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RSPCA urges dog owners to make plans for their pets as lockdown restrictions eased and routines change

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closeup photography of adult short coated tan and white dog sleeping on gray textile at daytime

RSPCA Cymru is urging dog owners across Wales to make plans for their pets as life in the country takes a big leap towards normality from today (7 August).

The Welsh Government has announced that most of Wales’ Covid-related restrictions will come to an end, meaning people will have more opportunities to live their lives in a way similar to when restrictions first came in last March.

Guidance in Wales remains to work from home if possible – but the reopening of premises and the ending of limits on how many people can meet indoors means many people are expected to return to workplaces and spend more time away from home.

RSPCA Cymru is urging all dog owners to make a plan to help their pets cope with the sudden change in routine.

Dr Samantha Gaines, from the RSPCA’s companion animals department, said: “We know 47 per cent of households in Wales own a pet – and dogs are the nation’s most popular companion; with many adding a dog to their household for the first time during the lockdowns.

“But research suggests that around eight in 10 dogs can struggle to cope when left alone.

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“When we pop out to the shops or head out to work our dogs can become very anxious or worried. Some dogs can struggle with nothing to do or be frightened by loud noises outside. But many dogs form close bonds with us and don’t like to be alone. If they haven’t learnt that being by themselves is a positive experience then it can be very difficult – so the ending of restrictions in Wales could pose a real challenge for the nation’s dogs.

“As the final Covid restrictions in Wales come to an end, we know many people will be spending more time out and about; and perhaps away from their new canine companion. So it’s really important that we help them learn to cope with being left at home and gradually teach them to be alone in a positive way.

“We’re urging owners to think about this before they head back to the workplace, or spend more time out and about, and to come up with a plan to help their dogs cope with this change in routine.”

Make a paw-fect plan 

The RSPCA has released a new video to help owners prepare their dogs and has also released a ‘text message exchange’ between a dog and his owner to highlight how dogs can feel when they’re left home alone.

The charity is urging owners to make a plan now before you heading back to a workplace or spending more time away from home:

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  • Speak to your employer; is there a way of splitting your time between home and the office to reduce the amount of time your dog is home alone?
  • Dog-friendly office; could you take your dog into work with you? Is it safe and would your dog enjoy the experience?
  • Friends and family; do you have a friend, relative or neighbour who could pop in to spend time with your pooch while you’re out?
  • Employ a professional; think about hiring a professional dog walker (remember to use our Dog Walking Guidelines to find a good dog walker) to take your pet out.
  • Doggy day care; enrol your pooch into doggy day care for a fun day out while you’re at work.
  • Seek help; film your dog when left alone and if you spot signs that your dog is struggling then it’s important to seek help from a clinical animal behaviourist (we can help you find a good behaviourist) and make a training plan to introduce being left gradually and positively.
white and tan english bulldog lying on black rug

Five steps to help your dog settle at home:

  1. Encourage your dog to go to their bed and stay
  2. Gradually move away
  3. Use lots of praise and reward
  4. Gradually increase the time and distance
  5. Repeat steps if your dog struggles

Dr Gaines added: “Sadly, the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association found that 11% of new owners in the UK have already given up a pet – and we fear that this is just the beginning of what could become the biggest dog welfare crisis of a generation. Behavioural problems are one of the key reasons why dogs are relinquished to rescue centres and we’re already starting to see ‘pandemic puppies’ coming into our care.

“Some dogs who find being left home alone difficult may exhibit behaviours that are usually associated with stress and anxiety, like barking, toileting in the house, or being destructive. But others may not give any clear signals that they’re struggling and can often suffer in silence.

“Many dogs can find changes in our routine very unsettling so it’s really important to introduce any changes gradually. Please be #DogKind, understand your pet’s needs, prepare now and help them to be happy and healthy in the long-term. If not, we fear the biggest dog welfare crisis of a generation, and millions of dogs suffering everyday when their owners go out to work.”

(Lead image: Christian Domingues / Pexels.com)

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Llanelli

Unlicensed Llanelli dog breeder made thousands of pounds selling puppies illegally

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An illegal dog breeder from Llanelli made thousands of pounds by selling his puppies on Gumtree and Free Ads websites.

Llanelli Magistrates Court heard that unlicensed Ashleigh Price of Llwynhendy pocketed between £34k and £57k from the sales of 10 litters over a 16-month period.

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It is illegal to advertise three or more litters of puppies from the same premises within a 12-month rolling period without a dog breeding licence.

In a prosecution led by Carmarthenshire County Council, the court was told that council officers visited the premises in Parc Richard following complaints received from Citizens Advice Consumer Services in July last year that the 25-year-old had kennels in his garden and that he was illegally breeding dogs.

Checks with both websites revealed four accounts in Price’s name and two in his wife’s and that litters made up of Jack Russell’s, Labradors, Cocker Spaniels and West Highland Terriers were advertised on the sites between April 2020 and November 2021. Most of the adverts stated they were family pets.

In mitigation, Price said that he wanted to make more money due to him being on weekly benefits of £120 and that he acted alone and set up accounts in his wife’s name. He denied making £35k saying that he ‘haggled’ the price and that some of the dogs were given away to family and friends. He also said he had no record of how much the dogs were sold for.

Price was fined £500, ordered to pay £750 costs and £50 victim surcharge.

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Llanelli

£1400 fine for Llanelli pet owner after neighbours suffer horrendous smell from dog mess

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A Llanelli pet owner who repeatedly ignored requests to clear up her dog’s mess has been ordered to pay nearly £1400.

Llanelli Magistrates heard how the garden of Samantha Davies of Stryd Bennett in Llanelli was largely covered in dog mess, waste items and filth resulting in an horrendous odour and affecting neighbours nearby.

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In a prosecution brought by Carmarthenshire County Council the court was told there had been a number of complaints from neighbours in the area and several warnings given by council officers of the state of the rear garden.

In April 2021 Davies was issued with an Abatement Notice under Section 80 of the Environment Protection Act by Carmarthenshire County Council ordering her to remove the waste and clean up the area within 28 days.

Five weeks later officers attended the property and found that the garden was as bad as ever and issued a further letter to Davies reminding her of the notice requirements. When the officer returned to the property on June 17 the garden was cleaner and had less waste.

However, the council received further complaints four weeks later of around 20 to 30 bags of dog excrement stacked up against a neighbour’s fence which were releasing an horrendous odour. Officers revisited the property and also found that a large numbers of stools were covering the patio.

Officers visited the property again on September 9 and February 16 this year and found the garden was still unkempt and patio slabs were covered with faeces with some appearing to have been there for several months.

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Davies was not present in court but admitted breaching the notice twice and was fined £300 for each breach. She was ordered to pay £701 costs and £60 victim surcharge.

The notice is still active.

(Lead image: Google Maps)

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Environment

Campaign urging people to be responsible around coastal wildlife launched by RSPCA and police in Wales

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A campaign to stop people behaving irresponsibly near marine animals such as seals, dolphins and nesting birds is being rolled out in Wales.

Operation Seabird is a joint campaign between the RSPCA, all four Wales police forces – North Wales Police, South Wales Police, Gwent Police and Dyfed Powys Police – and other partner organisations such as Natural Resources Wales.

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The first action day on 14 April saw RSPCA officers patrolling areas in Colwyn Bay/Angel Bay and Abersoch with North Wales Police, and aimed to raise awareness and educate people about how vital it is not to disturb the mammals and birds of Britain’s coastal areas and to enjoy watching them from afar.

RSPCA animal rescue officer and wildlife officer Ellie West took part in the first action day with Dyfed Powys Police in Pembrokeshire.

The RSPCA say that sadly, common disturbances to wildlife include speedboats, kayaks and paddleboards deliberately getting too close to seals, dolphins and cetaceans. This often causes stress to the animals and can result in the females suffering spontaneous abortions or babies being abandoned by their mothers.

The animal charity say that other issues include dogs off leads disturbing nesting birds or seals, litter including plastic rings severely injuring seals, wild camping beach barbecues and camp fires causing significant damage on the beach, and quad bikes or 4x4s vehicles riding over nesting areas.

There have even been incidents where beachgoers have got too close to wild animals for the sake of a selfie. Users of boats and other watercraft can also cause severe injury to some marine mammals if they collide with them while trying to watch them.

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Sergeant Matthew Langley of Dyfed Powys Police’s Rural Crime Team said: “The aim of Op Seabird is not that of enforcement but of engagement and education with the public to ensure they enjoy our beautiful coastline safely and responsibly.

“Last year we saw a large increase in disturbance offences mainly due to a certain celebrity walrus who came to holiday in Tenby! It is important for the public to also be aware that by disturbing wildlife they may be committing offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.”

RSPCA inspector Andy Broadbent said: “We want people to enjoy watching our marine wildlife but this should be done at a safe and sensible distance without disturbing the animals.

“Every year, the RSPCA’s wildlife centres have to treat and rehabilitate a wide range of wildlife – including seals and seabirds – which have been injured or orphaned due to human disturbance.

“While last year, we may remember Wally the Walrus who visited Pembrokeshire for a long period of time. It was really concerning when we had reports of some people trying to get close to him by using jet skis or paddle and surf boards. It wasn’t in his best interest and we always urge people to act responsibly when they see any marine animal.

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“If people have concerns about an animal, they should keep their distance and contact the RSPCA helpline on 0300 1234 999 (daily 7am-10pm).”

Operation Seabird is urging people visiting Britain’s coastline to maintain a significant distance from wildlife, both at sea and around the coast; never get close enough to touch animals or take selfies; read signs and stick to paths; and keep dogs on leads where instructed to do so and keep dogs under control at all times.

As the holiday season begins, high visibility patrols by the RSPCA, local police forces and wildlife groups will target coastal areas where people and animals interact, such as beaches with seal colonies, dolphins swimming offshore or sites with nesting seabirds.

Sergeant Liam Jones of the North Wales Police Rural Crime Team said: “Op Seabird Cymru seeks to engage key partners to work with the police throughout Wales to educate those people who use our coastal areas and seas and to enable them to enjoy our wildlife safely and without disturbance.

“Over the years we have seen an increase in people using our coastal areas and being unaware of the effect that they can have on coastal birds and mammals if they act irresponsibly. A disturbance can have a devastating effect on certain species and their habitats and with simple education and engagement we can help prevent it from happening.”

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Dog attacks can kill seals, as well as posing a risk to the dogs themselves from bites that can become infected from the bacteria that live inside a seal’s mouth. Seal pups disturbed by curious people will move off into the sea, using valuable energy which they need to survive and grow. Birds such as little terns travel thousands of miles to breed in very specific UK coastal points.

They have one annual chance to nest and produce young, but if disturbed this opportunity is lost, and due to their ground nesting habit they are particularly vulnerable to dogs, and careless feet.

Andy added: “While our beautiful beach and coastal areas are great to have fun in, they are natural habitats and breeding grounds for many native and migratory animals, including several species on the endangered list. We humans share this space, and we can easily and unwittingly cause disturbance, fear, and distress.

“For many tourists it can be surprising and exciting to see marine mammals, including seals and their pups which will normally rest on the beach at various times of year, as well as ground nesting birds which are usually resident between March to September. But as tempting as it is to approach them, we would respectfully ask that everyone stays at a distance and keeps their dogs on leads and under control.

“Our message is to ‘Observe, Don’t Disturb’ as people visit Britain’s wonderful coastline.”

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