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Animal Rights and Wrongs.Com, and its sister blog animalrightsandwrongs.uk. are predominately animal welfare focused websites and have over 150 articles on pet-keeping, animal welfare, rights and law issues. To read more articles on the main site please use this link: Animal Rights & Wrongs UK

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Showing posts with label animal welfare. Show all posts
Showing posts with label animal welfare. Show all posts

Thursday, 23 September 2021

Geronimo the alpaca deserved a more dignified end.

 

The 4 year campaign to save Geronimo's life in the U.K. ended in an unsightly scrum.

The whole tragic and acrimonious tale of the euthanasia of Geronimo the alleged TB suffering alpaca lasted four years. It involved court cases and appeals, a 140,000 petition, a demonstration to Downing Street and appeals direct to Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister. Campaigners camped outside the farm reminiscent of the days of the nuclear protests and the story was covered worldwide.

Unfortunately, it ended in distasteful and unacceptable scenes when the poor animal had to be forcibly removed from his farm. Unpalatable as it may have been, Geronimo’s fate was always going to be irrevocable and it should have been everybody’s priority to make his last moments as calm and peaceful as possible. But this did not happen

A media and campaigner scrum.

There was so much wrong on both sides of the fence during his final hours and unforgivably it turned into a scrum which caused considerable stress, anxiety and upset to poor Geronimo. Noisy supporters and demonstrators vented their frustration and emotions and jostled with the media photographers. There were scenes of paparazzi type photographers chasing after the trailer, jumping up to get their last photos as is often seen with prison vans outside courthouses.

This melee unnecessarily forced a Police cordon to be present to protect the government vets trying to lead Geronimo away. Not surprisingly Geronimo reacted to the close proximity of all these uniformed officers and the commotion surrounding him. Accusations by supporters of the government vets mishandling and causing Geronimo distress appear slightly hypocritical and shouts of “call yourself vets” were uncalled for and unhelpful. They were accused of being murderers, executioners, torturers and slaughterers. I am sure the vets and Geronimo would have preferred a more civilised exit.

Geronimo being led away by government veterinarians for euthanasia
Geronimo could have done without the melee surrounding his departure.

Geronimo could have been given a more peaceful and respectful end to his life.

It could have been such a different story. Geronimo could have been given the opportunity for a quiet and humane euthanasia in his stable surrounded by people he knew to calm him during his final moments as we would do with our precious pet dog or cat. Or the owner could have done more to keep the circus away and allowed the vet to calmly lead Geronimo to the trailer or even to have done it herself although this would of course have been upsetting.

Well-meaning supporters allowed their emotions to get the better of them.

The well-meaning people present when he was removed from the farm did the poor animal no favours. They allowed their emotions to get the better of them and they lost sight of the wellbeing of the animal they were supposedly so concerned about. They should have put Geronimo’s best interests first by being more respectful.

The whole episode was tragic and although I applaud the concerted efforts of his supporters to save his life, their actions in his final hours just made his death more distressing and pitiful. If Geronimo had been my pet I would have also have fought to save him, but I would have hated to see the life of an animal of mine end in such circumstances.

Geronimo imported from New Zealand for stud.

Although all the coverage portrayed Geronimo as a beloved pet, he was also an expensive stud animal imported from New Zealand to improve the gene line on the alpaca breeding farm which had apparently operated for 15 years. There are hundreds of thousands of them in New Zealand and Australia bred to slaughter for meat.

He was also one of 45,000 alpacas and other camelids in the U.K. involved in the burgeoning breeding and farming of them for their fleece and their meat. As such they are treated as livestock and subject to TB checks. Unfortunately he was was found to be positive in two blood tests although this has always been contested.

Alpacas are killed daily in the U.K.

In 2020, 205 alpacas and other camelids were culled due to TB and over 28,000 cattle and dairy cows along with countless badgers because of the threat of this contagious disease. Their fate goes mainly unnoticed.

As does the fact that in the UK more alpacas are slaughtered each year for their meat, and because they are either unsuitable for breeding or their fleeces are degrading. There are also large numbers of unwanted and abandoned alpacas each year which has resulted in Alpaca rescues having to be set up.

Realistically we should be attempting to stop the keeping of alpacas, llamas and camels in the U.K. so that this kind of incident need not arise.

He was euthanised on Tuesday 31 August 2021.

RIP Geronimo another victim of our passion for exotic meats and clothing.


Olympic Games horse cruelty no surprise

 Cruelty in equestrian sports

No reason to involve horses in Modern Heptathlon.

Olympic games horse cruelty should be no surprise as it is nothing new. A decade ago, there was a furore over cruel practices inthe dressage event. This time it was the show jumping section of the modern pentathlon which raised concerns and rightly so. It is not exactly an equestrian sport per se, but a cobbled together event of outdoorsy type sports of swimming, fencing, running and shooting which some misguided person decided unnecessarily add show jumping.

What makes the show jumping portion of the event contentious is the way it is organised which is a recipe for ill treatment of the horse. Competitors are only given 20 minutes to bond with totally unfamiliar horses which are drawn by lot. They are taken round the course several times by different riders.  Those involved are not necessarily the elite as owners of expensive well-trained and experienced horses are obviously reluctant to hire them out for such stress and risk of injury. The competitors who are accomplished in a wide variety of sports are not necessarily competent or experienced riders.

Told to hit "it" by trainer.

The incident at the centre of the furore this time involved a horse named Saint Boy ridden at the time by German rider Annika Schleu who was tipped for a medal. Saint Boy was not keen to enter the course with her, refused to jump, bucked, was sweating and was allegedly upset. Annika obviously became frustrated and stressed at seeing her medal hopes disappearing which resulted in her shouting and weeping which couldn’t have helped the demeanour of Sant Boy. 

She was urged to use her crop by her trainer, Kim Raisner, who was heard to shout  in the empty arena: “Go on, go on hit it”. This remark of using “it” rather than “him” is telling and expresses how the horse was viewed. The trainer Kim Raisner later allegedly hit the horse and was suspended by the governing body the International Modern Pentathlon Union  for “appearing to strike the horse Saint Soy with her fist”.

Should Be of Concern to all equestrians.

What was surprising is that the trainer involved thought it acceptable and reasonable to punch the horse in full view of onlookers.  But the equestrian industry has a habit of turning a blind eye to equine sports that obviously cause suffering , injury and death as in the case of endurance racing, Grand National, cross country and dressage to name a few. Forcing horses to jump when they obviously do not want to, using the crop whip excessively, and having riders shouting, weeping and breaking down is not really the best way to behave. It all seems rather unsavoury and surely any reasonable person or experienced equestrian with a love of horses must watch this awful spectacle with great concern.

Although it is argued that all the criticism and hate directed at the rider and trainer following the incident was overblown and no harm was caused by striking the horse, it is the attitude and intent of those involved that should be the worry. Striking out at a horse either verbally or physically through frustration is a telling indication of how the animal is viewed. When things do not go right or as expected in the search for success and glory the frustration leads to the horse just becoming a piece of equipment to vent this anger. No different to a tennis player smashing a racket or a batsman their bat.  It makes one wonder what goes on behind the scenes when they are willing to openly indulge in such actions.

The is no reason for horses to be involved. It is a human’s choice to push their bodies to the limit and risk injury or death in their search for glory and self-satisfaction and their pursuit of this should not involve animals. The welfare of the animals must take precedence over winning medals. The modern pentathlon should not involve horses in the first place and let’s face it there is an easy solution by replacing them with rock climbing or mountain biking.

 


Celebrity Chefs, tarantula eating and our love of being made to squirm.


Do we need to see such eating habits being promoted by TV celebrity chefs?

With the ever increasing popularity of veganism and plant based food it is surprising that most celebrity chefs continue to revel in promoting exotic meat eating and even worse, insist on sampling any creature put in front of them.

This is particularly so when let loose in a foreign land with a TV crew and a director who wants some shocking footage to make us squirm and create outrage in order to attract publicity. Many chefs appear happy to go along with the fun of sampling some living or dead exotic creature regardless of the message it might send. But is it really necessary? A local restaurant near me recently received widespread free publicity across the media for their new menu of squirrel and muntjac shot by the chef himself to guarantee freshness and added interest to the story.

People love celebrity chefs, but their behaviour towards the various exotic animals they choose to eat can influence others to follow suit. They should have more responsibility to ensure the message they might portray with their antics takes into consideration animal welfare and rights. But being predominately committed meat eaters it doesn't appear to cross their mind.

We love to see sights that make us squirm.

This sensation seeking follows the pattern of the TV celebrity “get me out of here” programme syndrome and on their safaris to exotic places, their producers and directors know the viewers love to see their stars eating any animal that moves to get a reaction.

No doubt they will counter that it is all in the pursuit of understanding cultural eating habits and pushing the boundaries of gastronomic delights, but of course this could be done without the chef participating. There is no necessity to give everything, no matter how nauseating, a try but better to just pass comment on it and in these Covid times with the alleged links of disease crossovers from eating wildlife it might be a time to discontinue such practices.

Many celebrity chefs have got into trouble.

Many chefs have rightly found themselves in trouble with animal lovers over their eating habits including chef Fearnley-Whittingstall. He is not ashamed about causing controversy by boasting he has eaten giraffe, fruit bats, and squirrels  as long as the animals are killed responsibly. He thankfully draws the line at eating endangered species which is good of him.

In an episode of Ainsley Harriott's Street Food series he is shown in a Korean wet market manhandling and being frightened by a live snake destined for the pot, brushing it off his shoulder to fall to the concrete floor. He commented that he hates live snakes but enjoys eating them.

Gordon Ramsey received what was probably welcome publicity for one of his shows when visiting Cambodia. He attempted to eat a tarantula, a practice known locally as “a-ping.” He failed to get past a piece of crunchy leg so it was a wasted exercise, but it got the reaction required. Such publicity though has made the practice an Instagram must for tourists and has caused the spiders to become increasingly rare and closer to extinction locally.

https://youtu.be/9Z_UndhO2ME

Rick Stein is also not adverse to trying out anything offered to him especially if it has a marketable cringe factor for the programme such as eating animal eyeballs.  He got into trouble in 2015 when his BBC 2 programme featured him taking part in the cruel practice of feeding coffee beans to badly treated captive civet cats in Indonesia. The poor civets "produce" Kopi Luwak coffee by eating and secreting the coffee berries and of course he had to sample it.

This insistence on sampling and supporting the unnecessary eating of exotic creatures for the camera should be past its sell by date and is overused and celebrity chefs should give more thought to the implications of what they promote. And where are all the celebrity vegan and vegetarian chefs on prime time television?

Friday, 25 June 2021

Emotional Support Animals. America finally sees sense.

 

Emotional Support Pony on aircraft

An end to the farce.

Finally, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) took action in December 2020 to amend theAir Carrier Act and restrict carriage in the cabin of Emotional support Animals (ESA) to proven trained service dogs which have been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability”. Under the new rules, animals such as pigs, ponies, turkeys, snakes and possums and other exotic animals will rightly be designated as pets and must be paid for and travel in the holds.

Airlines now have the leverage to refuse to take animals and it is not surprising that within weeks virtually every US airline immediately banned ESA’s. Alaskan airlines were the first quickly followed by United, American and Delta. United airlines have stated that “the change will further ensure a safe and accessible travel experience for our customers”. Well any sane person can understand that, but there has still been an outcry from individuals insisting they need a cockerel or a peacock or crocodile or whatever to steady their nerves.

Very little to do with Emotional Support

I wrote an article a year ago on the farce of so-called Emotional Support animals in America varying from ponies to possums being allowed in the cabins of aircraft to ease the flying worries of their owners. How much of it was ever genuine is obvious as it appeared only to be a chance for people to try and outdo each other with photographs and video on social media or enable their pets to travel free. Agencies suddenly sprang up to provide dubious accreditation for the animals and also online sites offering fraudulent certificates.

Increase in 'negative incidents'.

The number of ESA’s carried on aircraft jumped from 481,000 in 2016 to 751,000 in 2017 and a 14% increase in 2018. And there has been a sharp increase in “negative incidents” caused by animals and we can imagine what these were. Strangely many cabin crew appeared to welcome these animal passengers.

The airlines quite rightly have been arguing about the stupidity of the situation for a long time and pointed out all the health and safety issues involved to both cabin crew and other passengers, but it had fallen on mainly deaf ears until now. The Airlines for America lobbying organisation has been pushing for the change for over a year. The question is what took so long?


Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Creative Dog Grooming, Mutilation and Humiliation


Judging by some of the outlandish mutilations of dogs on TV and social media, creative grooming appears to be getting out of control. I cannot understand how any dog owner who sincerely has any love or respect for their supposed best friend could allow them to be put through such humiliation, but then I am just a dog lover myself and obviously do not “get it” or understand this phenomenon.

Creative dog grooming has been around since the sixties and its invention is blamed on the age of the hippies who coloured and dressed their pets. It is not new as the UK has held a championship for many years and the USA since 1973 but it is only recently that it has become more outrageous.

Dog Grooming out of control.

Creativedog grooming is described as a way for groomers to deviate from breed profile grooms by using colour dyes, extensions and carving in order to turn a dog into another animal or famous character. It has become a very profitable service for professional groomers, but like many crazes, things get out of hand when social media and TV step in and everyone loses sight of the animals involved.

It was sadly a UK nation of dog lover’s company, Beyond Productions, that came up with the idea, modelled on Strictly Come Dancing and Singing contests with a panel of judges. It is obviously destined to become a global franchise. Australia’s Seven Network has a version and ABC in the USA  has ten groomers competing in a serious of “outrageous themed challenges”.

Pooch perfect a bad influence.

The UK version of “Pooch Perfect” hasn’t quite stooped as low as the American version but give it time. It’s Facebook page states that the program ‘celebrates the nation’s love of dogs’, but it seems a strange way of showing it. They also insist their groomers must let their imagination off the lead when they give four curly coated canines a cute teddy bear trim. Note the pun there.

Even the mainstream media take a light-hearted approach and see no harm it with quotes such as Ever thought your dog wasn’t jazzy enough, and that maybe with a pair of scissors and a tin of spray paint you could have the best looking mutt in town”.



There is no shortage of owners willing to put their dogs forward for this humiliation and have a chance of getting on TV and audiences are lapping it up judging by comments on social media and the show’s website. American owners are willing to do whatever it takes to make their dogs the wackiest in attempting to win $5,000. There is even a veterinarian on the panel of the judges, so the veterinary profession must believe its harmless. Really?

It will not be long,  I am sure, when we will be back in the good old days of the circus and have barking contests, beauty shows, dressing up shows and dogs doing tricks on TV. Am I missing something here? Is it really just good fun? Am I just being an old grouch or is it a sign that we have fundamentally lost sight of our respect for animals?


Thursday, 4 February 2021

Should animal rescues dress up animals

 


Do we really need wigs, hats, and sunglasses to make animals more homeable.

The Flagler Humane Society in Florida received worldwide coverage of their recent “creative” and “ingenious” scheme to find homes for three of their left behind elderly dogs by dressing them up as old people. Such an action raises the question of whether animal welfare organisations should be condoning dressing up animals and possibly sending out the wrong message to animal owners. I think most animal owners have occasionally popped a hat and sunglasses on their pet as a bit of harmless fun but it is not a trait or habit that should be encouraged.


It is a constant problem for rescues, as I well know being a former animal home manager, to find new places for elderly dogs. Most people do not want the heartache of taking on an animal that may just live for a few years. Although it would be a perfect fit to match elderly people with aged dogs this rarely possible. This can cause desperation for many rescues when anything goes in the search for these elusive homes.


Pet industry makes a fortune out of our fads.


Surely though we are hitting a low point when Humane Societies and other rescues are reduced to dressing animals in wigs, hats, scarves and jumpers to get our attention. It doesn’t say much for our pet loving qualities when prospective owners only feel a dog becomes more worthy of a home when it suddenly becomes cute and adorable by wearing a hat and sunglasses.

Costumes for animals are big business for the pet trade, who have no interest in the ethical or welfare aspects of doing so, only the multi-millions they make out of our inane insistence to dress our pets up to make them look cute. Just because these outfits are available doesn’t mean we have to buy them or believe they are suitable or morally right. Very little thought is given to whether they may be uncomfortable, cumbersome, or even frightening.

The issue highlights the divide between animal welfare and animal rights.

The RSPCA and other welfare organisations as usual sit on the fence and guardedly warn against the practice while also giving tips and advice on how to ethically dress them up. Animal rights organisations, such as PETA, are obviously against the practice. Ardent animal rights advocates were probably horrified at an animal welfare organisation showing such little respect for the dignity of animals and their status. It is a classic example of the often great divide between the philosophy of animal welfare and animal rights.


Although needs must and this “ingenious” stunt was successful, with the three dogs finding new homes, there must be a risk that it sends out the wrong message to all those who already paint the nails and dress up their pets, buy bizarre outfits for them and pierce them. Perhaps our perceptions of acceptable behaviour towards animals is becoming rather skewed and if so, it is not a particularly edifying state of affairs.

 


Celebrities parading their ear cropped dogs.


Jordan Banjo joins a long list of "celebrities" with ear cropped dogs.

Ear cropping dogs in the UK has been banned since 2006 when the Animal Welfare Act made it illegal, but it is still an increasingly common sight to see these dogs being openly paraded in U.K streets and on social media. This is because ear cropped dogs are readily available from many countries in Europe and the USA and there is no ban on importing them making a mockery of the law.

Over the years there has been a long line of “celebs” parading their cropped and docked dogs on social media all professing either ignorance or indifference to the fact that it fuels the demand, their only interest being the “coolness” of it. The latest is Diversity star Jordan Banjo who in December 2020 posted pictures of his new dog Sergio with cropped ears which was met thankfully, and apparently to his surprise, by a barrage of condemnation. In his defence he is quoted as saying:

”I can't pretend to have known all of the information on cropped ears, I don't even want to pretend to be misinformed, to be blunt I didn't even think about it in the first instance. I didn't get his ears cut, I didn't even import him. It upsets me to think that Sergio or any dog goes through this purely to look 'cooler'” Jordan Banjo

There are no health benefits to ear cropping.

Once dog’s ears or tail are mutilated there is obviously no going back but making it illegal to own one, prosecuting anyone seen with a puppy with hefty fines and publicity given would soon send the word out and help deter people. Dogs could be handed back to the prosecuted owners if circumstances allowed and certified in the same way that some working dogs are, but if the sentencing was severe with a mandatory amount it would eventually curtail the trade.


Cropping is purely cosmetic and has no health benefits. There is no medical evidence that it prevents ear infections as often claimed by its proponents or any other health benefits. It is an inhumane and unnecessary procedure that serves no purpose other than changing the appearance of a dog. It is done more for the vanity of the owner than the well-being of the dog and because of a perverse belief that it makes the dogs look the way they

 

There are companies that legally import dogs with cropped ears.


The ban, like many animal welfare laws in the UK was not given enough thought and was never fit for purpose because it did not make it illegal to own an ear cropped dog imported from abroad.  Taking a dog to another country to have the procedure done in order to  circumvent the law and allowing the suffering to take place elsewhere is also allowed.

There are companies that legally import dogs with cropped ears into the UK and there is nothing to stop owners taking their dogs to countries in Europe that still allow it or even the USA and bring them back. There is little point in reporting them as the owners can legitimately claim they were done abroad.


Finally the UK government has woken up to the situation and are considering changing or tightening the legislation.


Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Remembering the shooting of Harambe the Gorilla





The shooting of Harambe the gorilla at Cincinnati Zoo in May 2016 on the premise that he might have harmed a human was proof that human life will always takes precedence over that of an animal.

Harambe died through no fault of his own.


On the afternoon of 28 May 2016 a three-year-old boy fell into the moat of the gorilla pen at Cincinnati Zoo in the USA, which at the time contained three gorillas. The two females were tempted from the pen, but Harambe, a 17-year-old male endangered lowland gorilla, was fascinated by the child splashing about in the water and went over to investigate. The screaming crowd of onlookers agitated and confused Harambe and he dragged the child through and out of the water.
Zoo officials were afraid for the child’s life and so the zoo marksman was called and Harambe was shot dead. Although the zoo was criticised for not doing more to save the child and Harambe, Mr Holloway, a zoo spokesman stated, screams from the crowd further agitated Harambe and it’s a horrible call to have to makebut human life will always take precedence over the animal.’ The incident became headline news worldwide and caused considerable controversy and a year after his death he had become the biggest meme of the year with memorials held all over the world.

We prefer animals to entertain us rather than seriously conserve them

Harambe died through no fault of his own, but because he fell foul of our human precedence belief and because we like to treat animals as objects of entertainment. Had his enclosure been designed for the safety and interests of the gorillas over that of the public or better still excluding the public to allow Harambe and his mates to get on with conserving their species undisturbed, he would still be alive.
If we can kill such an endangered animal as a gorilla in a breeding programme doesn’t all this make a mockery of our supposed serious intention to preserve animals for the future.
Harambe RIP
So the moral of the story is that although gorillas are sentient, are an endangered and protected species, are closely related to us and disappearing at an alarming rate in the wild and that Harambe was doing his bit for conserving his species by being part of a breeding program, none of this saved him or was of any consequence.  I suspect that even if he had been the last male gorilla on the planet, his life would not have been  considered more important than that of a human.  Animals will unfortunately always come second to humans whatever the situation or circumstances as we could never bring ourselves to perhaps save an animal at the expense of a member of our own species.

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Condor of the Humane

A Tribute to an extraordinary dog who died forty years ago but is not forgotten.

Black Labrador with head out of Bahamas Humane Society car window
Condor was a soulmate, friend and protector and without her I could not have done my job.
 [
Photographs: John Brookland 1976.]


In September 1975 and I found myself sitting in a bungalow beside the Bahamas Humane Society compound in Nassau having just arrived on a flight from the UK to take up the position of chief inspector. As often happens in these situations when you are exhausted and suddenly find yourself alone far from home, what seemed a good idea at the time was now losing its appeal and I was full of misgiving as to whether I was up to the task.

It was at this point that the back door into the kitchen, which I had left ajar, was pushed open and I was just thinking I couldn’t face any visitors when I heard the tapping of nails on the tiled floor and a sleek black female padded nonchalantly into the sitting room. She wore a red collar and had a three-inch excuse for a tail probably nipped off when a pup and had the appearance of a crossbreed black Labrador.

She stood in the doorway staring at me with soulful eyes. I waited to see if an owner appeared, but she was alone, and after a few seconds she walked further into the room flopped onto the cool tiled floor and made herself comfortable. There was no attempt to come over to introduce herself and although I made polite conversation with her, it was obvious I was being thoroughly scrutinized as though a great decision was being made. I watched her and she stared at me and from that moment on she never left my side during the time of my residence and a special relationship was born.

I could forgive her anything when she looked at me with her sad eyes.

Although it was our first date she spent the night.

I had no idea who owned her, what her name was or where she had come from, but on that first evening I was extremely glad of her company and she appeared happy to listen to all my concerns. Although it was only our first date, she stayed the night lying across the doorway to the bedroom as though instinctively on guard. In the weeks and months that followed I found she was a dog with attitude and several bad habits but a real darling when you got to know her. It proved to be a case of role reversal with her adopting me rather than the other way round.

I discovered next day that her name was Condor and that she was technically one of the “yard dogs” but it seemed that she was a lady quick to change allegiances when the fancy took her, and possibly spotted a relationship with better opportunities. I was unable to move or go anywhere without her as my permanent shadow, and on occasions she proved a good protector when I was so pleased to have her by my side. She came out on all my work visits, social visits (she hated missing a party) and even insisted on coming to the drive-in movie although she would sleep through the film on the back seat. She was also very vain and hated being left out of a photograph and always found a way to muscle her way in.

She was at her happiest out on the road.

My most precious times with her were when we patrolled the island together speeding to incidents and singing along to the radio. Like all dogs she adored hanging her head out of the passenger window and she liked it even more when I would occasionally stop at a sheltered deserted beach and allowed her to swim or chase or retrieve a bit of driftwood. She loved the sea, a true water dog, but it played havoc with her ears with constant ear infections and irritations which I had to treat.

We loved our afternoons off at Paradise Island Beach

We both enjoyed our downtime together particularly my weekly afternoons off when we usually went to the western end of Paradise Island beach which in the 1970’s was often deserted (no Atlantis, Club Med or marina at that time) and we swam and snorkelled, finishing the day with a stroll to the lighthouse and back when she would trot in front with the driftwood firmly lodged in her mouth. I enjoyed snorkelling, but Condor had difficulty understanding the concept and I could only ever see her four legs thrashing back and forth in front of me often ramming me and tipping me over. It was a time to escape all the stress and trauma of my challenging work for a while and it was extremely idyllic.

                   Walking a deserted Paradise Island Beach in 1976 with Condor.

She did come with many bad habits though, her most worrying being her dislike of certain Bahamian men wearing straw hats which was quite a problem in sunny and hot Nassau. It may have been a throwback from some earlier event of ill treatment. I discovered this aversion the hard way while snoozing one afternoon on Paradise Island beach when I was rudely awoken by Condor kicking sand in my face as she hurtled off growling menacingly. By the time I lifted my head she was chasing a poor terrified man in a straw hat out to sea. By the time I got to her, the frazzled man had completed a nifty 30-yard swim out to sea. I apologized profusely to him and half-heartedly admonished my bodyguard, but the incident had worried me, and from that moment on I had to shout at any men in straw hats that crossed our path and quickly restrain her whenever I heard a rumbling growl and raised hackles.

Her other problems included severe flatulence mainly caused by pigging any food material she came across either fresh or decomposing. Her stomach would often worryingly bloat to the size of a beach ball to the point of exploding and she would lie on a cold floor moaning. But she never learned the lesson and wherever we went, her search for edibles was always her focus. My long-suffering friends, when I was invited to dinner parties, were very tolerant of the occasional stench emanating from wherever she lay and to their credit carried on conversing without pause.

She was an old sea dog.  

She also had the less than endearing hobby of either eating or rolling in horse manure and as I spent a lot of time dealing with abandoned and ill-treated horses, she had plenty of opportunity. I tried in vain to stop this habit to no avail, but fortunately her rolling preference was for dried dung which was easy to brush off her. At every opportunity she would squirm on her back while uttering groans of ecstasy and having shouted at her she would always accept the scolding in good spirit and carry on. But her penchant for eating fresh dung was a no-no and I did have to stop her in her in her tracks.

First thing every morning I had a routine of touring the Humane Society compound and clinic inspecting the animals and Condor insisted on and enjoyed accompanying me. She would watch me pick up my keys from the kitchen table and grab my mug of tea (I am English after all) and she would lazily heave herself up, stretch and make sure she was out the door before me with her stump of a tail wagging enthusiastically. She liked these early morning walkabouts as it gave her a chance to meet and greet the animals and more importantly search out any discarded or uneaten food.

Condor the Black Labrador looking out over Nassau harbour
Condor spots something going on in Nassau harbour 

She enjoyed speeding to emergency calls.

Our day would then start, and we would have no idea what to expect not that Condor cared as long as she was along for the ride. I enjoyed patrolling the island attending incidents and stopping off at local villages to chat to residents about their complaints and worries over animals. Condor particularly loved speeding to emergencies sometimes with my blue light flashing and she enjoyed leaning from side to side as we turned corners at speed. (I was also a district constable in the Royal Bahamian Police Force (RBPF) so allowed to do it. Condor liked children and the attention she got from them which was a bonus for me when on school visits. She became a mascot, a favourite with the children who would wave at her as we drove past with her head out of the window benignly accepting the adulation.

We had three vehicles two of which were Volkswagens with bench seats and obviously Condor always wanted the window seat which wasn’t a problem unless I had a colleague with me.  Then there was a lot of pushing and jostling to make her sit in the middle of us. Even if you managed this, she would lean heavily against you or lean over and drool while standing painfully on your groin until you gave up and let her have her own way. Then with the seating arrangements organized we could get under way. She often tried to pre-empt this problem by getting into the vehicle we were going to use before we arrived (she cleverly knew which one it was as we usually left the doors open to air it out) and we would play a rotten trick on her by getting into a different one.

Condor always had to be the first into the ambulance. Photo: John Brookland 1975

My work often placed me in sticky situations. On many occasions I was threatened with a knife, cutlass, broken bottle or aggression, but the presence of Condor barking and growling and the implied threat of letting her out of the vehicle often had a calming effect on the situation. It was a bluff on my part as I would never have put her in danger, but I discovered there was a certain amount of black dog syndrome on the island or a wariness of dogs of that ilk. I am sure that having her as a sidekick prevented me from receiving serious injury and gave me confidence.

I could always rely on her to cheer me up.

Near the end of my tenure everything began to fall apart. My personal car was stolen and I was insured for theft so it put me in debt, relations with my employers were at an exceptionally low ebb, I was beginning to feel homesick and I was suffering from work overload and intense emotional and physical strain with the amount of animal cruelty and suffering I was witnessing and dealing with. It came to a head on evening when I just walked out of the house in a daze not knowing where I was going. A concerned Condor tagged along as always, and I eventfully found myself sitting on a deserted Saunders beach a mile or so from home having a good cry with Condor leaning against me. She did her best to cheer me up without success, so she sauntered to the water’s edge, grabbed a piece of wood, came back and threw it at my feet. She returned to the water and barked encouragingly until I got up, smiled and started playing with her. It seemed she was trying to say that life was just a beach so let's forget everything else and just get on with it and we did. I could always rely on her to cheer me up.

Condor's favourite pastime of retrieving driftwood. Photo: John Brookland 1975

Coinciding with this I was offered out of the blue an extremely interesting job back in the UK and decided for the sake of my sanity I could not pass it up. Immediately my main concern was what to do about Condor. I cannot explain how reliant and emotionally connected I was to her at that juncture and to leave her behind was unthinkable. I owed her so much as I know I could not have survived my time in the Bahamas without her.

At the time dog quarantine had just been introduced in the UK under new Rabies Laws (which coincidentally I was about to enforce in my new job at Heathrow Airport) and I knew that she would have to undergo six months solitary confinement in a kennel. She was not a young dog and was accustomed to so much freedom and life in a hot climate. I wasn’t sure it would be fair to take it all away from her, but I didn’t think I could give her up as we had formed such an incredible bond, so I started applying for the required import license and quarantine space.

She needed a clean bill of health and the Society veterinarian volunteered to do all the necessary tests. It was at this point that he gave me the devastating news that she was suffering from the latter stages of heartworm which was not treatable even though she was not showing any outward symptoms. He advised that it would be unfair and selfish to put her through such a traumatic journey and change of lifestyle when her days were numbered. I was heartbroken at having to make the terrible decision to leave her behind, but everyone promised to look after her for me and she would remain as the Society mascot.


I shall never forget my day of departure when she trotted out to the car with me and sat by my side with an enquiring look. I had tried to say my last emotional goodbyes to her in my house but gave her a last cuddle. As we drove away, I looked back to see her sitting in the middle of the car park with a resigned look on her face and I was absolutely devastated.

Postscript.

I kept in touch and was informed that she soon settled into her old routine. She survived another eighteen months and I did see her again on a return visit a year later but kept my distance and I was pleased to see that she appeared happy with life. She was an amazing dog and I talk often of her particularly when I see a black Labrador on a beach with a red collar, which is often.

I was chief inspector of the Bahamas Humane Society in Nassau from 1975-77 during which time I faced almost overwhelming incidents of animal abuse. 


 

Saturday, 30 May 2020

Covid-19 lockdowns gave wildlife a rest.


 They do not necessarily need us but we need them.

Wildlife had a well-deserved rest


What became completely apparent during the recent worldwide Covid-19 lockdowns is that wildlife would not miss us at all if humanity was to suddenly disappear or reduce drastically in numbers. Wildlife appeared to enjoy this brief hiatus from us finding they could wander freely, unhindered and safe from interruption. They quickly decided to invade our space instead of the other way round. There is probably a great irony somewhere in all this.
Of course, it is a different story for companion animals who are so dependent on us and have seen a lot more of their owners during this period and may be shocked at normality again.
There have been numerous news reports from all parts of the world of timid species being emboldened to explore and venture into territory that was out of bounds just weeks before because of less human activity and even roaming the urban areas. And road kills lessened at an opportune time in many parts of the world for the spring breeding season. There have already been reports of more hedgehogs in the UK this year.
Unfortunately for them it may not take long for the normality to resume and they will be pushed back into their small enclaves and run the gauntlet of human contact. Although we set aside large swathes of land in the name of conserving animals and habitat and give them such impressive names as national parks, reserves and conservation areas, in reality they have become giant adventure playgrounds for us to enjoy mountain biking, hiking, picnicking, rock climbing, kayaking and any other pursuit we can think up with no consideration given to the disturbance to the animals. Far from being safety zones for them we increasingly invade these spaces, and if they should dare to retaliate by attacking us, we kill them.
Bears in U.S. national parks were able to roam freely and unhindered without having to take detours round vehicles and camp sites and they do not have to worry about confronting humans. Rangers have reported a huge increase in bear and wildlife sightings and stated that the bears are “partying” in Yosemite national park. Lions in Kruger national park also took the opportunity to roam freely and sleep wherever they pleased and enjoyed some peace and quiet even taking a nap on the park roads without being surrounded by hordes of tourist vehicles. 
Hopefully somewhere in all this there might be a salutary lesson to us perhaps even making us appreciate nature more and an understanding that animals require their space and freedom just like us. Perhaps we should even give some serious thought to whose benefit many of these preserved areas are truly for and put restrictions on the ultimate predator from entering them.




Wednesday, 27 May 2020

U.K animal sanctuary owner charged for alleged suffering of animals.



I have made comments before about the ease in which well-meaning people can set up animal sanctuaries and rescues in the U.K and apply to be bona fide charities with little or no investigation or inspection and often without the knowledge, experience, financial stability or understanding of the long term responsibilities and difficulties they might face.
While so many of the major animal charities abide by stringent health and safety policies, regular veterinary inspections of animals, adequate staffing levels, state of the art housing and care it seems unfair and ludicrous for “pop-up” charities to import large numbers of street dogs into their homes or set up rescues and sanctuaries in their backyards or garage.
In my article Downfall of the Alternate Animal Sanctuary I used the alleged plight of the animals housed at this sanctuary as an example, but unfortunately this is not an isolated case. This sanctuary housed hundreds of animals of various types often with only the owner to care for them and with 106 dogs being kept together in her house.
She was a registered charity fundraising through an agency which took most of the money raised and the Charity Commission had her under investigation since 2016 for financial irregularities  and instigated a statutory inquiry. The sanctuary was raided three times by Police, local authorities and the RSPCA seizing large numbers of animals at great expense, but the sanctuary continued operating with the owner taking in more animals to fill the places of those taken away. It highlights the lack of powers the local authorities, the police and the Charity Commission have in the UK to regulate or close down such mismanaged premises when it all goes wrong.

Animal Sanctuary owner is charged for causing alleged unnecessary suffering to animals in her care.

On May 9 2020, a year to the week after the animals were seized by police and RSPCA, the owner was charged with nine criminal offences including six counts of causing unnecessary suffering to horses, dogs, cats, pigs and three counts of failing in her duty to ensure the welfare of animals in her care.
The unnecessary suffering charges relate to a failure to get veterinary attention for 2 long-haired cats with ear infections, chronic dental disease in 8 cats, infected wounds on 3 Shar-Pei dogs, a leg injury to a Husky dog, routine dental treatment and parasites on 3 horses and an ingrown tusk on a boar.
The other charges relate to failing to provide suitable food and fresh water to the animals in her care and not providing a suitable living environment for 14 pigs and 70 cats. She was also charged with failing to protect three dogs from pain, suffering, injury or disease. The case was adjourned until June 4 and it will prove interesting to see the reaction to the result whether proven or not, any punishment that may be imposed and whether the sanctuary is allowed to continue operating.
The complaints that the animals were allegedly suffering from gives an indication that the staff of the sanctuary did not have the experience or expertise to recognise or provide the necessary care the animals urgently required or an understanding of the potential ongoing problems of accepting them in the first place.
When sanctuaries and rescues like this fail, it is the stress and anguish to the animals when they must be removed for their own safety which is the most tragic consequence of it all. Hopefully this case might encourage all the authorities and agencies involved to push for urgent legislation to bring some kind of measure of control over these establishments.


Monday, 25 May 2020

From Ant to Elephant, Come Fly With Us.

Here is a conundrum: what is the difference between a companion pet and an emotional support animal or an ESA as everyone likes to call them?
For those outside countries like the USA who are not familiar with this relatively new phenomenon, an ESA is an animal not trained to perform a specific task to aid a disabled person in the way that service animals like guide dogs are, but only provides comfort and support in the form of affection and companionship for any individual suffering from a mental or emotional condition.
In a rational world the answer to the above question should be that there is no difference as ESAs are just people’s pets. I have always been under the impression that companion pets were bred over generations to perform this purpose, but for some reason we feel the need to give some of them special status. But the real question is whether by just giving them a different title they should be allowed to be used to cause so many problems for airlines and their passengers.

ESAs have no legal status

Service animals have many legal rights in most countries such as accompanying their owner into hotels, restaurants and on board aircraft whereas an ESA has no legal status, but a few countries such as the USA appear to foolishly allow them to travel in aircraft cabins and they are now paying the price. ESA ownership and registration has become a burgeoning industry in the USA, fraught with accusations of fraudulent use.
For a pet to become an ESA they have to be certified as serving a purpose by a health professional so that they can legitimately accompany the owner on aircraft but this has led to a trade in providing alleged fake certificates from online sites. Some have suggested that there are now more fraudulent support animals then there are legitimate ones.
Now the situation has been compounded by the U.S. regulatory authorities designating mini horses as suitable service animals which forces airlines to carry them as well. It is difficult to see where this madness will end.


ESAs can be an ant or an elephant

Over the last few years, the whole situation has become a circus – literally. Because these pets do not require specific training, they can be anything from an ant to an elephant. This is why social media is full of photographs of  mini horses, goats, kangaroos, snakes, peacocks, ferrets, lambs, and parrots. Social media in fact loves it with cute and light-hearted videos and photographs making the practice appear fun for all concerned, but on the other hand is it much fun for the animals and other passengers. Many cabin crew also seem to find it “cute”. They may be a comfort to the owner but who is comforting the animal. It has even been known for passengers to bring a support animal to support the support animal.
How is this fair on the animal or fellow passengers?

ESAs are just pets?

It has become such a problem that the US Department of Transport is seeking to amend the transportation regulations in 2020 to ensure that “our air transportation system is safe for the travelling public and accessible to individuals with disabilities” and to recognise ESAs as pets rather than service animals. The new rules would not ban airlines from accepting ESAs but would not require airlines to take them and each individual airline could enforce their own rules.
Delta airlines reportedly carries 700 support animals daily and 250,000 annually and they have seen a 84% increase in hygiene and biting  incidents. In 2018 United airlines apparently saw a 75% increase and carried 76,000. It is so out of control that airlines have been compelled to constantly change policies and to compile and amend lists of animals they will accept as well as provide extra forms to complete in regard to the behavioural nature of the animals and insurance risks.
No one seems to be addressing whether all this is necessary in the first place. And have also overlooked the needs of fellow passengers who may have allergies, phobias or just have no wish to travel with a menagerie.

Could this happen in the U.K.?

Unfortunately while the USA wrestles with the problem, UK airlines who sensibly do not allow ESAs in the cabin, could face similar problems. There are certain groups in the UK keen to introduce the practice here such as the UK Emotional Support Animal Registry established in 2017 who are pushing for similar legal recognition for dogs and cats which could then give leeway to force airlines to accept them.  
Having once spent many years as an animal health inspector at Heathrow Airport enforcing rabies, bird import and animal transport welfare regulations I spent a lot of time catching escaped animals on board aircraft and haranguing various american airlines particularly Pan Am for allowing animals in the cabin. I was called to assist many dogs and cats which were wedged into small containers designed to fit underneath the seats and took many prosecutions for causing what back then we deemed unnecessary suffering and I would hate it all to begin again.