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Review of the year 2006
Part 2: by Nick Mays Chief Reporter

APRIL

WHEN MANCHESTER Dogs’ Home first opened its0 doors in 1893 to the stray and abandoned dogs of the North West, it was never imagined that 113 years later they would welcome their millionth dog in to the Home.

Buster - as he was later named - was found wandering in Middleton and brought in to the Home’s care via the Rochdale Dog Wardens, whereupon his health check revealed that in addition to being a very happy and bouncy Labrador he was also completely blind.

The veterinary diagnosis for Buster’s eyes was full layer cataracts; these were probably secondary to the disease Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). Buster’s blindness is believed to have begun to occur after he had matured in to an adult dog. Buster was eventually adopted.

Lisa Graham, the Home’s manager commented: ‘We receive regular reports on how Buster is doing and have so far been told that he has settled in well with his new family and he is absolutely loving life.’

BREED SPECIFIC LEGISLATION in Ontario, Canada made the headlines again when it was revealed that the city of Toronto would not fully enforce Ontario's Breed Specific Legislation unless the province helped the city to pay the costs. The city's budget committee did not support an animal services department request for funds to hire 10 additional animal control officers. The money — $529,600 for the rest of 2006 — would have been used to police the new law.

‘This will be a law that is basically enforced sporadically,’ said Councillor Joe Mihevc, budget committee vice-chair. ‘That's the best we can do, even as many of us at city council support the law. If the province wants a higher standard of enforcement, then we're going to need money to do that.’

Canada's first province-wide ban, the Dog Owner's Liability Act, pertains to any dogs that fall under the definition of ‘pit bulls,’ including Staffordshire Bull Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers, as well as dogs that look ‘substantially similar’ to any of the banned breeds.
Pit bull owners as ‘criminals’.

The lack of funding for enforcement came as no surprise to Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby, who was challenging Ontario's law on behalf of dog owners. The case was due to be heard in Superior Court in May.

‘The pit-bull breed ban is not designed to really make Ontario citizens safer,’ Ruby said. ‘It's designed to make the government look good without actually doing anything.’

DOG THEFT continued to be an issue of great concern during 2006, and was brought into stark relief with the story of a dog that was stolen at knifepoint from its owner and later found dead.

The Clumber Spaniel, named Rosie, was being walked by her owner, David Smith at around 9.30pm on the evening of Wednesday, April 12th in Marshbrook Way in Telford, Shropshire when they were confronted by two men.

One man used a craft knife to threaten the dog walker then a second robber pulled the owner to the ground before they ran off with Rosie.

The dog's body was discovered the next evening in a brook not far away from where the theft happened. Rosie’s owners Sue and David Smith said they believed the robbers deliberately targeted their pet. ‘We just cannot believe anyone would do this. It seems that Rosie was the target. She cost £800 when we bought her,’ said Mrs Smith. ‘One of the men shouted ‘leave him, get the dog’ as they were attacking David. ‘He thinks he may have fallen onto Rosie as he was forced to the ground. Maybe she was injured and was no longer any good to them.’
A reward fund was set up to help trace the two men involved in the kidnap of Rosie and had reached £3,500 when OUR DOGS reported the story.

Mr and Mrs Smith said they were ‘overwhelmed’ at the international response to Rosie’s death, having received messages from Australia, Canada, the USA and all over the UK.

Trevor Cooper
Trevor Cooper

TREVOR COOPER, the well-known solicitor whose defence of dogs caught up under Breed Specific Legislation in the form of the draconian Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA) this month launched an advice line for owners with queries on matters pertaining to both BSL and other areas of canine law.

Visiting Crufts the previous month, Mr Cooper, 43 handed out press releases stating his intention to set up a new legal Advice Line for dog owners, as people continued to contact him with questions and problems almost every day of the week. Indeed, the dogged defender had even taken on some new cases in the past few months.

Mr Cooper said: ‘I stopped doing dog work full time last year but I kept my firm, Cooper and Co, going and the insurance up to date in case I was needed. I do still take on cases and most of the time I use a barrister to defend them. It seems that there is obviously still a need for me to provide a personal telephone advice service,’ he said. ‘Anyone with queries about dangerous dogs, barking dogs, personal injury claims and disputes with vets or breeders can call and get personal advice from me on their situation.’

MAY

BACK IN Ontario, a dog with ‘some’ pit bull similarities escaped death in what is believed to be the first successful legal test of Ontario's new breed specific legislation.

A veterinarian's letter given in evidence to a Sarnia court had stated that ‘Tidus’ — a muscular dog with short reddish hair and a pointed tail — had ‘some’ pit bull similarities. However, justice of the peace Helen Gale ruled that this insufficient reason to hold dog owner Jody Kirby accountable to strict BSL laws brought in by Attorney General Michael Bryant.

Kirby was cleared of charges of failing to muzzle, leash, sterilize and provide ownership of her dog as required by the Dog Owner’s Liability Act.

Her lawyer, David Stoesser, said that it was the right verdict for an inadequate law. He added that the law, which considers pit bulls to be any dog with a physical appearance that is ‘substantially similar’ to four distinct pit bull breeds, should be clarified.

A spokesman for the Attorney General Michael Bryant’s ministry said that that officials would review the ruling.

In her ruling, judge Gale said the veterinarian's letter did not convince her that the dog could be defined as a pit bull. ‘That letter falls short,’ said Gale. ‘That does not actually call it a pit bull and I think that's what the legislation entertains.’

FOREIGN TICKS carrying a disease that kills dogs and makes human beings seriously ill arrived in Britain, most likely via the Channel Tunnel.

A British dog that had never been abroad died after being bitten by the rhipicephalus tick, known as the brown dog tick, which until now, has been confined to Mediterranean areas of France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and other locations in southern Europe.

This was the first time a pet has been killed by a tick in the UK, prompting fears that infected insects may have spread to Britain on Eurostar trains or lorries. The dog, called Caffreys, was regularly walked by her owner, Janet Hunt, on a footpath near the Channel Tunnel terminal in Ashford, Kent. Foreign trucks park in a lay-by near the path.

The tick can carry a disease called babesia, which infects red blood cells, leaving humans with malaria-type symptoms including nausea, fatigue, fever, diarrhoea and anorexia.

Dogs’ immune systems destroy red blood cells infected by babesia to the extent that they suffer from fatal anaemia.

The disease was diagnosed by a research scientist at the University of Bristol. The veterinary school is the only one of its kind able to use DNA to spot such rare types of blood-born disease.

JUNE

THE TAIL docking exemption for working dogs looked likely to remain unchanged in the Animal Welfare Bill following a debate in the House of Lords.

Despite concerns from Lord Soulsby, the majority of Peers were satisfied with the exemption tabled in the House of Commons.

Lord Soulsby, Chairman of the vehemently anti-docking Companion Animal Welfare Council (CAWC), had repeatedly called for compulsory dog registration – another point that Lord Soulsby raised during the debate and one that was also put aside by his fellow peers.

Working dogs were excluded from a general ban on cosmetic docking in England and Wales after a free vote in the House of Commons during the Bill’s Third Reading in March. The issue was still being debated by the Scottish Parliament under their own Animal Health and Welfare Bill, although a total ban on tail docking with no exemptions look likely to be introduced north of the border, which led the Westminster Lords to consider the matter of ‘docking tourism’ between Scotland and England, whereby Scottish working dogs may be docked in England.

The Government tabled some technical amendments to the Bill which were agreed by the Lords during debate. These re-enforced that only Terriers, Pointers, Spaniels and their cross-breeds can be docked for prophylactic reasons.

THE NATIONAL Trust considered reversing its ban on the hunting of deer with dogs on its land once again.

The Trust said that the hunts would be allowed to use the dogs only to flush out deer so they can be shot, in keeping with the terms of the Hunting Act passed in 2004. The Trust had banned all hunting on its own land in 1997 in the face of great opposition from pro-hunters, but was widely applauded for doing so by the anti-hunting lobby.

But anti-hunting groups said that if deer hunting were to be permitted again, hunts could not be trusted to stay within the law because hundreds of them across the country are already repeatedly breaching the act every week and are continuing to chase foxes and deer as they always did.

Under the 2004 Hunting Act, hunts are allowed to use two dogs to drive their quarry out from shelter. The quarry should then be shot ‘as soon as possible’, but the act does not specify how long this should be.

The trust set up a committee to investigate the issue, and a decision was expected before the hunting season started again in the autumn. If the ban were rescinded deer hunts would resume on National Trust land on Exmoor and the Quantock Hills in the West Country. The hunts currently go out twice a week to hunt deer on surrounding land not owned by the trust.

HUNTING CONTINUED to dominate the news this month with an announcement that ‘Foxhunting and the Ban’ was to be included in the next round of ICONS, collated by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. However, this move was ridiculed by the Countryside Alliance, which had slammed the department for ‘moving the goalposts’ and changing the intrinsic iconic subject for which people were voting.

Foxhunting had received the largest number of public votes of any of the nominations for an icon of England. The DCMS altered the title to ‘Foxhunting and the ban’, arguing that ‘images of hunt saboteurs and scuffles with the police’ spring to mind alongside hunting as an icon of England.
The announcement came just hours before the deadline for the DCMS to respond to a Freedom of Information request from the Countryside Alliance on the subject.

DOCKING OF dogs’ tails in Scotland was to be banned outright with no exemptions, following a vote by the Scottish Parliament on an amendment to its Animal Health and Welfare Bill this month.
Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) voted by three to one in support of the Scottish Executive’s proposal to prohibit the ‘mutilation’ in the Stage 3 final debate on the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Bill. All tail docking was to be ended, both for cosmetic purposes and with no exemptions for working dogs. In addition, it would become an offence to take a dog from Scotland to be tail-docked in another country.

Animal charities were pleased that the Bill not only retained the existing prohibition against cruelty and causing unnecessary suffering, but also placed a duty of care on people who keep animals, in the same way as the Westminster Animal Welfare Bill which applies to England and Wales. This meant that the owner or keeper of an animal would be required to take reasonable steps to ensure its welfare.

The animal charity Advocates for Animals welcomed the tail docking ban. Advocates’ Director, Ross Minett, said: ‘This is a historic day for animal welfare in Scotland. Our understanding of, and attitudes towards, animals have changed much over the years and this new legislation is urgently needed to reflect these changes’.

Best in Show from 10,000 dogs at the European Winners Show in Helsinki this month was the Newfoundland Skipper's King Of Helluland owned by Siklosi Béla, Pecs, from Hungary, handled by Gabor Maroti. Also pictured is BIS judge Hans Lehtinen (back left), Chairman of the Show Kari Järvinen (Right) and speaker Leena Sarvi, seated. The photo was taken just after a tickertape finale in the impressive main arena at the Helsinki Fair Centre.

The Irish Kennel Club won its bid to host the FCI's European Winner's Show in 2009 after a resounding vote in favour of the Irish proposal following the Helsinki show the previous week.

The Irish delegation of President Sean Delmar, General Purposes Committee Chairman Nick Hammond and Treasurer Rita McCarry Beattie presented an outline of what could be expected of the show to be held in Dublin in June of 2009 and of the attractions of Dublin and Ireland as a whole, beating off stiff competition from the kennel clubs of the Netherlands and Russia, while Lithuania and France withdrew their application late in the day. An application from Italy failed to materialise.

The meeting saw Ireland's bid receive 20 of the 31 votes cast by member countries with the Netherlands taking eight and Russia receiving three. Two countries abstained from the vote. It was a nail-biting time for the Irish delegation as after 14 votes cast the IKC bid found itself behind the Dutch bid by one vote with the Russian application on one.

Speaking immediately after the meeting at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Conference Centre adjacent to the venue in Helsinki on Monday morning, General Purposes Committee Chairman Nick Hammond told OUR DOGS that he was delighted with the outcome and the exceptional level of support afforded to the Irish bid for Euro '09 from fellow member kennel organisations.

THREE PEDIGREE puppies were stolen in broad daylight from a leading breeder’s home, then held to ransom until she paid £2,000 for their safe return.

Tessa Gaines (Gaystock) was in the bathroom of her house in Kingsclere, Hampshire whilst four 11 week old puppies – three Griffon Bruxellois and a Japanese Chin - were playing in the outside porch which adjoins and enclosed run, along with the Bruxellois’ mother. Then events took an unexpected and sinister turn for the worse.

‘My bathroom is situated above the porch,’ Ms Gaines told OUR DOGS. ‘There was quite a bit of traffic going past the house, as it was rush hour, so I didn’t hear any vehicle in particular, but I did hear the puppies’ mother barking. Then something in the tone of her barking changed, became more urgent. I looked out of the bathroom window to see a white transit van driving out of our main gates. I dashed downstairs to find the main gates wide open and all but one Bruxellois puppy and the mother gone. Thieves had simply driven up, seen the dogs and coolly opened the gates, driven in and taken them. I think they left the one puppy as it is slightly more cautious than the others and may have been harder to catch.’

The stolen dogs were two rough Bruxellois - a red dog and a red bitch - and a Japanese Chin dog, all aged 11 weeks.

Ms Gaines secured the gates then went back indoors and dialled 999 to report the dogs’ theft. ‘I can’t fault the police, they came within the hour and spent two hours with me recording all the information and gave me a crime number,’ said Ms Gaines.

After this, she contacted friends who lived locally to look out for the puppies and also contacted missing dog registry DogLost UK. Luckily, one of Ms Gaines’ friends had photographed the puppies a couple of weeks beforehand, so DogLost were able to put the photographs on their website immediately and posters were duly produced.

One of Ms Gaines’ friends had contacts within the local traveller community and made enquiries about the puppies. It soon became clear that the puppies’ whereabouts were known and negotiations between Ms Gaines and the thieves took place via her friend over the course of last weekend.

‘The word came back to me that they wanted £5,000 for the puppies’ safe return,’ said Ms Gaines, ‘But I managed to beat them down to £2,000. The payment was made and the puppies were returned to my friend at 7pm on Monday evening and she brought them over to me. They were a bit traumatised, but otherwise okay. Their mother was highly delighted to see them.’

Ms Gaines said that the experience had made her anxious for her dogs’ safety in future. ‘I’d urge everyone to take all possible precautions to keep their homes secure against dog theft,’ she said.

‘The thing is though, my run was secure, and they thieves still blatantly came in and took the puppies. You can’t live in a fortress, but it seems that this sort of crime is on the increase because dogs are a soft target. It beggars belief that thieves are able to get away with this. I realise that I was very fortunate to get my dogs back so quickly. I just hope that nobody else has to go through the worry that I went through in the short time they were gone.’

AROUND 65 delegates attended the long-awaited First International Conference on MRSA in Animals held on the 21st and 22nd June at the Leahurst Campus of the University of Liverpool. The event, which was organised jointly by the University of Liverpool and The Bella Moss Foundation, brought together some of the veterinary world’s leading authorities on aspects of MRSA and who presented new information of great importance to veterinarians around the globe.

The main speakers included Professor David Lloyd of the Royal Veterinary College, Dr Scott Weese of the Ontario Veterinary College, Professor Wolfgang Witte from Robert Koch Institute, Germany, Dr Tim Nuttall of the University of Liverpool, Dr Mark Enright of Imperial College, London, Professor Tony Hart, also of Liverpool University and Professor Peter Hawkey from the Health protection Agency. Paul Gayford attended the event as the representative of DEFRA and chaired a general discussion at the end of the event.

Jill Moss commented: ‘This was an extremely important event for the veterinary world. All aspects of veterinary concern about MRSA were addressed and the information that was presented will have a major impact on veterinary care over the next few years as it filters down to the grass roots. Two very positive things came out of this meeting. The first was that we were able to bring together human health experts as well as those in the veterinary world, and we believe strongly that both need to work in concert to achieve success. The second was that very positive information was presented showing that animals have the ability to overcome MRSA quickly if they are healthy. We were also very pleased to hear of new techniques in analysing MRSA that will improve our ability to deal with it.’

JULY

A NOTORIOUS puppy farmer from Brampton, Cumbria was banned from keeping the animals for life and ordered to pay £48,485 costs after losing his appeal against an earlier sentence.

John Walsh, 55, who had previous convictions relating to animals, was found guilty in January this year of animal cruelty and the transportation and abandonment of nine young puppies on May 20, 2004. Magistrates had heard how Walsh, of Denton Hall Kennels, Low Lane, Brampton, left nine puppies in a parked car at the ferry port of Weymouth, Dorset on a hot summer’s day while he took another six puppies over to Jersey.

Following his conviction on December 15th 2005 for causing unnecessary suffering to nine puppies, Walsh was sentenced at Blandford court on January 11th 2006. He was initially banned from keeping animals for a total of ten years and was ordered to pay the RSPCA court costs. This was Walsh’s third conviction for animal related crime.

On the day in question, Walsh had left Weymouth on the 6.00 am ferry as a foot passenger, and had planned to return to Weymouth on the 2.40pm ferry having left the puppies for a total of eight and half hours.

The Jersey SPCA had become aware of contact between a local man and Walsh, thanks to the concerns raised by Rose Loane, a local dog lover. The Jersey SPCA officers were waiting at the port to apprehend Walsh. However, as he had handed over the puppies he had with him they were unable to legally detain him. Following this, the Jersey SPCA with the help of the Jersey port authorities contacted the UK port authorities in Weymouth to let them know that Walsh had left a vehicle there and that there might be puppies locked inside.

Walsh’s vehicle was finally found at 11:30am, five and a half hours later, when Weymouth car park attendant Margaret Harvey, was drawn to Walsh’s vehicle by the whimpering of the puppies. The local RSPCA and police came to the car park and released the pups from the vehicle. The RSPCA described the state of the puppies as being ‘anxious, dehydrated and close to death’. The vehicle was described as being ‘like an oven, and stank of urine and faeces’.

Knowing the authorities were waiting for him to return to Weymouth, Walsh avoided the police by hiding in a van, abandoning his vehicle at the Weymouth docks. Walsh made his way back to his home in Brampton, Cumbria, where he was finally tracked down, and local police arrested him four days later.

Walsh appealed against his conviction on the grounds that the puppies did not suffer. However, Judge John Harrow, presiding at Dorchester Crown Court, upheld the conviction and sentence of a 100-hour community rehabilitation order, imposed by Blandford magistrates. However, in a humiliating and unexpected blow to Walsh - who has arrogantly continued trading in puppies since his conviction - Judge Harrow extended the 10-year ban on keeping dogs to a lifetime ban.

Anti-puppy farm group WAG who had worked tirelessly to curtail Walsh’s activities and convince the authorities to prosecute him were jubilant at the outcome of the appeal. Ken McKie, Secretary of WAG commented: ‘It is long overdue that this man has at last been banned from keeping or managing animals. He has shown over a period of time that he has no interest in animal welfare but only in money.’

A NEW EU directive designed to protect the welfare of animals during transport looked set to come into effect in the UK from January 2007. However, reading of the document indicated that the freedom of movement of animals that have been bred by hobbyists – including dog breeders and exhibitors – would be severely curtailed. – a fact apparently overlooked by the UK authorities, not to mention the Kennel Club.

The Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) launched a consultation document to all interested parties (‘stakeholders’ in Governmental parlance), but all submissions on this far-reaching and wide-ranging subject were due to close at the end of July. Worryingly, however, very few dog enthusiasts are aware of this new regulation and the impact it could have on their activities, depending on how the regulation is interpreted by individual officials.

DEFRA stated that there will be no changes to the current rules on maximum journey times - although there will be new restrictions on moving young animals, which could include puppies - feeding, watering and rest periods during a journey and space allowances.

Dog enthusiasts and other animal exhibitors apparently could take some comfort in the fact that DEFRA did not see the regulations as applying to animals transported to pet shows. DEFRA state:

‘We would not expect the transport of pet animals by their owners to and from events such as shows, even where they win minor cash or other prizes, to be covered. The presence of gambling at an event would not in itself make the transport of animals to it an economic activity.

‘We consider the following kinds of journeys are not connected with an economic activity. Those:-

Consisting of a single animal accompanied by a person who has responsibility for its welfare (or two animals accompanied by two people)

Pet animals accompanied by their owner on a private journey

Pet animals taken to and from a specialist show or competition, where the primary purpose is for pleasure or competition, not as part of a business, e.g. pet breeders

OUR DOGS sought clarification on the directive and how it affected dog enthusiasts from the Kennel Club and received a brief comment from Press Officer Rebecca Smart, who said: ‘We are concerned with the implications but we are already working with Defra on this and other aspects of the regulations for the Animal Welfare Bill and have, thus far at least, been assured that dog shows won't be affected. However we will continue to keep a watchful eye on things as they progress.’

BRITAIN’S SCORCHING summer temperatures soared to record-breaking levels, peaking at over 100oF on Wednesday July 26th. Across the country, concern for 'hot dogs' reached boiling point amongst animal welfare groups and the police, who had been called to several such incidents. The RSPCA reported that at least two dogs had died as a result of being left unattended in hot cars.

The two deaths were among 700 calls received by the RSPCA since July 1st reporting dogs left in cars, and also on balconies, in gardens, sheds and other areas without cover or water.
RSPCA officials were also looking into the case of the Golden Retriever left in a garden in Bicester, Oxon July 4th. The dog died of heat exhaustion, and had been pawing at a tiny area of shade behind a shed but could not reach it.

John Jackson|
John Jackson

Who says they’re tight in Yorkshire? How’s that for a good measure! were amongst many tongue-in-cheek comments directed at OUR DOGS ever popular photographer, John Jackson (above) , who reached the ‘The Big 60’ this month.

THE GOVERNMENT planned to launch a full inquiry into the Greyhound killing scandal at the personal behest of DEFRA Minister Ben Bradshaw, after a Sunday newspaper revealed the scandal of hundreds of ex-racing Greyhounds being killed and buried by builder David Smith in County Durham for a few pounds a head.

The issue was raised as an emergency item at the July meeting of the Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare held at the House of Commons.

DEFRA Animal Welfare Minister Ben Bradshaw was said to be ‘appalled’ by the report and is taking the matter ‘very seriously’. He added that the Minister had ordered an inquiry into the whole matter, which may result in prosecutions of individuals involved in the ‘disposal’ of unwanted Greyhounds.

Lord David Lipsey, Chairman of the British Greyhound Racing Board, which represents Greyhound owners, breeders and trainers, attended the meeting and was keen to play down the scandal by attempting to put it into a form of context, whilst explaining what the sport’s governing body, the National Greyhound Racing Club, intended to do about it. Lord Lipsey told the meeting: ‘I was absolutely disgusted by what I read in the Sunday Times [about the Greyhound killings by David Smith]. 20 to 30 years ago this would have been standard practice under the old regime of the National Greyhound Racing Club, but there has been a new regime in place for 13 months now and we take this issue very seriously.’

Lord Lipsey went on to explain that under NRGC Rules, an owner must report a racing dog’s retirement to the Club, and give details of where the dog is sold to or rehomed, or whether indeed it has been put to sleep. If an owner failed to do so, they would be liable to a £1,000 fine.
Unfortunately, Lord Lipsey alienated some of his allies at the meeting by saying: ‘Of course, if everyone took on a rescued Greyhound instead of these other breeds, there wouldn’t be this problem in the first place.’

This brought a swift rebuke from Clarissa Baldwin, Chief Executive of Dogs Trust and Chair of the Greyhound Forum, a collective of animal welfare organisations concerned with greyhound welfare, including Dogs Trust, RSPCA and the Blue Cross, amongst others, pointing out that such a suggestion was unhelpful, as clearly not everyone wanted to take on a greyhound, and that Dogs Trust and others were concerned with the welfare of all dogs. Clare Robinson of the RSPCA agreed with Ms Baldwin’s statement, and added: ‘One of the questions we also need to ask is why do so many greyhounds need rehoming? Surely there should be better breeding control by the industry.’

Dog Theft Action|
Dog Theft Action

OFFICIALS FROM Dog Theft Action attended the House of Commons in London, where they gave a presentation to the Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare, outlining the rise of dog theft in the UK and suggesting ways in which APGAW could us its powers to bring about action to tackle the problem.

Amongst the invited attendees were Phil Buckley, External Affairs Manager for the Kennel Club, and Alistair Lawson of the Association of Chief Police Officers and Simon Ovens of the Metropolitan police dog unit. DTA were represented by Co-ordinators Margaret Nawrockyi and Nikki Powditch, Chairman Neil Ewart, Advisors Nick Mays (Chief Reporter) OUR DOGS), Allen Parton and Brian Milligan, Dog Warden. The meeting was chaired by Eric Martlew MP (Labour, Carlisle).

Margaret Nawrockyi said during the presentation: ‘The emotional and psychological consequences of dog theft are devastating but when combined with the inability to take any effective, official action to retrieve a beloved dog, the feeling is unbearable for the victims of this vicious crime. It seems as though the authorities - to whom we should be able to report the theft of our property - have no mechanisms in place to deal with these reports and what’s more they have no plans to change the status quo. Dog theft largely goes unmonitored and the thieves continue their activities unencumbered by the law or by threat of retribution. To add insult to injury, many thieves hold dogs to ransom and only return them to their owners for exorbitant sums of money.’

There followed a great deal of discussion, during which the lack of accurate statistics on dog crime as opposed to the grossly inflated and misleading figures quoted in some quarters were discussed. Simon Ovens pointed out that in London, a total of 359 dogs were reported as stolen in 2005 – and that this was a relatively small percentage out of the million dogs estimated to live in London. He was quick to point out that the Metropolitan police take dog theft very seriously and that every such theft is allocated an official crime number and is investigated.

The plans for a national database of missing and stolen dogs to which all agencies, including individual missing dog registries, can contribute was discussed at length. The case was made strongly for this database to be completely independent of individual missing dog registries and would be best run by the Kennel Club’s Petlog service, which has both the capacity and technology to run such a database effectively.

The late Lord Stratford, better known as Tony Banks, has been posthumously awarded the Lord Houghton Award for services to animal welfare. The award was presented to his widow Lady Stratford in Parliament by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) in recognition of his tireless campaigning work.

Tony Bank’s widow, Lady Stratford, accepted the award on her late husband’s behalf at a meeting of the Parliamentary All-Party Group on Animal Welfare (APGAW) in the House of Commons on Monday 17 July.

Tony Banks was a lifelong advocate of animal rights and one of Parliament’s most vocal and uncompromising defenders of animals. A committed vegetarian, Tony Banks worked closely with a number of animal protection groups, and his passing in January 2006 was greatly mourned.

The Lord Houghton Award is made each year in recognition of an individual’s outstanding contribution to animal welfare. Nomination of the recipient rotates annually between its four sponsoring organisations. It was presented this year by Lyndsey Lavender, the BUAV’s Interim CEO on behalf of all the sponsoring groups. Mike Hobday of the League Against Cruel Sports l also attended the presentation.

Lady Stratford said: ‘Tony was committed to the welfare of animals. In fact, he often declared that he preferred animals to people! Tony’s passionate opposition against any form of animal cruelty was a driving force in our life. I am very proud of Tony and all that he stood for and it is an honour to receive this award.

‘Tony very much enjoyed his short time in the House of Lords and I am convinced that he would have continued campaigning and securing vital parliamentary and media coverage for the protection of animals. His main focus for 2006 was to see an end to the annual Canadian Seal Hunt, which this year resulted in the deaths of over 325,000 baby seals, a campaign that I have taken up in his name.’

Chris Deacon, Chair, BUAV, said: ‘With the passing of Tony Banks the animal protection movement lost one of its strongest advocates and greatest friends. His was a lifetime of tenacious and irrepressible campaigning for the rights of animals. On behalf of the entire animal protection community, the BUAV are honoured to present the Lord Houghton Award to Lady Stratford.’

A POLICE dog faced destruction as part of a Welsh police authority’s ‘policy’, simply because the decision had been taken not to renew the dog’s operating licence.

‘Saxon’, a five- year-old German Shepherd 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 had been a police officer for 18 years and has worked as a dog handler for nine years. He is a Home Office approved police dog instructor.

When off duty Saxon lived at PC Townley’s home and was looked after by the whole family, including his daughter Joy who took him for walks and always played with him. Saxon lived both in his kennel and inside the house where his favourite place was on the sofa next to his handler.

However, for the past 3 months Saxon was housed at the police kennels at Glascoed where he was looked after by the other police dog handlers whilst PC Townley had been away on other duties.

Just a few weeks previously, 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. It was ordered that Saxon has been classified as a ‘dangerous’ dog and, as such, is unsuitable for re-homing and was to be put to sleep.

As a serving police officer, Mike Townley was not allowed to speak to the media without the approval of his superiors, but his wife, Caroline spoke exclusively to OUR DOGS regarding the whole situation.

Mrs Townley, 43, said: ‘Saxon has been my husband's partner, soulmate trusted friend and loyal companion during his service and on many occasions my husband has been alone in very dangerous situations with only himself and Saxon to arrest serious and sometimes violent criminals. Both my husband and Saxon have been commended for their team efforts they even had a personal letter from the chief constable on one occasion. The current situation seems to have come about largely on the say-so of one individual within the police dog section and is being passed off as the policy of Gwent police.’

It was believed that the matter of Saxon’s destruction has been taken on the say so of Sergeant Richard Bull of the police dog section, and his recommendation has been accepted by the Inspector in charge of the dog section. Sgt Bull – who is currently on leave - is believed to have indicated that the issue of one of ‘safety around Saxon’. This referred to two incidents that took place during Saxon’s training over three years ago in 2003, when he bit PC Townley.

Caroline Townley explained: ‘Mike freely admits that it took him a while to ‘work Saxon out’ when they were first in training, because Saxon was obviously a highly intelligent dog and took a lot of work. It is true that he bit Mike twice, but Mike admitted then – as he admits now – that this was purely his own fault when he admonished Saxon and physically pushed him into his kennel, causing the dog to bite in defence – as he had been taught to. However, after that incident – which was logged at the time, something ‘clicked’ between them and they bonded perfectly, going from strength to strength.

‘In fact, Mike says that Saxon instinctively knows what he is thinking and they move as one – he is the perfect partner.’

Saxon apparently failed to reach the required Home Office standard for police work in just one respect – namely that if a dog seizes a suspect in a stand-off situation, it must ‘give up’ and let go of the suspect when ordered to my its handler.

‘Mike says that Saxon is ‘sleeve happy’,’ says Caroline. ‘When they are training with the bite sleeve, Saxon will continue to hold onto the sleeve even after he has been told to let go – although he will give up if told again. This has been worked into the reasons for Saxon being earmarked for destruction. The official reason that’s been give for this decision is that Saxon ‘bit his handler’, but that was in training three years ago! Just a few months back, the Chief Constable went on night patrol with the dog handlers, and Mike and Saxon were assigned to him.

If there were any concerns about Saxon’s behaviour or people being safe around him, why was the Chief Constable partnered with them? In fact, the Chief Constable sent a letter of commendation about them both.’

PC Townley appealed against the decision and stated his case, making representations on Saxon’s behalf, offering him a retirement home with his family for the rest of his life. He would seek no reimbursement for the costs of caring for Saxon from the police authority. Thus far, his appeal has fallen on deaf ears.

Caroline launched an e-mail appal to save Saxon’s life, which was circulated on the Internet. It was taken up by Mike Payne of Videx GSDs, who was able to offer constructive help and advice in having Saxon’s temperament independently verified. Mr Payne contacted Sheila Rankin of GSD Welfare who in turn contacted Gwent police authority and made arrangements for an independent assessment of Saxon’s character and his current predicament, under the force’s Animal Welfare Visitor’s Scheme.

The assessment was conducted at Gwent police dog kennels by three lay visitors. The visitors concluded that Saxon was ‘chilled out in his kennel’ and that he was receiving regular exercise and was being well looked after by staff. A meeting would be arranged to discuss the dog’s future.