This article raises the uncomfortable truth about the fate of many defenceless animals – I imagine there are unthinkable amounts that never surface because, as ‘property’ and without an animal version of human rights there is no way of knowing the identities or whereabout of many animals. I think horses may be an exception but even they are not protected from neglect and cruelty.
Aside from individual behaviours, I think the governement are leaning dangerously towards a similar attitude to the ‘throw away’ values of animals and as cultures that value animals differently to how we traditionally have in Britain increasingly have a more powerful vote, particuarly in the overcroweded East London Boroughs the councils are imposing hurdles that make the lives of dogs and owners pretty miserable.
Perhaps the most significant change recently has been the ban on dogs walked without leads in all Newham borough parks. It is thought dogs walk around 8 times the distance of their owner when off a lead, and if they are anything like my Alexia they need at least two hour long adventures before they are satisfied with their day. Many dog owners in Newham have lived happily for years without any problems and are the best protectors of the enviroment due to natural surveillance, footfall during most opening hours and many I know even clear broken glass and other Hazards making for a cleaner, greener East London.
Then a combination of things happened. The one the press will tell you about is status dogs owned by gangs. We know this is a problem, the dogs are often poorly kept and trained to be weapons. Many keep pitbulls and Staffs are in abundance… but have any of these owners EVER been fined for having a dog off a lead? Hardly likely. Yet nearly all of the dog owners in know were caught out by the lunch-box sized notices that sprung up one day and the PCSOs that infiltrated the parks dishing out £80 no appeal fines. Like dogs, their owners have also lost the human right of a fair trial which means that no one person should be allowed to play both judge and jury. But it’s there on the back of each ticket ‘NO RIGHT OF APPEAL’. This same statement existed (co-incidentally) at the same time as one of said owners who used to attend Stratford park at 5pm every night with a dustpan and brush recieved a ticket for ‘abandoning dog feaces’. Now, the Bull Dog did foul. As did his puppy. At the same time. But the owner was armed with dog bags and clearing away the feaces – as he was not super human he could only attend to one lot at a time. This, it seems was his crime and, with no right to appeal he was handed an £80 on the spot fine. The man and his wife have been a huge asset to the park for years, now we never see them as they have identified pastures new. With a notable reduction in dog owners gang presance has increased drastically. For the few who do attend to cut through on their way to dog-friendly City of London parks the safe communal environment is non-existant.
So how did the council manage to bring in the changes? I have been told by an asian dog walker that a petition was instigated by people within his own community. He was in a position to contest it as he was consulted due to his area of residence. I, however, living on a street backing onto Stratford Park was not consulted nor given the opportunity to contest. Nor were any of the other local dog owners I have spoken to. Essentially, it is not in the interest of local government to protect the wellbeing of dogs on the densely populated borough and the ‘fear factor’ of seeing a dog not on a lead has been allowed to intensify. I often find that if my dog is not actually pulled tight into my leg as we walk by others childeren run behind their parents legs, teenagers scream or shout abuse at the dog (Worse still throw things) and even adults jump back.
In a bid to attract votes it is my belief that Newham council (and others will follow) are endorsing animal cruelty at a corporate level and promoting a cultural devide that will make it more and more difficult for people like myself to take on the responsibility of rescue dogs and care for their welfare. This, in part must have some impact on the deteriorating attitude towards one of Britains traditionally best loved animals.