While irresponsible pet ownership continues to escalate in the UK, the Government rests on its laurels under the misapprehension that their oft quoted saying that ” we have the best animal welfare laws in the world” is actually true.
While dangerous dogs roam the U.K attacking, injuring and killing humans and children alike, not to mention other dogs and livestock in ever increasing numbers, record numbers of unwanted pets in rescue centres and incidents of neglect and cruelty prevalent, the UK government scrapped its flagship animal welfare bill a few months ago, a 2019 election promise and seems to be in no hurry to take the issues seriously.
Spain’s new animal laws leading the way.
Whereas in Spain it appears they may be leading the way in really tackling the blight of irresponsible and uninformed dog and cat owning by introducing new laws from September 29, 2023. These are quite stringent with the inclusion of some far reaching and controversial requirements. All prospective dog owners must complete a course on how to look after them before acquiring one and present owners have two years to do the course. Failure or refusal means no dog ownership.
All pet owners must notify the authorities of an animal’s ownership so that a register can be kept. Non registered are subjected to seizure and sent to a protection centre and the owner fined. Third party civil liability insurance, vaccination and neutering will all be mandatory on dogs and cats which are not kept solely indoors. Most of these measures have a with 10,000 euro fine attached. Dogs can only be left home alone maximum six to eight hours, two hours in case of puppies or risk a 10,000 euro fine.
New fines and penalties have been drastically increased and divided into categories of seriousness of the offence and range from 500 euros to 200,000 euros and 3 to 18 months behind bars. These are way above UK penalties.
Are draconian laws to tackle irresponsible pet ownership the answer.
Draconian I hear everyone cry, but have we reached the point where they are necessary. Pushing the message that not all people have a right to own a pet despite their financial and physical circumstances has always been avoided for fear of riots in the streets, but the cause of most problems over the last few decades is that we have never addressed this issue. Even if Spain’s new regulations prove to be unenforceable it is a step in the right direction if we are ever to get on top of feckless and irresponsible ownership. But I fear most dog owners may not agree or would they?
Increasingly it seems that dog owners are not aware of or care about the dangers, etiquette or protocol of walking their dog.
One of the worst crimes you can commit against dog owners is to dare to criticise them or try to offer advice on how they should control or care for their dog. Most owners immediately take offence or become hostile perhaps out of arrogance, embarrassment or guilt. Increasingly it seems that dog owners are not aware of or care about the dangers, etiquette or protocol of walking their dog(s).
Once a person acquires a dog many believe they automatically assume the status of an expert on dog care and behaviour. But many have little idea of the legislation that surrounds responsibilities of dog ownership and the risks their dog could pose to themselves and others. A fatal recent incident in the U.K. where a young woman dog walker was killed by a pack of eight dogs she was exercising highlights this lack of understanding.
This attitude manifests itself in many situations such as when facing an out-of-control dog hurtling towards you growling and with hackles raised. This has happened to me on three occasions recently while out on countryside walks and in each case the owner has taken umbrage when asked politely to keep their dog under control. One incident involved a dog than ran up snarling with hackles raised and circled behind us while we stood stock still. The owner some 50 yards away sauntered up and just remarked “he won’t harm you”.
Any attempt to point out their responsibilities under the U.K. Dangerous Dog Act 1991 in not allowing their dog to cause fear and/or apprehension to others is met with being petty-minded. This also includes allowing a dog to jump up at you.
Dog owners do not take kindly to be given advice.
Pointing out to an owner that they haven’t cleaned up after their dog or have left full poo bags hanging from a branch or dumped by the side of the path causes instant offence and anger and it is a brave person to even consider it.
Then there is the problem of what to do when you see a dog being needlessly mishandled or ill-treated. It takes an even braver person indeed to intervene these days. I once saw a woman violently yanking her dog’s lead so violently every few yards as she walked along that she was pulling it off its feet. All because he wasn’t adequately trained on a lead. She did not take any advice calmly when I intervened.
The ultimate insult.
The ultimate insult to a dog owner, or any other pet owner for that matter, is to be accused of animal abuse or infringing byelaws such as not cleaning up after their dog. Like parking wardens, officials like RSPCA Inspectors and council staff issuing fines often find themselves in altercations. The problem in the case of dogs lies in that most owners righteously believe they are all experts on canine care and ownership and can do no wrong and act as they want.
Most dog owners are thankfully considerate to other people and their dogs, but there does seem to be an increasing number who do not understand their duty to others, and it is the dogs that may suffer in the end from their indifference or selfish behaviour.