Deep in the Moroccan Sahara bordering Algiers

Monday, 11 April 2011

Dangerous Dogs or Dangerous Owners?

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.
Cindy Thompson

Speed Cameras, a Sinister Twist.

Speed cameras, a sinister twist?
In the early nineties, the British public faced the speed camera, introduced [we were told] to cut the 3,000 deaths on Britain’s roads.  Initially the fixed penalties rolled in, showing speed cameras to appear a very efficient way of policing motorists.  Ten years since the advent of robotic traffic policing, the number of actual traffic police has decreased from 8,900 to 6,500.   Speed cameras however, can only catch legal speeding motorists, and cannot catch motorists who use false plates, have no insurance, steal cars, or drive under the influence of drink or drugs, who amount to 1 million, and are 9 times more likely than legal motorists to be involved in an accident. 
Between 1994 and 2003 of the Safety Camera Partnership Scheme, introduced to significantly lower the number of road deaths each year, over 3,000 people were still getting killed on Britain’s roads even though motorists had significantly slowed down.  
Then something strange happened.  The cameras started to proliferate and were found in areas that had never had an accident, contravening guidelines that a camera be placed in a location which had had at least 4 fatal/serious accidents in the previous 3 calendar years.  As the number of motorists caught for speeding dramatically rose, so did the revenue obtained from them.   In 2002 5,000 cameras netted £7M in prosecutions.  Yet figures from The Department of Transport show that less than 4% of accidents are caused by exceeding the speed limit.  Safespeed find that in 2001 figures taken from 13 police forces show “inattention” to be the greatest cause of accidents at 25.8%.
Paradoxically, the proliferation of cameras could actually be a factor in road accidents, if you note the “inattention figures” above.  No motorist wishes to obtain a speeding fine or points on their licence, so often reacts erratically near a speed camera, by slamming on the breaks, or driving too slowly, or simply focusing all attention on the speedometer and not on the road.   With the alarming propagation of road signs, sheer number of cars on the roads, and advertising signs, driving on Britain’s roads is a serious assault on anyone’s senses.  Helping us poor motorists, the world car industries have designed ever faster, more responsive and powerful cars as standard, coupled by TV car programmes testing these models with emphasis on speed, handling and acceleration.
Drivers are now guilty of a robotically generated crime, the introduction of which has no basis of truth, with the punishment based on what “could have been,” and not on the actual outcome.  
Children should also have a responsibility of awareness in road safety. Back in the 60’s and 70’s children were taught the Green Cross Code, the safe way to cross the road, both at school and between children’s prime time TV.   No such adverts seem to be between modern day programmes.
We have all slowed down, yet the number of road deaths has stayed at over 3,000 per year.  Speed cameras therefore have had no effect at all, on the very thing [we were told] they were introduced to change.  But were they really introduced purely as a revenue collector?  Cameras will soon be widespread that are capable of logging your every mile, with calculation of mean-speeds on any given journey, times and dates, which will be linked to DVLA, government data bases, and insurance companies.  A blatant erosion of our civil liberties.  
“If you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about” comes to mind, but the trouble with that is, insidiously, ever more decisions are being taken away from us to a point that we may well [in law] not be allowed to think at all for ourselves.    You may not have to have done anything wrong, to kick the wheels of Big Brother and the Thought Police into action against you, telling you that with a negligible probability your actions could be dangerous/fatal so you must be pre-emptively guilty and punished accordingly.  
Many laws outlaw common sense, simple decision making, truth, and concept of the individual, and the repercussions of such laws are something we should be seriously concerned about.  
Speeding is just one of those laws.
Cindy Thompson

It's Just a Piece of Cloth.

It’s Just A Piece Of Cloth.
Pressure is mounting for the government to follow our European neighbours in the ban against veils in Britain, but what issues must the proposed ban address?  
On the side of the veil wearer they will have us believe that the challenge is to exercise their religious duties, even though it is NOT a religious requirement, but one of tradition, leaving the wearer free to choose.  We believe here in the UK that we have the right and freedom to wear what we please, yet do we?  What of the man in London who wore a t-shirt that said “B******s to Blair” who was asked by a policeman to take it off and turn it inside out or else face a fine and/or prosecution?  What of motorcyclists who walk into a bank or shopping centres with their crash helmets on, or “hoodies” who wish to visit a shopping centre?  What of their freedoms?  In an age where we are obsessed with identification, as an English woman I would not be allowed to hide my identification by swathing myself in fabric and coming up with the excuse that it was based on some religion or other.  Realistically, the practicalities are obvious, and other countries such as Afghanistan who have gone to the extremes of imposing the complete covering of women, have enforced appalling degradation on over half the population.  The more serious side to the identification issue, is the fact that such ridiculous attire in the 21st C is open to abuse, the proof of which would be impossible to challenge.  
Having travelled independently to Iran a country that enforces the modest covering of all women, Moslem or otherwise, I have experienced the issue from another perspective.  During my 6 weeks in Iran I had to wear a head scarf, a loose long coat and ensure that my arms and legs were covered regardless of the temperatures outside.  Had I not observed these laws, I would have been arrested and punished.  One day a man started speaking to my husband and I whilst we were visiting a mosque in Esfahan.  ‘What do you think of Iran?’ he asked me.  I told him that I found the people extremely friendly and helpful and that we were enjoying our drive across Iran, but I didn’t like having to wear the head scarf.  ‘But why?’ He quizzed.  ‘It’s just a piece of cloth.’  Then my husband asked him, ‘OK, if you and your wife were to visit the UK and found that your wife had to remove her veil for the visit because that was OUR law, what would you do?’ The man was horrified. ‘This can’t be, my wife must be covered.’  ……’But it’s just a piece of cloth.’ We told him.
Even in other Moslem majority countries who would be considered to ‘understand’ such issues, such as Egypt, total covering is not encouraged or in some situations tolerated.  I was extending my visa one day in Cairo at the huge government building that processed passports for Egyptian citizens.  I was studying for the second year of my Arabic degree.  As I sat at the desk of the official who was to stamp my passport, a gofer entered the room with a passport application of a completely veiled woman.  The official took one look at the photograph of the piece of cloth with two eyes peeping out from a slit opening and threw it back on the desk towards the gofer.  ‘What is this?’ He shouted in Arabic.  ‘She must show her face.  Take it back and tell her if she wants her passport she must show her face.’  He added, ‘You are wasting my time, now go.’  I can only assume that for her passport application to be processed, she had remove the veil covering her face, though for the woman this would have been little different to uncovering in public, given that forbidden men would be free to see her face.  
As for other women in the UK who wish to keep their faces completely covered, when in Iran I had to follow Iranian laws, so they should be able to accept our rules and regulations with the same dignity, after all it’s just a piece of cloth and England is not ruled by Islam, ……..yet!  
And neither do we want it to be. 
Cindy Thompson   

A Rubbish Problem.

A rubbish problem.
There has been much talk lately about recycling and wheely bins, with folk complaining and not relishing the hike in waste disposal charges.  Waste disposal is a huge problem facing our future planet, and we all have a responsibility to help the changes, though most of us seem to think it is not our problem, but that of the council’s, or the government, or that of any one else’s other than their own.  
Yes, we have to recycle, and yes, we must take more care about our rubbish, but there is another part in the equation that no one seems to have mentioned.  Why don’t we stop making and importing so much rubbish and tac in the first place, then we wouldn’t have so much to dispose of.  The world seems to be on a roller coaster making huge amounts of utter rubbish, using huge amounts of resources, then taking up vast amounts of space to get rid of the stuff.  
For example supermarkets could do their bit and stop buying fruit and vegetables that are unnecessarily swathed in plastic.  Why does an aubergine have to be in a plastic tray, both of which are in a plastic bag?  Perhaps us the customer should start unwrapping these items and leave the packaging in the supermarket for them to dispose of it.  After all they chose to buy it.  In our greed to have out of season fruit and vegetables we knowingly increase the amount of rubbish produced.
We only have to walk down any high street in any town in the UK and see amount of rubbish on sale.  We should stop buying all this unnecessary rubbish, much of which is useless and ends up in the bin, so we are not only paying over the odds to buy this rubbish, we are also going to have to pay to get rid of it!  Where is the logic in that?  We should start thinking about what we buy, why and of what use it served apart from decrease our bank balance.
A far better way of approaching the rubbish problem to cut down on the amount of rubbish created in the first place and to stop it being produced, not moaning about it once it has been produced at a profit and sold to everyone and even bigger profits.
Cindy Thompson

War On Drugs Isn't Working.

The War On Drugs Isn’t Working!
Many politicians have been waging ‘war’ on drugs for years, making policies that don’t work, and doing little to help those who are addicts.  
We all know how the drug chain works.  Drugs are grown in Third World countries, often with aid money from the West, they are then sold on by drug cartels, who ship the consignments to drug dealers who sell them on our streets.  Drug addicts however, contribute greatly to the crime rate in our country causing untold misery and mayhem.  The solution, I believe is quite simple.  Give the addicts their fix.
Put into context the costs are as follows;
Cost of a fix for an addict at present. 
1) Police time and staff, documenting the robbery, catching or attempting to catch the offender.
2) Forensic scientist, who search for evidence that will help convict the offender.
3) Glazier, if a window has been broken.
4) Locksmith, if a lock has been damaged.
5) Counselling, if the robbery has been a traumatic or violent experience.
6) Insurance, whilst an insurance company might pay over and above the premium paid on the policy, they are a business and as such make a profit from all their clients who don’t get robbed.
7) Businesses who sell goods to replace the stolen items, also make money on this deal.
8) Lawyers who prosecute the offender.  (they seem to make the most money from this deal)
9) Judges and jury, who judge the offender and court room staff who make this possible.
10) Prisons and their staff, who might eventually keep the offender.
11) Drying out clinics, that will only work if the addict wants to dry out.
12) Politicians who waste valuable tax payer’s money, talking about and passing ineffective laws, which fail the law abiding citizen and the drug addict.
13) Money is also made from the sale of stolen goods on the Black Market.
14) The chain of drug dealers make huge amounts of money, along with the transporters and human carriers.
15) Customs officials at ports, who try to stop drugs destined for the streets entering the country.  Many companies are involved in designing methods and machines to beat the dealers’ ever more ingenious ways of getting drugs through customs.  
Add to all this the fact that all these professional people cannot work without all their support staff, who have to be paid.  (ie. office workers, cleaners etc.)  Added to that is the tax paid on wages and goods needed to carry out these jobs and services.  
The cost of the addicts fix could be much less if laws were changed to help those who needed it.  If drugs (not substitutes) were given by a doctor on the NHS and the cost to the tax payer would greatly reduced as the addict would have no need to offend in order to cover the costs of the street drugs.
Alternative cost of an addict’s fix.
1) 10mgs of dia-morphine would cost the NHS £6 to £7.  100mgs of dia-morphine £26 from a family doctor, yet to give these drugs to an addict is seen as unethical! (unethical for whom?)
2) Doctor (and his staff) to prescribe the drug.
3) Chemist and their staff to dispense the drug.
4) Education of the dangers of the misuse of drugs. 
5) Drying out clinics and their staff to help those addicts who are ready to stop taking drugs.
Addicts need help, not punishment.  No one lives their life with the intention of becoming a junkie.  Most addicts hate themselves and what they do, but until they are ready to give up and change their life, they are trapped in a cycle of crime and hostility, which doesn’t help anyone, only those who stand to make money out of it.  An addict’s prime objective is not making money, or committing a robbery, but getting their next fix.  Addicts are the bottom line of a chain of events that is created and supported by the system and as such they take the brunt of all the hatred.  
Opponents of this idea will argue that drugs for addicts should not be made easily available at the tax payer’s expense and that those who are not addicts, could easily become addicts.  Illegal drugs are already easily available on our streets, and the expense to the tax payer is far greater than it ever need be.  If addicts were able to obtain their drugs from a doctor, the dealers would simply be put out of business and crime figures would plummet. 
Why then are the drug laws not changed?  I believe that they are not changed, simply because if they were, too many important people and businesses would stand to lose too much money.  It has nothing to do with ethics, or the illegality of it all, but purely to do with money.  
Evil will flourish, when good people turn the other way.
Cindy Thompson