Derbyshire Couple Banned From Keeping Pets For Five Years 

A couple who left their three reptiles, dog and cat alone to starve in filthy conditions in their empty house while they stayed just half a mile away have been banned from keeping dogs and reptiles for five years.

Estelle Lodde, 37, (D.O.B – 12/11/1977) and Mark Lodde, 33, (D.O.B. 15/09/1981) both of Midland Terrace, Barrow Hill in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, pleaded guilty to seven animal welfare offences involving their pets.

In February RSPCA inspectors visited the couple’s home and found one bearded dragon was severely emaciated and another had already died from starvation.

Sadly, the leopard gecko also died from starvation on the way to the vets for treatment.

They also found a Jack Russell Terrier, named Loki,  was also dehydrated and underweight but had scavenged some food from a bag of cat biscuits he had ripped open.

He was also suffering from a skin condition brought on by flea infestation. Their cat, Blaze, was also underweight and living in squalor.

Magistrates at North East Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court described the situation as ‘mindless neglect’ but recognised they had shown remorse about their actions and gave them an eight-week custodial sentence which was suspended for 12 months.

They were also ordered to pay costs of £200 plus an £80 surcharge.

After the sentencing yesterday (Wednesday) inspector Mick Darling said: “It was terrible that these poor animals had been left to fend for themselves for days while their owners were just down the road with friends.

“The cat and dog had been affected by being left for that amount of time but the poor bearded dragons and the gecko had been suffering from a poor diet and bad husbandry for a lot longer than that.”

He added: “Especially in the case of the bearded dragons and the gecko it is sadly an all too common occurrence. Members of the public have these exotic pets which spend their lives in unsuitable or basic environments with inadequate or poorly managed diets. As this case shows, the results can be devastating and leave these animals suffering terribly.”

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Why Only a Cultural Shift Will Kill the Yulin Dog Meat Festival


As published in The Huffington Post 

This week, the West has been up in arms about a strange festival that takes place on an annual basis in China. The Yulin Dog Meat Festival is celebrated annually in Guangxi for the summer solstice in June, and locals eat canine meat with lychees, washed down by strong liquor. The ritual is believed by the Chinese to ward off the heat of the blazing summer months. It lasts ten days and during that time 15,000 dogs and hundreds of cats are skinned alive and consumed. Celebrities including Ricky Gervais have come out against the festival under the campaign banner #StopYulin2015.

And yet can we ever realistically hope to put an end to eating ‘meat’ that has been consumed in China for hundreds of years, because the practice disgusts us in the West?

The graphic pictures flooding out of the Dog Meat Festival have raised awareness of what seems to us utterly barbarous. The ritualistic consumption of man’s – and woman’s best friend – is something we intrinsically abhor. It disgusts us. Why? Because dogs are our beloved companion animals, our friends, they are to many people more than simply pets. They are ‘family’. Dogs, and cats, have made it to our hearth and home; they share our lives, our emotions and often even lie at our feet while we slumber. To witness this week’s pictures of the faces of petrified dogs staring out of cages about to be slaughtered repulses us. I desperately want to ‘unsee’ the racks of skinned dogs about to be served up for public consumption.

The eating of dog meat in China is thought to predate written history. In the rural south, dog meat is eaten mainly by members of the older generations, and according to superstition it has strong warming properties. There has been some success in banning similar festivals. In 2011, a huge social media campaign contributed to the banning of a dog meat festival in Qianxi Township in Jinhua City, Zhejiang province. National animal rights groups in China are trying to stop the dog meat trade while authorities banned restaurants from selling dog meat during the Beijing Olympics. Nearly four million people have signed a petition calling for the Yulin festival to be banned, including many within China where attitudes appear to be changing, particularly among the younger generations. One Chinese woman Yang Xiaoyun travelled over 1,000 miles from her home to adopt 100 of the dogs. As well as saving the dogs, she wanted to send a message to the world, she said, that not all Chinese were in favour of the festival.

Do you remember in the UK the halal butchering of live pigs that was captured on camera and resulted in the slaughterhouse concerned being shut down? Our disgust was centered on the fact that these poor animals were slaughtered in a cruel and barbaric way. They are aware of their fate and in pain. If we eat meat, we cannot also be abhorred by the killing of livestock. We cannot and should not fail to distinguish that the steak on our plate was once live. I speak as someone who does eat meat, and dislikes the sight of a more traditional butcher’s display, of carcasses that are recognizable as animals. The sanitization of meat in supermarkets, packaged to look other than ever alive, is to blame. We in the West have somehow become divorced from the reality of what we consume. It’s a cultural and societal thing that is who we are today. Right or wrong, good or bad, it’s just a fact.

The East is different. Meat looks much more visibly like it would have done in life. This makes the task of encouraging disgust easier because there is no smoke and mirrors at play. The people celebrating the Dog Meat Festival are aware they are eating dog. Dogs are not ‘traditionally’ seen as pets in China, they are working animals, treated more like livestock; but times are changing.

As we become a more global economy and social media enters the most difficult to reach nooks of the world, old ways, good and bad, will slip away. State censorship in China that extends its grip to the blocking of Facebook and Twitter will make only slight difference. Attitudes are already starting to change as the East gets wealthier, the Asian Dragon rises, and its people start to covet material goods and associated ‘Western’ lifestyles.

Once banned by Communist leader Chairman Mao Zedong as a bourgeois pastime, having a pet is now starting to become a symbol of financial success in China. Dogs are the most popular pets and dog food sales alone are expected to almost triple to over $760 million by 2019, Euromonitor data shows, as higher disposable incomes make keeping a pet an affordable choice.

My prediction is that the cultural shift in China will not flow from social media. Sweeping cultural change will be wrought, rightly or wrongly, not by Twitter or Facebook but by the shifting tide of a dynamic global economy.

Marie Carter is the Editor and Publisher of Pets Magazine, a unique leading lifestyle magazine for pet owners, with a monthly readership of 24,000. She also runs specialist PR, Content-generation & Marketing & Digital Publishing Services for the Pet Industry – more details at Pets Magazine’s website.

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Pet Owners Are ‘Happier, Fitter and Wealthier’ 


Pet owners are happier, earn more money and are fitter than people who don’t own a four-legged friend, a study has shown.

Households which own a dog or cat are also more likely to spend more family time together and have jobs they enjoy.

In fact, ten per cent more pet owners agreed they were ‘definitely’ truly happy in their current job roles.

Researchers found pet owners are happier in general, and were also found to be fitter as they complete at least two hours more exercise a week than those who don’t have any pets.

The survey of 1000 dog and cat owners and 1,000 non pet owners was commissioned by Blue Cross pet charity to celebrate the Blue Cross Medal, awarded to hero pets that have done something amazing to change or even save a life.

Alyson Jones, Blue Cross Head of Rehoming, said: “We’ve always known what a wonderful additions pets can be to our lives, but it’s great to see how their positive impact goes can affect so many areas – bringing families closer together and helping us to stay fit and healthy.

This research suggests that a family pet not only reflects positively on our lives in general, but can possibly even rub off on our careers too!”

“The Blue Cross Medal celebrates pets that have done something truly amazing but this research shows that even day to day, pets can have hugely positive impact on our lives.

“Pets like cats and dogs can bring a family together and give them more opportunities to spend quality time together.

“Going out for walks with the dog can increase fitness levels and time spent in the great outdoors.”

The study showed pet owners are more likely to work full time hours and they’ll earn £3,000 more a year as a household than those without pets.

They’ll also be responsible for more people in the work place, managing an average of five people while those without pets will only manage two colleagues.

It was revealed more non pet owners are out of work than those with a four legged friend – four in ten without a pet are currently unemployed.

Despite this, 47 per cent of those without pets are educated to degree level or higher while three in ten pet owners have only got as far as their A Levels.

Perhaps surprisingly, pet owners have an average of £323.67 disposable income each month while non pet owners only have £306.67.

But this comes after the £70.27 weekly shop for pet owners and £56.93 for non-pet owners, which may not come as a surprise considering the extra mouths to feed.

The research also found 13 per cent more non-pet owners are without their own family too.

If you own a dog or cat, you tend to spend more time outdoors in a typical week – usually about nine hours in total.

And Brits without pets will be looking at spending seven hours during a typical week in the fresh air.

Alyson added: “The Blue Cross Medal celebrates pets that have done something truly amazing but this research shows that even day to day, pets can have hugely positive impact on our lives.

“There are so many reasons to cherish our pets and difference they make to our lives, which is what the Blue Cross Medal celebrates.”

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Porky Pets Fight The Flab At #PetFitClub


Vet charity PDSA, today reveals some of the UK’s most obese animals as they weigh in for its annual pet slimming competition, Pet Fit Club. 

This year’s 17 pets battling the bulge are carrying a total of 32 stone in excess weight, and include: 

Hooch, an 11-year-old Rottweiler from Hull, who tips the scales at nearly 13 stone (82kg), is more than seven stone overweight making him the biggest ever pet to take part in Pet Fit Club. His owner Leslie McCormack rescued Hooch several years ago, and has already managed to help him shed some weight but he still has a long way to go.

Leslie said: “Hooch was mistreated before so he’s a bit wary of strangers. He used to eat five tins of dog food a day but I’ve cut him down to one. He’s already lost so much weight but I want him to be healthy and happy and to live as long as he can.”

Meanwhile, Sue Blackhurst and her family from Liverpool, have been forced to put child locks on their fridge in a desperate bid to prevent their Springer Spaniel Poppy from stealing their supper. At 4st 12lbs (30.8kg), Poppy is around 30% overweight. 

Sue said: “Poppy is a lovely dog but she’s very mischievous. She steals my rollers and just loves to play but also fights our birds for their bread and tries to open the fridge to steal food – so we’ve put child locks on.”

Greedy Guy the cat, from Leicester, is one of the fattest ever moggies to take part in Pet Fit Club. Guy, 8, lives with his owner Angie Barcock on a main road so is kept indoors. But his habit of pinching his companions’ dinners together with his dislike for exercise have caused him to balloon to more than double the size he should be. At 1st 10lbs (10.8kg), Guy is 116% overweight.

Cocker Spaniel Harley is carrying so much flab that he’s even been mistaken for a panda by foreign tourists visiting Edinburgh. Owner Lisa Mitchell said she has been stopped by Chinese sightseers in Prince’s Street who often ask to take photos of her six-year-old podgy pooch due to the uncanny resemblance. Harley weighs 4st 4lbs (27kg) and is nearly 60% overweight.

Rescue cat Boycus is one of several cats in the household; all the others are a healthy weight but Boycus has ballooned in the last couple of years and is morbidly obese. The greedy puss eats everything in sight, finishing off the other cats’ dinners and even pinching the dog’s food. His owner, Sam, has tried everything to stop him stealing food, even putting the other cats’ grub inside cat carriers that are too small for Boycus to get into. But he always finds a way to break in! Boycus weighs 1st 8lb but should be around 11lb, making him 108% overweight. 

Roly-poly Pug Rolo was adopted by his new owners at the end of 2014. Previously he had been over-fed, not walked properly and was morbidly obese. Describing him as ‘very food motivated’ Rolo’s owner,Lydia Ernstsons, said: “He has a habit of chasing people carrying shopping bags of food and has even been known to follow complete strangers into their home! His favourite trick is to pull at the tablecloth until any food on the table falls to the floor, and just last weekend he jumped into the pond after food that was thrown for the ducks!” Rolo is 2st 1lb but should weigh approximately 1st 6lb making him 48% overweight.

The diet food for the Pet Fit Club finalists is kindly sponsored by Hill’s and Burgess. The winning cat and dog win a year’s free food from Hill’s, and the winning rabbit or small pet wins a year’s free Burgess Excel food. The overall Pet Fit Club champ’s owner will win a pet-friendly break, kindly sponsored by Cottages4You.

Sadly these pets are not alone when it comes to carrying too many extra pounds. The PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report revealed that four-out-of-five veterinary professionals* have seen an increase in pet obesity cases in the last two years.

Obesity is the number one concern among vets when it comes to dogs but, worryingly, nearly half of pet owners surveyed are not aware it’s a major issue**. This is a huge concern, says PDSA, given that 80% of vets and vet nurses believe there will be more overweight pets than healthy weight pets in five years time. 

Obesity can contribute to pets developing deadly conditions such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, as well as debilitating conditions including arthritis.

Nicola Martin, PDSA Head of Pet Health and Welfare, said: “Just as human waistlines are expanding, sadly our pets are facing a similar fate too. 

“When considering how much to feed their pets, many owners still rely on common sense or past experience to make a decisionrather than looking at the weight and body shape of their pet and using packet guidelines. 

“With millions of pets receiving unhealthy treats such as crisps, cake and cheese as part of their daily diet, and millions more not getting enough exercise, it is clear that the serious issue of obesity in our pet nation is only going to get worse. 

“However, it’s important to remember that it’s never too late to make a positive change. All the pets taking part in Pet Fit Club this year are taking the first step towards a longer, healthier life. Anyone concerned about their pets’ weight should speak to their veterinary practice who can offer the right advice and support.”

PDSA Pet Fit Club was launched in 2005 and has already helped 63 dogs, 26 cats and 6 rabbits lose a total of 60 stone 6lb. This weight loss is the equivalent of 384 bags of sugar, more than 6,700 sausages, 761 tins of dog food or over 500 blocks of lard.

For more information about the pet finalists, please visit  

Follow the conversation at #PetFitClub

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‘Minnie Moo’ Is No Cartoon Character…

PictureMinnie the calf CREDIT Bob Ellis/WWT

A calf with unusual markings has arrived on the reserve at WWT Welney Wetland Centre, earning her the nickname ‘Minnie’.  

Her distinctive white forehead would normally be unusual enough, but her black, mouse silhouette really makes her stand out from the herd.  

‘Minnie’, her mother and the rest of their herd are grazing an area of wetland recreation at WWT Welney over the summer months.  They have an important role as wetland managers; with duties including munching the grasses, poaching mud at the water’s edge, attracting insects for birds spreading seeds by fertilizing the land.  

Managing wet grasslands with livestock has happened on the Ouse Washes for over 400 years and is something which cannot be replicated artificially.  Today, up to 600 cows, calves and bulls make the wetlands at WWT Welney an internationally important habitat and home to some of the rarest species of bird, insect and plant life.  

Reserve warden Louise Clewley said: “The cows do a fantastic job, creating a mosaic of grasses that provide the ideal habitat for a wide variety of birds.  Species like the lapwing and the rare black-tailed godwit prefer short grass so that they can easily spot predators; whereas snipe and redshank rely on their camouflage and so prefer tussocks of longer grass. 

“This year has been an awesome year for breeding birds on the reserve and the cattle are getting it in great shape. One of my favourite things is digging around in cow poo, the pats provide a great habitat for lots of amazing insects which become a food source for birds and bats.”

Local farmer Chris Jackson said: “This local grazing is important to me, as it enables me to graze without having to take valuable arable land out of production.

“The system provides nutritious grazing for my livestock and compliments the wildlife that inhabits these wetlands.”

Visitors can watch the herds of cattle from the wetland centre and the hides out on the reserve, often catching sight of the yellow wagtail that like to feed around their feet.  Early visitors might be able to catch a glimpse of the wardens carrying out their daily cattle checks, as they go from herd to herd by motorbike.  

For more information about WWT Welney go to  

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​WIN A Wonderful Portrait Of A Dales Sheep

PictureArtist Lucy Pittway with a print of ‘Shaggy Sheep’

One lucky Pets Magazine reader is in with the chance of winning an open edition print worth £90.00 by up-and-coming artist Lucy Pittaway. The image is called ‘Shaggy Sheep.’

To enter our competition, please visit the following page and answer the question: Enter our Shaggy Sheep Competition.

The closing date for entries is Friday July 3 at 6.00pm. Ts&Cs apply.

Find out more about Lucy’s work at, or visit her Facebook page at lucypittawayart.

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Top Ten Dangers For Dogs in Summer


By Bob Young, We Love Pets

During the summer, there is nothing more enjoyable than taking your dog for a nice long walk, you’ll both feel all the better for it. However as professional dog walkers, we are aware that this freedom increases the dangers your dog can be exposed to. So here are our Top Ten Tips to help you make sure that you and your dog make the most of the great outdoors.

Poisonous Flowers

Dogs will often nibble on plants but during Springtime especially you need to be aware that some bulbs and flowers can be particularly dangerous for your dog. Spring bulbs like daffodils can be deadly for a dog so make sure they don’t go digging them up. In fact the leaves and flowers of the daffodil can also make you dog very ill if eaten. Other flowers and plants to steer clear of are crocuses, snowdrops, tulips and lily of the valley.

Our advice is to make sure you either have your dog on a lead or be close enough to call them away if they start to eat any plants – its better to be safe than sorry. Typical symptoms to look out for if you suspect your dog has eaten plants are salivating, vomiting or diarrhoea, being unsteady or it seems to lack co-ordination.

When you contact your vet make sure you tell them as much information as you possibly can. For example, do you know what plant your dog may have eaten? If you don’t know the name, then take some of it with you for identification. How much do you think they might have chewed or eaten? How long ago did they eat it?

Grass Seeds

Your pet may love bounding through the long grass but remember, during spring and early summer these grasses are seeding and these will get everywhere. The seeds pose no serious danger to your pet but they can be very uncomfortable and can easily get stuck in ears, muzzles and down their airways. Always check at the end of a walk and remove any seeds that you see.

Bugs and Parasites

With the warmer weather comes an increase in all manner of bugs which can be at best irritating and at worst quite dangerous for your dog. Any areas of natural grass or woodland will be teeming with fleas, ticks, mites and gnats that are looking for a nice host. Make sure your dog is up to date with their vaccinations, flea and tick medications at this time of year and always check them when you get back from a walk.


If your dog is off the leash it can inadvertently wander into areas where bees or wasps are feeding. In most cases, wasp or bee stings are not emergencies unless your dog has been stung multiple times.  With a bee sting, check and remove the sting if it is still in place, then bathe the area in bicarbonate of soda (one teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to 300ml warm water). With wasp stings bathe the area with malt vinegar or lemon juice. If your dog shows any allergic reaction, such as swellings, distress and breathing difficulties, take it to a vet immediately.


Just like people, dogs can develop allergies to plants, pollens, grasses, and many other substances in springtime. These normally appear as itchy skin and ear problems, accompanied by hair loss or inflamed skin. Some will even change their behaviour due to irritation and others may suffer respiratory symptoms or runny eyes. If you are at all concerned, especially after your dog has been out in the countryside, contact your vet.


The only poisonous snake we have in Britain is the adder and fortunately these are quite timid in nature and will not usually bite unless they feel threatened or cornered. Most adder encounters occur during their active season between March and October when dogs, due to their inquisitive nature, can sometimes disturb them. If you are in an area where adders are known to be active, try and keep to paths and make sure your dog is kept under control, preferably on a lead.

If your dog is bitten, seek veterinary help as soon as you can and do not attempt first aid measures such as sucking out the venom or applying a tourniquet. These procedures are ineffective and may even cause further harm to your pet. Try to keep your pet calm and wherever possible carry your dog rather than let it walk. Both of these measures will help slow the spread of venom around the body.


Most dogs can’t resist the lure of water, especially on a hot day. However beware of letting them go into ponds or rivers where algae – a blue-green or green paint-like scum – is growing. Some types produce toxins that can be irritants, or even lethally poisonous. And do not forget that although most dogs like water, not all dogs are good swimmers! Dogs can and do drown in rivers and the sea. If your pet has a near drowning experience they should see a vet, as complications can develop following inhalation of water.

Heat Stroke

It’s all too easy to forget that dogs are not as good as humans at dealing with hot weather and they can easily overheat, especially if they are enjoying a game chasing after a stick or a ball. Some simple precautions can stop this happening.

Exercise them in the mornings and evenings when the weather is cooler and, if they are a long haired breed, get them a trim for the summer. Also make sure you always take water with you, even on a relatively short walk, just in case. On really hot days if they are playing, make sure they have a break every few minutes and give them a cooling spray with a hose when you get back. Lastly, learn how to take your dogs temperature, by the time a dog is exhibiting symptoms of heatstroke, it’s often too late.

Hot Cars & Spaces

You should not leave your dog in the car for even a minute on a sunny day even with the window slightly open. The same also applies to hot, airless rooms such as a conservatory.  At 25 degrees Celsius, dogs in hot cars begin to pant excessively within 2 minutes and can die in less than 15 minutes.

You should also take care if going on a long journey on a hot day especially if you carry your dog behind the rear seats – remember they are surrounded by more glass than you are. If you have air conditioning make sure you use it and direct the airflow towards your pet. If you don’t, drive with the window down – the air will help them pant and cool off. Whatever you do, make sure you have plenty of water and take regular breaks.


When we go out in the sun we plaster ourselves with sun cream, but do we ever do the same for our four legged friends?  All hairless breeds and dogs that have been clipped should be kept out of the sun as much as possible. Breeds such as terriers, spaniels, Chihuahuas, Doberman pinschers and other shorthaired dogs, as well as all breeds with white or pink skin, are at high risk from sunburn.

Dogs are pretty good at finding shade but if you know where you are going doesn’t have much, when hiking or boating perhaps, then take along either a special sunblock from your vet or use unscented waterproof sunscreen of at least factor 15.  

It is also a good idea to keep dogs indoors or well shaded areas between 10.00am and 4.00pm when the sun is at its fiercest.

Visit for details of your local We Love Pets team and for other helpful information on looking after dogs and other pets.

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National Pet Remembrance Day Launches Today To Help People Remember Deceased Pets 

PictureLars Andersen with 3D printed sculptures of pets.

Today (June 4, 2015) officially marks the launch of National Pet Remembrance Day to help people cope with pet loss. 

The national day of remembrance is the inspiration of Arty Lobster (, a company that specializes in 3D pet sculptures, and Pets Magazine, the leading lifestyle magazine for pet owners.

National Pet Remembrance Day (Sunday, July 5), which launches on social media under the hashtag #PetRemembranceDay, has been set up to provide an opportunity for people to celebrate the lives of departed pets and the increasing number of ways in which to commemorate them.

A Twitter chat will take place on Sunday July 5 using the hashtag #PetRemembranceDay for people to show their support and share thoughts and photos. 

In addition, people can nominate pet owners who have lost their beloved companion animal to have the pet commemorated as a 3D sculpture. Please post your suggestions on either the Arty Lobster or Pets Magazine Facebook pages. 

We’ve come up with several ways in which people can remember deceased pets on National Pet Remembrance Day, including:

  • A memorial service in a place where the pet liked to walk or play. 

  • A memento mori such as a sculpture of the pet 

  • A living memorial by planting a tree or flowerbed 

  • A pet portrait featuring the pet or their image printed on a coaster or other accessory

  • A scrapbook with photos and other reminders of the pet.

  • An online memorial with photos of the pet 

  • A poem about the pet 

Other ideas include:

  • Keeping the pet’s favorite toy, collar or blanket

  • Volunteering at an animal rescue centre in remembrance of the pet

Lars Andersen, Managing Director of Arty Lobster, said: “We’ve launched National Pet Remembrance Day with Pets Magazine because we wanted to create a space for people to remember their departed companion animal. While it’s now accepted and acceptable to grieve for a much-loved family pet, we still, as a country, do not really know how to remember our pets and to deal with their loss.

“Pets are increasingly regarded as members of our family, and basically we do not remember them as we should. Pet cremations in the UK are still a slowly growing market and pet memorials tend to be very ‘samey’ with the best you can hope for being an urn featuring the pet’s name.”

Mr Andersen added: “A growing part of our customer base is served by people looking for that lasting memento mori of their pet. People want to have a good send off for their pet, which is most usually their dog or cat companion. They also want ways of remembering their pet and its quirks and character traits and the importance it played in their lives and the life of the family.”

Marie Carter, Editor of Pets Magazine, said: “Grieving for a pet is gradually becoming widely accepted, and acceptable, but many people still don’t understand that for many pet owners, dogs and cats in particular, are now regarded as family members. There is a real need to recognise that, and for relatives, friends and employers to take into account the real, and often overwhelming, sense of grief that a pet owner can feel upon the death of a beloved companion animal. Arty Lobster’s pet sculptures are a wonderful way for pet owners to remember a deceased pet.”

For more information about 3D pet sculptures, visit the Arty Lobster website at:

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Animal Charity Appeals for Forever Home for Long-term Resident Dustin

PictureWood Green director, Sally Stevens with Dustin the ‘unwanted’ Lurcher

RESCUED from the prospect of euthanasia at a dog pound, Dustin the Lurcher has had a pretty dramatic start to life.

He may be a beauty to look at, full of energy, and a perfect sociable pet for the right family – but this week marks a whole YEAR since he was placed in the care of Wood Green, The Animals Charity.

While many dogs and cats spend some weeks or months being cared for by a rehoming shelter before a perfect family is found, two-year-old Dustin has become the longest-serving animal at the charity’s Cambridgeshire headquarters.

Today, following the success of last week’s National Unwanted Pet Week in which the charity appealed for more homes, Wood Green staff are reaching out for a fun-loving household to consider this energetic and affectionate canine as their family pet.

“Dustin is unusual in that he has been with us for a long time now, but he certainly hasn’t been confined to a kennel for that length of stay,” said Wood Green director, Sally Stevens.

“In fact, it’s a common misconception that ‘long-termers’ might be less well socialised, where in reality, we as a charity pride ourselves on ensuring our animals are getting a lot of ‘real’ family life experience by going home at night with our staff.

“In Dustin’s case, he was fostered by a staff member around six months ago and has been enjoying a really sociable existence as part of a normal home, in between returning to kennels.”

Dustin is representative of the 250,000 animals believed to be requiring rehoming at any one time in the UK.

During National Unwanted Pet Week, Wood Green, The Animals Charity – which founded the awareness week last year – has been spreading the message around the importance of careful consideration when choosing a pet.

Its own research to coincide with the launch of National Unwanted Pet Week revealed almost half of all pet owners say they DID NOT seek advice before taking on an animal.

“Our research shows that people in Britain still identify us as a nation of animal lovers, so it’s depressing to see the stark reality behind the number of dogs, cats and smaller animals which are awaiting a loving home at any one time,” said Ms Stevens.

“What I would urge anyone interested in pet ownership to do, is to please do your research first.

“You wouldn’t purchase something like a smart phone without taking advice or seeking recommendation, so it seems incredible to me – and to the thousands of us which work in the animal charity sector – that potential pet owners would rely on blind faith alone and then be left surprised by the way their new animal fits into the home and lifestyle.”

National Unwanted Pet Week has received a number of celebrity supporters, including the likes of Bill Oddie and Martin Clunes, who have provided voiceovers for animals in need of a new ‘forever home’.

For more about the campaign, go to

To enquire about Dustin or other pets in need of families, call 0844 248 8181.

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Shouldn’t The Punishment Fit The Crime?


By Marie Carter, Editor of Pets Magazine, as published at Huffington Post.

Barely a week goes by without there being yet another story in the media about animal cruelty. Thanks to social media, we are now regularly confronted on Twitter and Facebook news feeds by images of extreme pet neglect and abuse. Cases of cruelty towards animals seem to be increasing among our nation of animal lovers. Appalled by these acts, we discover that that the perpetrators are handed out ‘suspended sentences’ and not real prison time. Shouldn’t the punishment fit the crime?

Two cases of suspended sentencing
In the last two weeks, two cases of extreme animal abuse have shocked the nation. One involves appalling neglect of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels by Northern Irish dog breeder Gordon Laverty. All six spaniels in Laverty’s care were found to be severely malnourished, unable to stand up properly and had coats that were severely matted. Laverty, due to his clean record and guilty plea in court, was handed a ten-month suspended sentence and banned from keeping pets for twenty years.

Another case that has also united the public in its outrage is that of Stephen Woodhouse, the Northamptonshire-based Flybe pilot who drowned his neighbour’s Border Terrier in a bucket of water because he’d been annoyed by its barking. Callously, Woodhouse dumped the poor dog’s body in a hedgerow, only to return the day after to bloodthirstily hack out its microchip in order to cover his tracks. When his neighbours were searching frantically for their beloved pet dog, Woodhouse kept up the pretence of ignorance, only handing himself in after they became increasingly suspicious. Woodhouse was also given a suspended sentence; in his case, a meagre 12 weeks, suspended for two years.

So what is a suspended sentence? 
A suspended sentence is issued when an individual is convicted of a crime and given a sentence to serve for that crime; however, the person will not have to serve that sentence immediately and may never have to serve it at all. It essentially means that an individual has been found guilty of an offence but provided that he/she refrains from certain activities – i.e. keeping pets – they will not have to serve prison time. If the sentencing provisions are infringed during the duration of the ‘suspension’, they will be sent to prison for the time that was suspended. 

Why are sentences so lenient?
The problem with too lenient sentencing in cases of extreme animal abuse or neglect can be put down to the fact that pets are regarded in law as ‘chattels’ or property. They do not have ‘personhood’ and thus are deemed to have only the basic rights of food, shelter and good welfare – as defined by the Animal Welfare Act (2006). Section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act places a duty of care on people to ensure they take reasonable steps in all the circumstances to meet the welfare needs of their animals to the extent required by good practice.

Interestingly, attorneys in New York are currently arguing in court that two chimps should be given the legal distinction of personhood. Hercules and Leo are at the centre of a landmark case and their attorneys from the Nonhuman Rights Project say they are unlawfully imprisoned at New York University and are asking the court to free them. Steven Wise, head attorney for the chimps, says they are “autonomous and self-determined beings” who deserve freedom of their bodies. The Nonhuman Rights Project is seeking to have Hercules and Leo removed from their university housing and moved to a chimp sanctuary in Florida. The defence has said that, if successful, the case could open the floodgates to applications for personhood on behalf of zoo and companion animals. 

There are basic protections in the UK as outlined in the Animal Rights Act, unlike in other jurisdictions such as Denmark. Last week, a live baby rabbit was killed on air to demonstrate the “hypocrisy” of animal rights campaigners who eat meat from supermarkets. Radio24syv presenter Asger Juhl was hosting a live debate when he reportedly hit nine-week-old rabbit Allan with a bicycle pump to demonstrate his thinking. Alarmingly, the presenter seems to have been endorsed by the radio station. 

A statement from the radio station reads: “We ensured that we killed the rabbit in a sound manner, in accordance with very precise instructions that were given to us by a zookeeper- so the rabbit did not suffer any harm. It is not our wish to offend anyone with this debate. And we regret that many people have misunderstood our message. But we hope that this heated debate creates better conditions for animals in Danish agriculture.”

Of course, Denmark was only last year at the wrong end of public interest over its animal welfare record in the case of the controversial killing of Marius the giraffe at Copenhagen Zoo. 

That doesn’t mean that because other countries have poor records on animal welfare, we should hold our heads high. Even if the courts are hampered by legal definitions of personhood or otherwise, they do have the freedom to mete out stronger sentences. As the public backlash over recent horrific animal cruelty cases has proven, there is an appetite for stronger sentencing. 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we, as a country, were to badge ourselves as a nation of true animal lovers by ensuring that the punishment fits the crime in such cases? Appropriate sentencing would then act as a real deterrent for those so minded to harm innocent creatures. 

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