For another year, I was pleased to be able to attend the AWF annual discussion forum and even more grateful that, thanks to the General Election it had been delayed to post exams! An even more broad range of topics were discussed from antibiotic resistance to population management and I look forward to future years as Tiffany (President of the AWF) suggested that more attention would be given to exotics too!
On the train, puffy eyed and yawning, that morning both myself and a friend had noticed, in one case more than 50 horses grazing a marshy field along the train tracks, most with foals at foot and we wondered how common this was. During the afternoon session, this was answered by a talk from World Horse Welfare, which spoke exactly about this issue. A common feature of all animal rescues is that they are all full to, and often beyond, capacity and this is no different in the equine world. One thing he was keen to mention is that, whilst many people make cast the blame entirely on the travelling community or feral or hoarding cases this is not entirely fair. The want of individual owners to allow their children to witness the ‘miracle of life’ is a major contributor to the numbers of unwanted animals in this country and is as much to blame as any other industry or group or people. Though, I also wonder how this could reflect on the veterinary profession, which I believe is as responsible for educating the public as treating their pets. This was a sentiment mentioned multiple times at the discussion forum and seemed to creep into many aspects of ‘indirect’ animal welfare issues such as this. For example, from my own experience I have seen many litters of kittens born to a queen only 5 months old when the owner had been advised to get her neutered at 6 months old initially. When observing these consults I have never witnessed the vet explaining the possibility of the female kitten reaching puberty earlier than this (which is extremely likely) or explaining that perhaps to keep the kitten indoors until neutering or explaining that her ‘crying’ to go out may actually be a sign of her calling for a male. Without telling an owner this key bit of advice simply allows well-meaning owners to end up with a litter of unwanted moggys on their hands! I doubt this is the case for the majority of practitioners however this is something I hope to remember when my time to advise comes around.
The illegal importation of dogs was also discussed, something I was aware of however I was utterly unaware of the lack of enforcement or control seen at our borders. It was almost unbelievable though the speakers frustrations and experiences were echoed by a number of other individuals in the audience and I spoke to a number in the afternoon which had heard and witnessed similar issues. This is something I really hope the Government will support in changing as the welfare implications and potential disease risk is very great and currently over looked vastly. Sadly the demand for 'designer' dogs seems unlikely to diminish and until more celebrities start rescuing staffys and cross-breeds then the likelihood of rescue shelters ever being less then packed remains a far off dream.
The end of the afternoon was filled by a clinical scenario and the ethical choices to be made, I really enjoyed this session as it was interactive and I actually understood some of the lingo (thank you pharmacology lecturers..)!
For a second year, I enjoyed every minute of the AWF discussion forum, and yes, I really love being fancy in the House of Commons! Again, I've learnt such a lot from the discussions and have met some very inspirational people which have made me ever more impatient to graduate and start my own life.. but I suppose it's not wise to wish away my uni years and I wouldn't want them to end any time soon!