Sunday, 27 December 2009

A bird in the bush means no pets in the houses...

Just got a call from the Daily Mail - they alerted me to a story in today's Sunday Times...

A property developer has banned homeowners from keeping cats or dogs to protect birdlife on nearby heathland.
Residents on a new estate who fail to comply with the ban could ultimately face eviction.
The prohibition applies to houses with gardens as well as people living in flats on the 450-home estate on the edge of Farnborough, Hampshire.
The development lies a mile from 32 square miles of heathland that is protected under the European Union Birds Directive. Redrow, the developer, has excluded cats and dogs to pre-empt any planning veto.
The heathland is home to the endangered Dartford warbler as well as nightjars and woodlarks.
The species nest on or near the ground, making them vulnerable to predators.
The Mammal Society estimates that Britain’s 8m domestic cats kill as many as 5m birds a month.
Locals are bemused by the ban as most of the protected heathland is open to the public, who are free to roam across it with their pets.
Ann Widdecombe, the Tory MP and cat owner, said: “The dictatorial nature of this decree is unbelievable. The developer has exceeded its powers by telling people what pets they can and can’t own.”
The RSPB said the ban was “unenforceable.”

How ridiculous!
A pet-free ghetto. What a very miserable place to live that would be. And if the council is anything like nearby Runnymeade I'm sure Redrow will get their planning consent. Why are so many councils so anti-pet?
And why will the people keeping a dog in their homes upset the birds more than those walking their pets on the common? Or the foxes who come and go without restraint.
The world is going absolutely bonkers.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Write a letter... but not necessarily to Santa!

Just got this and wanted to pass it on ASAP:


At this special time of the year we think about giving...

You must have all thought of buying something special for your dogs and you must have thought, with heavy hearts, about the dogs who are no longer with you to share Christmas Day and the coming New Year..and it is for them.

I beg you to put effort into doing this.  Politicians, the Welsh Assembly and the Head of the Veterinary Department of the Welsh Assembly all feel it is acceptable to kill dogs with a bolt gun and pith them.

No vet I have talked to feels this and certainly no dog trainer or behaviorist feels this way either. The stress for a scared dog to be pooled and forced to the ground is too great. This action can be done as a knee jerk reaction with little thought and not asking any other for help.

 By allowing the RSPCA to keep doing this we are allowing their officers who have no qualifications or knowledge in dog phsycolodgy to step in make decisions and kill. If it was against the law for anyone bar a vet to kill a dog then this rash, unfair and inhumane action would not and could not be made.  This is not the RSPCA centres who do this but their inspectors/officers who are not directly connected to a local rescue centre.  Any member of the public who owns a bolt gun (no license needed) can do this!

What I need you all to do

  1. Send a letter to your vet or print the sample letter attached and ask all the vets in the practice to write a letter and sign it.  If you don't use the one attached the letter should state that they feel it only humane not to allow anyone, bar a vet, to put to sleep a dog and only with the correct method and not a bolt gun. That using a bolt gun (owing to the shape of dogs skulls varying) is specialized  and is far more stressful to both dog and man and also makes a huge mess that other canines around would smell and therefore become fearful.
  2. Do not word this against the RSPCA as it seems NO one will stand up to them.  Instead we need to just make it the law for no one to be able to do this.
  3. All send the same letter to every dog trainer in the country, every dog behaviorist, everyone who counts.

This is our country, these are our dogs.  We owe it to them to fight for their rights. I already have so much to do but with you beside me we can make this change. Join forces, energies etc. I will email a list of all behind us as it comes in.

Below is the suggested letter. Please talk to your vet and ask him or her to be brave and make a stance for our dogs!

Here's a template to copy or adapt.
Please send your completed letters to:

Many Tears Rescue, Cwmlogin House, Cefniethin, Llanelli, Camarthenshire, Wales, Sa14 7HB
Insert name and address
of who you’re sending this to


I am writing to you in hope you will help many many thousands of dog lovers change the law. We would like you to put your name along with other vets, behaviourists, trainers, and professionals to change the law so that it is an offence for anyone bar a vet to destroy a dog.

We at Many Tears Animal Rescue want the practice of any person of dead bolting and pithing dogs to be against the law, as not only is this practice especially stressful for already scared dogs but messy, leaving the maximum of scent for other canines facing the same end to pick up on. We ask vets head nurses or any qualified staff, including dog trainers and behaviourists etc to put their names to this.

This is our country - the laws are made because we want them. This practice was barred in Ireland 25 years ago.  We need to make a stand.  

The support will be printed on our website as it grows.  

Their lives, your hands!

Yours faithfully

We're behind you!

Yesterday we braved the ice and snow to go to the panto to see Cinderella at Woking with Joanna Page, the pretty blonde actress out of Gavin and Stacey.
Last year Joanna had given us a lovely interview about her lovely Jack Russell Daisy.
As we were going to the panto I thought I'd drop her a quick line to say hello and wish Daisy Happy Christmas and be really cheeky and ask if she could arrange for a shout out for our boys - one of which is a mega Gavin and Stacey fan.
I'd included a little pressie for Daisy and a copy of the latest issue for Joanna to read inbetween performances.
We were sitting right at the front and we were wondering if anything would happen and if indeed the little parcel had reached Joanna.
There comes that bit in the show where Buttons reads out the birthdays and messages and sure enough our boys got a name check and they gave out a little cheer.
Then Buttons went on to say how Joanna's dog Daisy had appeared in Dogs Today magazine and that everyone should go out and buy it!
A free advert at the panto! How unexpected! What a lovely lady she is!
PS the panto was great - do go and see it! Lots of dog references!

Friday, 18 December 2009

Raw Beginners and burning issues!

In case you haven't yet found the "what should I feed my dog" blog I thought I'd flag up the latest burning issues on it...

I was reading in a woman's mag about the campaign to encourage more people to change over to veggie eating. I think the concept is called Flexitarianism, encouraging people who can't bear to give up their bacon sarnies and roast diners to consider baby steps to changing their habits. Paul McCartney's Meat free Mondays is an example of this concept.
What do you think are the easiest ways for pet owners to move to a more 'natural' diet without going the whole hog?
What's your handy hints for moving up scale to a better quality food without totally losing the convenience and the reassuring feeding instructions on the pack! Are any of you considering the leap so we can follow your progress?
Click here to comment


Why should we be trying to replicate the prey diet? Why feed dogs as if they are wild animals now they don't do nearly so much exercise? Hasn't the dog evolved over its substantial time with man to share and possibly favour our food?
Click here to comment

We'd like lots of voices on this new site - be you pro raw, pro dry, pro-moist...! Please do have a say - but do check out the housekeeping rules first - click here. No picking on specific brands or pasting whole press releases please!

If you have any trouble leaving a comment - email what you want to say to me and I'll put it on the site for you.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Et tu KC? Well yes and no...

The welfare and dog behaviour world see pretty united in the press release printed below.

But why no Kennel Club logo? They like to think they are a force in dog training and they have a high profile campaign against electric shock collars, too - so this SHOULD be right up their street.
Why aren't they visibly backing this press release? They are tucked away in the small print as supporting the press release, but why so shy about using their logo to show solidarity?

Is Cesar coming to Crufts?
His tour dates are early March after all.

Wonderful to see everyone else below banding together and saying NO to punitive methods, though.

If the KC logo was just missed off in error - perhaps it can be reinstated?

Problems with aversive dog training techniques
UK animal welfare, behaviour, training and veterinary organisations (1)  are warning of the possible dangers of using techniques for training dogs that can cause pain and fear, such as some of those seen used by Cesar Millan, who has announced a UK tour next year.
The organisations have joined forces to voice their serious concerns about techniques which pose welfare problems for dogs and significant risk to owners who may copy them. These concerns are shared, and the statement supported, by similar organisations around the world (2)  and in continental Europe (3).
Aversive training techniques, which have been seen to be used by Cesar Millan, are based on the principle of applying an unpleasant stimulus to inhibit behaviour. This kind of training technique can include the use of prong collars, electric shock collars, restricting dogs' air supply using nooses/leads or pinning them to the ground, which can cause pain and distress. The use of such techniques may compromise the welfare of dogs and may worsen the behavioural problems they aim to address, potentially placing owners at considerable risk. A number of scientific studies have found an association between the use of aversive training techniques and the occurrence of undesired behaviours in dogs.
The organisations believe that the use of such training techniques is not only unacceptable from a welfare perspective, but that this type of approach is not necessary for the modification of dog behaviour. Dog trainers all over the UK use reward-based methods to train dogs very effectively. Where dogs have behaviours which owners find unacceptable, such as aggression or destruction, qualified behaviourists achieve long term changes in behaviour through the use of established and validated techniques of behaviour modification without subjecting dogs to training techniques which may cause pain or distress.
We urge dog owners to carefully consider the help they choose to train their dogs or tackle behavioural problems. Anyone can call themselves a behaviour expert, but we believe that only those with a combination of appropriate qualifications, up to date knowledge as well as skills and experience should be treating dogs, and should only do so in a way which does not put the welfare of the dogs at risk.
Further information on:
  • the misconceptions which underlie the use of aversive training techniques
  • the development of behaviour in dogs
  • the problems associated with the use of aversive training techniques
  • finding a suitable trainer or behaviourist
can be found at:

1 Dogs Trust, The Blue Cross, Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), The Blue Dog, Wood Green Animal Shelters, World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), The Kennel Club, Raystede Centre for Animal Welfare, Canine Partners, UK , Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB), Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC), Association of Pet Dog Trainers, UK (APDT, UK), UK Registry of Canine Behaviours (UKRCB), Companion Animal Behaviour Therapy Study Group (CABTSG), British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) and British Veterinary Association (BVA).
2 Australian Veterinary Association (AVA), Australian Veterinary Behaviour Interest Group (AVBIG), American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB), American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB), The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) and The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, Inc. (CCPDT)(USA).
3 European Society of Clinical Veterinary Ethology (ESCVE), European College of Veterinary Behavioural Medicine – Companion Animals (ECVBM-CA), the Flemish Veterinary Working Group on Ethology (VDWE) and Norwegian Association for Pet Behaviour (NAPB) Norsk Atferdsgruppe for Selskapsdyr (NAS).

More information about organisations supporting this press statement can be found at

Monday, 14 December 2009

Christmas shopping in Kingston?

Why not stop by for a peaceful protest....
Petsville International
68 Richmond Road
Saturday 19th December 12.00pm - 3.00pm
Here's a link to a story about said store...

And please, no impulse purchases. Buy a puppy out of pity and you consign its mother and many others to more breeding slavery. Profit fuels this industry. Someone has to draw the line somewhere.


Cesar salad days - with a touch of Marmite?

Cesar Millan is definitely dog behaviour Marmite.
For the record, I think he's probably a very charming man and a fascinating person. I've read his life story and it's a great read.
But Dr Ian Dunbar he is certainly not.
Some of the stuff that makes great TV is badged with 'don't try this at home' for a very good reason.
Long ago we decided editorially that we'd not be giving Cesar and his methods any more oxygen than it already gets.
His methods are 'boil in the bag' frozen cod in cheese sauce from the 1970s and we prefer our skate wing with capers and a lemon butter, delicately cooked by Rick Stein, to use another food analogy (is it time for lunch yet?).
It's great rating TV, but it's just not cerebral stuff. If I sound like a dog behaviour snob, it's true.
Long ago we decided to fill our pages with positive training messages and people that have science-based, intellectually sound approaches to our best friend - based on respect and trust.
We'd even thrown ourselves behind a strong campaign to 'ask why and say no' if your trainer starts getting all dominant and punitive. An attempt to reverse the retro trend back to bullying our dogs into quite literally submission with alpha rolls and the like.
Then this month we carry a half page advert for Cesar Millan's roadshow. And boy does he look like a rockstar! Look at the size of those venues - unprecedented.
So why, I hear you ask is this advert appearing in Dogs Today?
Have we gone mad?
For the record. We did not solicit Cesar’s advert, their advertising agency approached us and you're as surprised as me as to why we were chosen as we've not exactly been quiet about not being a fan of Millan.
Should we have banned his advert?
Our new ad sales person had no idea that CM was such a bone of contention when she took the booking. She had no idea why we all groaned! No one imagined in our wildest dreams we'd be on Cesar's shopping list.
Too late to have diplomatically run out of space.
This had become an issue as fundamental as 'do you allow the BNP on Question Time'. 
Let's look at precedent.
We have even taken adverts from the Kennel Club in the past even though we obviously have serious issues with them. Does the acceptance of an advert mean an unqualified editorial endorsement?
Does the Daily Mail taking an advert for cheap lager mean they're backing binge drinking?
Do they get letters when they take those adverts?
We ban people advertising electric shock collars and electric fences, and we'll not be accepting any adverts from people who breed pups without health testing their mothers, but can we afford to be so very choosy that we only take adverts from people and companies we are totally ethically aligned too? Where do you draw the line?
We hold our right to editorial freedom above all else and I actually love the fact we can campaign hard for things, and we celebrate the fact that we won’t bend our editorial just because there's a wealthy advertiser with some money to spend.
If we didn’t take Cesar’s money would he cancel his tour?
Would he change his methodology?
He’d spend the money he's paying us in another magazine that will publish all his press releases, put him on the cover, worship at his alter of success.
I’d rather our intelligent and informed readers see his advert than him place it elsewhere.
Plus there's a percentage of our readers who do want to know he's on tour - even if it's just so they can let the paint dry on their placards in good time! And there are others who will argue they are capable of editing out the bits they don't like and that they still like their toast liberally spread with a bit of Cesar. For many watching his show is a guilty pleasure. We don't have to agree with Simon Cowell or  Bruno  to watch Saturday night TV do we?
I increased the size of the complimentary APBC advert to a half page in the same issue to help balance things, as I did still feel guilt. And you will see we have very strong editorial about positive reward-based methods in the issue and all others.
Publishing is a juggling act, but I hope you think we made the best call.
We retain the right to say what we like on the editorial pages thanks to people buying adverts on the pages inbetween. Without adverts we can't afford to come out - it's as simple as that. It's part of the equation.
We are confident our readers can tell the difference between adverts and editorial and will make up their own minds whether to follow Millan or the other path which we try to make as enticing as possible in the 14 pages written by positive dog trainers in that same issue.
And yes, we'll be publishing a letter or two in the next issue to reflect this so you can stop writing as we've already got plenty to choose between!
Come on all you reward-based lovely people don't go all punitive on me. We're doing our best to do the right thing.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Need a break to get over the break

This was the first time I've taken two dogs away. This is the first time either of these two dogs have been to an hotel.

It was a gorgeous hotel.
I say was - it wouldn't still be if we'd stayed last night.

Our trip to Sidmouth beach looked a safe bet. Pebbles, big pebbles.

So why did Oscar and Tess turn orange?

In the space of one walk they went from pristine to unfeasible to clean without a grooming salon and a day of soaking and rinsing with Anita Bax International Dog Groomer of the Year.
So stay cut short by one night - made excuses as too embarrassed to admit real reason! All orange stuff now all over the back of Graham's car - but better that than over the gorgeous hotel's mainly white carpets...!
The dogs loved the beach though....

Friday, 11 December 2009

It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it....!

Tess and Oscar are going to be road-testing a very posh dog friendly hotel...

Here's the link.

Doesn't it look amazing? Isn't there a lot of white in those suites...! These are brave folks indeed I feel. Will have to take a lot of towels and the paw plunger, and the dog coats....

There are lots of other doggie folks on the team here that would also love to road test gorgeous doggie destinations who are somewhat green with envy at our press trip! If anyone else has a similarly amazing destination that welcomes dogs please do get in touch as we have lots of willing volunteers to try them out.

Some days I love my job!

What a lovely film, what a lovely story!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

It's coming to America

Pedigree Dogs Exposed airs on BBC America today Dec 10th, 8pm (ET).

If you'd like to see the the interview on the Today show trailing the show click here - love the advert for food bags... what a big piece of meat that is!!!

What's for breakfast?

I have to share my morning - if not with you, probably many years later on the therapist's couch.
It's always an early start as school is many miles away, so it's a juggle of trying to get reluctant kids to eat breakfast rather than play computer games, dogs to do what dogs do without fence hopping, me combed and dusted sufficiently not to frighten the other less harrassed mums, time to write a quick blog and read the overnight emails... you know a normal, modern, domestic scene.
Another part of my routine is the refilling of the office coffee machine and assembling enough cups and milk to keep the crew caffeine-charged for another day.
This usually involves me teetering over to the office still in my pjs with a very full tray while Oscar and Tess charge around me like banshees. For some reason me doing a Julie Walters-esque Mrs Overall impression really thrills them!
Only not his morning.
Total silence for my early morning coffee run.
My honed Poirot-skills dulled by the early start thought, 'something is different and possibly better!'
Coffee filter changed, I walked back to the house and realised that it wasn't that something was missing, it had been added.
Oscar was sitting in the kitchen in the middle of his bed with a huge rabbit in his mouth.
Tess was standing by the door sheepishly, like a sneaky little boy delighted that his big brother was about to get a telling off!
Oscar is not the brightest, and we don't yet have a command that says, "Pick up your rabbit and come out here and then drop it." So he dropped it in the kitchen and legged it.
I was now in the 10-minute countdown area of needing to get dressed, apply warpaint and get Kieran to clean his teeth, put on his shoes, his jumper, blazer and coat while opening his and the dogs' advent calendars.
No time for rabbit disposal.
Husband was enjoying a rare lie-in, but it was an emergency and it is one of those moments were sexism works in a woman's favour!
Husband, very scantily clad, put yukky dead rabbit in bin liner and gave to excited son to put in the skip (probably breaking all recycling rules but dead bunny would definitely never have fitted in our tiny little food waste box!).
School run now completed, first and only coffee for me downed. Deep breath, write another blog, get on with day.
Wonder what wildlife we be out tonight going through our skip...?

Press and public say "Com-off it KC" on Ofcom!

Today's papers seem to have had a bit more time to think about what the Ofcom ruling really means... in today's Times

BBC survives dogfight over its Kennel Club expose
The BBC and the Kennel Club both claimed victory yesterday after the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom issued its ruling on a documentary that exposed breeding techniques causing deformity and disease in dogs.

Ofcom said that the programme, screened on BBC One in August last year, was overwhelmingly accurate in its criticisms of the Kennel Club but did not give the organisation enough time to respond to some allegations, including claims about its links to the eugenics movement and the Nazis.

The producers of Pedigree Dogs Exposed did not deceive the organisation into taking part in the programme or edit footage to portray it unfairly, Ofcom said. However, it said an interview with the Kennel Club’s scientific adviser had been misleadingly edited.

The programme led to the BBC scrapping its coverage of Crufts and groups including the RSPCA withdrawing support for the annual dog show. The Kennel Club also changed its breeding rules after the row.
Ofcom’s report was delayed by a month after the BBC raised concerns about the handling of the complaints and demanded more time to respond. The BBC must now broadcast a summary of the findings, but said that it stood by the programme and, as a signal of support, aired an edited version of the show on BBC America last night.

Ofcom upheld complaints from the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of Great Britain that the programme’s claims that the club was not doing all it could to remedy a condition called dermoid sinus did not fairly represent the scientific evidence. An allegation that the club deliberately bred deformed dogs that suffered from spina bifida was also inaccurate and not supported by research.

Ofcom also said that the programme was unfair to Virginia Barwell, a breeder of Cavalier King Charles spaniels, because the very short excerpts of her interview that were broadcast oversimplified her views. A series of other complaints were rejected.

A BBC spokesman said: “While we note Ofcom’s findings regarding some aspects of Pedigree Dogs Exposed, we stand firmly by the programme, which was clearly in the public interest; and we stand firmly by its conclusions. The broadcast has accelerated unprecedented reform in the way pedigree dogs are bred — including new limits on inbreeding, changes to the written standards of 78 breeds of dog and a new code of ethics which prohibits the culling of puppies for cosmetic reasons.”

The Kennel Club said it was disappointed that although Ofcom found that an interview with its scientific adviser, Jeff Sampson, had been edited so it did not fairly represent his views, it did not result in “any overall unfairness to the Kennel Club itself”.

Ronnie Irving, chairman of the Kennel Club, said: “The Kennel Club is pleased that Ofcom has confirmed that Professor Sampson was not fairly represented in the programme. It is therefore surprising that Ofcom doesn’t also conclude, on this occasion, that the Kennel Club itself was therefore unfairly represented. Ofcom has actually changed its mind on this point since its provisional decision.

“The damaging effect of this unfair editing was to distort our views and to fail to show viewers the seriousness with which we take the issue of dog health ... This process has taken a significant amount of time and the Kennel Club now wants to move forward, continuing to work with breed experts, our scientific advisers and the veterinary profession, to ensure that all dogs are given the opportunity to lead the healthy, happy lives that they deserve.”

Jemima Harrison, of Passionate Productions, which made the film for the BBC, said: “We are pleased that support for the film’s findings from the veterinary, animal welfare and scientific communities has resulted in action to start to address the unacceptably widespread deformity, disease and disability in pedigree dogs.”

The Guardian were a bit too quick at recycling the KC's press release but have since given their piece a tweak, but it still doesn't really understand the story like the Times does. But the comments contain some real gems... read and enjoy! Who is dogscribbler?

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Ofcom finally rule...

After what can only be several £100,000s of legal fees on each side, Ofcom has finally ruled on Pedigree Dogs Exposed. Here is their summary:

The programme - broadcast on 19 August 2008 - looked at health and welfare problems in pedigree dogs and included criticisms of the Kennel Club, other clubs and individual dog breeders.
Ofcom considered five complaints that the BBC programme was unfair; they came from the Kennel Club, the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of Great Britain, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club, Mr Michael Randall and Mrs Virginia Barwell.
Ofcom found that there was not unfairness to the Kennel Club in the editing of the programme and that the Kennel Club was not deceived about the purpose of the programme.
But it was not given a proper opportunity to respond to an allegation about eugenics and a comparison with Hitler and the Nazi Party; or an allegation that it covered up the nature of an operation carried out on a Crufts Best in Show winner.
Ofcom found that, when the programme alleged that the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of Great Britain was not doing all it could about a condition called Dermoid Sinus, it did not fairly represent the research on the subject. An inaccurate description of the breed's ridge was likely to have unfairly compounded the impression that the Club was choosing to breed deformed dogs.
Summary of findings
Finally, Ofcom found that the programme was unfair to Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breeder Mrs Virginia Barwell, as it did not convey her explanations for the very brief statements she was shown making in the programme.
Ofcom did not uphold the complaints from the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club or Mr Michael Randall.
Ofcom has directed the BBC to broadcast a summary of this adjudication.
Read the full document here.
The only KC points that were upheld were entirely down to right-to-reply rather than accuracy or unfairness. The basic facts of the documentary remain undisputed and there's a huge amount for them to do!
I fail to see how anyone at the KC could claim that spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on legal fees to achieve this is anything like a good result for them, but that's what they are doing!
When will the KC just accept the facts and get on with sorting things out, until we have a KC that accepts its failings what hope do we have of them reforming themselves without legislation.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback element ruling is most peculiar and I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot more about this in the future.

the BBC have issued this comment:
“While we note OFCOM’s findings regarding some aspects of Pedigree Dogs Exposed, we stand firmly by the programme, which was clearly in the public interest; and we stand firmly by its conclusions. The broadcast has accelerated unprecedented reform in the way pedigree dogs are bred – including new limits on inbreeding, changes to the written standards of 78 breeds of dog and a new code of ethics which prohibits the culling of puppies for cosmetic reasons.”

And the RSPCA comment is:
The BBC's Pedigree Dogs Exposed was a landmark programme that made a serious animal welfare problem the subject of national debate.

Health and welfare problems faced by pedigree dogs are still being discussed and three separate inquiries (two scientific and one parliamentary) into the problem have been launched since the programme was broadcast.

This shows how important Pedigree Dogs Exposed was as a catalyst for change, and confirms that the health and welfare problems suffered by pedigree dogs are extremely serious - a fact that the Ofcom report does not call into question.

The RSPCA continues to be extremely concerned about the unacceptably high levels of disability, deformity and hereditary disease affecting pedigree dogs.

Two reports have been published so far*, both backing the RSPCA’s view that the welfare and quality of life of many pedigree dogs is seriously compromised by established breeding practices for appearance. Both the rules and requirements of competitive dog showing and pedigree dog registration are major contributing factors to these problems.

Rather than fighting this documentary the KC should be celebrating what it has achieved! Here's a summary:


• The KC will no longer register the progeny of father/daughter; mother/son or full-sib matings (unless convinced of a strong scientific reason for doing so).

• The KC is running a prominent "fit for function, fit for life" campaign

• The KC has made changes to 78 breed standards in order to discourage/reverse exaggerations and has added the following clause to every breed standard:

"A Breed Standard is the guideline which describes the ideal characteristics, temperament and appearance of a breed and ensures that the breed is fit for function. Absolute soundness is essential. Breeders and judges should at all times be careful to avoid obvious conditions or exaggerations which would be detrimental in any way to the health, welfare or soundness of this breed. From time to time certain conditions or exaggerations may be considered to have the potential to affect dogs in some breeds adversely, and judges and breeders are requested to refer to the Kennel Club website for details of any such current issues. If a feature or quality is desirable it should only be present in the right measure."

• the KC has commissioned an independent enquiry into dog-breeding that will report in January. Headed by Professor Sir Patrick Bateson it is expected to make strong recommendations regarding the need to preserve/improve genetic diversity.

• two other independent enquiries - one from the RSPCA and one an all-party parliamentary group - have come to the same broad conclusions as the film - that there are serious welfare problems that need to be addressed urgently. Both have favoured self-regulation rather than new legislation and also recognise that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

The APGAW report is downloadable from here:

The RSPCA report is downloadable from here:

• the KC, as part of a ‘stakeholder’ group compromising veterinary and animal welfare organisations, has signed up to the following welfare principles:

1) every dog should be born with the best possible chance of living a healthy and happy life, well suited to its intended lifestyle

2) all those who breed dogs should prioritise health, welfare and temperament over appearance when choosing which animals to breed, in order to protect the welfare of both the parents and offspring

3) all those who benefit from dogs have a collective responsibility to work
together to protect dog welfare

More info:

• the KC has announced that it is minded to allow the registration of Dalmatians crossed with a pointer (known as LUA or NUA Dalmatians) in order to alleviate the breed of a debilitating, sometimes fatal, condition caused by high uric acid levels. Objections from the UK breed clubs (requested by Dec 31 2009) can only be on the grounds of health and welfare (ie.not on the grounds of breed purity). Although the KC has allowed some limited outcrossing in the past, it is being more proactive in this area. See also:

• The KC has launched a new Canine Genetics Centre based at the Animal Health Trust (the main developer of DNA tests in the UK)

• The Animal Health Trust says it has had a "huge increase in breeders" wanting to help in the development of new DNA tests since the programme.

• The KC has improved judge's training inc that judges of gundog breeds must attend field trials before being allowed to judge at Ch show level.

• Breed clubs' Code of Ethics are no longer allowed to condone the culling of healthy puppies that don't meet the breed standard.

• The KC has withdrawn the allocation of CCs from GSDs in 2012, demanding evidence that conformation problems in the breed are being tackled.

• Many more cavaliers are being MRI scanned for syringomyelia. (A three-fold increase in the number of MRI-scanned dogs listed on the UK Club's website)

• The KC has promised breed health plans for every breed. Part of this will be an assessment of the genetic diversity of every breed.

• The RSPCA is funding the University of Sydney to develop a veterinary-based disease-surveillance scheme.

Click here for some of the back story

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Charlie needs our help

Can I just direct you to the new Tailwaggers blog? There's an urgent appeal just gone up for Charlie, a stray that was taken in by a family on the breadline.
Turns out Charlie didn't just have a mild skin problem which they could have just about afforded, he'd got a serious chemical burn that could take away his sight, too.
If anyone can spare a few bob it will be added to the money donated so far from Tailwaggers and the Blue Cross.
Charlie's found someone to love him at last, let's try and take a bit of the pressure off this family at Christmas.
Here's the link

Any rescue centres want some free therapy?

Just been asked to share this generous offer...

Dear Animal Carer,

My name is James French and with my partner Shelley Sling we run Animal Communication Training. This organization has been developing the way humans work and look after animals, by focusing on the relationship that we share

We have worked with animals and taught in the major rescue centres including The Blue Cross, Dogs Trust and Battersea.

In the last few years we have been developing a very special method called The Trust Technique. This is a simply profound way of creating a strong feeling of trust between any animal and human. It is particularly effective with animals who are very anxious due to abuse or neglect.

We have two videos that show the Technique working. Please have a look both videos are with horses but the technique works with all animals. Although most of are work is with Dogs, Cats and Horses.

The reason that we are contacting you is from the 14th December and over the Christmas period I will be giving my time to work with up to six animals in rescue centres, to really help individual cases. These would be animals classed as very anxious or on the “no hope list”.

Depending on the animal we will give up to four consecutive days of treatment per animal to build solid feelings of trust. I will also offer to teach one member of staff the technique so that they can follow on the work that we start. We hold our own block scheme insurance that covers us for any type of animal work including dangerous animals!

In return we will need your permission to video the sessions to help educate people on how dynamic the relationship between animals and people is, and more importantly how trust is the key to any relationship.  We aim to offer this service complimentary though ask that our travel costs will be covered in return.  So centers which are close to us in Surrey would be the most realistic to keep costing at a minimum

Our aim will also be to promote smaller to medium size rescue centers by giving them more exposure and help people see the great work that you are doing!

If you have an animal in your care at the moment that you believe could benefit from our work please can you contact us as soon as possible?

Either through email or through phone 0845 4194951 so that Shelley and I can share more details and make the suitable arrangements.

We are looking forward to working with people who share the same passion and purpose in helping animals.

Warmth and Trust
James & Shelley

Too old for Advent calendars...

Check out this great one on the intellidogs website.
Every day something interesting to read and if you leave a comment there's a chance of winning a prize each day.
Watch out for Christmas eve, there's a very special Dogs Today related prize.... your dog could become a star, and not on the top of a Christmas tree!
Here's some blurb...

We've got some interesting stories, training tips, Doggy Letters to Santa and even things to make.
Surprise guests will pop up each day, so be sure to call in and see your next surprise behind the Advent Calendar door.
With lots of goodies to win and even a prize Doggy Hamper for Christmas Day crammed with things for you and your dog, you will enjoy every moment of this new and exciting run-up to Christmas.

The dogs that cried wolf...

Tess and Oscar are ever vigilant. We have full reporting of almost every leaf that dares to fall. Consequently when they bark in the night we're not very surprised.
Last night at 1.30am they were making such a noise that my husband decided to investigate.
He let them both out of the kitchen door, there was a scrurry then a yelp.
Tess had a fox by its tail!
She let it go and it was chased off the premises by two very excited dogs.
So perhaps every other time we've had company in the garden?
It's like David Attenborough's back garden round here sometimes with all the creatures the dogs find and try to eat!
This one got away though!

Monday, 7 December 2009

Any idea who Jimmy is?

Jimmy is a first cross between two fairly well known breeds. But it's obviously not that easy as no one has guessed correctly all month.
One parent is easy, the other more tricky. Hence I will issue a clue straight away.
One parent might be a bit busy at this time of year herding Rudolph and his mates....

Send your best guess to

More clues on Twitter if no one gets it correct!

First correct answer wins a  doggie book of your choice from the Interpet range - either breed books or general books.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Post-puppy depression

I overheard a conversation between two mums at school yesterday. Both were carrying their new pups wrapped in blankets, they were in confessional tone.
"Twenty per cent of the time I wish he wasn't here," said one.
The other was agreeing. "My house looked like an Andrex commercial last night."
Both had caved in to pester power but they were the ones at home all day with the dogs while their kids were at school.
Both dogs were mouthing. The new Rhodesian Ridgeback owner passed on a tip to put your hand over the dog's nose to stop them breathing... eek! I'm going to give them both a copy of our Perfect Pup book today - with Post It notes on the pages that show you how to stop mouthing.
Oh dear. Will these pups last till New Year in these homes?

Lessons not learned

I think we probably all felt a depressing sense of déjà vu as the news unfolded that yet another poor child had died in the care of a granny grappling with a powerful dog.
You'd have hoped that the last time this happened it would have given everyone else in similar circumstances a real wake-up call, but no. Seems not.
Seems obvious that after the last child death all other grannies would have reviewed their domestic situation, but obviously not.
If we don't bring up our dogs properly we put everyone - but most obviously - our own families at great risk.
What a tragedy.
Surely this time those who have dogs that are out of control will heed the warnings and take action.
Oh for a fashion that attracts people to friendly, gentle dogs - one that makes dog training trendy.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Rescue needs rescuing

Just received this urgent appeal:

On Saturday 21st November The Animal Rescue & Rehabilitation Society was given an eviction notice to leave the premises where we keep the animals. We have approximately 4 weeks to move the current animals out of the kennels and put them into temporary accommodation. We currently have cats and dogs with uncertain futures, plus the stray dogs of Stratford-on-Avon have nowhere to go.

I now have 6 dogs and 2 cats currently left at the kennels.  Two extra dogs are on trials in their new homes and one is hopefully going to its new home in a few weeks. Two six month old kittens are in short-term foster and another kitten is at my house in Rugby recovering from flu.

Is there anyone out there who can offer my rescue animals temporary accommodation until I can get something more permanent?

I am looking to buy some land/stables within the Stratford-on-Avon District, which covers a huge area and have been for some time, but it's just become a major priority to save the animals I now have.  Plus I now have nowhere to take the stray dogs.

If you think you can help in any way, either by spreading the word of the appeal, if you know of someone who could fund the building work for a new kennels to be built, land that might be for sale (I don't have a great amount but reasonable offers), foster homes for the dogs or cats or anything you may think might help in our fight to save T.A.R.R.S, please e-mail with your responses to

Foster homes need to have no other animals in them as some of the dogs and cats are not use to other dogs or cannot live with other animals.

This would be a temporary basis of 6 weeks or over.

Sophie Peacock, Founder of The Animal Rescue & Rehabilitation Society also known as T.A.R.R.S.


Monday, 23 November 2009

Dogs on the red carpet...

News just in...

Winners of the Fido Awards presented in association with Dogs Trust and honouring canine cinematic excellence were announced today at the prestigious ceremony at BFI Southbank. The full list of winners is as follows:

HISTORICAL HOUND (for period drama excellence)  The Young Victoria
ROM-COM ROVER (for romantic-comedy companionship) Marley and Me
COMEDY CANINE (for outstanding comedic contribution) Beverly Hills Chihuahua
BLOCKBUSTER BOWSER (for event-movie performance) Up
MUTT MOMENT (for stand-out cinematic canine moment) Fish Tank
BEST IN WORLD (for best of the best)     The Young Victoria

Have to say I'm delighted to see Disney Pixar animated film Up! mentioned. The wonderful British-born behaviourist guru Dr Ian Dunbar was the canine consultant on that movie and if certainly showed. Brilliant!

Hounds for Heroes has a heroine!

Every now and again my mobile rings and it's lovely Allen Parton with exciting news. Allen and EJ were on the Labrador rescue stand at Discover Dogs and he says he met lots of lovely Dogs Today readers and had a really fun time.
Many asked him about his new venture Hounds for Heroes and how things were progressing. Allen remembers explaining to one lady how difficult it is to start a new charity as the charity commission wants you to have £5,000 before you can start.
He recalled that the lady had listened very intently.
Anyway, Allen's call today was to say he'd just opened his post and that same lady had sent him a cheque for £5,000!
Isn't that wonderful.
On a sadder note, Allen told me his wonderful wife Sandra is quite poorly and is having to take things  easier than usual until she goes in for an op. But getting busy people to slow down is very tricky. She's already put her surgery off once as she didn't want to miss an important date in the Canine Partners calendar. Sandra is their Puppy Operation's manager - but it sounds like she needs a Human Operation's Manager to get her to slow down and get well.
We all hope Sandra starts feeling better soon and is getting a lot of pampering from Allen and the dogs.
Allen very mischievously says he's now in danger of becoming addicted to watching lunchtime soap Doctor's now Sandra is at home during the day. (I used to like watching that when I was working from home - was always good to eat my lunch in front of! I bet Allen was secretly tuning in already...!)

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Pets at Home and PJs in the office!

Sorry for the blog inaction! Just back from a trip up north to meet with the folk at Pets At Home. I have to say it was a memorable meeting in many ways. It was Children in Need Day and many of the staff were wearing Pjs - including the MD - what a good sport. Wish we'd known - felt a bit out of place with my business suit on! I've got some very fetching Scottie PJs - on offer at La Senza if they appeal to others - very warm they are!
And they didn't just take their dogs into work - they had reptiles and fish, too and even a baby!
Really lovely meeting and then Graham and I had an afternoon looking around Chester which I had very positive childhood memories of.
Very rare for me to venture far for a meeting, but what a memorable outing!

Monday, 16 November 2009

Nervous Lady lost in Milton Keynes

Choc & Tan Cocker Spaniel
3-4 Years Old Female
Missing in the Monkston, Milton Keynes
MK10, Bucks area since Tuesday
10th November 2009 SPAYED & CHIPPED
07835160111 or 07898133009
07733001165 or 01670 7604346
Do you have any information on the whereabouts of this dog? Call DogLost in the strictest
confidence on 0844 800 3220 quoting 20673

Friday, 13 November 2009

Bruce latest

Bruce, a family pet kept on ‘canine death row’  has been held since seized from his family in September 2007 for looking the wrong shape and size as outlawed under breed specific legislation in Northern Ireland. Now top vet Professor Bill Reilly has spoken out against the legislation and urged a rethink on the Government’s position.

For Bruce a staggering two years has passed while his legal case is ongoing even though he has never put a paw wrong in his life and he’s not alone in this legal nightmare where life hangs in the balance and Bruce and others are confined to a concrete cell and cruelly denied the family homes they once knew.  This surely cannot be the actions of a civilized society when in fact it is irresponsible and uneducated breeders and owners who are the problem, not breeds or ‘types’ of dogs?

The annual BVA North of Ireland Dinner held at the Parliament Buildings in Stomont, Northern Ireland took place on the 29th October 2009, addressing the Dinner was the recently newly appointed  President of the BVA; Professor Bill Reilly.

Speaking before guests including the Northern Ireland Minister for Agriculture & Rural Development, Michelle Gildernew MP MLA, Jim Nicholson MEP and several other politicians as well as veterinary professionals, Bill Reilly covered several “core topics” including that of breed specific legislation (BSL).

A copy of the full speech can be found on the BVA web site, in relation to BSL, Professor Reilly said:

“Dogs are also hitting the headlines through the recent announcement of new control measures. I was shocked to read that one third of all dogs destroyed in the UK are in Northern Ireland – clearly the dual problems of dangerous and stray dogs are an enormous drain on your resources.

We welcome your commitment to promoting responsible pet ownership, but we are disappointed with the proposal to retain breed-specific legislation.

The manner in which a dog behaves is both a result of its inherited characteristics and, more importantly, the rearing and training provided by its owner.

We know that aggression is a normal behaviour and can be shown by any dog of any breed, type or mixed breeding. Breed-specific legislation therefore engenders a false and dangerous perception that breeds not banned will not show aggression.

I would urge the Minister to rethink her position on this issue and shift the focus of control to ‘deed not breed’, alongside a concerted campaign to promote responsible pet ownership.“

Minister Michelle Gildernew has given a written response to the BVA President’s speech at the BVA Dinner and in relation to the comments on BSL has stated:

“I note your comments on my proposals for dog control legislation and in particular on the issue of breed specific legislation. Subject to Executive approval, I plan to begin consultation in November on my proposals. I will ensure that the BVA receives a copy of the consultation document and I would clearly value the Association's input on my full proposals at that stage.”

It is heartening to hear that the leader of the BVA has spoken out against breed specific legislation and has urged the Minister to rethink her position on this issue.

Breed bans do simply not work and are costing millions of pounds to implement whilst failing dismally to protect the public whilst innocent adult dogs and puppies are being held in kennels at huge public expense awaiting court hearings to determine their fate with a tape measure or being automatically put to death and all based solely on their appearance.

Please support the President of the BVA and write to Minister Gildernew and urge her to repeal breed specific legislation in Northern Ireland and to spare the life of Bruce and other family pets currently caught up in this unjust and unworkable legal nightmare:

  • Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (DARD):  &
  • Minister of Agriculture & Rural Development - Michelle Gildernew, MP MLA: 
  • British Veterinary Association - Presidents Office:

Further details at 

Food for thought

In today's Guardian a big plug for indie petfood label Lily's kitchen... well done!!! Click here for the full story. Fascinating piece though on a number of levels.

Henrietta Morrison confidently plunges her spoon into a tin of slow-cooked lamb hotpot and lifts out a mouthful for inspection. She passes her nostrils over the meat chunks and accompanying sauce, smiles, then places the whole lot into her mouth. "Delicious," she remarks, as a small crowd of onlookers gathers round to watch the spectacle.
Someone eating their lunch doesn't usually elicit such attention, but, then again, most people aren't prepared to tuck into a tin of dog food for sustenance. Morrison has a point to prove, though: she is at Europe's largest pet trade show, PetIndex, at the Birmingham NEC, and her company, Lily's Kitchen, sells the most expensive pet food on the market. Her dog food, for example, retails in places such as Harrods for more than £2 a tin, with the promise that the contents are "proper food".
A quick inspection of the ingredients ("organic and certified holistic") shows why Morrison is prepared to put her pet food where her mouth is. Lamb ("60%"), rice, pearl barley, broccoli, spinach, blueberries, flaxseed, marigold petals, burdock root and alfalfa are just some of the ingredients contained within a tin of slow-cooked lamb hotpot. It really does look and sound good enough to eat – that's the whole point.
"I eat my pet food regularly to test batches," says Morrison. "My personal favourite is goose and duck feast with fruits, but chicken and turkey casserole is our bestseller."
Lily's Kitchen and its range of anthropomorphised pet "recipes" represent the somewhat rarefied summit of the UK's pet food industry, which is now said to be worth close to £2bn a year. Just like us humans, the nation's 8 million dogs and 8 million cats – as well as our collective menagerie of rabbits, horses, lizards, tropical fish et al – consume a wide variety of foodstuffs. In recent years, and despite the economic downturn, the pet food industry has witnessed a move towards "premium products", but the market is still dominated by products made with ingredients that, frankly, can send a shudder down any owner's spine. "Hydrolysed feather meal", "derivatives of vegetable origin", "ash" and "animal derivatives" are just some of the delights routinely found in pet food.
The industry has been the recipient of both jibes and brickbats about the true origin of its ingredients for decades. Horse meat, whale, kangaroo – before strict legislation tightened up the rules following the BSE scandal, we were used to hearing all sorts of hypotheses and rumours. But now it faces a new source of criticism: just what is the environmental impact of feeding the huge quantity of "companion" animals around the world? A new book with the somewhat provocative title of Time to Eat the Dog? The Real Guide to Sustainable Living has triggered a highly charged debate about the environmental efficacy of our pet-owning habits. If we are to examine the environmental impacts of all our lifestyle choices, the book argues, then we must also include pets in the discussion, no matter how unsettling the answers. The various environmental impacts attributed to the human food chain are well documented, so isn't it right, for example, that we should now be questioning whether it is sensible to be feeding slow-cooked lamb hotpot to our dogs, too?
The New Scientist, in a recent editorial entitled "Cute, fluffy and horribly greedy", largely agreed with the book's findings that some pets, due to the food they eat, have a surprisingly high "ecological footprint" (a way of quantifying human demand on the planet's ecosystems using a measure called "global hectares"). "According to the authors . . . it takes 0.84 hectares [2.07 acres] of land to keep a medium-sized dog fed. In contrast, running a 4.6-litre Toyota Land Cruiser, including the energy required to construct the thing and drive it 10,000km a year, requires 0.41 hectares. Dogs are not the only environmental sinners. The eco-footprint of a cat equates to that of a Volkswagen Golf. If that's troubling, there is an even more shocking comparison. In 2004, the average citizen of Vietnam had an ecological footprint of 0.76 hectares. For an Ethiopian, it was just 0.67 hectares. In a world where scarce resources are already hogged by the rich, can we really justify keeping pets that take more than some people?"
Speaking from his university office in Christchurch, New Zealand, Robert Vale, who co-wrote the book with his partner Brenda Vale, admits that he has received a "few unpleasant emails" from irate pet owners since the New Scientist article was published, but insists that he still stands by his central point. "We need to know what we're doing when it comes to the environment," he says. "We can't go blind into this debate. Nothing should be off limits no matter how uncomfortable it is to discuss it. Human population growth is a huge issue, too. We have to recognise that we live in a world of finite resources."
Vale says he was "genuinely surprised" when calculating quite how large the environmental impact was of some of our most popular pet species. "Of all the areas we researched for the book, the subject of pets was by far the biggest surprise for us. But all we are arguing in the book is that we should be making sensible, informed choices. For example, it's not really going to be that much of a problem if you have a big dog but also take the bus everywhere, never fly and live in a small home. It's when everyone starts to have a big car, big house, big family and a big dog that the problems start."
Vale does not – as some of his critics seem to assume – advocate a mass cull of the world's pets. But some of his proposed solutions are still likely to shock some pet owners. For example, the book suggests catching vermin such as rats and processing them into a "natural" cat food. Equally, the book proposes a return to the days when families would – hence the book's title – have edible pets. For example, a pair of rabbits would be kept as pets and their offspring would be eaten. It's hard to see that one gaining much traction.
When feeding a pet, however, the advice is to "think feathers and long ears, not horns and fins". In other words, favour pet foods made from chicken and rabbit meat and avoid those containing red meat and fish which, by comparison, have a much higher environmental impact. Last and, perhaps, most obvious: the smaller the pet, the better.
Back among the avenues of stalls at the PetIndex show, vendors jostle for attention with their impressive and sometimes baffling range of pet foods and accessories. One woman proudly tells me why her pet food containing yucca extract makes "her dog's poo stink less".
Another tells me why, when you use her hair-grooming tool, you must aim to "never expose a dog's testicles". Two saleswomen from Shanghai try to explain to me the fashion vagaries of doggie handbags (let's be clear: that's handbags to carry around your dog, rather than handbags made from dogs). I also spot car seats for dogs, a "pet fountain" that allows your cat to drink from a constantly flowing source of water, and a "memory foam" mattress for "senior" pooches with bad backs. I even come across a treadmill for obese dogs – the "Fit Fur Life" with its attendant price tag of £1,865.
Amid this paradise of pet paraphernalia, I meet Ben Helm, the sales and marketing director of Golden Acres, the UK's largest manufacturer of own-brand pet foods. The company owns Lancashire's largest arable farm and its on-site factory produces 70,000 tonnes of pet food a year, exporting to 37 countries around the world. By most measures, it's a huge operation, but it's a doggie biscuit in scale compared with the four leading pet-food manufacturers – P&G, Nestlé, Mars and Colgate-Palmolive – which, between them, are thought to account for more than 80% of the world's pet-food market.
"Some people now spend more on feeding their pets than they do feeding their children," says Helm, with a hint of awe. "It's a huge industry. Our bestselling 'kibble' [dried composite biscuit] is lamb and rice. Until about a year ago, we were importing three shipping containers of lamb meal [the labelling term for dry rendered lamb derivative] from New Zealand every week to make our kibbles, but now we try to source more of it locally as people are worried about food miles." As for the rice, he says: "The pet-food industry is now probably the biggest single importer of rice in the country." (I later check this factoid with the Pet Food Manufacturers' Association. It says: "So far as we can tell, our industry uses 50,000-150,000 tonnes of mostly 'broken rice' [a byproduct of the milling process] a year. This compares with rice imports for human consumption of around 450,000 tonnes in the UK.")
Helm picks up a handful of salmon kibbles for cats and rolls one around in his fingers. "Cat food actually requires more processing than dog food because it makes it easier to digest. We also add high-quality fats to the surface of cat kibbles to aid palatability. They say that you can't fool a cat as they will detect bad fats. We source our chicken fat from the UK."
Helm says that pet-food trends follow human food trends by about a year. He says that "no carb" pet food is currently the "big thing" largely because pet obesity – it is now estimated that between a quarter and half of the cats and dogs in the UK are obese – has become such a big talking point for the industry. Hypo-allergenic ranges are also popular, with many pet owners reporting that their pets are displaying signs of intolerance to the wheat found in many pet foods. It is one of the reasons why many owners are scaling up to the premium ranges offered by the likes of Lily's Kitchen.
When viewing the sheer scale of the pet-food industry from on high, it can be tempting to agree with Vale's conclusion that we must urgently consider the associated environmental impacts of owning a pet. But the industry, as you might expect, puts up a spirited defence, arguing instead that the pet-food industry is actually a highly efficient processor of what would otherwise largely be waste material from the human food chain.
"Far from being unsustainable, pet-food manufacturing uses material from animals which are inspected by vets as fit for human consumption but which are surplus to the requirements of the human food industry," says Michael Bellingham, the chief executive of the Pet Food Manufacturers' Association. "These byproducts must meet the very high safety and quality criteria laid down in European legislation. Without us adding value annually to around 630,000 tonnes of animal byproducts in the UK, it might otherwise have to be disposed of via landfill or incineration. Not very green. Furthermore, a recent report by the Waste and Resources Action Programme [more commonly known as Wrap] is rightly damning of the enormous amounts of food – around 30% – that goes to waste each year. Compare that with the 1% of pet food they found went to disposal."
Bellingham says that the "vast majority" of meat used in pet foods is byproduct from the human food chain, as opposed to "human-grade ingredients" or meat specifically reared for the purpose. The situation with fish, he says, is similar: "The vast majority of the fish ingredients used by industry are the surplus from fish filleting plants, or fishmeal produced from such surpluses. Some 'super premium' products may use human-grade ingredients but, for the very small amount of fish used and the tiny market share, this will have a negligible impact on fish stocks."
But Bellingham also argues that the benefits of pets need to be viewed more holistically, rather than just through the prism of their "carbon pawprint". "Our environment, far from being threatened by pets, is greatly enriched by the part they play in our lives," he says. "Pets in the home instil responsibility, encourage social as well as environmental awareness and have positive health benefits on children. Furthermore, children from households with pets are found to have stronger immune systems and take fewer days off school. People with pets make fewer visits to the doctor – 21% less for elderly people. What large polluting car improves your health and gets you out for a walk every day?"
Archaeology has shown that we have been living with companion animals for at least 12,000 years. For example, in what is now northern Israel, a dig at the remains of the Natufian settlement called Ain Mallaha revealed the grave of an elderly man who is tenderly cradling a puppy in his arms.
That we greatly benefit from the presence of pets isn't really disputed. But in order to reduce their impact on the environment, should there possibly be a limit to the number of pets we have? Because, of course, it's not just the food they eat that's the problem. Some conservationists, for example, have long been saying that the population of domesticated cats is having a detrimental impact on native fauna. As obligate carnivores, cats are, by instinct, opportunistic predators. A 2005 study in Bristol, for example, showed that 131 cats returned home 358 animals – birds, small mammals and amphibians – over the course of a year. It didn't record the prey the cats failed to return home.
Professor Stephen Harris, based at the school of biological sciences at the University of Bristol, was one of the study's authors and he believes that the impact of some pets on local ecology needs to be debated much more widely.
"Compulsory neutering of cats is not really practical," he says. "But people really should weigh up the environmental cost of owning a pet. We each need to ask ourselves if we really need a pet? In the US, animal welfare groups strongly recommend that cats are kept indoors. And in Australia, some states are now discussing making it compulsory to neuter cats, as well as introducing 'feline-free' zones where, if found, cats can be trapped and humanely destroyed by the local authority. But here the British attitude to cats is that they should be left to roam as this is natural." (In an earlier study that Harris co-authored, it was calculated that the UK's 7.7 million cats kill around 188 million wild animals a year.)
But Harris says dogs aren't exactly guilt-free, given that an estimated 250,000 tonnes of dog faeces are deposited on our streets and in our parks each year: "It is calculated that 100 tonnes of dog shit is left on Richmond Park in London each year alone. This has a huge impact on the local ecology. If you see aerial photographs of the area, you can see how yellow the grass is around the car park where all the dogs rush out of the owners' cars to urinate. Pets such as dogs and cats can have lots of these little impacts, which really do add up. Ecologically, pets are very demanding and this is a lifestyle choice that is difficult to justify for most people." (In their book, the Vales make the observation that, in San Francisco, city officials say that dog faeces now account for 4% of the municipal waste sent to landfill each year – the same level as used nappies.)
Marina Pacheco, chief executive of the Mammal Society – who owns a cat herself – says education, rather than legislation, is the answer: "We are aware of the huge impact cats have on small mammals. Yes, we probably have too many cats in the UK, but it's too hard to work out the optimum carrying capacity. We have to be pragmatic about the fact that millions of people do own cats. There are things cat owners can do, though. Keeping cats in during dusk and dawn, which is their natural hunting time, is a good idea, as are collar bells. Not owning too many cats is also sensible. One or two is enough and get them neutered, too. It must become socially unacceptable to be an irresponsible pet owner."
Anyone who owns a pet will keenly testify how much joy and companionship they can bring. But they will also acknowledge just how much time, effort and money they can require, too: a tortoise needs its heat and lighting; a horse needs shoeing and a regular supply of straw; an iguana needs its supply of insects; a chicken needs grit and corn; a dog needs its delousing powder; a cat needs a scratch tower. And then there's the insurance, the vet's fees and the annual cost of food and bedding. It's little wonder that some pets are described as being as big a commitment as having a child in the home. So it shouldn't really come as a surprise that some are now viewing pets as having a similar environmental impact to that of a small person. After all, in many owners' eyes, their pets are very much part of the family.
Back at PetIndex, Morrison is handing out samples of her luxury pet food to passersby. "No, we don't use any animal meal in our pet foods," she says proudly to one interested woman. "It's the devil's work. They strip everything that's good off a chicken, even the fat, then they grind it into a powder for pet food. People are fixated on price – most pet food is cheaper than a tin of baked beans. But more and more people are coming round to the view, just as they are doing with their own diet, that quality counts. We've only been going since last November and we've already turned over half a million pounds. We have to start asking more questions about the food we feed our pets."
For altogether different reasons, Morrison is right.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Got a doggie Jedward?

If you have a dog who can sing, then please get in touch with these guys!
They are hoping to assemble a canine choir. This is I feel ambitious. In the past we've staged the Paw-O-Vision Song Contest and we found that some doggies could be quite diva-esque - they wanted to sing solo or not at all. (Very often the dogs chose not at all, it's very different putting your head back and singing in the comfort of your own front room - but in front of legions of fans and press...)
And when we did Pup Idol at the Wag and Bone and later Dog Brain of Britain at the Cold West Nose singing dogs were a touch thin on the ground. Although if that Shih Tzu who did a strip while singing to the Full Monty theme tune is reading this blog - please do apply!

Sky1 Canine Choir seeks Singing Dogs.

Brand new animal entertainment show ‘Pet Nation’ is looking to audition your Pavarotti pooches, canine crooners and musical mutts for a brand new dog choir!

Hosted by Liza Tarbuck and Huey Morgan, ‘Pet Nation’ will be a celebration of our nation’s love affair with our pets.
The canine choir will be a spectacular ending to our series. So if your beloved can belt out a tune please get in touch today.

Send a short video clip to under the subject ‘Canine Choir’. Please include contact information along with details of your dog’s repertoire. We will be holding auditions in January and February 2010.

We look forward to meeting you then!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Littery review

Was tipped off about this TV programme...This Thursday, BBC2 9.45 Wonderland.

Here's some info from the BBC site:

Seven puppies are born to a first-time mother called Uggs in a cramped front room in East London. These aren't just cute and cuddly puppies - they are Staffordshire Bull Terrier crosses, the dogs the tabloids sometimes call 'devil dogs'. They are both one of the most sought-after breeds in the country, and perversely the most frequently abandoned. One in three of Battersea Dogs Home's total intake is a Staffie cross.

This film follows the fate of Uggs' puppies as her owner tries to find new homes for them at 300 pounds a pup. It isn't long before boon turns to burden, however, as Uggs' owner realises the puppies are costing her more in food and care than she can ever make from the sales.

Introducing Uggs' owner and the new Staffie pup owners, this film uncovers the lives of the people from a marginalised section of society, who may mistrust other humans, but have a genuine love of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

What breeds make up this dog?

This is Varley and her owner says she is one part Rod Stewart. But can you guess the two pedigree breeds that make up her real parentage!
First correct answer wins a dog book of their choice from the Interpet range.
One parent easy to see, angle of the photo may be making the second breed trickier to call!
Clues coming later today if no one gets it. Send you answers to
This will be won today!

One parent is reputed to have free access to all royal parks and palaces.
The other parent could have a pet name of Weiner or Frank...!

It's all over - Varley's a Cavalier x Standard Longhaired Dachshund - congrats to the winner, well done everyone for good guesses!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Curiouser and curiouser

In today's Times....

Patrick Foster, Valerie Elliott and Dan Sabbagh

An investigation into a BBC documentary that exposed the poor health of pedigree dogs descended into farce yesterday after the broadcaster forced Ofcom to postpone publication of its report.

The watchdog had been ready yesterday to uphold three complaints against Pedigree Dogs Exposed, ruling that the programme had treated the Kennel Club and two dog breeders unfairly.

However, the BBC’s lawyers persuaded the regulator to cancel publication of the ruling hours before it was to have been made public because they claimed that the corporation had been misled about the nature of the inquiry. They said that the watchdog had wrongly refused to consider large parts of its evidence.

The row had sparked so much controversy that the BBC dropped its coverage of Crufts.
Related Links

* Critic of pedigree dog breeding quits club

* BBC ready to dock Crufts coverage

The Kennel Club said yesterday that it had lost confidence in the watchdog. Ronnie Irving, chairman of the Kennel Club, said that he was bewildered and aggrieved that the BBC had intervened. He added: “We have to admit a loss of confidence in the Ofcom complaints process.”

The Times understands that Ofcom upheld 3 out of 19 complaints against the programme, produced by Passionate Productions and broadcast in August last year, but has not quashed its central allegation that breeding techniques have led to puppies being born with disease and deformities.

The regulator is understood to have concluded that the programme was unfair to the Kennel Club when it likened the body’s stance on pedigree breeding to the eugenics movement and the Nazis. It also upheld complaints made by breeders of Rhodesian ridgebacks and cavalier King Charles spaniels that they, too, had not been treated fairly.

Relationships between the Kennel Club, the BBC and Ofcom disintegrated after a bitter briefing war. When Ofcom notified all parties of its provisional findings this summer, a leak appeared on the Dog World magazine website suggesting vindication for the Kennel Club. This was deleted after the watchdog complained that its confidentiality rules had been breached.

The BBC is understood to believe that Ofcom asked “misleading” questions when it began its investigation, and sources said that the corporation became aware of the path the watchdog was following only when it released provisional findings. The BBC submitted new evidence but claims that Ofcom refused to consider it.

The ruling is understood to require the BBC to broadcast a summary of Ofcom’s findings, which the corporation is desperate to avoid.

Sources also claimed that Kath Worrall, chairwoman of Ofcom’s Fairness Committee, which heard the complaints, had links to the dog-breeding world after acting as a show judge. Mrs Worrall said she had not sat as a judge since 1976.

The allegations of links between Nazism and the Kennel Club resurfaced yesterday after it emerged that Chris Kisko, the husband of Caroline Kisko, the secretary of the organisation, is on the list of alleged British National Party members published on the internet last month. Mr Kisko refused to comment, but Mr Irving said: “Mrs Kisko is not and has never been a member of the BNP.”