On The Prowl
Innovative cancer programme launched for pets
First combined screening, detection and treatment programme launched in UK and USAAN INNOVATIVE cancer screening, detection and individualised treatment program has been announced by a pioneering British bioscience Company.
The PetScreen Veterinary Cancer Program is the first of its kind and will enable very early detection of cancer in companion animals from a blood ‘fingerprint’. Initial focus will be on dogs, with cats a close second. Cancer in dogs is just as common as it is in humans and just like humans, if cancers are detected early enough, they respond well to treatment.
PetScreen, (www.pet-screen.com) based in Nottingham, is one of a new generation of companies to utilise technologies which are emerging as a result of genome research. The screening service is based on proteomic technology, which looks for characteristic patterns to detect a range of cancers in blood serum. The importance of proteomics in cancer treatment is already recognised in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
If cancer is detected, PetScreen provide an individualised chemotherapy service which makes treatment selection fast and easy. The impact of the treatment on the tumour is then monitored by further proteomic sampling.
Ideally a puppy would be sampled at twelve months, thereafter yearly, but in high risk breeds such as boxers and flat-coat retrievers a six monthly screen is recommended. Despite it being well known that certain canine breeds are very prone to develop cancer, there have been no screening options available until now.
The program will be available through selected veterinary hospitals and practices across the UK and many practices have already expressed serious interest in the PetScreen program.
There are around 3,500 practices around the country and in the US the number is significantly higher at around 40,000. PetScreen is launching a Preferred Partner program which will fast track the availability of the service .They will showcase the technology at the worlds largest international veterinary conference in Florida early in January, and a similar event in Birmingham in April. 2006.
The two founding partners of PetScreen, Professor Graeme Radcliffe and Dr Kevin Slater bring together a unique meld of expertise and entrepreneurial skills. Both have built and sold innovative companies, but come from very different backgrounds. In Professor Radcliffe’s case, the death of a four year old curly coat retriever from bone cancer spurred him to begin the search for technology which could change the way cancer is detected and treated.
His work with Nottingham Trent University led to a chance meeting with Dr Slater. An entrepreneurial biologist, Dr Slater had started his career in leukaemia research before setting up a successful research and diagnostics company to help speed up the drug discovery process.
Keenly interested in applying innovative technologies to new markets, the two began the process which led to the development of this unique program. Dr Slater commented: “We are at the beginning of an exciting chapter of discovery both in terms of the knowledge and data we will accumulate and the reward of taking advanced technology to eliminate suffering in our pets.”
Patricia Olson, the President and Chief Executive of the US headquartered Morris Animal Foundation (www.morrisanimalfoundation.org), one of the foremost animal health research institutes in the world recently commented, “With the recent sequencing of the canine genome and the launching of new initiatives targeting this devastating disease, curing canine cancer is no longer a distant dream ... but a quickly approaching reality!”
Tony Banks – animal lover with conviction
TONY BANKS, the former Labour Sports Minister and ‘animal’s champion’, died on Sunday, 9 January, three days after suffering a massive stroke while on holiday in the United States. He was 62.
The outspoken former MP, who served as MP for West Ham for 22 years, stood down at the 2005 General Election and became Lord Stratford when he accepted a peerag.
He had collapsed during lunch on Thursday on Sanibel Island, Florida, where he and his wife Sally had been staying with friends. He was taken to Fort Myers hospital, but doctors had warned that his condition was “bleak”. He was being moved to a hospice when he died
Prime Minister Tony Blair led the tributes to the peer last night, describing him as “one of the most charismatic politicians in Britain” and “a true man of the people”.
The Prime Minister said: “Whether he was campaigning for the regeneration of East London, fighting for animal welfare or expressing his enthusiasm for Chelsea football club he was someone who said what they thought and was loved by people for it.”
His friend, David Mellor, the former Conservative MP, said he was “immensely popular” and would be missed by politicians from all parties.
“I think the great thing about Tony was that he was a man of passion in his politics and possessed of a sharp and witty tongue,” said Mr Mellor. “It is devastating for all of us who were deeply fond of him.”
Tony Banks was one of those rare breeds of politician – a man of conviction. A lifelong Labour Party member, he entered politics as a member of Lambeth Borough Council from 1971 to 1974, as well as a member of the greater London Council from 1970 until its abolition in 1986. He entered Parliament in 1983, quickly becoming known for his left-wing views and acerbic wit, with resulted in many great put-downs for fellow MPs. Over the years, he held many posts and was deemed ‘safe’ enough to become Labour’s Sports Minister from 1997 to 1999. He stood down from the post to campaign for England to win the right to host the World Cup. He was best known, however, for his outspoken views on animal welfare and was a passionate campaigner for the abolition of hunting with hounds.
In 2004 it was my pleasure to interview Tony Banks, when he revealed his deeply-help moral convictions on animal welfare and why he thought that a ban on hunting - which was achieved that year - was the only morally right thing for a civilised society to do. Although I didn’t agree with all of his views, I respected his beliefs and genuinely came to understand where he was coming from. When I told him this he was quite gratified, saying that all he ever asked was for people to try to look at the bigger picture and beyond party politics, as animal welfare was an issue that could not be compromised by party loyalty.
During our interview, Mr Banks pointed out though that banning hunting was not the most important animal welfare issue on his radar, saying: “Other issues that concern me greatly and in which I’m actively involved in fighting are plans by Japan and Norway to lift the ban on whaling and allow the commercial whaling to recommence. There are many such issues close to my heart; hunting is just one of them.”
He was a firm advocate in people respecting and caring for animals properly: “My father always taught me to have respect for animals and to care for them. When I see how ignorant people are and the way they supposedly care for their so-called pets, I do get very upset. We had this period a while back when people were buying pets almost as fashion accessories, walking about with big dogs, with Pit Bulls, without the foggiest idea of how to look after them whatsoever. You’d see the dogs being paraded around in studded collars, with the owner, very often a young man, swaggering along wearing a studded collar himself.
I don’t believe that anyone should take on an animal unless they know how to care for it properly.
“You should never take on a pet, a companion animal of any sort without making a careful study of its needs and providing those needs. In fact, I’m rather hard on the point that people shouldn’t be allowed to keep animals unless they can demonstrate an understanding of them and an ability to care for them, which is why the Animal Welfare Bill is a good move.”
Mr Banks had deeply held views against Breed Specific Legislation and was one of the very few MPs who opposed the Dangerous Dogs Act, introduced by Conservative Home Secretary Kenneth Baker in 1991. “I was warning at the time – and it’s all on the record – that there is no such thing as a bad dog, but a bad owner, and that if we passed the Act in haste, we would regret it at our leisure further down the line,” he declared.
“That legislation was done very much on the run because the Government of the day – and I’m not having a go at them because they were a Conservative Government, I’d say the same if it was a Labour Government – gave in to the calls of ‘What are the Government going to do about it?’ when there a series of dog attacks. The Government shouldn’t do something, or even attempt to do something, because we’re taking too much personal responsibility away from the individual. Individuals cause problems; it isn’t necessary for the Government to target everyone to ‘do something’….
“…I know you can’t put down the owner, but it did seem to be wrong to me to put down the animal, because in the end, the reason the animal behaved the way it did could, in most cases, be traced back to the owner. This could be a lack of knowledge on the part of the owner, a lack of attempts to train the animal. In the end, it’s the animal that suffers because the judge can’t order for the owner to be put down, though I’m a great believer in saying that if anyone find themselves convicted of any sort of animal offence should be banned from keeping them for a period up to and including life. It’s a very serious matter. The point I’m making is that any legislation has to be considered legislation and not reactive legislation.”
On the then-to-be-enacted Hunting Bill, Mr Banks said that he was “quite relaxed” with the Government’s plans to phase a hunting ban in over two years (although ultimately it was introduced within three months), and was quite happy to pay hunts compensation for going out of business.
“Having waited this long to end hunting, then, quite honestly I can live with that. I’ve made it quite clear that I think we should have a shorter period, but I want to be reasonable too. The hunts have had plenty of warning that this is coming along for God’s sake, but I want them to find ways to deal with the issues of the hounds and the horses and we want to give them time to do that. Although knowing some of thee people, I doubt they’ll take that opportunity.”
He was adamant that, unlike certain other outspoken left-wingers, he was not advocating a hunting ban on ‘class issues’: “There are Tories who are bitterly opposed to hunting, I get letters from Tory voters who make it clear they would never vote Labour, but support me in calling for a ban… I’m not doing this for a class or political issue. I hope you also read in Hansard that I said I wouldn’t care if every single person that went out hunting was a paid up member of the Transport & General Workers Union and s signed-up member of the Labour Party, because I would be just as determined to stop the hunting as I am now. So for me it doesn’t matter who does it.
“When I first started getting involved in this issue in Parliament I was warned by people ‘Oh, you’re going to upset all those mining hunts’, because there were hunts based in Mining villages. But that didn’t impress me, why should it? So this idea that this is a party political issue in a narrow sense is something propagated by those people who just can’t see that this is a moral issue for people like me. I wouldn’t care if the Prime Minister was pro-hunting and went hunting himself, I would still oppose it.”
One thing Tony Banks was adamant about, however, was that there could be no compromise when it came to animal welfare: “On animal issues, without any doubt at all, my vote cannot be bought, it cannot be usurped by the Government, and it cannot be dictated by the Government. I’m a Party loyalist, have been a Party member for 40 years I’ve been in parliament for 21 years, most of those in Opposition. But if there is an issue I cannot live with myself about – such as animal welfare – then I won’t compromise on it. I have to ask myself the question, and if I can’t persuade myself of something, then I’m going to able to persuade anyone else.”
He was a lifelong dog lover, his first dog as a boy being a Bulldog, a “lovely, magnificent animal” and the last he’d kept being a Golden Retriever.
“Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to keep a dog as a companion animal subsequently, because my lifestyle is not conducive to keeping them….I can assure you, once I’ve given up this job, I’m going back to having a dog, or better still two dogs. But I live by my own rules on this one, I can’t go around criticising other people for not looking after animals properly if I’m then going to exactly the same thing myself.”
Sadly, his plans for acquiring a new dog were not to be. People may not have agreed with all of his views, but nobody could deny that Tony Banks truly cared about animals and had the courage of his convictions- something that is very rare nowadays amongst the body politic. Animals have lost a passionate advocate with the passing of Tony Banks.
The Wit and Wisdom of Tony Banks
Tony Banks’ put-downs were legendary. Here is a selection of just some of them:
Tony Banks on ...
MARGARET THATCHER “She is happier getting in and out of tanks than in and out of museums or theatre seats.”
JOHN MAJOR “He is so unpopular, if he became a funeral director people would stop dying.”
WILLIAM HAGUE “To make matters worse, they have elected a foetus as party leader ... I bet there’s a lot of Tory MPs that wish they hadn’t voted against abortion now.”
BEING APPOINTED AS MINISTER FOR SPORT IN 1997 “I’m completely gobsmacked. It’s a bit like going to heaven without having to die first.”
CRUELTY TO ANIMALS “I just hope that I am around when that asteroid crashes into the earth and wipes out all life forms, as happened 65 million years ago.”
THE INDISCRETIONS OF HIS FRIEND DAVID MELLOR “Since the great days of Jimmy Greaves, it’s the only time that anyone’s managed to score five times in a Chelsea shirt.”
ON THE HUNTING DEBATE: “I don’t just pigeonhole people, I do speak to people on both sides of the hunting debate. I don’t just talk to people who agree with me. I mean, I speak to Arsenal supporters for God’s sake.”
Pet fur trade flourishing in Europe
AN UNDERCOVER investigation has revealed a booming trade in dog fur coats from Eastern Europe, some of which are likely to be on sale in Britain. The fur, which comes from both strays and captured pets, is often re-labelled to disguise its origins before being stitched into coats and re-dyed. A Bulgarian fur coat, recently seized by customs officials was discovered to have been made from dog fur, was incorrectly passed off as ‘Korean Wolf’.
Unlike a mink, which can cost £10,000, a top-price coat made from dog pelt may sell in markets of Western Europe for around £400.
The investigation by a German television documentary crew focused on Bulgaria, where it found that stray dogs were routinely rounded up by licensed trappers and delivered to fur factories.
Anita Singh, a campaign co-ordinator for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in Britain, said that there were also reports of pets being snatched for their fur.
“They tend to be bigger dogs like German Shepherds or Golden Retrievers,” she said. “It is important for people to realise that when they buy fur it is nearly impossible to tell whether real dog or cat has been used unless it undergoes extensive DNA testing.
“You can find dog fur in shopping centres in Britain labelled as something else. It is a disgusting industry and our advice is simply to avoid all types of fur.”
It is not illegal to trade in dog and cat fur in Britain, although bans have been imposed in the United States, Sweden, Denmark, Greece, Italy, France and Australia.
The British Fur Trade Association, which represents the fur industry, said none of its members knowingly used dog fur, and it had introduced a labelling system to try to guard against its use.
Most furs - such as mink, fox, seal or rabbit - have their own classification so it is possible to see how much is imported and exported. Fur that falls under the “other fur” category, however, does not have to be listed by species and could include dog or cat fur.
Yordanka Zrcheva, the president of the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Animals, went undercover for a German television documentary to demonstrate the extent of the problem.
Miss Zrcheva said that the country, which is hoping to join the European Union in just over a year, produced “tens of thousands” of dog pelts to sell across Europe.
“There is a massive industry based on the systematic killing of dogs,” she said. “There are dog fur factories all over Bulgaria, and they produce “All sorts of items, like fur coats, leather shoes and bags made from dogs and so on.”
According to Rumi Becker, a spokesman for the Doctors for Animals group that works for the protection of Bulgaria’s stray dogs, the authorities are unwilling to clamp down because the industry is “big business”.
In Bulgaria the average salary is around £35 a month, while a teacher makes about £80 a month and a doctor £100. One fur coat can be sold inside the country for £200 and more than double that abroad.
“It is hard to collate exact numbers but around 10,000 dogs are collected and killed in Sofia alone every year, often shipped straight to fur factories from dog pounds and animal shelters,” said Dr Becker.
“The so-called fur lords who run the factories are farming the dogs on the street without having to pay any support. They don’t have to feed or house them or anything except round them up and then skin them.”
Dr Becker bought a black and white coat labelled Korean Wolf. “I asked if it was made with street dog fur, and the vendor said it was, but that I should keep my voice down. I was pretending to be a dealer, and asked if it would be possible to have more. She told me she had 750 in a storeroom in Sofia,” added Dr Becker.
Two weeks ago, anti-fur campaigner Heather Mills McCartney urged the European Union to ban the trade in cat and dog fur, citing the example of the Czech Republic.
“Domestic cats are stolen off the streets, and we’re talking about 2,000 to 3,000 just in the Czech Republic, not in the whole of Europe,” she said.
Heather and her husband, former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney have been spearheading a high-profile campaign to half illegal fur trading and to prevent dog and cat furs from being imported into the UK.
Late last year, Sir Paul vowed never to perform in China after seeing horrific undercover footage of dogs and cats being killed for their fur, and called for a boycott of Chinese goods.
The musician also said he would boycott the 2008 Beijing Olympics after viewing the footage taken in a fur market in Guangzhou, southern China. The graphic film showed animals being thrown from a bus, and into boiling water.
Sir Paul, and Heather looked aghast and close to tears as they watched the footage for a special report for the BBC’s Six O’clock News. The couple urged people not to buy Chinese goods.
“This is barbaric. Horrific,” said Sir Paul. “It’s like something out of the dark ages. And they seem to get a kick out it. They’re just sick, sick people.
“I wouldn’t even dream of going over there to play, in the same way I wouldn’t go to a country that supported apartheid. This is just disgusting. It’s just against every rule of humanity. I couldn’t go there.”
Campaigners estimate that over two million dogs and cats are killed for their fur in China every year. China also farms animals such as mink for their fur and makes over half of the world’s fur products.
A spokesman for the Chinese Ambassador in London said at the time: “Though cats and dogs are not endangered, we do not encourage the ill treatment of cats and dogs. But, anyway, the fur trade mostly feeds markets in the US and Europe. This fur is not consumed in China. So the Americans and Europeans should accept the blame.”
The spokesman’s arrogant tirade continued: “We have no plans to clamp down on this internally that I am aware of - it is for the US and Europeans to take their own action. They should boycott fur as a fashion material. I do not agree with Mr McCartney and his wife’s point of view - a boycott of Chinese goods and the Olympics is simply not justifiable.”
Markos Kyprianou, EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, is responsible for the area of EU law relating to fur imports.
His spokesman, Phillip Todd said: “As a human being, the commissioner abhors this trade and is very supportive of there being a ban. There are, however, legal obstacles which would need to be addressed before a ban could be put in place.”
Marsh gets bogged down as fur flies
Even some of the housemates currently gracing TV screens in Celebrity Big Brother are getting involved in the fur debate. Glamour model Jodie Marsh, famous for her rigid anti-fur stance and appearing in a series of advertisements against the wearing of fur got into a argument with fellow celeb housemate with Pete Burns over his fur coat, allegedly made from endangered gorilla fur.
The spat began when the transsexual cross-dressing ’80s singer said he was outraged at Marsh boasting about the revenge she had wreaked on a former boyfriend - by literally airing his dirty underwear in public - in her autobiography.
The glamour model replied: “Well, I think it’s low that you wear a monkey coat. It offends me every time I see it on your back.”
Burns, 46, hit back, saying: “That thrills me. I get off on the fact that my coat offends someone who put her boyfriend’s dirty underwear in a book.”
When Marsh said a trip to the butcher’s left her with the impression of “dead bodies everywhere, I see it as murder”, Respect MP George Galloway, 51, joined in, trying to put the voice of reason.
“Should Eskimos wear fur? They live in the frozen north and there’s nothing they can wear except animal skin. They’re not murderers,” he said.
With over two weeks of the show to run, things look set for the fur to continue to fly.
New Orleans PAT Dogs bring hope to survivors
A GROUP of pet owners from Virginia and New York brought their ‘therapy’ dogs to the storm-stricken city of New Orleans to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to bring Christmas cheer to stressed-out victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Volunteers from Hope Animal-Assisted Crisis Recovery arrived in New during Christmas week with a dozen dogs and have been making the rounds at Federal Emergency Management (FEMA) disaster recovery centres where aid seekers and relief workers were welcome to pet the pups and take their mind off the gloom and doom wrought by the killer storm.
“People open up to you when you have a dog. They’ll come over, pet the dog, then tell us about their own pets that they may have had, or still have, or that they may have lost in the storm,” said Hope spokeswoman Dawn Eischen.
“We’ve heard a lot of different stories from people, and some have been really hard to hear.”
The storm last August killed 1,228 people in Louisiana and Mississippi and levelled entire neighbourhoods.
Maria Carollo of the New Orleans suburb of Chalmette and her family had to evacuate their home when Katrina flooded it with three feet of water when it struck on August 29, and now they’re squeezed into a FEMA-provided trailer.
On a visit Thursday to a FEMA centre in St. Bernard Parish, she stopped to pet two of the therapy dogs.
“You’re frustrated, but they’re able to comfort you,” Carollo said while stroking Ginger, an eight-year-old whippet mixed breed, and Custer, a six-year-old golden retriever.
The dogs, she said, reminded her how lucky she had been to escape with her husband, children and their pets - a cockatiel and two dogs.
Katrina’s fury disrupted their lives and badly damaged their home, but “you didn’t lose your animals, you didn’t lose your family,” she said. “We were lucky in that respect. So many people had to leave their pets behind.”
Eischen said the dogs, who wear vests with their names on them, train by making frequent visits to hospitals and nursing homes, like their British counterpart PAT Dogs. Those with the best dispositions and ability to handle crowds become crisis response dogs, said Dawn Eischen.
Posh and Barks
POSH and Becks are the most popular celebrity couple names for dogs, according to a poll.
Scores of dog owners shout out the names of Real Madrid footballer David Beckham and his singer wife Victoria as they try to round up their pets.
Other couples whom dog-lovers name their pets after include footballer Wayne Rooney and ‘chav-icon’ girlfriend Coleen McLoughlin. Whether or not their dogs had burberry coats and blankets was not recorded.
Singer Peter Andre and Jordan are the most popular couple for cats to be named after.
Newlyweds, Elton and David are also in the top five names given to cats.
The cartoon dog from an insurance firm’s TV commercials has helped make Churchill the most popular single name for dogs.
Becks was also the top name for rabbits.
The poll was carried out by the PDSA, the UK’s leading veterinary charity.
PDSA PR Manager, Liza Randall said: “Although we may not be able to offer them Beckingham Palace, our animals always receive A-list treatment when they come to a PDSA PetAid hospital”.
Tsunami animal charity saves Sri Lankan animals
A BRITISH animal lover has spent much of the past year in Sri Lanka helping animals in the wake of the devastating tsunami.
Animal welfare worker, Dawn Peacock, 26, from Hull, East Yorkshire, flew out to see what help could be given to animals whose owners had died.
The result was a new charity, the Tsunami Memorial Animal Welfare Trust (TMAWT) which has sterilised 6,000 dogs and vaccinated 8,000 against rabies.
The government agreed to shelve plans for the mass killing of dogs after TMAWT offered to attend to them.
The trust’s goal is to sterilise over 75% of animals in an area. Males and females are sterilised both for population control and to reduce aggression that can increase dog bites to people.
Volunteers from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Germany throughout last year have joined a core team of four Sri Lankan vets.
Sherry Grant, TMAWT director, said: “Without Dawn’s drive, support and experience, this project would never have got off the ground”.