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Review of the Year 2005 - Part Three

OCTOBER

Vets Not Allowed To Charge For Prescriptions: VETS WOULD no longer be allowed to charge for writing prescriptions for medicines, the Government ruled. This was one of the most radical shake ups to occur within the veterinary profession and came at he end of a three year-long consultation involving the Competition Commission, the Department of Trade and industry and official bodies representing the veterinary profession.

However, some observers within the industry warned that the Government’s ‘tinkering’ with the existing system may end up costing pet owners more in the long run than if prescription charges did apply; vets may be compelled to charge more for their professional services overall.
The Government published its response to the consultation on the draft Order implementing the recommendations of the Competition Commission in their 2003 report on the supply of prescription-only medicines for veterinary use (POMs).

In particular, the Government’s response accepted the proposal from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons that the majority of provisions that were subject to consultation could be implemented through amendments to the RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct.
The revised Order required:

l Veterinary surgeons not to charge for writing prescriptions for three years;
l Manufacturers of prescribed veterinary medicines to provide veterinary surgeons and pharmacists with information about the prices of prescribed veterinary medicines; and
l Veterinary manufacturers and wholesalers to supply prescribed veterinary medicines to pharmacies and veterinary surgeons on the same terms for the same volumes supplied over the same time period.

The Final Order would need to reflect changes that were to be made in the forthcoming Veterinary Medicines Regulations, being prepared by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

As those Regulations had not yet been published, no final Order could be laid at that time. However, the Government had produced some draft guidance that anticipated the Regulations.

BACKGROUND

The Competition Commission's report was published on 11 April 2003. The Commission found that three complex monopoly situations existed in relation to POMs.

The first complex monopoly situation involves veterinary surgeons engaged in one or more of the following conducts:

(a) Failure to inform animal owners that they can ask for prescriptions, or discouraging requests for prescriptions, or declining to provide prescriptions on request;

(b) Failure to inform clients of the price of POMs prior to dispensing them, or to provide itemised bills; and

(c) Pricing of POMs which does not reflect their cost of supply.


The second complex monopoly situation arises from the failure of eight manufacturers to enable pharmacies to obtain supplies of POMs on terms which would enable them to compete with veterinary surgeons.

The third complex monopoly situation arises from the failure of all the veterinary wholesalers to take reasonable steps to market to pharmacies and supply them with POMs, so that they can compete with veterinary surgeons.

The Government reviewed and accepted the Commission’s findings when the report was published.

Meanwhile the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons indicated its plans to implement the Commission’s recommendations at the earliest opportunity through its Guide to Professional Conduct.

"RCVS Council decided that it would be better to include the recommendations in the Guide, where possible, rather than see them in legislation and I am pleased that we have been able to achieve this. This follows several years of discussion with government and other veterinary bodies such as the BVA," commented Stephen Ware MRCVS, Chairman of the RCVS Competition Commission Working Party.

Implementation through the Guide would be restricted to those elements of the draft Order that increase the transparency of medicine pricing and the availability of prescriptions from veterinary surgeons.

To make such additions workable, the Guide would be modified to remove the current restrictions on vets publishing prices for veterinary medicines.

These changes were due to take effect subject to the RCVS Council Meeting on 3 November, where the exact wording would be agreed.

However, the RCVS took a stand against recommendations which it felt were unworkable and unfair. The RCVS Council agreed that it would not be appropriate for those recommendations which it could not or does not wish to enforce to be implemented through the Guide. Thus the recommendation for a zero prescription fee would not appear in the Guide although it would, however, be included in the Order.


Pet owners could end up feeling the pinch from the new regulations in the long run, according to Dr Freda Scott-Park, President of the British Veterinary Association.


"There is a downside to the recommendations," Dr Scott-Park told OUR DOGS. "If the cost of medicines is going to fall, this naturally means that a veterinary surgeon's income will fall. Bearing in mind that vets receive no Government grant, no support in the fork of NHS-type funding. So they must make uor the inevitable shortfall in income somewhere else. You must also bear in mind that vets put a huge amount of care into animals – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. There are out of hours calls, appointments that allow the vet to see the animal on the day it requires an appointment. This all takes a considerable resource to fund.

"I think there is a serious issue here. Personally, I think we need to look at the consequences. If the cost of medicines comes down, that’s all to the good of the owner and patient. But we have also got to look at how a vet covers his or her overheads, which include veterinary equipment and supplies, heating, lighting, staff wages and so on. This Basically means that veterinary fees are going to rise. This will most likely mean higher consultation fees."

Dr Scott-Park pointed out that the Chairman of the Commission noted several times that members of the veterinary profession did not charge highly enough for their professional services.


"If you start to reference the cost of our consultation to the cost of calling out a washing machine repairman, then you see the vast disparity," added Dr Scott-Park. "A washing machine repairman will charge you £50 plus VAT before he’s even come through your door to look at the machine. Or think how much it costs to take your car into a garage, even before any work is carried out I think this puts into context what vets do, the value of their expertise. So the time has come to decide what we do charge for our professional services, and within the next 2 to 3 years, I can see a sharp rise in veterinary fees. People will see animals as a very expensive responsibility and will have to seriously think about that responsibility to their pets."

"It is clear that pet insurance is going to have to be more widely taken up by the pet owning public to cover any unexpected veterinary treatment, and this must all be seen in the context of needing to prepare for higher costs."

DTA Symposium Hailed As Great Success: THE LONG-AWAITED symposium staged by the lobby group Dog Theft Action took place in Leamington Spa ON Saturday October 1st and was hailed as a "great success" by many who attended.

The event had been planned for close on three months and was seen as a test of the group’s credibility to reach a wider audience and to engage with the many diverse organisations that have an involvement to a greater or lesser degree with dog theft. It would certainly seem from the reception given to the DTA and its varied panel of speakers, that the group’s credibility was never in doubt.

The audience numbered over fifty people and comprised many dog wardens from different local authorities, vets, representatives from microchip organisations, at least two serving police officers and several individual dog owners, a n umber of whom had suffered from the theft of their own dogs.

The symposium was hosted by the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and was staged at their conference facility at Edmonscote Manor, Leamington Spa. Bartfield Chartered Accountants sponsored the refreshments and splendid buffet lunch, whilst advertising for the event had been donated by OUR DOGS newspaper. There was also a great array of raffle prizes on offer, donated by several individuals and organisations, whilst free copies of OUR DOGS newspaper and Dogs Today Magazine were presented to each attendee in a ‘goody bag’ containing various other items of interest.

The symposium was chaired by the GDBA’s own Neil Ewart who brought his own brand of calm, friendly and often amusing commentary to proceedings, especially when he had to chair a lively question and answer session to a greatly extended panel of experts!


The speakers were Steve O’Brien of the National Dog Wardens Association, Nick Mays, the Chief Reporter of OUR DOGS, breeder and dog theft victim Vivien Phillips, accompanied by two of her dogs, Andy Watts of the Prison Service with his drug sniffer dog ‘Mason’, TV personality Peter Purves and Allen Parton of Canine Partners, accompanied by his ever-faithful canine companion ‘Endal’.

The subjects spoken about were many and varied, the approaches all different, but the key factor of dog theft never far from the heart of each speech. Steve O’Brien explained how the dog warden service worked, what the legal requirements on picking up stray or possibly stolen dogs was, and how the police were soon to withdraw from any responsibility for stray dogs due to the terms of the Cleaner Neighbourhoods Bill, and how they should still be required, by law, to keep a register of missing or stolen dogs.

Nick Mays, meanwhile, took the audience on a wide-ranging tour of many of the laws that affected dog owners in the UK and pointed out quite forcefully that dog owners got a very raw deal from the authorities on so many fronts, not least of which was dog theft, because it wasn’t taken seriously. He pointed out that whilst it was gratifying to see some serving police officers in the audience who quite patently did care about dog theft and did their best to make sure it was logged and treated seriously, it was very telling that senior officers from the Association of Chief Police Constables, nor any Minister, official or civil servant from the Home Office had chosen to accept the DTA’s invitation to attend either the symposium of the ‘summit meeting’ between several different organisations at the Kennel Club next month.

DTA Co-ordinator Margaret Nawrockyi thanked all the speakers and attendees profusely for their input. "It was so gratifying to see so many people, so many of them professionals in attendance," she told OUR DOGS. "During the lunch break they all spoke to each other, they networked, the DTA made many valuable contacts. All of this will help us in our fight to get dog theft taken seriously by the government and the police. The DTA will carry on its campaign, carry on the fight and it does so with greater strength and support than ever.

"I would like to thank all those who supported us, who sponsored us and who made the symposium possible. We will be staging another symposium next year and it will bigger and even better. But nothing will ever diminish the memory of this, our first symposium, our first DTA event and the day that dog theft was put well and truly on the map."

LACS Target Shooters: THE LEAGUE Against Cruel Sports launched a campaign against shooting, attacking the intensive rearing of game birds and snaring which make commercial shoots possible.
In a DVD sent to MPs to coincide with the start of the shooting season, the league attacked what it claims is the "factory farming" of about 30 million game birds a year and the use of snares to trap foxes.

The undercover footage focused on the use of battery cages, which the industry calls "raised laying units", in which pheasants are kept for up to three years. The main shooting organisation, the British Association of Shooting and Conservation, is opposed to the practice.

John Cooper, the league chairman, who narrated the film, said the Government had shown its commitment to animal welfare by banning hunting. "Now it is time to deal with animal cruelty in the shooting industry," he said. Shooting groups regard the film as an attempt by LACS to maximise donations after the ban on hunting and to open up a new front against shooting before the Animal Welfare Bill was due to be debated in Parliament that autumn.

The Bill will contain a "duty of care" to look after all animals. This was expected to be followed within two years by codes of practice, which will effectively have the force of law.

Some shooting bodies were concerned that the Bill and the codes could be used to tighten the law on commercial shooting to the extent that it becomes impossible, without actually banning the sport, as has happened in Holland.

The league’s campaign came as the radical Hunt Saboteurs Association said it would target more shoots over the next few years, in open defiance of the Government’s assertions that hunting and shooting would be between rearing animals or birds for food and sport that is just cruel. I don't consider the sport of shooting to be cruel."

Mr Knight confirmed at the Labour Party conference that he was in favour of "responsible snaring".

Charles Nodder, of the National Game Farmers Association, said: "The Government has made clear that it wants to leave detail out of the Bill and if it is sabotaged by backbenchers it will be shelved."

British SAR Dogs Sent To Help In Earthquake Disaster Zone: SEVERAL BRITISH Search and Rescue (SAR) dogs were deployed along with specialist rescue teams to help in the search for survivors of the Asian earthquake that hit Pakistan, north India and Afghanistan in early October with the loss of thousands of lives.

A team of firefighters from the West Midlands, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire arrived to help in areas hit by the Kashmir earthquake.

Teams from the International Rescue Corps and the UK Fire Service Search and Rescue Team (UKFSSART) flew out from Nottingham East Midlands Airport. The team was made up of firefighters and other specialist rescue personnel from the emergency services, including SAR dogs and their handlers.

The Lincolnshire crew were the first international team on scene. They were deployed to Muzzaffarabad in Kashmir by helicopter.

Along with the Lancashire team, they were used in the next phase for light search and rescue. Colleagues from West Midlands and Grampian teams followed with heavy rescue gear.

The team is on call 24 hours a day to respond to disasters anywhere in the world. It is made up of on-duty teams with a doctor and trauma nurse, a SAR team from Lincolnshire and a small command support team from West Midlands Fire Service.

Crews around the country take it in turns to be on the rota and ready to respond within four hours - currently Grampian, Greater Manchester, Lincolnshire and Lancashire.

They were joined by Kent, Essex and Leicestershire personnel. Team members are all inoculated in readiness to be sent anywhere in the world.

Neil Fritzsche, from Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue, said that in the Indian earthquake five years ago, visa and quarantine delays meant crews could not be mobilised for 16 hours. However, they have made sure that does not happen again.

However there were problemns for the SAR dogs used in the operation, Mr Fritzsche said: "Quarantine regulations are bypassed going out there, but on the way coming back the dogs will be in quarantine for six months.

"It is a problem for the team - it is a problem for the UK resilience as far as search and rescue dogs (are concerned) because if they are required in this country, should any disaster occur, then the dogs will be in quarantine."

Within hours of arriving in Pakistan, Search and Rescue dog Charcole was hailed a hero, saved the life Mohammed Tariq, a 20-year-old tailor lost in the rubble of his home in Muzaffarabad.
But as soon as she and her SAR dog rescue team mates touched down in the UK a week later, fresh from searching for survivors from the Pakistan earthquake, it was to go into quarantine. For the next six months this highly trained seven year old black Labrador and her fellow SAR dogs had to remain in kennels behind bars, thanks to DEFRA’s existing quarantine laws.

Before he left home in Northern Ireland, owner Neil Powell of B.I.R.D. (British International Rescue Dogs) had to make an agonising decision; if he took Charcole she would return to six months quarantine on her return, even though her rabies jabs were up-to-date; but Neil decided the chance to save life was more important.

At international disaster sites British dogs work alongside Swiss, Spanish and French dogs – none of whom were subjected to quarantine. For highly trained Charcole this is the second stint she will have had behind bars.

Veteran campaigners such as Lady Mary Fretwell of Passports for Pets said they could not understand why the dogs received "a prison sentence, rather than a pat on the back." DEFRA refuse to follow practice in other EU countries, whose veterinary authorities have made a full study of risks, and are happy to allow these hero dogs home without going into quarantine.
Author of book ‘999 and other Working Dogs’, Verite Reily Collins, said: "When I asked DEFRA what would happen if all the British rescue dogs eventually were in quarantine, and we had another tornado in Birmingham, flooding in Boscastle or even lost children and old people, how would we cope for search dogs? The spokesman said they ‘would bring in dogs from France’. I asked if they’d do so even though these dogs had been working alongside the British dogs in Pakistan? ‘They are French dogs’, was the reply."

If team members have contacts in Europe, their dogs can go and stay with them for the six months and then return to Britain without quarantine under the PETS Scheme.

"You couldn’t make it up if you tried," added Verite.

Doug Kempster of DEFRA’s Press Office told OUR DOGS: "The quarantine rules are designed to protect the UK from rabies. The rescue teams are aware before they go and know the dogs will have to go into quarantine on their return from countries like Pakistan where rabies is endemic.
"No vaccine is 100% effective. If you make one exception it is difficult to see where you then draw the line."

Animal Welfare Bill Published: THE GOVERNMENT’S long-awaited Animal Welfare Bill was published mid-month to great excitement and interest from all groups and individuals concerned with animal keeping and animal welfare.

The Bill, which has been almost three years in the preparation, contained a great deal of detail, much of it relating to the prevention of cruelty and better animal welfare, as well as increasing the penalties for anyone found guilty of causing suffering to animals. Clauses such as the raising of the minimum age at which children can purchase a pet and the prevention of giving animals such as goldfish as prizes have been retained, despite earlier suggestions by some Ministers that these might be dropped, for fear of the Government being seen as ‘nannyish’.

The Animal Welfare Bill was described by Junior Environment Minister Ben Bradshaw as "the most significant animal welfare legislation for nearly a century."

One of the key elements of the Bill was the introduction of a duty on those responsible for animals to do all that is reasonable to ensure their welfare.

Many animal welfare groups believe the keeping of large wild animals, such as elephants, in circuses will be ended by the courts if that duty is enforced. Mr Bradshaw said groups such as the RSPCA, which have campaigned for a total ban on the keeping of large wild animals in circuses, "need not be too despondent".

He said: "Much of what they want to achieve will be made possible by the Bill." A new code of conduct governing circuses might take another two or three years but "certain practices could be deemed inimical to good welfare" with immediate effect once the Bill was passed.

A great deal of the Bill’s scope rests with secondary legislation which would be enacted after the Bill is passed. Livery yards, so-called ‘pet fairs’ (pet shows), pet shops, cat and dog boarding establishments will all require a licence under the Bill, which seeks to modernise powers currently set out in 22 separate Acts of Parliament.

The Bill, which only applies in England and Wales, is set to ban all mutilation of animals, such as the cropping of dogs' ears (even though this is already illegal in the UK), calves' tongues and horses' tails. However, there will be an exemption for castrating and spaying cats and dogs or ear-tagging cattle.

Crucially, the Government decided not to push for a ban on tail docking in dogs, since it said sincere views are held by both those in favour and those against. This is an issue decided to let Parliament rule on. Opponents of a ban believed, however, that with a Labour majority that ritually sides with animal welfare groups the practice was likely to be banned, if not by an amendment to the Bill itself, then by secondary legislation.

This was is in stark contrast to the Scottish Assembly’s own Animal Welfare Bill, as published in October, which set out a ban on tail docking as one of its main aims.

The Government decided to exempt angling from the Bill, after fears were raised that it could affect anglers and commercial fishermen. But fish are covered by a general ban on children under 16 buying pets or being given them as prizes in funfairs. Currently the age for buying a pet is 12.
Mr Bradshaw said there were lots of examples of children buying a pet without their parents' consent and the pet turning up in dogs' homes or animal refuges. He indicated the way that a code of conduct on the rearing of game birds might be drafted by saying that there was "concern" about the use of battery cages to rear game birds and this was "something we need to address".
Mr Bradshaw said that as an "enabling" Bill, which allowed further rules to be drawn up under secondary legislation, the AWB would allow ministers to "keep up with the times." However, many people involved in areas such as tail docking, animal shows and small rescue centres were concerned about the secondary legislation, which may enable some of the organisations with the Government’s ear to press for their own ‘hobby horse’ concerns. As things stood, the secondary legislation could even allow for a code of conduct for invertebrates, such as lobsters, in the future.
Undoubtedly, there is a need for greater animal welfare in many areas, but in order to achieve this the legislation may cause greater problems for animal enthusiasts and fanciers. With the Animal Welfare Bill, the devil is in the detail.

Hunting On The Up - Thanks To Loopholes: ALL OF the Hunts in the UK declared it to be "Business As Usual" at the start of their first full season since fox-hunting was banned in England and Wales and the third year since it was banned in Scotland.

Nine months after the Hunting Bill came into effect in England and Wales, the feared mass cull of foxhounds has not taken place, meets were still taking place and there has not been a single prosecution for illegal hunting - despite 50 policeinvestigations undertaken at the behest of anti-hunt activists.

The hunts were learning ways around the law, which they said was so badly drafted and full of loopholes that it is easy to exploit. Hunting with birds of prey was the most popular innovation. The other was the ‘accident’, when, for example, hounds attack foxes during a perfectly legal rabbit or drag chase, despite the hunt's best efforts to call them off.

Around 40 hunts were poised to start the new season armed with a newly purchased feathered predator - everything from eagle owl to mighty golden eagle, costing up to £10,000 each.
The hunts argued that an exemption in the legislation allows them to use two hounds to flush a fox out into the open, as long a bird of prey makes the actual kill. That is assuming that the kill is actually observed.

The Countryside Alliance said it was legitimate for hunts to use the exemption, but Jim Chick, chairman of the Hawk Board, which represents falconers, warned that hunts were risking injury to birds, hounds, horses and even human beings and cites the hunts’ use of birds of prey as a betrayal of trust.

"We marched with the hunts against the fox-hunting ban but this is an abject betrayal of everything we have done for them," said Mr Chick, who is calling for the legal loophole to be closed.

Wanda Wyporska, of the League Against Cruel Sports dismissed a BBC poll in which more than 100 hunts reported meet attendance either unchanged or actually up on pre-ban levels. "Hunt masters would say that, wouldn't they?" she said, adding that the league's own monitors had reported that meets were less frequent and attendance was down.

LACS’ ill humour had not been improved since it emerged that the Home Office instructed rural police forces to concentrate more on everyday crime than commit resources to policing hunts, and even then to concentrate on public order offences - which would obviously include any violence at demonstrations against hunts.

However, there was certainly clear evidence that many hunts are receiving more applications for membership, whilst shoots were reporting increased applications for pickers-up. It could simply be that many people were striving to retain their rural pursuits, whilst others may simply want to ‘cock a snook’ at the Government.

Pro-Hunting Labour MP and former Sports Minister Kaye Hoey, who is Chairwoman of the Countryside Alliance said that while all the possible legal challenges against the Hunting Act had been exhausted in the UK - although there is a fresh challenge pending in the European Courts - the "nonsense" that was the Hunting Act would not stop anyone from hunting.

"The law is so badly drafted it’s unworkable," said Ms Hoey. "Things will carry on as normal. The Act does not ban red coats. It does not ban hounds, it does not ban killing foxes. It will look, sound and smell like before. There have been no successful prosecutions and it is unlikely there will be.

"We will be keeping within the law. If protesters thought they would never see people out riding in red coats again that is not the case."

High Court Seizes Animal Rights Group's Funds: COMPANIES UNDER pressure from animal rights protesters won a landmark High Court victory this month which paves the way for the seizure of activists’ funds.

The unprecedented ruling gave Huntingdon Life Sciences permission to empty the bank account of pressure group London Animal Action, heralding the enforcement of a new tactic against the assets owned by protesters.

It is thought to be the first time that the finances of an animal rights organisation have been appropriated by one of its targets.

Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), Britain’s largest research laboratory, has suffered relentless intimidation from animal rights activists over the years, which has included assaults on several members of staff, including Managing Director Brian Cass.

HLS had run up a bill of nearly £300,000 in bringing injunctions against protesters, after staff and directors endured hate mail, harassment, assault and noisy demonstrations outside their homes.
The court orders created exclusion zones around its Cambridgeshire premises and the homes of staff, contractors and their families.

But the company is trying to retrieve its costs by seizing the funds of the groups which campaign to have it closed.

Also this month, London Animal Action failed in its High Court appeal against a wider order that allowed HLS to seek costs from a number of individuals and animal rights groups. HLS had gained possession of the contents of its bank account, totalling just under £7,000, and was also awarded a further costs order of £9,000.

The action group argued that the earlier order was unlawful, because the group has no formal membership or elected officers and was an unincorporated association, which does not normally exist in law.

In dismissing the appeal, Mr Justice Mackay said: "The novelty of the form of order in this case is plain and the need for it is obvious." He added that none of the group’s individual members had come forward to protest that he or she should not be liable.

The group was given leave to appeal against the £9,000 costs order, which in turn gives HLS the right to pursue the finances of individual members.

The court ruling came two months after HLS forced the leaders of another high-profile animal rights campaign into bankruptcy.

It won a county court judgment against Greg Avery, his wife Natasha and his former wife Heather James, who founded Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, after demands for payment of costs were ignored.

Mr Avery said at the time: "They’re definitely not going to get a penny of it. I always tell people getting into animal rights to make themselves asset-free. We don’t own anything."

NOVEMBER

Dog Killed By Firework Yobs: AN 11-YEAR OLD Yorkshire Terrier was horrifically killed by a gang of violent yobs who strapped a firework onto the terrified animal in the week leading up to Bonfire Night. It was believed the culprits also filmed the act on mobile phones.

Maureen and Keith Barrington, both 67 of Linthwaite, near Huddersfield, Yorkshire were left devastated by the death of their dog Emmie and traumatised by the evil manner in which their innocent pet was destroyed.

Eyewitness Kara McManus managed to take the number plate of car believed to be that of the killers. The sick killers even drove slowly past the scene of their crime the next day and waved and laughed at Mrs McManus, although in doing so, the yobs stupidly gave her the perfect opportunity to take their car registration number.

Speaking about the tragedy Mr Barrington said: "My wife is just getting over cancer and I’ve had a triple heart bypass — but Emmie was something to live for."

His heartbroken wife added: "She was lovely and beautiful, and so tiny. I hope she was run over and dead before they got to her and did not die that way because I can’t bear the thought of her going through that.

"But whether she was alive or dead, it was an absolutely disgusting thing to do. It is terrible to dismember her body like that."


Mr Barrington believes Emmie was startled by a firework and ran into the road where she was attacked.

"When I found her, my heart sank". Mr Barrington explained.

"She had been blown to bits and covered in blood but I knew straight away it was her, because of her red collar. We think she ran out into the road and was hit by a car. Then these lads stopped as she lay in the road and blew her up and were taking photographs of her."

Police arrested a 19-year-old youth a few days later and charged him with causing criminal damage to a dog.

Anti-firework campaigner Theresa Kulkarni, who was petitioning the Government for a total ban on all private firework sales commented: "As long as fireworks are on sale to the general public, these kinds of incident are going to continue and many more innocent pets will be killed. It’s time the Government took notice of what’s actually going on and took decisive action. They’re quite happy to talk about a total smoking ban, but when it’s something that people are crying out for, like a ban on fireworks, they shy away from it."

Kulkarni's new petition had already attracted a great deal of support, with over 90,000 signatures to date.

The petition called upon the Government to amend the Fireworks Laws in order to:

1. Restrict fireworks to licensed organised displays only at certain times of year
2. To include Garden Fireworks in the restricted category
3. To reduce the decibel limit to a maximum of 85db for all fireworks including display fireworks
4. To make it illegal to use or possess fireworks without a valid licence
RSPCA Canvass Vets For Docking Ban Support: THE RSPCA came under fire from the Council of Docked Breeds for what it regarded as an underhanded way of securing support from veterinary surgeons for a total docking ban under the Animal Welfare Bill.

A letter from Tim Miles, the RSPCA’s Chief Veterinary Advisor, dated October 25th – just over a week after the AWB was published – was sent out to vets to drum up support for the RSPCA’s plans to put pressure on MPs to vote for an amendment to the AWB and secure a total ban on tail docking.

Mr Miles letter asked the recipient of the letter to "write a statement supporting the RSPCA’s ban on tail docking".

When the AWB was published, the Government’s view on docking was outlined by Minister Ben Bradshaw who said that he saw no reason to change the status quo – i.e. that docking is permitted if carried out by a registered veterinary surgeon but that it would be left to Parliament to make the final decision. Many owners of docked breeds feared that this would mean that MPs would give into pressure and vote for an outright docking ban without considering the health and welfare aspects this would entail for traditionally docked breeds.

Ginette Elliott, Secretary of the Council of Docked Breeds told OUR DOGS: "Not too long ago, an RSPCA spokesperson said they didn't try to involve themselves directly with Government on the docking issue. This just highlights their desperation to get their own way and they should hang their heads in shame for saying one thing and doing another!

"The RSPCA should give a ‘full explanation’ of the reasons why any vet should provide such a statement."

Becky Hawkes of the RSPCA’s Press Office vehemently denied that any such statement had been made by the RSPCA, saying: "The Council of Docked Breeds are entirely mistaken - there is no story here, given there has not been any change of RSPCA policy! Given the unlikelihood of such a comment being given, I would be interested to hear the name of the so-called RSPCA spokesperson, and a date when and place where this alleged comment was made - if your CDB contact is able to provide it.

"A small amount of research demonstrates our policy has not changed, nor has our intention to get a ban on non-therapeutic tail docking enshrined in law. Indeed, the RSPCA's original submission to the Government in response to the first consultation on the Animal Welfare Bill (in early 2002) clearly states: ‘The tail docking of dogs should be prohibited except where a veterinary surgeon determines it necessary for therapeutic reasons. Docking should also be prohibited in any dog before its eyes open and must always be carried out with appropriate anaesthetic.’"

Ms Hawkes added: "The Council of Docked Breeds may not share the opinion of the RSPCA or that of respected veterinary bodies such as BSAVA and RCVS, however, it is entirely mistaken in its accusation that the Society has changed its position on this matter. We hope, for the sake of improved welfare, that Parliament sees to it that the non-therapeutic tail docking of dogs is banned on the face of the Animal Welfare Bill."

DTA Summit Success: DOG THEFT ACTION were back in the news mid-month when their Summit took place, hosted by the Kennel Club at its London offices in Clarges Street. The meeting was organised by Dog Theft Action’s head co-ordinator Margaret Nawrockyi in conjunction with the Kennel Club.

The meeting was chaired by Ian Cawsey MP for Brigg and Goole and was attended by several DTA co-ordinators and advisors, senior Kennel Club staff, and representatives from several organisations, including the RCVS, BVA, BSAVA, Dogs Trust, Pet ID, the National Dog Tattoo Register, WAG anti-puppy farm group and Hertfordshire Police.

Attendees were given several first-hand accounts of the impact of dog theft from some of those present, and the discussions that followed covered a wide range of topics including the roles of the police, Government and dog wardens, and what steps need to be taken to combat this growing problem.

Several action points were agreed by the attendees including the setting up of a single national database for lost and stolen pets, the production of a series of leaflets informing the public, vets and dog wardens of what to do in cases of dog theft, and feeding back the results of the meeting to the Home Office, the Government department responsible. These action points were be progressed accordingly, most likely by a working party drawn from a number of the organisations present.

All those present agreed that the summit had been a huge success and that it was a great achievement for DTA to have brought together so many different organisations to work together on a common cause.

Margaret Nawrockyi commented: "Dog theft is a growing problem across the UK and this summit allowed a number of keys issues to be aired in an open forum. We were very pleased to see so many organisations coming together to look at ways to tackle this issue and hope that the positive words expressed at the meeting can be turned into positive actions for the benefit of all dogs."

BSL’ Schroeder Stands Down: GERMAN CHANCELLOR Gerhard Schroeder renounced his claim to rule Germany this month, saying he "wouldn’t stand in the way'' of a grand alliance between his Social Democratic Party and the opposition Christian Democratic Union.

"I don't want to stand in the way of the development of the reform process or a stable government in Germany,'" Schroeder, 61, told German news broadcaster N-TV in an interview before a meeting of his party's steering committee in Berlin.

Schroeder said it was the Social Democrats’ claim to remain Germany's ruling party, not his personal ambition to win a third term, that will matter in talks with the opposition Christian Democratic Union on forming a possible ‘grand coalition.’ However, this is a strong departure from the more arrogant line that Schroeder had been blustering for the three weeks following the indecisive general election, namely that he would remain as Chancellor. It would seem that he realised that the majority of his party now see him as a barrier to the SPD continuing to have a say in government and that his intransigence in stepping aside for CDU leader Angela Merkel.
After the Sept. 18 election failed to produce a decisive winner, Schroeder and opposition leader Angela Merkel, 51, both insisted on the right to form the new government. The final provisional results showed Merkel and her allies holding a four-seat lead in parliament over the SPD.
Schroeder became a hate figure for dog owners and anti-BSL campaigners in Germany and around the world after his Social Democrat Federal Government introduced the infamous breed specific ‘Kampfehunde’ laws in 2000 after a spate of highly publicised dog attacks which included the death of a six year-old boy who was attacked by a drug dealer’s trained fighting dog.
Schroeder even amended the German Constitution to remove certain civil rights from dog owners, so that police can enter a dog owner’s home without a warrant to seize any dog that is merely alleged to be ‘dangerous’. However, if the police wish to enter the home of a rapist or murder suspect, they must obtain a warrant beforehand.

Schroeder had decided to go to the polls a year earlier than necessary, due to his party’s abysmal performance in recent regional elections that had greatly undermined his authority.
Hundreds of German dog owners made it clear that they voted tactically to remove Schroeder from power, citing the draconian dog laws as their over-riding reason for doing so.
Pets Face Starvation Hell In New Orleans: TWO ANIMAL rescue groups issued a call for the state of Louisiana to stop blocking attempts to save the thousands of sick, injured, and traumatised dogs and cats who were still wandering the streets of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. And, incredibly, the animals’ new and ongoing misery was being caused by bureaucratic and political manoeuvring by the authorities and the State Governor.

The state announced that the Hurricane Katrina rescue phase is over.

Out-of-state veterinarians were therefore banned from volunteering their services on behalf of the animals of greater New Orleans. Rescuers were even threatened with arrest if they attempted to give food and water to animals in Orleans Parish. Outside rescue groups were told they should turn all operations over to local authorities and leave the state.

Meanwhile, the pets that survived Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath were said to be dying on the streets -sometimes right next to food and water bowls that the handful of remaining rescuers couldn't fill in time.

AnimalRescueNewOrleans.com and Alley Cat Allies called for the State to reverse its course and accept outside help in the form of veterinarians and more volunteers.

"We are literally seeing animals on the streets starving to death," said Jane Garrison, director of AnimalRescueNewOrleans.com, one of a handful of rescue organisations still in the city. "We need more volunteers to feed and water the thousands of traumatized animals still on the streets, we need to keep trapping animals so we can reunite them with their guardians, and we need a massive spay/neuter program."

Garrison coordinated the animal rescue programme for six weeks as a volunteer for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Since HSUS pulled out in October she had been running her own programme. With a steadily dwindling force of volunteers, Garrison was racing against time trying to provide food and water at more than 2,000 sites in the New Orleans area, as well as fielding a constant stream of owner rescue requests.

"Many of these animals are people's companions who escaped their homes when doors and windows blew open. It would be completely unethical to allow them to die on the streets," she said. The state claimed that local authorities can handle the problem, but rescuers on the ground know this is not the case. One of the hardest hit areas, St. Bernard Parish, has no active animal control agency or functioning animal shelter. The Louisiana SPCA, in charge of animal control in Orleans Parish, did not have anywhere close to the staff, space, or resources required to address a problem of this magnitude.

"If the state government doesn't allow us to feed, treat, and find homes for the thousands of animals struggling to survive now, it is in for a rude awakening the beginning of next year," said Becky Robinson, national director of Alley Cat Allies (ACA). "The number of free-roaming cats and dogs will be devastating."

Staffie Pups Face Death In Ontario: ALL STAFFORDSHIRE Bull Terrier pups born in the province of Ontario, Canada after Monday November 28th had to, by law, be euthanised under the second and most lethal part of the Ontario Liberal Government’s Breed Specific Legislation to stamp out ‘Pit Bulls’.

The province's pit bull ban came into effect at the end of August. As part of the legislation, a grace period ‘grandfathered’ pups born 90 days from that date, hence the deadline.

Anti BSL campaigners and some animal welfare organisations have persistently argued that banning a breed will only result in the numbers of bad biters increasing elsewhere in the canine chain. Their voices were joined by those of breeders, animal shelter workers, veterinarians and kennel clubs.

"Dog trainers are not usually considered animal rights activists and they're usually at odds with one another," said Julie King, who runs a computer consulting firm, breeds Staffordshire Bull Terriers as a hobby and was one of many to make an anti-ban presentation to the legislative committee on Bill 132. The Staffie, she said, is not a "pit bull," but making that argument "can be taken in the wrong light to mean we can support the ban as long as you don't include us."

This month the court dates for the constitutional challenge to Bill 132 were set. Commencing May 14th 2006 lawyer Clayton was set to argue in Superior Court that the legislation is overbroad in part due to the provision that allows for the imprisonment of owners who do not obey the law. The legislation, he continued, "is not tailored to the harm the government is seeking to prevent."

DECEMBER

Bella Moss Foundation At No.10: JILL MOSS, President and Founder of The Bella Moss Foundation, accompanied MRSA Action UK to deliver a petition to 10 Downing Street and then joined them in laying a wreath at Westminster Abbey to those who have died from the infection.

The invitation was made after MRSA Action UK leader, Moya Stevens, got in touch with the Foundation to discuss ways of raising awareness about issues relating to MRSA.

Jill Moss told OUR DOGS: "It was a very generous invitation and I felt honoured to be asked to join them in laying a wreath at Westminster Abbey. It was a powerful reminder to everyone that MRSA can have devastating consequences for everyone, and all who attended were deeply moved."

Although none of the group were able to present the petition to Prime Minister Tony Blair in person, there was considerable press coverage and Moss was able to speak about the common purpose that all the MRSA support and action groups share. Moss added: "I felt that raising awareness in all aspects of MRSA was more important than whether we are talking about animals or people. The aims we have are so similar that there is much we can learn from each other, and even though we may be addressing different areas, it’s important for us all to work cooperatively when we can."

After the ceremony at Westminster Abbey Jill Moss was able to spend time talking with Moya Stevens about the issues. "Even though MRSA Action UK focuses on human aspects of MRSA, they are incredibly supportive of the work of the Foundation," said Moss. "There is a lot we can learn from each other."

Moss said that the Bella Moss Foundation plans to launch its own petition on statutory veterinary regulation in the New Year. "There is a real need to take the issue forward," she said, "and I believe there is tremendous support among owners, as well as vets, to make regulatory issues clearer."

Face Transplant Woman "Was Not attacked" By Family Dog: HISTORY WAS made this month when a French woman received the world’s first partial face transplant after her family’s dog allegedly mauled her face.

However, the dog’s ‘guilt’ in attacking the woman was subsequently brought into question after a startling revelation by one of the woman’s daughters in the days following the operation.
Mme Isabelle Dinoire, 38, a divorced mother of two teenage girls from Valenciennes, was severely disfigured in an alleged attack by her dog – a Labrador/Beauceron cross - in May. It left her unable to talk, chew or drink. The dog, called Tania, was later put down, against Mme Dinoire’s wishes.

"She doesn’t blame the dog," Dr Sylvie Testelin, one of her surgeons, said. "The dog liked her. He tried to wake her up, or whatever. It was no more than an accident."

However, her daughter Lucie, 17, said that the attack came after her mother tried to commit suicide.

This cast doubt on a key aspect of the medical dossier: that the woman had the necessary psychological strength to cope with both a new face and a high-profile role in a surgical breakthrough.

The daughter’s account, though, was denied by Jean-Michel Dubernard, head of the Department of Transplantation Surgery at Lyons University Hospital, who is overseeing the post operational treatment.

He said that Mme Dinoire had had an argument with her daughter, who had stormed out of the house to spend the night with her grandmother. "The woman was angry and took a sleeping pill to help her to sleep," Professor Dubernard said.

"She did not try to commit suicide. She woke in the night and trod on her dog. That is how she was attacked."

Lisa told a news agency that her mother had taken a pill overdose and that the family dog had bitten her face to rouse her from unconsciousness.

"She had taken pills, she was unconscious. When the dog realised that, it tried to wake her," said Lisa. "After that we don't know what happened with the dog, whether it bit or clawed her, but it managed to pull her awake. In a way, it was lucky for her that the dog was there."
Prior to the operation, her daughter said her mother had "little by little accepted" her disfigurement, but was forced to wear a surgeon's mask in public and had faced mockery from strangers.

"The hardest part was to be seen by other people. People did not know what was wrong with her and asked stupid questions, like whether she had bird flu."

The family have since taken on another, smaller dog and Mme Dinoire has expressed her intentions to be able to take the dog for a walk in public without having to wear a surgical mask.
Jester’s Law Adopted by Highways Agency: THE Jester'sLaw campaign started by Nikki Powditch of Dog Theft Action to ensure that the bodies of dogs that have been run over are scanned for microchips and checked for tattoos and other forms of identification was incorporated into a nationwide policy by the Highways Agency.

Nikki received an e-mail from Graham Littlechild of the Highways Agency, confirming that, following meetings between the Agency and various officials that the Agency would be issuing an Area Management Memorandum, a document that gives guidance to our Agents on the introduction of new procedures for 'Managing and Identifying Canine Fatalities on the Network'.

Mr Littlechild added: "I will be forwarding the details on to AMScott today although a lot of it is based on procedures that they had either already auctioned or were looking to implement. All other Managing Agent Contractors or Term Maintenance Contractors will be notified by the relevant Highways Agency Area teams over the coming days.

"This does of course mean that it is now too late to forward your request to incorporate Jester's name in the memo. Even so, it is essentially an official Civil Service document and numbered accordingly and unfortunately I would doubt that my colleagues would have been able to accede to your request. Nevertheless your unfortunate experience with Jester has certainly lead to the Agency acknowledging that technology has moved on and that dogs are not only identified with a collar, but also through microchips and ear tattoos. As you say, things are being done to hopefully ensure that no one else has to go through the uncertainties that you have had to go through."
Nikki Powditch was delighted that the HA had incorporated all her suggestions as a national policy and said that it was a vindication of DTA’s ethos that polite persistence can pay off in the long run.

Nikki told OUR DOGS: "Dogs being incinerated or otherwise disposed of when found dead without being scanned should never have been happening in the first place. I'm devastated to have been the one who had to suffer the possible death of my own dog in order to bring this to the attention of the HA, dog lovers and general public.

"Having said that, I'm really pleased with the way in which the HA took everything on board, Area 7 purchasing the scanners initially and now a National Procedures Team implementing Jesters Law and subsequent suggestions from the meeting – storing bodies in freezers, informing the police, dog wardens, vets and so on, with better data collection and identifying in general. They could so easily have refused to act, but they took my comments on board and acted upon them.
Being a Government Agency the HA has really shown the way for all other authorities to follow, the only wish not answered was for the new procedures to be held under Jester’s name, but I can live with that. To me it will always be ‘Jester’s Law’."

Just two weeks after this good news, Nikki received the devastating news that she had been dreading - DNA tests on bodily remains found at the roadside on the day Jester disappeared confirmed that Jester had indeed been killed by a vehicle prior to his body being removed.
The lab conducted a series of DNA tests on the remains and saliva and hair samples on one of Jester's favourite dog toys and found that they all matched.

"Of course I was devastated to learn the truth at last," said Nikki. "I’d pretty much accepted that Jester was probably dead, although there was a question mark over the remains due to an eyewitness saying about the dog wearing a different coloured collar that that which Jester was wearing. But I now have closure. The toy is being returned to me and then, together with the remains that I have left here, it will all be cremated. I'll have the ashes back home where they belong as should have been the case in the first place."

However, Nikki took heart from the fact that Jester’s death was not in vain and that the Jester’s Law campaign has achieved so much in such a short space of time. His name will live on forever.
Tasha Gene’s Offer Canine Clues: A BOXER named Tasha was set to help reveal why dogs have been man's trusted companions and hunting partners throughout recorded history.
Researchers had compiled the 12-year-old dog’s DNA recipe, bringing scientists a step closer to finding the genetic causes of diseases common to all mammals and identifying the differences between dog breeds.

When combined with an earlier genetic sequence of a poodle called Shadow, Tasha's genes would help reveal why some dog breeds are perfect for petting and hugging, whilst others make fierce guardians and a few look like fluffy toys.

Researchers have been keen to unravel the DNA code of dogs because, through selective breeding, they have the highest degree of physical and behavioural differences seen within a single species, from 6lb Chihuahuas to 120lb Great Danes.

As a result, some breeds are predisposed to conditions such as heart disease, cancer, deafness or blindness, and identifying genes responsible for diseases or traits should be much easier to do in dogs than man.

This month, an international consortium, including British teams from Oxford and Cambridge, and led by scientists from the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, unveiled Tasha's DNA code in the journal Nature.

The sequence of 2.4 billion DNA "letters" records the genetic recipe, or genome, of the domestic dog (Canis familiaris), which consists of 19,300 genes - roughly the same number as that found in human beings. The team also sampled the genetic makeup of 10 dog breeds, as well as related species such as the grey wolf and the coyote, pinpointing 2.5 million differences in a single "letter" of genetic code, which serve as signposts to physical and behavioural traits, as well as diseases.

"Of the more than 5,500 mammals living today, dogs are arguably the most remarkable," said Prof Eric Lander, the report's senior author.

"The incredible physical and behavioural diversity of dogs - from Chihuahuas to Great Danes - is encoded in their genomes. It can uniquely help us understand embryonic development, neurobiology, human disease and the basis of evolution."

By tracking evolution's genetic footprints through the dog, human and mouse genomes, the scientists found that humans share more ancestral DNA with dogs than with mice, confirming that dog genes can be used to understand human disease. They also found that selective breeding has shuffled large blocks of DNA code among dog breeds, which should make it easier to find the genes responsible for body size, behaviour and disease.

AWB To License Home Boarding: HOME BOARDING was to be licensed under the Animal Welfare Bill, according to the Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. The Government was to pave the way for secondary legislation to licence the home boarding of dogs, a spokesman for Defra told boarding kennel and cattery owners last week. Speaking at a seminar of around 50 kennel and cattery owners hosted by the Pet Care Trust, (PCT) in Bedford, Graham Thurlow said Defra was mindful of the UK pet industry's concerns.

In a forty-minute presentation to the seminar, Mr Thurlow explained the main points of the Bill, including the introduction of codes of practice. A draft Cat Code had been prepared to accompany the Bill through the parliamentary process but wa not yet in the public domain.

He also outlined the parliamentary process the bill now faced, pointing out the Bill’s projected timetable for the first time, adding that: "If things go according to plan, we hope to have an Act by October 2006."

The Trust was pressing for minimum competency standards, experience or qualification, to be applied to the boarding sector, as they apply to pet retailing.

In drafting the Bill, Graham Thurlow said Defra had been working closely with the Better Regulation Unit. As a result, current plans for secondary legislation include extending the licensing period for boarding kennels and catteries for up to three years, with inspections on a risk-assessed basis.

Janet Nunn, CEO, PCT said she was dismayed that her concerns about health risks posed by commercial home boarding are being "brushed aside" by Defra. Speaking in a statement issued by the Trust, she reiterated the PCT strong stance against the home boarding sector, saying: "The Pet Care Trust believes that home boarding premises cannot offer an appropriate standard of animal care as set out for licensed kennels and catteries. There are issues of cross infection, segregation and welfare that government need to address. It should not be left to members of the public to assess risk on commercial activity; that's what law makers are paid to do."

Graham Thurlow appeared to prefer the licensing option for home boarders. "This is not a banning bill – our intention is to regulate where necessary. Mr Bradshaw is not a banning minister," said Mr Thurlow.

DEFRA’s stance was sure to be a humiliating rebuff for the PCT, who have considered themselves amongst the Government’s top advisors when it came to the AWB.

World's Ugliest Dog Dies: SANTA BARBARA, California, USA: Sam, the tiny dog whose hairless body and crooked teeth earned him a reputation as the World's Ugliest Dog, died this month.
The diminutive world star passed away just short of his 15th birthday.

"I don't think there'll ever be another Sam," his owner, Susie Lockheed said, adding: "Some people would think that's a good thing."

Sam won the ugliest dog contest at the Sonoma-Marin Fair this summer for the third year in a row. The pedigree Chinese crested had made appearances on TV in Japan, radio in New Zealand and in the UK’s Daily Mirror tabloid. He also had met Donald Trump on a talk show set.

Lockheed said she initially was terrified of Sam when she agreed to take him in as a rescue dog six years ago on a 48-hour trial basis. Although she fell in love with him, his appearance repulsed her then-boyfriend and prompted the man to break up with her.

Later, however, Sam became a matchmaker by bringing together Lockheed and her current beau, who saw a picture of the two on an online dating site.

Lockheed said she had Sam put to sleep after she learned that his heart was failing and could not be treated.

She said she's felt a little lost ever since, and is sleeping with Sam's favourite toy — a stuffed bear he picked up in the street and carried home.

Chief Reporter Nick Mays comments: So there you have it – the highs and lows of 2005. Dogs remain a great part of our lives, but that age-old companionship between man and dog – his best friend – is under attack from the likes of politicians who would have thousands of dogs destroyed merely for the way they look, whilst others would prevent caring human beings from rescuing and treating strays whose homes have been wrecked by natural disasters. Meanwhile, civil servants in their ivory towers think nothing of consigning brave Search and Rescue dogs to six months quarantine, merely on a technicality of regulations – not matter how many lives they have saved or could potentially save if free to do so!

Other faceless officials don’t consider dog theft to be worthy of their attention, in the same way that MRSA in dogs – let alone humans – simply doesn’t register on their radar.

But, as the campaign to oust anti-hunting MPs demonstrated in 2005, concerted action DOES work. Dog owners have a voice, and that voice is finally being heard thanks to the hard work and dedication of people who care about dogs and other animals.

Let’s hope that voice continues to be heard even louder – and heeded – in 2006.

Happy New Year!


Allen and Endal pictured with Wallace and Gromit at the premier of The Curse of the Were-Rabbit at the Odeon, Leicester Square

OUR DOGS Chief Reporter Nick Mays makes a point at the DTA summit, whilst Ian Cawsey and Margaret Nawrockyi look on

DTA Co-ordinator Margaret Nawrockyi and Ian Cawsey MP, who chaired the DTA Summit meeting

At the DTA Summit Sarah Fry of Pet ID, Gill Christian of the National Dog Tattoo Register and Celia Walson of PetLog in a spirit of true co-operation

Jill Moss and Mark Dosher of the Bella Moss Foundation pictured at Crufts earlier this year.

World's Ugliest Dog