Journal news

Increase in animal abuse likely during lockdown

Colleagues are clearly aware of the unprecedented times we are in with the current sanctions on movement and social interaction due to Covid-19. While these are absolutely necessary, we wish to highlight the unintended consequences that are affecting thousands of people and will have an impact on the veterinary profession.

Since the beginning of the lockdown on 23 March 2020, calls to the National Domestic Abuse helpline have increased by 25 per cent. Similarly, in the two weeks up to 31 March, domestic homicides in England and Wales doubled.

It is very likely that there will be an increase of non-accidental injury and violence towards animals

The link between violence to people and violence to animals is well documented; the family pet is often part of the domestic abuse cycle with perpetrators using the pet to exert power and control over their victim. Given the statistics, it is very...

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Can cats become infected with Covid-19?

In a recent letter, Angel Almendros (VR, 4/11 April 2020, vol 186, pp 419-420) summarised the sporadic reports about the Covid-19 infections of two dogs (both in Hong Kong) and two cats (one in Hong Kong and another in Belgium). Although the positive results were confirmed by serological tests or RT-PCR and gene sequencing, the virus was not successfully isolated.

The evidence is accumulating and building on almost a daily basis, but here I summarise what we know so far from researchers working on the risk to cats from SARS-CoV-2.

After publication of the letter from Almendros, Shi and colleagues reported an experimental infection using two SARS-CoV-2 viruses (one isolated from the environment and one from a human patient with Covid-19) of a number of companion and domestic animals. They found that ferrets and cats, but not dogs, are highly susceptible to Covid-19.1

The experimentally infected juvenile...

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Encouraging best practice during lambing

With the entire country focused on personal hygiene and biosecurity, I was dismayed by what I saw on the Countryfile programme on 5 April.

The presenters visited two farms in the midst of lambing to show viewers the activities of both a shed and an outside set-up over a 24-hour period.

We saw two lambings where the farmer delivered live lambs and on both occasions the farmer failed to wear a glove.

I am concerned this may give the impression that this is the recommended delivery method used by our farmers. We must encourage the use of gloves in the act of assisted lambing to decrease the risk of post lambing infection. Subsequently, this will also aid in the reduction of antibiotic use. I can only hope that this is not common practice. Who is educating our farmers?

I would also like to raise the matter of speed of...

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Should neutering be classed as essential?

I am disappointed that the BVA consider neutering to be a non-essential procedure during the current Covid-19 pandemic. This despite the fact that the RCVS have left it to individual vets to categorise individual procedures. I have had reports of veterinary practices refusing to neuter cats known to have been mated the previous day.

In the last few years during the economic recession, animal charities have been increasingly overloaded with unwanted animals, in particular cats and kittens.

If feline neutering is postponed over the next few weeks or months (the breeding season), we can expect a population explosion and clients in much reduced financial circumstance.

I would argue that it is in the interest of animal health and welfare to continue neutering as an essential service.

I would urge practices to consider this in their decision making.

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We should err on side of caution with Covid-19 advice

No one will be unaware of the sad and disastrously heavy toll to human life around the world as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Recent World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) reports have confirmed at least two cases of dogs and one case of a cat that had tested positive to Covid-19 due to human-to-animal transmission. The transmission appears to have occurred from the infected owner to the pet animal. Although some have ascertained that there is no possibility of transmission of the virus from pet animals to people, should we as vets and scientists tell people not to take any precautions until we know the answer to this?

I would prefer to warn pet owners to be vigilant in this regard. I believe that vets should advise people not to allow mingling of pet animals from different households under any circumstances (as it is now done...

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Daniella dos Santos, president of the BVA, responds

In the initial three weeks of the lockdown, announced by the prime minister on 23 March 2020, we did not list neutering as an urgent or emergency procedure. This is because we did not see that the animal health and welfare benefit within those three weeks (23 March to 13 April) outweighed the need to stop the spread of Covid-19 by supporting the stay-at-home message.

As the lockdown restrictions are continuing beyond the three weeks, we have revised our guidance and this was sent to members on 13 April. We recognise that there are animal health and welfare benefits to reducing or stopping a population explosion.

For neutering, our updated guidance advises that vets should assess the domestic situation of the animal(s) relating to population control and socialisation need. Vets should consider if neutering is essential within the next two months (this is a rolling timeframe). The guidance also...

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Are exotics suitable pets?

The keeping of exotic species as companion animals has increased over the years. In Europe and the USA, over one third of all pets are exotic.1 This number does not account for the large number of illegal exotic pets. This trend has stark implications for public health, animal welfare and species conservation.

First, we must assess the risks to human health. Exotic species can transfer infectious diseases to people, for example, in circuses2 and petting zoos.3 Among the pathogens transmissible to people, Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium bovis are prevalent among exotic pets.4 Exotic pet birds can transmit chlamydophilosis, salmonellosis and even H5N1 avian influenza.5

In addition to zoonoses, bites, traumas and/or allergic reactions can occur, as documented for reptiles and amphibians.6 Furthermore, the keeping of dangerous species such as large carnivores and primates as pets undermines public...

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Assessing equine behaviour

The increase in popularity of having a horse as a recreational companion has stimulated a diversity of opinions as to what constitutes normal and abnormal equine behaviour, and what defines effective and humane training.

Dog behaviour and training have been revolutionised by the canine behaviour assessment and research questionnaire (C-BARQ) which has collected information on over 85,000 dogs. Data from C-BARQ has been published in more than 70 research reports, from redefining normal dog behaviour and revealing behavioural differences that relate to head and body shape1 to the astonishing effects of neutering on behaviour.2-3

Now it is the horses’ turn. The equine behaviour assessment and research questionnaire (E-BARQ) is a behavioural assessment package for horses and ponies. Various stakeholders have been consulted in its development over the past eight years. E-BARQ is a not-for-profit project that allows the global equestrian community to donate...

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Death notices

Iggulden On 31 March 2020, Margaret Ritchie Iggulden, MRCVS, of Brixham, Devon. Ms Iggulden was admitted to the register in 1967.

doi: 10.1136/vr.m1457

Jones On 9 April 2020, John Hugh Jones, BSc, MRCVS of Kington Langley, Chippenham, Wiltshire. Mr Jones qualified from Edinburgh in 1956.

doi: 10.1136/vr.m1486

Jennings On 24 March 2020, Arthur Ramsden Jennings, BVSc, DVSc, MRCVS, of Carlisle, Cumbria. Dr Jennings qualified from Liverpool in 1943.

doi: 10.1136/vr.m1458

Thyne On 15 February 2020, George Timothy Ritchie Thyne, BVMS, BSc, MRCVS, of Nottingham. Mr Thyne qualified from Glasgow in 1968.

doi: 10.1136/vr.m1459

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Covid-19 has changed how we teach students

‘The time has now come for us all to do more’.This was the plea from our prime minister on Monday 23 March.

Innovation in veterinary education has suddenly occurred at a rate never seen before

In response, innovation in veterinary education has suddenly occurred at a rate never seen before. Within days, the classroom curriculum evolved to online material delivered from lecturers’ kitchen tables to students’ homes. Teaching has been adapted so that it can still be delivered in this new reality, and staff are encouraging participation using a range of tools, chat functionality and video conferencing to create more dynamic sessions. Whether this has resulted in a ‘better’ learning environment is unknown, but it is certainly one that is better aligned to the ethos of the millennial generation. We have had better attendance at teaching sessions, better engagement and also better feedback. Of course there have been...

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Vets would not manage Covid-19 this way

There needs to be a more effective and sustainable strategy to manage Covid-19 than the current economically ruinous policy, argue vets Dick Sibley and Joe Brownlie.

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Michael Henry Woodford

After working in rural practice in Dorset, he spent much of his career abroad, becoming a figurehead for a substantial community of wildlife vets.

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Time to love the word 'no

There are lots of long words in the veterinary vocabulary but sometimes it’s the smallest words that are the hardest to learn, says Fabian Rivers, recent graduate rep on BVA Council.

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My encounters with animals - especially funny ones - influence the stories I write

Irish vet Austin Donnelly is a part-time vet and an author. While travelling abroad, it was the adventures he wrote about in letters to friends and family that inspired him to write his first book.

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Why are live exports continuing now?

The issue of live exports has long been controversial but has assumed new potency in light of the Covid-19 crisis.

Across Europe, where movement of people and goods has been ‘free and frictionless’ for decades because of the EU, movement restrictions suddenly sprang up last month in a bid to slow the spread of Covid-19. This led to long queues of traffic, according to the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE).

From the border between Lithuania and Poland came reports of jams stretching for 40 km. On the German side of the border with Poland there were queues of 65 km – and 18-hour wait times. The local fire brigade reportedly had to be called in to provide water to livestock.

While the increased journey times for livestock have thankfully eased in recent days, at the EU’s external borders logjam is still apparently the norm.

That’s because border security...

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What is EU doing about live animal exports?

By Josh Loeb

Animal welfare groups have accused the EU of paying ‘no regard’ to animal welfare by allowing live exports to continue despite ‘very long queues’ at borders.

More than 30 welfare organisations have signed a letter demanding that all live exports from EU countries to non-EU countries stop completely and movements within the EU be limited to a maximum of eight hours.

Since Covid-19 movement restrictions were introduced early last month some European countries have closed or partially closed their borders. This has caused logjams on some roads, with knock-on effects for livestock.

A coalition of welfare groups, including Compassion in World Farming and the pan-European Eurogroup for Animals, says the EU is flouting its own rules by refusing to place time limits on movements of livestock between European countries and by refusing to stop onward transport to non-EU countries.

The Treaty of the Functioning of the...

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Covid-19 crisis forces CVS to cut services

By Adele Waters

CVS has shut half its small animal practices and furloughed affected staff in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The company said the move to close practices – around one-third of the company’s overall capacity in its small animal division – was necessary following a ‘significant reduction in both small animal billable visits and revenue’ during the government lockdown.

Announcing half-yearly financial results last week, chairman Richard Connell said: ‘We are taking a number of actions to maintain cash during this period of increased uncertainty. These include furloughing of a number of under-utilised employees, practice closures in order to reduce variable costs and to protect employees, and the cessation of discretionary spend.’

He said all clients would continue to be able to access practices for urgent and emergency care within a 40-minute drive. Clients with non-urgent or non-emergency cases would be offered teleconsultations and charged at normal...

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Lucys law

New legislation banning third-party sales of puppies and kittens comes into force in England this week.

Dubbed ‘Lucy’s law’ after a spaniel used for breeding at a puppy farm in south Wales, the law takes effect on 6 April and will make it illegal for puppies and kittens to be sold commercially by anyone other than their breeder. Buyers will no longer be able to purchase from pet shops or commercial dealers and will instead have to deal directly with a breeder or a rehoming centre.

Similar legislation is planned in the devolved regions of the UK, but has yet to be introduced.

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'Most vaccinations should not be carried out

By Josh Loeb

Most vaccination of animals should cease during the current three-week lockdown period, the president of the BVA has said.

However, Daniella Dos Santos (pictured right) also said current emergency guidance for vets about vaccination is likely to be altered if lockdown restrictions are extended. She also said vets should exercise professional discretion and use their judgement around when vaccinations should be carried out.

Dos Santos’ statement, made during the second of her now weekly webinars on Covid-19, followed reports of practices taking differing stances on whether, and when, to vaccinate animals during the ongoing UK-wide lockdown.

Vets are meant to have ceased all ‘routine’ work and are only supposed to be undertaking work that is regarded as essential at the current time (VR, 28 March 2020, vol 186, pp 366–367).

We know that the profession has been frustrated

‘The BVA has been inundated with calls...

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