Monday, 11 March 2013

Squirrels in Britain

My feature about the red/grey squirrel debate in Britain is in the April/May issue of Small Furry Pets magazine. Available now.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Otters Eat Fish: Fishery Sues Environment Agency

"The Eurasian Otter is a symbol of survival in Britain. A species once persecuted by the fishery and hunting fraternities, threatened with extinction by our polluted rivers, sentimentalised by Gavin Maxwell and Philip Wayre, legally protected, and now seemingly thriving in the wild.

Since gaining their protected status in 1978, the species has had a relative resurgence on our waterways, recolonizing once polluted estuaries. As one of the nation’s favourite mammals, the mere thought of killing such enigmatic creatures is quite a shock. Yet for the last decade, serious calls for an otter cull have been bubbling to the surface from certain sections of the fishery community. Unlike the theft of prize-winning koi carp from garden ponds by ‘cuddly killers’, this has generally been overlooked by the mainstream press. Culling is too close to the bone, it hits a nerve. It reminds us that otters are fish-killers, and were once exterminated for being so.
Concern for the animal is such that on November 7 2012 the International Otter Survival Fund (IOSF) brought together otter experts and representatives of the fishery community at the ‘Otters and Fisheries Conference’ in Edinburgh, Scotland. The aim was to establish a Working Group ‘to provide accurate information on otters and their impact on fisheries’ whilst offering ‘practical advice and solutions to problems.’ In 2013, the private fish-killing reputation of otters has reappeared from behind the public literary and filmic personas which captured our imaginations and stole our hearts.
In a potential landmark case, Brian Dodson, former owner of Waen Wen Fishery, near Bangor, North Wales, has demanded £2.5million damages from the Environment Agency. Why? He claims 'that otters it introduced to a nearby river ate all of his 22,000 carp' and ruined him financially (Alex Gore, Mail Online, 17 January)..."
Thanks for reading the introduction and sharing the link.
Dr Daniel Allen

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium (London's First #CatCafe)

"Another busy day in the office, crowds of commuters leave work and disappear underground. Jostling for their normal spot on the platform, the familiar gust of wind precedes the train, brakes screech, sparks fly. Standing shoulder to shoulder with London’s workforce, minds wander to empty sofas and microwave dinners while eye contact and human touch is desperately avoided. Then there’s the twenty minute walk in the cold. A takeaway latte will warm the hands.

Your heartbeat starts to quicken. Will it happen this evening? Will she be there? Eyes reflect the street light. The tabby cat leaps from the wall, circles, then rubs her neck against your leg. She purrs and craves attention. You pick her up, and stroke her head, her neck. You smile, softly squeeze, relax. Will anyone see? What would the owner say? How you wish you could take her home, just for one night. As you become self-conscious, you say goodbye, but continue embracing that stolen moment. 

Encounters like these made Lauren Pears (30) want to introduce the first cat café to London. ‘Londoners love animals, but many do not have the space or lifestyles to home one,’ Lauren explained. ‘They have their stolen moments in the street.’ As a Senior Project Manager at PlayStation, Lauren is familiar with congested city life and having to be pet-free. The past few years in London have been a far cry from growing up in Brisbane, Australia, where the family home was shared with Topaz and Miki the cats. ‘Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium will give people permission to cuddle cats in a nice place while enjoying a coffee’, Lauren continues.

Cat cafés are a relatively recent phenomenon. The world’s first appeared in Taipei, Taiwan in 1998. It went on to become popular in Japan, where there are now 40 in Tokyo alone. The idea has spread to Hong Kong, St Petersburg and Vienna. Lauren first experienced the idea in Tokyo in 2008. ‘It was nice and certainly a novelty, but I did think the experience could be improved. It felt more like a petting zoo or pet store than a cafe and the cats were the only source of entertainment and seemed pretty indifferent about it. I believe that creating an environment that is equally fun and comfortable for cats and humans, we'll have more happy interactions between the two.’ 
The environment Lauren has in mind is Old Street, Central London. It has been identified as the perfect location to attract office workers, parents with children, tourists and novelty seekers. The Café itself, which will open in summer 2013, will have luxurious Victorian style décor, as would be expected of a café named after Alice in Wonderland’s cat. With a capacity for 15 cats and 50 seated customers, the welfare of the animal attractions is very much at the top of the agenda. Lauren has teamed up with The Mayhew Animal Home, known for being one of the busiest and most effective rescue centres in London. Not only will Lady Dinah’s feline residents all be rescues, they will also be carefully selected by personality. ‘We seek cats who are likely to enjoy the cat café lifestyle’, Lauren smiles, ‘lots of attention, lots of playing, lots of other cats, and lots of cuddles.’
Lauren’s enthusiasm is infectious! I am certain Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium will bring benefits to the community in so many ways. Rescue cats will be rehomed, gaining the attention and care they crave. Londoners will be able to get their pet-fix in a welcoming environment, and not feel guilty for stolen moments on the street. Children will have animal encounters without parents adding to the city’s pet population. Tourists will be attracted to the area. The experience will also see newly relaxed customers leaving with smiles on their faces. Then, of course, the café will serve coffee, tea, cake and snacks, and host animal-related evening talks. What is not to like?   
The exciting news is everyone can get involved to help make London’s first cat café a reality. The venture is being crowd-funded, which means you can contribute by purchasing one of a large range of perks. Prices start from £5 to pop in for a petting session to £500 to sponsor a cat. You can also hire Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium for an evening including catering for £2000! In the first fortnight of crowd-funding £15,000 was pledged, over 10% of the total £108,000 target. If this is not reached by midnight on February 15 2013, all donations will be returned and the cat café will remain a dream.
A café full of cats may well be the main attraction, but the venue will be much more than that. ‘The point is having something you don’t get to have in the city. It is a shared space. It is somewhere really different. It is somewhere to relax, somewhere to experience, and somewhere which is mutually beneficial for the cats and customers. It wouldn’t work in Brisbane or Sydney. They’d be like: “A cat café, so what?” Londoners are in the right mindspace where they are really into it.’"

"Coffee, cakes, cats, cuddles, London. Purrfect!"  
DONATE HERE to make it happen:

Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium:
The Mayhew Animal Home:

Photos of Lauren taken by Jemina Wong


CONTACT: Dr Daniel Allen

Tarantula Talk

Chilian Fire Hair Tarantula
"With almost 900 species of the Theraphosidae family of spiders identified, the world of tarantulas is more varied and more challenging than you might assume!

Here, in the first of a series of features about keeping and breeding tarantulas, Dr Daniel Allen chats with two UK-based breeders, Lee Beck and Selina Bailey-Brown."

Daniel Allen, 'Tarantula Talk', Practical Reptile Keeping, March 2013, pp. 14-18. Available 28 January 2013

Saturday, 29 December 2012

The RSPCA Revolution of 2012

"2012 was an eventful year for the RSPCA. Gavin Grant became the new chief executive in January. With a background in communications and public affairs (The Body Shop, Burson-Marsteller UK), Grant quickly got to work on the reputation and finances of the UK’s largest animal charity. ‘Any serious brand focuses on its reputation’, he told Third Sector in February. ‘My job is to generate the income that means there won't be any job losses’, Grant continued. ‘If I'm not successful, the society is not in a sustainable position’.

As a pet magazine columnist, unsavoury stories continued to reach me. Small furry pet breeders and animal education companies hounded due to malicious unsubstantiated allegations; ferrets turned away and redirected to animal specific rescues run on a shoestring; reptiles palmed off to smaller charities; healthy cats and dogs euthanized; rehoming offers refused; and public reports of neglect and cruelty simply dismissed by call centre staff. Issues like these are not new. They have tarnished the reputation of the charity over the decades. Proudly ‘Looking to the Future’, the new management have inherited a multitude of problems deeply ingrained from past mistakes.

This article is not about pets. I would much rather liaise with the new management. Nor is it anti RSPCA. It is a critical account of the charity’s change of direction, and observations of the public backlash to recent events. As an active member of the IUCN / SSC Otter Specialist Group with academic expertise in hunting cultures and the anti- blood sports movement, the rest of the article is worth sparing a few moments of your time.   

In September Gavin Grant pulled off what many at the time considered a PR coup. Dr Brian May CBE of Queen fame was announced as Vice-President..."

THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN COMMISSIONED. It is in the May 2013 issue of The Field magazine. More details to follow. Many thanks for viewing the introduction. 
Dr Daniel Allen 

Dr Daniel Allen is an affiliate member of IUCN / SSC Otter Specialist Group and Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. His doctorate, gained from the University of Nottingham in 2006, explored the geographies of otter hunting in Britain.

After his first book, Otter (Reaktion Books, 2010), Daniel became editor of the Earth series (Reaktion Books, 2012), and a magazine columnist for Small Furry Pets and Practical Reptile Keeping. His next book, The Nature Magpie (Icon Books), will be released in May 2013.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Going Wild and Staying Safe!

"Have you ever wondered who risks life and limb to ensure the world’s most dangerous animals are captured on screen in their deadliest of moments? Or what sort of person advises and oversees the likes of Sir David Attenborough and Steve Backshall during their encounters with such creatures when they are filming? Daniel Allen reports.

One of the few experts who fit this profile is reptile specialist and animal handler, Mark Amey. After handling his first venomous snake as a child, Mark now has over thirty years of experience behind him, and still has all fingers intact! This is a sure sign of skill as far as snakes are concerned, because with some species, just a single bite can cause severe necrosis (tissue death)."

'Going Wild and Staying Safe', and new feature 'Daniel Allen in conversation with...' are in the February 2013 issue of Practical Reptile Keeping

Friday, 24 August 2012

Dr Daniel Allen:

PET NATION columnist Dr Daniel Allen has a new website

"Check out the site to find out more. If you have any pet stories that need to be told, please feel free to contact me."

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Pet Therapy with Reptiles

""... Driven by these thoughts and a rejection letter from P.A.T. about working with the charity; Dale Preece-Kelly has turned his business Critterish Allsorts into the number one independent pet therapy and animal education services in the Midlands, UK. “In our therapy work, we do not just use cats and dogs. We believe that all animals can be therapeutic. Snakes and certain lizards can be therapeutic, as can tortoises! Other fluffy animals also have their worth, when it comes to helping people with their inner struggles.” Today their clients include hospitals, care homes, behavioural units and organisations, fostering organisations, hospices and prisons. ....""

'Pet Therapy with Reptiles' features in the October 2012 issue of Practical Reptile Keeping

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Meeting Asian Small Clawed Otters

"Daphne and Martin Neville have kept Asian small clawed otters in the Cotswolds since 1980. At this time the British Eurasian otter was on the verge of extinction. Recognising that one of the best ways to raise awareness was for the public to meet an otter in person, they added Bee to their family. She went on to appear at over 1,500 events, rubbed shoulders with celebrities and even met the Queen! The Neville’s new otter companions are Belinda and Rudi, who I have had the pleasure of meeting on several occasions. But are they pets?" The whole article will appear in a future issue of Small Furry Pets magazine.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Lab "creations" find comfort in our homes

"They are small, but not very furry. Like other hairless pets, skinny pigs seem to divide opinion. This became obvious at the London and Southern Counties Mouse and Rat Show, where guinea pigs also had a presence. Although I was there to enter my adopted fancy mouse into the show, the mere mention of a skinny pig meant Mr Jingles had to briefly share the limelight. It is strange. I was almost bursting with excitement to meet the hairless guinea pigs I’d heard so much about. My inner-child seemed desperate to meet a Clanger-like creature in the skin, so to speak. My date, on the other hand, was not so happy..." To read the whole article, buy the next issue of Small Furry Pets magazine

'Meeting the Skinny Pigs', features in this issue of Small Furry Pets.

Copies of Small Furry Pets magazine are available for £3.50 from my website shop. Please visit:

Sunday, 17 June 2012


My PET NATION column launched in issue 3 (Summer) of Small Furry Pets magazine. The first encounter, 'Meeting a House Skunk in Hampshire', features Magick the Skunk and his owner Laura Knight.

Copies of Small Furry Pets magazine are available for £3.50 from my website shop. Please visit: