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On The Prowl News from our Chief Reporter Nick Mays

Radioactive cat goes missing

A LOUD series of firework explosions could be to blame for a cat going missing and spreading alarm in Christchurch, New Zealand because this is no ordinary cat - she’s also radioactive.

Nuts is a 13-year-old spayed female feline that is just too hot to handle - for at least a few days anyway.

It’s a case of look but don’t touch because Nuts has been implanted with radioactive iodine to treat an overactive thyroid gland.

Nuts was taken to Christchurch’s Straven Road vets earlier this month for a hyperthyroid procedure.

After the procedure she was put in a garage where it was to stay for a week under quarantine.

But on Saturday night the door was found ajar and Nuts has been missing ever since
“She would still be radioactive,” said Nuts’ owner, Michelle Reeves.

Reeves wants anyone who sees Nuts to put out some water for her but leave her alone. “Keep an eye on her and ring the vet or myself or the police.”

Veterinarian Dr Chris Steele says once a cat has been treated with the implant it usually stays in the clinic in isolation.

Concerned vet clinic staff have poster-dropped more than 300 households in the area in an attempt to find Nuts.

“We feel really bad about it so if anybody spots Nuts, if you can help us get Nuts back it’d be really appreciated,” says Steele.

The fear is the radioactive cat may have gone into hiding after a weekend of Bonfire Night fireworks.

“She used to always sleep on my bed and we used to always snuggle into each other,” says Nuts’ co-owner Chelsea Reeves.

Chelsea is one owner who hopes those stories about cats amazing homing instinct are all true.

Cat killer caged

A TEENAGE thug who let his Staffordshire Bull Terrier savage a cat to death has been sentenced to four months in a detention centre and banned from keeping animals for 20 years.

“Defence Counsel said that Myers was bidding to make a ‘fresh start’. Thankfully for animals and the general public, Myers’ fresh start would begin in prison”

Huddersfield Magistrates’ Court heard how Callum Myers, 18, formerly of Ibbotson Flats, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire was captured on CCTV allowing his Staffordshire Bull Terrier dog, Gypsy, to savage a domestic cat called Tigger to death. Myers pleaded guilty to failing to protect the cat from injury at a hearing on 31 October.

As reported previously, the incident took place on Wednesday March 15th 2006 at the rear of an address in Clifton Road in Marsh, Huddersfield.

In mitigation, Myers said that he should not have been cowardly and should have intervened to get his dog off the cat. He also apologised to the owner of the cat.

Magistrates expressed shock at what they saw on the CCTV footage which recorded Tigger’s last moments. They said that the cat had been caused serious suffering and that the cat had died a horrible death whilst the defendant stood by and did nothing.

Magistrates also said his actions were repulsive. ‘This is the worst type of incident to come before this court,’ said Mr Stuart Blakey, chairman of the bench.

After imposing a 20-year ban on Myers keeping any animals, he said: ‘It is clear to us that there was serious suffering to the cat prior to its death. It was a horrible death and you stood by and witnessed it and did nothing to prevent it.’

At the earlier hearing, the court heard a local resident, Graeme Marsh, had tried to make Gypsy release the cat, Tigger, after hearing a loud banging outside his house.

He picked up a piece of wood and tried to hit the dog to make it loosen its grip before Myers pulled the dog off and threatened Mr Marsh before walking away.

At the earlier hearing, the court heard that Myers – who was out of jail on licence for robbery – had earlier encouraged Gypsy to attack a puppy.

Speaking about interviews the RSPCA held with Myers she said: ‘The defendant did not show any general remorse for what happened whatsoever.’

But Andrew Sudden, defending Myers, disputed this, claiming that his client was trying to defend the cat and that he was full of remorse for what had happened, although neither claim was believed by the court.

‘It’s not right to say he didn’t show any remorse. He said he was very sorry for the girl whose cat it was. Mr Myers does show remorse. He was upset when police interviewed him on the first occasion,’ said Mr Sugden

‘He didn’t know what had happened to his own dog.’
The court heard that Gypsy was later put down.

Mr Sugden went on: ‘He had had the dog for about six weeks. A friend of his had not been able to look after it properly, so Mr Myers took it upon himself to look after the dog.’

Mr Sugden denied that Myers had deliberately fed the cat to the dog. He said his client had claimed that he held the cat to his chest in a bid to protect it.

‘He’s pleaded guilty to this particular charge, failing to prevent the cat from injury. He accepts he was less pro-active than he should have been.’

Mr Sugden added that Myers was bidding to make a ‘fresh start’. Thankfully for animals and the general public, Myers’ fresh start would begin in prison.

After the hearing, RSPCA Inspector Susie Micallef described Myers’ behaviour as an horrific attack that could easily have been avoided.

‘The sentence shows that the court recognises the seriousness of the crime and the appallingly cruel way in which Tigger was allowed to die,’ she said.

Animal experiments highest in Scotland

THE NUMBER of scientific procedures carried out on lab animals in 2005 increased to nearly 2.9m, according to figures released by the Home Office – and the most procedures are carried out in Scotland than in any other part of the UK.

The vast majority of animals used (84%) were mice, rats and other rodents, with fish and birds making up 8% and 4% of the total respectively, whilst dogs and cats made up less than 1% of the total. Even so, a total of 308 cats were used.

The overall figure, a rise of 1.4%, is the highest since 1992, but one senior scientist said it was distorted by the number of animals used in breeding genetically modified animals.

Last month, the Scotsman newspaper obtained and published detailed figures on scientific experiments conducted on living creatures in Scotland.

The official statistics compiled by the Home Office show that last year, there were 408,794 tests on animals in Scotland - a 4.5 per cent increase on the previous year.

The figures also reveal that Scotland is carrying out a disproportionate amount of animal testing in the UK, with tests north of the border making up 14.1 per cent of the UK’s 2.91 million procedures even though Scots make up only around 8 per cent of the total population.

An expert accused the Government of ‘complacency and hypocrisy,’ suggesting that ministers have neglected technologies that could reduce the use of animal testing.

Among the animals used in the research in Scotland were: 910 monkeys, 1,308 dogs, 5,294 sheep, 3,016 rabbits, 941 pigs, 69 horses. 267,960 mice, 49,284 rats, 2,944 guinea pigs. Tests were also conducted on 7,854 birds, 238 amphibians and 56,993 fish. Cats came off best, with only four being used for experimentation north of the border during the period.

The increase in testing comes even after ministers’ pledges to increase efforts to find alternatives.

The government is officially committed to the ‘three Rs’, internationally agreed scientific principles aiming, wherever possible, to replace animals in science, refine the tests on them and reduce the suffering of animals used in any procedures.

In 2004, the government doubled its funding into replacements for animal testing, and established a special laboratory for the work, the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research.

Since then, however, total animal testing in Britain has continued to rise. Scientists say the main cause of the rise is genetic research, which commonly involves the use of large numbers of mice whose genes have been manipulated, a point apparently borne out by the Scottish data.

Of the procedures carried out in Scotland last year, 128,561 involved genetically modified animals and 11,048 involved animals with a harmful genetic defect.

Dr Gill Langley, who served for eight years as a member of the Animal Procedures Committee (APC) and is now science director of the Dr Hadwen Trust, a charity that promotes alternatives to animal tests, said: ‘In the years that I served on the APC, the government’s complacency and hypocrisy over animal experiments was often apparent. The irrational prejudice against modern non-animal techniques must be overcome and that message needs to come loud and clear right from the top.’

Alistair Currie, campaigns director for the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, condemned the government over the new data.

‘These figures show that Scottish labs are putting more animals through pointless, painful experiments per head of population than those in the rest of the UK,’ he said.

‘Animal experiments are not only ethically indefensible, they are scientifically inefficient - over 90 per cent of drugs that ‘pass’ animal tests fail in human trials. The British government must stop standing on the sidelines and come up with a strategy to deal with this worsening animal welfare crisis.’

The Home Office, which oversees all animal testing in the UK, defended the government’s record.
‘The UK’s controls on the use of animals are amongst the tightest in the world. The government is firmly committed to the three Rs. To this end, the government and its agencies spend upwards of £10 million annually on this research, and the industry itself spends significantly more,’ said a spokesperson.

‘There remains a clear need for the use of animals in vital scientific research where no alternative is available. This type of research saves countless lives each year and the government fully supports the efforts of scientists working to secure medical advances and public health improvements.’

Dogs are used in many areas of testing, including toxicity tests, surgery, and dental experiments. The figure of 1,308 dogs used in 2004 is still very high for the limited practical applications that dogs can be used for. Beagles are the breed most often used by researchers because of their reputation as being friendly and gentle.

Meanwhile, cats are most commonly used animals in neurological research. In the UK as a whole in 2005, 308 cats were used. This is a decrease from 819 cats recorded in 2004.

Mice are by far the most-tested animals, with nearly 268,000 experimented on in the past year. Toxic tests, like the LD-50, to find the dosage at which half of a sample group of mice would die, have largely been phased out. Now, more and more of the rodents used have been for genetic experiments.

Rats come a close second with 49,284 being used in the period. As well as tests such as toxicology and genetic manipulation, rats are said to have been used for unusual implant work. One animal rights group claims to have evidence of rats with electrodes implanted in their heads at a London university.