On Tuesday 23rd April 2019 K-9 Angels founders Victoria and Pola along with team member Toni attended the All-Parliamentary Dog Advisory Welfare Group (APDAWG) in Westminster. The meeting which was co-chaired by vet Marc Abraham focused on Dog Fighting, Animal Cruelty and Links to Domestic Violence.
The meeting consisted of an expert panel of speakers, Kerry McCarthy MP, Dr Lisa Cameron MP and animal welfare campaigners from across the country were in attendance.
Peter Egan, actor and animal welfare campaigner, was first to speak about his experience visiting Amish puppy mills in the USA. They were fortunate to be able to rescue a German Shepherd bitch who’d been used for 10 years to breed puppies for profit, they named her Victoria after Victoria Stilwell (dog trainer, author and television presenter) who also played an important part in her rescue. Out of this came Victoria’s Law the equivalent of Lucy’s Law in the UK which will hopefully be implemented to put a stop third party puppy sales.
Peter went on to give an extremely moving and emotional account of his time visiting the extreme markets in Indonesia. Peter read out his account of what he’d witnessed, the horrors and brutality of which were both shocking and heart breaking. Families going to the market together to choose a dog, but this isn’t to be a family pet, the dog is for them to eat. The butchers with their blowtorches and knives there to kill the dogs in the most shocking and brutal way. Peter, together with Lola Webber, one of the founders of Change for Animals Foundation, were able to save four dogs from what would have been horrific deaths - but as Peter voiced to his captivated audience, he will be forever haunted by the faces of those that they had to leave behind. See video below for part of Peter’s impassioned speech, and links underneath for related articles.
Advocates For Animals is the first UK law firm dedicated to animal protection. Edie Bowles, Solicitor and co-founder gave a very informative presentation explaining their role. The law firm represents animal protection organisations such as Animal Aid, Greyt Exploitations and Freedom to Animals to name a few, and advises on all areas of animal law. Edie spoke about the legal definition of unnecessary suffering and the fact there is no clear definition under the law. She explained that the following practices are legitimate:- intensive farming, animal experiments, culling and zoos, whereas these are not:- Foie Gras, fur farming, and hunting with dogs.
See Advocates For Animals website here: https://advocates-for-animals.com/
Mark Randall from Hidden-in-Sight is a former senior police detective now working to prevent animal abuse internationally. Mark explained how violence against animal is interlinked with violence against people, domestic abuse and other types of crime. Mark reported on the work they have carried out in the Ukraine, working with the Naturewatch Foundation training the Ukraine Police on animal abuse and why animal crimes matter.
Since Hidden-in-Sight was formed in 2013 they have been investigating dog fighting for a number of different agencies. Mark provided an overview and global picture where it is estimated over one million dogs are currently involved in organised dog fighting. There are many countries involved and it’s connected to other violence and criminal activity such as gangs, guns, betting, drug crimes and even child pornography. It was shocking to hear the details of a dog fight that lasted four hours, the dogs fight until death and sustain horrific injuries during the fight. The injured dogs rarely get taken to a vet for treatment. In the UK dog fighting is less professional than in other countries but it is prevalent amongst closed communities and there is always cash and crime involved. Mark advised that the current sentence for dog fighting in the UK is only six months, dog fighting needs to be treated more seriously and its links to serious and organised crime recognised, there also needs to be more robust penalties in force.
Mike Webb Public Affairs from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home spoke about the campaign to increase animal cruelty sentences in the UK from six months to five years. His very informative presentation showed how disproportionate animal abuse is against other crimes, for example fly tipping warrants a much higher sentence than animal cruelty. The international comparison is just embarrassing, out of one hundred jurisdictions worldwide England and Wales were the lowest. Ukraine’s sentence was two years, but this has been increased to eight years. Regarding what is happening about this in Parliament, Mike advised that the draft animal welfare bill was published in 2017, however ministers are currently not being drawn as to when it will go to Parliament again.
Tracey Berridge - Founder/CEO, Dogs Helping Kids (DHK) spoke about the great work that they do training dogs to work in school and college environments and the effect of the dogs in the classroom to help teach children non-violence, empathy, respect, kindness, love, responsibility, friendship and trust. Tracey also spoke about her postgraduate research where she had studied children aged seven and eight in South West England using a child friendly questionnaire which contained drawings of scenes of animal cruelty. The outcome of which had been quite shocking with 20% of children admitting being cruel to their pets and not thinking it was wrong and 53% saying they’d witnessed family members hitting pets.
Tracey went on to talk about the significant correlation of animal abuse with serial killers both male and female, as well as with school shooters. Many had a history of abusing, torturing or killing animals before they went on to kill humans.
Finally, Vicky Betton from the PDSA spoke about The Links Group. The Links Group raise awareness of the link between abuse of people and animals through support, training and inter-agency working. They provide training for the veterinary team in how to recognise non accidental injuries and what to say to the client in the consulting room.
Vicky advised that in human domestic abuse it’s about control. She spoke about how The Links Group provide vets with guidance on when it is appropriate to break client confidentiality and the RCVS code of professional conduct when dealing with a pet. Vicky advised that abusers often threaten to hurt an animal to have control over a person. Vets are trained to look out for signs of abuse and can supply helpline numbers, some veterinary practices will have a safeguarding liaison officer. Vicky explained that victims of domestic abuse sometimes find themselves unable to leave an abusive home because they have nowhere to go with their pets, as most refuges won’t accept pets. Vicky gave an example of a lady sleeping in her car with her pets because she had nowhere else to go. Vicky said that there are pet fostering schemes. She also referred to an online module to help anyone who visits homes as part of their job e.g. social worker or heath visitor for them to raise concerns, concerns can also be raised via Crime Stoppers.
Marc Abraham and Dr Cameron brought the meeting to a close by announcing the wonderful news that Peter Egan has agreed to become the patron of the group and that Finns Law has primary legislation.