Monday, 6 October 2014

Paws for reflection before jerking the knee

In France a couple of years ago a baby was tragically killed by a German Shepherd. The adult in charge was arrested for not properly supervising and the dog was taken away for assessment. How revolutionary.
During the Napoleonic Wars there was a fear of a French invasion of Britain and much public concern about the possibility of French infiltrators and spies.
In the wreckage of a French boat the fishermen of Hartlepool found a ship’s pet monkey - dressed to amuse in a military style uniform.
Unfamiliar with what the French looked like, they thought this monkey was a French spy - so they hung it.
We appear not to have progressed much since this time.
When there is a human tragedy involving a dog we routinely kill the dogs first and ask questions afterwards.
Vet and expert witness on fatal dog bites Kendal Shepherd would really like us to stop doing this.
With every tragedy we still seem to learn nothing.
Emotions take over and fill the fact void.
And there follows a witch hunt against this particular type of dog - or just dogs generally if it is a breed for which the picture desk hasn’t got a ‘good’ snarling photo.
Virtually no one seems to ever speak the uncomfortable truth that it is responsible adults that should be keeping babies safe around dogs.
That these deaths are rare, but not so unheard of for people not to know it is a possibility.
It has been reported by all news outlets that the Police said they ‘could not yet confirm the breed of dog. Experts will carry out tests early next week to determine what kind it was.’
Vet Kendal Shepherd pasted this comment on my Facebook wall almost immediately, “Sickening yet again. As for 'vets trying to identify the breed of dog''s the behaviour of the dog that matters and as far as I know, this cannot be determined post-mortem. But will we ever be told what really happened? One over-whelming factor in baby/child deaths is present already = baby being cared for by a relative. But was the baby in her own home? Whose dog was it? Was the dog familiar with the child? Was the relative the primary carer of the dog? How obedient was the dog? How was it trained? Was it trained at all? How often exercised? And ultimately, how did the dog gain access to the baby? The questions go on and on. But until the questions are answered and the answers, however unpalatable, make as big headlines as the news of the baby death in the first place, we will be no further forward.”
Finding out the breed of the dog is almost as irrelevant as asking what everyone’s horoscope sign is or if they had eaten cheese recently.
If it is discovered that the dog was of the Pit Bull type, what will that prove?
I believe it shows that the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 was a complete failure on every level.
The Government singled out one type of dog particularly and pretty much tried to ban it to ‘protect the public’.
The Act was meant to ensure that all Pit Bulls would die out in a generation as all were to be neutered or killed. Yet we have very many more than we ever had in 1991.
Why? Because no matter what the Government said, the public still wanted to own these dogs.
If the Government couldn’t achieve even this simple measurable effect with the DDA – what use was it? How did it protect this innocent child?
And what use further legislation if the people we seek to protect are choosing (with eyes wide open to media vilification of these dogs) to live alongside them in their homes and even breed more of them?
We wouldn’t tolerate human legislation that relied purely on looks or race?
Yet every talking head, on every media outlet, is now baying for even more knee jerk legislation to further restrict these devilish dogs from tricking us into thinking that they are really children’s nannies.
In my opinion, the only way to make babies safer is for us to be a bit more French and stop hanging monkeys.
Accept the uncomfortable fact that it was probably Disney that tricked us into thinking that all dogs are pre-programmed to be child-friendly. We need a wake up call that it is responsible adults that have a duty of care to keep everyone safe in our homes – not ineffective government legislation.
And it is every dog owner that needs to be aware of what needs doing to keep babies and children safe around their dogs. Not just mums and dads.
And that is owners of all dogs.
Big, small, fluffy, ugly or cute.
There are brilliant resources that can help you make your dog and your home more child safe and coping strategies to adopt before a baby is born that changes your routines to ones that are logical even when you are tired and stressed.
How about we give this important life-saving information to GPs and antenatal classes? Teach it in school so the next generation know.
Wouldn’t that save a lot more lives than even more ineffective legislation that no one can apply and our unhealthy media obsession with canine racism?
Great advice here: and
We could always just keep hanging monkeys of course, if it makes us sleep more soundly – or muzzle them and license them.
Yes, that's obviously the answer - a national monkey license!

Friday, 3 October 2014

Filming Dog Tech for Sky News Swipe

Our review of doggie tech got picked up by Sky News show #Swipe... here's what the presenter said about her day out filming the show!

Gemma Morris presents Swipe for Sky News.

There are so many things that can go wrong when you're out filming. There's bad weather, logistical mishaps, non-compliant guests, forgetting important scripts or props, breaking things....the list goes on. So what an absolute pleasure it was to turn up in leafy Chobham for a packed morning of filming for our Sky News technology show Swipe, and have everything fall into place wonderfully.

One of our producers, Angela Barnes (seen above with Oscar!), had come up with the great idea of delving into the world of 'pet tech' for an episode of Swipe, and as I began my research for the programme, it suddenly dawned on me what a huge and constantly growing area this was. As Beverley put it so perfectly- while I interviewed her in her gorgeously spacious garden- the pet tech market is "going ballistic" right now.

There are all kinds of PAWsome tech out there including games consoles for cats and dogs, wearable trackers, harness cameras, and apps that enable you to health screen your pet's urine using an app on your iPhone!

Angela, cameraman Pete and I had a great time filming Beverley's pooches Tess, Betty and Oscar. Tess did a particularly sterling job of demonstrating a GoPro Fetch (and it's durability with a leap in the pond!), a device that lets you record video from a camera attached your dog.

The sun was shining, we didn't break anything (I hope that's right Beverley?!) and all of our guests - furry or not - were a treat to talk to. Beverley's interview turned out to be my favourite part of the show.

I've never been lucky enough to own a dog, but after this episode -  I want one! And some tech to play with too!

Thanks again Beverley.

Swipe airs on Fridays at 9.45pm and Sundays at 8.45pm on the Sky News channel. It can also be seen on Catch Up TV,, the Sky News for iPad & smartphone apps, YouTubeand Apple TV.