Review of the Year - Part Two
APRIL: THE ANIMAL Welfare Act, the Labour Government’s much-vaunted legislation to update and enhance animal welfare regulations became law on 6th April. The Act’s passage had been a long and tortuous one over six years in the form of the Animal Welfare Bill (AWB) (The Act became effective in Wales from March 28th) is then culmination of hundreds of hours of parliamentary and consultative committee time.
But at this time, the Act is only on the statute books in pretty general form; it is an Enabling Act, under which a whole raft of other animal welfare-related laws and guidelines will be enacted by Secondary Legislation over the coming years.
The AWB was described in parliamentary debates on more than one occasion as a ‘Christmas Tree Bill’, on which MPs could hang their own particular pet likes and dislikes (no pun intended). And the one subject which came top of the tree (pun intended) for personal dislikes was the docking of dogs’ tails.
DEFRA Minister Ben Bradshaw expressed the view that, as far as the Government was concerned, they were quite happy for the ‘status quo’ to prevail with regard to tail docking legislation.
However, the Minister reneged on his pledge over the course of the next few months. In November 2004, the Government announced in the Queen’s Speech that they would be introducing the Animal Welfare Bill. Shortly afterwards, the Government published a Draft version of its proposed Bill. This indicated that there would be a ban on so-called ‘mutilations’. These were not defined, but it was made clear that docking would be included amongst them. The Draft Bill also proposed that some ‘mutilations’ would be exempt from a ban. As far as docking was concerned, the Government signalled that the docking of ‘working dogs’ would be permitted, but that ‘cosmetic’ docking would not.
From then on, the CDB worked very closely with the Kennel Club in a concerted effort to retain the freedom of choice on docking. There was a ray of hope when the Animal Welfare Bill was published 14th October 2005. In the Regulatory Impact Assessment which document which accompanied the Bill, the Government stated: ‘Sincere views were held by those who both support and oppose a ban on cosmetic docking and our preference is that there should continue to be freedom of choice.’
Predictably, the majority of MPs did not share this view. The third reading of the Animal Welfare Bill took place on Tuesday 14th March 2006, when no less than 88% of MPs voted in favour of a ban on tail docking with an exemption for certain working dogs, accompanied by many punitive restrictions, including a ban on any
A great deal of lobbying to secure this exemption for working dogs had been undertaken by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC). This caused a rift between the CDB and BASC, whilst the Kennel Club, sensing that the working dog exemption was the best (and only) deal on the table, set about trying to secure the best deal possible.
Despite strong lobbying by the anti-docking camp, the Welsh Assembly upheld the working dog tail docking exemption contained within the Act when it was presented to the Assembly for ratification, and the Act came into effect in Wales on March 28th.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Assembly pursued its own Animal Health and Welfare Act, in which a total ban on tail docking was included. Despite strong lobbying by the CDB, BASC and the Scottish KC, MSPs voted overwhelmingly for a total ban with no exemptions. No dog born in Scotland may be docked and no dog may be removed from Scotland to England to be docked. However, a working dog born outside Scotland may be docked. The Scottish Bill became law on April 30th 2007.
QUARANTINE was back on the political agenda when the Government’s Chief Vet and the RSPCA’s Acting Chief Veterinary Adviser David McDowell (BVMS MRCVS) both commented that reducing UK standards to that of other European countries could prove to be an expensive mistake.
Mr McDowell said: ‘The current UK Pet Travel Scheme allows owners to vaccinate their dogs and confirm the effectiveness of that vaccination with a blood test six months before travel. However, some believe that the UK should allow animals to travel just 21 days after vaccination.
‘The RSPCA believes that if the time pet owners are required to wait after having their animals vaccinated has to be reduced, it should be to an absolute minimum of three months.
Science shows that any smaller delay would significantly increase the chance of rabies being brought back into the UK, which has been free of the disease for many years. It's just not worth the risk.’
Dr Jeff Sampson, the canine genetics co-ordinator at the Kennel Club, said they accepted the advice from specialists when it came to the vaccination programme.
‘It would make things a little bit easier for dog owners because they would not have to wait as long between vaccination and going on holiday,’ said Dr Sampson. ‘But most have had no problems with the current restrictions and have planned well in advance.’
A LONG and hard fought for campaign to ban the sale of Fur in Europe seemed to be nearing its aim when a comprehensive EU-wide ban on trade in dog and cat fur was approved by the European Parliament Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection on 12 April. The committee scrapped a proposed exception that would allow trade in fur from cats and dogs ‘not bred or killed for fur production’. Committee Chair Arlene McCarthy summed up the Committee’s feelings saying: ‘We want a ban, not a restriction.’
In December 2003, the European Parliament called on the European Commission to draft a regulation banning the import, export, sale and production of cat and dog fur and skins. Three years later – after a public outcry over evidence that cat and dog fur products were still entering the EU, despite a voluntary code of conduct adopted by European fur traders – the Parliament got its wish.
‘The placing on the market and the import to or export from the Community of fur of cats and dogs and products containing such fur shall be prohibited’, stipulates Article 1 of the draft regulation proposed by the Commission. The Committee backed the thrust of this article by a large majority, with just a minor adjustment of the wording.
What they did not back, however, was the Commission’s proposed exception from the ban. As drafted, this exception would open up the possibility for the placing of cat and dog fur on the EU market provided that the fur (or products containing it) would be (a) ‘labelled as originating from cats or dogs that have not been bred or killed for fur production’, or (b) constitute ‘personal or household effects’ introduced into, or exported from, the Community.
Rapporteur Eva-Britt Svensson (GUE/NGL,SE) was adamant about doing away with the exception. If it stayed, it ’would provide a gaping loophole, which would be ruthlessly exploited by traders of all future consignments of cat and dog fur, thus rendering the entire regulation useless’, she said. Committee Chair Arlene McCarthy (PES,UK) agreed. ‘We want a ban, not a restriction’, she said at a press conference after the vote.
The report, which the committee approved by a show of hands was put to a plenary vote in Strasbourg in late May, where the ban was finally upheld.
SCOTLAND prepared for its Assembly elections in April and the country saw its first ever Animal Welfare Hustings – and possibly the first of its kind anywhere in the UK - in Stirling mid-month.
Animal welfare in Scotland is controlled by the Scottish Parliament and, in the run up to the Scottish Parliament elections on May 3, leading candidates agreed to spend some campaigning time listening to public views on animal welfare issues. Hustings organisers, the Scottish SPCA and Advocates for Animals called on members of the public to turn out for the event.
The hustings took place at the Lesser Albert Hall in Stirling and were chaired by international animal welfare expert Dr Michael Appleby of the World Society for the Protection of Animals, (WSPA). MSPs and prospective MSPs who attended on the night were Fergus Wood (SNP) who is a supporter of Border Collie Welfare, Ian Brown (Lib Dem), Sylvia Jackson (Labour), Mark Ballard (Green Party) and Peter Lyburn (Conservative).
Animal welfare had been a key issue for many of the parties involved in the Scottish elections. Three of the parties contesting seats – the Greens, Liberal Democrats and Scottish Socialists – all devoted sections of their election manifestos to animal welfare issues, whilst several of the other parties’ manifestos contained references to better protection for wildlife and farm animals.
Members of the public attending the packed meeting suggested that there should be some kind of licence for pet owners to prove they were worthy to keep animals, along with better humane education on animals and their needs to be taught in school and to adults. All of these points were debated carefully and most of the speakers were in favour of better education.
A point was raised from the floor that whilst voluntary animal welfare organisations such as the SSPCA and Advocates For Animals were very channels for such public education, the Scottish Executive should not rely on them and should provide funding to get the message across. This suggestion was greeted with a huge round of applause and broad agreement.
Libby Anderson, Political Director, Advocates for Animals, told OUR DOGS: ‘The whole event was very positive and it was heartening to see so many people in attendance, proving that animal welfare is a key issue of concern to the electorate in Scotland. It was also very pleasing to see representatives from the political parties taking a keen interest in animal welfare issues and engaging with the public on this level. And that can only be good for the way policies develop in the Scottish Parliament and local authorities after the elections.’
THIRTEEN DOGS held by Merseyside police force as pit bull types’, prohibited under the draconian 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act were to be returned to their owners following a successful court challenge at Merseyside Magistrates’ Court.
District Judge Andrew Jebb ruled that all thirteen pets may be added to the Index of Exempted dogs and returned home once procedures including neutering, micro chipping and tattooing are met, bringing months of anxiety and concern to a conclusion for their owners.
The owners were represented by well-known DDA defence solicitor Trevor Cooper, back from his ‘retirement’ and thrust back into the media spotlight once again, under the latest round of DDA prosecutions.
The result was welcomed by anti-BSL campaigners including DeedNOTBreed, the Kennel Club, concerned dog lovers across the UK and, most importantly, by the thirteen families who had endured many weeks fearing for their friendly pets’ lives.
DeedNOTBReed (DNB) had appealed for donations to provide legal representation, so that innocent owners could be helped as no legal aid was possible under section 4b of the DDA, upon which the charges were questionably brought. In total , 17 dogs’ cases were to be heard, of which Mr Cooper was representing 13.
Mel Page, Chairperson of DNB commented: ‘Thanks to the many kind donations received from individuals and canine welfare groups including Animals In Need and APDT trainer Lyn Fleet based in Merseyside combined with numerous fund raising activities over the past weeks so that the services of solicitor Trevor Cooper the canine law specialist could be secured.’
As owners arrived in court, some baffled by the proceedings and some not knowing what was happening, Trevor Cooper took them in hand and agreed to defend the 13 together. Assisting him in Court were Melanie Rushmore, Melanie Page and Diane Robinson of DNB who had all travelled to Liverpool to support the owners.
The District Judge began proceedings and commenced to swiftly read out each owner’s case in turn, summarising the notes made on each dog and giving a brief comment on his thoughts for each of the cases. Welcome comments included ‘this dog was happy and playful during his examination’ and ‘no concerns about temperament during assessment’ gave hope that the Judge had seen past the tag of 'pit bull type' and was acknowledging that these dogs were all, indeed, responsibly owned family pets,
In just over one hour, the Judge was satisfied he had all the information required to make his decisions and called a short recess to prepare his verdict and summary. A most pleasing and thoughtful gesture was that he chose to tell the owners before he left the court that he would be happy to place all the dogs on the register rather than proceed with any destruction order, bringing great relief to the owners.
Merseyside police applied for costs to be awarded to them, but ended up being hoist by their own petard. Trevor Cooper pointed out that under the Act, costs could be awarded against the offender for the destruction of dogs and the kennelling of a dog until this could take place. However, as the dogs were being registered and not destroyed and that this case was a civil not criminal case (due to the police bringing charges under Section 4(b), for which no legal aid was available to the defendants), there were no offenders.
Mel Page added: ‘All round, a welcome victory for both owners and dogs who, once eventually released from police custody will begin to rebuild their lives together all over again. There was nothing unlucky about this 13 on this Friday.’
MAY: KEIL SIMPSON was warned he could face jail after he admitted owning the American Pit Bull Terrier which killed his five-year-old niece.
Ellie Lawrenson was attacked and killed by the dog while staying at her grandmother's home in St Helens, Merseyside, in the early hours of New Year's Day.
Twenty-four-year-old Simpson, pleaded guilty at Liverpool magistrates' court to owning a dog banned under the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act, namely an American Pit Bull Terrier. He was sentenced to eight weeks imprisonment at a further hearing later this month, and showed no as he was led away from Liverpool Magistrates' Court to begin his eight-week sentence.
It had emerged that two months before the fatal assault on Ellie the Pit Bull bought as a puppy for £400, had attacked Simpson's sister, Kelsey, 19, biting her in her thigh.
It was said Simspon, who joined Ellie's father Darren Lawrenson, as one on the pallbearers at the youngster's funeral, felt ‘morally responsible’ for what had happened.
Magistrates heard that Simpson had decided to get rid of the dog after it bit his sister Kelsey last autumn. he had been unable to find owners for the one-year- which he had bought for £400, and did not want it to be put down.
Passing sentence, District Judge Alan Jones told him Simpson did not accept his mitigation that he had instructed his family to leave the animal outside, nor did he accept the claim that he had been given ‘official advice’ that he could keep the dog.
Judge Jones said: ‘I don't accept that a police officer or any person giving advice would have said it was enough to keep the dog muzzled and on a lead in public if you properly told them what type of dog it was.
‘Any court will have experience of dogs like these being used in connection with criminal offences such as drugs trafficking.
‘You must have known this as well, since you have a serious conviction for drugs trafficking. Of all people, you in particular should not have had this dog.’
‘That a young child suffered such a tragic attack was something which was foreseeable, particularly because the dog was especially fit and had already behaved aggressively to another member of the family.
‘It is not enough to absolve you of responsibility that you left the dog with instructions that it should not be left inside the house.’
Judge Jones also banned Simpson from owning a dog for five years. The sentence as a whole attracted widespread criticism for its leniency, with many people saying that Simpson should have been jailed for longer and banned from owning any dog for life. Just a few weeks previously, Simpson’s mother (and Ellie’s grandmother) Jacqueline Simpson was charged with the manslaughter of Ellie due to neglect was due to stand trial in September.
A FORMER police dog taken out of service for allegedly being too aggressive has been found a new home, a police force revealed. ‘Saxon’ was a five year-old German Shepherd who had been partnered with handler PC Mike Townley of Gwent police for the past three years and had proved exemplary in his duties. PC Townley has been a police officer for 18 years and had worked as a dog handler for nine years, being a Home Office approved police dog instructor.
Early last year, PC Townley, 47, was informed that Saxon was not to be re-licensed as police dog and senior officers were to make a decision as to his future. Saxon was shortly afterwards classified as a ‘dangerous’ dog and, as such, is unsuitable for re-homing and was due to be put to sleep. After that, Saxon was housed at the police kennels at Glascoed whilst PC Townley was assigned to other duties. However, PC Townley was on sick leave for many months due to the stress of the situation surrounding Saxon’s fate.
The official announcement that Saxon had been spared came in October 2006 when Gwent Police issued a statement, together with a copy of an assessment carried out on the dog by Assessor Charles Wall of A1 K9 training company, based in Swansea. Mr Wall, a member of the British Institute of Professional Dog Trainers donated his fee for conducting Saxon’ assessment to Macmillan Cancer Support, so as not to be seen to making any financial gain from the assessment. Mr Wall concluded that although Saxon was unsuitable as a police dog and as an ordinary family pet, he should continue to be a working dog, perhaps ideally employed as a guard dog.
This month it was revealed that Saxon had started a new role with a security firm in the West of England. Gwent Police said Saxon's posting fulfils the criteria set out by ‘an independent assessor’ (presumably Mr Wall) who was called in to help decide the dog's future.
Superintendent Nigel Russell said: "We are pleased that Saxon has been re-homed to continue working and are confident that his new management will satisfy all the requirements of the assessment."
A four-week independent assessment was eventually carried out, concluding that Saxon could continue life as a working dog.
Gwent Police said that the report stated that Saxon could not be kept as a pet, but that he could carry on working under the guidance of an experience handler. Sadly, that handler was not to be PC Townley, with whom Saxon had worked for so many successful months.
Caroline Townley told OUR DOGS that her husband was aware that Saxon had been rehomed. However, as he was engaged in litigation with the Force, she declined to comment.
A BILL to ban electric shock training collars for dogs fell in parliament due to lack of Government support. Despite this, however, the pace continued to gather in the world of politics for a ban on electric shock collars as the Kennel Club’s campaign continues to call for a ban on these devices in England, as plans are advanced for a total ban on their use in Scotland and Wales.
Working closely with the Kennel Club, Sarah McCarthy-Fry MP for Portsmouth North saw the second reading of her Private Members Bill that proposed a ban on electric shock training devices.
During the debate, Sarah McCarthy-Fry said: ‘I have a seven year old dog called Dudley, and I cannot imagine using an electric shock collar on him. These collars are barbaric; they train dogs to respond out of fear rather than a natural willingness to behave.’
The second reading of the Bill had gained further strong cross party support for a ban, as is the political intention by the Assemblies in Wales and Scotland, from Bob Spink MP (Conservative), Norman Baker MP (Liberal Democrats), and Sadiq Kahn MP (Labour) amongst others.
Sarah McCarthy Fry later said: ‘It became increasingly clear during my speech that there is widespread support across much of the House, not just on the Labour benches, for this legislation. Whilst the Minister didn’t believe legislation was appropriate at this stage, I do hope DEFRA will see fit to consult on this issue in the same way the Welsh and Scottish devolved institutions will be doing. I’d like to thank the Kennel Club which has worked tirelessly on this issue.’
However, despite much backbench support, like many other Private Members Bills it was defeated because it did not have the support of the Government. DEFRA had previously issued a statement saying that it effectively did not trust evidence put forward by dog training experts about the collars being harmful to dogs.
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary did not see the Bill’s failure as a defeat. She commented: ‘We are delighted that Sarah McCarthy-Fry agreed to put down her Bill on electric shock training devices and that this has cross party support. We hope that this will put further pressure on DEFRA to completely ban the sale and use of these cruel training devices.’
DOG LEGISLATION in the UK could be radically changed if the recommendations of the Dangerous Dogs Act Study Group were implemented by the Government, according to a presentation staged at the House of Commons.
The Group which comprises the Kennel Club, RSPCA, Dogs Trust, RCVS, Battersea Dogs’ and Cats’ Home, Blue Cross, BVA, the Metropolitan Police, Wandsworth Borough Council and Wood Green Animal Shelter, had been considering the drafting and hopeful implementation of a comprehensive 'Control of Dogs Act', to replace Section 1 of the ill-conceived 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act and the existing 1871 Dogs Act.
Amongst the guests attending the presentation were Staffordshire Bull Terrier KC Liaison Dave Levy, Dennis Baker, Chief Executive of Wood Green Animal Shelters, Roger Gale MP and KC Chief Executive Rosemary Smart.
It was generally felt, that with a change of Prime Minister imminent by the end of June that the political will to be seen to be enacting sensible legislation which both protected the welfare of the public and of dogs themselves was very strong. It as a fervent hope, underlined by opinions expressed in later conversations, that the Dangerous Dogs Act may soon be consigned to history and sensible new dog control laws enacted.
A WORRYING report into the welfare of racing greyhounds was published by a cross party group of politicians following a comprehensive six-month inquiry into the industry.
The report - set up in the wake of an expose into the killing of unwanted ex-racing Greyhounds by the Sunday Times newspaper last July - exposed the chilling fact that at least 4,700 greyhounds aged four years or younger may be killed each year in England when they are retired from racing. In addition, approximately 2,500 young greyhounds between the age of 16 weeks and 15 months may be killed simply because they are not ‘good enough’ to ever start racing. This made a total of at least 7,200 greyhounds potentially being killed each year because they are not wanted by the greyhound racing industry. The report recommended, as a priority, that a system be introduced to match the number of dogs bred into greyhound racing with the number that can be successfully rehomed at the end of their racing career.
APGAW’s recommendations included:
• A correctly constituted and broad system of regulation be introduced for all greyhound racing and one set of national standards that apply to all. Animal welfare organisations, greyhound vets and representatives from those greyhound tracks that are currently independent should play an equal role in the current body that regulates the greyhound racing industry.
• DEFRA should investigate the number of dogs that are being transported in both directions between Ireland and England as well as the conditions under which those dogs are being transported.
• A reduction in the number of dogs the industry uses by reorganising the racing calendar. The greyhound industry should be required by law to record and publish annual injuries to greyhounds on a central database.
Chair of the inquiry, Eric Martlew MP said: ‘The Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare set up this inquiry in response to the allegations published in the Sunday Times about healthy greyhounds being killed in Seaham, County Durham.
‘I am disgusted at the idea that thousands of young dogs are killed for no other reason than they become ‘surplus’ to industry requirements. With the new Animal Welfare Act, now is the perfect time to do something about this issue.
‘If the recommendations of this report are put into practice, I believe that we can go a long way to improve the welfare of greyhounds in the racing industry and to ensure the continued success of the sport of greyhound racing.’
JUNE: THE LOS Angeles City Council unanimously announced its support for a state bill that would require pet owners to sterilize their dogs and cats by the time the cuddly companions reach four months of age.
Bill AB 1634 was introduced by Assemblyman Lloyd Levine (Democrat-Van Nuys district), as part of an effort to decrease euthanisation rates of unwanted pets at animal shelters state-wide. Known as the California Healthy Pets Act, the Bill seeks to require the mandatory spaying or neutering of all dogs or cats over four months of age, unless the owner acquires an ‘intact animal permit’.
A violator would receive a ‘fix-it’ citation, requiring the pet owner to sterilize their cat or dog within 30 days, or up to 75 days with a note from a veterinarian. Those who fail to comply would face a $500 fine.
Funds raised from the fines would be earmarked for enforcement and low- cost pet sterilization programs. The proposed measure would allow local municipalities to make exceptions for breeders who can demonstrate their pets are purebreds listed on one of several registries.
However, the Bill received widespread criticism from many canine enthusiasts. The American Kennel Club set up a special section on their official website to combat the Assembly’s plans. An AKC statement said: ‘It is imperative that breeders and concerned dog owners contact their Assembly member and the committee chairman to express their opposition.
‘The American Kennel Club strongly supports reasonable and enforceable laws that protect the welfare and health of purebred dogs and do not restrict the rights of breeders and owners who take their responsibilities seriously.
‘We oppose the concept of mandatory spay/neuter provisions as provided by AB 1634, which:
• Makes it a civil violation for any person to possess a dog or cat over four months of age that has not been spayed or neutered.
• Requires owners of unaltered purebred dogs to annually acquire an intact animal permit from their local jurisdiction. The cost of the intact permit would be determined by the locality. Responsible dog owners could be required to pay unreasonable and punitive fees, possibly amounting to hundreds of dollars.
• Does not provide exemptions for dogs temporarily entering California for show, competition, or exhibition.’
The LA City Council vote was 12-0, with only 3 members absent from the meeting.
Assemblyman Lloyd commented: ‘The Los Angeles City Council's action today should send a clear signal to all Californians that AB 1634 is a huge step forward in the drive to combat pet overpopulation and to reduce the killing of hundreds of thousands of animals in California's shelters every year.
‘Mandatory spay and neuter programs have proven to be smart, sensible, compassionate and effective approaches wherever they have been tried.’
PHIL BUCKLEY, the Kennel Club’s External Affairs Manager, left the KC after nearly fourteen years, to emigrate to Melbourne, Australia with his fiancée Diane, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier Millie.
Phil’s family had always had dogs and he had been brought up around them - with the primary breed being Bull Terriers – which has been a bit of a Buckley tradition - but with a West Highland White Terrier and a Labrador Retriever cross Golden Retriever as part of the household.
Phil, 37 served as a KC Information Officer for four years, then moved into the Marketing Department for a couple of years. The Post of Press Officer was then created for him and then he was promoted to External Affairs Manager, a role that he has enjoyed immensely for the last few years, earning him the respect and friendship of many people from many different areas within the world of dogs.
Phil had been a particular friend to OUR DOGS newspaper over the years, managing to perform a careful balancing act between putting the KC’s position on any given subject, no matter how contentious, with clear professionalism and sense of purpose whilst still managing to be charming and courteous.
Over the years Phil had also been a prime mover in many initiatives in the name of the KC, but also very close to his heart, including forging links with other organisations actively opposed to Breed Specific Legislation, not just in the UK, but round the world, and offering advice and guidance on his to approach opposition to BSL.
He was also instrumental in raising the profile of Dog Theft Action, arranging a summit which was held between DTA and several other organisations and agencies at the KC in November 2005 and also bringing them forward to stage a very well-received presentation in front of the All Party Group for Animal Welfare at the House of Commons in July 2006.
Phil said: ‘I have so enjoyed my time at the Kennel Club and within the world of dogs and are very sad to be leaving. I have very much enjoyed knowing, communicating and working with so many people over the years - for the ultimate benefit of that most marvellous of creatures, 'the dog'! I met my fiancé Diane at the Kennel Club three years ago, our relationship developed and, I’m pleased to say, she passed with flying colours my dog Millie’s suitability interview!
‘Millie and me’ are now going back to Melbourne, Australia with Di – who is Australian, where we are settling and getting married in February 2008.’
JULY: DUBLIN City Council announced that it had introduced a ban on eleven breeds of dog from properties including houses, flats and estates, with immediate effect.
The breeds were listed as: Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, Rottweiler, German Shepherd, Doberman, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Japanese Akita, Bull Mastiff, Japanese Tosa and Bandog. Crossbreeds of these dogs or crosses of these dogs with any other breed are also banned.
The ban was announced on Thursday, July 5th, but owners were stunned when the Council stated that the ban was backdated to July 1st, meaning that it was now in effect, without public consultation of any kind.
The ban initially applied to council housing and all public areas within council estates, although in a show of total arrogance, the council planned to amend its bylaws to include public parks in the ban. Executive manager of the council's housing department Michael O'Neill said tenants would be asked to remove any banned dogs but if they failed to comply the council would take them away. ‘Our information on these dogs is that that they can be very aggressive and while they might be family pets, that has to come secondary and would be no defence to us if a child or other vulnerable person was attacked on our property.’
Labour councillor Kevin Humphreys said he understood council tenants may feel discriminated against, but he hoped that this was just the first step to banning these breeds nationally.
OUR DOGS asked Mr Humphreys to clarify his comments and asked him whether he felt that it was the place of local councillors to try to influence the policies of national
The Irish Kennel Club reacted to the ban by convening a special meeting of its General Purposes Committee to discuss a suitable response and plan of action.
THE CALIFORNIAN Neutering Bill AB1634 was put to sleep this month, when its author realised that he would not have enough votes in Senate to see his Bill passed into law.
One of the hottest issues in the current Californian legislative session, the bill generated nearly 20,000 letters from breeders, pet owners and animal activists before last Wednesday’s hearing alone.
The author of the bill, Assemblyman Lloyd Levine realizing that he did not have the three votes needed to win approval from the five-member Senate Local Government Committee, declined to allow a vote to be taken. The action effectively killed the measure until the next legislative session in January because the Legislature's rules required the bill to pass out of committee by last Friday.
Characteristically, Levine remained arrogantly confident that his Bill would eventually prevail, saying: ‘We have six months to educate the committee. I want to reach out again to the opponents.’
Opponents countered that stricter enforcement of leash laws is more effective and that mandatory sterilization programs such as those in Santa Cruz and Lake counties are unfair to responsible pet owners.
‘Wherever mandatory spay-neuter has been put into place, the results have not been as positive as where spay-neuter is encouraged but is a personal decision,’ said Cathie Turner, executive director of Concerned Dog Owners of California. ‘Low-cost microchipping or some tax or licensing incentives should be considered.’
The American Kennel Club welcomed news of the Bill’s demise. Dennis Sprung, AKC President/CEO commented: ‘AB 1634 was nothing more than an attempt to penalize responsible dog and cat owners who are not to blame for any purported pet population issues in California. This is a great day for all responsible dog owners and breeders. Today’s developments ensure that their fundamental rights and liberties remain intact.’
THE IMPLEMENTATION of a ban on 11 dog breeds in Dublin City Council homes stalled, following vigorous opposition to the plan by dog owners and organisations throughout Ireland, the UK and around the world.
After strong opposition from dog owners and activists, the council abandoned its arrogant stance of non-communication and began talks on its tenants' right to appeal the restriction.
The criteria that might exclude some tenants from the ban, believed to affect at least 10,000 pet owners, was debated with the ISPCA, the SPCA, and the Irish Kennel Club.
In a climbdown from their previous position, Dublin City Council said it did not favour dogs being put down and would ‘consider the situation’ in certain circumstances.
A Council spokesperson said tenants would be able to appeal the ban to its Housing Residential Services in writing, but the procedure and criteria to ensure a dog is safe were still being hammered out.
‘We are only in the process of bringing in the ban,’ she said. ‘It has been passed but we are only rolling it out. We are in discussion with animal groups about how it would work.’
AUGUST: CRUELTY to animals by neglect dominated the shocking catalogue of crimes against animals revealed by the RSPCA’s latest cruelty statistics unveiled this month.
The figures from 2006 revealed a:· 10.5% increase in animal cruelty investigations by the RSPCA (122,454 in 2006); · 7.6% increase in animal rescues and collections (164,110); · 6.5% increase in welfare improvement advice given (52,688 instances); · 10% increase in verbal warnings to prevent offences being committed (4,222); and · 9% reduction in court orders banning offenders from keeping animals (681 orders).
‘Neglect has always been the most common form of cruelty,’ explained Jackie Ballard, RSPCA Director General. ‘But these cases defy belief. It’s just so shocking to discover pet food in homes where animals literally starved to death waiting for their owners to open a packet or a tin. Animals depend totally on their owners to meet their day-to-day needs. Ignoring this basic responsibility has heart-breaking consequences.’
Starvation and failure to call a vet featured heavily in the worst cases. RSPCA inspectors found a dog in Stratford, London, starved to death in a couple’s garden. An emaciated cat in County Durham was so ill and frail that its face was stuck to the floor. Its owners saw it every day but did nothing.
Despite this, there was good news - the Society was seeing encouraging signs that the new Animal Welfare Act was having a significant impact. RSPCA inspectors were reporting that the new law was enabling them to intervene earlier, helping more animals before they start to suffer.
JACKIE BALLARD was the subject of news herself this month when it was announced that she would be leaving the RSPCA in October to take up the post of Chief Executive with the Royal National Institute for the Deaf.
Commenting on her appointment, James Strachan, Chairman of RNID, said: ‘We are delighted to have been able to recruit someone with the exceptional ability and experience of Jackie Ballard to lead RNID through its next stage of development.
‘As well as being an accomplished leader in the voluntary sector, Jackie brings her huge experience of political affairs and a public service background to the cause of changing the world for deaf and hard of hearing people.’
TWO DOGS made history this month. A Bearded Collie named Grace from Tyneside underwent the first canine knee replacement operation to be carried out in the UK.
Grace, from Whitley Bay, struggled to walk because of crippling arthritis which had left her in constant pain. She was first diagnosed with arthritis three years ago when vets in the North East repaired ligaments in her hind legs.
Her vet prescribed tablets to sooth her joints but the medication aggravated an existing condition, colitis. The seven-year-old was referred to a specialist veterinary practice in Solihull, West Midlands where it was decided that she was a prime candidate for groundbreaking knee replacement surgery.
The new canine treatment was introduced 18 months earlier in the US but had never been performed in this country before. However, a specialist team at Willows Referral Service in Solihull undertook the procedure whereby they opened up the knee in her rear left leg, removed damaged cartilage and inserted a metal and plastic prosthetic joint during the three-hour operation. One of the team had been trained the use the new knee replacement equipment whilst in America.
Within hours of her operation, Grace soon took her first steps with her new joint, and seemed to be quite at ease. Her owner Julie Parker, 51 said: ‘It has been expensive but we had the money saved anyway for a new bathroom. Grace is more important to us than some new tiles and a shower.’
SEPTEMBER: AN MP called for long-term measures to be introduced to combat dog fighting after the BBC’s Panorama Programme screened on August 30th revealed its shocking extent.
Eric Martlew (Lab, Carlisle) welcomed the strengthened fighting offence in the Government’s Animal Welfare Act, which will ensure appropriate punishment for those who are caught organising or participating in a dog fight. But he is gravely concerned by the fact that dog fighting is increasing in the UK and by the existence of underground networks of people who breed, fight and train dogs and import them into the UK.
THE FIRST World Rabies Day was hailed a success by all the organisations and agencies involved in the first exercise in co-ordinated global awareness of the disease. Organisations involved in the new initiative include the US-based Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the UK charity Alliance for Rabies Control cosponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
The organisations designated September 8, 2007 as the first World Rabies Day. World Rabies Day aims to improve global awareness of rabies and how to prevent and control it, as well as support educational initiatives about rabies prevention, especially in areas of the world where the disease is prevalent.
THE GRANDMOTHER of dog attack victim Ellie Lawrenson was acquitted of her manslaughter when she stood trial at Liverpool Crown Court. The extraordinary decision came as a shock, especially as Simpson had earlier admitted ‘some responsibility’ for her granddaughter being mauled to death in the early hours of New Year’s Day.
The jury of seven men and five women found Jacqueline Simpson, 45, innocent after a six-day trial. Simpson had pleaded Not Guilty to manslaughter caused by gross negligence.
Ellie was killed by her uncle Kiel Simpson's Pit Bull Terrier after Simpson, who had smoked 10 cannabis joints and drunk two bottles of wine, let it in from the yard.
Hearing the verdict, Simpson wiped tears her eyes. Speaking to the jury, the judge, Mt Justice Royce said: ‘This is an unusual case which had given rise to very strong emotions.
‘Suffice to say, the greatest sentence passed in this case is a life sentence of regret this lady has passed on herself.’
The jury heard that Simpson was also charged with possession of heroin found in her home after police searched it in the aftermath of Ellie's death. The charge was later dropped, said Neil Flewitt QC, adding that it had been deemed not to be in the public interest to pursue the charge.
The judge asked him if the Crown Prosecution Service had ever considered a prosecution against Simpson's son, Kiel Simpson, 24, for manslaughter.
He answered that officers in the investigation believed there was no realistic chance of conviction, as Kiel did not believe the dog had access to the little girl.
TWENTY-FIVE men appeared in court this month on various charges relating to dog fighting. 14 of the defendants were fined at one hearing for attending a dog-fighting event.
The magistrate dealing with the case expressed his frustration at being able to hand out only relatively small fines to the men who attended the ‘sadistic’ event which claimed the lives of the two dogs.
District Judge Kal Qureshi, sitting at Birmingham Magistrates' Court, said his ‘hands were tied’ as he fined each of the defendants between £500 and £1,300 for being involved with the ‘inherently cruel’ illegal dog fight.
Ordering each of the 14 defendants to pay £80 in costs, Mr Qureshi said the maximum sentence available to him under the Protection of Animals Act was a fine of £2,500. ‘My hands are very much tied in terms of sentence,’ he said. ‘I personally cannot think of any offence that is more serious but that carries this limitation of its sentence.’
He said the prosecution had described the dogfight as pre-planned and well organised.
The magistrate told the 14 men: ‘The event was filmed by people present... a pit had been created and there was veterinary equipment and buckets and sponges to staunch the wounds of the animals that were involved.
The trial of 10 other defendants who deny a variety of charges in connection with the fight resumed continued into the following month when six of the men were jailed for organising the fight.
OCTOBER: DOG THEFT is still with us… but the tide is slowly turning. This was the upbeat message that came over loud and clear from the second symposium staged by Dog Theft Action on October 6th.
In the two and a half years since DTA was founded, there had been exciting progress in the war on dog theft. Thanks to the catalyst of DTA, different canine groups and organisations were talking to each other, sharing information, taking action… the Government was listening too
and at long last the horrendous, emotional crime of dog theft was being taken seriously by the authorities… and the message to do all they can to protect dogs from being stolen was getting out to dog owners.
DTA presented an impressive line-up of speakers – all experts in their own fields – and the audience was hooked from the off.
DTA Chairman Neil Ewart swiftly welcomed all delegates from numerous charities and organisations, together with private attendees including several dog wardens, rescuers and ordinary dog owners, many of whom had been victims of dog theft themselves.
THE GOVERNMENT refused to consider a ban on the retail sale of fireworks despite an online petition attracting over 2,500 signatures - and a hand delivered petition of over 129,000 signatures – calling upon the Government to ban the retail sale of fireworks by allowing the purchase of fireworks for displays only, thus alleviating distress to people and pets from the nuisance caused by fireworks around the traditional Bonfire Night period in early November.
TOTAL RESPONSIBILITY for the handling of stray dogs will be transferred away from the police to local authorities in England and Wales from April 2008 it was announced in October.
The change, made at the behest of DEFRA, came as part of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act, the bulk of which was enacted two years ago. However, the removal of responsibility from the police for stray dogs – particularly ‘out of hours’- was delayed due to arguments over the funding for local authorities to provide a 24-hour dog warden service.
However, the plan still appeared to have had little thought in the two years since it was first mooted. In a letter Rory Wallace of DEFRA’s Head, Local Environmental Quality Team to local authorities and other ‘stakeholders’, it is pointed out that £4 million of extra funding has been set aside to help the transition to take place, but only for the out of hours service – daytime funding still has to come from the local authority’s standing budget.
In guidelines issued by DEFRA, it is suggested that authorities with minimum funding can develop ‘a partnership’ approach’ with local kennels and welfare organisations to addressing problems with stray dog in the locality, particularly in areas with high numbers of strays, and even develop contracts with sub-contractors to handle strays, such has been the case in the county of Hampshire, where the police ceased being responsible for stray dogs ahead of the rest of the UK. The guideline state that ‘Contracts should be reviewed regularly to ensure service delivery is of a consistently high standard and that tendering is competitive.’ Welfare issues, however, appear to be rather low down in the list of priorities required in an ‘effective’ service.
NOVEMBER: ANIMAL EXPERIMENTATION was put under the microscope again when it was announced that the UK has the dubious distinction of being one of the two top countries in Europe for the use of animals in laboratory experiments – including experiments on 841 dogs - according to the latest figures.
France topped the European list by using a total of 2.3m animals with the UK second on 1.87m. Germany was marginally the third biggest user on 1.82m although this represented a 12 per cent fall on previous figures.
The use of animals by the top three countries represents a staggering 50 per cent of all animal experiments in the EU. In all more than 12m animals were used for testing across the EU.
The figures for 2005 - the latest available -showed a 3.2 per cent rise before the figures from the 10 new member states were included.
More than 60 per cent of animals were used in research and development for human medicine, veterinary medicine, dentistry and in fundamental biological research.
THE WELSH Assembly launched a public consultation on its plans to impose a ban on the sale and use of electric collars and similar training aids on dogs and cats in Wales amid concern over animal cruelty.
Ministers were to gather the views of animal experts and organisations on the collars that can be bought from pet shops or on the Internet for £25 or more. Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones backed a ban which could be introduced using the Animal Welfare Act powers, which were new to the Welsh assembly. The Scottish Parliament was also working towards a ban. However, DEFRA was opposing moves for any similar ban in England.
The minister said she wanted to consider both sides of the argument before taking any action. ‘There are strong views for and against the use of electronic training aids, which a number of animal welfare organisations believe are cruel and unnecessary,’ said Ms Jones.
Holly Lee from the Kennel Club’s Press Office said electric collars delivered a painful shock to dogs. ‘It has been tried by quite a few Assembly Members I have met and they said it was painful,’ she said. ‘They are the most highly aversive training devices and the only way they can change a dog's behaviour is through pain and through fear.’
DECEMBER: THE LONG-AWAITED report into the British Greyhound racing industry was published in early December… and the Industry was found severely wanting.
The report, written by Lord Donoughue of Ashton concluded that the Industry is ‘stuck in a time warp’ and must be mindful of canine welfare regulations or suffer increasing criticism. Until the Industry promotes a welfare-friendly environment, the sport will continue to fail to attract the affluent, modern, young, men and women that its falling attendances need, says the report.
The peer's review was commissioned by the British Greyhound Racing Board (BGRB) and the National Greyhound Racing Club (NGRC) in the wake of the public outcry over the appalling killing and burial of thousands of retired greyhounds at Seaham, Co. Durham which was exposed by a national newspaper in 2006.
Lord Donoughue also warned the sport that come 2009, with the imposition of secondary legislation supporting the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and its associated 'Duty of Care' that ‘regulation of greyhound welfare will tighten anyway - regardless of whether or not the sport improves its act’.
The report called for a properly qualified veterinary service throughout the sport, with independence from commercial promoters and which operates under the oversight of the ‘Regulator’ – a new, single body which will oversee the sport.
The report contains many fascinating insights into both the industry and the sport of greyhound racing, As well as some worrying statistics about the number of dogs that enter the ‘system’. There were 5,999 licensed greyhound meetings in 2006; around 10,000 new greyhounds were registered to race at licensed British tracks in the same year. Around 75% of new dogs come to Britain from Ireland.
THE HUNTING Act 2005 was ruled legal by the highest authority in the UK, following a long-running legal challenge by pro-hunting groups.
The House of Lords dismissed appeals by the Countryside Alliance and other hunting supporters who argued that the hunting ban breaches Human Rights and European law.
The Hunting Act 2004 must ‘be taken to reflect the conscience of a majority of the nation,’ said Lord Bingham, the senior Law Lord, in the leading opinion - after a ruling by the five Law Lords who heard the case last month.
He went on to say ‘The democratic process is liable to be subverted if, on a question of moral and political judgment, opponents of the Act achieve through the courts what they could not achieve in Parliament.’
John Rolls, RSPCA Director of Animal Welfare Promotion, welcomed the ruling and said:
‘The ability to make animals suffer for sport is not a human right, and we are glad to see that the Law Lords have unanimously decided to dismiss these appeals. We see this as a total vindication of our long-held view that hunting with dogs is cruel and unacceptable in modern Britain’.
The Law Lords also unanimously dismissed a related case involving a challenge to the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002.
Lord Hope, giving the leading speech in that case, agreed ‘there was adequate factual information to entitle the Scottish Parliament to conclude that foxhunting inflicted pain on the fox and that there was an adequate and proper basis on which it could make the judgement that the infliction of such pain in such circumstances constituted cruelty’.
The Countryside Alliance accepted the ruling, but declared that it would challenge the Hunting Act 2004 in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and the European Court of Justice in Strasbourg.
The Law Lords did, however, recognise that hunting is an activity deeply embedded in the tradition, life and culture of the countryside, and two of the Law Lords said that they would have found the ban to have been unlawful under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (private and family life) had it applied.
Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood asked: ‘Why should people not be free to engage in whatever pursuits they wish?’, and said that he strongly supported an extension of the law by the European Court of Human Right. He observed, however, that the reach of Article 8 was for the Strasbourg Court, and not the House of Lords, to develop.
Simon Hart, Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance, said: ‘We have always maintained that the legitimacy of the Hunting Act would eventually be decided in Europe. The Hunting Act was based on prejudice, rather than principle or evidence, and has no justification in terms of public benefit or animal welfare.
‘To have found in our favour would have meant the Law Lords finding that the Government has allowed fundamental human rights and European Law to be violated. We believe that the European Courts will support this view, even if the Law Lords were unable to.’
STILL WITH Hunting, Tony Wright, the first huntsman prosecuted under the Hunting Act, had his conviction overturned on appeal in Exeter Crown Court.
Mr. Wright, of the Exmoor Foxhounds, was found guilty in August 2006 at Barnstaple Magistrates’ Court, despite having used two hounds to flush foxes to be shot on 29th February 2005 as he believed was allowed by the Act. The Exmoor is one of only two foxhunts that have been prosecuted successfully. More people have been convicted of hunting rats under the Act than have been found guilty of illegal fox hunting.
A TOP Border Collie was stolen in his owner’s car after the LKA show, prompting further calls for all dog owners to be vigilant and to not leave their dogs unattended.
On Friday 7th December 2007 Ross Green attended the LKA Championship Show with his dog Sh Ch Tankory Guinness, aka ‘Tyson’. On his return journey home, Ross called in at his local, regular garage to collect a newspaper. This was when events took a sinister turn. Ross explains: ‘I made the fatal mistake of leaving my keys in the car directly beside the newspaper stand at the garage, knowing I would only be gone for a few seconds. Within a couple of minutes my car, with Tyson inside had been stolen.’
Ross saw the car being driven out of the garage forecourt and ran after it, trying to get in to the back passenger door to at least grab Tyson, but the young man who was attempting to steal the car accelerated away, still with Tyson in the back of the car.
Ross continued: ‘The most harrowing 48 hours of my life followed. Distraught over the situation and trying desperately hard to get the police to give me updates, it became apparent how difficult it is to convey to them the importance of a missing dog - or the car and contents for that matter. It may be a lesson to be learned to dog owners everywhere that there was certainly not the urgency and/or support that I had expected from the police regarding the theft.
Thankfully, Ross was able to locate his car and the following morning he received the best news he could have hoped for - that Tyson was fit and well in a Veterinary Practice close to the car’s recovery location.
THE IRISH Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said Ireland needed to update what it describes as ‘woefully inadequate’ animal welfare legislation, which dates back nearly 100 years.
The ISPCA made the call in the wake of figures from the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government that showed that more than 24,000 dogs were abandoned in 2006 and twice as many dogs were put to sleep as were re-homed.
Ireland put down dogs at a rate 10 times higher than in the UK, a country 10 times the size of Ireland. Additionally, two-thirds of all unwanted dogs were put to sleep, most of them perfectly healthy because no one was available or willing to adopt them.
In response to these alarming statistics, a Behaviour and Attitudes survey was undertaken this month and it revealed that 78% of the Irish public are "horrified, shocked and saddened" by the apparent state of dog welfare in Ireland.
61% believe that Ireland is a nation of dog lovers - Irish dog ownership rates are twice the European average. However, in light of these figures, 86% said that Irish people do not put a high enough value on a dog's life. Furthermore, when informed that nearly 14,000 dogs were put down last year, 10% of respondents felt "ashamed."