 18th 2005 but the men will not be required to attend. A date for a trail is expected to be set at that hearing.

Meanwhile, Ferry, of Keeper's Cottage, Eaton Mascott, Shrewsbury, planned to lead the Shropshire Hunt its annual Boxing Day meet. What might well be the last legal Boxing Day hunting meets were due to take place around the country on Monday 27th, as Boxing Day fell on a Sunday and Hunts do not meet on a Sunday.

THE PROVINCE of Ontario's Government is wrong to pursue its bid to ban certain dog breeds, according to some 200 dog owners who protested on behalf of their dogs. While most left their dogs at home for their comfort and safety, dog owners young and old braved the wet weather to tell Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant that his proposed breed specific dog control lawshurts responsible dog owners and will not work. Although under great political pressure, Bryant refused to acknowledge that BSL will not work.

"I do not believe that Michael Bryant's bill is fair and just. It leaves too many open doors," said anti-BSL campaigner Jordy Jennings, who owns a Rottweiler and is a member of Canadian Dogs at Risk.

"How will you distinguish what breed of dog your dog is without having registered papers? You cannot blame dog bites on any one breed. Any breed has a tendency to bite once it's provoked."

Another dog owner, Gregory Barrett, said he feared the legislation will turn nuisance neighbour complaints into self-fulfilling prophecies because police who enter a home in response to a complaint could face a dog simply protecting its territory and family.

"That would give them the evidence they need to support the allegation and the dog could be euthanased before the end of the day."

Barrett, who marched from the Elgin St. courthouse to Pierre Elliott Trudeau Park on Wellington St. with his two Kuvasz dogs, Triumph and Phantom, also fears this type of legislation could lead to the banning of all large dogs.

"There's not one person here who doesn't disagree that we need to address the problem, but not in this fashion," said Candice O'Connell, of the National Capital Coalition for People and Dogs, which organised the event.

"It won't work," she said. "We want to protect people from dog bites and we want to encourage public safety. We want to encourage responsible dog ownership."

The NCCPD is calling on legislators to "punish the deed, not the breed" by imposing stiffer fines on owners with biting dogs, tighter controls on breeders and with incentives for owners to spay or neuter.

Steve Barker, Ontario director of the Dog Legislation Council of Canada, said his group is prepared to draft more suitable legislation. Meanwhile, anti-BSL campaigners waited to see whether the Attorney General will accept their offer of help or continue to try to steamroller his Bill onto the Statute books sometime in 2005.

The year ahead, with BSL, hunting and the Animal Welfare Bill, looks certain to be an interesting one.


Nick mays comments:

‘So there you have it - that was 2004. A year that started with a calls for more breed specific legislation and ended with the same in Ontario, saw hunting legally banned but possibly legally allowed to continue in the face of defiance from pro-hunters, and the possibility of greater animal protection laws in the UK - assuming that the Government’s Animal Welfare Bill is fairly worded and enacted. It promises to be a lively time in 2005!

‘As for me personally, well - my New Year’s resolution held good - I did manage to write the Review of the Year a lot quicker in 2004, having resolved to write it each month throughout the year!

‘Happy New Year.’