Improving the image of dogs in our communities
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No matter how you view it, dog behaviour in the UK is changing dramatically. Animal charities are reporting more problems with dogs that they take in from the public. According to the NHS the number of people being treated for dog related injuries has risen by over 40%. In 2014-5 6,740 people required hospital admission due to dog related injuries and it is estimated that over 200,000 people in the UK are injured by dogs every year and this number is steadily rising. Add to this the fact that there are more and more dog control orders coming into effect which restrict or ban dogs from being in certain public areas and you may get an idea of the scale of the problem.
So how does this affect us as dog owners?
You may think that it is only owners whose dogs display aggression in public that are causing us problems. This is not the case! In a recent court case a dog was playing in a public park with another dog and, during the game it ran into a person, knocking them to the ground and injuring them. The owner of the dog was ordered to pay compensation to the victim because of the injuries that they sustained. The Judge in his summing up in the case stated
“the owner was not able to demonstrate any control over his dog which basically ran around doing as it pleased”.
Dogs that are off lead in a public place and out of control may be dealt with under the dangerous dog’s act 1991 which has recently been tightened up by our government.
It is up to ALL of us, as dog owners to make sure that we stop the current trend of dogs getting a bad press because of lack of control. Remember that your dog does not have to act aggressively for you to fall foul of the law, it merely has to be out of control and as a result, if a person or another animal is injured then you could end up in court or even go to prison.
We already have four banned breeds and we don’t want more added to the list so we must ALL act in our communities in order to improve the image of dogs in the UK.
Why we are asking everyone to exhibit better control over their dogs
We are asking for all dog owners who take their dogs into public places to abide by a voluntary code of conduct to show the non dog owning population and our government that our dogs do not create a nuisance to the public at large. This is the code that we are asking you to apply to your own dog or dogs when in a public place:
How do we do this?
- Unless you can demonstrate a really reliable recall then don’t let your dog off lead.
In the event of you and your dog ever falling foul of the law then this is the first thing that a court appointed expert on dog behaviour will look at, your ability to call your dog back to you instantly. If you cannot do this then it means that your dog is out of control.
- DO NOT allow your dog to approach dogs who are with their owners and under control on a lead. Your own dog may well be friendly but you should never assume that the dog and owner it is approaching would welcome the approach. The law actually allows the owner of the dog on a lead to take whatever steps are deemed to be necessary to prevent your dog bothering them!
- When walking on public footpaths or pathways you should keep your dog in sight all of the time, out of sight means out of your controlling influence. If you cannot see the path ahead then your dog should be walking closer to your side or else on the lead.
- Only allow your dog off lead to play with other dogs if the other owners have agreed to this and all owners, including you, can demonstrate good control over their dogs.
- If you carry dog treats in your pocket you should reserve these for your own dog. Feeding other peoples dogs can encourage them to approach and bother others in the expectation of getting food and even encourages some of them to jump up.
- Be polite and put your dog on a lead when you see another person approaching either with or without another dog so that your dog is under control as you pass by.
- Respect the rights of others to use public areas for recreation and never allow your dog to bother others. Train your dog to be under good control both on and off the lead.
- Find out what public areas do not allow dogs and those which impose lead restrictions and abide by these laws and bylaws. Your local dog warden should be able to advise you.
- Take out third party insurance on your dog just in case things go wrong in which case you could end up with a hefty bill
- Dogs should not pass one another nose to nose! When walking on the lead and passing other dogs always position your dog so that you and the other owner pass with the dogs on the outside.
- When walking your dog in town, always position your dog close to the building line when possible with you closest to the centre of the pavement. This allows other pedestrians to pass freely without having to manoeuvre past your dog.
- Please take with you some means of cleaning up after your dog but DO NOT take your dog into a public area in the HOPE that he will eliminate in public!!! Your dog should eliminate in an appropriate place, preferably on your own property before you leave your house!!
If we, as dog owners, do nothing to address the problem of out of control dogs in public places, then you can rest assured that our government will act for us as they are already doing. If you value the areas where you exercise your dog and do not want to lose this privilege then we must all work together to earn the right to keep these areas by being responsible owners who keep our dogs under good control.
If you need to gain more control over your dog then you will need to contact your local dog trainers for help and advice. Your dog warden, veterinary surgery, library or yellow pages should give you a list of trainers in your area.
If we all act together we can make a difference and hopefully retain our right to own and exercise our dogs in public areas.