With so much talk about dogs and the law recently, and everyone having an opinion on if or how the Dangerous Dogs Act should be amended, we thought it would make a change to have a look at how the law relates to our feline friends.
The Animal Welfare Act of 2006 applies to both domestic and feral cats and, as well as addressing cruelty offences, it also places an obligation on anyone responsible for a cat or cats to ensure that their needs are properly met: Cats and the law.
The penalties for committing an offence of cruelty, or for failing to provide for any animal’s welfare needs, currently include a ban from owning animals, a fine of up to £20,000 and, in some cases, a six month prison sentence. However, many people consider these penalties to be nowhere near severe enough. If you agree, you may like to check out Alfie’s Law Foundation to find out more about the campaign to do something about this.
Because a cat is regarded as property, cat theft is treated as an offence in the same way as the theft of any other personal belongings. This also means that, if you find a stray cat, you have a legal obligation to do everything possible to find the cat’s original owner before considering adopting it yourself.
While it is commonly accepted that cats have the right to wander around freely, owners do have a general duty at law to ensure their pets don’t cause injury or damage to people and property. However, it has to be said that legal cases regarding such issues are rare. It is, however, an offence to injure or kill a cat belonging to someone else with out a ‘lawful excuse’. So, if your cat is annoying your neighbour by digging in her garden, for example, while there is nothing she can legally do about it, in the interests of neighbourly harmony it’s a good idea to make it clear you do not object to her chasing your cat away and, of course, ensuring that your cat has a litter tray at home to discourage him from going outside.
Although in many homes dogs and cats live together quite happily, the expression ‘fighting like cats and dogs’, is a well-known and much used one in our society. Currently, there are around 50 cats killed by dogs in England every year, plus who knows how many injured, and some would like to see dog owners prosecuted for such attacks.
Last week, the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee recommended that the Dangerous Dogs Act should be extended to cover dog attacks that injure protected animals, including cats: One step closer to a cat-friendly law
Those opposed to this recommendation, however, believe this is going too far because even the most well-behaved dog will chase a cat given the right circumstances. While dog owners should be encouraged to do everything they can to prevent such incidents, and also to help with veterinary costs should their dog injure a cat, is it really reasonable to make what is usually just an unfortunate accident into a criminal offence?
Why is it our immediate solution to every problem these days is just to ‘ban it’ rather than to try to solve it? This appears to be particularly true with regards to anything dog related. It seems like almost every day there’s an article in the news telling us that dogs have been banned from somewhere; beaches, town centres, parks, outside schools, the list is endless. If we are not every careful, one day we’ll find that there isn’t anywhere left where we can take our dogs, on or off the lead, at all.
In April this year the Kennel Club noted that the overall countrywide trend seemed to be to effectively “ghettoise” dogs, forcing them into increasingly congested, designated areas: Society is creating dog ghettos
To me, one of the saddest bans is when I see huge signs being put up forbidding us to take dogs anywhere near schools. When I was a kid, one of my greatest pleasures was Mum meeting me at the school gate with the family dog at the end of the day ready for a lovely, healthy romp home through the park. What does it say about our society if that has been replaced with Mum fetching the kids in the car while the family dog is left shut up at home?
Let’s ban the banning! Around schools, let’s ask parents to keep their dogs on leads at all times. Let’s teach children never to try and stroke a strange dog, and also how to do so properly if, and only if, the owner has said it is OK. In our city centres, parks and beaches, let’s bring back good manners and ask owners not to ever just let their dogs run up to other people or other dogs, even if they are sure their dog is just being friendly. Let’s provide plenty of bins and insist owners clean up. By all means, let’s provide play areas for kids where dogs are not allowed to run free, but let’s not just ban dogs from everywhere.
If we work together, surely we can find solutions to situations that create a desire for some people to call for dogs to be banned from everywhere before it is too late and dogs are just banned from all of our lives completely?
Although many of you will have already seen the Yellow Dog advert box we’ve been displaying for a while, I thought it would also be a good idea to write a bit about this rapidly growing concept and to ask all of you to help spread this brilliant idea far and wide.
Yellow Dog is an international campaign which began in June last year in Sweden and is designed to create awareness that ‘some dogs need more space’. Support is rapidly growing wordwide, with dedicated websites now available in many countries, including the UK: Yellow Dog UK
Like most great ideas, the Yellow Dog concept is simple – if you and your dog need some space, then place a yellow ribbon, strip or bandanna on your dog’s leash to let other people know.
There can be all sorts of reasons why some dogs don’t like being approached by strangers, especially other dogs. For example, they may be:
- unwell or recovering from surgery
- newly rescued or rehomed
- in training or rehabilitation
- naturally fearful and/or under-socialised
- in season
- old and perhaps in discomfort
The problem is that some people, especially those who don’t have dogs or who have ‘happy-go-lucky’ dogs who get on with everyone, don’t always stop to think about the stress they can cause by approaching too close to a dog who ‘just needs more space’. There is nothing more scary than a bouncy dog and/or a well-meaning, over-friendly person bearing down on you when you have a nervous dog ready to explode on the end of your leash! Unfortunately, if you’re scared, your dog will know it and that will just make him worse…
So, please remember – if you see a dog with a YELLOW ribbon, bandanna or similar on the leash or on the dog, this dog needs some space. Please, do not approach the dog or his people or allow your dog to get too close. How close is too close? Only the dog or his people know, so maintain your distance and give them time to move out of your way.
I read a wonderful comment on Facebook recently from an owner who is so thrilled at how much better her dog is out walking now that she is using a yellow ribbon and people and other dogs are giving them the space they need. It is clearly a win-win situation, because her new-found confidence is rubbing off on her dog who, in turn, is becoming much calmer and better-behaved and may, one day, no longer need that space.
Of course, the Yellow Dog concept can only work if people know what the yellow ribbon means and are willing to respect it, so the more people you tell, the better – not just other dog owners but everyone! Mums and Dads, tell your kids, teachers tell your pupils, everyone tell your friends and work mates. Let’s ensure that by the end of 2013, EVERYONE knows that if a dog is wearing a yellow ribbon, you and your dog need to stay back and give them the space they need! Thank you.
For the past few years there has been a growing new danger to dogs in the UK in the form of an illness dubbed Seasonal Canine Illness (SCI).
Cases of this mystery illness are generally seen between August and November and can affect dogs of any size and age after being walked in woodland. The most common signs are sickness, diarrhoea and lethargy, and dogs appear to become very ill, very quickly – usually between 24 and 72 hours. Possible suspects that could be causing the illness include blue-green algae, non-native plants, bracken or fern spores and fungi but, so far, this has not been confirmed.
SCI was first reported with regards to dogs walked on the royal estate at Sandringham as well as in Thetford Forest. Cases have also appeared in Rendlesham Forest in Suffolk and Clumber Park and Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire. So far as we are aware, SCI has not specifically been identified in Berkshire so far, but it is important that we be vigilant not only because this could change, but also because many of us take our dogs to walk in woodland in other parts of the country where SCI may already be a problem.
The Animal Health Trust has been investigating Seasonal Canine Illness since September 2010 and their website not only provides loads of valuable information, but you can also sign up for email alerts about this mystery illness: Animal Health Trust – Seasonal Canine Illness
Remember: if you walk your dog in any woodland between August and November and (s)he shows any signs of sickness/diarrhoea/lethargy within 72 hours, seek veterinary help immediately.
Last week a woman in Manchester was beaten and terrorised in her own home by two raiders who then fled with her two Bull Mastiff puppies: Bull Mastiff puppies taken in raid.
The British are renowned animal lovers. 1 in 2 of us owns a pet and it is said that the UK pet industry is worth in excess of £2bn.
Unfortunately though, among us are a minority of unscrupulous people that steal other people’s beloved pets for their own personal gain.
Dog thefts seem to be on the increase throughout the UK – and the Berkshire area is unfortunately no exception. Rare and valuable breeds are often stolen to order by ‘professional’ thieves wanting a ‘quick sale’ to feed a drug habit or just to make some money in what they deem to be a relatively low risk theft.
Some dogs are stolen for ransom; thieves steal a dog, keep hold of it and then when the owner offers a reward for its safe return, they call the owner pretending to have found the dog and claim the reward.
Other dogs are stolen for use in illegal dog fighting; either as a fighting dog or to be used as bait to train other dogs to fight.
We’ve even heard of pets being stolen for use in cult rituals; black cats and dogs are particularly susceptible around Halloween.
Dogs are particularly susceptible to theft, although cats are vulnerable too. Expensive and striking breeds such as Bengal’s and Burmese are often targeted.
Tips to help keep your pet safe:
1. Ensure your pet is micro-chipped.
2. To avoid being targeted when walking your dog, vary your walk and if anybody shows a particular interest in your dog while out walking, give them as little information as possible and report it to the Police as soon as possible.
3. Keep your dog in sight at all times when walking and avoid leaving him outside in your garden when you are not around. Ensure your garden has a high fence and a lockable gate.
4. Never tie your dog up outside a shop – even for a few minutes.
5. Never allow your dog to roam free.
6. Don’t leave your dog unattended in your car.
7. If your dog has had puppies or kittens that you are selling, be very careful about the information you give out to anyone that enquires about them, such as when you are going out.
If the unthinkable does happen, here is some advice:
- If you believe your dog has been stolen, call the Police immediately.
- Contact all local vet’s in your area to register your pet as missing
- Contact www.pawsaroundberkshire.co.uk to be added to our ‘Missing!’ register
- Begin your own search. Search the area, talk to neighbours and passers-by. Don’t just search once – search as often as possible.
- Hand out copies of recent photographs and display posters in and around your local area.
- Search online for a number of local, free web pet forums that will list your missing pets’ details and photograph. A number of these forums include:
There’s a cat stuck up the tree at the bottom of your garden, mewing pitifully, and you don’t have a ladder or a head for heights…
The dog down the street is left tied up outside for hours, whatever the weather, and you are pretty sure the owners don’t feed or water him properly either…
You’ve found an injured cat at the side of the road…
Who hasn’t heard at least one story of the Fire Brigade coming to the rescue of a cat stuck in a tall tree? In fact, over the years, our fire crews have been known to regularly rescue all kinds of animals, both domesticated and wild, from all manner of sticky situations. However, in many areas this is now beginning to change. Financial pressures on their resources have forced Fire Brigades in many areas to ask people refrain from dialling 999 for animals in distress:
Don’t call us for cats stuck up trees…
999 dialled for trapped cat in Ascot.
So, who you gonna call?
Well, for all the instances listed at the beginning of this article, plus many others, your first port of call should be the RSPCA.
A good place to start is by searching their FAQs or using their on-line virtual assistant tool: RSPCA Frequently asked questions
For any cases of animal cruelty, or to report an animal in immediate distress, you can always call their 24/7 cruelty line on 0300 1234 999 or use their online enquiry service: My RSPCA
However, please remember that, although the RSPCA can be contacted at any time of the day or night, their inspectors can only attend calls outside normal office hours (9am-5pm, Monday to Friday) if it is a real emergency.