Saturday, September 4, 2010

Dog licences

You can view the complete RSPCA report on dog registration on the central website.

Playing devil's advocate for a moment; is there any reason why an austerity government shouldn't abolish dog wardens, and the requirement to hold stray dogs for at least 7 days, as a cost-cutting measure if we don't have some system of generating revenue that's specifically linked to dogs?

When the old dog licence system was in force the explanation popularly given for the different treatment of dogs compared with any other stray animal was that only dogs had a licence.

Given that (with a few exceptions) politicians fundamentally don't care about animals why should they spend taxpayers' money on keeping strays alive for 7 days? Several commentators on the Dogs Today blog have asked why, as responsible dog owners, they should pay to sort out problems caused by the irresponsible ones; unfortunately that argument applies even more forcefully to anyone who doesn't have a dog but pays tax under the current system.

There is already some pressure to give local authorities "fast-track culling powers for the Police in relation to the animals" in the case of dogs who have been seized under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

I certainly don't have any expectation that a dog license is a magic wand, but wouldn't £21 be worth paying if it meant:
  • There would be somewhere safe where you could take a stray dog you found wandering on the road at 3 am on a Sunday without having to wait until 9am on Monday.
  • If your own dog was frightened by something, ran off and was found straying it would be guaranteed that she could be taken somewhere safe and scanned for a chip.
  • There were enough dog waste bins, emptied frequently enough not to be unpleasant to use.
  • There were enough trained wardens to visit owners whose dogs were causing problems (e.g. constant barking) and give advice.
(Yes, I do realise that many people would say: "Those are your jobs; you should be doing all of those things for free already." In which case, please send us the £21 and we can open 24/7 animal homes and employ more Animal Welfare Officers.)

A few commentators seem to find something very sinister in the report's discussion of disease control in relation to dog registration. The most likely new disease involving dogs is Echinococcus multilocularis. This is actually a tapeworm, whose larval phase forms cysts which can be difficult and dangerous to remove. The phase which affects dogs is the adult worm, which can easily and safely be removed by effective worm treatments. If the disease became endemic in this country it would clearly be of benefit if regular worming could be enforced, but there would be absolutely no reason (and no benefit) from any kind of "cull" of infected dogs.

What about owners who don't get their dogs licensed?

In the US concerns have been expressed that introduction of policies intended to reduce the number of unwanted animals killed by shelters in fact have the opposite effect from what is desired because the sanction for non-compliance is seizure of the animal, which may then be put down if not adopted. 

This isn't what the report suggests should happen (The penalties envisaged seem to be rather on the lines of: "If you don't register your dog, we'll tell you to register your dog.") In Ulster, which does currently have a dog licence system, the cost of a licence is £5 and the penalty for failing to register is a £25 fine. With concessions for unwaged and for service dogs, there's no reason why a £21 registration fee would cause mass relinquishment of animals, particularly if the initial registration entitled the owner to free microchipping or some other benefit.

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