Once again our glorious government has (dare I say it?) screwed the pooch with some new, knee-jerk legislative proposals:
Every dog owner in the UK would have to take out insurance against their pet attacking someone under government proposals to tackle dangerous breeds.
Police and local councils could also get new powers to force the owners of dangerous dogs to muzzle them or even get them neutered.
Why oh why oh why is it so consarned difficult for the government to get the slightest thing right?
Let’s start with the basic premise here: any dog, even a Peke or a Pomeranian is a descendent of a wolf. Even that lolling, happy Golden Retriever. So it’s true that deep down, any dog has the potential to be dangerous. However, most breeds have had the danger bred out of them and most people don’t want a dangerous dog, so they don’t buy “dangerous” dogs. So why are all dog owners being told that they have to have this insurance? Why aren’t specific dangerous breeds being targeted? And in fact, why aren’t just individual dangerous dogs being targeted?
I’ve known Rottweilers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers that were as docile as lambs because they were trained to perfection. But their owners still wouldn’t leave children with them unattended. Their owners would always make sure that the dogs were properly locked up when (invited) strangers were roaming the property to avoid risk as far as possible. The dogs were always leashed in public and brought to heel if other dogs were around. If it sounds like the owners were remarkably considerate and intelligent, then that’s because they were.
Which brings us to the real issue here: while any dog can be dangerous, conversely (almost) any “dangerous” dog can be made safe by a combination of training and consideration. The issue here is that the people who are buying dangerous dogs and want dangerous dogs shouldn’t be allowed to take their dangerous dogs out in public. There should be a very clear policy of one warning and then the dog is put down. If they want a dangerous dog, they can keep in their own property and deal with the “issues arising” themselves.
But anyway, why are we even discussing this, apart from the fact that there’s an election impending and the postman is posturing to look tough to try and win votes?
Each week, more than 100 people are admitted to hospital after dog attacks.
There are approximately twenty-five million households in the UK. Approximately one in five has a dog (it’s slightly more, but it’s going to be easier to work with round-ish numbers here) so we have roughly five million dog-owning homes and roughly five thousand dog attacks per annum. Let’s be generous and say “more than 100 means 200″, even though it’s more likely to be 101. This means that 0.00002% of dog owners own dogs that have attacked someone enough that they go to a doctor about it, every year. And really, some of those attacks will have been someone being wilfully stupid, as well. Do all dog owners really need the cost and hassle of this because of the behaviour of, at worst, 0.00002% of dog owners? (And I have no axe to grind, I’ve never owned a dog and it’s extremely unlikely that I ever will!)
The government wants to amend the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act, under which four types of dogs – the pit bull terrier, the Japanese tosa, the dogo Argentinos and the fila brasileiros – are banned.
It wants to tweak the law so that the breeds are banned from people’s homes – rather than simply from public property, as is currently the case.
It is argued that this will also protect postal workers, telecoms engineers and other people whose work often takes them onto private land.
Oh dear. There is a much simpler way of doing this, isn’t there? Put the post box outside the property and lock the dog away if a stranger has to have access. Writing a general law on the basis of a handful of rather poor specific cases is a terrible thing to do.
Anyway, here’s the tough talk from the postman:
Home Secretary Alan Johnson said: “Britain is a nation of animal lovers, but people have a fundamental right to feel safe on the streets and in their homes.
“The vast majority of dog owners are responsible, but there is no doubt that some people breed and keep dogs for the soul purpose of intimidating others, in a sense using dogs as a weapon.
“It is this sort of behaviour that we will not tolerate; it is this sort of behaviour that we are determined to stop.”
Really, Mr Johnson? Determined to stop the behaviour of the tiniest of minorities with pointless and expensive bureaucracy that only the people who are keeping “safe” dogs will pay the blindest bit of attention to anyway?
Some other postmen are up in arms as well:
Postal unions welcomed the move as “long overdue”.
“Thousands of our members are attacked at work every year,” said Billy Hayes, general secretary of the CWU.
Thousands of your members are attacked every year? The very thought brings tears to my eyes.
But I would say that a postman has the right to safety, and if he doesn’t trust the dog, he really should just leave the post in the gate or fence. The owners of dangerous dogs shouldn’t escape all consequences for their decisions.
And it’s also rather curious that the people owning “dangerous” dogs are not actually being punished, even if they do actually bother to take out the insurance: quite unlike “victims” of second-hand smoke, where the owner of the premises can wind up in jail like Nick Hogan did, there is no direct punishment meted out to even insured transgressors – the real cost burden is borne by all insured dog owners. And the more attacks there are, the higher their premiums will be, even if their own dogs are sweet as pie! If they followed the line of argument that held sway in smoking debate, we might have seen the delicious prospect of Glasgow Council Leader Steven Purcell jailed for being the technical owner of premises known to house the tattooed, drug-addled, foul mouthed, Stella swigging owner of a savage attack dog.
Let’s face it, those dogs are rarely owned by Conservative voting, moustachioed, retired admirals in Surrey.
But curiously, in this particular case, society is to blame and must bear the costs.
It is left to the increasingly useless RSPCA to point out that the proposed legislation is utterly worthless:
The RSPCA said a serious debate on the issue was needed, concentrating on curbing irresponsible pet ownership.
“There is a real need for updated legislation that enables enforcers to tackle the problem effectively and prevent serious incidents from occurring rather than waiting till after a tragedy or penalising certain dogs just because of their breed or type.”
Which is exactly what this regulation will not help: it will not prevent tragedies and it will penalise the owners of all dogs for the behaviour of an insignificant minority. It will ignore all efforts by responsible owners to prevent any tragedy. In fact, I suspect it will lead to even more attacks, as people care less and less about the consequences of their lack of training for all dogs, not just dangerous ones.
There is already sufficient bad legislation to take care of such situations, we do not need any more. I can only assume that this is an example of the nonsensical pandering to unions that the Labour government will be offering us in the run-up to the general election in order to keep the brothers on side and donating generously.