police will keep watch on canicross competitions
By David Davies
NEW LAWS designed to
protect pets in England and Wales will require canicrossers to
make sure their dogs are not abused or neglected either during
training or in races.
The main organisers of canicross in the UK – the Trail Runners and
CaniX – already have strict rules to ensure dogs do not suffer
The only other sport in Britain where runners and animals compete
alongside each other is the famed Man versus Horse race across
23 miles of hillside around Llanwrtyd
Since the event's beginnings 30 years ago the RSPCA has kept a
friendly eye on the race to ensure horses do not come to harm.
The new legislation has not created an army of enforcers. The
"pet police" will continue to be concerned members of the public who are not
afraid to phone the authorities..
"The public are still our eyes and ears when it comes to reporting
any concerns of animal cruelty or neglect," said Rebecca Hawkes of the RSPCA.
It may sound bizarre to think that fast-moving animals like dogs
and horses could suffer in a race against or alongside slow-moving Man and
The two main risks are heat – dangerous for dogs and horses - and
lack of fitness for the event. I confess to giving a dog a hard time a few
years ago by taking him on a 15-mile run that he was not ready for.
The dog, a long-legged terrier called Webster, belonged to my
ex-wife. I regularly picked him up for five-mile runs, which he enjoyed. The
15-mile run came when I started training for a half-marathon.
Webster ran out of energy and the run became an ordeal for him.
After that, whenever he saw me in running gear, he would hide under the bed.
No matter how fit they may look, you cannot assume that sedentary
pet dogs are up to long distances.
As well as the risks from heat and accidental over-exertion, there
is a third danger: that of deliberately imposing demands on dogs that can
kill them or permanently damage their health.
That may sound unlikely until you read about the scandals
surrounding the annual 1,150-mile Iditarod sled race in Alaska. Three dogs
died in this year's event and musher Ramy Brooks was disqualified for
beating his dogs when two of them refused to get up after a stop.
Now Jennifer O'Connor, who writes for PETA
– People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals – has exposed years of abuse behind the glamour
of the Iditarod, in which winningdogs are expected to cover more
than 100 miles a day for 10 days –
It is an event in which humans get all the glory and dogs do all the work.
Dogs have given us the word dogged. Dictionaries define dogged as "very determined to do something, even if it is very difficult," as "tenacious," as "stubborn" and as being "unwilling to give up". The
Iditarod exploits those qualities to the limit and sometimes beyond.
In her article, O'Connor reveals that at least 133 dogs have died in the race since records began
– and that does
not include dogs who die in training or after the race; 61 percent of the dogs who finish develop gastric ulcers caused by “sustained strenuous exercise”; 81 percent suffer lung damage.
The new Animal Welfare Act for England and Wales imposes a duty of care on pet owners. That means providing a suitable place
for them to live, proper feeding, the opportunity to express normal behaviour, and protection from pain, suffering, injury and disease.
Offenders can be banned from owning animals, fined up to £20,000 and face a maximum prison sentence of 51 weeks.
The protection regulations will fit well with rules already in place for canicross. For example, the Trail Runners say: "Go at your dog's pace. Your dog's condition should dictate your training regime. Check with your vet!" Read more about the
Trail Runners rules by
Similar advice comes from CaniX. They are holding a
13-miles race across Salisbury Plain on May 6. Entrants have to declare that dogs doing the 13 miles are over two years old and have been pronounced fit by a vet.
Runners have to carry a minimum of one litre of water plus a dog bowl.
Women lead in New
WOMEN runners outnumbered men by three to one at the Trail
Runners New Forest event at Bolderwood on February 24th.
They also produced the fastest times. Anna Jennings romped
home overall first in 27 minutes and 23 seconds, fast enough to
force her lurcher to break into a run.
Its always embarrassing for human
canicrossers when they are
running flat out and their canine companions are keeping up
easily at a comfortable walk. No such problem
for Anna, though!
CLICK here for
a full report and pictures plus the results in detail.
And for a report and pictures of the Delamere Forest event in
Cheshire on March 25th
It looks as if 2007 will be a bumper year for canicross in the UK. Races and other canicross events this year are planned in the New Forest,
the Forest of Dean, Delamere Forest Park in Cheshire, Salisbury
Windsor Great Park.
Events are taking place in April, May, August and September -
with more races likely to be
added to the list before long. CLICK
here for details of all the races organised so far for 2007.
One particularly exciting race will be the
CaniX "Neolithic Half
Marathon" across Salisbury Plain in May, which will offer a choice of distances,
making it suitable for the timid as well as the tough.
At the Wag and Bone Show in Windsor Great Park in August the Canicross Trail Runners will stage a "treasure trail" with prizes to be
Then in September the Trail Runners are staging a day of events that will
include canicross, dog grooming demos and caniteering.
Caniteering combines canicross with orienteering and provides dogs and
owners with ample opportunities to get lost.