Monday, April 27, 2015

Terrier Work, Part 8 -- The RSPCA’s New Cause

With the end of World War II, the RSPCA found it needed a new cause. Cart horses and buggy whips had simply disappeared.

Though genuine cases of animal abuse still occurred, these were local problems and not the kind of expansive issues needed to sustain a national fundraising campaign.

As the nation was new, so would the RSPCA have to think anew.

Earlier RSPCA campaigns had attacked the sport and livelihood of the poor. Now was the time to take the battle to the other half.

The battle to ban fox hunting was enjoined in 1949. That year Britain banned the use of leghold traps and poison against any animal larger than a rat.

That same year two private member’s bills to ban or restrict fox hunting were introduced. Both bills failed to make it onto the statute books. One was withdrawn, the other defeated on its second reading in the House of Commons.

No matter. The animal rights movement settled in for the long fight, content they had found a controversy robust enough to serve as a fundraising vehicle for the next 50 years.

Out in the countryside, of course, animals continued to reproduce. Rabbits were seen as a particularly noxious problem not only because of significant crop loss in some areas, but also because very large rabbit warrens cut into the side of railroad embankments, occasionally weakening track beds.

In the early 1950s, the British purposefully imported a rabbit disease called myxomatosis from South America (via France). The hope was that the disease would help "control" the U.K.’s rabbit population.

The myxoma virus was a frightfully efficient killer, wiping out 98 percent of all rabbits in Great Britain within a decade of its introduction. One result of this unhappy turn of events was that the ancient rabbit warrens that had once served as natal dens and sources of food for fox simply vanished.

In order to help out Mother Nature, and improve the chance that a fox would take up residence on hunt land, many hunts constructed artificial dens out of brick, slate and clay drainage pipe. If well-sited these artificial earths could be counted on to house a fox and, thanks to straight and smooth sides, a larger terrier could be used to force a bolt.

To order American Working Terriers

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