How much worse can it get? - Veterinary Practice
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InFocus

How much worse can it get?

PERISCOPE continues the series of reflections on issues of current concerns.

I’M sorry but I just can’t go another episode without bringing this up. Sorry, because all we’re missing now is a guest appearance at Leopard’s Den from Rolf Harris, along with his film crew, to capture on digital tape, Danny and Alice becoming the first vets to successfully perform an interspecies heart transplant.

No, hear me out because I have absolutely no doubt that before this series is over, Anders Du Plessis will be given the heart of a baboon. A heart taken from a baboon that Danny was miraculously unable to save after it was hit by a lowflying aircraft (piloted by one or other B list celeb visiting Africa), right in front of the Leopard’s Den verandah.

The operation will be performed by Danny, ably assisted by his live-in helper Alice, in their state-of-the-art veterinary clinic somewhere in the remote African bush. Just how Danny learns to use all these flash pieces of kit without ever seeming to go on any recognisable CPD sure beats me. But then I suppose I am guilty of failing to suspend my belief.

Those of you not familiar with the ITV series Wild at Heart screened on a Sunday night will by now be thinking that I have gone stark, raving bonkers. But believe you me, in the great scheme of scripts at Leopard’s Den, the above storyline is anything but farfetched. More like a gentle progression towards what will be the pinnacle of Danny’s glittering career to date: the chance to save the world!

Whoever writes this drivel is well and truly onto a winner. The programme has just the right mix of animal and human interest to draw in everyone but the most cynical punter, and even for the likes of me there is a warped sense of delight at trying to imagine what disaster could possibly top the previous one.

And so far we have not been disappointed. In the space of a couple of short years Leopard’s Den has survived epidemics of anthrax, rabies and Ebola virus.

It has survived the loss of one of the leading characters in a savanna fire (Danny’s wife, no less, his second I think: leading me to want to warn his current bidey-in, Alice, about his apparent carelessness with his womenfolk); a drought that sort of came and then disappeared in an instant; various poisonings of animals and their water supplies; corruption, bribery, attacking hyenas and rogue elephants; Danny being investigated and suspended by the South African veterinary authorities, all before the body of the animal he was alleged to have killed had even gone cold; and little green men in flying saucers looking for somewhere to stay for the night. OK, I admit it, I made that last one up.

And, oh yes, to top it all, a kidney transplant from one cheetah (who luckily got run over, or possibly attacked, and killed … I can’t quite remember because I had lost the will to live at that point), to another that was suffering from chronic renal failure. The recipient has thrived ever since!

The reason I bring all this up is because I expect the public are just lapping it up and can’t possibly understand why their own vet isn’t anywhere near half the hero that Danny plainly is.

Never in doubt as to the diagnosis; always with an unequivocal view of how to resolve the problem; always with the best possible equipment to hand; and, best of all, seemingly never to charge for his quite exemplary services.

Yes, that’s the bit that the public will really love, yet I for one cannot see where he gets his money from to subsidise this because Leopard’s Den always seems curiously devoid of paying guests. I can’t help thinking that Wild at Heart, purporting as it does to be real life, gives completely the wrong sort of message to the paying public. Ah well, such is our lot in life.

Back in the headlines

On a more serious note, dangerous dogs have hit the headlines again, this time with a consultation process on Government proposals to try and tackle a problem that now appears, in some parts of the country at least, completely out of control.

Apparently, more than 100 people are admitted to hospital each week as a result of dog attacks as more and more people keep a certain type of dog as a status symbol or, in extreme cases, to intimidate and threaten people with.

One of the Government’s proposals to deal with this is for all dog owners to be compelled to take out third-party liability insurance to compensate anyone attacked by their dog.

I have never heard of anything more ludicrous and laughable! What insurance company with any sense is going to offer third party cover to the owners of certain breeds of dogs (and we all know which those breeds are), at a premium that anyone can possibly afford?

And secondly, if the owners of such dogs are prepared to break the current law by threatening people with their animals, why is anyone naïve enough to suppose that they will comply with a law to take out insurance?

It is a complete non-starter. All it will do is penalise and create more paperwork for the genuine, lawabiding dog owner whose dog is most unlikely to be permitted to attack anyone in the first place. The irresponsible and quite frankly dangerous owner will simply ignore the legislation and continue as before; and the number of people admitted to hospital as a result of dog attacks will continue to rise.

We have, of course, come to expect this kind of rubbish from a Government that is tired beyond all belief and whose moral compass seems now to be pointing in all directions at once. Soundbites are definitely thought to be worth more than substance and it would not surprise me to learn that they are also writing the scripts for Leopard’s Den!

In my view, the only real way to deal with dangerous dogs and protect the public is to ban certain breeds (and any dog that looks like a certain breed), from being kept at all (an update to the Dangerous Dogs Act is required here) and then rigorously enforce that ban.

At the same time, those dogs on a secondary list, mainly the guarding breeds such as Rottweilers, Dobermanns and German Shepherds, should be required to be muzzled and kept on the lead at all times in public places.

Will any innocent dogs suffer as result of this? Of course some will. But many innocent people will be spared considerable suffering as a result.

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