Rescue dog’s journey from stray to saviour

Article by James Gallagher, Health and science reporter, BBC News website:


Katie’s start was as rough as they get. She spent a year as a stray in the Irish countryside and was seriously emaciated by the time she was rescued.

But now Katie is making a huge difference to people recovering from injuries in hospital.

They get better faster, out of hospital sooner and are less likely to need social care, according to the team at Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust in London.

So how is she doing it? And should every hospital have a pet pooch?

The first thing you notice is Katie is like a glamorous celebrity.

When she walks on to the ward at St Michael’s Primary Care Centre in London, the patients only have eyes for her.

Everyone here is having occupational and physiotherapy to help them deal with fractures, surgery, early stages of dementia or multiple sclerosis.

The sessions are aimed at increasing their range of movement – how far they can walk, how many steps they can make, how far they can reach.

KathleenKathleen is being helped to get back on her feet after breaking three bones

Kathleen Edwards is a charismatic 92-and-a-half-year-old with nerve damage and numbness in her feet.

She tripped and broke three bones. “I didn’t enjoy myself at all,” she told me.

When she’s not craftily sneaking mints to Katie – “she loves them” – Kathleen’s sessions are aimed at getting her on her feet again.

She said: “I just did some walking, and she [Katie] walked with me, she makes me feel quite happy, it’s just fun.

“She’s a beauty she really is, I just love her, we never had dogs, and she makes you feel ‘Aah.’

“I shall want to take her home.”

MartinMartin Ross strokes and brushes Katie to help his stroke recovery

Katie has a similar effect on Martin Ross, 58, who is regaining movement after a stroke.

His sessions are aimed at arm movement and reaching down, which will eventually help with putting on socks and shoes.

His sessions involve stroking and brushing Katie.

He said other recovery clinics were “more like work, and this isn’t as you’re actually enjoying yourself”.

He said: “I was stretching a lot more and not even realising what I was doing and just enjoying time with the dog.

“Spending time with Katie makes you happy.”

Kathleen and Martin illustrate the two main benefits Katie brings – she makes people happy, more social and makes them push themselves further.

Kavita Shastri, Sarah Hodges and Marianne Welsh with Katie the dogKatie is helping occupational therapists help their patients

Marianne Welsh, senior occupational therapist, said: “It’s lovely, we see a lot of physical improvements, but also you can see she lifts the mood.

“Rehab is hard for our patients, they’ve got pain and often anxieties about not being at home or they’re fearful for the future.

“She enables them to progress without realising, so they’ll spend more time reaching forward, bending down further, mobilising further because they’re focused on Katie.”

And this is important – recovering the movements that let them get washed, dressed, out of bed or go to the toilet allows people to live independently.

“That helps us reduce the referrals to social services for care,” said Marianne, who is also Katie’s owner.

Katie had needed a lot of tender loving care herself after she had first been rescued, but had also been a “very adoptable dog”, Marianne said.

And she had immediately thought Katie had the temperament to train for Pets as Therapy.

It’s a long journey from being a stray in Ireland and “when the patients hear her history, there’s a bit of an affinity there”, Marianne added.


The personal experience of the medical staff suggests Katie is helping.

“Pet-assisted therapy has made a huge difference in trying to get patients out of hospital,” said Kavita Shastri, a senior physical therapist.

The clinic has been interviewing patients, and their answers also suggest having Katie around is boosting their recovery.

But what is still lacking is concrete scientific proof.

Kavita told me: “It’s unfortunate that the research around this is not that huge.

“Unfortunately in the UK there’s not a lot of randomised clinical trials and specific research to objectify this and I think that’s what’s really required.”

But at St Michael’s Primary Care Centre at least, they’re all convinced dogs could have a big role in NHS care.

Article taken from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-39383868


Cat and eight kittens found dumped in a suitcase

Article by RSPCA teams, 14th March 2017:

We are investigating after a cat and her eight kittens were found abandoned inside a zipped-up suitcase on a disused railway line in Essex.

The black and white cat, now named Tarini, and her five week-old babies were discovered by a passing dog walker in a remote spot between Great Yeldham and Castle Hedingham in Halstead, Essex on Tuesday, 7 March. They were inside a navy blue case with a Polo logo.

We were called and rescued Tarini and her kittens, after the passer by picked up the case and took them home for safety.

It was pure chance they were found

RSPCA Animal Collections Officer (ACO) Donna Smith said:

It was pure chance that this woman happened to find these little kittens and their mum.

She was walking along the disused rail track when she wandered past a dumped suitcase, not thinking anything of it until her dog stopped and started sniffing it.

She took a closer look and heard tiny miaows coming from the case, so opened the zip a tiny bit – and was shocked to discover nine pairs of eyes peering back.

The mother cat and eight kittens had been just zipped up in the case and discarded. Who knows how long they had been there – it must have been terrifying for them. It would not have ended well had this kindly woman not come to their rescue – I have no doubt they would have suffered for days.

Tarini is recovering well with her kittens

Blue suitcase cat and kittens were found in © RSPCA

We’re urging anyone with any information about how the cats came to be in such a secluded spot to call us, in complete confidence, on 0300 123 8018.

The cats are now in our care. They were all very thin, and looked to not have had much food for a while. Tarini had to be put on a drip, and received intensive care at the vets as she was also very dehydrated. She’s since recovered well and is back at an Essex centre with her kittens.

The kittens have all been named after characters from Disney film The Aristocats:

  • Toulouse (male, tabby/white),
  • Tiny Tim (male black/white),
  • Scat Cat (male, tabby),
  • Berloiz (male, black),
  • Alli (male tabby),
  • Duchess (female tabby),
  • Marie (female, black),
  • Eve (female tabby).

It’s hoped they will soon be available for rehoming. Anyone interested in rehoming them, or any other cats in our care, should keep an eye out on find a pet.

Article taken from: https://www.rspca.org.uk/whatwedo/latest/details/-/articleName/2017_03_14_cat_and_kittens_found


Scottish Natural Heritage review fails to consider a ban on snaring

The League Against Cruel Sports Scotland and OneKind are urging the Scottish Government to consider and consult on a ban on snares following a review of snaring in Scotland.

The findings of the review, commissioned by the Scottish Government and carried out by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), were published today (Tuesday). The charities have branded the findings “a wasted opportunity”, and have criticised the limited scope of the review. In 2010, during the passage of the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act, MSPs voted for a regulatory regime for snare use in Scotland rather than an outright ban, but made provisions for a review to be carried out by December 2016.

SNH was tasked with examining the impact of the regulations and has published its findings. The report has found that snaring related incidents have reduced and made a number of recommendations for further small changes to the way which snares are regulated.

The limited remit of the review meant consideration of a ban on snaring was not included in the research, which both the League Scotland and OneKind say was a flaw from the offset. Both charities want to see snaring banned in Scotland on animal welfare and ethical grounds.

Robbie Marsland, Director of the League Against Cruel Sports, Scotland said: “Since the snaring regulations were introduced over five years ago animals have continued to endure needless suffering as a result of cruel and indiscriminate traps. This review was never going to resolve the problem, it was, sadly, a wasted opportunity.  Regulations are not a workable solution for something as crude and barbaric as a snare. In short, you can’t regulate cruelty.

“We have long argued that a ban is the only way to eradicate the problems associated with snaring. We will now step up our campaign to convince the Scottish Government to take the common sense approach and ban the manufacture, sale, possession and use of all snares once and for all.”

The League Scotland and OneKind have been critical of SNH’s approach to animal welfare which both charities say has been overlooked in the review process.

Harry Huyton, Director of OneKind added: “The review was an opportunity to assess whether the new snaring regulations had ended the suffering and indiscriminate capture caused by snares.  Yet it was destined to fail from day one due to a bizarre and inadequate remit which specifically excluded considering whether snares have a place at all in a modern Scotland. This, in spite of the fact that they are banned throughout most of Europe. By focusing on illegal snaring and ignoring the bigger question – whether the use of snares is justified in the first place, given the suffering they cause – this review fails to advance the debate.

“We are hugely disappointed that SNH has sought welfare advice on the use of snares from pro-snaring organisations such as the Scottish Gamekeepers Association and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation rather than independent expert evidence to assess whether the aspirations of the Scottish Parliament are being met. We remain convinced that the legislation has not been sufficient to prevent severe animal suffering and will continue to campaign for a complete ban.”

The League Against Cruel Sports Scotland and OneKind have worked together for almost a decade to expose the cruelty of snare use in Scotland developing considerable knowledge and expertise regarding the welfare of wild animals and impact of these primitive, indiscriminate traps over this time.

Mark Ruskell MSP, Environment spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, said:

“This review does nothing other than maintain outdated and inhumane traditions. We need to be moving from a regulatory regime to an outright ban in the interests of animal welfare.

“Today’s response from Scottish Ministers appears to be yet another decision where they have listening more to organisations that want to persecute animals than those who have their welfare at heart.”

Alison Johnstone MSP, vice-convener of Holyrood’s cross-party group on animal welfare, said:

“Snaring causes indiscriminate killing and is hard to monitor. Banning it outright would mean no need for this flawed and barbaric practice. Scottish Ministers must rethink their response.”

Scottish Labour’s spokesperson for Animal Welfare and Environment Claudia Beamish MSP said:

“Scottish Labour called for a consultation on an outright ban on snaring in our Manifesto, because we believe you cannot regulate cruelty to animals.

“The SNP Government’s review was flawed from the start. SNP ministers should have been consulting on an outright ban, not tinkering at the edges on what sort of snares can and can’t be used and how to regulate use. That completely misses the point.”

Article taken from: https://www.league.org.uk/news/scottish-natural-heritage-review-fails-to-consider-a-ban-on-snaring


Animal Abusers get reprieve as anonymous MP ‘objects’ to progress

Article by Tom Sheppard, League Against Cruel Sports, 28th February 2017:

On Friday, February 24th, there were two pieces of legislation due to be debated in the Commons: Animal Fighting (Sentencing) Bill and Animal Cruelty (Sentencing) Bill. Each had differences, but their essential aims were the same: increase the penalties available to courts for animal cruelty offences.

England and Wales currently have the lowest penalties in Europe for such offences. So it’s difficult to imagine an objection to increasing these penalties.

Some background explanation is important here: on Fridays, Parliament debates legislation introduced by MPs who are not part of the government – i.e. backbench MPs. Parliament sits for about five hours. If any legislation has not had a vote taken in that time, it goes to the back of the queue for debate, effectively meaning it will never be debated. If a bill has not been debated, it could still progress – unless one or more MPs raises an objection. The reasons for objecting could be simple or complicated, relating to the content of the bill – but any objecting MP does not have to explain. They simply have to ‘object’, and the bill does not progress.

Back to last Friday. Two bills had already been debated, and Parliament had run out of time for a debate. So, it came to the animal cruelty bills:

  • “Animal Fighting (Sentencing) Bill”, went the announcement
  • “Object”, came the response

And again for the next bill:

  • “Animal Cruelty (Sentencing) Bill”
  • “Object”

That was all it took. The objection came from the backbenches, a lone voice who decided that the bill should progress no further. Here was legislation which has the support of MPs from all parties. It is supported by not only the League, but also the RSPCA, the Dog’s Trust, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, and the Blue Cross. A Minister from Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has acknowledged that courts say sentences available for dog fighting aren’t strong enough. The cross-party Commons Environment Committee has said that sentences aren’t strong enough.

And now animal abusers will continue to get away with their crimes. In Northern Ireland, when the smirking perpetrators of horrific acts of animal cruelty walked out of court, it sparked the Northern Ireland Executive to strengthen sentences to five years.

Anna Turley, Labour MP for Redcar in North Yorkshire, was moved to begin a campaign on this following an appalling case of animal abuse in her constituency. How many people, like in those cases, are getting away with a slap on the wrist for terrible crimes?

On Friday morning, the League held a photo-op at Westminster with explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes and TOWIE star Chloe Meadows. But the real celebrity there that morning was Cupcake, a Staffordshire bull terrier rescued from dog fighting. Cupcake politely posed for pictures and took the affection of everyone there.


That was all it took for the bill to go no further, but it does not mark the end of the battle for tougher sentences. We don’t know who shouted it, but, unlike Laurence J Peters, we are not looking to attribute blame. Instead, we are beginning a battle – for Cupcake. Vulnerable animals like Cupcake cannot seek justice for themselves, so we do it for them. And we will not stop until we secure that justice.

Article taken from: https://www.league.org.uk/blog/animal-abusers-get-reprieve-as-anonymous-mp-objects-to-progress


Pets at Home recalls food after cats ‘collapse’

Pets at Home is recalling AVA dry cat food after three cats became ill.

The pets “exhibited symptoms of sudden collapse, fitting, widespread twitching and general unsteadiness” the firm said, after consuming the biscuits from their range aimed at senior and neutered cats.

The level of thiamine (vitamin B1) in the cat food listed was much lower than the recipe specified.

Pets at Home said customers would be given a full refund.

“An investigation has revealed that, in the four affected products, the level of thiamine (vitamin B1) was much lower than we had specified,” the company said in a statement.

It added that the symptoms displayed by the three cats identified were “not the classic symptoms of thiamine deficiency”.

bags of cat food being recalledFour products in the AVA range are being recalled

The product being recalled is dried food or “kibble” designed for older cats and neutered cats kept indoors. The rest of the AVA range was safe to use, the company said. The AVA range is manufactured in the UK and sold exclusively at Pets at Home.

The Food Standards Agency, which is also responsible for pet food labelling, said a notification had been sent to vets to alert them to “the atypical symptoms potential for thiamine deficiency”.

A spokesperson for Pets at Home, Brian Hudspith, said it was important to alert vets as well as customers because thiamine deficient cats would usually present with quite different symptoms, including stiff limbs and the head falling onto the sternum.

“Rather than the more typical cervical ventroflexion (head falling onto the chest) associated with thiamine deficiency, in the three cases we saw the predominant clinical signs included sudden collapse, fitting, widespread twitching and general unsteadiness on their legs, which began suddenly after 4-6 weeks of being on the diet,” he said.

The three cats identified are all stable and recovering, he said.

The company advised customers to dispose of the contents and return the packaging to Pets at Home stores for a refund.

Article taken from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-39117832


Outrage as Government accused of going soft on animal abusers

Shocked animal welfare campaigners are savaging ministers for going soft on cruel animal abusers by refusing to bring in tough jail sentences.

Leading charities say the Government’s refusal to clamp down on thugs torturing pets and wildlife on a daily basis shames Britain’s claim to be a nation of animal lovers.

Innocent animals continue to be stabbed, shot, poisoned and scalded by sadistic owners and vicious thugs in full knowledge that the courts only have slap-on-the-wrist powers.

Ministers have steadfastly refused MPs’ recommendations to increase the current paltry six-month maximum jail for cruelty to a punitive five years behind bars.

The Government faces calls to come down with harder punishments for animal abusers

Turning down the call for increased penalties, ministers say there is nothing to “suggest that the courts are finding current sentencing powers inadequate”.

The Express launched a Cruelty Crusade last year in light of soft sentences being handed down to animal abusers.

Tens of thousands have signed various petitions calling for jail time to be increased, and the influential Commons’ Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee recommended five year terms last year.

Sad looking puppy in chains

Ministers have so far refused to increase minimum jail sentences

As a nation of animal lovers we should be leading the way when it comes to doing all we can to stamp out animal abuse

Philip Mansbridge, International Fund for Animal Welfare

In the wake of ministers’ rejection, many of the country’s leading animal welfare groups today voiced their disappointment and warned of more horrific attacks on innocent pets and wildlife creatures.

Philip Mansbridge, UK Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said: “It’s so disappointing that the Government has chosen to not take on board the recommendations from a recent EFRA Committee Report regarding increased sentencing for those that choose to abuse animals.

“As a nation of animal lovers we should be leading the way when it comes to doing all we can to stamp out animal abuse, but England and Wales currently have some of the lowest penalties in Europe for anyone who chooses to hurt a defenceless animal.”

At the League Against Cruel Sports, chief executive Eduardo Gonçalves, explained how he has to witness some of the most horrific scenes of animal abuse imaginable.

Sad looking cat in a rusty cage

He said: “If we don’t offer a serious punishment to animal abusers then they will continue abusing animals.

“I spend a lot of my time looking at horrific dog fighting footage as the League is working hard to stamp this out in the UK, but I know in the back of my mind that if we catch a dog fighter, the most they will get is six months in prison – and probably much less.

“That’s utterly inadequate and would be laughable if it wasn’t so shocking.”

The Dogs Trust says the current maximum sentences under the 2006 Animal Welfare Act are “woefully inadequate” and that it is disappointed that sentences have not been made more severe.

Sad kitten in a cage

Dogs Trust Veterinary Director, Paula Boyden added: “We strongly urge the government to increase the prison sentences available for offences in England to five years in order to reflect the seriousness of the offences that are sadly carried out on a daily basis.”

In its official response to the EFRA report, the Government points out that in 2015 a total of 936 people were sentenced for animal cruelty, with 91 given immediate jail time, while 202 received suspended prison sentences.

“Current sentencing practice for offences of animal cruelty in the Animal Welfare Act 2006 does not suggest that the courts are finding current sentencing powers inadequate,” it adds.

For Battersea Dogs & Cats Home such a response is hugely disappointing.

Its chief executive Claire Horton said: “The current sentence for such offences is inadequate, both as a punishment and a deterrent for those who mistreat and neglect animals to the point of unacceptable suffering.

“This is an issue that Battersea, along with other key animal welfare organisations, has regularly brought to the Government’s attention and we will continue to speak out on the need for sentences which properly fit the crime.”

While the RSPCA has been told by ministers that its powers to bring private prosecutions are not being withdrawn, it also remains concerned that criminals it brings before the courts are getting off lightly.

Sad puppy in a cage

Jeremy Cooper, chief executive of the RSPCA, said: “We are disappointed the Government has decided to ignore the recommendation to increase the maximum sentence for animal cruelty offences to five years.

“Our recent poll showed that seven out of 10 people want the Government to bring in longer jail time for the most serious cases of animal cruelty and neglect.

“Our inspectors investigate shocking incidents of animal cruelty such as animals being scalded with boiling water, stabbed, shot, poisoned or forced to fight to the death. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.”

Article taken from: http://www.express.co.uk/news/nature/764276/Cruelty-Crusade-outrage-government-accused-soft-animal-abusers


Jumpers are knitted for ‘discriminated-against’ unwanted dogs

Dog in knitted jumperSpringer spaniel Barney is one of the dogs to receive a new jumper

Jumpers are being knitted for “discriminated-against” dogs that an animal welfare charity finds among the hardest to rehome.

Dogs with dark-coloured coats are being overlooked at Scottish SPCA centres in Inverness and Caithness.

It is thought the dogs’ features do not show as well in photograph appeals for new homes as lighter-coated pooches.

Scottish Women’s Institute groups, including those in Aberdeenshire, have been knitting the eye-catching jumpers.

The knitting effort forms part of celebrations marking 100 years of the SWI.

SWI member Winnie Anderson and BarneyImage SWI member Winnie Anderson and Barney

Dogs in the care of the SSPCA at Drumoak, near Banchory, were among the first to get the colourful overcoats, designed to draw greater attention to the animals.

The SSPCA describes the problem of rehoming dark-coated dogs as Black Dog Syndrome.

The charity said that, in photographs, the dogs’ features and personalities do not show up as they do for dogs with lighter coats.

SSPCA superintendent Sharon Comrie said: “This syndrome really does affect the adoption of animals in our care and, through no fault of their own, black dogs are almost always the last to find new homes.

“It’s a really creative idea to knit coloured jackets to show these dogs off to their best advantage.

Dog in knitted jumperImage Lurcher cross Archie sporting a colourful woolly overcoat

“Knowing that the SWI has members in every part of Scotland, many of whom are extremely dextrous when it comes to traditional crafts, means that we’ll hopefully be able to help animals in the nine rescue and rehoming centres we operate in Scotland.

“Knitted jackets will be ideal because they will be soft on the skin, have an element of give and stretch, and can be created in any, or many, colours of wool.”

SWI national chairwoman Christine Hutton said: “Some of Scotland’s top craftswomen are making multi-coloured dog coats in aid of homeless pets desperately seeking loving new homes – to boost their appeal and help them become rehomed more quickly.”

Dog jumping
It is hoped that the knitting project draws attention to overlooked dogs

Article taken from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-38990968