Saturday, 30 June 2012

War won - we now need a fair settlement

As you know we campaigned very, very hard to make lifetime insurance cover mean just that. Elsewhere other consumer champions are today claiming it as a famous victory that Lloyds and Halifax are writing to 4,500 of their ex customers to reinstate their pet insurance.
My feedback from the members of the Pet Alliance Watchdogs (PAWs) is that this has been just far too long coming, that the bank's communications with their customers has been atrocious and that most of them wouldn't trust them with a very long barge pole after how they have behaved.
As well as bringing their insurance back some people - not all - have been offered a pathetic £200 compensation. An insult.
It's just no where near enough for the stress these poor folk have been put through.
Plenty of people are still very keen to take the banks to court to get real compensation and the announcement yesterday of reinstatement seems to tell me that the banks legal folk know they have left themselves wide open and they're obviously very keen to get as many of the 4,5000 signed up to new insurance as possible so that this all goes away. That if goes to the Ombudsman they'll get a very bloody nose. And if does get to court ... yike! If it's miselling it could be as expensive as the PPI issue.
Quite rightly the many of the members of PAWs ask - 'what's to stop them hiking the premiums next year when the media has lost interest in the story?'. There's more than one way to get out of giving lifetime cover and sadly there's no insurer yet been brought to account for excessive price rises to ditch poorly pets that are unprofitable.
Yes, there's been a u turn.
And they've agreed to pay some people's vets fees that happened while there was the limbo period where their customers had no insurance. And some folk have got their premiums back for any insurance cover they did manage to arrange for anything other than pre-existing conditions.
Yes, many consumer experts told us it was impossible to embarrass the banks into better behaviour so it wasn't worth us trying. Seems they were wrong.
So yes, a small celebration that the banks have admitted they were very wrong to cease people's lifetime insurance cover - but now we need them to give sensible compensation for people like Oscar's owner who had to have their dog put to sleep because they couldn't afford the chemo thanks to their insurer leaving them in the lurch.
The offer they received to reinstate their dead dog's  insurance rubbed salt into their wounds.
If you are one of the clients affected and you'd like to join in the 'no win no fee' group action to get proper compensation from these badly behaved banks, please do email me.
Remember it's important we send a clear lesson to any other insurers that might think of leaving their customers in the lurch.
We can now smell victory, they've conceded guilt - now let's make certain people get proper compensation.
Yesterday I asked the head of media relations...

A few more questions, will vet bills paid out in the gap between old and new cover be covered? What if a pet developed a new condition in that insurance gap – will that be covered by the new insurance?

Will there also be compensation paid for the considerable upset? If so how much. We have heard £200 has been offered. Is this the figure? Some owners dogs were put to sleep before the rethink, Oscar was featured in our magazine last month for example – see attached. Some people have paid premiums for insurance that didn't include the pre-existing conditions – will those fees be refunded.

Will you now start talking to the Pet Alliance Watchdog about settling their group complaint?

Best wishes
 And I got this reply ....
If customers have questions or concerns regarding their cover, bills, conditions or any other issue they can contact us on the number provided on the letters we have sent out.

Thank you for reiterating your offer for a meeting, however we will continue to deal with all customers on an individual basis.


Divide and rule obviously works well in a battle - but they're never fought pet owners before!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Could you adopt our Adopt Me section?

We've only just heard our usual Adopt Me sponsor can't go ahead this month which is such a shame. Do you know a company that may want to step in for just this edition or for longer?
As you know, Dogs Today always leads the way with groundbreaking ideas that hopefully make pet lovers feel empowered – that together we can and do make a difference.
There had been so much doom and gloom about how rescues were rammed full and struggling to cope. We really wanted to do something to help them.
In our December edition we made the very bold decision to include lots of dogs looking for new homes, free of charge, in an exciting new format.
Our Adopt Me section was born and since then more than 450 wonderful dogs have been featured – from the biggest to the smallest rescue organisations in the land.
Each dog was given a photo and 200 words to say in their own words why they deserved a new home.
Would people like it?
They loved it - and it’s become a significant part of our magazine.
Even readers as far away as New York contemplated each and every dog and wanted to know what happened to them.
Dogs in rescue stopped being just statistics and started to have a recognisable name and face.
It was a win, win situation all round.
We don’t say this lightly, but this is probably the best thing we’ve ever done in 22 years of publishing.
Do you have a business and would you like to work with us on this exciting project which appears in 11 early pages in the magazine every month?
This is a huge section of our magazine and it’s one of the first things people turn to each month and our feedback is that every dog's story is read.
We would love an enthusiastic company to work with as our new section sponsor – a company who sees the potential in this initiative and helps us take it to the next level.
Could it be you or a company you work for?
Would you like to engage with people who are thinking intelligently about how to get their next dog? Would you also like to reach people who are just window shopping and day dreaming - but might read your advert if you make it interesting?
Would you like the warmth of the association of being part of something that really does actively help give these wonderful dogs the chance of a new home?
Might you like to feature some of the dogs on your website too each month to show your customers what you are doing? If appropriate, maybe you could set up a page on your website where people can buy presents for these dogs - even if they can’t rehome them?
Or could you just use you eight early right advertising positions to tell our wonderful readers about what you do?
If you are seriously interested in becoming our new Adopt Me sponsor please get in touch - 01276 858880. 
If you have dog you'd like featured click here for what you need to do.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

The clock is ticking for Lennox

The last few days have been a bit of a blur. I've never re-written an article so many times!  My second draft ran yesterday in the Guardian. I'm on the fifth version for next month's magazine.
Click here to read the Guardian version in full
The article is very short and to the point and looking back quite naive as the story has moved on so many times. Every time the phone goes or an email arrives another dimension or puzzle presents.
If you read the comments left - when I wrote this blog it was 600 plus - you will either get a headache or a heart attack.
My perception was that Guardian readers are usually lovely, sensitive folk. Intelligent, evolved, caring often vegetarian and anti-establishment. Perhaps their online client base is different to the lovely folk I used to see queueing for the fantastic Franco's Pizzas in Brixton every Saturday clutching their beloved Weekend Guardians.
Maybe people become much more extreme when they hide behind a user name, but I've never seen such a collective of dog haters in my life.
As the postings started to slow we had only a handful of users who wouldn't or couldn't stop coming back for another bite.
Oddly, I could more understand the people who were consistently anti-dog. But there was one poster however who seemed remarkably obsessed with all the details of the case and determined to highlight and list every negative she could find.
Believe me in the last two or three days I must have heard and seen every conspiracy theory there is with relation to Lennox and believe me it makes Watergate seem lightweight when it comes to complexity. But nothing has changed my support for Lennox getting one last chance to prove he is safe.
I know Pit Bulls are meant to have a reputation for fighting, but it's definitely humans who seem to have an addiction to conflict. I asked one of the main attackers of Lennox's owners why she wanted the dog dead and she claimed she didn't. But the hours she had spent cataloging their every real or imagined misdemeanour was quite chilling.
It was if she couldn't see that by attacking the case for saving Lennox she was putting the case for killing him.
I have come to the conclusion that this is a very complex story but when you cut through all the areas of dispute you come down to some pretty simple facts that have very little to do with Lennox's owners and lots to do with flawed breed specific legislation.
Lennox was taken away because of a tape measure - not because of his behaviour. If there hadn't been Breed Specific Legislation he'd never have been locked up for two years. If he'd been a cute shaggy dog he'd be still at home and not on death row. If a fluffy dog's licence had lapsed there'd probably have been a fine, not imprisonment.
Is Lennox dangerous? If so, was he like that before he ended up on death row?
No one had ever complained about him.
Expert witness Sarah Fisher didn't see a dangerous dog - read her statement on Victoria Stilwell's blog. Dr David Ryan's testimony was mainly positive, although he had some reservations as to where the dog should live in the future - and remember he was seeing Lennox without pain or stress relieving drugs.
One assessment - the prosecution witness - thought Lennox "was about to go off" whatever that means.
I'm sure normally the courts don't allow for speculation, just observation.
All three witnesses agreed that Lennox definitely didn't bite them.
But he's still been locked up for two years and allegedly even taunted with sticks to see if he's aggressive.
The judge chose to listen to the negatives and ignore the positives. And from my snapshot of the Guardian general public, if any of those guys leaving the nasty comments were wearing the wig they'd kill every big, strong dog 'just in case'.
The days are running out for a pardon or a point of law and the eyes of the world are watching with astonishment and intrigue.
Genuine offers are coming in from all over the world to take Lennox and give him a home away from this dreadful legislation. But unless the judge says he's not a danger, he dies.
As you've read in the Guardian, Jim Crosby wants to help establish whether Lennox really is a danger. Here's his excellent letter... no reply so far... why wouldn't they take him up on this offer? There really is nothing to lose.

Secretary of State, Northern Ireland
Rt. Hon. Owen Paterson, MP
Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK

20 June, 2012

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I am writing to offer expert assistance in the case of the dog Lennox, currently at the center of controversy in Belfast.  I may also be able to suggested a mediated remedy that would allow the Belfast City Council and the Government of Northern Ireland to extricate themselves without loss of public respect, yet with compassion for the individuals.

Please let me first introduce myself.  My name is James Crosby.  I am a retired Police Lieutenant, a former Animal Control Division Manager, a Certified Canine Behavior Consultant, and an internationally recognized expert on fatal dog attacks and dog aggression.  I have consulted on fatalities and dangerous dog issues across the US, Canada, and even in India.  I have trained Animal Control Officers and Law Enforcement agencies in the proper investigation of dog related fatalities.  I have also, as a trainer, behavior consultant, Animal Control Director and investigator built extensive experience with the complex of breeds currently referred to as "Pit Bulls', those animals regulated under your Dangerous Dog Act.  I have personally investigated 15 dog related fatalities against humans, and have conducted hands-on evaluations of thirty (30) dogs that have killed humans after said attacks.

I will not criticize the efforts to date in this case, nor the experts brought in.  I will, however, suggest that an evaluation by an completely unrelated, expert party with such experience as I have beyond the experts previously available to the BCC could provide the BCC and the Office of the Secretary with the opportunity to be seen as reaching for an independent opinion, and a possible solution that would both protect the citizens of Northern Ireland and allow the dog Lennox to live out his life in peace.

I am not suggesting that Lennox be allowed to go home to the Barnes family: as both a Police Officer and an Animal Control Director I am a pragmatist and see that option is  unworkable on two fronts.  First, the Barnes family would be potentially subject to retribution or intimidation by strongly opinionated private parties, creating strain on them and the local Constabulary.  There would be a potential for overt action against the dog.  More importantly, the local Dog Wardens would be in a completely untenable position: were Lennox to act in a dangerous manner they would be accused of being unfair and biased, yet if unfounded accusations were filed against Lennox they would be accused of failing to protect the public safety.

My suggestion is to allow me access to evaluate Lennox and then provide an opinion.  If, and that is not a foregone conclusion, I find that Lennox is not dangerous to the public safety, I understand that there may be options:  first, that the BCC could retract their complaint, with conditions, to allow Lennox to be removed.  Alternately, you might be able, as Secretary, to make an exceptional declaration that the dog could be allowed to leave Northern Ireland and the UK forever, to be placed permanently with an established and reputable sanctuary.  Either alternate would remove Lennox from your jurisdiction.  I would even take personal responsibility to escort Lennox from Northern Ireland to his place of sanctuary to insure that no one is exposed to any possible action by this dog.  On the other hand, if Lennox is indeed found to be clearly dangerous and a public risk, I will say so clearly and elucidate that opinion with solid, behavioral observations.  The BCC and your Office could then be seen to have sought independent opinion, reconsidered the previous position, protected the public from a safety risk, and yet been compassionate to this particular case.  Lennox would then be destroyed, having had the greatest effort extended to be as fair and balanced as possible.

This would cost nothing to the BCC, Belfast, or Northern Ireland.  Additionally, I have nothing to promote at the expense of the reputation of Northern Ireland or Belfast.  There are sponsors that are willing to absorb my travel costs and lodging and the cost to transport Lennox.  I would be acting pro-bono in this case.  I believe that such a solution would help soften the current situation.  The world-wide attention that this case has received, including this morning's piece in The Guardian, has grown far beyond rationality.  Resolving this without criticism of past action would improve the public profile of the City of Belfast, and place you as Secretary in the position of having achieved a reasonable solution to this difficulty.

I am attaching a curriculum vitae to establish my credentials.  I am also providing a link to a recent article in the US that explains a bit of what I have done and what I do, along with the current Guardian piece.

Thank you for your time and for your consideration in this matter.

James W. Crosby
Canine Behavior Consultant
Jacksonville, FL, USA
If you want to add your name to the petition to save Lennox here is the Link

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

We need Sherlock Bones...

This year we seem to be hearing more and more reports of dogs being poisoned.
We've all heard the rumours but it's rare to hear directly from those effected.

Today I got a very sad email...

"Two little Beagles, six years old and eight years old, died on Sunday afternoon from suspected poisoning. They had been on a walk on Doverow Hill in Stroud as part of a gang (two Bassets, one Beagle cross, one Husky and two GSD).
It is suspected that the two Beagles have eaten something on the hill although this was not known at the time. Sunday morning they became very ill and were rushed to a local vets where one passed away mid afternoon and the other one was put to sleep as it was inevitable she wasn't going to survive.
"I understand the local police have been informed.
"The reason I am contacting you is to see whether you could contact the owners (my daughter and her partner) as cases like this remain unexplained and we would like to raise awareness and hope some good may come of this. We will possibly never get the answers and it will never bring the little girls back but will now do all we can to try to get some clues."

We've had several other reports of dogs dying after walking in parks or on beaches.
So what is going on? Is this happening more or just being reported more?
Are there more anti-dog mad folk around than there used to be? Sick folk deliberately leaving poisoned food out?
If by reporting on poisonings have the press inadvertently encouraged other nutters to copy this cowardly and cruel behaviour? 
Or could there be a slightly less evil reason for these cases?
Could we be seeing pest control being used irresponsibly?
Could people trying to kill off rats, foxes and even diseased badgers but be leaving the bait around that our dogs are eating, too?
Or could the bait be eaten by small animals and excreted?
Could new poisons be being used or pesticides? New more toxic and attractive substances?
Does anyone else have any theories?
Do you know of any confirmed poisonings and any firm information?
Have any of these dogs had autopsies?
Do we know what type of poison has being used?
Those poor Beagles. What a tragedy.
Let's pool information and if this is a pattern to this, let's try to uncover it.
Any information on poisonings please email me

I've had another email this time from Ben, one of the dogs' owner. Here's a photo of poor Trio (left) and Widget (right) who both died on Sunday.

"Thank you so much for your support.
"There is no hard evidence as yet, however the most likely explanation given the strength of the toxin and the method used to deliver it is that someone has been trying to poison badgers.
"According to the local RSPCA inspector, a farm-grade slug pellet (which have no taste inhibitor) used in a high concentration with bait such as nuts & peanuts (which the girls were later vomiting) is a common means to illegally kill badgers and other animals.
"We were able to secure a sample of Trio's vomit, so hopefully tests can be carried out to identify the poison.
 "There are not words to describe how we feel at the moment, but the thought that we can help to stop other people from suffering gives us some comfort
"We were in Stroud in Gloucestershire. We are lucky to still have 6 beautiful dogs. If the girls weren't such greedy pigs then so many more could have died.
"The amount of support people have given us is humbling, and shows how we really are a nation of dog lovers, despite the few who carry out acts like this.
Here is a link to the newspaper article:
 I will start to collate a list of other reported poisoning cases, if you know of any reports can you email me them? I am grateful to Lizzy Raymer for this first link:

Poisoning in Crowthorne, Berkshire


Sunday, 3 June 2012

I just received this email about Maverick, a Rottie with cancer given just 4-6 weeks to live back in April 2010. His owner decided to give some alternative treatments a try including the late Mr John Carter's gentle CV247.
Maverick didn't just survive for 4-6 weeks, or even eight weeks. He had eight more glorious months and fabulous walks. His owner Kathryn gives the final installment to his story. There is a link to the first two parts and the CV247 blog at the end of this article.

Maverick (aka Mr Custard) stayed with us until November 2010 (8 months from diagnosis). Our worst fears were realised when he yelped after he jumped into the back of the car for his beloved walks. 

This nine stone dog was unbelievably nimble on his feet and for some time we had been lifting him down from the car to prevent him from jarring his joints which he seemed happy to accept but he was not so keen on our assistance in helping into the car.  Apart from that one yelp Maverick made no other noise although the limp seemed more pronounced than ever.  We both knew there was a strong possibility that the bone was now broken and made an appointment to get to the vets at Oswestry as soon as we could - this was over an hour away.  We still had our other dog in the car who had not been toileted so we drove down to our usual walk en route so she could have a wee before the journey.  Unbelievably Maverick started to cry to be let out of the car as he thought he was missing out on his walk!  We gently lifted him down & he started pulling to get on the walk - we let him have a sniff and a mooch and got on our way.  On our arrival Barbara also felt that the bone would be so weakened that it could be broken however she x-rayed first and this confirmed it was the case - we knew nothing more could be done.  The x-rays of his shoulder looked like a mass of 'snow flakes', there was no solid bone left and a break just through walking alone would have been imminent.  We spent his least half hour talking to him and brushing him (his favourite indoor experience) knowing we had done everything possible for him and this decision was the right one made at the right time - no regrets.  I'm sure people will understand and relate to the dreadful emotions you experience when you've lost a dog and wonder if you did the right thing and whether you should have done more/asked more/pushed more.  Maverick's passing was awful however it was made more bearable because this time we knew we couldn't have done any more.

His journey through cancer involved a steep learning curve for us and I am so glad that I stood my ground at the vets & asked for a referral to Barbara at Oakwood vets.  Her support was unwavering.  For anyone contemplating this journey my biggest piece of advice is that it is never too early to start this treatment.  Back in April 2010 we were told his limp was due to arthritis (very possible in a 9yr old Rottie), however having already lost a previous dog to 'arthritis' that turned out to be cancer, I asked for a second opinion. This confirmed it was actually cancer and we made an appointment with Barbara.  We were fortunate in that we were already feeding a 'loose' version of the bones & raw food diet which forms part of the CV247 whole treatment.  Maverick was taking steroids fro

m our usual vets and Barbara supplemented this with K9 immunitas tablets and echinacea alongside the CV247 - we also followed the dietary advice from John Carter which consisted of organic rice or pasta, raw fruit and vegetables and raw chicken liver - the steroids made Maverick ravenous which meant he ate the food, I think we may have had trouble otherwise!!  I also gave him raw apricot kernels.

So, he started his treatment in April and by June/July he was still going downhill, he seemed to plateau for a while and then slip further down, although he still wanted to walk twice a day, the distance he could manage became less and less.  At this point we felt that another decline in his health would be the last.  We still persevered and for this I am glad, for during July we noticed he seemed brighter and this became more and more noticeable, his coat started to shine and became glossy, his zest for life increased and his lethargy disappeared. The length of his walks increased & he seemed in far less pain. Time and again people we met whilst walking could not believe that he was 10 and had cancer. From a personal perspective I felt that if we had left treatment until his symptoms worsened then it would have been too late as it seemed to take several months

for the effects of the treatment to take hold and it was very scary time watching him slowly decline.

Maverick was given between 4-6 weeks to live in April 2010 by our conventional vets who painted a very bleak picture, we were berated for choosing an 'unconventional' path of treatment.  

I do not have a medical background and am just an average person who will listen and be guided by a professionals advice however I also know my own dog and wants what's best for my them so they can live a happy healthy life for as long as possible.  

It's difficult to describe in words the journey made by Maverick and ourselves.  You printed a picture of Maverick with a cone on his head a while back in the caption competition, there was some video footage taken at that time and I suppose this is the best way to capture him & show everyone that no matter what the outlook appears to be - there is always hope.  The link takes you to a very short clip of Maverick playing with his beloved cone on the beach in late September 2010 (6 months from his diagnosis of osteosarcoma), would you guess he had cancer - I think not!  

With kind regards

Mr Custard's earlier blogs: