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RSPCA animal cruelty caseload rises to almost 150,000 investigations

The number of animal cruelty investigations by the RSPCA jumped by nearly 5% last year to more than 400 a day, according to figures released by the animal welfare charity.

In its annual prosecutions report the RSPCA said it had investigated almost 150,000 cases in 2016. Calls to its 24-hour cruelty hotline rose by nearly 4%, averaging one every 27 seconds.

Dermot Murphy, assistant director of the RSPCA inspectorate, said he thought that rather than the figures representing a rise in cruelty they suggested that more people were sharing abuse images on social media, leading to more investigations.

He said: “I believe that the figures from last year show that we’re not becoming more cruel, but that people are simply less willing to stand by and do nothing if they think an animal is suffering. People are increasingly likely to share images or footage on their social media accounts of animals they believe are not being cared for properly, while many will see material their friends have shared and then contact us about them.”

People persecuting badgers have been brought to the attention of the RSPCA.
People persecuting badgers have been brought to the attention of the RSPCA. Photograph: Nature Picture Library/Getty Images

A total of 149,604 complaints of animal abuse were investigated by the RSPCA in 2016, including the case of Reo, a nine-year-old German shepherd who was whimpering in agony when she was found, suffering from open wounds on her ears, jaw and eye. Her owner was banned from keeping animals for life after being prosecuted by the RSPCA. The charity said the dog was now thriving in her new home.

Other cases highlighted in the RSPCA report include:

  • A bulldog repeatedly thrown down a flight of stairs, stamped upon and headbutted;
  • A royal python and boa constrictor which were both decapitated with a pair of scissors;
  • A shih-tzu dog repeatedly stabbed in the face and neck with a kitchen knife before being left to die in broad daylight;
  • Badgers dug out of a sett and a waiting pack of dogs encouraged to attack them as their ordeal was filmed on a mobile phone;
  • A golden eagle kept in a cramped kitchen, surrounded by broken glass and empty tin cans.

Murphy said: “It never fails to shock me when I look back on the extreme instances of animal cruelty the RSPCA has been called upon to investigate. It continues to outrage and sadden me that people can be capable of such deliberate brutality towards animals. But equally it drives me on to ensure that perpetrators of animal cruelty are put before the courts.”

The majority of complaints received by the RSPCA were about the welfare of dogs (84,994), followed by cats (36,156) and equines (19,530).

The highest number of complaints investigated were in Greater London (11,812), West Yorkshire (7,920) and Greater Manchester (7,708).

Murphy said: “People might see these figures as a negative, and I certainly take no satisfaction from knowing that any animal has suffered. What I do take pride in is knowing that because of the RSPCA’s intervention we have prevented many more animals from suffering at the hands of those whom we have successfully investigated and brought before the courts.”

Article taken from: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/29/rspca-animal-cruelty-caseload-rises-to-almost-150000-investigations

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Fish are sentient animals who form friendships and experience ‘positive emotions’, landmark study suggests

zebrafish.jpg

Fish are sentient animals who form friendships, experience “positive emotions” and have individual personalities.

That, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), is the implication of a landmark new study which found zebrafish are social animals in a similar way to humans and other mammals.

And people who refuse to eat meat on moral grounds but do eat fish – as well as people who keep fish as pets – should bear that in mind, Dr Penny Hawkins, head of the RSPCA’s research animals department, told The Independent.

The researchers discovered that being in a group gives zebrafish a kind of “social buffering” so they are less afraid when confronted by danger.

And this effect was associated with a distinct pattern of brain activation known to be involved in social buffering in mammals, they added.

Because of this similar mechanism, the scientists hope zebrafish can now be used as a model to study social effects on human health with suggestions that isolation can have a significant impact on conditions such as depression.

But Dr Hawkins said the study also added to the growing body of evidence that fish should not be viewed as lesser animals.

“I think if you are going to think it’s okay to eat any animal, then you have to realise what you are doing,” she said.

“You are causing the death of an animal who is sentient, who has experiences, interests.”

She said the RSPCA did not advocate vegetarianism but operated a “welfare friendly” labelling scheme for meat and fish.

“If you do choose to eat meat and fish do just be aware of what you are buying into and make sure you go for higher welfare labels and not just the cheapest,” she said.

Asked if she thought fish could form friendships, Dr Hawkins said: “It depends how you define friendship. It’s not going to be analogous to human friendship.

“But if you think of friendship in terms of being with another individual who you are familiar with and whose company you seek and who makes you feel positive emotions, then these are fish friendships.

“It would be a good thing if these kinds of results were used, not only to improve the lives of laboratory fish, but also for people who keep fish in fish tanks to think about what they are doing when they mix unfamiliar fish together or when they split groups of fish up.

“They are not just ornaments or play things for people, they are individuals, they are sentient.

“There’s quite a lot of research going on into fish personalities. Some fish are bold, some are shy, there’s a whole lot more going on in the fish tank than people than people thought previously.”

However she also criticised the study, saying the anaesthetic used on the fish before they were killed had been “shown to be very irritating for them”.

“They will work quite hard to get out of it. There are other anaesthetics that don’t have this effect,” Dr Hawkins said.

She said it was a “a bit of a tragic conflict” that the evidence “to make people sit up and think” about fish had come from a study that involved animal suffering.

“The price these individuals paid in order to find this out was pretty high,” Dr Hawkins said.

The zebrafish were kept in a laboratory tank and exposed to their own ‘alarm substance’, a secretion from their skin that signals danger, the researchers said in the journal Scientific Reports.

If they were alone, they displayed signs of greater fear, but when they were with other zebrafish they responded more calmly. They were then killed to allow their brains to be examined.

Professor Rui Oliveira, of the ISPA university in Lisbon, who led the study, said what made it significant was the discovery that zebrafish shared a similar social buffering process in the brain with humans and mammals.

Asked about whether it should change people perceptions of fish, he said: “What this study shows is certainly they change the way they perceive their environment when others are present, which suggests they might be cognitively more complex than we originally thought.

“Maybe because of that people will become more aware of their needs and welfare issues. I think if it helps, it’s great.

“There are all the myths about fish have a memory of five seconds, like in [the film Finding] Nemo, that’s obviously not the case.”

On Dr Hawkins’ complaint about the way the zebrafish were killed, he said the anaesthetic used was part of the official protocol and he was unaware of a better alternative.

His colleague, Dr Ana Faustino, stressed the zebrafish’s social support process “does not have the complexity of the social support verified in humans”.

But she added: “Research in zebrafish will allow us to explore in depth the neural mechanisms involved in this social behaviour, which is paramount to the well-being and mental health of the human species, particularly due to its relevance to certain psychological diseases such as depression.”

Article taken from: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/fish-sentient-animals-friends-positive-emotions-study-study-source-ethics-eating-pescaterians-vegans-a7660756.html

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Rescue dog’s journey from stray to saviour

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

dog

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.

Proof?

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

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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

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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

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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

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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