Opening Session of 1963 Congress : Held at Kensington Palace Hotel, London, Friday 26th April, 1963

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  • 3. small anim. Pract. Vol. 4, pp. 415 to 419. lergamon Press Ltd. Printed in Great Britain.

    Opening Session of 1963 Congress Held at Kensington Palace Hotel, London, Friday 26th April, 1963

    MR. 0. GRAHAM-JONES (President B.S.A.V.A.) : Good morning ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the sixth Congress of the B.S.A.V.A. On behalf of the Officers and Council and all Committee members I extend a welcome to all delegates that have arrived to make this Congress a success. We know that all these people have come here at some expense, from their pocket and from time given to some of their practices, and they are backed by the people they have left behind, who are continuing to do the work which they themselves would have done ! This means complicated arrangements for you all, and I am grateful that you think it is worth your while. We in the Council are conscious of the fact that it is your enthusiasm in attending these Congresses that make them successful. I must also say how kind it is of our distinguished visitors to come along and I shall be introducing our guest of honour to YOU in a moment. We also have present today Professor Wayne Riser from America, and Professor Eric Ollson from Sweden.

    I think that one recognizes that this moment, at the beginning of Congress, is the culmination of I year, at least, of organization for 3 days fairly hectic programme. All our Congresses are a mixture of pleasure, in the entertainment sense, and of scientific actitities. I think you could say that the B.S.A.V.A. has one child annually. This is a classic example of planned parenthood. The glitter in the fathers eye is reflected off the gold bands on this chain which have put the thought into the mind. The marriage of the Organizing Committee and the Scientific Programme Com- mittee is the ceremony. The honeymoon occurs at the first meeting after the Congress of the Congress Committee. I t is a fairly short one and is the original and initial consummation ofall the ideas that we have gleaned from previous Congresses and from your suggesticns. The pregnancy and gestation is a somewhat lengthy and difficult affair, and as it goes on produces many of the usual problems that are associated with pregnancy of any sort. It is a long one, it is a 12-month affair. The delivery of the child is somewhat hurried, very agonizing and extremely painful to those of us who witness it. It is an overnight affair, and somewhat terrifying. The one thing that leads us to wonder, with great fear, is the possibility of a twin birth! So far this has not happened, but we are rather nervous. We have responsibilities in the B.S.A.V.A. to our own profession, and the animals that we treat, but this does not mean that we treat lightly our responsibilities towards the public, and in this present Congress you will see this reflected in the scientific programme. We have recently been to the House of Commons on your behalf and met many members of both

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    Houses; we explained to them the interest that the B.S.A.V.A. has in problems such as the accident case, which is reflected in road accidents, injuries to people, and of course injuries to the animal. We told them also of our interest in the Anaesthetic Acts and the alterations to the Schedules. We have told them of our tremendous interest in the abnormalities of some of the dogs that we are called upon to treat; and explained that our concern is that dogs are being bred and born into this world to suffer throughout their lives from certain conditions which probably could be prevented.

    We hope therefore you like the mixture we have prepared; it is never easy to assess everyones requirements; however, we hope that we will at least please most of you. Now is the time, if you have suggestions that you wish to present, to hand them into the Congress Office, for the consideration of the appropriate Committees next year. After this opening ceremony, I shall be visiting the Trade Exhibition. I want you all to recognize the debt we owe to the Trade for support throughout the year in many many ways and in particular their support for this congress.

    I would like to introduce to you now our guest of honour-Maxwell Knight. Maxwell Knight is a friend of mine of many years standing. When the President is told that it is his privilege to select the guest of honour this presents him with a considerable duty. He must find somebody who will represent many of the activities and interests of the Association. The person selected must also have personality and stature as a person as well. He must have animal connections; if possible, he should have radio and television interests; he ought perhaps to be an author. Maxwell Knight is all these, and many more too. He has owned a wide collection of animals of all sorts of incredible species for many many years. He has an intimate and great knowledge of the problems associated with the small animal. He is, apart from many other things, a vice-president of the Zoo, the President of which is the Duke of Edinburgh. I now hand over to Maxwell Knight to open this 1963 B.S.A.V.A. Congress. MR. MAXWELL KNIGHT: Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen, I have had two compliments paid me during my life, both of which exceeded anything that I could possibly have imagined and both were in connection with the objects which this gathering is concerned-the study and welfare of animals.

    The first was when, shortly after the war, I was elected to the Council of the Zoological Society of London. As a boy I had not particularly wanted to drive a railway engine, as many do; I had as my ambition to be a keeper of the Zoo. That I should one day be invited to play some small part in the actual work of the London Zoo, had never entered my head: if it had I would probably have been more un- pleasant than I probably was! The second of these compliments was much more recent. I t was when I learnt from my old and valued friend Oliver Graham-Jones that I had been invited to be your guest of honour at this Congress, and I do thank you most sincerely. I t has been my good fortune to have had some contact with members of your profession for a good many years and I have learnt a great deal in consequence. I must admit that as the years went by I was able to learn more and more, and this I attribute to the fact that recently veterinary surgeons have devoted increasing attention to the accidents and ills that befall small animals.

    I hope no one here will take it amiss if I say that I can well remember the time

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    when such things as white mice, guinea-pigs and sick birds would not have been welcomed at the average veterinary surgery. Animals to the practitioner in those days meant, apart from dogs and occasionally cats, Something as small as a goat and preferably as big as a horse, possibly, hence the old phrase horse doctor. NOW today the picture, I think, is very diffcrent; gradually there is common realization that animals, other than Farm animals, are indeed members of the animal kingdom. One would not have thought so, perhaps, years ago, but this surely reached its peak for small animals a few years back with the formation of the World Association.

    Now as your President got me into this affair perhaps I can retaliate by telling you something about him which you may not know. There is time for him to lcavc the room quickly if he wishes to! I was probably the first person ever to call him in to advise on the health of a wild animal-a constipated bear cub. I recollect that he did not receive this request with any great enthusiasm, but, like the willing man he is, he not only treated this unusual patient successfully, but he also handled this mass of fur and teeth and claw as though he had merely been palpating a dogs belly. From that day onwards his fate was sealed and now he copes with constipated beasts of all kinds, pythons and elephants alike, but the latter usually require his services, of course, because of the generous but misguided feeding by members of the Great British Public at the Zoo. This is a national failing which must be a benefit to you all in a way, for overfeeding animals must bring more grist to your mills than any other single cause ! Seriously, though, I wonder if even you especially, who specialize in small animals, realize how much your work is being appreciated by the pet- keeping public. Hardly a week goes by, particularly in the spring and summer, that does not see some person on my doorstep at home with a cardboard box, or a queer bundle of old dusters and scarves. These may contain anything from a bird wounded by some fool with an air-gun or to a baby hedgehog or a fox cub. Many of these people only want advice on how to keep or rear these creatures, but some are in need of skilled attention. I n most districts now it is possible to send such cases to a veterinary surgeon with confidence. This not only relieves me of some of the problems of how many laws I might be breaking if I try to do anything myself; it alsomeans that a good proportion of these patients survive and in due course, where wild animals are concerned, they are set free again to take their chances in their natural sur- roundings, as I think they should do.

    I realize of course that your Association does not exist only for the purpose of mending sparrows legs or cutting back the beaks of budgies, but the fact that such cases can and will be dealt with by an increasing number of your profession is a comfcrt to many people and relief for myself. Naturally though, even today, I have got my own problems. I wish I had a fiver every time someone calls or rings me up to talk about wood-pigeons or a baby grey squirrel which has tumbled from a tree. These cases tax my honesty and my common sense more than somewhat. I n the words of the old comedian, I can only say What would you do, chums?. You are better off than I a m in that way. However, these and other problems are the inevitable lot of anyone who writes or speaks or broadcasts about animals, but you know you cannot help being impressed, and at the same time depressed, by some aspects of our national love of keeping pets, particularly dogs and cats. From having been allowed to read copies of your very fine Journal I have come to admire what

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    you are trying to do in a quiet way, to educate the owners of dogs and cats and even those who exhibit them for shows. Whether you, at your expert level, or people a t the humble level like myself, could ever succeed in explaining that indulgence is not love and that producing anatomical monstrosities-in efforts to improve breeds- is a form of cruelty, well, I cannot say. We can only hope, but your efforts to persuade various interested parties to stop encouraging the breeding by these Frankensteins of misshapen creatures is of course a very important thing. Then there is your work to improve the situation regarding accidents on the road caused by dogs, and I was going to say and also by bitches, because I think bitches are very often the prime cause of the accident to the dog. Naturally enough, even today, I feel that some of these problems of animals in general must connect with veterinary work. If I had advice to give to a young person interested in animals, I think I should say, If you want to know about animals, study human beings, and if you want to learn about human beings, study animals too. We are all human after all, and at the very early stages of life both humans and animals have a great deal in common. I think I am right in saying this: if you show me a man or a woman fcr a while I bet I can tell you how they will deal with their animals; show me a dog or a cat and I think I could describe the owner with some degree of accuracy. You, ladies and gentlemen, are probably doing both every day.

    A very interesting and, to my mind, doubtful practice has more or less been creeping into the care of pets by private persons. I call it being bemused by Science, So many people I know tell me of an animal which they have, which seems to have exhibited some symptom or another, then they go on to say that they have given it thoro this or vita that as an additive to the diet. When I ask them if they are carrying out this treatment on the advice of a veterinary surgeon, they say Oh no, no, no, I read about it in such and such a magazine, I forget the title and on enquiry one usually finds that some vitamin or protein deficiency is suspected, rightly or wrongly, and the pet in question is given powders or pills rather than some natural foodstuff which would in a great many cases do the trick. Not so very long ago, I was consulted by somebody who has a baby hedgehog which was described to me as being ccoff-colour. This little beast had been fed on everything except the things it should have been eating and which it would have got in the wild. I prescribed earth-worms and beetles plus a little raw meat and liver. It made what seemed to the doting owner a miraculous recovery. The owner just did not know the natural food of hedgehogs.

    Another example I come across at times is when a fox cub or badger cub is being hand-reared and is past the weaning stage. These are often stuffed with mincemeat, sometimes cooked, and bread and milk. Some survive but are seldom healthy, and they look kind of tatty. When I tell such owners that such animals when in the wild do not get their flesh minced or cooked, and they must have some fur or feather with the flesh, the result is a shudder. Yet chicken heads are easy to obtain and mice can be caught in traps and freshly dead birds can frequently be found on the road, run over. Modern poultry farmers are very often only too glad to give away day-old chicks-excellent fare for cubs or even bush babies; but no, you see some of these pet- keepers would rather sprinkle some mysterious powder on some cooked meat than take a little trouble to give natural food. I think that these remedies or additives, or

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    whatever you like to call them, should only be given to pet animals on the advice of veterinary surgeons for some specific reason, not what somebody has read in a paper.

    There are hundreds of students and workers today who are busy with animal behaviour and I am the last person to decry their efforts, but I do sometimes wish that a few of them would not be quite so superacademic in their attitude and would do more work in the field before conducting experiments in the laboratory. One of the first and best zoologist naturalists that I have ever known, once said to me that the right place to start the study of animal behaviour is in the field, then continue in the laboratory and then go back to the field to check your conclusions. I always remember a young student taking half an hour of a meeting to prove that cows chew the cud a t night. This was done with a terrific mass of charts and graphs and so on. I t never occurred to him that any capable cowman could have told him the answer and saved him a great deal of labour!

    However, just for the last moment or two, may I be more constructive? Here are some items of research which I would think would be of great value if more and more competent people would interest themselves in. They may not all be veterinary, but I think they connect up. The first is the question of the connection between humidity and temperature in hibernating animals, which is a thing that not a lot is known about. A great many pet-owners keep animals that do hibernate, or try to keep them, and they nearly always fall down over the difficulty I have just pointed out. The second is the importance of hitting a satisfactory mean between necessary hygiene in cages and the equally necessary requirement of a degree of the animals own scents, either glandular or excretory. There are many small pets kept, which fail to breed because they live in quarters that are too hygienic. These creatures must have familiar smells about them if they are to behave naturally. Yet another is occupational therapy, in other words saving the animal from becoming bored, or too fat from lack of movement. I suppose the first kind of occupational therapy devised by man was one of those little treadmill wheels, first of all introduced to the cages of fancy mice and rats and squirrels, generations ago. They served their purpose admirably until some ignorant sentimentalist thought they were cruel, and for a time they became unpopular. I could think of more examples if time permitted, but I should like to mention the provision of twigs from unsprayed fruit trees as toys for parrots to nibble. These will go some way towards preventing one cause of feather plucking, which can arise from boredom. Both mammals and birds can become bored and therefore unhealthy. I know that Dr. Desmond Morris, of London Zoo, is doing some research into this subject of occupational therapy, and jolly good luck to him. I hope that amateurs and ordinary pet-keepers will be encouraged to take an interest in this, too, and I a m sure you can help by also giving advice.

    Ladies, gentlemen and Mr. President, I thank you for the honour you have done me today, and I have the greatest pleasure in declaring this Congress open.

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