A fresh opportunity for well-meaning busybodies - Veterinary Practice
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A fresh opportunity for well-meaning busybodies

continues the series of reflections on
issues of current concern

THE EU declaration calling for mandatory identification and registration of very dog in Europe has received wide acclaim from veterinary and welfare organisations across the UK. On the face of it, one can see why this would be welcomed but at the risk of being branded a sour puss I shall declare that I am not quite so enamoured by the idea as everyone else apparently is. Complete harmonisation enforced by legislation is not necessarily a good thing in my opinion. Let us not forget that the single currency seemed a great idea back in the day but I presume there are plenty of countries who now wish they’d never heard of the euro, much less signed up to it. How that particular crisis eventually plays out is not yet certain but I suspect that we are not out of the woods and may not yet even be travelling in the right direction. The EU declaration on dogs appears at first sight to be saying and doing all the right things and for the right reasons. “Animals are sentient beings and the EU and member states must pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals,” it says. Well yes, I wouldn’t disagree with that but it doesn’t tell us anything new does it? The declaration “calls on the member states to adopt comprehensive dog population management strategies which include measures such as dog control … and sterilisation as necessary to control the number of unwanted dogs.” And now I’m starting to get a bit twitchy. Not just a little bit twitchy but very twitchy indeed. Remember the Dangerous Dogs Act? I happen to be one of the few people who agree with the sentiments behind it but no one can pretend it’s been a rip-roaring success. By rights there should by now be no pit bulls left in the country but there they are on every street corner for all to see. If the authorities can’t enforce the sterilisation of a few pit bulls, then what hope is there of enforcing the sterilisation of goodness knows how many other dogs? Not that I want the Government to have that sort of power over me anyway. The Government already knows far too much about me and everybody else as far as I’m concerned and I’ve no desire for them to know how many dogs I own or have a say in whether or not I can be trusted to breed with them. How on earth would it all work? Who is going to decide whether I should be permitted to breed from my dogs anyway? What qualifications could they possibly have that would make them capable of making such a judgement? Who is going to pay for the enforcement? You and me presumably! At best I foresee a few wellmeaning busybodies who will want me to attend dog-care evening sessions in much the same way as we all dutifully attended parenting classes. My worst nightmare is the spawning of a whole army of jobsworths (or worse still, animal welfare enforcers in uniform) who feel entitled to blunder into our homes to see whether we have an unauthorised litter of puppies hidden away under the stairs.

Where will it end?

And where will it all end? Presumably, once all the dogs are ticked off and accounted for they will turn their attention to cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and anything else they think they might be able to catalogue. And who is to draw up the criteria on which to judge if I look after my dogs in a responsible way? After all, I don’t give mine a kiss and a cuddle each night before tucking them into bed but I know some people who do and who think that anything less constitutes gross cruelty. Are we going to have to pay for the privilege of registering our dogs and if so how much? What will be the penalties for failing to comply? Will the dogs be confiscated regardless of whether they are well cared for? Will they have to go into kennels at public expense until the courts decide what to do with them? It is my understanding that some police authorities have already spent millions of pounds on the kennelling of confiscated pit bulls: to what effect? Will they be forced to do the same for
Yorkies and Labs and hairy mongrels if the owners are in breach of the law? What if the owners refuse to pay the fine? Will their dogs be permanently
confiscated and fostered out to another home? What if the new home isn’t as good as the one they’ve been confiscated from?

Jumping on a bandwagon

Well, there are enough questions there to last a good long while and I suspect that those who came out with the EU declaration have considered few if any
of them. I also suspect that many of those who have given their unequivocal support to the declaration have rather jumped on the bandwagon without considering the consequences. We still, for the time being at least, live in a free country. We should be educated and persuaded to look after our dogs and other pets to the best of our ability just as we should be persuaded to look after our children. But we should be permitted to make our own mistakes, to learn from them and deal with the consequences, without the interference of the state demanding that we do this or that. Yes of course there will be some
children and some dogs that suffer as a result of this laissez-faire approach and
that is when the state will have a clear duty to step in and protect those who cannot protect themselves. But surely that is a better approach than the state laying down draconian rules that must be followed regardless, in a guilty until proven innocent scenario. An Englishman’s home is his castle and he should be allowed to fill it with dogs if he so desires without anyone poking their nose in. Only if he fails to look after them should the state declare an interest and until then it should very much mind its own damn business.

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