Last updateThu, 28 Mar 2024 2pm

Dr WHO? by Dr Debbie Marsden

Dr Debbie Marsden, a leading equestrian expert with over 20 years professional experience of expert witness work, offers some advice on selecting the right expert in cases involving animals

In animal related cases, a veterinary surgeon is often the best expert, being generally regarded as an authority on animals and easily recognized by the word 'veterinary' – a protected title – and the letters MRCVS (Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) after various degrees.

As with all professions, when seeking an expert it is best to use a specialist; and vets are not allowed to describe themselves as a 'specialist' until they have taken considerable further study and been further examined in a particular area. The letter D or Dip, for Diploma, is the additional qualification to look for in a vet with particular expertise in any area, for instance DSAS – Diploma in Small Animal Surgery (Orthopaedics).

New rules will protect puppies from abuse

On 1 October Defra introduced the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) England Regulations 2018. The regulations protect the welfare of animals being bred and sold commercially, particularly puppies, as well as ensuring better standards in the wider pet industry.

The new regulations will ensure that breeders must show puppies alongside their mother before a sale is made and ban licensed sellers from dealing in puppies and kittens under the age of eight weeks. Puppy sales must now also be completed in the presence of the new owner – preventing online sales where prospective buyers have not seen the animal first.

In addition, the new rules regulate adverts – including on the internet – by ensuring licensed sellers of all pets include the seller’s licence number, country of origin and country of residence of the pet in any advert for sale. A new ‘star rating’ has been introduced for dog breeders, pet shops and others to help people rate them on their animal welfare standards.

Scotland set to reintroduce selective ‘tail-docking’

The Scottish Government’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee has voted to allow the reintroduction of so-called tail-docking for a number of breeds of hunting dogs. The proposals will allow the removal of up to the end third of the tails of spaniels and hunt point retrievers within five days of being born if they are destined to be working dogs.

The proposal will now go to a vote by the Scottish Parliament.

The docking of dogs’ tails has been banned in Scotland since 2007. However, if changes to legislation are approved, puppies could have their tails shortened where a vet believes they are likely to be used as a working dog and are at risk of serious tail injury in later life.

Slaughterhouse CCTV proposals to extend to Scotland

With consultation on CCTV in slaughterhouses closing on 22 September, the Scottish Government has announced plans to introduce a similar consultation as part of its Government Programme for Scotland 2017/18.

The decision has been widely welcomed by the veterinary profession and follows campaigning to include the measure in Scotland alongside the model for England announced by Michael Gove in August.

Melissa Donald, president of the Scottish branch of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), said: “We’re delighted that the Scottish Government is looking seriously at introducing mandatory CCTV in abattoirs.

Although a high percentage of abattoirs in Scotland already have CCTV, there are no rules governing how the footage is used or kept, and it is essential that Official Veterinarians have unrestricted access so they can fully monitor animal health and welfare throughout the slaughterhouse.

Changes to dog legislation affect owners

Last year, amendments to the Dangerous Dogs Act were introduced under the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act. Recently, sentencing under those amendments came into force. The new laws extend both the scope of the Act and where offences can be committed.

According to pet information exchange Pets4Homes: "The original law effectively bans ownership of four breeds of dog within the UK - the Fila Brasileiro, the Dogo Argentino, the Japanese Tosa and the Pit Bull Terrier.

"However, it also covers the process in law to govern what happens to any dog of any breed that is considered to pose a risk to people, and this is something that not all dog owners are aware of."