A message from the SCAS Chair

Dr Elizabeth Ormerod BVMS

SCAS continues to demonstrate the need for its knowledge and services. We get a wide range of queries pertaining to human-animal interactions and herewith some recent examples.

Reptiles in AAI

We were asked why bodies such as SCAS and IAHAIO which develop standards in AAI state that reptiles should not be involved in AAI.  The reasons are multifactorial and include unacceptable risks of zoonoses and antimicrobial resistance transfer (AMR); health and welfare risks to the animals themselves; and damage to the natural environment. The latter arises from ecological deprivation and imbalance and risks of extinction when animals are captured from the wild. The escape or release of wild animals to new environments brings risks of disease introduction. The SCAS Code of Practice provides information and references on this as does the IAHAIO White paper and its Position Paper on Zoonoses.  A new resource with more detailed information will soon be posted on SCAS website.

Eviction threat

I was delighted to make acquaintance with Joy and her Jack Russell Munchy in a recent call. Joy was very distressed as her landlord had told her she must “get rid” of Munchy or face eviction. In my 40 years in vet practice such situations cause the most stress to clients. The landlord had just appointed a new management service to oversee his properties, and so he instructed “Munchy must go”.

My telephone interviewed with Joy found her to be a very dedicated and caring guardian. Joy was extremely upset. She had lived in the property for 21 years during which time she had cared for 3 dogs. There had never been a complaint.  She has good neighbours and did not want to move – and she would have to move as she would not relinquish Munchy. Joy had chosen to adopt Munchy, who was blind, from a rescue as her previous dog had become blind and she felt she had the necessary skills and experience to deliver good care. She and Munchy had formed a strong bond over the 2 years they have been together. In building a case for support I ask people details of their medical history.  Joy shared that she has complex medical issues including epilepsy and Type 2 diabetes. As we discussed how her conditions impact her life, she described how Munchy supports her. I was fascinated to learn that Munchy alerts Joy both to hypoglycaemia and to impending epileptic attacks. In addition, Munchy also detects and comforts Joy during the bouts of severe abdominal pain from which she suffers. These unusual abilities of Munchy are extremely interesting and very fortuitous for Joy and for her housing issue. Joy was delighted to be informed that Munchy is a medical alert dog. Medical alert dogs, as a type of Assistance Dog, have access to all rental housing.

A representative from the new management team was to meet Joy a few days later. I sent Joy a letter stating that Munchy is a Medical Alert dog, with details of the law pertaining to Assistance Dogs and housing.

Joy reported that the meeting went well and Munchy’s tenancy is assured. 

Footnote: Since Munchy has been blind since birth could it be that her alerting ability has been facilitated by her developing a better than usual ability to detect changes in scent? Your thoughts welcome.

**Shared with Joy’s permission**

Conference: Natural Healing: Ecology and Well-being 1st March Dewsbury Minster, Yorks

This conference is being organised by SCAS member Angela Barker who has developed a canine hospital visiting programme, Canine Befrienders. Speakers include Rebecca Leonardi from Paws for Progress, Belinda Johnston of Our Special Friends and Angela presenting about , Canine Befrienders. Angela has invited me to give the keynote address which will encompass the history of AAI in mental health from Ancient Times till present day. The role of humane education will also be discussed.  I plan to go to Dewsbury a day early to learn more about Angela’s AAI work in long stay psychiatric care.

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