Breed Specific Legislation (BSL)

Wednesday saw the two year anniversary of the sad day it was announcedban BSL that a dog called Lennox had been put to sleep in Belfast because he had been found to be of ‘pitbull type’ and was thus illegal under current UK Breed Specific Legislation (BSL).

Lennox was not by any means the first, or sadly the last, to lose his life to BSL, but he was special in that his story made headline news around the world and was instrumental in making so many more people aware of this legislation and just why so many campaigners want it to end. To those opposed to BSL, the idea that any dog should be put down purely because of how he looks or what his body measurements are, rather than because he has proved to be dangerously aggressive and untrustworthy, is fundamentally flawed.

Unfortunately, two years on, the fight still goes on and so does the killing. Only the other day many were stunned to read that a crossbreed rescue dog called Tyson, who had been successfully trained as a police sniffer dog, had been destroyed not because he had shown himself to be a danger to the public, but just because a police specialist had decided he was ‘of type’ and therefore illegal.

As an RSPCA spokesperson commented: “… Utimately poor Tyson illustrates the absurdity of the breed specific legislation and the Dangerous Dogs Act, and is another lovely dog who has paid the price because of it.”

And so, the fight to change this law goes on…

Breaks hearts, Solves nothing, Let’s Stop!

Why so judgemental…?

helping handI just had an email from someone who says she is in tears after she just met another dog walker and asked him to call his dog back as hers is a bit nervous and reactive with strange dogs. The other walker gave her a mouthful of abuse and basically told her that she shouldn’t even keep a dog that doesn’t get on with its own kind!

When did we as a race become so judgemental and intolerant about everything and everyone? With an attitude like that, it can be assumed that not everyone gets on with said dog walker so what makes him assume that every dog should automatically get on with every other dog it ever meets? The person who emailed me had her dog on a leash so, in my opinion, she had every right to request the owner of the off-leash dog running at her to call him back. I suspect the real issue here is that the off-leash dog has no recall so the owner can’t call him back even if he wants to!

Let’s all lighten up a bit guys and try to help each other rather than making life even more difficult.

Changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act

SnarlAs of next Tuesday, May 13th, 2014, the Dangerous Dogs Act in England and Wales will be amended to cover incidents on private property as well as in public places.

Under Section 3 of the current Act, it is already a criminal offence for the person in charge of a dog to allow it to be ‘dangerously out of control’ in a public place. From next week, this will also be the case on private property too and police, or an appointed local authority, will have powers to seize a dangerously out of control dog in a private place as well as in a public one.

You should also remember that a dog doesn’t actually have to bite someone to be deemed dangerous. In fact, as defined by the Dangerous Dogs Act, if a dog just gives a person grounds to feel that it may injure them, the law still applies.

From next week, it will also be an offence for your dog to attack an assistance dog eg. guide dogs or hearing dogs, and prison sentences are being increased for those convicted of certain offences.

For further information on these changes and how they affect you and your dog, have a look at this Advice to Owners provided by the National Animal Welfare Trust.

Click here to read the complete Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

Don’t just ban it!

bannedWhy is it our immediate solution to every problem these days is just to ‘ban it’ rather than to try to solve it? This appears to be particularly true with regards to anything dog related. It seems like almost every day there’s an article in the news telling us that dogs have been banned from somewhere; beaches, town centres, parks, outside schools, the list is endless. If we are not every careful, one day we’ll find that there isn’t anywhere left where we can take our dogs, on or off the lead, at all.

In April this year the Kennel Club noted that the overall countrywide trend seemed to be to effectively “ghettoise” dogs, forcing them into increasingly congested, designated areas: Society is creating dog ghettos

To me, one of the saddest bans is when I see huge signs being put up forbidding us to take dogs anywhere near schools. When I was a kid, one of my greatest pleasures was Mum meeting me at the school gate with the family dog at the end of the day ready for a lovely, healthy romp home through the park. What does it say about our society if that has been replaced with Mum fetching the kids in the car while the family dog is left shut up at home?

Let’s ban the banning! Around schools, let’s ask parents to keep their dogs on leads at all times. Let’s teach children never to try and stroke a strange dog, and also how to do so properly if, and only if, the owner has said it is OK. In our city centres, parks and beaches, let’s bring back good manners and ask owners not to ever just let their dogs run up to other people or other dogs, even if they are sure their dog is just being friendly. Let’s provide plenty of bins and insist owners clean up. By all means, let’s provide play areas for kids where dogs are not allowed to run free, but let’s not just ban dogs from everywhere.

If we work together, surely we can find solutions to situations that create a desire for some people to call for dogs to be banned from everywhere before it is too late and dogs are just banned from all of our lives completely?

Some dogs just need more s p a c e

We support Yellow Dog UKAlthough many of you will have already seen the Yellow Dog advert box we’ve been displaying for a while, I thought it would also be a good idea to write a bit about this rapidly growing concept and to ask all of you to help spread this brilliant idea far and wide.

Yellow Dog is an international campaign which began in June last year in Sweden and is designed to create awareness that ‘some dogs need more space’. Support is rapidly growing wordwide, with dedicated websites now available in many countries, including the UK: Yellow Dog UK

Like most great ideas, the Yellow Dog concept is simple – if you and your dog need some space, then place a yellow ribbon, strip or bandanna on your dog’s leash to let other people know.

There can be all sorts of reasons why some dogs don’t like being approached by strangers, especially other dogs. For example, they may be:

  • unwell or recovering from surgery
  • newly rescued or rehomed
  • in training or rehabilitation
  • naturally fearful and/or under-socialised
  • in season
  • old and perhaps in discomfort

The problem is that some people, especially those who don’t have dogs or who have ‘happy-go-lucky’ dogs who get on with everyone, don’t always stop to think about the stress they can cause by approaching too close to a dog who ‘just needs more space’. There is nothing more scary than a bouncy dog and/or a well-meaning, over-friendly person bearing down on you when you have a nervous dog ready to explode on the end of your leash! Unfortunately, if you’re scared, your dog will know it and that will just make him worse…

So, please remember – if you see a dog with a YELLOW ribbon, bandanna or similar on the leash or on the dog, this dog needs some space. Please, do not approach the dog or his people or allow your dog to get too close. How close is too close? Only the dog or his people know, so maintain your distance and give them time to move out of your way.

I read a wonderful comment on Facebook recently from an owner who is so thrilled at how much better her dog is out walking now that she is using a yellow ribbon and people and other dogs are giving them the space they need. It is clearly a win-win situation, because her new-found confidence is rubbing off on her dog who, in turn, is becoming much calmer and better-behaved and may, one day, no longer need that space.

Of course, the Yellow Dog concept can only work if people know what the yellow ribbon means and are willing to respect it, so the more people you tell, the better – not just other dog owners but everyone! Mums and Dads, tell your kids, teachers tell your pupils, everyone tell your friends and work mates. Let’s ensure that by the end of 2013, EVERYONE knows that if a dog is wearing a yellow ribbon, you and your dog need to stay back and give them the space they need! Thank you.

Take The Paws Greeting Challenge!

Greeting: A means of communication where two or more sentient beings make their presence known to each other.

Human greeting customs are both culture and situation specific, and also differ depending upon social status and relationship. If you were meeting the Queen, for example, you’d bow/curtsey to show respect and not speak until spoken to, whereas if you were greeting an old friend, you might offer your hand or maybe just go for a hug and/or kissing of cheeks. One, two and even three kisses on alternative cheeks are all acceptable options, depending upon local custom. In certain cultures, the handshake and/or kissing might even be replaced with a nose rub.

Unfortunately, for some peculiar reason, we humans seem to assume that our customs and rituals are perfectly acceptable for other species too. Although, in fairness, perhaps I should say, some other species. I doubt very many humans would be so unwise as to run up to a mountain lion and try to kiss it on both cheeks. Well, not twice, anyway!

Which makes it all the more difficult to explain why so many of us rush over to a dog we don’t know with hand outstretched, burbling unintelligibly in a high-pitched, excited voice? Approaching a dog in this manner actually breaks so many rules of social etiquette for dogs, that he or she is likely to be at best bewildered, and at worse totally freaked out. In the dog world, personal space is very important, and invading it inappropriately can be seen as a deliberate act of dominance.

Fortunately, this doesn’t mean we have to adopt the dog’s greeting rituals because, I have to admit that the idea of sniffing first noses and then under ‘tails’, so to speak, doesn’t fill me with any great enthusiasm. Dog behaviourists, however, have determined that the best and safest way for a human to greet any dog, regardless of whether you’ve met before or not, is to initially ignore him – no eye contact, don’t talk to him and don’t try to pet him. From the dog’s point of view this is not being unfriendly, it’s being polite and it gives him time to calmly sniff you and either learn about you or remember you from a previous encounter.

Watching his body language will tell when/if he’s ready for you to take the encounter further, as will his owner, who knows the dog best and can advise you on what is OK and what is not. If a dog looks tense or scared, he probably is. Never try to pet a dog who is giving you an intense stare, especially if he’s standing stiff and motionless, looking at you out of the corner of his eye and/or licking his lips. A friendly dog will be wagging his tail or holding it in a relaxed manner, his eyes will be soft and blinking and his mouth slightly open.

The reason it’s so important to greet a dog properly is not just because it’s more polite! Incidents of dog bites continue to increase year on year with the number of bites resulting in hospital admission up by over 5% in the UK in the past year alone. Some of these injuries can be horrendous and, although very few people actually die from a dog attack, those that do are usually small children.

Humans though, are not the only victims. The number of dogs seized and put down under the dangerous dogs act is also significantly on the rise, and some owners are now so fearful of the consequences should their dog become scared and bite someone, they have become nervous about people petting their dogs at all. Ironically, if the owner is anxious, the dog will pick up on this and become more tense and nervous himself, making a bite more likely.

So, next time you meet a dog, try the Paws Greetings Challenge and see if you can resist petting him until he’s sniffed you first. If you want, you can explain to the owner what you are doing and why, so they don’t think you are ignoring their pet because you don’t like dogs.

Old habits are hard to break, so you might be surprised how difficult it is at first! However, if we can all help to avoid senseless bites and keep our dogs safe, calm and happy, it’s got to be worth the effort! Please let us know how you get on.