The government’s knee-jerk reaction to dangerous dogs.
The government are presently thinking about reforming the Dangerous Dog Act 1991 which clearly prohibits the ownership of certain types of dog. This is based not on particular breeds, but “types” of dog deemed to be of dangerous heritage. It also makes it a criminal offense to allow ANY breed of dog to be out of control in a public place, or a place where it is not allowed. This includes causing fear or apprehension to a person, that it may injure them. But some people believe that by creating a dangerous breed list, it has made such dogs even more desirable. NHS statistics claim that the number of people being treated for dog bites has risen 40% in the last four years.
So why are these dogs being so aggressive? Is it the “breed” or “type?” Or is the owners? Having been raised with dogs my parents had boarding kennels, competitive dog training club, security kennels, and we also bred large breeds of dog, Irish Wolfhounds and Rottweilers, I have to say, it is 99.9% the owners fault. I have also spent some of my working life as a security dog trainer and a city Dog Warden, where the dogs were the easy part. It was the owners that came with them that were the problem, with a string of excuses for their dogs bad behaviour or frequent escapes and their claims that their dogs had "rights" over and above those of people. The irresponsible owners always blamed their dogs, never themselves.
Excluding those who have some physical issues, such as a brain tumor or are the result of inbreeding, dogs will only exhibit “bad manners” or “naughty” behaviour if we let them do so unchallenged! It’s as simple as that. It is our complete lack of leadership skills that allow a dog’s bad/unsocial behaviour to continue. Dogs are animals, and should be treated as such. They need boundaries and rules, as would be perfectly normal in a pack in the wild, in which to live a happy, contented life. Dogs are not people and many aggressive dogs are created from a life of misguided love and affection and not as most people would believe a life of bad treatment. For example a fluffy puppy growling aggressively when you approach his favourite toy should be treated as an out-right challenge to your leadership and should be corrected there and then, but irresponsible owners see it as funny and cute, totally disregarding that it increases the puppy’s status and dominance in the household and by default encourages aggression. The irresponsible owner sees they have done nothing wrong. One of the outcomes of this is that dogs’ homes are full to capacity and are having to destroy many more dogs than normal. BBC Panorama states that a large percentage of the dogs destroyed are Staffordshire Bull Terrier types. Battersea Dog’s Home destroyed almost 3,000 dogs in 2009. My parents’ kennels had the contract for stray dogs back in the 1970s on the Bedfordshire/Northamptonshire border and had to destroy over 360 dogs a year even though they only covered a radius of 30 miles. They re-homed all they could, but 360 dogs one year becomes 720 the second year. They had to be realistic then just as we have to be realistic today.
The government’s plan to introduce more ways of simply taxing dog ownership, licenses, micro-chips, completing a list of details, compulsory vets bills and third party insurance costs, will simply not work. It does nothing to promote responsible dog ownership, instead adding to the government income. Only the responsible dog owners will comply.
Interestingly, the rise in dog attacks seems to have increased with the rise in “animal lovers” criticizing owners who handle and correct their dogs firmly. Perhaps if a lot more owners had been firmer with their dogs, there wouldn’t be so many tragic attacks and unwanted unruly dogs.
Perhaps we should look at Germany, where (in addition to license fees, muzzling, micro-chipping, neutering) you are not allowed to own a dog that is considered potentially dangerous without having passed a special aptitude test that if passed only lasts 5 years and only relates to the dog that is tested with the owner. You are also not allowed to own one of the listed breeds (similar but longer list than ours) if you have been convicted of committing a crime whilst under the influence of alcohol, or have an addiction to drugs or have a mental illness or impairment. There are a list of dangerous dogs in Germany that must be muzzled at all times in public unless they have passed a special test to prove they are obedient and harmless. On top of this the penalties are very harsh for the owner if the dog causes injury to someone. The owner is accountable.
The German way seems a much more effective way of handling the issue of breeds that are potentially dangerous in the wrong hands. It is centered around the real “cause” (irresponsible owners) of the serious problem and not the result of it (innocent casualties and unwanted aggressive dogs). This surely makes far more sense and encourages owners to take more responsibility for their actions.