Friday, 29 February 2008

To the Feds we Go

Our NSW and Federal Transport Ministers and the NSW Police force at Marrickville.

Pema and I have finally made it home from Sydney to the Central Coast via public transport - the same way we got back into the city for a day of media interviews and filming after the Daily Telegraph article. We had to spend another unplanned night in the city because the transit police were waiting for us at Central Station. "We know who you are", they wrenched my phone out of my hand. I'd had enough, I could see they were not going to let me get on my train, so I was going to leave. Nope, they wouldn't let me leave, wouldn't let me get my train, they were just being obstructionists - and ruff. They asked if Pema was a registered assistance dog. All Barking Mad members know the answer to that one: 'yes, of course, and she has $10 million public liability insurance".

They demanded ID and didn't like it when I asked why if they knew who I was. I am also not obliged to give them ID unless they put me under arrest, but they didn't look happy when I quoted my rights. And these uniformed folks obviously didn't know the Disability Discrimination Act or the difference between a companion dog, an assistance animal and NSW RailCorp unique definition of a 'Therapy Dog'.

Still, winners are grinner's, and we finally got the State Transit to admit what we have known and acted on for nearly a year. We gave Minister Watkins many opportunities to help us end the harassment we were receiving from uninformed bus drivers and even bus Depot Managers. Why did I have to be rolled by the police, charged with resisting arrest (get the irony? That was the charge - so what charge was I resisting?) before he and State Transit admitted their own policy. I can happily say "I told you so" but that does not accomplish our objective. I have no need to stay in the past.
  • We have the admission we wanted, Barking Mad and our faithful members have been vindicated.
  • We have a strategy that is aligned with the NSW State Plan.
  • We have some very pissed off members who are taking up the issue of the police treatment of me (that is not Barking Mad's issue).
  • We have good federal and state (NSW & Queensland) support for many of our policies and we need to build on that.
  • Barking Mad members will continue to use public transport when appropriate and respect those with opposing opinions or fear.
  • But more than that, we will enjoy public transport more than anyone because we ALL experience conversation and people chatting to our dogs while we travel - and we love that sense of community!

What we ask now of Minister Watkins is to assist us in getting a national pets on public transport strategy. We ask him to work with his Federal counterpart (Minister Albanese in the top photo) for our draft policy which is based on the existing pets on public transport policy in London:


  1. You can bring an assistance dog with you without charge. You can also take with you without charge any other dog or inoffensive animal, unless there is a good reason for us to refuse it (such as if the animal seems dangerous or is likely to upset other customers).
  2. You must keep it under control on a lead or in a suitable container, and must not allow it on a seat. Staff are not allowed to take charge of any animal.
  3. If you bring an animal with you, for safety reasons you must carry it on moving escalators or through automatic ticket gates. If you have an assistance dog, you must ask a member of staff to open the manual gate to allow you to enter or leave a station with automatic gates. If there is a moving escalator and no staircase or lift, a member of our staff will stop the escalator to allow your dog to travel on it when it is safe to do so (generally outside the rush hours and when the station is not busy).

In practice, this proposed change comes down to "behave and be responsible”. Both Ministers Watkins and Albanese have excellent reputations for being honest 'nice' guys. Let's hope we can work together with them and the relevant environment, health (ageing) and community ministers to bring more common sense (scents?) to the important public amenity that is transport.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

No Sh!t - and no agreement

Barking Mad is a relatively new lobby group. We have no need to 'trash' any side of the political debate. We have 30 years of experience in lobbying, and as a lobbyist, that means we lobby for controversial issues. History is clear in showing us that many of these 'controversial' issues become commonplace - it's the lobbyists that are the leaders to get the public perception into the political arena. And yes, sometimes we suffer personally for it, and historically, many 'lobbyists' become 'heroes' only after death.

Minister Watkins didn't agree to anything as this article in the Telgraph implies. He is just confirming what we have asked to be publicised for nearly a year. Barking Mad located our statutory right when many other groups did not. Thank you to our members who supported us in this early vision and subsequent victory. Why did it take a violent arrest for our right to travel on PUBLIC transport to be acknowledged? Barking Mad works for responsible pet owners - the majority.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Pema Leads...Daily Telegraph

Welcome (again, with gratitude) to our members and a special welcome to new readers who have arrived here because of the Daily Telegraph article. If you are, were or want to be a pet owner, and support what we do (even if not HOW we do it), I ask you to JOIN. By joining (for less than a bag of premium pet chow), you make your vote count.

If you think pets are dirty, not-welcome in cities, or that they are all owned by irresponsible people, I offer you the following to consider:
Independent research (facts) show that the vast majority of pet owners are 'responsible' and aware of their obligation to share our community resources.

  1. Pet owners make a significant contribution to our national economy.

  2. Overwhelming evidence exists of the utilitarian value of pets (mostly dogs) to the aged, infirmed, disabled and to building community.

  3. Yep, there are 'idiot' owners just like there are parents who let their kids act illegally, men who feel a need to urinate in public stairwells, and people who chose to be violent towards another person or to break into their personal space.

  4. There are also 1 out of 5 Australians who suffer from a disability and effects of certain disabilities can be commonly misunderstood. (Bi-polar folks are amongst many of our top achievers).

  5. Lastly, a fact that few want to accept because 'blame the dog' is so much easier, is that a child is at least ten times more likely to be injured at the hand of their parent or guardian than a dog.

  6. Lastly, another fact that is unwelcome in the media, is that the largest category of dog owner is a family with children.
Barking Mad accepts your view of pets and asks you to respect ours. If you support our work, please make a donation. Even a charity can't work without $. Each week I hear the stories of support that pets have provided in difficult times. Would people be left alone to die in a unit if they had a pet? My bet is that the pet would raise the alarm.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Bus Arrest

I was travelling by bus from Ryde to Sydney (CBD) at about 5pm on the 21st of February. After being in court the day before (with three members all with dogs) then being arrested after spending a lovely 5 hours socialising at an outdoor pub, I boarded the bus without drama looking forward to a quiet meal in the city before travelling back up the coast by train.
  • We have official correspondence on STA letterhead advising our right to travel on Sydney and Newcastle buses and ferries with our pets, as long as they are clean and well behaved - no special ID required!

It was a nice new bus with fold up seats to make space for wheelchairs. Pema was happily sitting on the floor in this space when the Transit Police boarded for a ticket check. They told me to leave because of dog. I told them to call the depot and quoted the STA instructions to bus operators that allowed me to travel on this bus. The driver confirmed he allowed me on the bus.

The transit police we not happy. They shut down the bus, got everyone off (several folks said good luck), and got the big guns in - three NSW Police. What happened next is the stuff of horror and confirms what we hear about police treatment of youths, Aboriginals and 'people of Middle Eastern appearance' and Ms. McDonald, the 62 year old (Asian) grandmother they searched and hurt while she was waiting for a bus. They grabbed me to get me off the bus so I went to get Pema. My effort to collect my dog now made me 'resisting arrest'. Why would I resist arrest? An arrest can often result in a faster policy change than other means. Dragged, feet kicked out from under me, handcuffed, separated from my dog, etc. I am injured and under medical care. The rest of the story will be in the members area. This is a sad and senseless situation. Please read about Rosa Parks - arrested in 1955 and deemed a criminal only to be later credited by the US Congress as the mother of the modern-day Civil Rights Movement. Please consider making a donation to help fight this insanity. We also need help in the office for the next week while my injuries heal, email if you can help.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Warringah Council rangers were not told...

Photo: Our party after court; two of these three dogs are Assistance Animals by law.

For one year, we have assisted members challenge many 'stupid' dog fines in court. We have won each and every one. We've been looking forward to this legal challenge issued by Warringah Council against Barking Mad's proprietor Eedra Zey because it contains several important issues of law. Please recall that this 'penalty infringement notice (PIN)' was issued during a legal assembly back in May 07 - Salty Dogs Day Out #2. Case law strongly supports the right of people to 'protest' peacefully, yet Warringah appear to think they act above court decisions. We wonder if that is why the Council was SACKED by the NSW government and remains in control of an 'administrator' unlike other councils that have elected members.

Our court appearance, attended by several Barking Mad members and their dogs took the entire day. We've got to hand it to the two rangers who were witnesses. They are SO caught in the middle, and both who testified showed common sense well beyond the Warringah Council administrator who so ignorantly proclaims (with tax payers money) that 'dogs and beaches don't mix'. Unfortunately, the rangers were not aware of the Plan of Management for the beach in question - oops. Log into the members area for more details.

Our case continues in May. Council chose not to accept that the dog was a Disability Assistance Dog which would have concluded the case. We don't mind, as we would much prefer to argue jurisdiction, which is often difficult to do in the lower courts but we are managing thanks to Warringah Council's obstinacy.

Our celebration party ended unceremoniously when a couple of young, bored police officers showed up and said the publican of Paddy Maguire's wanted me to leave because my dog was inside. She was outside with all the other dogs, and we were still being served drinks... They said I would be fined $550 if I didn't leave and I said 'yes please'. An hour passed until a (not bored) aggressive Sergeant showed up and arrested me. He was in no mood to know, understand, or even listen to any of the laws that make it illegal for a business to deny access to a person with an assistance animal. So, I was carted off to the police station where I finally got out 2 hours later having missed the last train home. Little did I know I was to be arrested again later in the day, in horrific, brutal and demeaning circumstances. And on that note, I must thank the city police for their humanity in keeping me with my dog, transporting me in a vehicle and otherwise respecting my health and welfare. OF COURSE, Pema won over the custody manager and ended up behind the police desk on the command chair and was given the rank of Sergeant.
  • TRAIN: Remember that RailCorp allows you to travel with your dog "if it provides a therapeutic benefit to you or someone other than yourself." More on members area of the web, as to will be our campaigns that stem from these two arrests. None of these laws will stop you from being hassled until a big education campaign is put in place!

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Movie Day with the Dogs

Since the beginning of January the notice "no dogs allowed" is removed from the Admiral cinema. Every Thursday, film goers can take their dogs with them into the cinema. For those who would like to sample the quality of the canine cinema for themselves, visit this Vienna theatre - remember you can take pooch on the plane or train or bus to get there, and when you arrive, a petting corner, popcorn for dogs and fresh water are provided.

I certainly recall a meeting with a State MP lately who said to me 'you wouldn't take your dog to the movies with you, surely?'. Whoof!

The Admiral cinema in Vienna's 7th district, one of the oldest in the city, has been under new management since December 2007. They have opened the doors of the picture house to man's best friend.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008


I am sorry. I am sorry for the hurt and lack of humanity so many of our government policies cause. The short-term political arena is a difficult space for visionaries and deep-thinkers. So often, good intent turns into bad legislation. This thread could easily lead to a criticism of companion animal regulations and our previous Prime Minister, but I do not want to detract from the significance of the simple and meaningful act of humanity that started our 42nd Federal Parliament today. As an act of respect, I have linked the Reconciliation Speech onto the Federal Campaign page of Barking Mad - Equity for Pet Owners. As food for thought - dogs were companions to and provided assistance for our original Australians.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Wet Dog

Only a wet dog photo would be appropriate in the deluge coastal NSW has been experiencing for most of February and a lot of January (send in your wet-dog photos!). We have a tin roof, which makes phone conversations near impossible in this weather. It's difficult to think of all the other things we have happening in this NOISE, but I'll try.
  • NSW - We are meeting with lots of State members to advance our draft amendment to the Companion Animals Act, get pets on public transport as is supported by the State Plan and raise issues of discrimination of renters, unit dwellers, the aged and those with a disability.
  • Syndey -This is important for all of us nationally. We put in a 26 page submission to the City and wrote letters representing members' views. Read letters here (members sign-in required).
  • TRANSPORT PASSES - not needed to travel on Sydney buses, but helpful. I am doing a bulk order for members in hope that they will take less than the three months it took to get mine. Members, to get a STA bus pass email me.
  • Queensland - What a bland response we are receiving in regards to the 'one dog per family' policy. Many members have commented on the lack of humanity, responsibility or even care in the response from member Warren Pitt. We will change strategies, stay tuned.
  • Federal - We are meeting with Federal Members to raise the profile of dogs (and pets) to health, aged care and independence, public-safety and also for national transport guidelines for pets on public transport. I've heard more than one story of holiday-makers who needed to get home after a vehicle break-down and found themselves stuck because of their canine companions.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Argo, a common scents dog meets the Transit Police

We love these stories from members about how they were ultra-responsible for their dog only to get 'done' by someone (often being in a uniform). When we STOP hearing these stories, we will have achieved a safe and pet-friendly society. So, onto the story....Argo travelled to Sydney with Mum to pick up a young relative from Central Station. Mum checked with Central Station that this would be OK and was told it would be. Mum and Argo moved through the turnstile past two lots of Transit Police all ok to meet the arriving country train on a Sunday at 7.30pm.

Relative arrives, everyone leaves the platform and moves to the main station by the newsagent where numerous people are smoking. Soon Argo is greeted by two security guards who said no dogs were allowed on railway property for fear of railways being sued if Argo bit (or barked at) someone. They said it was a $400 fine, so our member left. Next time, no doubt, she'll take the fine and challenge it. She also felt harassed by the security guys who turned a blind eye to all the smokers who just happened to levitate out of the area while this conversation about little Argo was taking place.

Argo (being a senior) is now more convinced than ever that he does not want to be reborn as a human.