I’m visiting the RSPCA’s headquarters in Horsham today, and last week I had a memorable trip to the Dogs Trust’s Rehoming Centre in Uxbridge.
It was great to see the dedication of the Trust’s staff who care for unwanted or stray dogs and find good homes for them.
Most of their dogs are successfully re-homed. Sadly a few have such behavioural problems that it is not possible, but none are put down.
Clarissa Baldwin, their inspirational Chief Executive, coined the memorable slogan, “A dog is for life, not just for Christmas” back in 1978.
The words have endured because they perfectly encapsulate the truth that owning a dog is a responsibility, not a right.
The vast majority of dog owners in Britain are caring and responsible, but sadly there are a small minority who aren’t – as the growing problem of dangerous dogs illustrates. Over 100 people are hospitalised every week as a result of attacks by dogs.
This week the Government suddenly announced proposals to force all dog owners to take out third party insurance.
But a ‘dog tax’ is completely the wrong solution. We should be targeting the minority of irresponsible dog owners, not the vast majority who are responsible dog lovers.
The Government’s instinct is always to leap to a law or introduce another tax. They tried it with bins, they’ve announced a telephone tax to fund broadband (paid by people who don’t even have an internet connection), and now they’re targeting man’s best friend.
The last Dangerous Dogs Act was a monument to poor legislation. It was driven through all its Commons stages in a single day, receiving far too little scrutiny, which should never be allowed except for true emergency legislation.
The Government is already rowing back on its plans, saying they might not be implemented. It has taken 13 years for these proposals to appear; they’re published just weeks before an election, and they’re already unravelling. What a dog’s breakfast.