While I was being interviewed by a radio station this morning about a child who had had his thumb bitten off by a Staffie, it got me thinking about the importance of educating people – both owners and children in general – about dogs. Educating owners how to look after them, to understand and respect them, how to train them to be acceptable citizens; educating everyone how to approach dogs.
Dog attacks have increased by over 70% in the last ten years. I can’t believe dogs are getting worse so it must be that we humans are failing them in some way.
As there is, on average, at least one dog in every three to four households, dogs are everywhere. Love them or hate them, this is an inescapable part of our lives. Anything else that is all around us to this extent becomes part of the education system in schools.
Children learn about the Magna Carta, they learn about dinosaurs and butterflies.
They learn about animals living the other side of the world, but not those living on their own doorsteps.
Why aren’t children learning about dogs in school?
If Dog Awareness became a curriculum subject, not only would the current generation of children be safer but they would make better dog owners when they grow up.
They would go home and teach their parents through homework projects about dogs.
How else can we educate the adults – the existing dog owners (many of whom will also be parents)?
If things can be caught at grass root level they are much less likely to escalate into serious, out of control situations. It was the Mayor of New York, I believe, who clamped down hard on very petty crime and the overall serious crime figures dropped dramatically.
For offences like not picking up after the dog, having a dog off lead where not permitted, having a dog off lead and a nuisance or out of control, leaving a dog all day alone and barking in the garden and so on, why not, just as we do for speeding drivers, offer a choice between a (substantial) fine and a day doing an awareness course?
Education has to be a lot better than punishment. Education sticks. Education means that the wisdom is spread wider.
We need more dog wardens of course. For more dog wardens we need more money. I wonder how many people would object to paying another 10p (would that be enough?) a month on their local council tax to make the county cleaner and safer for everyone?
I certainly wouldn’t.
If neighbours of noisy or uncontrolled dogs knew that a complaint would lead to the owner being educated rather than prosecuted or even to the dog taken away, they could report someone without too much bad feeling.
The awareness courses could be held by local professionals like myself who belong to certain listed professional bodies. We wouldn’t need payment. Our reward would be publicity and business from the dog owners in the classes, the very people that may need help in order not to face a longer course or larger fine the second time.
The only way to resolve the situation in the end is for us, the humans, to change. The dogs will always be….just dogs.