Busy times... A Presidential Address


Busy times... A Presidential Address

Busy Times…

By Dave Charles, AVS President 2018/2019

As well as being a final year at Bristol Vet School, I have the immense privilege of being your Association of Veterinary Students President. My committee and I have achieved so much already, since I took over in February and with 5 months left in office there’s still lots to be done!

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The big theme for my year (and a large part of my manifesto) as President has been supporting students on EMS.

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We hit the ground running in Spring 2018, partnering with VDS Training to bring you the first ever AVS EMS Grants. We’ve listened to your feedback and felt that producing grants that are open to any student for any form of clinical EMS (not just research) would allow us to have a real impact and improve people’s time on EMS. Applications open now!

In August, our Member Services Group finished an 18 month project - launching The AVS Clinical EMS Guide. This means we can now support students from their AHEMS in first year to their last week of clinical EMS in final year through our amazing student produced guides. I was also lucky enough to attend a meeting of the EMS teams at every vet school and as a result both our clinical EMS and AHEMS guides will be freely available via your university in both digital and hard copy. We also partnered with Vets4Pets to stock it in practices across the country.

The third, and final arm of the EMS project this year was the EMS Experience survey which had an incredible response rate (approximately 25% of you). Off the back of your feedback we have produced a report that will launch at London Vet Show, alongside resources for vets in practice to help them make EMS placements the best they can be for you. We also secured a multi year partnership with the team at London Vet Show, allowing our members to come at a greatly reduced price starting at £39.

I want to also take this opportunity to thank everyone who attended one of our events this year; from the biggest ever AVS Congress, to Sports Weekend or any of the fantastic guest lectures our university reps organise. Also to everyone who engaged with our polls, surveys or focus groups - the more we hear from you the more we can ensure we’re the voice in the room representing you on the issues that matter be that to the RCVS, the BVA, your veterinary schools or anyone else!


Make sure you stay connected: like us on facebook, follow us on twitter, chat to your university AVS reps and keep any eye out for further updates to hear the latest news about what your AVS are getting up to - we absolutely love to hear from you to help shape the direction AVS takes!

We’re hugely looking forwards to welcoming more of you than ever before to Sports Weekend in November (Nottingham have some big plans), and hopefully seeing lots of you at London Vet Show using our exclusive AVS discount. Then in February it’s all about Congress at RVC, where we’ll award our inaugural AVS EMS Grants, open elections for next years committee and I’ll handover to my successor.

I look forwards to meeting as many of you as possible throughout the year ahead,

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The British Primate Pet Trade: time to bring it to an end


The British Primate Pet Trade: time to bring it to an end

The British Primate Pet Trade: time to bring it to an end

By: Heather Coupe, Bristol

Primate usage in both scientific and zoological establishments is heavily regulated. Both great apes and wild-caught primates are prohibited in a research setting throughout the EU, and ‘special justification’ is mandatory for all other primates (Jennings, 2010). So, why are UK regulations regarding the primate pet trade so nonchalant and, for want of a better word, negligent?


At this very moment, you or I could browse the internet and purchase a primate with little to nothing stopping us. With a quick google search and a few clicks, adverts such as “baby pygmy marmoset for sale”, “marmoset monkey looking for a good home” and “capuchin, marmoset, squirrel and spider monkeys for sale” were easily discovered. Not only is this information shocking, but it highlights several problems with this online trade. Many of these adverts fail to speciate the primate for sale and simply state the type, such as “marmoset” or “capuchin”, as above. There are also certain species such as the cotton-top tamarin which are graded as critically endangered by the IUCN (Savage and Causado, 2014).

Wild Futures estimate that anywhere between 3,000 and 9,000 primates are present within the UK pet trade, but exactly how many is currently unknown. Local authority data can, however, provide information regarding primates licensed under the Dangerous Wild Animals act, revealing that 339 individuals were licensed in 2012 (RSPCA, 2016). Worryingly, the British trade in pet primates by no means appears to be slowing down. In 2013, calls to the RSPCA’s Cruelty and Advice Line saw a 73% increase in comparison to 2012, representing the highest number in over a decade (RSPCA, 2016).

According to a decade of RSPCA data, the predominant ‘pet of choice’ for primate enthusiasts in the UK appears to be the marmoset (81%), followed by the capuchin and squirrel monkey (RSPCA, 2016). Most of these animals appear to be acquired from breeders and private dealers, though specialist dealers and pet shops have also been implicated in their supply (Soulsbury et al., 2008).

The ability to experience emotions and suffer is not exclusive to humans within the primate order, and some species are even able to reflect on past feelings and experiences. This, theoretically, could enhance their capacity to suffer (Smith and Boyd, 2002). Within the last decade, the RSPCA has investigated 497 separate incidents involving at least 937 ‘pet’ primates. This is estimated to be “four to twelve times higher than calls about more common companion animals” (RSPCA, 2016), raising a whole range of welfare concerns about our ability to provide for their needs effectively.

Primates are, for the most part, highly social beings forming complex and sophisticated relationships with one another. Social dependence on other group members continues for a prolonged period after nutritional weaning, and the ability to interact with one another provides the opportunity for enrichment, learning, solace and security (DEFRA, 2010). One study on the long-term effects of social deprivation in primates analysed black-capped capuchins rescued from the primate pet trade.

Results showed significantly higher frequencies of abnormal behaviours in the individuals kept in social isolation when compared to those kept in social groups (Bee, 2017). Though it may be fairly obvious to us as veterinary students that primates should be housed in groups, an astonishing 60% of primates out of 198 RSPCA incidents were housed alone according to RSPCA investigations (RSPCA, 2016).


The practice of hand-rearing, widely used to produce more ‘tame’ animals, is exceptionally common among breeders. Investigating UK websites selling primates, I found high levels of sales adverts for hand-reared individuals, with one advert charging nearly double for hand vs parent-reared squirrelmonkeys, stating that “the monkeys will be more sociable and friendly due to the human bond already established”. Early weaning is to be strongly discouraged, having been linked to copious problems in later life to include abnormal behaviours, reduced breeding and aggressive tendencies (Hevesi, 2005). It has also been associated with lifelong medical complications such as dental and bone developmental problems (National Anti-Vivisection Society, 2008).

Unsuitable housing and poor provision of needs is seen extensively among private primate keepers, whether intentional or not. Primates are exceptionally intelligent beings and providing a sufficient captive environment is nigh-on impossible. RSPCA data revealed that over a quarter of enclosures were deemed inappropriately small, with some measuring only 0.27m 2 area and 0.6m height (RSPCA,2016). These small housing situations cause unnecessary stress due to restriction of their ability to escape both conflict and aversive stimuli. Monkey World have rescued 78 pet monkeys and apes from Britain since 1989 and report that these individuals come from “some of the worst conditions” among those at the sanctuary (Thinking of Keeping a Monkey as a Pet?, 2014). Sub-optimal conditions in primates have been association with a vast spectrum of atypical behaviours to include abnormal repetitive behaviours, self-harm and depression. Examples of poor welfare related to this include pacing, rocking, self-biting, over-grooming and consumption of urine and faeces (DEFRA, 2010). From a dietary perspective, replicating primates specialised nutritional requirements in captivity is challenging, demonstrated with the high prevelance of Wasting Marmoset Syndrome in captive populations (National Anti-Vivisection Society, 2008). The high sugar and carbohydrate alongside the low fibre content in owners’ diets, when fed to pet primates results in medical issues such as tooth decay, diabetes and heart disease (National Anti-Vivisection Society, 2008).

From a conservational standpoint, international trade in primates has been identified as a significant endangerment to their conservational status (Nijman et al., 2011). The business of trafficking exotic animals is valued at $12 billion per annum, and evidence now links this market to other illegal trades, particularly consumption of bushmeat (National Anti-Vivisection Society, 2008). A study on the Critically Endangered Margarita capuchin monkeys investigated the impact of the pet trade on their conservational status. Results revealed that out of the 300 individuals in the wild population, at least 100 have been hunted in the past 25 years for the pet trade (Ceballos-Mago, González and Chivers, 2010).

The suitability of primates in a household setting should also be considered from a zoonotic perspective. A study on pet capuchin monkeys detected intestinal parasites known to survive in bothhumans and domestic species such as Blastocystis hominis, Strongyloides stercolaris and Ancylostomas sp. (Ceballos-Mago, González and Chivers, 2010). The origins of many pet primates cannot be definitively proven, and most species are able to transmit diseases that could impose significant risk to human health such as Ebola, Herpes B and Tuberculosis (National Anti-Vivisection Society, 2008). On the contrary, there are several human diseases that monkeys and apes potentially have little to no resistance towards such as the common cold, measles and influenza (National Anti-Vivisection Society, 2008).

There are three main laws currently in place to restrict trade in primates as pets in the UK. The Animal Welfare Act 2006, in which private primate keepers (and all pet owners) have a duty of care to their animals and must prevent unnecessary suffering (RSPCA, 2016). This had two major flaws; first, most pet primates are untraceable so there is no effective way to monitor their welfare and second, this legislation contains no specific controls for primates (British Veterinary Association, 2014). To combat the latter, Defra created the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Privately Kept Primates (“Primate Code”) in 2010 (DEFRA, 2010). Although owners are not legally obliged to follow the primate code, this code can be used as evidence in court if required. However, this guidance is decidedly open to interpretation due to the non-specificity of applying to all primates, from lemur to chimpanzee. The BVA have issued concerns with this code that it could be seen as “a sign of approval by the general public that it was ethically acceptable to keep such species in their home” (British Veterinary Association, 2014). The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 is a UK law restricting the keeping of the majority of primate species without a local authority license (RSPCA, 2016). This legislation interestingly does not apply to many of the most commonly kept species such as marmosets, tamarins and squirrel monkeys. In addition, one study suggested that only an estimated 5-15% of owners who should be in possession of this license actually have one (Greenwood, Cusdin and Radford, 2001), with those wrongly not in possession facing minimal consequences. The Pet Animals Act 1951 states that licenses are required for any persons selling animals as part of a business (RSPCA, 2016). Unsurprisingly, this also has its limitations in that it has proven difficult for local authorities to show that purchases are business transactions, and application to internet selling has proved challenging in recent years.

So, what can be done to reduce this trade further? A ban on specific species and/or groups of primates as pets has been established in 15 European countries to date (RSPCA, 2016). In order to facilitate this ban, most of these countries gave existing owners a time period – usually three to six months – in which to alert the authorities and register the primate in their care (RSPCA, 2016). This would be beneficial in the UK as it would avoid having to rehome potentially thousands of primates. However, the BVA has expressed concerns as to whether a general licensing scheme would effectively target ‘non-compliant keepers who would be unlikely to participate’ (British Veterinary Association, 2014). Other countries such as Denmark also require individual identification of each primate and forbade the breeding of pet primates (RSPCA, 2016).

Several organisations have already released clear statements opposing the suitability of primates as pets to include The Primate Society of Great Britain, The International Primatological Society and Ape Alliance. If all of these well-respected professionals are saying no, why are the government not taking action? Even if we can all agree that primates are not suitable pets, implementing a total ban could prove difficult and could drive the market underground. The best option, in my opinion, would not be to decriminalise the trade, but to add in extra regulations including background checks, obligatory training programmes and certificates. We could then, as a nation, work towards gradual decriminalisation and keep primates where they belong…in the wild!



Bee, K. (2017). The long term effects of social deprivation on black-capped capuchins (Sapajus apella) rescued from the primate pet trade. The Plymouth Student Scientist, 10(2), pp.4-27.

British Veterinary Association (2014). BVA Submission to EFRA Inquiry Into The Keeping Of Primates As Pets. [online] Available at: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/environment-food-and-rural-affairs-committee/primates-as-pets/written/5183.html [Accessed 6 Aug. 2018].

Ceballos-Mago, N., González, C. and Chivers, D. (2010). Impact of the pet trade on the Margarita capuchin monkey Cebus apella margaritae. Endangered Species Research, [online] 12(1), pp.57-68. Available at:
https://www.int-res.com/articles/esr2010/12/n012p057.pdf [Accessed 12 Jul. 2018].

DEFRA: Code of Practice for the Welfare of Privately Kept Non-Human Primates. (2010). [ebook] London: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, p.1. Available at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/wildlife-pets/pets/cruelty/index.htm [Accessed 15 Jul. 2018].

Greenwood, A., Cusdin, P. and Radford, M. (2001). Effectiveness Study of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976. [ebook] West Yorkshire: International Zoo Veterinary Group, p.43. Available at: http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Document.aspx?Document=WP01013_3997_FRP.pdf [Accessed 27 Jun. 2018].

Hevesi, R. (2005). Welfare and health implications for primates kept as pets. Born to be wild: Primates are not pets, pp.8-29. International Fund for Animal Welfare, UK.

Jennings, M. (2010). Special protection for primates – the need for faster progress. Alternatives to Animal Experimentation 27: Special issue.

National Anti-Vivisection Society. (2008). NAVS : Campaigns : Parliamentary Briefing : Primates as Pets. [online] Available at: http://www.navs.org.uk/campaigns/go.php?id=1397 [Accessed 5 Aug. 2018].

Nijman, V., Nekaris, K., Donati, G., Bruford, M. and Fa, J. (2011). Primate conservation: measuring and mitigating trade in primates. Endangered Species Research, [online] 13(2), pp.159-161. Available at: https://www.int-res.com/articles/esr_oa/n013p159.pdf [Accessed 12 Jun. 2018].

RSPCA: Do you give a monkey's? The need for a ban on pet primates. (2016). [ebook] The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, pp.4-11. Available at: https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/other/primates [Accessed 23 Jul. 2018].

Savage, A. & Causado, J. 2014. Saguinus oedipus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014: e.T19823A17930260. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2014-3.RLTS.T19823A17930260.en. [Accessed 12 Aug. 2018].

Smith, J. and Boyd, K. (2002). The use of non-human primates in research and testing. [ebook] Leicester: The British Psychological Society, p. 3. Available at: http://www.bps.org.uk [Accessed 6 Aug. 2018].

Soulsbury, C., Iossa, G., Kennell, S. and Harris, S. (2008). The Welfare and Suitability of Primates Kept as Pets. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 12(1), pp.1-20.

Thinking of Keeping a Monkey as a Pet?. (2014). [Blog] Educational Visits UK. Available at: (9) http://www.educationalvisitsuk.com/blog/thinking-of-keeping-a-monkey-as-a-pet [Accessed 25 Jun. 2018].


67th IVSA Congress in Kraków


67th IVSA Congress in Kraków

An Eye Opening IVSA Experience - The 67th IVSA Congress in Kraków

By Vicky Kwok, Cambridge.

VIcky won the AVS Connect Award - this was awarded earlier in the year and provided financial assistance for a vet student to attend an international event.

Sat in the presence of like-minded people, sharing the same passion for animals, yet having very different cultures and journeys to vet school, I had never felt a stronger sense of belonging.

It was only earlier this year that I had first heard of IVSA, and I remember thinking to myself - it's time to get out of the Cambridge bubble. Before I knew it, I found myself procrastinating on the IVSA website and realising just how much I was missing out on. It all happened within a month: first being elected onto the UK & Ireland committee and becoming the Cambridge IVSA Junior Rep, then applying for the Congress and frantically researching where to obtain funding - student life! Fortunately I was honoured the AVS Connect Award and further grants from Clare College, so that I could comfortably confirm my place as a delegate. The hype did not stop as my inbox gradually received more updates and information packs about the forthcoming Congress.

Not long had passed and it was finally the big day. Finally getting to know the other 12 lovely delegates from 6 different veterinary schools across UK and Ireland really helped me settle in. The first evening in Krakow was absolutely crazy with what felt like a thousand names to learn! Nonetheless, the trip to the local brewery was a nice treat and I think I made an interesting impression with a classic Asian flush after a few sips of beer...


The next day proved to be a little unlucky since it was pouring with rain. Our sightseeing trip of the city centre quickly became a great bonding session in McDonalds, albeit being cold and wet. However, this all turned around during the Cultural Evening later that night. With everyone gathered in their respective countries representing 33 different nations, having prepared various authentic foods and drink, it was so incredible to see how this Congress could bring people of all cultures together! And despite knowing we had 6am wake-up calls, many of us took part in the infamous shot challenge - free alcohol everywhere is hard to resist...

Before attending the Congress, I had little knowledge of what a General Assembly was. I learned so much from the first few hours of GA, from the impressive projects the Standing Committees had been working on, to the incredible global opportunities that we as IVSA members can undertake, not to mention the renowned IVSA "wobble" dance. Although there were times I was super knackered and the "amendments to the amendments etc" were quite tedious, it was amazing nonetheless, to be a part of the work in progress and to witness the flourish of IVSA.


One of my most memorable trips was the visit to Zakopane. It was a stunning town in the country, complete with beautiful scenery. We also probably ate a day's worth of food at the hotel lunch buffet that day, but despite our food babies, we continued to have quality time in the swimming pool straight after. I felt like such a kid again, getting overly excited about a slide and a few floats. Attempting the wobble dance in the pool was also a ton of fun, even though I could barely touch the bottom - the struggle was real. After a beautiful night's sleep, we went on a hike in the gorgeous Tatra Mountains and managed to spot a wild bear amongst the bushes. During lunch we sat by the river, whilst one of the OC girls played her ukelele and sang for us - it was perfect.


As always, time flew by and before we started to get to know each other properly it was the penultimate evening, the Official Dinner. It was definitely a highlight for me. Everyone looked so "priti" all glammed up. That night when the newly elected committee was announced and the organising committee delivered their speeches, I knew this experience was slowly coming to an end. Nevertheless, the following evening, the White Tshirt Party gave us the last opportunity to bid our farewells and dance the night away.

Embarking on this Congress has been an eye-opening experience and undeniably one of the best decisions of my life. Importantly it has highlighted to me the significance of student wellness, through multiple workshops on self-care and stress management. Besides all the lasting memories created over the twelve days, I have not only met life-long friends, but also become a part of the most incredible IVSA family. I am very grateful for this experience and I encourage you guys to get involved in the numerous projects and opportunities IVSA has to offer, including the 67th IVSA Symposium in South Korea this winter!



The Dangerous Dog Dilemma


The Dangerous Dog Dilemma

The Dangerous Dog Dilemma

By Mike Frill, Cambridge

In a week where MPs held a general consult on the Dangerous Dogs Act (1991), PETA shocked everybody by backing a move to add Staffordshire Bull Terriers to the act.  Branding a stereotype on one of the most commonly kept breeds in the UK was unsurprisingly, not popular amongst the general public. The deeper you delve, the easier it is to see that PETA are making a point that we badly need to be reminded of.


Media coverage of the statement prompted 18,000 UK residents to sign an e-petition opposing the ban, and one MP branded PETA a “ridiculous organisation” for publicly voicing the view. The point wasn’t even up for debate; parliament made it clear that within the consult, there were no plans to add Staffordshire Bull Terriers to the list of banned breeds. PETAs message and the parliamentary debate where never in the same line of thinking, and so the public reaction to PETAs message was on different terms to the issue up for debate. PETA were too quick to make a controversial statement; they clearly planned to grab people’s attention- and they did that- but the claim was a bit too close to home for many dog owners. The media also had a role to play in this confusion. PETA didn’t have chance to explain themselves before the headlines were brandished across the UK media, and from there, the whole consult became about banning Staffordshire Bull Terriers- and the real message of their statement lost all meaning. The public reach was fundamentally flawed, and as such, it was a disaster.


Let’s be clear on PETA’s message. The media’s reports are true in that PETA want to support a ban on breeding Staffordshire Bull Terriers; but more than that, they would support a blanket ban on breeding all dog breeds. The current state of dog breeding in the UK is outdated, but we are a country that prides ourselves in leading the world in animal welfare. Currently, anybody can breed dogs and sell them for profit. Protected by the Animal Welfare Act (2006), dogs are not legally farmed or mistreated, but without question, this unregulated practice has worsened breed-related conditions. Dogs are freely being bred through a narrowing gene pool, and as such, the law is neglecting their welfare. The underlying message people should get from PETAs statement is that people should be adopting the thousands of dogs in shelters and pounds around the world desperate for a home, rather than bringing more animals into the world, destined for rescue centres- or worse.Why are Staffordshire Bull Terriers the focus of this debate? Pit bull-type dogs have their own breed pre-disposition: they are the worst-treated dogs in the world. The RSPCA claim that 80% of cruelty to animals’ prosecutions concern Staffordshire Bull Terriers. Of course, not every Staffordshire Bull Terrier is mistreated, on the contrary, most are loyal, friendly and energetic, but the reputation of the breed is ruined by the minority who exploit them. From a utilitarian ethical viewpoint, it makes perfect sense to protect them from being bred into a world that mistreats them. Breeding dogs in a regulated way, both by health and by population size would have a multitude of benefits. Vets could have a say on the dogs that can breed based on their health, and economists could regulate their population, so less are likely to end up in rescue centres. The difficulties in this lie in the legislation by which we own dogs; they are covered by property law, and as such, people can do as they wish with their dogs. Changing this requires a fundamental shake-up lots of the laws that govern the way we keep animals. You could only ‘licence’ breeders if you could prove that it is dangerous to breed dogs without one- and that isn’t the case for most breeders.Dogs have to be protected from haphazard and thoughtless breeding by those who don’t know enough about it, or have the wrong intentions in mind. Those dogs in rescue kennels have to be given another chance at life. Perhaps the so-called ‘consumers’ also have to be protected from the unbelievable price tag that can come with popular breed puppies. When you think about it, PETA’s position doesn’t look so radical, after all.


It's Not Always Sunny in Philadelphia


It's Not Always Sunny in Philadelphia

It's Not Always Sunny in Philadelphia

By Kiera Hurley-Bennett, RVC

Kiera spent time at PennVet in Philadelphia, USA completing an externship.

Why did you go to Philadelphia?


I saw it as an opportunity to travel whilst also doing some EMS. PennVet is known for an amazing ECC service so it seemed like a great place to learn more about it seeing as it is an area I am interested in going into after graduation. I also thought it would be a good opportunity to see practice in the USA to decided whether or not to sit the NAVLE (it's a now or never thing for me because my equine and farm knowledge will go out the window after finals)

What did you get up to/what is your daily routine?

- I did a 2 week externship on ICU at the small animal hospital. Our hours were 7am-6pm Monday to Friday with weekend shifts helping out with SOAPs and patient transfers from the emergency service. Our main responsibilities were SOAPing and following the progress of primary ICU patients, and assisting in the care of patients from other services that were being managed in ICU, commonly post-surgery cases. We had a selection of 'packs' on various topics to work through for rounds, and had teaching rounds with the senior clinicians, residents, and intern every day for up to 3 hours! Some of the cases I saw: aspiration pneumonia, septic abdomens, 3 (!) post-surgery PDAs, DKA, heart worm, pacemakers, ruptured biliary mucoceles, parvo and distemper infection......


Was it always sunny?

- Never believe what you hear on TV kids.

What did you learn?

- So much! You were kept very involved in the discussion of patient management and any procedures that were performed. Teaching rounds were absolutely incredible, going really in depth on topics such as blood gas analysis, fluid therapy, and a practical session of TFAST and AFAST. The hospital has a memorial service where owners can donate their pets for education, so we were able to practice placements of central venous catheters, trachestomy tubes, chest tubes and centesis techniques in a wet lab session. I also quickly learnt to have conversions in my note book for weights, temperatures and common drug names! If you suggest using Hartmann's in the US, prepare for a lot of blank stares, and prepare for your spelling of everything to be incorrect (even if they might be correct in the UK!)

Who were you working alongside?

- I was in a small group with a final year Penn student, and another extern from Glasgow vet school. We were able to work closely with all members of the team from Vet Techs up to senior faculty members. I was lucky to work with Dr Deborah Silverstein who is co-author of 'Small Animal Critical Care Medicine', one of the bibles of veterinary ECC.

How did you get this opportunity and what can other students do emulate you?

- PennVet offers an externship programme for every clinical service it runs, including its large animal clinics. You can choose to do up to 4 weeks of externship (1 or 2 services) and the school does not charge you to attend (unlike some of the other US vet schools who offer externships). They were very happy to offer me a place and overly helpful with planning knowing I was travelling a large distance to go there! Penn vet students are often away on externships of their own, so it was easy to find a sublet from a Penn student a very convenient distance from the school and much cheaper than staying in a hotel! The school is also located close to the centre of Philly which has lots of historic sites and is super easy to navigate. The only regret I have is that I didn't go for 4 weeks!