Every few days I seem to be reading newspaper articles about attacks on children by dogs. These incidents, many of which leave the victims physically scarred for life, are always accompanied by cries of public outrage.
But still they go on. I’m at a loss to understand why.
The dogs always seem to be of similar breeds – mastiffs, bull terriers and the like. Squat, ugly, wild-eyed, slavering creatures, they look as if they’ve come straight off the set of a horror movie. You have to wonder how they can be so loved by their owners. Until, that is, you see the owners, who themselves are almost invariably squat, ugly, wild-eyed slavering creatures.
The profiles of both owners and dogs in these cases are depressingly familiar. The owners typically live in low-grade housing with few facilities for sheltering, let alone confining their dogs. Typically, they are typically macho men who display the kind of swaggering aggressive bravado seen in violent video games – and commonly on football terraces. The dogs represent their alter egos, or perhaps it’s the other way round.
The solution to the problem of dangerous feral dogs seems pretty straightforward enough to me. Certain dangerous breeds should be banned altogether. I’m told that may be too complicated. I can’t think why it should be. We don’t allow people to keep lions and tigers.
A license fee should be imposed on canine breeds classified as dangerous, or potentially dangerous. Moreover, such licenses should be prohibitively expensive. They should also come with certain mandatory standards of care and responsibility. The dogs must be confined to areas that are adequately fenced and posted with warning signs, and should not be permitted in any public place except on specially-designed leashes. Needless to say, violations should be punishable by the destruction of the dog, or dogs (they often come in packs) and prosecution of the owner, in all cases with swingeing fines and in certain cases with every prospect of a custodial sentence.
While we’re at it, why not reintroduce the dog license for all breeds above a certain size? That sounds much too draconian, I hear you say. Maybe so. But the custom of keeping dogs, like cock-fighting, hare-coursing and, yes, smoking, is one of those primitive, anti-social and potentially harmful practises from which the public is entitled to be protected for reasons of – and I apologise for using the expression – health and safety.
I have no animus against dogs. I have owned dogs myself. Mine were, like their owner, harmless, hapless and lovable.
I have no intention of owning dogs ever again. They don’t belong in an increasingly packed and urbanised society. Despite regulations designed to restrict them from doing so, dogs continue to befoul footpaths, parks and playing fields with rancid, steaming piles of excrement that even the owners are reluctant to pick up after them. They bark and howl when people are sleeping. They frighten children.
They must be phased out, and not just the monsters. All of them.
One way or another, they are all bad dogs.