Bella Moss Memorial gathering a celebration of a dog's life-and a campaign’s growth
Nick Mays Chief Reporter
LAST SUNDAY marked an important anniversary in the formation of the Bella Moss Foundation, formed in memory of 10 year-old Samoyed Bella, who died from MRSA, having contracted the infection at a veterinary hospital after undergoing routine surgery for a ligament rupture.
A ceremony in memory of Bella was held on Sunday 23 August at the home of owner-Jill Moss, in Edgware, North London, where friends, fellow campaigners and dog owners whose dogs had also contracted MRSA in the past year watched as Jill and her friend Mark Dosher planted a tree in Bella's memory.
On that tragic day, Bella's owner, actress Jill Moss vowed that her beloved pet's death would not be in vain and that she would see to it that pet owners were made aware of the dangers of MRSA and that he veterinary profession would take it seriously. Jill became determined to make changes to prevent any other animal's death in the same way and contacted Claire Rayner, President of the Patients Association who helped Jill set up The Bella Moss Foundation, which now helps hundreds of pets suffering with MRSA.
Amongst the guests at the ceremony was well known homeopathic vet, writer and broadcaster Richard Allport who used to treat Bella for minor ailments before she injured herself and had to undergo surgery at the north London veterinary hospital where she contracted MRSA.
Richard told OUR DOGS: "I admire and respect all he hard work that Jill has done to raise awareness of MRSA in pets. It is high time that the veterinary profession as a whole saw the proliferation of cases of MRSA as something to be concerned about. I'm pleased to say, it is now being taken seriously."
Jill Moss planted the tree - a white cherry blossom - and then spoke to the large number of guests who had attended, thanked them for their support and brought them up to date with how the campaign was going" I sat on the floor of the veterinary hospital as Bella slowly drowned in her own bodily fluids because they would not give her the treatment she needed," said Jill. "No dog owner should have to go through that ever. Better hygiene is required, better treatment for MRSA is needed, but slowly, gradually, the message is getting through. And it is so good to see so many owners here with their dogs who have survived MRSA, and I thank you all for your tremendous support.
"Bella was a unique dog, my soulmate, my closest companion. But her death will not have been in vain if we can make sure that no other pet dies of MRSA, which is totally preventable." "Bella's death is the tip of the iceberg and has become a big wake up call for the veterinary profession," says Moss. "The purpose of the charity is to raise awareness and educate both owners and vets, and we do this through campaigning, conferences and piloting research studies. I am now representing pet owners on the DARC (Defra Antimicrobial Resistance Committee) sub-committee looking into MRSA in animals and I hope that we can work with the veterinary organisations in the future.
There is much more that needs to be done." Jill Moss added: "On average I receive a 100 calls a month worldwide with reported cases of pets who have become infected following surgery. The common strain we are seeing in dogs and horses is EMRSA 15, which is the most virulent human strain. This means simply that people are infecting animals!" In the past 18 months, 310 cases of MRSA in animals in Britain have been reported to the government.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) had previously claimed there were between 10 and 20 infections a year. Vets are being urged by the BVA to take precautions such as wearing sterile gloves and masks to prevent vulnerable pets picking up potentially deadly infections while undergoing operations.
Dr Freda Scott-Park, president-elect of the BVA, said there had been no recorded cases of MRSA being passed from animals to humans. She also insisted meat controls since the BSE crisis were so stringent that it was highly unlikely the antibiotic-resistant bacteria would be passed into the food chain. A DEFRA spokesperson said the committee on MRSA in animals had been set up as a precaution and it was designing Studies to obtain information on the extent of the problem and its possible implications for livestock and humans.
The first case of MRSA in an animal was documented in 1999 by David Lloyd, professor of dermatology at the Royal Veterinary College, who had been warning about the bug's potential impact for many years. University College Dublin scientists recently found signs of the bug in 25 animals including 14 dogs, eight horses, a cat, a rabbit and a seal, as well as 10 workers in veterinary surgeries. It is not known how the seal came to be seen by a vet. The researchers say the strain found in horses is unlike anything they have seen before and are convinced that at least one of the types of MRSA they discovered has been passed from humans to animals
Jill Moss and Mark Dosher planting Bella’s Memorial Cherry tree
Jill Moss in front of Bella's memorial tree flanked by the owners of the other dogs who contracted MRSA this year. L to R: Trish and Terry Salisbury with Weinerarmer 'Tarka', Katrina Beckett with Staffle 'Jessie', Jill Moss, John and Viv Boon with GSD 'Duke', Graham and Mary Marriott with English Bull terrier 'Bud'
Steven Clarke reads his poem in tribute to Bella
The guests – many of whom brought dogs that had suffered from MRSA – listening to Jill Moss.