Horseboxes & Trailers Could Be “Riskier Than Racing At Grand National”


NFU Mutual launches ‘Horsebox Safety Week’ to encourage horse owners to put safety first

• Almost one in five (19%) of injuries sustained by horses in horseboxes or trailers are fatal

• One in twenty (5%) fallen or collapsed horses in The Grand National will be put to sleep

As the country prepares for the Grand National, arguably the most iconic horse race in the world, many are raising concerns about the safety of horseboxes and trailers.

Over the last ten years, one out of forty horses to enter The Grand National will lose its life and five percent of those that fall or collapse will need to be put to sleep as a result.

However, NFU Mutual advises that there is potentially a bigger risk to the horse’s safety before they even arrive at the track – the unidentified dangers that some horseboxes and trailers pose.

The insurer’s claims data reveals that almost one in five (19%) injuries sustained by horses in horseboxes and trailers result in the horse being put to sleep. This can be from legs falling through rotten floors or becoming tramped in overturned trailers following a tyre blow-out or other component failure.

As part of an ongoing campaign for the safer transportation of horses, NFU Mutual has launched Horsebox Safety Week – to raise the awareness of the risks associated with the loading and transporting horses and improve education.

Victoria Walton, Equine Specialist at NFU Mutual: “We are calling for the equestrian community to pay as much care and attention to the safety and maintenance of their horseboxes and trailers as we know they do towards the health and wellbeing of their animals.

“Although horseboxes must pass an annual MOT or Ministry Plating, this does not check vehicles for their safety and suitability for carrying horses and trailers are not required to pass any form of safety test at all. This can lead to floors going unchecked for signs of rot, tyres becoming perished and worn through age and vehicles carrying much more weight than they are designed to.”

Victoria added: “Getting into a horsebox or trailer is not a natural behaviour for a horse, they do it because they have trust in their owner: our message to horse owners is clear don’t betray that trust. It’s our responsibility to keep them safe and the onerous is on owners to prevent a disaster waiting to happen.”

Working with partners across the equine industry NFU Mutual has created a library of useful videos to highlight the issues and educate horse owners how to avoid them, promoted via the Social Media campaign ‘I pledge to keep my horse safe’ #HBSW.

The week will highlight seven of the key issues (pre-journey safety checks, old and worn tyres, rotten floors and ramps, overweight vehicles, accidents, breakdowns and safe loading) and the insurer is calling for the equine community to watch, share and put into practice the safety checks provided. You can find the videos at

Anyone can also follow the campaign and take the pledge to keep horses safe on Facebook and Twitter using #HBSW.

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Paralympic Champion Libby Clegg & Guide Dog Hatti

Libby and Hatti

Libby and Hatti

Here’s GB Paralympic athlete and brand ambassador, Libby Clegg and her guide dog Hatti visiting the Eukanuba stand during the recent Crufts weekend.

Silver medal athlete Libby spoke about preparing for Rio, upcoming competitions and what Hatti to means to her as both a working dog and a beloved pet. Libby caught up with Channel 4 Cruft’s presenter Iwan Thomas on the Eukanuba stand.


Principle Sponsors of Crufts, Eukanuba celebrated the 125th Anniversary of the world’s largest dog show.

Speaking about her day at Crufts, Libby commented: “This was my second year at Crufts, but first as ambassador for Eukanuba. I was really excited to be here with Eukanuba and meet visitors on the stand, as well as talk to Iwan for Channel 4 on what having Hatti means to me.

“Hatti helps me live a more independent life day-to-day but is also by myside when I’m training and sometimes she’ll join in when we are warming up or cooling down. And if I’ve had a hard session, she’s always there for a cuddle. She is a really important part my life and she means the world to me.”

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Vets Slam Leading Player In Pet Insurance Market Over Reduced Choice

dog at vets

Thousands of families with insurance cover for pets through Tesco and MoreThan are facing reduced freedom of choice following controversial policy changes which and could leave sick animals at risk, a group of the country’s leading veterinary specialists have warned.

Vets for Choice, a group of 11 leading Veterinary Specialist Referral Centres in the UK, says Royal & Sun Alliance (RSA) – which underwrites the policies of Tesco and MoreThan – is putting profits before the care of beloved pets with the new measures.

RSA has created a nationwide ‘preferred referral network’ – currently limited to 29 vet practices. Owners with Tesco/MoreThan policies who chose to take their sick or injured pets to a referral centre not on the list can face a penalty of £200.

Vets for Choice say that it must be the absolute right of pet owners, in conjunction with their first opinion vet, to select the referral centre that is most appropriate for each individual case. The decision will be based on a number of considerations, the most important of which are level of expertise and availability of specialist facilities. Geographical location is also an important factor and, in some cases, it is not appropriate for pets to travel long distances to a referral centre.

The preferred referral network does not have good overall coverage across the UK. In the south west of England, for example, there is just one approved centre and, just two in the whole of Scotland,

Vets for Choice said: “Just as in the medical profession GP vets will explain the options for referral and recommend the Specialist or referral centre that he/she considers to be the most appropriate for the case. This recommendation must be based on clinical considerations and not on financial ones. Pet Owners should then be free to make their choice.”

Vets for Choice has now called on Tesco to ditch the new RSA policy and revert to its previous format. MoreThan is a brand of the RSA group.

Vets for Choice spokesman Professor Dick White said: “RSA has adopted the same mentality to caring for much-loved pets as it has getting a car fixed.

“But as animal lovers across Britain will testify, the two do not compare.

“Choice should not to be confined to a list of practices provided by an insurance company – particularly as some of the practices on the RSA list do not even employ Specialists.”

“We are urging Tesco to go back to its original policy.”

It is reported RSA commands around a 30 per cent market share of the UK pet insurance market, in which premiums across the industry have been predicted to reach £1.1bn by 2018.

As well as making the changes to policy, the RSA has also amended payment systems for those practices outside of its list, meaning that Tesco and MoreThan customers who use a referral centre not on the RSA list may have to pay for treatment up front and then claim it back from the insurer.

John Lewis and M&S policies are also underwritten by RSA but it is understood they have not taken up the changes to policy.

The group has launched a petition calling on Tesco to amend its pet insurance policy to its original format and give full choice back to Pet Owners and their vets. The petition can be found at

More information on the group’s campaign can be found at

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How To Raise A Healthy House Cat

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DR PETE WEDDERBURN  qualified as a vet from Edinburgh thirty years ago in 1985. He has worked in his own four-veterinarian companion animal practice in County Wicklow, Ireland, since 1991, and he has his own menagerie of dogs, cats, ducks, hens and others including a pet rabbit in his kitchen. Pete is well known as a media veterinarian in Ireland and the UK, with a weekly breakfast television slot on national television for the past fourteen years. He is a prolific writer on animal topics, with weekly columns in the Ireland’s Herald newspaper and the UK’s Daily Telegraph. Pete is known as “Pete the Vet” on his busy Facebook and Twitter pages, regularly posting information on topical subjects and real-life cases from his clinic. He also writes a regular blog at

Traditionally, cats in the UK have been kept as free-ranging pets, coming and going outdoors and indoors as they please via windows, doors or cat flaps.

In recent years, there has been a growing swell of discontent directed at outdoor cats. Bird lovers get upset when they see cats hunting garden birds. Gardeners complain about cats pooping in their seed beds. And fellow cat owners are understandably annoyed when their own pets are pounced on by “cat bullies”. At the same time, it’s been shown that indoor cats live longer, healthier lives than free ranging animals.

The argument in favour of an indoor life for pet cats has one flaw: if cats are kept indoors all the time, they suffer from a higher level of stress-related disease, such as urinary tract disease and behavioural disorders. So, are there steps that cat owners can take to ensure that their indoor pets have contented, stress-free lives?

Choose a kitten from a friendly genetic background

There are two major factors that play a role in a cat’s sociability: genetics and early upbringing. Many people end up with cats that are frightened of strangers, anxious if humans get too close and fearful of other animals. Around 15% of cats have a genetic make up that is resistant to socialisation: such animals will not make good indoor pets, and so should be avoided. Choose a kitten from a source where both the father and mother are known to be good-natured, friendly animals, and the chances are that the kitten will inherit the same disposition.

It took a while, but Sharon (a client at my practice) eventually found the kittens she was looking for. A pedigree cat breeder allowed a cross-breed to take place, between a Devon Rex male and a Maine Coon female cat. Sharon was able to meet both father and mother of her two chosen kittens (and both parents were gentle and friendly).

Choose a kitten that has been well socialised from an early age

Studies have shown that the second and third months of a kitten’s life are life-changing: this is when the kitten learns to interact socially with humans, other cats and other animals. If kittens only have limited exposure to such experiences at this age, they often end up for life as fearful, timid adults, avoiding close contact with their human companions, and hiding whenever there are visitors.

Sharon’s chosen kittens had been handled by humans since birth, and had encountered other cats and the family dog from a young age. As a result, she knew that the kittens would grow up to be relaxed with people, cats and even dogs.

Choose an appropriate companion (or not)

Cats can live happily as solitary animals in a human household, and forced relationships, where new cat is brought into a home that is already inhabited by an established cat often end up with constant stress and fighting. That said, there are benefits from the ongoing company and socialisation if cats are able to share a home as friends. The best way to guarantee such compatibility is to introduce two cats to each other while they are still young (or to take two litter mates). And it goes without saying that neutering/spaying removes the tensions and conflict associated with sexual behaviour.

Sharon took one male and one female kitten from her chosen litter: they had already been seen to spend time together so she knew that they’d get on well. She had them both neutered/spayed at the age of five months.

Design your home to be “cat friendly”

Many stress-related problems in cats happen because they are expected to live in a home designed for human living. It’s worth taking time to see your cats’ habitat through feline eyes: make sure there are high-up perches to clamber up onto, to survey the world, and low-down hidey holes for cats to sneak into when they want time out. If you have more than one cat, offer them privacy, giving each their own eating/drinking area and plenty of litter trays (one per cat plus one extra).
Sharon read up about “cat friendly homes” on the internet, then she invested several hundred pounds at her local pet shop, buying two cat gyms (with solid, tall scratching posts), and some “cat runs” (narrow planking for the cats to run up onto high-up furniture).

Spend time interacting with your cat

Cats are not ornaments: to establish a successful relationship with your pets, you need to spend time with them. You can do this as part of your normal lifestyle – pet a cat on your lap when reading a book, watching TV or working at your computer, give them attention from time to time when cooking a meal, and in general, just remember to include them in what you are doing. Be sure to spend dedicated play time with them too, using cat toys such as feathers-on-wands, laser lights and dash-around mouse-like toys. Time invested like this will pay dividends – reducing any stress that your cats may be feeling, and strengthening the relationship between you.

Sharon talks to her cats when on her own, pets them whenever passing, and if she sits down for any reason, she sits one of them in her lap. The cats love this attention, and Sharon loves sharing her life with her cats like this.

Sharon’s home has turned well: she has two adult cats who are friends, playing together and sleeping curled up around one another. As far as she can tell, they have stress-free, contented lives, and partly due to her chilled-out feline companions, so does Sharon.

This column was first published in the March edition of Pets Magazine.

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Westie Wins ‘Best In Show’ For First Time In 26 Years

Marie Burns from County Durham with Devon a West Highland White Terrier, who won the coveted title of Best in Show today (Sunday 13.03.16) Copyright onEdition 2016

Marie Burns from County Durham with Devon a West Highland White Terrier, who won the coveted title of Best in Show today (Sunday 13.03.16) Copyright onEdition 2016

A West Highland White Terrier called Devon was crowned Best in Show at Crufts last night – the first for her breed in 26 years.

In a packed arena, Devon (Ch Burneze Geordie Girl), who is two years old in July and Marie Burns, a Kennel Club Assured Breeder from Bishop Auckland, County Durham were cheered on as they were chosen by top judge, Derek Smith and awarded the prestigious Crufts Best in Show title by Clare Balding. The historic moment was captured live on Channel 4 and watched online around the world.

Almost 22,000 pedigree dogs from around the world competed at the Birmingham NEC over four days for just seven places in the 125th Crufts 2016 Best in Show final. The other six finalists were, Jen the German Spitz Klein, Eric the Pekingese, Zony the Border Collie, James the Gordon Setter, Hazel the Whippet and Hector the Bouvier Des Flandres.

Devon’s, owner, Marie said of her win: “I can’t believe it, it was amazing. She is a typical terrier, a bit of a tomboy, very independent and fun to be around. I’m so thankful to everyone who has helped us get there. I can’t believe it she’s the first West Highland Terrier to win in more than 20 years.” 

Winner: Devon the West Highland White Terrier. Photo copyright onEdition 2016

Winner: Devon the West Highland White Terrier. Photo copyright onEdition 2016

The Reserve Best in Show award was won by Hazel, the Whippet, owned by Charlie Donaldson from Middlebie, Dumfrieshire, who was also bred by a Kennel Club Assured Breeder.

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: “This has been a fantastic year and a wonderful final, and it’s clear to see why, for 125 years, Crufts has been one of the major British events.

“Congratulations to Devon who helped end this year’s competition on a high note, taking the prestigious Best in Show award with her owner, Marie Burns. 

“This year has been such a great show, with dogs and their handlers showing their fantastic relationship across a range of dog sports and competitions.”

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Crufts Controversy Over ‘Best Of Breed’ Cavalier

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel pups

Under threat from irresponsible breeders: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppies

Canine health campaigners have expressed their disappointment and Cavalier online forums are buzzing with disbelieving and angry comments as it emerged that the Crufts Best of Breed title winner fathered a litter of puppies at nine months old. This flies in the face of breeding protocols for Cavaliers, a breed beset by inherited health issues.

“Because there is no simple DNA test for Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) and Syringomyelia (SM), the two most serious inherited conditions suffered by Cavaliers, it is absolutely crucial that dogs are not bred before 2.5 years and that they continue to be tested throughout their life,” says long-time campaigner Margaret Carter, whose online petition asking the Kennel Club to make testing for MVD and SM mandatory has amassed over 25,000 signatures.

You’re My Sunshine Vom Kaninchengarten, a Blenheim Cavalier, is less than two years old and has heart and eye tests recorded after he fathered a litter. “For years the majority of Cavalier breeders have ignored MVD and SM breeding protocols even though these were established nearly two decades ago. This Crufts win not only exemplifies why the Kennel Club needs to get tough but it also makes a mockery of its claim that Crufts is ‘Celebrating healthy, happy dogs’,” adds Carter.

All of the current top five Cavalier Club “best stud dogs” all produced litters before their second birthday. “The fact that the Best of Breed Cavalier was, according to official online records, used for breeding while still a puppy himself underlines why the breed remains under such tremendous and devastating genetic health pressure,” claims Karlin Lillington, owner of the forum and co-founder of Rupert’s Fund, which has raised over £30,000 for health research and breeder MRI scans.

“For a top show exhibitor to breed a Cavalier so young that it would still compete in puppy show classes, and only heart test months later – when it is still too young to be meaningful in a progressive disease – indicates that clubs remain unable or are unwilling to motivate breeders to breed for health. Therefore, testing should be made mandatory for litter registration.”

Donna Farrand’s Cavalier, Freddie, underwent decompression surgery last year to help improve his SM symptoms. Freddie’s father sired a litter at just over a year old and continues to be used for breeding. “I was furious to see the owner of his sire judging one of the Cavalier rings yesterday.

“What kind of message does this send out and what kind of example does this set to other breeders?” she asks.

On some online forums, breeding at a young age has been defended but Lena Gillstedt, a Cavalier breeder and biologist from Sweden where testing for Cavaliers is compulsory, says this is nonsense:

“If males needed to be proven at nine months to know what to do, the breed would be extinct in Sweden because here no Cavalier can be bred until it is at least 24 months. But here the breed is actually thriving.”

Canine health campaigner Carol Fowler, founder of the Dog Breeding Reform Group, says: “A Cavalier Breed Clubs’ heart scheme was agreed almost 20 years ago. If only all breeders had followed its recommendations, including that no dog under 2.5 years should be bred, we would have seen a marked improvement in early onset MVD by now. However, success in the show ring, glory for the owner and the resulting stud fees are seemingly more important.”

See the petition at

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RSPCA Survey Confirms What Dogs Enjoy Most About Being Dogs

The RSPCA surveyed hundreds of dog owners to find out what makes their pets happy…


Running, eating, and sleeping  are some of the activities that make our pet dogs the happiest, according to an RSPCA survey.

The animal welfare charity spoke to hundreds of pet owners to find out what makes their dog happy.

90% of dog owners revealed that their canine companion loves nothing more than exploring and investigating, 81% said that their pet enjoys going for a walk off-lead, and 82% said that their pet enjoyed going for a run.

The survey results also revealed that 91% of dog owners said eating was their pet’s favourite pastime, and 90% of dog owners agreed that their pet loved sleeping.

And a whopping 94% of people said it was important that their dog is healthy and happy, and able to exercise, run and play freely.


However, for some dogs, the way they’re bred to look can make activities like running or playing practically impossible. For example, dogs with short, flat faces (brachycephalic) – like Pekingese and pugs – are more likely to suffer from respiratory disorders which can make it difficult for them to breathe when they exercise.

One survey found that 88% of brachycephalic dogs experienced severe exercise intolerance and prolonged recovery time after physical exercise, and 56% suffered from a variety of sleep problems.

Another study found that extreme brachycephalic dogs died at a significantly younger age (8.7 years) in comparison to other dogs without short, flat faces (12.7 years). It also found that extreme brachycephalic dogs overall were 3.5 times more likely to have at least one upper respiratory tract disorder compared to the dogs who were less flat-faced.


Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome and narrowed nostrils are two of the three most prevalent conditions reported in French bulldogs, another breed which has been selectively bred to have short flat faces.

RSPCA canine welfare expert Lisa Richards said: “We remain concerned that many dogs are still suffering because they’re bred and judged primarily for how they look rather than with health, welfare and temperament in mind.

“Many dogs have been bred to emphasise certain physical features, some of which have become so extreme that they can cause pain and suffering, make dogs prone to particular disorders, or even prevent them from behaving normally and from enjoying the activities we know dogs love.

“The RSPCA believes there is still much to be done to protect the future health of dogs and that all those who breed dogs should prioritise health, welfare and temperament over appearance when choosing which animals to breed.”

Katy Price, a pug owner from Norfolk, said: “I must admit, I chose a pug partly because I think they have such wonderful characters, but also because I found their looks appealing and cute.

“But, during the first few years of having Olive (pictured above), I started to become concerned that she was struggling to breathe.

“I voiced my concerns with a vet about her snuffly noises and tiny nostrils, but I was told she would probably change as she grew. She didn’t.

“Olive snores very loudly. She also used to take a while to calm down after walks, more so than any of my friends’ dogs. She would regularly ‘reverse sneeze’, and also belch and burp after eating – things I now know can be secondary to breathing problems.

Olive x ray.jpg

“I think I was somewhat ‘breed blind’ to her problems, thinking that her breathing was that way because she was a pug, and that is what pugs sound like.

“I was unaware at that time that these dogs could have surgery to help them (pictured right). If only I knew what I know now! I did eventually get Olive referred, though I wish I had done it sooner.”

Olive’s larynx – the hollow muscular organ forming an air passage to the lungs – had collapsed. Symptoms of her condition included snoring, noisy breathing, coughing, reverse sneezing and nasal congestion. Vets opened up her nostrils and shortened her soft palate. They also removed her laryngeal saccules.

Many pugs also suffer with eye problems including entropion (a condition in which the eyelids fold inwards), pigmentary keratitis (a build up of dark scar tissue on the eye), and corneal ulcers – in fact, a recent study found that brachycephalic dogs were 20 times more likely to be affected by corneal ulcers than non-brachycephalic dogs. These were sadly other conditions for which Olive had to have surgery. All of her procedures have cost her insurance company around £4,000.

english bulldog cream and white standing in front of white background

“She will always be at risk of further airway problems, but she is now much more comfortable,” added Katy. “It’s not just pugs who suffer from these conditions – French bulldogs and bulldogs (pictured right) are prone to them, too.

“Emotionally, this has been a rollercoaster of worry. Olive is a stoic little dog, but I hated putting her through all the procedures. She didn’t ask to be born this way.

“Sadly, because of how I have seen Olive suffer, I would advise against buying a pug. But, if you feel you have to get one, why not rescue one? But be sure to get good insurance!

“Pugs are delightful little dogs but they can, and do, suffer a lot due to the way they look. Get to know the breed before committing. Do not just follow the latest trend of cute accessory dogs. The breed is high maintenance and could cost you a fortune both emotionally and financially.”

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All At Sea: Ships’ Mascots & Pets



Ship’s pets and animal mascots have been a common sight throughout the ages until that is just over 40 years ago in 1975 when the Royal Navy banned them for ‘health and safety reasons.’ HMS Trincomalee in Hartlepool is one such illustrious vessel that had a long history of animals padding around its decks and into its briny bowels in search of scraps or else a friendly face. Pets – most commonly cats or dogs – were needed for companionship and for more practical purposes such as ridding a vessel of vermin. The crew would go for many months at sea, perhaps only stopping to re-stock and sometimes to pick up a more exotic crew member such as a monkey or parrot.

When British naval officers rescued a polar bear cub from drifting ice off Greenland during World War II, they took her on board their ship and made her their mascot. But before long, Barbara, as she was named, outgrew her new home and the crew deposited her at the Royal Navy’s training facility on Whale Island, where a ‘sailor’s zoo’ had been established in 1893 to accommodate those animals given to the Navy or brought back from the exotics. By 1935 there were lions, kangaroos and birds that had, however reluctantly, made ‘sailor’s zoo’ their home.

HMS Trincomalee

HMS Trincomalee

The majestic HMS Trincomalee, now the oldest warship still afloat today, was built in Bombay, India, in 1817 for the Royal Navy shortly after the Napoleonic Wars at a cost of £23,000. Named after the 1782 Battle of Trincomalee, she was fitted with temporary masts and rigging, and before stopping to pick up guns and ammunition on the way to Britain, she arrived in Portsmouth in 1819. During her first commission, the 1,447-ton ship provided hurricane relief in Bermuda in 1847, as well as preventing an invasion of Cuba. After returning to Britain and being refitted, she headed for Vancouver in 1852 under the command of Captain Wallace Houstoun. From there she patrolled the west coast of North America and the Pacific Ocean.

Goats were carried on ships for food

Goats and other animals were carried on ships

Animal noises were a very audible feature of life on board a ship like HMS Trincomalee with livestock being kept as a ready food supply just yards from where the formidable ship’s cook served up ropy but sometimes nourishing fare to crew members. When the ship was at sea and in battle mode, these poor creatures were often the first to be chucked over board if a lightening of the load was required.

Companion animals fared better as the men became attached to their feline and canine friends. When travelling to exotic places, it was also not unusual to pick up an animal such as a monkey or parrot or perhaps even a kangaroo or a far from cuddly bear. However we feel about the ethics of all this in modern day Britain, back then the company of a parrot that could be taught to talk and a monkey that was inherently clever (and often cheeky) provided endless hours of respite from the serious business of serving aboard a ship in the disease and death ridden 1800s.

Cats were worshipped in Ancient Egypt

Cats were worshipped in Ancient Egypt

Cats were perhaps the most common animal to be found on board ship. Mariners in ancient Egypt were known to keep cats aboard their vessels for the vital service they provided on the frontline of vermin control. If mice and rats weren’t kept under control, they would quickly consume the men’s provisions and threaten the voyage. The mongoose too was a relatively common ship’s pet, adept at catching cockroaches and rats. Sailors throughout history also believed cats brought good luck, as well as companionship during long voyages. They also adopted cats from the distant ports they visited.

Perhaps the most well-known ship’s cat was Simon, the black and white moggie that fought a valiant battle against vermin on HMS Amethyst. His story is fascinating. When an orphaned kitten is discovered in the Hong Kong docks in 1948 by a British soldier, he has no idea of the journey he’s about to go on. Smuggled onto the HMS Amethyst, and named Simon by his new friends, the little cat quickly acclimatises to his new water-borne home, establishing himself as the chief rat-catcher in residence while also winning the hearts of the entire crew.

Simon the 'sea cat'

Simon the ‘sea cat’

Then the Amethyst is ordered to sail up the Yangtze to guard the British Embassy, and tragedy strikes as the ship comes under fire from Communist guns. Many of the crew are killed and Simon is among those who are seriously wounded. The ship is held hostage for months, with the crew and Simon working together to keep morale up and devise a means of escape. Soon, news of Simon’s heroism spreads and he becomes famous world-wide – but it is still a long journey back to England for both the crew and the plucky little cat known as Able Seacat Simon…Able Seacat Simon is the only cat to be among 65 animals to be awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal, the animal charity’s equivalent of the Victoria Cross.

Although pets are now banned on board Royal Naval ships, the role of ship’s mascots is commemorated by the ‘Animals in War’ memorial, which was unveiled by HRH the Princess Royal in 2004, the 90th anniversary of the start of World War I. Among the heroic horses and dogs is a solitary cat, walking alongside its comrades.


The inscription reads:

“This monument is dedicated to all the animals

that served and died alongside British and allied forces

in wars and campaigns throughout time.”

A second inscription simply reads:

“They had no choice.”

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Video: The Health Crisis In Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

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Kennel Club Under Pressure From Welfare Campaigners On Eve Of Crufts

The Kennel Club (KC) is facing pressure from pet owners on the eve of its prestigious dog show Crufts, which starts this Thursday, as 25,000, including a host of celebrities, sign an online petition asking it to tackle a health crisis affecting Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.


They may be one of Britain’s best-loved breeds but these adorable dogs also suffer from shocking hereditary health problems.

Supporters of the petition, including Craig Revel Horwood, Deborah Meadon, Binky Felstead and the RSPCA, want the KC to make testing mandatory for the two most serious conditions: a heart disease called MVD and SM, a distressing neurological disorder caused by dogs being bred with skulls too small for their brains.

“The KC’s breed health survey, published last month, reveals Cavaliers are dying 17 months earlier than a decade ago,” says Margaret Carter, who started the petition.

“Research proves that breeding from dogs tested clear increases the chances of healthy puppies yet the KC refuses to take proper action. Families are seeing their loved pets living in pain and dying young. Many have written to the Prime Minister in the hope the KC can be shamed into living up to its claim ‘to promote in every way the general improvement in dogs’.”

TV vet Emma Milne adds: “When will the KC stop seeing pound signs and start seeing sense. The UK is way behind much of Europe where other countries have seen dramatic improvements in disease prevalence in Cavaliers through robust testing.”

The BBC ditched its coverage of Crufts after the 2008 documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed revealed top show Cavaliers with inherited disease being used for breeding against veterinary advice. Despite promises of action from the KC, campaigners say little has been done to improve the lot of Cavaliers in the years since and that many successful show breeders continue to set a bad example by ignoring breeding guidelines.

Mother-of-three Charlotte Mackaness signed the petition on behalf of her Cavalier, Beebee, who started yelping in pain from SM when around six months old. Now three, she takes a cocktail of powerful painkillers every day. “Beebee came from a breeder who has won Crufts’ best of breed titles many times and who came recommended by the breed club. Sadly, my family has learnt that looks and money seem to count more than these dogs’ health.”



According to long-time owner Nicki Hughes: “The KC and breed clubs would like people to think it’s just backyard breeders and puppy farmers that don’t health test. I lost my beloved Teddy at six. He had MVD and SM. His breeder? An international judge. There is an official CM/SM screening programme but breeders have boycotted it.”

Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood and his partner Damon Scott own two Cavaliers with health issues. “It’s wrong that there is such a high probability that a Cavalier with inherit a terrible disease,” says Damon, who provided the voice over for a Cavalier version of the 80s hit The Final Countdown. It has had 54,000 views on Facebook alone and stars the couple’s Cavalier, Sophie, who has heart disease.

Giving a voice to these dogs was really important to us. This message and their plight needs to be heard. I find it unbelievable that the Kennel Club won’t do the right thing,” he says.

View The Final Countdown movie at

See the petition at

Numerous famous faces are backing the campaign, including Tony Parsons, Linda Robson, Fern Britten, TV vet Mark Evans and many others:

“Please can I ask you to sign and retweet this petition to save dogs’ lives”, Pixie Lott urged her Twitter followers.

“We need to make sure all Cavaliers are health tested before breeding,” believes Craig Revel Horwood

“We should be breeding for health, not creating problems for our loved pets,” says Deborah Meadon, who has been a staunch supporter of the Cavalier health campaign.

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