BVA launches policy position on dietary choices

Non-traditional dietary choices are becoming more common.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is aiming to get veterinary surgeons and clients to talk more about food as it publishes its new policy position on dietary choices for cats and dogs.

The document has been created to support veterinary surgeons in providing dietary advice to clients at a time when many pet owners are choosing non-traditional diets for their cats and dogs, often based on their own personal beliefs and lifestyle choices.

New data from the BVA Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey has revealed that 94 per cent of companion animal veterinary surgeons reported having clients who fed a raw diet. Forty-two per cent had seen clients who fed meat-free diets, and 29 per cent said they had clients who fed insect-protein instead of meat.

The policy position doesn’t set out the ‘best’ diet for individual pets, but focuses on supporting pet owners with making sure their pets have a suitable diet that meets their nutritional needs. It acknowledges the complexity of trying to balance an environmentally sustainable diet with making sure that a pet still has a healthy diet.

The position asks veterinary surgeons to talk with clients about their pets’ diets. Currently, many owners get information about pet diets from sources other than veterinary professionals.

The BVA also wants to see veterinary surgeons record nutritional histories and any resulting issues. It is hoped this information could help provide a clearer picture of the long-term impact of some of the newer diets.

As part of its work on the issue, the BVA is also planning to create a new public-facing resource on dietary choices and to lobby for improved labelling of pet food.

Anna Judson, BVA president, said: “The issues around pet food are complex and with so much information available to pet owners from breeders, friends, online forums and other sources, we want to support all members of the vet team to feel fully confident in guiding their clients through dietary decisions.

“We hope that these recommendations and our upcoming resources will improve the information available to both clients and vets, supporting owners to make healthy, informed choices for their pets.”

The full policy position can be read here.

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National Human-Animal Bond Awareness Day approaches

National Human-Animal Bond Awareness Day approaches

This is the second time StreetVet has organised the day.

The second annual National Human-Animal Bond Awareness Day (NHABAD) is due to take place on Sunday, 28 July.

The event was first launched in 2023 by StreetVet, a charity which provides veterinary care to those experiencing homelessness, to recognise the importance of the bond between people and their pets.

Through a series of talks, the day will spotlight the charities, organisations and individuals who promote and protect the bond between animals and humans. This includes animals kept for companionship, therapy and in the workplace.

This year’s talks, led by animal health experts and inspirational individuals, will be hosted at The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth. They will also be streamed live on the NHABAD Facebook page.

The Donkey Sanctuary is a charity which advocates for donkey welfare, and hosts Donkey Assisted Activities for visitors.

Among the talks will be a discussion with Peter Wright, also known as the Yorkshire Vet. Dr Wright will discuss what inspired him to become a Donkey Sanctuary ambassador, and what the human-animal bond has meant to him during his veterinary career.

Hercule Van Wolfwinkle, an artist known for his ‘rubbish pet portraits’, will host a fun creative workshop for visitors to get involved with.

There will also be a free competition hosted through the campaign’s social media channels. Among the prizes on offer are a dog photoshoot, a dog hamper and a year’s donkey adoption.

In the run-up to the day, the NHABAD social pages will share regular posts to educate people about the value of the human-animal bond and the work charities and organisations do to support it.

Members of the public are encouraged to show their support by donating to the charities, or volunteering their time and skills to help with their work.

Tammie O’Leary, co-founder of NHABAD and a StreetVet volunteer, said: “The NHABAD is an opportunity to educate, interact, have fun and inspire people to understand more about each of the charities involved. Whether it’s Riding for the Disabled, Support Dogs, Battersea Dog and Cats Home, or Refuge for Pets, each play an important role in the community.

“Having volunteered within the charity sector I see what a difference people donating time and skills can make. More people giving a little of their time will have such a positive impact on a charity. You also can make lifelong friends, animal or human!”

More information about the event, include announcements of talks, can be found on the website.

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Vet professionals encouraged to become Mental Health First Aiders

Vet professionals encouraged to become Mental Health First Aiders

The courses advise how to support friends and colleagues.

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) is inviting more veterinary professionals to become Mental Health First Aiders as part of its Mind Matters Initiative (MMI).

MMI will be providing two different courses, which will both be presented online in October.

The first course, which is delivered and certified by Mental Health First Aid England, is open for all within the veterinary profession. There is also another course specifically for those living or working in Northern Ireland, which is being delivered by the Northern Irish charity Aware.

MMI aims to introduce new courses specifically for those in Scotland or Wales in early 2025.

The courses are designed to provide attendees with the skills they need to recognise signs of poor mental health, improve mental health literacy and advise how to give first-level support.

Those who complete the course will be certified Mental Health First Aiders. They will receive a digital three-year Mental Health First Aider Certificate, a digital reference manual and access to the Mental Health First Aider Support app for three years.

Both of these courses run for two full days, across Tuesday, 8 October and Tuesday, 15 October. They are open to all in the veterinary profession, including veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses, students, receptionists and practice managers.

Rapinder Newton, MMI lead, said: “The course is ideal for individuals looking to gain the knowledge and skills to spot signs of people experiencing poor mental health, to be confident in starting a conversation with someone who might be struggling, and to learn how to signpost to appropriate support.

“As our network of veterinary Mental Health First Aiders continues to grow, we are proud to see the impact that is being had – the more veterinary professionals we can support to become Mental Health First Aiders, the more people will be able to easily access support as and when they need it most.”

Both courses are partially subsidised by MMI, and cost £95 per person for the two days. Those interested can register on the MMI events page, or the Eventbrite pages for the open course and the Northern Ireland course, before 10 September or when the courses become full.

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Changes to help renters keep pets announced in King's Speech

Changes to help renters keep pets announced in King's Speech

Tenants will have a new right to request a pet.

Renters could soon have greater rights when it comes to pet ownership under legislation announced by the new government in its first King’s Speech.

The Renters’ Rights Bill is set to give tenants the right to request a pet, which landlords will have to consider and will be unable to unreasonably refuse.

The bill will also allow landlords to request insurance to cover any potential damage from pets.

A similar change to the law had been proposed by the previous government as part of its own Renters (Reform) Bill. However, the legislation failed to make it through Parliament before the general election.

The new bill has been welcomed by charities such as the RSPCA, Dogs Trust and Cats Protection.

David Bowles, head of public affairs at the RSPCA, said: “We believe that the Renters’ Rights Bill will give tenants a legal right to have a pet, unless there is a justifiable reason not to do so - ending blanket bans that exist at present on the keeping of beloved companion animals in rental homes.

“The RSPCA has long campaigned for this change - as we believe this will stop many pet owners having to face the heartbreaking choice of choosing between finding accommodation and keeping their pet; and also offer countless new owners the chance to adopt rescue pets.”

However, some elements of the King’s Speech have been criticised within the veterinary profession. The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has expressed its disappointment over the lack of animal welfare legislation in the speech.

Anna Judson, president of the BVA, said: “Whilst we understand the new government has many challenges to tackle, it’s disappointing that today’s King’s Speech doesn't prioritise any of its election manifesto commitments to animal welfare or its plans to deliver improved trade with the EU through a proposed veterinary agreement.

“I urge the Prime Minister and his team to press on with this important work and the British Veterinary Association stands ready to ensure that the necessary detail is correct.”

Image © Shutterstock

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London Zoo animals receive summer treats

London Zoo animals receive summer treats

London Zoo animals receive summer treats
Blood lollies, mealworm beach balls and seafood buckets were on the menu.

Residents at the Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL’s) London Zoo have been enjoying some unusual summer snacks, as keepers work to feed their curiosity.

The conservation zoo introduced the animals’ treats as part of their enrichment, challenging them to use some of their natural instincts.

A young male tiger cools off in a pond at London Zoo

Among the strange treats were frozen blood ‘ice lollies’, especially made for the zoo’s Sumatran tigers. The lollies were hidden around their Indonesian-inspired habitat, challenging the tigers to use their heightened sense of smell to find their rewards.

A golden-headed lion tamarin explores a paper 'beach-ball' filled with mealworms

The zoo’s tropical biome, home to several Amazonian species, has recently seen the birth of three young primates. This means the keepers also now have two more endangered golden lion tamarins and a white-faced saki to keep entertained during the summer.

These infants and their parents were presented with two paper beach balls filled with mealworms, which challenged the monkeys’ scavenging instinct to source their mealworm morsels.

A zookeeper feeds the Humboldt penguins at Penguin Beach at London Zoo

Elsewhere in the zoo, keepers had a harder time challenging the colony of Humboldt penguins to search for their food.

The keepers placed buckets of seafood around the penguins’ seaside habitat, so they could search for their food. The naturally inquisitive birds enjoyed investigating the new surprises.

However they were soon distracted by a bucket of fish that was being held by their keepers.

Dan Simmonds, London Zoo’s animal manager, said: “As parents up and down the country plan ways to keep their children engaged for the school holidays, London Zoo’s keepers have created a raft of summer-inspired stimulating activities for the animals in their care. 

“London Zoo is home to more than 10,000 animals, each with specific needs and tastes, so our keepers have their work cut out coming up with ways to encourage them to put their skills to use.”

Images © ZSL


NOAH board elected

NOAH board elected

Ned Flaxman has been re-elected as chair of NOAH.

NOAH has elected its board team, as part of its annual general meeting.

Ned Flaxman, general manager at Norbrook Laboratories Ltd, retains his position as chair, which he has held since June 2023.

Caitrina Oakes (Vetoquinol) remains past chair, and Matthew Frost (Elanco) remains treasurer.

Andrew Buglass (Eco Animal Health Ltd), Oya Canbas (Zoetis) and Charlotte Covell (Virbac) are newly elected vice-chairs. Meanwhile Roy Geary (Ceva) and John Toole (Beaphar) join the NOAH Board of Management.

Dawn Howard, NOAH chief executive, said: “I congratulate all the officers and board members who have been elected or re-elected today.

“I look forward to working together to ensure that NOAH continues to deliver at the highest standard for its members.”

Image © NOAH

Series two of SCOPS podcast launched

Series two of SCOPS podcast launched

The podcast is aimed at both vets and farmers.

The Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS) Group has launched the second series of its podcast.

The series will comprise four episodes, with topics including the sustainable use of parasite treatments, effective quarantining, administrating a mid/late season dose, and tackling resistance to multiple groups of anthelmintic.

Kevin Harrison, Gloucestershire sheep farmer and SCOPS chair, said: “The podcast is suitable for sheep farmers, vets and advisers, so please subscribe and spread the word if you enjoy the content.

"All episodes from series one are still available online, as well as the new episodes being added.”

The podcast is available on the SCOPS website and other podcast platforms.

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Rabies education project reaches 10 million people

Rabies education project reaches 10 million people

WVS plans to continue expanding its education programme.

The charity Worldwide Veterinary Service (WVS) had reached the landmark of providing education on rabies prevention to ten million people.

The education programme, delivered alongside a vaccination programme as part of the Mission Rabies project, has provided lessons in schools, workplaces, and community groups in rabies hotspots around the world.

Those attending the lessons have been taught about how the virus is transmitted, dog behaviour, and what to do if bitten by a dog. They’ve also been encouraged to bring dogs for vaccination and sterilisation and report animals suspected of having rabies to either local authorities or the charity’s rabies hotline.

Gareth Thomas, director of education at WVS, explained: “Rabies is always fatal once symptoms develop. Washing a wound correctly can reduce the chance of rabies transmission by a third, while receiving the correct vaccination immediately after an exposure will save a person’s life.

“In our project areas, these lessons have increased awareness of rabies, empowering communities with the knowledge to protect themselves. This is a horrible disease that takes a devastating toll on some of the poorest communities in the world, but rabies can be stopped if the risks are widely understood and people know how to treat a dog bite.”

The initiative was launched in 2013 and last year alone reached 1.4 million people. So far this year, more than 900,000 children have received lessons.

The charity is aiming to expand its education programme in India, Malawi and Cambodia, as well as delivering small proof-of-concept programmes in Tanzania, Ghana, Uganda, Sierra Leone and Mozambique.

Luke Gamble, CEO and founder of WVS, said: “Rabies kills over 59,000 people a year, the majority of whom are children. The advice given during these lessons can mean the difference between life and death.
“Educating ten million people is a remarkable achievement of which we are all immensely proud of. I’d like to express my deepest gratitude to our supporters, donors, volunteers, partners on the ground and local governments that we work with, and of course our dedicated education team, who are saving lives from this deadly yet entirely preventable disease.

“Together, we are making a real and lasting difference in areas impacted by rabies.”

Image © WVS

Kennel Club to host webinar on haemangiosarcoma

Kennel Club to host webinar on haemangiosarcoma

Topics covered will include symptoms and treatment options.

The Kennel Club is set to host a free webinar on haemangiosarcom for veterinary professionals, breeders and owners.

The session, organised by The Kennel Club’s health team, will take place between 7-8.30pm on Wednesday, 7 August.

The speaker will be Mark Goodfellow, head of oncology at Davies Veterinary Specialists. He is a European Specialist in Veterinary Internal Medicine, an RCVS Specialist in Veterinary Oncology, and has a DPhil in molecular oncology from the University of Oxford.

Haemangiosarcom can present in serveral forms, including cutaneous, subcutaneous and visceral. Symptoms can be subtle and may not be noticed until the tumour spreads or ruptures.

During the webinar, Dr Goodfellow will talk about the research into haemangiosarcom, including breed susceptibilities, symptoms, diagnostic approaches, and possible treatment options. He will also explore what future research could reveal.

After a one-hour presentation, there will be a 30-minute question and answer session. Questions can be asked during the webinar or pre-submitted when registering.

For those interested in learning more about canine cancers, there is also a previous webinar about osteosarcoma available to watch on YouTube, alongside other health webinars from The Kennel Club. The speaker was Mark Dunning, a professor of small animal internal medicine at the University of Nottingham who has led various research projects into osteosarcoma.

Those interested in attending the webinar on haemangiosarcom can book a place here.

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Domestic abuse support services urgently need pet fosterers

Domestic abuse support services urgently need pet fosterers

Demand for the services has increased in the last 12 months.

Dogs Trust and Cats Protection have launched an urgent appeal for people to sign up as pet fosterers to help pet owners fleeing domestic abuse.

Both Dogs Trust’s Freedom service and Cats Protection’s Lifeline service have seen an increase in demand in the last year.

More volunteers are needed to help provide a temporary home to cats and dogs when their owners leave an abusive relationship.

Many refuges are unable to accept pets, meaning that without the option of fostering, some owners would be faced with having to leave their pet behind in a dangerous environment.

A survey conducted by Cats Protection in 2023 found that 90 per cent of domestic abuse professionals said that, in their experience, having a pet had been a barrier to someone experiencing domestic abuse getting to safety.

The services are confidential, with no contact or details shared between the foster carer and the pet owner or vice versa. Fosterers are supported by the Freedom and Lifeline teams and all the costs of looking after the pet are covered by the schemes.

Once the owner has found safe, pet-friendly accommodation, they are reunited with their pet.

Since they were launched together in 2004, Freedom and Lifeline have helped more than 4,500 cats and dogs and their owners.

Laura Saunders, Freedom manager at Dogs Trust, said:   “By offering this service, we are able to support survivors to access safe accommodation with the reassurance that their dog will be taken care of until they can be reunited. 

“However, we are busier than ever and now need more volunteers to open up their hearts and homes and provide temporary foster care so that more people can flee domestic abuse, knowing their much-loved pets will be looked after until they are safely settled.”

Amy Hyde, Lifeline service manager at Cats Protection, added: “While it may be emotional to say goodbye when the survivor is safe and ready to take their pet back, it’s incredibly rewarding for fosterers who know they have supported a pet and their family to get to safety, at a time when they so desperately needed support.”

More information about Freedom can be found here, and more information about Lifeline can be found here.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse or know someone who is, you can contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge, on 0808 2000 247 at any time.

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CPD event held for greyhound racecourse vets

CPD event held for greyhound racecourse vets

GBGB regulatory vets attended event at University of Nottingham.

Racecourse veterinary surgeons from greyhound tracks around the country have attended a CPD event at the University of Nottingham’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

Delivered by the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB), the event was part of the work the organisation is carrying out to improve the welfare of racing greyhounds.

Greyhound racing has been heavily criticised by animal welfare charities in recent years. The Cut the Chase Coalition, which includes Dogs Trust, Blue Cross, and the RSPCA, has called for it to be banned.

However, GBGB, which was formed in 2009, argues that it is making progress in improving the welfare of greyhounds in racing.

At the event, the veterinary surgeons heard from two experts from the University of Nottingham: Madeleine Campbell, professor of veterinary ethics, and Richard Payne, associate professor of veterinary anatomy.

Professor Campbell has overseen the development and implementation of GBGB’s long-term welfare strategy ‘A Good Life for Every Greyhound’. She spoke to delegates about the strategy's progress. Dr Payne then spoke about using data and pattern analysis for injury prevention.

There was also a roundtable discussion on ‘What I Wish I Had Known When I Started As A Track Vet’ and practice sessions on techniques, such as gait analysis that can be used in track-side scenarios.

Lawrence Steed, GBGB regulatory vet, said: “It was a fantastic day of learning and gave us the opportunity to discuss some interesting topics.

“Being able to share knowledge between all track vets enables us to work more closely together within the industry to improve the welfare of the greyhounds we treat.”

Image © GBGB


NI announces XL bully exemption deadline

NI announces XL bully exemption deadline

Owners have until 31 December to apply for an exemption certificate.

The Northern Irish government has announced details of its exemption scheme for XL bully dogs, ahead of a ban on the breed coming into force.

From 9 August, owners will be able to apply for an exemption certificate to allow them to keep their dog. The deadline for submitting an application will be 31 December 2024.

Just as in England, Wales, and Scotland, a dog will have to be neutered and microchipped and the owner will need to have third party public liability insurance in order to qualify for an exemption certificate. Northern Ireland is also using the same legal definition of an XL bully as the rest of the UK.

Owners will have until 30 June 2025 to provide evidence of neutering for dogs that are 18 months or older on 31 December 2014. For dogs younger than 18 months on 31 December 2024, owners will have until 30 June 2025 or one month after the dog reaches 18 months of age, whichever is later.

The announcement comes after the first stage of Northern Ireland’s new rules on XL bully dogs came into force on 5 July. XL bully owners now have to keep their dog muzzled and on a lead in public places. It is also illegal to sell, gift, exchange, or breed from an XL bully type dog.

Andrew Muir, Northern Ireland’s minister of agriculture, environment and rural affairs, said: “I know the vast majority of dog owners are responsible and will take the necessary steps to comply with the new laws.

“I would encourage all XL bully type dog owners to familiarise themselves with the conditions for exemption and take immediate action to start preparing to apply for an exemption certificate from 9 August and before the deadline of 31 December 2024.”

The full details of how to apply for an exemption certificate can be found here.

Image © Shutterstock

Lab-grown pet food authorised to be sold in UK

Lab-grown pet food authorised to be sold in UK

Producer hopes to launch first samples later this year.

Pet food containing lab-grown meat is set to go on sell in the UK for the first time.

Cultivated meat company Meatly has received permission from regulatory bodies to sells its canned wet food for cats that uses cultivated chicken as a protein source.

It is the first European company to be authorised to sell cultivated meat, and the first company in the world to be authorised to sell cultivated meat for pet food in the UK.

The product has been created in collaboration with Omni, a protein pet food company based in the UK. Omni was founded by veterinary surgeon Guy Sandelowsky to produce vegan pet food.

Non-traditional diets for pets are becoming increasingly common among pet owners, but there have been concerns about their possible impact on animal welfare.

The British Veterinary Association has recently published a policy paper looking at the topic of dietary choices for cats and dogs. The paper states that alternative protein ingredients such as cultured meat have been suggested to improve the sustainability of food, but that ‘more research is needed to assess their safety, nutritional qualities and whether they can truly be considered sustainable.’

To authorise the sale of its cultivated chicken in the UK, Meatly worked with the Food Standards Agency, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Animal and Plant Health Agency.

The company also produced a safety dossier and conducted testing to show that the cultivated chicken was safe for pets. It says that tests found the cultivated chicken was free from bacteria and viruses, grown from safe nutrients, and that it was safe for pets and nutritious.

Meatly is aiming to launch the first samples of its lab-grown pet food later this year and hopes to start scaling production to industrial volumes in the next three years.

Owen Ensor, chief executive of Meatly, said: “We’re delighted to have worked proactively alongside the UK’s regulators to showcase that Meatly chicken is safe and healthy for pets.”

Image © Shutterstock

Blue light could help treat canine ear infections, study finds

Blue light could help treat canine ear infections, study finds

Researchers found the treatment killed antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

A new study has suggested that blue light could be used to treat canine ear infections that aren't responding to antibiotics.

The researchers, from the University of Nottingham and the University of Birmingham, found that blue light could destroy antibiotic-resistant strains of the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

The effectiveness of the treatment was even greater when combined with the antibiotic enrofloxacin.

Ear infections are one of the most common conditions seen in dogs. The condition affects up to 20 per cent of dogs globally. In 2016, it was the second most common diagnosis for dogs in the UK.

The researchers tested the effectiveness of using blue light as a treatment on six strains of P. aeruginosa isolated from dogs with otitis externa.

The light produces a chemical reaction within microbial cells, creating reactive oxygen species that can ultimately cause cell death. Different wavelengths of blue light were tested both alone and in combination with enrofloxacin.

The scientists found that some of the frequencies of blue light killed at least 99 per cent of the bacteria. The treatment reduced viable counts of Pseudomonas both with and without enrofloxacin, but the most effective results were achieved when used in combination with the antibiotic.

Following the success of the study, the researchers plan to test blue light treatment against a larger range of clinical Pseudomonas strains. Ultimately, they hope to be able to develop a simple method for using the treatment on dogs in clinics.

Robert Atterbury, associate professor in microbiology at the University of Nottingham, said: “Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem in both people and animals, including their pets. Pseudomonas ear infections in dogs are often very difficult to treat long-term because of this resistance.  
“The possibility of a new, non-invasive treatment for this condition, based on exposure to antimicrobial frequencies of blue light, has the potential to transform outcomes for pets and avoid the costly and difficult surgery which may ultimately be required otherwise.”

The study has been published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology.

Image © Shutterstock

Charity-founding vet receives WSAVA Future Leader Award

Charity-founding vet receives WSAVA Future Leader Award

Gemma Campling founded Worldwide Vets after graduating Nottingham University.

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) has named the recipient of the 2024 Future Leader Award as Gemma Campling.

Dr Campling is recognised for her involvement with veterinary medicine, training and work with animal welfare, as well as the leadership she presents in developing countries.

Soon after graduating Nottingham University, Dr Campling founded the animal welfare charity Worldwide Vets. The charity aims to help students and graduates to gain clinical experience, while also supporting charities in need of volunteers.

Through her work as chief executive officer and founder of Worldwide Vets, Dr Campling has developed extensive experience providing frontline veterinary outreach in challenging environments.

This has included providing vital support to animals and their owners affected by the war in Ukraine, community outreach and sterilisation in Thailand and a high caseload equine practice in Egypt. The charity now also works in Peru, Costa Rica, India, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Alongside this, Dr Campling created the Worldwide Vets Golden Star Award, which celebrates those in the veterinary and animal care industry who make significant contribution to animal welfare and conservation.

She has been praised by contemporaries for her wide range of veterinary expertise, sharing this knowledge and her dedication to continued learning. She is also celebrated for her holistic approach to veterinary care, such as introducing the THRIVE mental health course for veterinary surgeons and nurses.

Dr Campling was nominated for WSAVA’s Future Leader Award by Ginger Templeton, a consultant and small animal practitioner.

Dr Templeton said: "While her work on the front lines in Ukraine is attention-grabbing, what is perhaps most important is that she has intentionally positioned this work to fuel sustainability in local vet care and local employment while offering free services to those in need."

Ellen van Nierop, president of WSAVA, said: "Dr. Campling is a credit to her community, as her work not only saves lives but also provides quality training opportunities for future generations of veterinarians.

“Her relentless commitment to animal welfare, her innovative approaches in veterinary medicine, and her courage and leadership in the field make her an exemplary recipient of the WSAVA Future Leader Award”.

Image © WSAVA

Farmers reminded of bluetongue risk

Farmers reminded of bluetongue risk

Cases are increasing in northern Europe.

The UK’s chief veterinary officer is urging farmers to remain vigilant for bluetongue virus serotype 3 (BTV-3) after a recent increase in cases in northern Europe.

The Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium have all detected new cases of the virus, with the Netherlands alone seeing more than 200 cases. Some of the animals have shown severe clinical signs.

Although the virus is not currently circulating in Great Britain, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) has said that there remains a very high probability of the disease being introduced by infected midges blown over from Europe.

The counties considered most at risk are Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Kent and East Sussex. Surveillance measures are continuing and some free testing has been made available in areas where the risk if highest.

Last November, the first case of bluetongue since 2007 was confirmed at a farm in Kent. A total of 126 cases have been detected in England, but there have not been any confirmed cases since March.

Jenny Stewart, interim chief executive at APHA, said: “The recent increase in cases in Europe underlines how important it is for farmers and animal keepers to continue monitoring their livestock and to take up the offer of free testing where necessary.

“APHA’s risk assessment confirmed there is a very high chance of bluetongue virus entering Great Britain this year, and our world-leading scientists, vets and field teams stand ready to tackle an outbreak of bluetongue virus and ensure farmers are kept up to date and supported.”

BTV is a notifiable disease. Any suspicion of the disease in animals in England must be reported to APHA on 03000 200 301.

Image © Shutterstock

RSPCA calls for action on online animal cruelty

RSPCA calls for action on online animal cruelty

The charity is worried by the number of young adults seeing cruel content.

The RSPCA is calling on social media companies to do more to crack down on animal abuse content being shared on their platforms.

The charity is concerned about the number of young adults seeing the content online. New data from the Animal Kindness Index, which looks at people’s attitudes towards animals, revealed that 43 per cent of 16 to 17-year-olds and 32 per cent of those aged 18 to 24 have seen online content involving someone harming an animal.

These figures are higher than the overall percentage of people in the general population who say they have seen such content, which stands at 22 per cent.

As part of the Online Safety Act 2023, the regulator Ofcom is soon set to consult on what social media companies need to do to tackle animal abuse on their platforms.

However, the RSPCA wants to see social media firms go further than any legal obligations they might be given and work to stamp out the content.

Chris Sherwood, chief executive of the RSPCA, said: “It's now vital that Ofcom publishes clear guidance for social media companies, meeting the expectations of the public when this act was passed that it will deal with the risks animal abuse content poses to users.

“But, whatever the legal obligations, we also want to see social media companies going further - committing to stamping out all animal abuse content on their platforms, and empowering users to be able to quickly and easily report content that is gratuitously violent or harmful against animals.”

The charity is concerned that seeing such content could normalise animal abuse among younger people.

The Animal Kindness Index found that young adults are more tolerant of activities that can potentially be harmful to animals, including dressing them up for fashion or fun, breeding animals with specific genetic problems, and using animals in entertainment shows on TV.

Esme Higgs, a YouTube influencer, is supporting the RSPCA’s work to get young people interested in animal welfare.

Ms Higgs said: “Young people already have so much on their collective plates. However, amid the challenges, there's an incredible opportunity for us to make a positive impact. While concerns about the environment and climate anxiety are common, we have the power to create change and foster hope for a better future.

“Social pressures are significant, but they also connect us in ways that allow for widespread advocacy and support. Social media can be a powerful tool for spreading awareness and driving collective action for causes we care about, including animal welfare.”

This year’s Animal Kindness Index, published in partnership with the Scottish SPCA and Northern Ireland’s USPCA, can be read in full here.

Image © This Esme Ltd

US poultry workers test positive for avian flu

US poultry workers test positive for avian flu

The cases are all linked to the culling of an infected flock.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed the first human cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in poultry workers since 2022.

Four cases have been confirmed, and a fifth case is awaiting confirmation. All of the cases involve farm workers who were taking part in a cull of poultry at a facility in north east Colorado that was experiencing an outbreak of HPAI H5N1.

The workers who have tested positive all reported mild illness, including conjunctivitis and eye tearing, as well as fever, chills, coughing and sore throat/runny nose. None of them needed to be hospitalised.

State epidemiologists are investigating with support from CDC. It is suspected the cases were caused by working directly with poultry carrying the virus.

Although the cases are the first in American poultry workers since 2022, there have been cases this year in dairy workers linked to the ongoing outbreak of the virus in cattle, including one in Colorado.

Colorado is one of the states most affected by the HPAI outbreak in cattle, with more than 40 herds testing positive for the virus.
In a statement confirming the human cases, CDC said that genetic sequencing of the virus in the clinical specimens is underway, and that it believes ‘the risk to the public from this outbreak remains low.’

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Trapped cat rescued at St Paul's Cathedral

Trapped cat rescued at St Paul's Cathedral

The Burmese cat had fallen into an unused basement.

The RSPCA has rescued a cat who became trapped in a basement below St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

On 2 July, a teenager who had been playing in the churchyard after school saw the Burmese cat dart through a narrow gap underneath a concrete slab. Worried about the cat, she contacted the RSPCA.

Animal rescue officer Sidonie Smith attended from the charity, and the on-site security team gave her permission  to search for the cat. Accompanied by a security officer, she went down to an old storage basement that had not been used for 25 years.

Ms Smith said: “There were some steep, narrow stairs down and it was pitch black where you entered a large chamber, which had lots of corridors attached to it at higher levels.

“Fortunately, the cat had fallen onto a bed of leaves and she was largely unscathed. She’d shot through the gap above and dropped down into the basement. She was very nervous and frightened, no doubt through the shock of falling from height, and I had to grasp hold of her.

“I leaned on the chute to reach up to the spot where she landed. She was covered in fleas and she had a slight graze on her chin, but, happily, nothing was broken and she was able to move around.”

The cat was taken to RSPCA Finsbury Park Animal Hospital for treatment. Staff at the hospital named the cat after the cathedral where she was found, calling her Paula.

She was found to have a microchip and the registered owner was contacted. However, he told the RSPCA he had sold the cat four years ago. The charity then put up a number of ‘found’ posters around St Paul’s, but no owner was found.

Paula is now set to be moved to RSPCA Leybourne Animal Centre in Kent, where she will be looked after as she waits for somebody to adopt her.

Image © RSPCA

Badger Trust calls for government to end badger cull

Badger Trust calls for government to end badger cull

The Labour party’s manifesto pledged to end ‘ineffective’ cull.

Badger Trust has published an open letter to the UK government, offering to support the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) with ending the badger cull.

The letter, addressed to Defra’s new secretary of state Steve Reed, showed support for the pledge made in the Labour manifesto to ‘end the ineffective badger cull’.

However the charity also criticises comments it said the party made during its campaign, which suggested the cull would continue until January 2026 under existing licences. It says this would allow ‘ten of thousands’ more badgers to be culled.

Badger culling was first introduced in England in 2013 to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle.

Since then, Rishi Sunak’s government had ordered a further supplementary cull, which started on 1 June 2024 and will run until January 2025. There is also an intensive cull planned, from August 2024 until January 2025, and an ongoing consultation from Mr Sunak's government which calls for endless badger culls.

Badger Trust has referred to the cull as ‘the most significant attack on a native species in our lifetimes’.

Peter Hambly, chief executive of Badger Trust, said: “The Labour manifesto rightly called the badger cull ineffective. We agree, and now is the time to end it before any more badgers are killed.

“We want to work with this government to make this happen immediately.”  

Meanwhile, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has urged that the Defra takes a science-led approach to bTB control.

BVA senior vice-president Malcolm Morley said: “We all want to see this devastating disease eradicated, however, any changes to the control methods of bovine TB must be underpinned by the latest scientific evidence.

“It is important that any new policy takes a holistic, targeted and science-led approach to bovine TB control that utilises all the available tools in the toolbox to control the disease in cattle.”

Defra has said that there is no single tool that can eradicate bTB, and it intends on working towards a package to create a bTB free status. This would include rolling out vaccinations, herd management and biosecurity, with the goal of ending the badger cull.

It says that more details on its approach will be set out in future, but it is keen to work with all stakeholders.

A Defra spokesperson said: “We recognise the devastating impact bovine TB has on the farming community which is why we are committed to working with farmers and scientists on measures to eradicate this disease.
“This government will roll out a TB eradication package including vaccination, herd management and biosecurity measures to achieve our objective of getting to bovine TB free status and end the badger cull.”

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National Cat Awards finalists announced

National Cat Awards finalists announced

Cats Protection will celebrate the bonds cats make with people.

Cats Protection has revealed the finalists in its annual National Cat Awards competition.

Voting has already launched for the competition, with cat lovers having until 30 August to vote for their favourite finalists.

There are four categories in this year’s competition: Connected Cats, Family Cats, Senior Cats and Incredible Cats. The category winners and the overall National Cat of the Year, which is decided by a panel of judges, will be announced during a ceremony at London’s One Marylebone on 18 September.

There are 11 cats nominated for awards.

Among the nominees is Marley, who lives in a home for women escaping modern slavery. There is also Cilla, a stray who moved into a primary school, who calms pupils before their SATs and has raised £5,000 to restock the library.

Also in the running is Marmaduke. Marmaduke has been providing his owner with support as they recover from the trauma of working as an emergency ambulance technician at the Manchester Arena during the 2017 attack.

The category winners will be presented with a prize package which includes a trophy, a £200 pet store voucher and a year’s subscription to Cats Protection’s The Cat magazine.

The National Cat of the Year will also be presented with an overall winner trophy.

Last year’s National Cat of the Year was Zebby. Zebby was recognised for the support he gives his deaf owner, Genevieve Moss, by alerting her to noises around the home.

This year’s winners will be announced by Dawn O’Porter, a best-selling author and TV presenter.

Ms O’Porter said: “I’m so pleased to be back to present the National Cat Awards again this year, I love hearing the amazing stories about the nominated cats and learning how these incredible animals have made lives better for their families.

“It really is the ultimate event for cat people.”

Catherine Cottrell, marketing and income generation director from Cats Protection, said: “The National Cat Awards is an annual celebration of the nation’s love of cats and this year we received over 1,500 entries. Some of our finalists have shown incredible intuition in understanding their owners’ needs; others are total extroverts, becoming local celebrities.

“Then there are the plucky pusses like William, undaunted by losing a leg, and Miss Dave Mittens who is (nearly) as sprightly as a kitten at the grand old age of 21. The central message of all the stories is that cats are cherished family members who add so much love to their owners’ lives. I can’t wait to see who the public chooses as their winners.”

For a full list of finalists, and to vote for your favourite, visit the voting page.

Image © Cats Protection

Nominations open for workplace wellbeing awards

Nominations open for workplace wellbeing awards

Veterinary teams can nominate their practice.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has opened nominations for this year’s BVA Wellbeing Awards.

The awards celebrate veterinary workplaces which prioritise the wellbeing of their teams. There is a prize for small/medium practices (up to 25 employees), large practices (over 25 employees) and non-clinical workplaces.

Veterinary teams are invited to nominate their workplace, and it is strongly encouraged that nominations are a team effort to allow everyone to share their thoughts and experiences.

Those nominating must show evidence from their workplace of:
  • A positive workplace culture where mental and physical wellbeing is prioritised, and workplace stress is proactively managed
  • Good communication between the team ensuring all staff members are heard and valued
  • Clear processes in place for making suggestions and enabling change
  • Flexible working is supported, and regular breaks encouraged.

Entrants need to include photos showing team culture and wellbeing initiatives. Creativity in submissions is encouraged and there is no requirement to be a BVA member. Nominations close on 9 September.

The winners of the 2024 awards will be announced at the BVA Awards dinner on 14 November during the London Vet Show.

Last year, the small/medium practice category was won by Blue Cross Merton Hospital of South West London. The winner of the large practice category was Inglis Vets in Dunfermline, and the non-clinical workplace winner was the Food Standards Agency.

Elizabeth Mullineaux, BVA junior vice-president and awards judge, said: “We spend so much of our lives at work, it’s therefore so important we feel happy and valued whilst we’re there.

“Prioritising wellbeing is not only good for individuals, it also makes good business sense. Happy, healthy workplaces retain their talent, which builds a resilient workforce, which in turn benefits the sustainability of the business.

“The BVA Wellbeing Awards shine a light on the workplaces getting the balance right, working hard to go the extra mile to maintain, protect and enhance their team’s wellbeing.”

More details on nominating a workplace can be found here.

Image © BVA

XL bully owners reminded of proof of neutering deadline

XL bully owners reminded of proof of neutering deadline

The first proof of neutering deadline is 26 July.

The Dog Control Coalition has issued a final reminder to owners of XL bullies, as the first proof of neutering deadline approaches.

To be exempt, XL bullies which were 12 months or older on 31 January 2024 were required to be neutered before 30 June 2024. Owners must have sent proof of neutering to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) before 26 July 2024.

The form which Defra will require is a VCN01, which requires a veterinary surgeon’s signature, and so time must be allowed for the paperwork to be completed. If Defra does not receive evidence before the deadline, the dog’s exemption certificate will become invalid and the dog could be seized by the police.

Dog owners who have been unable to get their XL bully neutered should check the UK government guidance, and speak to their local police dog legislation officer.

Owners of dogs which were younger than 12 months on 31 January 2024 will have longer to meet these requirements.

XL bullies which were aged seven months to 12 months must have proof of neutering submitted by 31 December. Those which were under seven months must have proof submitted by 30 June 2025.

The Dog Control Coalition consists of several veterinary groups and animal welfare charities, including the British Veterinary Association, the RSPCA and Dogs Trust. The group has been working to urge the government to reduce the impact of this legislation on responsible dog owners, behaviourally sound dogs, and veterinary teams.

On behalf of the Dog Control Coalition, Sam Gaines, from the RSPCA, said: “We are urging owners of exempted dogs who were 12 months or over by 31 January and have had their dog neutered to ensure they submit proof of this neutering to Defra before the deadline of 26 July. Missing this date means the dog will no longer be exempt.

“We don’t want anyone to have to go through the heartbreak and distress of their dog being seized so if anyone is yet to sort out their paperwork then we’d urge them to speak to their vet quickly.”

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