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How safe is your cat?

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Missing ear: Peaches went for a wander and came back with a large portion of her ear cut off

A PEMBROKESHIRE woman’s cat was thought to have been caught by a feral hunter on Saturday (Apr 2) in a mistake that led to the cat losing an ear.

The Pembrokeshire vet who inspected Peaches the cat believes that the hunter must’ve thought that she was feral, shaving the left side of her body to see if she had been neutered.

When the hunter saw that she had been spayed, it is believed that she was then taken to the vets and, under anaesthesia, had her ear tipped.

The term ‘feral’ describes members of a domesticated species which have reverted back to living as wild animals, having little or no contact with humans.

It is very difficult for feral cats to be tamed, and this is not recommended because they could be very fearful of people, and this could seriously compromise their welfare.

There are currently approximately one million feral cats living in Britain, alongside the seven million domesticated cats. Strayed or abandoned pets, including pedigree cats, form part of the feral cat population, presenting an ongoing problem to British animal welfare societies.

FERAL CATS

Feral cats can live alone, or in colonies, and can be found everywhere, from towns and cities to more rural areas.

The best solution for feral cats is for them to be neutered and then returned to their familiar environment following the procedure.

The Neyland owner of Peaches the cat, said: “The top of her ear has been cleanly cut. Although she comes and goes as she pleases, usually when I call her it takes a maximum of two seconds to come back home. So, this procedure was done very locally in between the times of 2pm and 6.30pm when I was in Llanelli with my children.

“She is a very tame cat so it is clear to see that she was not a stray. It’s actually quite disturbing to be honest.

“Just be careful and keep an eye on your cats. They usually do these procedures near farms, but I live on a small cul-de-sac nowhere near a farm.”

Some people view feral cats as pests but others, particularly farmers, stable owners and smallholders, value feral cats for their role as working mousers that help protect grain and feed.

Despite their undomesticated nature, these cats can still benefit from a level of care which includes neutering. By neutering these cats, it can help to keep the colony size under control.

Feral cats that require going through the neutering process will usually be caught in a humane cattrap, as they are often too wild to be handled willingly. Following this, the cat is sedated so that a vet can give it a health check and treat it for parasites.

After the health check and neutering are complete, the cat is released back into its familiar territory as soon as possible. This is because the cat could possibly lose its communal scent, potentially leading to it being rejected by other cats in the colony if it is away for too long.

Cats Protection state that this procedure is usually completed in the evening and the traps are collected and inspected regularly to minimise stress to the captured feral cat.

They state that trapping and neutering a large feral colony could take weeks, with regular monitoring being needed to ensure that no cats are missed. Cats Protection aim to capture breeding females first to avoid growth in colony size whilst the neutering process is taking place.

Although catching and removing feral cats may temporarily reduce the numbers, this can lead to what is known as the ‘vacuum effect’, in which cats left behind will continue to breed and other feral cats will move into the area as it is evidently a good source of food and shelter.

NEUTERING

Experts have released that the solution to the feral cat problem is to trap, neuter and return the cats which, over the period of a few years, will aid in reducing the size of the colony whilst deterring other feral cats and keeping vermin levels at bay.

In addition to this, the RSPCA recommend that attempts should be made to find new homes for young kittens or other cats which are not totally feral as they deserve the chance to have their own caring owners.

The owner of the site where the feral colony resides also has to agree to the presence of the animals, which will aid in ensuring a stable existence for the colony. This will also help to make sure that there will be someone to monitor the health of the cats, as feral cats are more likely to get sick and injured than domestic cats.

The RSPCA believes that, after being neutered, each feral cat should have its left ear ‘tipped’, in which 0.5cm and 1cm of the ear will be removed to allow for easier future identification of neutered animals.

Vet Dr Patty Khuly spoke of the benefits of ear tipping: “It helps feline colony workers gauge the success of their efforts and help animal control officers know which colonies of cats are wellmanaged and stable.

“It’s useful and, relative to a dog’s ear crop, it’s absolutely painless when performed under anaesthesia. Cats recover without pawing at their ears or showing any other sign of distress.”

However, the owner of Peaches noted that it was the cat’s right ear that was cut, and not its left ear, and considerably more than 1cm was removed.

The sister of Peaches’ owner, said: “I’m sure in Tenby there was a woman a few years back thinking she was helping by taking matters into her own hands, neutering cats herself and cutting their ears off. Maybe there is someone similar to her about.”

A spokesperson for the RSPCA told The Herald: “We would be concerned to hear that a cat has been injured, and ask anyone with any concerns about animal welfare to contact us. We would welcome any information which might help track down what happened to Peaches as at the moment it is difficult to say for sure what has caused this injury.”

NOT JUST A UK PROBLEM

In other parts of the world, feral colonies are dealt with in a number of ways which are not quite so humane as ear-tipping and neutering. In Greece, Tunisia and Turkey, undomesticated cats are poisoned with Strychnine and in parts of Australia, the animals are killed with cat-specific toxins or feline pathogens such as cat flu or enteritis.

Some UK land-owners have been known to take the law into their own hands, using illegal leghold traps, crossbows, poisons or snares to deal with the cats. These traps have been recorded to kill domestic pets and other wildlife alongside the feral cats.

In 2000, a British man added fuelled cat-owners’ nightmares when he was convicted of killing neighbours’ pet cats using sardines and pilchards laced with cyanide. He did this over several years, killing numerous pets in the process before eventually being caught with enough poison to kill hundreds more.

Eluned Kronacher-Edwards said on social media: “Ear-tipping isn’t cruelty, it is trying to keep the feral population under control. The charities trap cats and if they aren’t neutered, they do so and don’t cut their ears off at all. They just nick the top so they know that they cat had been ‘done’, which would be like us getting our ears pierced.

“I can understand you would be upset if your domestic cat had been accidentally trapped but I hope this explains why. These are people who are rescue workers, not abusers. The cut shouldn’t be a deep enough cut to get infected. This is being done to prevent a raging feral cat population where the animals can get sick or starve.”

Jayne Roach, from Solva, also noted that her cat had recently come home cleanly shaved on one side, which she said was strange as her cat was still bald on the other side from being neutered.

Jayne’s cat, Reggie, is microchipped but was not wearing a collar at the time she was shaved, which she notes is because she “lives in the back of beyond so Reggie would just get it caught.”

SOCIAL MEDIA

A lot of pet owners have taken to social media to say a similar thing to Jane – that their cats often slip their collars, or don’t own one in the first place in case it gets caught, but think that their cats will be safe as they are microchipped and well looked after.

Lindsay Davies, Veterinary Nurse at All Pets Vet Care, said: “I personally haven’t seen domestic cats get confused with feral cats. But, I don’t think it’s easy to tell the difference at all. Unless the cat is microchipped then anyone can pick up a cat off the street, bring it in, claim it’s theirs and get it neutered.

“The only way to prevent that would be compulsory microchipping for cats as well as dogs, but unfortunately it’s unrealistic to regulate that as there are too many feral cats, so it’s a case of educating cat owners on the importance of microchipping their pets.

Ms Davies continued, stating that in the case of Peaches, vets all around Wales need to be pushed to scan the pets that are being brought in to prevent unnecessary eartipping and unwanted neutering. She stated that vets encourage neutering anyway if cats are allowed to roam outside of their homes to prevent unwanted litters of kittens.

“Microchipping cats is something I’m big into talking to owners about, because not only does it have the potential to possibly prevent situations like this occurring, but it also means that when cats get involved in road traffic accidents, or get attacked, injured or lost, it means that the owner can be found as soon as possible, which is especially important if the pet needs treatment,” she concluded.

IS MICROCHIPPING THE ANSWER?

It is possible that microchipping saved Jayne’s cat, Reggie, from having its ear tipped by the vet scanning her microchip and returning her to the area she was picked up from.

A spokesperson for Dyfed- Powys Police said: “Police received a report that a cat in the Neyland area had its ear cut off and had a section of its body shaved on the evening of April 2.

“The cat was taken to the vet for treatment. Police are investigating, and are appealing to anyone who may have seen anything suspicious in the area, or anyone with any information to contact them on 101.”

Cats Protection gave a statement saying: “Obviously Cats Protection is concerned about this incident and the stress it may have caused the cat and its owner.

“With compulsory microchipping for dogs coming into force, Cats Protection would like to see the same for cats as it would help to avoid to these sorts of incidents happening in the future, as well as reuniting lost pets with their owners.”

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Welsh Guards sergeant shot dead during Castlemartin live-fire training exercise

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A BRITISH ARMY sergeant was killed on Thursday night (Mar 4) in a shooting accident at Castlemartin Training Area, The Herald can confirm.

The solider was training with live ammunition, ahead of a planned deployment to Iraq this summer.

Five police cars and an ambulance were seen screaming through Pembroke towards the incident at approximately 10pm towards the incident.

A coastguard helicopter, CG187, was scrambled to the scene, and hovered near Bosherston for a while, but was stood down and returned to base.

The Herald has contacted the MOD for a comment, who said: “It is with great sadness we can confirm the death of a soldier on the 4th of March.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this tragic time.

“The circumstances surrounding this death are being investigated and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

THIS STORY IS UPDATING

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Pembrokeshire County Council bills Home Office for Penally camp costs

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THE COUNCIL has sent an invoice for more than £80,000 to the Home Office.

It is to cover some of the costs that the local authority has incurred in connection with the Penally Asylum Seeker Centre, near Tenby.

Following a question on the issue from Cllr Jonathan Preston at Full Council the Council have confirmed that a bill has been sent.

The Member for Penally ward asked: “Please can the relevant Cabinet Member provide a breakdown of all costs to this authority which have been incurred in providing staff, services and other associated resources to Penally camp since its re-purpose by the Home Office last September?”

Council leader Cllr. David Simpson confirmed that on February 22 Pembrokeshire County Council submitted an invoice for £83, 858 which includes £65,564 in staff costs, £12,799 of specialist support and £5,495 for works such as barriers.

Pembrokeshire County Council is currently awaiting payment, the Authority confirmed.

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Hospitality sector welcomes Budget boost

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IT HAS been so long it seems since we could stand at a bar and enjoy a well-earned pint, but now we are on the road back to normality, the Herald has spoken to some of those in the hospitality sector who have been asked to close. We wanted to know what the owners in businesses in these sectors locally thought of the budget and if Rishi Sunak had done enough to help them.

We first spoke to a Milford Haven restaurant business. Owner of Martha’s Vineyard in Milford Haven, Dan Mills said that the budget was not a silver bullet to fix all problems but said that the budget had gone a fair way to delivering what many in the Pembrokeshire hospitality sector have been calling for in recent weeks.

Dan Mills said: “The biggest risk many of us were facing was the cliff edge of a VAT increase, the end of the Furlough Scheme and a return to full business rates, I’m pleased that the Chancellor has recognised this and taken action on all fronts.

“With talk of the Welsh Government restricting us to outside trading for an initial period, the flexibility that the Furlough Scheme brings will be a huge help to ensure staff retain their jobs.

“I was also delighted to see that the Chancellor has provided funding to Wales to ensure that we benefit from a further 12 months of Business Rate Relief here in Pembrokeshire, that’s money that many of us can instead invest into restarting our businesses.

“I hope that the conversation that unfortunately began due to Covid between politicians and the Pembrokeshire hospitality and tourism sector can continue long beyond this crisis, it seems that through some open and honest feedback we are making real progress.

Award winning gastro-pub The Griffin Inn is well known throughout Wales and has received many national reviews. Their reputation puts them in a strong position once they are allowed to re-open. We spoke to Sian and Simon Vickers about the budget.

Simon Vickers, co-owner is also a director of Visit Pembrokeshire. He told The Herald: “I think the budget was very positive for the hospitality industry with the reduction in VAT being the biggest help.

“Overall I feel the government have supported the industry amazingly

In regard to tax on alcohol, Simon said: “Duty has been frozen It would have been nice to have seen a cut in it. Whether there’s a cut or not the breweries always increase their prices so in all honesty it never affects us.”

The ongoing financial support has been welcomed by industry group CAMRA, The Campaign or Real Ale, but the organisation said that the Chancellor had missed the opportunity to lower beer duty to save our pubs.

Their national chairman Nik Antona issued a statement to The Pembrokeshire Herald saying: “Freezing alcohol duty is obviously better than a rise. However, CAMRA had hoped to see the Chancellor announce a cut in duty on beer served on tap in pubs and social clubs to benefit consumers and help the great British pub recover and thrive in the difficult months and years ahead by being able to compete with supermarket alcohol.

“The Government’s commitment to review alcohol duties in the coming months is welcome. CAMRA will continue to call for a lower rate of duty for beer served in pubs – an option available to the Government now we have left the European Union.

“Reducing tax on beer served in pubs and social clubs would encourage responsible drinking in a supervised, community setting – as well as boosting jobs and local economies, helping consumers and benefiting pubs and licensees.”

On financial support announced, Nik commented: “Cutting VAT as pubs begin to reopen, and reducing it until April next year, means they can now start benefiting from that cut – but CAMRA believes this VAT cut should be extended to alcohol so that traditional locals that don’t serve food can benefit too.

“The extension of furlough until September and new grants of up to £18,000 are very welcome. However, pubs are unlikely to be able to fully reopen at pre-COVID trading levels due to outside space and then table service only indoors. The beer and pubs sector will need further support over the coming months, over and above new loans, to help them get back on their feet until there is a full and proper re-opening and they can trade at full capacity.

“Extending the business rates holiday until the end of June will help keep the wolves from the door for many English pubs, with the two-thirds reduction for the rest of the financial year a welcome step. However, given how tough it will be for many pubs we believe the 100% cut in business rates needs to be extended for a full 12 months as has already happened in Scotland.”

Picture: Simon Vickers, Griffin Inn, Dale

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