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Border Collie Rescue - On Line - Foot & Mouth  - WSD News Articles

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The Following 4 articles were written by Border Collie Rescue for Working Sheepdog News during the course of the F&M crisis and these chronicle some of the work, problems and dilemmas raised by the foot and mouth epidemic in the areas affecting the rescue and re-homing of working sheepdogs made redundant by the mass culling of stock.

This page is now part of our Archives and is for information only - the program is now closed.


Foot in Mouth - A Dogs Life. - 15/4/2001

The Case of the Unwanted Farm Dogs – Fact? - or Fiction. - 19/6/2001

Oroubouros – The Never Ending Story. - 16/8/2001

Foot and Mouth - A Sting in the Tail. - February 2002


Foot in Mouth – A Dogs Life.  

Strange rumours.

Here at Border Collie Rescue, we are gearing up for an operation that we are, at this stage, unable to gauge the scale of.

Since the outbreak of the disease and the commencement of culling, rumours and stories have been reaching us about the sad fate of dogs on infected farms. Some dogs, it is claimed, are being put down along with infected livestock.

The initial sources of these stories tended to be anonymous – it’s not unusual for us to get complaints of farmers shutting dogs in byres or chaining dogs to barrels. These complaints usually come from visitors to holiday cottages on adjoining land and we are used to receiving these anonymous phone reports - but in these cases the callers were giving us third hand information - hearsay.

It is natural that, however vague, such stories would alarm us here at BCR, and we sought to ascertain the scale of the problem and the reasons why this may be occurring.

We contacted MAFF and eventually got a response to effect that they were not aware of any such cases. They also went on to explain that the destruction of dogs and family pets on farms was not government policy unless the animals were cloven hoofed and capable of contracting the disease. If this sort of thing were occurring, MAFF said, it would be at the request of the farmer involved.

We were not completely happy at this point. We were asking ourselves why farmers would request that dogs be put down unless under some pressure to comply?

Farmers, contrary to popular opinion in some quarters, are not in the habit of mistreating their dogs.

Sure, there are some exceptions - farmers are humans and humans are not all the same.

From a pet owners point of view, some of the conditions that working dogs are kept in fall short of the mark. Not many working sheepdogs sleep on their owners beds or on a padded dog bed in the corner of the centrally heated, sealed and double glazed room – however most do have dry, draught free and well-bedded accommodation – sometimes inside the house.

Not many are allowed to get up on the sofa for a cuddle or are fed over priced dog food at 30 to 40 a sack that is nutritionally no better than that sold at 10 to 15 a sack. (Well someone has to pay for the TV advertising, the promotional gifts and prizes at dog shows and the marketing teams overnight accommodation and all those expenses). Most, however, are given respect and affection and fed a good quality food, in adequate amounts, which is supplemented by kitchen scraps.

Not many working dogs sit, locked up, in the house all day and wonder what to do while the owner is away at work. Not many working dogs would want to!

Working dogs lead a lifestyle that would be the envy of the pet dog – plenty of freedom and exercise, plenty of mental stimulation, a purpose to their lives and the company of an owner that respects them for what they are and allows them to be dogs, not surrogate children.

No, we were not entirely convinced that many farmers, who often spend more time in the fields with their dogs than at home with their families, would easily part with that dog unless there was a very good reason. We felt, at the time, that more sinister things may have been afoot.

We continued to phone through the various levels of MAFF, speaking to a lot of veterinary officers until we ended up talking to a lady vet in Carlisle who was supervising culls and had just come in from a farm. We were surprised at the strong responses from everyone we spoke to.  No one was happy with the idea that dogs should be considered as part of the culling and all were against the concept.  We believed them. These people were Vets. They had chosen their career to help animals and prolong life. They were not happy with what they were doing. Stuck between a rock and a hard place.

We started to phone around our own vets – we have about 40 accounts in various practices around the country and at that time most vets were still in their practices and had not been seconded into MAFF. Some of them confirmed they had heard stories, but we still got no closer to confirming any rumours until suddenly three calls came in on the same morning about the same case and we spoke with a family member of the farmer concerned. He confirmed that a sheepdog had been PTS by injection, along with the family cat. The following day a local case came to our attention and we were able to confirm that two older dogs had been destroyed and also apparently a cat, although the younger dog of the trio had been spared.

Since then we have been able to confirm another six cases. The stories are still reaching us from various sources, now coming from eyewitnesses and individuals known to us who, in our opinion, would not be in the habit of fabricating tales of this nature. Individuals within MAFF and the NFU have also confirmed to us that they know of such cases.

There is no doubt that this is happening to some dogs. It’s not a mass slaughter and there is no 'single' reason. Sometimes it may be because the owner of the dog is confused or feels he is under pressure from over zealous MAFF operatives. Sometimes it may be because the dogs owners fears the risk of the dog getting out and, in the absence of stock on his own farm, may wander onto neighbours property and spread the disease. Sometimes it may be because the dogs owner feels that the dog may suffer frustration with no work to do and sees euthanasia as a kindness. We have heard all these reasons and more. It’s hard to think clearly when your whole livelihood has just been wiped out.

We are happy that this is not Government Policy, but a lot of contradictory things are going on and the problem needs to be addressed.

Perspective

Now, to look at matters coldly and realistically, 8 confirmed cases of dogs destroyed - this is a drop in the ocean in relation to what is going on with other species out on our farms.

8 dogs seems like low figure and no cause for panic but is 8 too many, as there is no logical reason why dogs should be involved in a cull. There has to be an alternative and if we are able to confirm 8 cases there are probably more that we do not know about.

Border Collie Rescue had been working on a proposal to take in any surplus dogs from these affected farms, following the assumption some farmers have a lot more than one dog and without work to do, or stock to train on and with some people facing hardship due to loss of income, it may not always be viable for an individual to keep all the dogs they currently have.

We got back in contact with MAFF and we sent a letter outlining our proposals to Martin Atkinson, the Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer. After a week or so we had a response saying that the matter had been passed to someone else and then we played 'snakes and ladders' for another couple of weeks as various people at MAFF looked at the matter and decided it was not their responsibility and passed us on to a new contact. Eventually we did end up with someone who could, and did, do something about it and within 48 hours the scheme was approved and we got the official go ahead.

Now some of you might be thinking - why all that bother?

We could have just gone ahead - we are not part of MAFF or regulated by MAFF, but in this situation MAFF make all the decisions and the veterinary officers in charge of the cases are the people we would need to work with to take dogs off of infected premises.

We did not want to rock boats or tread on toes or make anyone else’s job more complicated so we needed to make sure that our work fitted in and around the work already in progress to deal with the problem.

The job is not simple, even with co-operation - without co-operation we risked wasting time, missing opportunities and getting very, very frustrated. The official Government approval and support of the proposals will allow more people to work alongside us and ease the way.

Border Collie Rescue does not expect to be inundated with farmers ‘dumping’ dogs on us. We are not 'Overwhelmed' by mass evictions of sheepdogs as some press articles are suggesting is happening. We have set up a practical system for taking on dogs that have been in contact with an infectious disease and, due to the changed circumstances of their owners, are surplus to requirements at a difficult time for the farming community. The service is there and is offered. Some people will use it. Others will have no need.

We are busier than usual and the type of call we are receiving is often more tragic than we would normally get - but at this stage we do not need to panic - we plan, prepare and take action.

The scheme

In brief, the scheme works like this.

 A register has been set up for farmers and stockmen affected by Foot and Mouth to provide details of any surplus or displaced dogs they have for re-homing. Dogs can be registered through a form on our Website at - www.bordercollierescue.org

Or - by e.mailing details to us at hq@bordercollieresscue.org

Or by fax on no fax available (24 hr line)

Or by phone to our office between 9.30 am and 1 pm Mondays to Fridays 0845 6044941.

Or by post to - 57, Market Place, Richmond, North Yorkshire. DL10 4JQ.

The information we initially require is the full name and address of the owner of the dog and business/farm name where the dog is currently kept. Home/Business/Fax numbers if available. E.mail address if available.

We need to know how many dogs need to be taken in.

If the farm has been infected - the date of the infection and the MAFF case number. If the farm has been culled as a dangerous contact or under the voluntary culling scheme, the date of the cull.

We also need the name and contact telephone number of the MAFF veterinary officer in charge of the case.

The dog will remain in the charge of the owners and on the premises until BCR removes them.

Border Collie Rescue will remove dogs from infected or affected farms after liaison and approval by the MAFF vet in charge of the case or area.

The dog will be disinfected on the farm before we remove it and will then taken to a 'halfway house' where its veterinary needs are attended.

Inoculations, worming, micro chipping and intract respiratory vaccinations are given and upon completion of this process and when the dog is declared fit by our vets', the dog is disinfected for a second time and sent to a quarantine unit where it will remain for 21 days.

After quarantine, the dog is given a third shampoo and moved into a foster home where we start assessment.

The original proposals were only for dogs from infected farms, but this condition has been extended, on the advice of some of our veterinary consultants, to include dogs from any farm in the UK - even those outside infected areas. Such is the tenacity and virulence of this virus and the unpredictable nature of its spread, that it has been deemed wise to include these other sources. A farm uninfected today may well be hit in the next week and we always err on the side of safety.

The future for these dogs.

It is certain that these dogs will have a good future.

The assessment process that each dog goes through is very important and will indicate to us the direction the dog needs to take for re-homing. Border Collie Rescue views all Border Collies as working dogs until they show us otherwise. This is our basic approach to the breed.

Too many rescues make the mistake of treating Border Collies as pets and ignoring the working background of the breed. The first assessments we perform are for stock work - herding instinct, drive and eye.

Working dogs will be re-homed back onto working farms and non-stock workers of a suitable age and temperament that have too much drive to retire will go to another to working environment like the Police, Prison Service or Mountain Rescue (SARDA) as 'Sniffer' dogs. We have various assessments for these and other disciplines and we believe that an active and intelligent dog needs an active and fulfilling lifestyle.

Dogs that show us they have no working instinct, no drive to be busy and have suitable temperaments will go to homes as pets in honourable retirement. We would still prefer farm or rural homes. Many ex farm dogs could not cope with town environments and prefer a quieter life with less background noise and distraction.

We choose homes for each dog that best suit the needs the dog shows us through observation and assessment. We do not home puppies as pets – we give them a chance to work first. We do not home into inner city areas or busy town environments. We do not home to people who work full time and leave the dog ‘home alone’ and we do not home pet dogs into homes where there are children under 6 years of age unless the home is on a working farm and the dog has outside accommodation and can find its own space.

The worst that will happen to any dog we take in is - if a dog is very old, disabled or particularly lazy and has the additional misfortune to be unattractive as well – that it may end up in a long term BCR foster home until a suitable home arises.

This is no different, in fact, than a dog that has been permanently re-homed - other than that BCR will pay the vet bills and supervise the general care.

We have a general non-destruction policy regarding healthy dogs, but we cannot home dangerous and aggressive dogs. If a dog is a hazard to the people around it or to other dogs in its environment we will do the responsible thing, as we would if the dog was suffering, in pain or had a seriously poor quality of life. We would apply euthanasia.

Applications for dogs we take in under this scheme are being accepted and kept on file. We will not be hasty in re-homing these dogs to any sort of home and the applicant will be required to proceed through our normal methods of adoption and home checking. This includes an application form that needs to be filled in, interviews, occasionally references and a home visit.

Successful applicants will be offered dogs matched to their needs as indicated in their application, but the dogs need’s will form the main criteria when we choose a home. Working dogs will be offered on a trial period to ensure good bonding between the handler and dog.

To register to adopt a dog, we will need the applicants full name, address, postcode and home telephone number. Anyone wishing to offer a home to a dog is invited to contact us.

After successful completion of the home visit, the applicant will be invited to meet the dog or dogs we are sure would be right for their needs and circumstances. If they are happy with our choice, they can adopt the dog. If not we will seek another suitable dog for them.

During any part of this process, should an applicant find a dog elsewhere or change their mind, we ask them to let us know and we will close their file.

Applicants offering homes to these dogs can be assured that at least 6 weeks minimum will have elapsed since the dogs have been in contact with the Virus and they will have been bathed and disinfected 3 times during this process. We are assured, and can assure, that there is no possibility that the dog could be carrying the virus after this process and time.

There has been a good response from the farming community to the plight of these dogs. We are getting many applications from farms as well as from the public, offering homes for dogs. We have had applications from abroad - The USA, Germany, Sweden.

It is not our normal policy to place dogs in new homes outside their country of origin.

In the case of many of the dogs we are likely to see on this register, a high proportion will have been born and brought up on the farm from which we are taking them. It will be culture shock enough for some dogs to leave the familiar surrounding they have lived in all their lives and we will need to be very sensitive to this aspect of their predicament.

Some may be young and keen with strong temperaments that would happily adjust to life in a different culture, so we are keeping an open mind. We will do what is best for each individual.

At this time we have about 20 dogs on the register. This is early days and we do not know how big an operation we are in for. The figure of some 1300 + farms at the moment does not include dangerous contact culls and voluntary culls. There are likely to be more than 5000 farms now affected. It could be just these 20 dogs - on the other hand 5000 farms and growing..................

Other alternatives – Take the Foot out of the Mouth

Yes, we see other alternatives to dogs being destroyed or rehomed or remaining on empty farms for six months or more. The alternative is to allow the cattle and sheep to remain on the land with the dogs. Let them live. Let their lives have a purpose. Most will die to feed our population in due course, but not like this.

What about the rare breeds, the hefted flocks, the dairy herds, the wild deer – why do they have to die?

Vaccinate - for gods sake. Why do we always have to solve our problems by killing things?

The economic roll on effect of vaccination may NOT prevent those that want to continue to export live animals from carrying out this practice as there are FMD tests available that CAN tell the difference between infected and vaccinated stock.

Even if this is as un-reliable as some are claiming - do we really need to export live animals? It’s not a humane thing to do and as an animal welfare organisation we are against live exports on principal - if the only purpose is to slaughter on arrival at the destination.

Without trying to lay blame on anyone's doorstep, we are now inclined to see this whole F&M problem as a badly managed political exercise. The scale of the problem is huge and mistakes are bound to occur, but more confusion and error is likely with politicians changing the goal posts according to the needs of the most vocular 'vested' interests as they arise.

We feel that a vaccination policy would be the least damaging to ALL parties and interests affected by the disease.

Here we have a situation where bloodlines are at risk. Our heritage is being destroyed. Our economy decimated in a variety of ways. Jobs lost, lifetimes work wiped out by captive bolt and bullet and all because of one virus that is rife in our countryside.

Little priority has been given by successive governments to address the conflicts and issues that surround town and rural life and the complications of integrating into a wider economic community.

Our farming community has had little respect from the public and media for too many years. These two forces feed off each other, creating an environment of suspicion and misinformation. We are reliant on our farmers and our livestock to keep the countryside in order and preserve the landscapes that we, as a Nation, have come to consider as our heritage and right to enjoy.

If we carry on treating it in this way we will loose what we are so proud to call Great Britain.

This is not just the case of a 'goody, goody' dog rescue group moralising about some animals being destroyed. This is mass slaughter for economic reasons. Economics is a cold place to live. We feel very, very sorry for the people who choose to live there. Their lives must be as empty of real meaning, as their practices.

Border Collie Rescue 15/4/2001

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The Case of the Unwanted Farm Dogs – Fact? - or Fiction.

We are now entering the second phase of the BCR Foot and Mouth Farm Dog Rescue Program. In the initial stages we were uncertain of how great the need would be, 20 dogs? – 30? – 50? – 100? - More? There is still some un-certainty as to the eventual result, but with 95 dogs now registered, it seems that the ‘More?’ is the likely outcome.

Of the 95 dogs, 55 are now in our care. 30 of these are at the end of the isolation period and are now being assessed for re-homing. Of these 30, the first few are now going on to their new homes.

We have a mass of applications and no shortage of good homes for these dogs. We simply cannot get the forms out fast enough!

Four of the dogs that have come in are giving us cause for concern.

Rip was struck a glancing blow by a Land Rover two weeks before coming in and, although at the time he showed no ill effect, there is some neurological damage that is causing him to knuckle his hind right leg. He has no sensation or feeling in the foot and is unable to place it flat on the ground. The prognosis is good for eventual recovery, however it is unlikely that he will be able to work again.

Tweed had an ominous looking growth on his back - which has now been removed - and a biopsy performed. We are awaiting the results. He was also underweight and lethargic. We are very concerned about his future.

Meg has an awful skin condition that may be due to an allergic reaction; possibly caused by the heavy parasite infection she was carrying when she came in. The other dog that came in with her was clear of passengers in spite of sharing the same accommodation. Both have been ‘Frontlined’. Time and tests will tell us if this is a parasitic allergy or something else.

Jake, a Collie x Huntaway (just come in) also has some odd lumps under his skin which we are looking into.

All the other dogs have all been given a clean bill of health.

Now then, about all these dogs who are supposed to be coming in from farms in droves and inundating rescue centres throughout the country?

It seems to be in the interests of some in the Animal Welfare ‘Industry’ to keep on suggesting that Farmers are ‘dumping’ their dogs in droves. In the initial flurry of interest caused by the launching of the BCR F&M Farm Dog Rescue Program, one or two papers carried comments of this nature from some other Dog Rescue organisations.

A quick survey of rescue organisations we carried out at that time actually turned up the surprising result that many of them had less than their usual proportion of BC’s in their care as many farms have not been allowed to remove dogs from their premises by MAFF imposed restrictions.

So where all these dogs were coming from was a puzzle to us. Perhaps they were not coming from Foot and Mouth Farms after all. The majority of UK farms have not been infected by or in contact with Foot and Mouth.

One organisation claiming to have taken on some dogs from F&M farms later admitted that the dogs had come from a pound in an F&M ‘infected area’ and had been strays. Origin unknown.

This is known as ‘stretching a point’. It’s well established now that if Farmers are blamed for dumping dogs, pet owners will dig deep in their pockets to provide funds to rescue them. This ‘excuse’ has been used, by some rescues, for many years to boost funding and it’s an old chestnut. It’s not true and it’s not honest – but it works.

Its about time the general public understood that the vast majority of Border Collies referred to rescue centres throughout the UK come from pet homes.

There is no doubt that some dogs on farms have to go during this National Crisis. More (farm dogs) than usual for the time of year. We have 95 dogs – so far – to re-home on the Program (as well as the dogs already in our care and on our books previously and due to come in). We are currently responsible for over 141 dogs throughout the UK with more on the list waiting to come in.

During the time we have been dealing with this we have been turning away many pet owners with problem dogs to give priority to the farm dogs and the extra attention needed to bring them in under the agreed practices of this Program. Every week we get at least 60 calls from pet owners needing to re-home their dogs.

Even now, pet owners seeking to re-home Border Collies exceeds the Farm dogs by 6 to 1 (normally it’s 10 to 1). If we had been running a special project to take on unwanted pets during these weeks we would have over 500 on the register now!

Enquiries reveal that every dog rescue centre we know of is full and has waiting lists but are not full of ‘dumped’ farm dogs – many still have less than their normal quota of Border Collies.

Some rescue centres in rural areas will not take in Border Collies and many dog wardens are not allowed to pick up and bring in stray Border Collies or to enter farm premises because of the fear of the spread of foot and mouth.

We have called on dozens of farms and met some wonderful dogs – not just the ones we were there to take in, but also the dogs that were staying. Some have been timid but all have been gentle, well balanced, socialised well with kids and honest of character and intent – just like the fabled Border Collie every pet home wants but for the most part cannot provide for. These dogs were only of this nature because of the way they have been kept and worked.

All are biddable and good-natured. Sound of body (for the best part extremely fit), healthy in mind in all cases. No behavioural problems as the dogs have not been obliged to live in circumstances where their environment and lifestyle give rise to the sort of conflicts and stresses that create these problems.

I wish some of the people I have met in my life were half as honest as these dogs – the world would be a better place.

I must say that the vast majority of the farms we have attended keep a tight ship. The properties were clean and in good order. Their dogs, being well kept for the most part, are a credit to their owners. The only reasons for parting relate directly to Foot and Mouth Disease. Without exception, there were regrets and often tears. No one was ‘dumping’.

The tears shed were often from men - genuine expressions of regret – not crocodile tears to cover guilt about not being able to cope with the dog.

Some farmers have been unable to face the removal of the dogs and have absented themselves shortly after we have called. From talking to their wives and families it seems that many goodbyes were taken in private before we arrived. It is an insult to suggest that these men are acting in any way other than responsibly. They do not want to part with their dogs.

In a situation of crisis and upheaval, the dogs we are taking in are being re-homed for their own benefit – to give them a better chance, not for the benefit of the owner who simply ‘wants rid’. So far not a single case of that nature has come our way.

So, every indication to us – so far – in our direct dealings with affected farms is telling us that farmers and stockmen are not ‘dumping’ their dogs onto animal rescue organisations and this has been verified by honest rescue organisations that are not seeking to exaggerate the truth for their own hidden agenda’s.

There is an increase in working dogs coming into rescue because of Foot and Mouth disease and these dogs need our assistance at this time to enable them to be decontaminated and re-homed. This is the only ‘special’ treatment they need, otherwise they simply need to be properly assessed and responsibly re-homed into good working environments where they can carry on with the work that they have been bred to do. This is what we do.

Under Foot and Mouth circumstances the processes of bringing them in is more expensive and complicated that those we would normally apply, so we do this now as well.

We are still short of funds and of foster homes, but – so far – no dog has been turned away.

One person has said that this is the worst crisis the breed has ever faced.

It is certainly a serious situation, however the biggest problem the breed has ever faced and is likely to face in the future was in 1976 when the Kennel Club recognised and registered the breed and commercial pet influences and demands began to decay the integrity of the bloodlines as working dogs were sought as pets and commercial breeders saw the glint of gold at the end of the rainbow.

By odd coincidence, this was the year that Border Collie Rescue was formed.

Until then there had been no need – since then there has been no let up.

Border Collie Rescue. 2001-06-19

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Oroubouros – The Never Ending Story.

Well, here we are in mid August and matters have not got much better than when I last wrote an update for this esteemed publication in mid June.

The number of dogs on our register has now risen to 146 with nearly 50 still waiting to come in. The good news is that it seems to be slowing down and there are longer periods between dogs coming onto the register

We also have to slow down – temporarily – because the kennel isolation space available to us has been reduced. This is due to the large number of people who are going abroad this year and leaving their dogs in kennels.

Our program relies on having our dogs in their own blocks. One of these blocks is no longer available as a complete unit as the owner has had to use part of it to handle the extra demand from holiday makers.

This is one of the Oroubouros aspects of Foot and Mouth. The snake with its tail in its mouth. Coming back on itself, endlessly circling.

Without F&M these kennel blocks would be empty and the dogs in them enjoying the open British countryside, along with their owners. Without F&M we would not need them either. Such is life!

I suppose that someone can take comfort in the fact that ‘someone’ – other than slaughter men, cleansers, transporters and general grave diggers – is seeing some benefit from this situation, however I would advise that ‘someone’ to keep rather quiet about any sense of well being they are experiencing, in front of the rest of us.

Now - to fill you in on the progress of the dogs I mentioned that we were concerned about in my last update.

Rip – the fighter of Land Rovers is doing very well and has been re-homed onto a small holding in Kent where he gets the best of both worlds. It seems that he may work again but on a smaller scale than before.

Tweed – after the operation to remove a growth, has responded well and is now fit as a fiddle. We have been told it was not malignant. Since re-homing, his shyness and depression have disappeared, the prognosis is very good indeed and he is back at work. A Shepherd -Dave - working for a farm in North Kent has adopted him.

We received a letter from Dave’s employer. Here is part of it – "Tweed and Bess (Dave’s older dog) have been busy sheep dipping the last few days, he (Tweed) follows Dave like a hawk and Dave is very proud of him, even getting my wife and kids out of the house for a demo last weekend. Thanks for the Info' about the food. Unfortunately Tweed has already become a softie Southerner like Bess and is on pedigree chum and spillers shapes, also I couldn’t help but notice last Friday, at midday break, the three of them, Dave, Bess & Tweed were sharing a large sausage roll !!!"

The letter concluded – "The thing that has startled me about the last six months is Animal Welfare. Apart from Border Collie Rescue, it feels as if we have moved back, as a nation, sixty years – Shameful."

An interesting footnote to the story of Tweed shows the contradictions in this situation.

When we went to pick up Tweed and another dog, Nell, from a farm in Dumfriesshire, his owner was absent and remained absent for the duration of our visit. We thought at first this was a little odd until his wife told us that he was so upset by having to part with his dogs that he really couldn’t face seeing them go. He had made his goodbyes earlier.

His misfortune has been another mans joy and Tweed has become someone else’s pride.

I hope that, if he reads these words, he takes some comfort in knowing that both the dogs he had to part with are now back at work and are happy, healthy and in the care of new owners who appreciate what they have got.

We were also worried about Meg with the skin condition. Treatment eliminated the ectoparasites and she has not looked back. The warm weather and a new diet have eased her joint stiffness and after a few weeks, a professional groom has turned her into a silky coated teddy bear. The problem was a simple allergic reaction to the parasites and although a little thin in places, her coat has grown back well. We still have her but she is now ready for re-homing and game to do some work, however she is too old for most people and we have a home on a small holding lined up for her. She can work if she wants to but doesn’t have to.

If the vet clears her next visit, she’s off to a new life.

Jake, the Collie X Huntaway with the sinister growth has also worked out well. The growth has been diagnosed as ‘fatty tissue’ and non malignant. He has been re-homed to the North York’s Moors – along with his half sister ‘Jill’ to work the tops and gather. At some point in the autumn, BCR will arrange to have the growth removed if it has not subsided by itself.

Of course our problems are not over as these concerns have been replaced by new dogs with new problems. Most are minor, however, veterinary intervention has been needed in a number of cases.

The most concerning of these is a Huntaway dog called Toby, who came in with his brother. Toby started to lose weight and was treated twice for worms after being found to have a heavy tapeworm infection. After treatment he continued to loose weight and blood test were taken but revealed nothing out of the ordinary. Three veterinary visits and two courses of antibiotics later a urine sample revealed some crystallisation in his water. This is being treated with prescription diet for two months while other tests are carried out. The food comes to us at 20 + for an 8 kilo bag. This bag should last him just over a week. He is a big dog, but not as big as he should be. The unknown nature of his problem is most concerning and we are in the hands of the vets on this one. Toby has gained a little weight in the last couple of weeks but has a long way to go before he is back to normal. He has been put in a foster home where he can get some peace and special attention.

A dog kennelled down in Essex has a similar problem – a collie with weight loss and lethargy. The vets down there are testing blood now and we hope for some news in the next couple of days.

On a happier note, Meg – a Kelpie from Herefordshire who came to us in the advanced stages of pregnancy has given birth to a litter of Kelpie X Border Collie pups – 7 in all. They are now 4 weeks old. We went for one dog and came back with eight!

Another pregnant bitch was registered last week and has since given birth on the farm, before we were able to bring her in. we have made arrangements to bring her and the pups in when the pups are 6 weeks old. We have sent a supply of food to the farm to cover in the meantime.

We extend many thanks to the SHEEP dog fund in the USA who have been raising money to help British Farmers through the SHEEP fund and to assist our efforts through their separate SHEEP Dog Fund. They have just sent us $2000.00, which works out at 1388.00 sterling after negotiation. As many of the members of SHEEP are also avid WSD News readers, we would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to them publicly, through these columns.

The program has received a lot of support from all quarters, but has not been without its critics. We have had two complaints to date.

One came from a lady claiming to be the wife of a Dumfriesshire farmer who complained that the publicity in the media about farmers ‘dumping’ their dogs has been giving farmers a bad name. She told us that she did not believe that any farmers in her area would be passing on dogs to any rescue service.

Firstly, we assured her that any such ‘bad’ publicity was not coming from ourselves and we have always been at pains to point out that in our experience there was no mass dumping of dogs by farmers. These stories originated from other sources and the media will print anything that carries an emotive edge.

Second, we pointed out to her that we had already taken a number of dogs from farms in her region – some of this on video for a TV company producing a program for the Foreign Office for broadcast overseas.

Last, we pointed out that there was no shame in passing a dog onto a rescue service. It is a responsible action forced by circumstances – not an irresponsible and thoughtless act. We would be inclined to be more critical of someone who simply shut their dogs up in an outhouse for the duration without any concern for the welfare of the dogs and the frustration they endure with no work or freedom.

We invited the lady to keep in touch and visit us if she wished to find out more. We even pledged our support for the campaign she was proposing to ‘educate’ the media and the general public that farmers were not all bad sorts. She seemed slightly happier at the end of the conversation and we have not heard from her since.

We are still taking the occasional dog from South West Scotland.

The second complaint came from a dog dealer who called us to say he thought we were taking away his living by offering ‘cheap’ working dogs to farmers who would otherwise have bought a dog from him. He was well miffed and told us we should stick to rescuing pets and not interfere in his ‘trade’.

Frankly, although I can understand his concerns as due to the current farming crisis many are reluctant to take a dog on unless sure that it has been decontaminated, his fears are ungrounded. From another point of view, we are contributing to his potential business.

Most of the dogs we are taking in are part trained or working on instinct and from good stock. When we re-home a dog we need to be sure that the person taking on the dog is in a position to bring the dog on and carry on with the training.

These are farm dogs – not trials dogs and even the older dogs that have been working for several years for one individual on one farm will need some attention to bring them into shape when passed on to a new owner.

People who contact us who can train a dog are more likely to get a dog from us. These people – being able to train – are not likely to go to a professional trainer and purchase a trained dog as they do not need that sort of help. They can do it themselves.

If applicants are unable to train the dog themselves, we need to put them in contact with a trainer before we pass on a dog and be sure that they will attend to the matter of training. Without the ability to train or a trainer on hand, there would be little point in us passing a dog on to someone.

Having gone to a lot of trouble and expense in rescuing the dog and assessing its potential before re-homing we would not want to see the dogs potential wasted simply because its new owner did not know how to bring the best out in the dog.

Also – we don’t sell dogs. Dogs are adopted – not sold – and with the adoption agreement there are restrictions. The dogs must not be bred from (they are often neutered or spayed anyway). The dogs must not be sold on to a third party. If the new owner cannot keep them they must be returned to BCR for re-homing.

It is not the same as outright ownership, nor can it be compared with purchasing a professionally trained dog from a trainer.

There has been enough waste due to Foot and Mouth. A number of farmers we have taken dogs in from have said that, due to the program ‘at least the dogs they are handing in will not be wasted’. This is what it is all about.

We have a growing register of dog trainers who we can put in contact with farmers who need their professional skills and advice. Satisfied customers of these trainers have passed on the names on this list to us and we have spoken to each trainer to ascertain their abilities and preferred methods, getting their permission to pass on their name where appropriate.

If you know of a good sheepdog trainer, let us know.

There does seem to be a need for good dog men to help those with lesser skills and if recent experience is anything to go by there are a huge number of working farms out there that are in the market for a sheepdog.

An increasing number of dogs we are taking in have pedigrees and ISDS registered parents. Not so many have been registered themselves but the extra information we are able to glean from their bloodlines has help a lot in our understanding of these dogs.

There are some interesting lines coming up and this – again – rather contradicts the stories that farmers are dumping worthless dogs. These would not have come our way if it had not been necessary.

The tabloids still persist with this viewpoint, but the broadsheet newspapers have been listening and researching for themselves and are now seeing things in a new light.

Having been ‘quoted’ extensively over the last few months by a large number of publications, I sometimes wonder why some journalists bother to ask us any questions. When I read some of the articles, it seems that they have made up the content to suit the angle they wish to push.

It is always counter productive to be ‘quoted’ in this way – illustrated by a recent article in a Sunday tabloid paper that went out of its way to ask people to contact us if they could offer a good pet home in the country. The journalist who wrote the article failed to grasp the whole point of the program, which is to get ‘unemployed working dogs back into environments where they could work again. We told them we were not looking for pet homes.

We have spent the last week having to explain this to people phoning in, adding that most of the dogs we are taking in would NEED to go back to work and would not make pets unless you happen to have a couple of hundred ewes in the back garden to keep them occupied.

Most people have been disappointed but seem to entirely understand when explained and (oddly?) have not been surprised at all by the fact that the paper had got it wrong.

So a week has been spirited away by well-intended people offering to help in a situation where their help is inappropriate. If the paper had done any research or even listened to what was said to them, the outcome may well have been positive rather than negative.

As said before – such is life.

We have an appropriate use for some tabloids. Without these newspapers where would we be. Just the right size for travel crates!

Border Collie Rescue. 16 – 8 - 2001

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Foot and Mouth - A Sting in the Tail.

As the Government and DEFRA gained control of Foot and Mouth disease, BCR decided that a cut off date for registering dogs under our Foot and Mouth program needed to be established.

It was decided that this would be the end of whatever month in which DEFRA chose to declare the country disease free and lift restrictions. This turned out to be January.

During December we had only been asked to take on 4 new dogs from F&M farms.

When the office re-opened after Christmas, one more was added at the beginning of January, taking the total to 211, at which it stood when we closed the register at ‘midnight’ on 31st January.

During January, we did get a couple of additional enquiries to take in dogs from unaffected farms - but these were not added to the register and their owners were asked to call back in mid-February.

On February 1st we re-opened our general register for unwanted dogs. Ironically, that very day we got a call from farmer who had two dogs to re-home due to F&M redundancies, but as the line had been drawn, they went onto our general register with the other dogs we were now being asked to take on. We have 43 dogs left on the F&M register to come through. When these are in we will be able to start taking in from the general register again.

There is still a bit of confusion surrounding the Foot and Mouth situation. Although the UK is now officially F&M free, not all restriction have been lifted so no-one is completely sure what is really going on – such is the mystery of Foot and Mouth and the story will, no doubt, continue for a while yet – but that is a book unto itself – in fact a few will probably be written about the last year and its impact on us all.

As far as BCR is concerned, the declaration of disease free status means that we no longer have to operate under the restrictions of the program and we will save the kennelling fee for the rest of the dogs to come in. We are also no longer ‘obliged’ to attend each farm and bring the dogs off as licences are no longer required and bio-security procedures are no longer needed – the dogs can be brought to us – so costs and logistics are easing up.

We will still continue to disinfect dogs coming in – they always get bathed anyway so to add some disinfectant to this process is no problem and little additional expense. It covers against many infectious diseases – not just Foot and Mouth.

Some interesting facts have been revealed to us over the last year. It has been a period where much has come to light.

Border Collies – as a breed – are in crisis in the UK. This is far beyond the simple situation of redundancies due to Foot and Mouth.

The drama generated by the disease has led to much unfounded speculation about farmers dumping dogs, but while this has been going on, much larger numbers of Border Collies have been re-homed by people who took them on as pets, and this is documented fact.

Over the 10 months that the F&M Farm Dog register was operating we suspended our general register and referred all pet owners contacting us, who had dogs to re-home, to NCDL, Blue Cross or RSPCA centres.

This has been many hundreds of dogs – this year we have not kept count but in previous years we have had as many as 3000 enquiries to re-home unwanted pet Border Collies. Yes, that’s 60 + calls a week – Nationally - just to one organisation!

When we opened our general register on 1st February we started to accept applications to take on unwanted pets – and now – only two weeks later, we have over 100 new applications to re-home pets on our register. At this rate – by the end of this month we will have been asked to take on more dogs by disillusioned pet owners than we were by farmers during the whole Foot and Mouth crisis -so what’s going on?

There is no doubt that too many Border Collies are going into the wrong homes. In the pet world, their owners often don’t know enough about the breed to be able to cope and give the dogs what they need. Therefore problems develop that end with dogs being either PTS, passed on through a rescue organisation or in extreme cases dumped on the streets for the dog wardens to pick up.

A lot of pups from farms are being taken on as pets and these often grow into frustrated animals in the wrong environments, causing problems for owners as well as suffering themselves.

At the same time, there is a shortage of working dogs on farms and demand is high, but many of these potential working dogs that have been bred on farms are ending up as pets – unhappy pets at that!

Over the Foot and Mouth crisis we were known to be taking in redundant working dogs and we had many applications from farmers and shepherds seeking a dog to help with their stock. Even at the height of the crisis when fear of the disease was at its greatest we were getting calls from farmers who were prepared to take a disinfected dog onto their clean farm – but were reluctant to let in other visitors.

By the end of November 2001 we had over 800 such applications on file and we stopped taking any more (we only had some 200 dogs coming through and many of those had already been re-homed).

We continue to get high numbers of working applications each week – from Inverness to Falmouth – from all over the UK we have been getting calls asking for working dogs. We have been told there is a shortage by everyone around us – but there are plenty in pet homes that should have been working.

There seems to be an imbalance here - stockmen without good working dogs, desperately seeking them and unhappy pet owners with potentially good workers getting frustrated on housing estates all over the country.

If we could persuade farmers with litters of pups not to sell them to the public, but to sell only to each other two problems could be solved and many dogs saved rather than wasted. Much time and resources would also be saved by not having to ‘recycle’ these dogs through rescue centres. Of course – if a dog does not want to work, it may make a good pet – but give it a chance first. Proven non-workers are the only dogs that should be taken on as pets.

Puppies are an untested factor and if sold as pets are most likely to develop instinct as they grow, but being in the wrong sort of environment the results are frustration for the dog.

Working lines bear dogs with working needs. If that is not true then why are sheepdog trainers not queuing up to take on and train Kennel Club registered BC lines to work sheep – possibly because they know that most of them would not have the drive or eye – its being bred out of these lines. They would choose farm stock or ISDS registered stock because they know they have a greater chance of success. It’s horses for courses and if you are breeding for a dog to train for stock, do not expect others of the litter to settle into the average domestic pet home.

But this is only part of the problem – there are others breeding Border Collies – some as a hobby and some commercially, not to mention all the accidental litters – and this all adds up to a lot of dogs being bred without any chance of getting a suitable home – there just aren’t enough good homes out there for all of these dogs.

Commercial breeding establishments – otherwise known as ‘puppy farms’ are doing considerable damage to the breed. Dogs from such origins are often sold through pet shops or agents and seldom straight from the breeder. Although there are reputable commercial breeders there are many that do not practice good methods or use screened bloodlines. Animal welfare issues are another matter, but aside from these, we are seeing an increase in dogs with poor immune systems and hereditary or congenital defects being sold to an unsuspecting public.

Some of these dogs are then used for breeding and their offspring bring these defects deeper into the general population.

Perhaps more legislation is (sadly) needed to protect the dogs and the public from such exploitation. Perhaps commercial breeders should be tested and examined to ensure that they do have sufficient technical knowledge to breed properly and perhaps they should only be allowed to breed from lines that have been screened and declared free of hereditary problems and are suited to the application of their declared market. This could be a condition of their licence being issued, along with the welfare requirements required under current legislation.

Trading standards could be more active in prosecuting people who sell a dog that is unsuited for the purposes that the seller declares. Under current law, any product should be fit for the purpose for which it is intended – a dog sold as a pet should be suited to that lifestyle – a dog sold as healthy should not be suffering a disease – otherwise it’s a con – isn’t it?

Yes it is – don’t argue – if your new lawnmower didn’t cut grass, but nevertheless still looked like a lawnmower, you would expect it to be fixed, replaced or get your money back – if the vendor refused you would feel ‘ripped off’ and would expect trading standards to back your case – you probably would not accept the excuse that ‘all the other mowers worked properly’ and thus mollified would philosophically write off the money you paid. But if you buy a dog – regarded in law as ‘goods and chattels’, these rules do not seem to be enforced.

Trading standards may already have the powers needed under current legislation; perhaps they only need the will to carry out the work. It’s an odd situation in that the purchaser is not the only victim – the product is also a victim of the system.

Non commercial breeding associations like the ISDS, Kennel Club, the various Border Collie Clubs – Etc., have a major role to play in cleaning up the problems the breed has - and they have the power to help the situation.

Co-ordinated and greater efforts could be made to identify individuals with hereditary problems and then action taken to ensure that these dogs are not used for breeding.

Screening tests should be applied to all breeding stock - and those that fail should be neutered or spayed. These tests exist but the spread of CEA in bloodlines is a good indication that the rules are not strong enough to stop the spread of hereditary problems – they are increasing.

We would like to see these organisations improving their standards and entering into dialogue with each other to ensure that members that do not live up to their standards are expelled.

It would be beneficial if these organisations issued licences to their members to breed from registered lines only and they could ensure that their members are qualified in correct breeding methods. Perhaps a membership examination before membership is granted in the first place. It would also be helpful to have some common standards amongst these organisations that everyone could understand and comply with.

We re-homed a non-worker, with diagnosed CEA, as a pet some years ago. A recent follow up call revealed that a local farmer had much admired the lines and temperament of this dog and had approached the owners suggesting that he bred it with one of his working bitches, as it was ‘a nice dog’. When we re-homed the dog we had told the owners about the hereditary eye condition, but they told us in the follow up that they had not noticed any eye problem at all and had assumed that it had ‘gone away’ or that we had been mistaken. They had no objections to the mating and would have been first in line for one of the litter – but we had already neutered the dog before re-homing it so - that was that.

This is a simple illustration of what we are all up against. A man was quite happy to allow his dog to be used for stud for a working litter – even though the dog had no working instinct and was a declared and self confessed non worker with a hereditary condition that should be eliminated. Worse - a man was prepared to mate this dog with one of his working ones because it had a ‘nice temperament’. Thank god it was firing blanks.

Rescue organisations also have a role to play. At the moment our greatest efforts are to clean up the mess others have created rather than address the problems at source to eliminate them. Rescues also need to establish common practices in the welfare and re-homing of this breed.

Some will not re-home onto farms and therefore all the potential working dogs they are taking in from unsuitable pet homes can only be re-homed back into pet homes. This is not dealing with the problem and the dog is no better off.

Many BC’s are re-homed several times before they are either PTS or kennelled for life – depending on the philosophy of the organisation concerned. A proportion of these would be happy on farms, living outside and working – but some rescues will not accept this.

Some rescue organisations never see the dogs they pass on. The dog stays with its current owner until a new home is found and then passed on directly. Is this a good system?

How can someone responsibly re-home an animal that it has never seen or assessed? How would the ‘rescuer’ know that the new home is suitable for the dog if they do not know the dog or understand its requirements?

Other rescues will take in dogs but do not assess them. Some do not carry out home visits on prospective applicants. How do they expect to be assisting with the problems – they are simply turning over dogs. This is not Rescue. Rescue implies care.

Perhaps there is a fear that if the problems go away, there will be no work for the ‘rescue’ and we will all have to find something else to do – great – we are all for that. We won’t lose our jobs, as we are all unpaid volunteers.

We do not home BC’s into inner city environments or to homes where the dog is left ‘home alone’ while the owners are out at work all day or to pet homes where there are resident children under 7 years of age – but if we turn an applicant away because the home is unsuitable, the applicant will only go to another less discriminating rescue where they will easily obtain a Border Collie.

Animal rescue organisations are for the most part very responsible groups motivated by the need to offer care to unwanted, neglected and badly treated animals, however the majority of dogs taken in these days are not neglected or badly treated – they are simply a problem that the owner now wants rid of. The dog is unwanted but only because it is a problem and the owner is simply passing the responsibility to the rescue to deal with.

Every rescue organisation in the country is inundated with unwanted dogs – most have their fair share of BC’s except the ones that do not take in collies because they are too difficult in kennels and come in with innumerable behavioural problems.

Perhaps, over the years, rescue charities have played a part in creating this situation by making it easy for people to unload a problem dog. Therefore making people less inclined to think before taking on a particular breed. We are here to save lives, but this does allow people to take advantage.

With every rescue space in the country now filled with an unwanted dog it is no longer becoming so easy for people to quickly find a place for their problem – every one has a waiting list – its not just collies that need re-homing – all breeds have their problems.

So, here is a summary of the problems we have identified.

Problem - Many farm bred border collies that should be working are ending up in pet homes. They are unhappy and often a problem to their owners.

Problem - Commercial breeding of BC’s is also placing a lot of dogs into pet homes that are not temperamentally suited to domestic life and are often genetically substandard. They are often unsuited to working life as well.

Problem - Bad breeding practices and lack of forethought has led to an increase in hereditary problems that are affecting our bloodlines and the capabilities of the dogs being bred.

Problem – Many farmers cannot train a dog to work stock – if they have the skill and inclination, they do not often have the time. Many people have rested on the good breeding of their dogs and the natural instinct that the dog had was allowed to shape its training. This is still true for many clean and well-bred lines, but for the average farm bred dog these days, it seems more understanding in training is needed. It’s becoming a more specialised skill.

Problem – There is a lot of myth and misinformation about the breed. Much of this originates from people with commercial interests in selling dogs, but some is propagated by animal rescue organisations with strange agenda’s.

Problem – Animal rescue organisations use different methods to re-home BC’s coming into their care and there is no real co-operation in dealing with the roots of this problem or applying common re-homing practices.

 

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