Monday, 29 July 2013

Successful Equine welfare conference held at the University of Delaware last week

In July last year, more than 250 academics, veterinarians and equine practitioners had arrived at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh to attend the 8th annual international equitation science conference. For this year’s conference it was the  turn of the United States, to which JMICAWE’s Prof Nat Waran was invited to provide a plenary presentation entitled ‘Future proofing equitation -  Advancing Evidence based learning and Practice in Equitation. She was joined by fellow key note speakers, Dr Hayley Randle, Duchy College, Prof Jan Ladewig from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark; Prof Hilary Clayton from Michigan State University; Dr Andrew McLean, Australia Equine Behaviour centre and Prof Paul McGreevy from the University of Sydney in Australia.

With the theme of “Embracing Science to Enhance Equine Welfare and Horse-Human Interactions,” the 9th annual conference brought together equine scientists, veterinarians, students, horse trainers, instructors and riders at the University of Delaware in Newark during July 18-19 with excellent live equitation science demonstrations and discussion, held at Pennsylvania University’s New Bolton Center hosted by Prof Sue McDonnell.

ISES is a nonprofit organization that facilitates research into the training of horses so as to enhance horse welfare and improve the horse-rider relationship.

Photo by Dr Elke Hartmann

Friday, 19 July 2013

Advice to farmers, pet and horse owners in this hot weather

High temperatures and humidity, particularly sudden changes in conditions, can pose a major threat to animal welfare.
The following basic advice is to help farmers, transporters, pet owners and others avoid problems.

Those who look after animals must avoid causing them unnecessary suffering (it’s a legal requirement), and must avoid subjecting them to conditions where this is likely to occur.  It is an offence if the welfare of an animal is compromised as a result of a failure to take appropriate action in response to extremes of temperature.

Farmed animals should be provided with adequate shelter and protection in accordance with the law and welfare codes. In hot weather it is particularly important that animals have access to shade and water. Livestock keepers should inspect their animals often and take necessary action to correct any problems.

Those transporting animals, including agricultural animals, should avoid problems in hot weather. Things to consider include:
  • factoring potential weather conditions into the planning of any journey (for example not loading or moving animals during the hottest parts of the day)
  • improved ventilation of the vehicle
  • increased space allowances
  • providing water and electrolytes more frequently
In addition, contingency plans should be in place for every journey, and are particularly important in hot conditions as delays, which might be relatively insignificant under normal conditions, can become critical very quickly.
Don’t forget your pets in hot weather. Make sure they have plenty of water, ventilation and shade from the sun. Dog owners should not leave their pets in the car.
DEFRA Guidelines

Friday, 12 July 2013

Widening the spotlight on genetic welfare problems: heritable disorders in selectively bred reptiles.

With the help of my programme director, Dr Fritha Langford, I have recently been lucky enough to secure a Student Vacation Scholarship from the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare to investigate the welfare consequences of selective breeding of captive reptiles.

My work will focus on the royal python Python regius, a species that has over the past two decades seen an explosion in popularity among pet owners, hobbyist and commercial breeders, due in part to the emergence and exploitation of atypical phenotypes or “morphs”. Base morphs, such as the above Spider (a pattern mutation) and Pastel (a colour mutation), are combined in artificial selective breeding to create designer morphs, such as the above “Bumblebee”.

Since the publication of the CAWC report on Genetic Welfare Problems in Companion Animals in 2006, animal welfare scientists have worked to increase awareness of genetic welfare problems linked to irresponsible selective breeding of companion animal species. To date, work has rightly been focused on domestic species, which have historically been subject to most selective breeding. However, with the recent surge in captive breeding of non-domestic species and the high demand for novel traits, there is a risk that characteristics detrimental to animal welfare will be propagated through artificial selection in reptiles in the same manner as has been seen in dogs and cats.

My project will focus on a single genetic disorder associated with a single, widely propagated phenotype of the royal python; the Spider morph (shown in the above example). The defect is known in the hobby as “wobble syndrome”, and presents as a characteristic loss of motor function during periods of stress and arousal. The Spider is deliberately selected for due to its high commercial value, resulting from its striking pattern, in which the black patches of the wild phenotype are significantly reduced to resemble a spider’s web.

Through survey of expert opinion, my report will establish for the first time a description of the wobble syndrome in the literature, and provide a quantitative assessment of the impacts of this condition to animal welfare. It is hoped that this will raise awareness of the potential for artificial selection to compromise welfare in reptiles, allowing informed breeding decisions to be made, evaluating anthropocentric benefit against welfare cost.

Mark Rose
Student on PGDip International Animal Welfare, Ethics and Law

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

A Veterinary Nurse’s perspective on emergency shelter volunteering in Thailand

As many of you know JMICAWE’s welfare veterinary nurse Hayley Walters and veterinary surgeon Heather Bacon used their annual leave to volunteer at a Government run dog shelter in Thailand after 3,000 dogs were intercepted and rescued whilst on their way to Vietnam for the dog meat trade there.
Hayley, the only veterinary nurse on the international vet team, and Heather spent 10 days, treating, nursing and vaccinating the sick and dying dogs in the shelter and found the experience very testing.
With 2,000 dogs living in buildings designed originally for pigs and with an actual capacity for only 400 dogs, it was understandably difficult for the 2 Thai Government vets and handful of staff to provide good welfare standards for each individual. Many of the dogs in the shelter were dying either from diseases such as distemper and parvovirus or starvation due to overcrowding and the dogs’ inability to compete for the food offered twice daily. It was the ineffectualness of the treatment and nursing and the cultural differences in relation to things like acceptance of  euthanasia as a possibility,  that they found particularly upsetting.
Palliative care was the best that could be offered and each emaciated, suffering dog in the sadly filled to capacity hospital was offered pain relief and, thanks to Hayley, a small sheet of cardboard to protect their bony bodies from the wire bottom cages as they tried to survive. Hayley said:
“As I filled up each dog’s water bowl and cleaned its cage in the 35 degree heat and relentless humidity I was dismayed at how little I was able to provide for the hundreds of patients in the hospital. Filling its water accounted for only 5% of what I actually wanted to do as a vet nurse. There was no time to bathe and lubricate dry, discharging eyes; properly clean dogs as they lay in puddles of diarrhoea. No time to administer much needed fluids or sit and hand feed an anorexic dog, or to tablet the dogs that had eaten around their medication or even to stroke the ones that looked  enquiringly at me, offering limp tail wags and silently hoping for a gentle hand. There were so many dogs in the hospital and there was just not enough time to give them the basic care,…I just had to move on and clean out and top up the water of the next dog.”
What they did feel they achieved, and will hopefully continue now the team have left, is more humane handling techniques when moving and catching of the shelter dogs is necessary. The staff at the shelter are not knowledgeable about dog behaviour and have an understandable fear of being bitten and contracting rabies.  Of the limited staff there, none of them were vaccinated and no one had received training on how to handle nervous - aggressive dogs.
” It was incredibly sad to see these frightened dogs, who had already endured so much, being so roughly handled using heavy neck  graspers by the very people who were here to help them. I was really keen to demonstrate much more humane handling techniques whilst still maintaining the safety of the staff.”
By the end of their time there and with consistent safe but humane handling demonstrated, the staff learned how they could be much gentler and calmer with the dogs, the neck graspers were only used for the most dangerous of dogs and even then their bodies were supported when being lifted.
“ The reality of real world animal welfare is exhausting and depressing and I think I had a bout of compassion fatigue whilst out there. I walked away wondering what I had managed to achieve and questioning, once again, the ethics of long term shelters for animals. All these dogs…..these beautiful, friendly, individual characters….were all now facing a lifetime of captivity as anonymous souls in a dog saturated concrete pen.  And why? Sadly, all because of some peoples’ dietary preferences and the illegal trade that occurs to support this. I know I didn’t address the underlying problems to change the world in my 10 days in Thailand, but I hopefully made a few dogs’ lives a little more bearable”.
Soi dogs, the charity that funded Hayley and Heather’s  flights and hotel along with Worldwide Veterinary Services, employed more local staff to help with the ever growing influx of intercepted, smuggled dogs that arrived at the shelter. They have also funded the building of a new, improved purpose built shelter and continually advertise, via the internet, the new dogs that desperately need homes.

Hayley and Heather both adopted dogs whilst out there and they will be arriving in Scotland in the next couple of months. If anybody knows of anyone who would like to rehome one of the dogs currently living in the overcrowded shelter then please contact Soi Dogs.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Academics from India visit RDSVS for professional development in veterinary teaching and research

We were pleased to welcome 6 senior Indian veterinary academics to Edinburgh last week. Funded by their University and with the support of their VC Dr Ashok and led by Edinburgh University Alumni, Professor Usha who is the Director of pig genetics and production research at the Kerala Veterinary and Animal Science University, with whom the University through the RDSVS have a MoU, the group had a busy schedule of talks, visits and meetings. During their week-long visit, the group learned about the way in which the RDSVS PG and UG students are taught using a variety of different methodologies, how farm and Zoo practicals are integrated into problem based learning exercises, how knowledge about animal welfare is introduced throughout the curriculum and the way in which the curriculum is designed around Day 1 skills. A highlight for the team was visiting the small animal hospital and learning about the way in which cases are managed and the variety of specialist treatments available here.
Professor Usha said ‘ It had been a wonderful experience for us to learn about the vet education in Edinburgh. This visit has helped us to make suggestions for improving vet education in Kerala.  I am sure this visit will open up next stages of joint initiative’.
We are looking forward to the next stage of our project together, when Prof Anna Meredith will be visiting with the team in Wayanad in July to provide teaching on the wildlife health and welfare programme.