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Happy Otter Awareness Day

Today we celebrate Otter Awaress Day, an opportunity to understand more about these wetland wonders. Did you know there are 13 species of otter in the world, and that they come under the Mustelid family along with badgers and wolverines?

Most of the species of otter out there are endangered. Otters face multiple threats including hunting, loss of habitat and poisoning. Yet otters are extremely social animals and even engage in various behaviors for sheer enjoyment, such as making waterslides and then sliding on them into the water.

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Why not take some time out today to consider the fate of otters up and down the UK and maybe even find out more about how you can get involved in securing a future for this charismatic, important species: http://www.otter.org/howYouCanHelp.aspx

For a full list of global animal events taking place throughout the year please visit our Calendar

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Just click the heart icon on the top left of this post to leave your comments. 

 

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Has the Threat to the Hunting Act Passed? Not on Your Nellie…

Dr Toni Shephard, Head of Policy and Research at the League Against Cruel Sports discusses the threats to the Hunting Act in Huffington Post column. 

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There has been much talk about the threat to the Hunting Act, and expectation that the government’s promised ‘free vote’ on repeal would be mentioned in the Queen’s Speech. It wasn’t. Does that mean the Hunting Act is safe?

No, it doesn’t.

There are a couple of potential reasons as to why it wasn’t mentioned. The first is that repealing an existing Act is not seen as the kind of material that should be included in a speech of this magnitude. The second, perhaps more likely, is that mention of the free vote was quickly scribbled out of the speech following the mass of opposition that has made itself clear over the last couple of weeks.

The Queen’s Speech included many important issues, such as the economy, education, the NHS. It talked about ‘one nation’, about empowering the north and the devolved nations, and about working on the global stage. Perhaps repealing an act that stops huge amounts of animal cruelty on behalf of a vocal minority didn’t really fit in.

But don’t think for a second that the issue has gone away. In some form or other, the vote to repeal the Hunting Act will be proposed. It may happen quickly, or it may be delayed for a more opportune moment, but it will happen.

And when it does, it’ll be a real slap in the face for democracy. Around eight out of ten people in this country want hunting to remain illegal. The opposition to hunting stretches across both rural and urban constituencies, giving lie to the pro-hunt claim that it is supported only by ‘townies’ who know nothing about rural affairs. People in the countryside don’t want hunting either.

My personal opposition to hunting is both subjective and objective. I have a personal loathing for animal cruelty of any kind, but as a scientist I also need to know the truth. And in this case, the undeniable truth is that hunting is cruel.

Suggestions that hunting with dogs leads only to ‘wounding actions’ by the dogs has been disproved many times. Nor are foxes dispatched by a single nip to the neck. Autopsies have shown the bodies of foxes ripped apart by bites, but without evidence of a bite to the neck.

There’s nothing natural about ‘the hunt’. It is not natural for example for foxes to be chased by a pack of hounds trained to cover long distances and supported by riders on horseback and quad bikes. Deer are chased to an exhausted standstill. Hares forced to take part in coursing events are released to be chased by two dogs, which will often catch it then rip it apart in a gruesome tug of war.

Science clearly shows that chased animals suffer, whether or not they are eventually killed. The stress they endure during such an unnatural chase causes damage to their muscles and blood cells which is extremely painful.

I could go on, but the message is clear. Hunting is cruel. 80% of the British public understand that hunting is cruel. There is no justification for hunting with dogs, no pest control or wildlife management reason. The Hunting Act is doing a good job, with over 400 successful prosecutions to date. At the League Against Cruel Sports we feel it could be strengthened to ensure the spirit, as well as the letter, of the law is upheld, but basically it’s a good piece of legislation. Repealing it will be a disastrous backwards step for a One Nation government.

If you would like to contact your MP about how they will vote on repeal of the Hunting Act, you can take this simple League Against Cruel Sports action.

Article taken from: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/dr-toni-shephard/hunting-act_b_7450334.html?utm_hp_ref=uk

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Calls for SNP to make anti-foxhunting stance clear as hunts caught on video

The SNP has been challenged to underline its opposition to foxhunting across the UK as fresh video evidence alleges that half of Scotland’s hunts are breaking the law on hunting with dogs.

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Since Scotland became the first part of the UK to ban traditional foxhunting and hare coursing in 2002, it has been illegal to hunt a wild mammal with a dog.

Hunts in Scotland can continue to kill foxes by practising an exemption to the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act called ‘flushing to guns’, which means using dogs to chase foxes from beneath cover in order to shoot them.

But covert video footage taken by the League Against Cruel Sports over a three month period apparently shows no practice of ‘flushing to guns’. The surveillance of five of Scotland’s 10 hunts suggests that they are routinely behaving as they did before the ban, with a complete absence of shotguns.

The footage, which will be presented to MSPs in Holyrood on Wednesday, shows dogs in full cry apparently following a scent and appearing to be encouraged to do so by members of the hunt. On two occasions dogs are seen following the line of a fox.

Scottish Labour’s cabinet secretary for rural affairs, Sarah Boyack, called on the Scottish government to fully investigate the League’s allegations.

“Foxhunting is a cruel pursuit and we need to know that Scottish ministers are serious about properly enforcing the law passed by the Scottish parliament to ban it.

“At the same time as enforcing the ban in Scotland, the SNP should underline its opposition to the practice across the UK by stating clearly its objection to any repeal of the law in England and Wales.”

The League is likewise calling on SNP MPs to be given a free vote on any repeal of Labour’s 2004 Hunting Act, which was promised in the Conservative manifesto.

Although traditionally SNP MPs do not vote on legislation that only affects England and Wales, both the party leader, Nicola Sturgeon, and the Westminster leader Angus Robertson have hinted that they may be reconsidering this position.

Last week the Guardian revealed that SNP MPs are being lobbied by voters in the rest of the UK who are promising to holiday in Scotland and buy more whisky if they vote against the repeal of the hunting ban.

Robbie Marsland, director of the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland, said: “Scotland led the way on legislating to ban hunting with dogs in the British Isles. We are calling on the Scottish government to lead the way once more and make two simple amendments to the law [to reduce the number of dogs used in flushing to guns to two and to add a clause outlawing reckless behaviour].

“These changes would make it extremely difficult for Scottish hunts to use cynical subterfuge to mask packs of hounds being encouraged to chase foxes and eventually kill them.”

But Jamie Stewart, Scotland director for the Countryside Alliance, disputed the nature of the footage, telling the Guardian: “Having viewed the footage, I am appalled that the League Against Cruel Sports is wasting the Scottish government’s time with what is at best subjective and at worst contrived.”

He insisted that there was no illegal activity shown in the filming, and that anti-hunting legislation worked well in Scotland. “The Act is robust and we have had 13 years of monitoring by animal welfare groups and Police Scotland without seeing the Scottish court system backed up with cases.”

Polling commissioned by the League from IPSOS Mori in March found that 84% of the Scottish public supported the foxhunting ban. But the same polling revealed that just over half believed that illegal foxhunting was still taking place in Scotland.

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RSPCA Cymru launches campaign to ban wild circus animals

A campaign to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses in Wales has been launched by RSPCA Cymru.

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The charity has raised concerns about the temporary housing, forced training and performance of the animals.

Political campaigns manager Martin Fidler Jones said the Welsh government should ban the “outdated practice”.

The Welsh government said it would be writing to the UK government about the issue.

The charity is now urging supporters to sign a petition, which will be submitted to the National Assembly for Wales’ Petitions Committee in October.

Mr Jones said: “The Welsh government acknowledges the strong support which exists for a ban, and had previously invited the UK government to legislate on their behalf on the issue.

“But following delays, it is now time for the Welsh government to bring forward their own proposals so the use of this outdated practice in circuses touring Wales is finally brought to an end.”

In response, a Welsh government spokesman said: “As set out in our Animal Health and Welfare Framework, the way we treat animals is an important reflection of our society’s values.

“As we have previously made clear, we are prepared to work with the UK government to find a solution to the use of wild animals in circuses and will be writing to them shortly to discuss their proposals.”

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Sting of the Day: Gamekeeper prosecuted for ‘agonising’ bird of prey death

A gamekeeper on one of Scotland’s greatest sporting estates caught a bird of prey in a cruel trap outlawed in the UK for more than half a century, a court was told yesterday.

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James O’Reilly set a gin trap near a forest ride on the family-owned 5000-acre Cardross estate near Flanders Moss, Stirlingshire.

The shooting part of the estate was described in court as leased on debenture and advertised as of the best shoots in Scotland, with “opportunities for driven grouse, partridge and deer shooting”. O’Reilly, 50, baited the trap by leaving a deer carcass beside it, where goshawks, red kites and white-tailed eagles visited.

The trap caught a buzzard, a bird that has only become re-
established as a breeding species in the central Lowlands in the last 25 years.

Stirling Sheriff Court was told the “otherwise healthy bird” would have “suffered tremendously” before it was eventually found by a dog walker and handed to the Scottish SPCA. Despite efforts to save it, the buzzard had to be humanely destroyed days later.

Shona McJannet, prosecuting, said there had also been a potential to trap “other, very iconic species”. She said: “The trap used was one that would never have been legal, and there is evidence that it had not been checked for a period of 24 to 48 hours.”

Ms McJannet, the Crown Office’s specialist wildlife prosecutor, said O’Reilly’s job as keeper on the estate involved maximising the number of birds available for shooting by managing their habitat and controlling predators such as crows, stoats, weasels and foxes.

She said: “Historically, gamekeepers legitimately controlled birds of prey but this practice became wholly illegal in 1954.”

Ms McJannet said the offence came to light in March 2013 when a local man walking his dog found the bird caught by the leg in the gin trap.

She said: “There appeared to have been considerable blood loss. The buzzard was flapping about, trapped by the leg.

“The man opened the jaws of the trap and stood back, thinking the buzzard would fly off, but it moved very little, and was apparently unable to fly.”

He took the bird home and called the Scottish SPCA, whose officers took it to a rescue centre.

Police went to the scene the next day and found the small, factory-made gin trap of a kind not sold in the UK, its jaws controlled by two strong springs.

The court heard that O’Reilly, now of Stronachlacher in the Trossachs, was no longer employed on the estate. He pleaded guilty to illegal trapping and improper use of snares.

Sheriff Peter Anderson ordered O’Reilly to carry out 240 hours unpaid work and warned he could have been jailed.

He said: “It may only have been a buzzard, it may only have been a fox, but these are very serious animal welfare issues. As a gamekeeper, you are given the right to carry out actions that cause animals real suffering.

“You are given that right under strict conditions – the kinds of traps that you can use and the methods you can use, and the steps to ensure that suffering is kept to a limit.”

Article taken from: http://www.scotsman.com/news/environment/agonising-death-of-bird-of-prey-in-long-banned-trap-1-3779039

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Body of battered dog found in pond in Newmains, North Lanarkshire

The Scottish SPCA is appealing for information after a young female Staffordshire bull terrier was discovered in water near Overtown Road in the North Lanarkshire town.

A post-mortem revealed the dog had been struck on the head, neck and body.

The dog had been weighed down with two large slab-like stones before being dumped in the water.

The animal was found on Friday May 15.

Inspector Heather Lawson said, “The dog had been in the water for 24 to 48 hours before she was discovered. Although the trauma to her head and neck was significant it would have been unlikely to be the cause of death, which is unexplained at this stage.

“It is not yet known if she was still breathing when she entered the water.

“The dog had been weighed down with two large, slab-like stones which had been tied to her lead.

“She was a young brown female Staffordshire bull terrier type and other than her injuries was in good bodily condition.

“She was a very unusual colour for this breed as this shade of brown is more commonly seen in Patterdale terriers or chocolate Labradors.

“We would appeal to anyone who recognises the description of this dog and knows who may have done this to her to contact us on 03000 999 999.”

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Horror at mass deer killings in Purbeck, Dorset

This is the distressing scene of dead deer after a spree of killings in the Purbeck area of Dorset. [Ed: photo not posted on What The Cat Dragged In due to content – click on link at end of article for more info]

Police investigating the recent deer killings are urging the public to come forward if they have any information.

The carcasses of nine deer were discovered by members of the public during the last week in April 2015 in two locations.

Seven were found at the bottom of Randalls Hill near Lytchett Minster and another two had been dumped at the Slough Lane bridle path near Frenches Farm, Upton.

All nine deer have dog bites on their rears, their insides removed and throats cut.

Police Sergeant Jane Mooney, of Purbeck’s Safer Neighbourhood Team, said: “I am appealing to members of the public to come forward if they have any information regarding these killings.

“These cruel wildlife attacks appear to have been carried out for ‘fun’ as there are no signs of butchering. Anyone who has information that may help us find the offenders should contact me urgently on 101 or by emailing us at warehamnorthSNT@dorset.pnn.police.uk

“I would also like to appeal to local walkers and dog owners who might be out and about in rural areas to keep their eyes and ears open and report any suspicious behaviour. All calls will be treated in strict confidence.”

There has been a rise in the recent number of deer killings in the county which police are responding to.

Dorset Police’s Wildlife Co-Ordinator, Inspector Steve Marsh, said: “We have noticed an increase in this kind of wildlife crime in our rural areas.

“Deer are being slaughtered by dogs as part of an illegal sport or poached for their meat. I would like to reassure the public that, together with partner agencies, we are taking these crimes extremely seriously and will prosecute offenders accordingly. We currently have robust patrols in targeted areas and can only ask that the public remain vigilant to such crimes and come forward with any information.”

Further information in helping to fight wildlife crime can be found at http://www.nwcu.police.uk

If you witness a suspected wildlife crime in action call 999 immediately and ask for the police.

Witnesses and anyone with information should call Dorset Police in confidence on 101. Alternatively, call the free and anonymous Crimestoppers line on 0800 555 111 where mobile phone tariffs may apply.

Read more: http://www.westerndailypress.co.uk/PHOTO-Horror-mass-deer-killings-Purbeck-Dorset/story-26508129-detail/story.html#ixzz3aV49Gha0