Driven by high levels of public approval, Australia is haphazardly but relentlessly moving towards greater containment of cats. I support cat curfews, and keep my own cat inside, but I still have concerns.
The big problem with cat laws in Australia is that they seem to be enacted by those who know the least about cats. It’s leading to unrealistic expectations and poor results.
I’ll discuss why that is in a minute, but to not sound negative I’ll start with the benefits of curfews.
Last week when I wrote about the shortage of Australian veterinarians, I laid the problems of our industry bare. Poor work conditions, inadequate support and low pay are just a few. They’re leading to what some people see as a crisis for the veterinary profession.
There’s something else contributing to the problem that I did not mention, because it’s tricky to bring up without blaming innocent people. It’s the deterioration of the relationship between vets and pet owners.
Are you looking for a puppy in Adelaide? Then no doubt you have already seen how hard it is to get one. There’s a massive demand for new puppies, and seemingly a reduced supply since the new dog breeding regulations came into effect.
Traditional sources like breeders and shelters have long waiting lists. The only quick and easy way to get a puppy is from a pet shop. If you’ve thought about it I perfectly understand. But before you make the commitment, there are a few things to consider.
Think you could never write a blog? Well not so fast. All of us have something worth saying, and these days it is easier than ever.
Just look at me. When I wrote my first vet story, there was no grand plan, just an instinctive need to communicate that I could not explain. I got home from work, sat down at the kitchen bench, wrote a long-form article and immediately posted a link on Facebook. You can still find it here.
I was blown away by how much people enjoyed it, as faulty as it was. With the encouragement of a growing readership, the blog evolved and improved. I learned to listen better to pet owner needs, and picked up some technical skills along the way. But even now, despite its size, reach, and influence, at its heart the blog is still a cottage industry.
Much has been said about a recent false positive test for COVID-19 in Australia. What is missing from the conversation is how normal this can be. Test accuracy is an everyday problem for all health professionals.
If you understand why that is you will be much better equipped to talk to your vet about any tests on your pet.
I was a young vet only a few months out of university when I saw my first aortic or arterial thromboembolism (ATE). This is a horrible disease of cats caused by a saddle thrombus: a blood clot released from the heart that is ejected down the aorta and blocks it near the hind legs.
“Unfortunately, there are people out there who don’t like cats — hate cats — and too often we see what happens to cats when they are trapped by these sorts of people.” RSPCA South Australia chief executive Paul Stevenson
“A law like this would give the worst elements of society Carte Blanche to abuse their neighbours’ pets” Brian May (guitarist in Queen)
Why are these two so worried?
New cat curfew laws proposed by Marion Council will allow the trapping of any cat found off the property from 9pm to 7am. Not just by council staff either. By anyone at all.
Last week Fred was found after being missing for 18 months. Without any doubt he’s very lucky ever to see his home and family again. He was stolen right here in suburban Adelaide by people who never wanted him to be found.
For all of you who followed the Senate inquiry I instigated on pet food safety, or who’ve had concerns over pet food quality, here’s an update: I’m happy to report there is solid progress to improve pet food standards. Reforms now under serious consideration include mandatory manufacturing standards, improved and mandatory labelling, and an improved consumer complaints system. The proposed reforms are expected to formally go to state and federal governments for final consideration in July this year.
Senator Stirling Griff April 22, 2020
I provided evidence at the public hearings into the safety of pet food on Tuesday the 28th of August, 2018 in Sydney. Here you can read my oral and written submissions.
I went there to put forward the demands of ordinary pet owners. You can be sure that industry was well-represented but what about you? We needed the opinions of ordinary consumers and average Australian pet owners.
The biggest change to dog and cat ownership law ever will happen on July 1st. If you live in or have moved to SA, here’s how it will affect you and what you need to do. For everyone else, I think you’ll find this unique experiment very interesting.
Did you see on TodayTonight where a dog went to two different vets and was told it would cost either $2000 or less than $100? The story focused on corporate vets but I don’t think that’s the real story. lf you want to get the vet care you want you need to understand what’s going on.
Sometimes in quieter moments, the past weighs heavily on me. What makes being a vet great is also what makes it so tough. It’s also one of the main reasons why so many young vets walk away from the job. Being a vet means being responsible for a patient’s care in a way that perhaps only your GP will understand.
It’s not what you think. Once I tell you you’ll wonder why you didn’t see the problem straight away, and I bet you’ll never take the risk again. In fact, even after my mother pointed it out, I nearly made the same mistake as you’ll see later.
The trust our pets give us seems almost like too much responsibility at times. What if we accidentally don’t do the best we can? That’s why we get our advice from trusted sources.
Can you still trust advice when financial interests and your pet’s interests don’t match? Thankfully, yes, just because animal lovers are some of the best people there are. However, I still want you to know of the ways sellers are being tempted to give biased advice.
I can’t apologise enough for not naming names but at least if they ever happen you should be able to spot these tricks, and even help me fix a few.
Have you heard? Dr Chris Brown is stepping down from the Bondi Vet. The producers are asking pet owners to nominate their favourite vet for his replacement. What a great opportunity for you to do something about what I see as a great problem.
So here we are, in possibly the most female dominated of all the professions, yet all the major celebrity vets are male. Why?
My previous Devon Rex was dumped at a shelter after 18 months being locked in a room. She’d been bought on the misguided belief that she wouldn’t cause cat allergy. It took me years to get her settled after that rough start, and it could have been worse.
I’ve seen plenty of animal lovers who are allergic to their pets. It’s heartbreaking to watch. The good news is there are things you can do to help.
Although it will not be universally popular, the move towards universal desexing and microchipping of dogs and cats should produce a clear net benefit to pets and the community.
Regarding the concerns I raised below back in 2016, most have been addressed satisfactorily:
Vets can only give temporary exemptions
Guard dogs and remote communities are not specifically exempted
Breeding standards are already law and now breeders must also be registered, making the removal of rogue operators easier
I’m yet to be convinced of the benefit of cat owners being asked to register their cats. Most owned cats have no harmful effect on communities or councils. There are existing laws on the removal of unidentified stray cats that function perfectly well.
Compulsory microchipping and desexing are an excellent idea for all cats, but the existing databases you already pay for are still necessary, and in my opinion, all that is needed.
Ever wondered about how vet practices are owned? No? I’m not surprised; it really doesn’t matter that much.
For those with a passing interest, though, there has been a bit of a shakeup in the past few years.
Major acquisitions of vets by corporate entities have been happening across Australia. I personally received three letters of interest in one year!
As of 2020 there are three major groups active in South Australia. As vets near retirement and find how easy it is to sell to these groups, this list is sure to lengthen. I’ll try to keep it updated but given the fast pace of change and private nature of sales I cannot guarantee the accuracy of this list.
Most of the time it’s just assumed that modern pets in families will know what to do, have good manners and to be perfect angels.
When it goes bad, it’s usually the children that suffer. Dogs are more likely to bite kids in the head or neck (63% of bites compared with only 13.3% of older people) and kids are more likely to need surgery and to stay in hospital (Ting et al, 2016). You’ve only got to look at the picture of my young son (above) to see why.
Usually the dog gets the blame, sometimes with tragic consequences, even though the causes are a lot more complicated. Usually it could have all been prevented with better understanding.
There’s suddenly a lot of talk about the suicide rate in vets, thanks to a new study from the USA. It’s re-opened an important conversation, but I believe also created a lot of misinformation.
For example, I saw one vet say it was because of bad debts and emotional blackmail by pet owners. That’s clearly just his experience. So here’s the evidence we have for what’s going wrong, and my suggestions for fixing it.
I want to tell you about the most under-used diagnostic test in veterinary medicine and why you should ask for it more often. I’ll start with just two examples that highlight the extremes: the worst and best of cases.
It’s unlikely there will be enough information to catch these people. We need you to help. We also need you to be aware of what they are doing.
That’s Arkie above. He was found wandering the streets near Walkerville Vet and brought to us, as are so many other stray pets. Usually all we do is scan their microchip and make a phone call to reunite them with their owners.
The fact that you are reading this means that you use the internet and you probably know how to use a smartphone. What you may not know is how useful your smartphone can be for your pets. These amazing pieces of technology are not only changing our lives but those of our pets as well. Here are some of the ideas we see:
Those who have been following our Facebook will know about the three dogs owned by a victim of domestic violence. She was taken to hospital and her dogs were in urgent need of emergency housing. Now that their owner has found safe accommodation, she has been reunited wth her beloved dogs and it is safe to tell their story.
This article aims to save pets lives and improve owners’ awareness of their rights. While I believe it is a discussion we need to have, it includes topics which may be upsetting to some. It in no way is intended to be read as criticism of the business practices of any veterinarian and is not referring to any specific surgery, clinic or hospital. At the end is a series of recommendations for what to do when faced with the need to make a quick decision.