I got a dog when I got married. Throughout her 12 years, she was a constant companion and I have never cried as much as I did on the day my dog died. It was harder to part with my dog than it was with my now ex-wife.
There are nearly nine million dogs in the UK and one in four households have one as a pet. Having a dog was a great way of exercising and meeting people and when out on a walk, I always made sure that I cleaned up after her and kept the dog on a lead near other animals. I never forgot that no matter how domesticated we may think they are, dogs are wolves in sheep’s clothing and have to be treated as such. This year alone there have been six deaths attributed to dog attacks and many more people have been injured.
One thing I have noticed is that there is a growing number of dog owners who should not be allowed to keep them as pets. This reflects badly on the majority of people who look after and clean up after their animals.
On a recent day out to Reighton Sands, I could not believe the number of dog poo bags that were hanging from the trees and bushes like some gothic Christmas display. To say they were festooned is an understatement. Why bother picking the stuff up if you are just going to bag and dangle?
Bag-dangling has become such a problem that it has even been debated in Parliament. Some of these poo bags can take up to 500 years to disintegrate. That is really bad for the environment. It has even been reported that cyclists have ridden head long into dangling bags on low hanging branches with very messy results. Deer and cows often eat poo bags and die as a result.
It is estimated that well over 365,000 tonnes of dog poo is deposited every year. That is a very smelly crisis for the countryside, farmers, walkers and wildlife. Scientists say that most dogs do their stuff within 50 yards of leaving the car. Yet, I seldom see any poo bins. What is the point in Rushcliffe Borough Council fining dog owners without poo bags £100, when people pick the stuff up and then hang it on a bush?
On the street where I live the pavement is a minefield of excrement. I have even had a dog do its business on my doorstep. While relaxing on the beach recently, I had a dog come up and try to pee on my foot. The owner just laughed and shouted sorry.
Dog mess isn’t just down to messy dogs but messy and careless owners. The main tactic is to walk far enough ahead of your dog that you don’t see it go and just ignore it. If you have a dog then please be responsible for what comes out of its rear end.
Toxocariasis, is a dangerous sickness carried in dog dirt as is Neospora. It is not just pooch-poo that is the problem with dogs and their owners. Dog harassment is another serious issue. Sadly, it would seem that lockdown has brought out the dark side of dog owners.
I recently saw a spaniel on the beach run up and push a small, paddling child into the sea. The owner shouted: “Don’t worry, it’s just a puppy.” That is little consolation for the mother picking her soaked and crying four-year-old out of the waves.
At certain times of day, our beaches are dog chaos. Hounds chase hounds and extending leads are mobile trip wires ready to take your leg off. If you challenge an irresponsible dog owner you are met with either a hail of abuse or “it’s never done that before…”
A family next to me on the beach had their child’s sandwiches eaten by a dog that ran into a tent and took them. Another mother holding her baby had the child licked by a dog that ran up to them.
I witnessed all those things in a five-hour stint on Reighton Sands and if that is the case, what is happening nationally?
Dog owners should all be licensed and registered with a points system similar to that of car drivers. They could then be penalised for any fouling or other offences their dogs commit. If they totted up 12 points, they could be banned from keeping a pet pooch. A mandatory dog DNA register should also be created so that dog foul can be tracked down and owners prosecuted.
This could be funded by a yearly dog licence of £100 per dog that would bring in at least £900 million a year. It would also stop people from keeping dangerous breeds such as American pit-bulls. A licence will also deter irresponsible people from owning a dog in the first place.
Maybe then, they would take dog fouling and harassment seriously and people might think twice before buying a pooch and adding to the mountain of mess covering our Yorkshire beauty spots.
- GP Taylor is a writer and broadcaster who lives in Yorkshire.