Friday, March 12, 2010

UK's dangerous dogs

The Guardian UK online has a Pets section as well as an Animal Welfare section (how many other mainstream online papers have an animal welfare section?) and it's all in an uproar over the proposed mandatory microchipping and carrying of third party insurance for all dogs.

This will result in nice bonuses for insurance company execs and shareholders, more work for animal control, more clogging up the courts, poorer and more pissed off pet owners, way more dogs being killed (from all those people who end up dumping their dogs or having their dogs taken away because they don't meet the legal requirements).

The intended goals of this piece of legislation is to compensate people who are bitten by dogs and to decrease dog bites. Will it do those things? It might help with the compensation. Certainly, lawyers will love the higher settlements but will people who don't bother to train their dogs not to bite bother to carry insurance? Hard to say.

Will the law decrease dog bites? Does compulsory car insurance decrease car accidents? Does car insurance stop drunks from getting behind the wheel? Does it prevent kids from road racing? Or does it make the behaviour worse, giving people a false sense of added security? I'm not sure anyone knows but whether it works or not, you can be sure that innocent dogs will be paying for it with their lives.

London's far away and they've got a different, much more severe, set of problems from us in Ontario but it wouldn't be surprising if some provincial politician or attorney general with a hate on for dogs and out to make a name for himself isn't eyeballing the U.K. law and thinking about how it'll help get him votes and also pal up to the insurance industry at the same time.

Here are some excerpts from The Guardian.

From Dog days:

"With these younger guys around nowadays it's all about status. They see it as a macho thing – don't mess with me or my dog will take your face off in a second. Dogs aren't violent – people train dogs to be violent"

From Dangerous dogs and chips: is it worth the trouble?:

Let's stick to safety today. The fact is that some of the most heavily protected people in the country – by and large the richest – are those that often seem to feel least safe in my experience, because they don't really know what they're afraid of.

From Let's get draconian on the dog problem:

Sadly, unlike the dogs, the law has no teeth. You can't take someone's dog and microchip it without permission, or enter a house, stop the home-breeding and neuter the dogs, and vets can't report dogs injured in fights, and the bad owners know this. So perhaps the government needs to toughen up on dog owners and ignore the whingeing "good" owners who are worried they'll be penalised along with the nasty ones. If they really cared about dogs, they'd want everything possible done to get things under control. Because there's a great deal of cruelty to animals going on out there.

From Are dogs the new weapon of choice for young people?:

David Grant, director of the RSPCA's Harmondsworth hospital in north London, picks up the pieces of irresponsible dog ownership every day. His hospital is full of emaciated staffies that have been abandoned – often in the hospital's reception – by young men who don't want to give their names or pay veterinary bills. Many of the dogs are sick, as their owners haven't had the money or the knowledge to apply for vaccinations. In the worst cases, dogs have been abused by irritated owners or been forced to fight.

In 40 years of practice, Grant, whose veterinary operations were seen by millions on the BBC's Animal Hospital television series, says things have never been so bad, and he has started documenting the worst cases. His computer now hold hundreds of images of dogs that have been shot, stabbed or burnt.

"A typical problem owner will be from an inner-city estate, unemployed, without any educational achievements," he says. "Young males predominate, although the fighters often register the dog in a girlfriend's name." Names such as ­Terror, Chaos, Killer, Ice and Asbo often tell a dog's story, says Grant, as does evidence of ­harnesses – accessories often used to glamorise dogs before gang fights.

But Grant is keen not to sensationalise or oversimplify. He wants to distinguish between "fashion dogs", which are simply part of a craze, and "status dogs", which are bred for offence and defence. "Fashion dogs tend to be staffie crosses that are naturally good-natured, turning nasty only when they suffer abuse, or neglect when their owners get bored," he says. ­"Status dogs, on the other hand, are bred to intimidate. At the worst level, gangs will use them for mascots, muggings, safeguarding territory, and fighting enemies and other dogs."

From My day as a dangerous-dog owner:

The streets of Harlesden are quiet at midday, but there is no question that Duddly, straining at his lead as I dig in my heels – he has amazing traction – constitutes an intimidating presence. People heading in our direction spontaneously cross the road as we approach. Passing cyclists give us a wide berth. It is empowering, I suppose, to be at the helm of something that alarms people so readily. Certainly my own personal safety was the last thing on my mind, although I couldn't say I had time to stop and enjoy the sense of security. I was too worried about what would happen if I let go of the lead.


Lynda said...

Fred, as far as I know - doesn't my home insurance cover me if my dog bites someone? Maybe I should check that out....

And, speaking of scaring people enough so they cross the road - come and take my 2 for a spin - you either get mauled by people because they are so unusual or you hear screams of terror! :-)


Fred said...

Good question about the insurance, Lynda. I don't know. Dogs are considered property so you'd think they'd be covered under personal liability, like if someone slipped and broke his leg on his neighbour's front step, but who knows if insurance policies have excluded dogs in the small print.

House of the Discarded said...

I know our homeowner's insurance liability policy covers dog bites!

Brent said...

Nice post Fred.

The answer is typically yes - Home owners insurance does cover you if your dog bites. The problem is that renters insurance doesn't. I would like to see renters insurance changed so that it does cover basic liability on something like this, but overall this law was a pretty bad idea (way over-inclusive) and am glad it got nixed today.

Fred said...

Hi Brent, thanks for the update on the law getting nixed. I'm curious to see how much it flunked by.