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RSPCA calls for primate pet ban
Court case prompts calls for ban.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has called for a ban on keeping primates as pets after a court case in which a West Midlands couple who sold a severely  malformed marmoset rather than take it to a vet were disqualified from keeping animals for life. Mrs Sheryll Murray MP, the Member of Parliament for South East Cornwall, has also announced that she will push for a ban.

Disturbing film footage showing the marmoset named 'Mikey' attempting to walk on bent legs and being unable to climb was shown to Dudley Magistrates Court. The offence first came to light after the couple sold the baby monkey to a pensioner while it was in a hamster cage in the back of a car in a chip shop car park. The pensioner took it to a local exotic pet dealer, who alerted the RSPCA.

Lee Powell, 50, and Julie Ann Jones, 41, both of Sunderland Drive, Stourbridge, were found guilty of causing the animal unnecessary suffering. Both were ordered to pay more than £5,000 in costs and compensation and do 300 hours of unpaid work. The marmoset, who was found to have advanced bone disease, seven fractures and a broken tail, had to be put down.

RSPCA inspectors dealt with 315 incidents involving 645 pet primates between 2001 and 2010. "Welfare issues" were cited in half of the incidents and legal action was taken in six cases, resulting in two convictions. Complaints about primates are four to twelve times higher than those concerning more conventional pets.

“Primates are so complicated and have such complex needs and most primate owners, unless they have very specialist training, cannot look after them properly," said RSPCA Primatologist Lisa Riley.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) brought in a code of practice for primate keepers in 2010. However, the code is "non-binding" and animal charities have pointed out that it is largely unknown. Furthermore, many primates are illegally traded due to endangered species protection status.

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Pirbright student wins top award

News Story 1
 A student studying for his PhD at the Pirbright Institute has been honoured for his research on egg anti-viral proteins which could lead to a major step forward in vaccine production rates.

Tom Whitehead was named Young Innovator of the Year at the Guildford Innovation Awards on Wednesday (22nd February).

Working with scientists at The Pirbright Institute, Tom identified the family of antiviral proteins which generate the embryo's anti-viral immune response. His research demonstrated that restricting the activity of these proteins enables the levels of virus to increase.  

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Collaboration to improve animal disaster preparedness in California

Animal rescue specialist Jim Green has joined the University of California Davis's Centre for Equine Health, for a one-year collaboration to support major advances in disaster preparedness. Recent weather conditions in California have led to declarations of emergencies in 50 out of 58 counties and there is growing concern about pets and livestock safety in light of increased wildfires and floods.

Disaster plans are in place for human and property safety but UC Davis says there is a critical lack of funding and standardisation for animal disaster planning. Mr Green has created and implemented programmes for the UK Fire and Rescue Service, to educate and integrate first responders and vets. He will coordinate with the university and local and state emergency response stakeholders in California.