Friday, February 27, 2009

Traffic to our main website

 If you came to this page searching for a PDSA clinic near Cambridge, please read the information about using the Cambridge RSPCA Animal Clinic. There is no PDSA clinic locally, but the RSPCA clinic is available to help pet owners on low income.

The list of keywords which brought readers to our main website's page with our policy on help with veterinary treatment costs tell an interesting story. Here's the list in full. (I think the first one really wants the University of Pennsylvania Vet School, but can't spell it.) 

The search "why do people give up their pets to the rspca or pdsa" confirms my belief that the average animal-loving member of the public has really very limited knowledge about animal charities—in this case, not enough to know that the PDSA is a purely veterinary charity.
veterinary schools for treament in pennsylvaina free/small paymen
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vets offering free treatment
why do people give up their pets to the rspca or pdsa
animal sleep vet cost
cambridge rspca clinic
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can i get help from rspca
can i get help with vet fees with tax credit
can't afford vet fees
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do i still pay vet fees on family tax credit
emergency animal care policies- refuse help.
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help to pay pet costs on low income
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help towards cost of dog injections for those on low income
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help with emergency vets out of hours no money
help with payments for animal operations
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how expensive are vets
how many animals will the rspca clinic treat for each household
how much does the rspca charge for treatment
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low income help with vets
low income vet fee help
low income veterinary cost help
no nhs to pay for pets
payment help for animal boosters
pdsa and free vaccations policy
pdsa reduced cost dog neutering
private vet
putting down an animal simply because owners can't afford treatment
reduced rabbit vet costs
registering for rspca clinic
rehoming transferring ownership
rspca cambridge registering for clinic
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rspca help cost of putting of putting a dog to sleep
rspca how can i get redcuced fee vet fees
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some examples of how the rspca have helped animals
spay a bitch private vet
tax credit vet discount
tax credits help with vets costs
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vets offering easy payments
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why do rspca put animals to sleep
will rspca fund dog vacinations
will the rspca help with costs

More genetics and animals

Studies of the damaging effects of small populations and loss of genetic variety in threatened wild animals illustrate why the loss of genetic variation in dogs is potentially such a serious welfare problem:

"Conservation genetics focuses on understanding the role and requirement of genetic variation for population persistence. Can extinction be explained by habitat destruction alone or is lack of genetic variation a part of the explanation? It is now more important than ever that we ask relevant questions about the evolutionary fate of endangered populations throughout the globe and incorporate our knowledge of evolutionary processes and the distribution of genetic diversity into effective conservation planning and action." (From the back cover).

And a cute and very readable history of genetics with special reference to tortoiseshell cats:

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pedigree dogs again

The Independent has a long Crufts article, in places a little odd:
When it comes to the health of breeding dogs, Carol is a little ambivalent. Clumber spaniels tend to be affected by a genetic deficiency called PDP1, which can retard the body's metabolism and make the dogs too exhausted to exercise. Many dogs carry the PDP1 gene and lead long happy lives without being affected. But should they be used for breeding? It's a question at the heart of the Kennel Club controversy. "If they were affected with the disease, you wouldn't breed with them," said Carol. "But you can use a carrier for mating purposes, provided it's mated with a clear dog, so you can breed it out."

She is a fan of the Kennel Club, who gave her a £4,500 grant in 2004 to test 100 dogs for the virus. [my italics]
A genetic defect isn't a virus and, if the comments to the article are anything to go by, a large part of the fury over the whole pedigree dog question stems from people not understanding the basic science. 

Every one of us has some deleterious genes, but most of the time nothing catastrophic results because of genetic diversity —  bad genes are rare, so it is unlikely that two parents have the same problem genes and hence their children won't often inherit two bad copies and suffer the actual disease. Cystic fibrosis is an example: the gene is recessive and 1 in 25 members of the population carry it. However the chance that a baby's parents will both be carriers is only 1 in 625 (1 in 25 x 25) so it is uncommon for children to be born with the disease.

1 in five clumber spaniels is a carrier for PDP1, so there is a 1 in 25 chance of both parents being carriers if breeding pairs are chosen randomly, and this is why health checks are so essential — and are rightly encouraged by the Kennel Club.

However: 1 in five is an astoundingly high frequency for a gene that will make you very ill if you inherit two copies. That kind of frequency would only happen under natural conditions in two possible scenarios.
  1. The population size was reduced to a very few individuals at some point and, by chance, some of those individuals happened to be carriers (for example if a few animals were carried to an island on a floating log).
  2. Animals with one "bad" and one "good" copy of the gene had some survival advantage; as in the case of human Sickle Cell Anaemia
In Clumbers, the most likely cause is that humans inadvertently caused an artificial analogue of the first option; either because a very small number of dogs were used to create the breed originally, or because at some point a very popular sire happened to be a carrier. 

Independent of the danger that harmful recessive genes may become abnormally frequent if some dogs sire huge numbers of puppies, inbreeding means that both a puppy's parents are likely to carry the same copies of any harmful genes. It doesn't cause bad genes, but it dramatically increases a puppy's chances of inheriting two copies and suffering the actual disease rather than being a carrier.

So - some of the furious argument about cross-bred dogs is actually a red herring, because the need for sophisticated health checks before breeding is, at least partially, an artifact of the abnormal population structure of pedigree dogs.  

The Dogs Trust/Kennel Club Independent enquiry into dog breeding now has a website.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Legal confusion?

Local PCSO [Police Community Support Officer] phoned us asking for clarification of the law on fatal dog attacks on other dogs. This is definitely above my pay grade, so I'm afraid I simply put him on to the NCC, but I subsequently tried Google search to see if I could find more information.

Answer seems to be a very definite "not sure". Woking council say very firmly that this is a civil matter between the dead dog's owner and the owner of the other dog. Hertfordshire council say the owner of the attacked dog can report the incident to either the police or the dog warden for action. DEFRA's leaflet says an offence "may have been committed" if a dog attacks another dog. Bournemouth council say dog attacks should be reported to their Animal Welfare officers.

I'm afraid the answer is probably that this is a policy issue that's decided very locally on the basis of available resources.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

RSPCA Week 2009 27th April to 3rd May

We need as many collectors as possible to maximise our fundraising from this opportunity kindly provided by Tesco. We have permission to collect during the week outside all the main Tesco stores in our area (Bar Hill, Ely, Newmarket, Fulbourn, Milton, Cambridge and Royston). As in previous years, the Royston collection will be used to help fund rabbit fostering at the Rabbit Residence.

If you could help, even for just a few hours, please email or (Royston only), or leave your name at the Newmarket or Cambridge charity shop.  Tins, badges etc. will be available closer to the actual date.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Still time to register for a place on the home-visitor's training day

Val from RSPCA Regional Headquarters will be carrying out the training which gives a really helpful overview of the homevisiting procedure. Janine will add to this where she can to show how the info is specifically put into practice in our region.

Homevisits we carry out are for our own branch animals (kept in a boarding  facility or foster homes) and also for other RSPCA branches or Headquarters  centres where people within our branch territory have found an animal they want  from further afield.

Our branch has drawn up checklists of the information we aim to obtain on  our homevisits. These used to be filled in & given to the homing co-ordinator. Nowadays, we don't tend to bother as it's quicker to give the results by phone or email. However, they do provide a useful reminder list and some visitors like to fill them in to keep for their own records.  

Ideally a follow up visit should be done a few weeks after the animal is adopted (usually by the same person that does the pre-adoption visit). So the forms provide a useful aid to refresh your mind on the details of the home before the follow up.

In addition to the training day, we try to take new homevisitors on a few visits with us (usually 2 cat and 2 dog ones) — before they go on visits alone. Although this is ideal, we always have a big problem, being such busy people and spread out over a large region, liasing with each other and the homeowner to organise these very quickly. Thus there tends to be a long delay getting our valuable new volunteers up and running. We would really appreciate any ideas on how this can be improved. Maybe not everyone needs to do four  visits with us. 

If you would like to book a place on the training day (Sunday 1st March, at Cherry Hinton Village Centre, Colville Road, Cherry Hinton), please email