Saturday, 29 March 2008

A members journey...on public transport with Mojo

For a multitude of mishaps and reasons member M.B. had to travel from Sydney to Newcastle by train instead of driving on a weekend. Here is her story: All was well with my killer miniature poodle until guard 4904 walked through the train approaching Newcastle. It was obvious 4904 was having a VERY bad day. His conversation with me was extremely heated and volatile and he threatened to throw myself and killer Mojo off the train, (which did send me into a panic as I didn't have the resources for a cab AND I had a considerable amount of luggage).

His attitude was sufficiently hostile and loud that on his departure other passengers came to offer support. He paid me a further visit to reinforce the ruling (and further distress everyone in carriage) and at Fassifern he approached the carriage with the Station person in tow. The train was held for almost 10 minutes for my dog who had slept on my lap or on the floor for almost the entire journey. With a 'suitable' amount of huff and bluster 4904 finally announced that I would be permitted to continue to Broadmeadow but that the police would be waiting for me.

(Must admit to a certain amount of glee when passengers behind me laughed out loud at that stage). Got to Broadmeadow and was so thankful that the police had decided they had better things to do with their day and failed to turn up for our 'scheduled' rendezvous! Although I must admit I was keen to see Mojo's 'mug' shot! One of the passengers, who had been particularly supportive, was rather delighted to see the look on the guards face when we walked off the platform as free as birds! Hope none of you have had a day like mine. Regards Member M. G.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Clontarf dog swimming

This tidal area has been an 'informal' dog swimming area for the past 50 years. Manly Council want to make it 'legal'. Although we doubt their jurisdiction to do so (and are in court over such at a matter a present), it is a recommendation we support. A designated off-lead dog area lets the public know that dogs have priority and makes sure adequate rubbish bins are provided.
HOWEVER - no one likes change, and even this positive action has raised the hackles of a few residents who have lived with status-quo for years and never before had a problem - until now.

We're working with the local dog owner's group and will be campaigning at 'Sandy Bay' this Saturday between 10am and 2pm for sure with a possible assembly the following weekend. Join this campaign. Watch video - go to Telegraph TV and scroll to dog-of-war.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Random notes on tactics....

“As with other social justice movements, activists are seeking to push the existing boundaries and achieve law reform through a range of strategies, including lobbying for legislative change; utilising targeted and test-case litigation; undertaking community and professional education campaigns; and harnessing the power of consumers in the marketplace." Australian Law Reform Commission 3-March 08

"Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it." Henry David Thoreau

Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves. Henry David Thoreau

Click here for my personal note on tactics

"I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. No other person has been more eloquent and passionate in getting this idea across than Henry David Thoreau. As a result of his writings and personal witness, we are the heirs of a legacy of creative protest. Martin Luther King

While Walden can be applied to almost anyone's life, "Civil Disobedience" is like a venerated architectural landmark: it is preserved and admired, and sometimes visited, but for most of us there are not many occasions when it can actually be used. Still, although seldom mentioned without references to Gandhi and King, "Civil Disobedience" has more history than many suspect. In the 1940's it was read by the Danish resistance, in the 1950's it was cherished by people who opposed McCarthyism, in the 1960's it was influential in the struggle against South African apartheid, and in the 1970's it was discovered by a new generation of anti-war activists. The lesson learned from all this experience is that Thoreau's ideas really do work, just as he imagined they would.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Dogs Guide

The joke is on Barking Mad. Pema and I rock up at a specialist clinic today to deal with my injuries sustained when being wrongfully arrested for travelling legally on the bus last month. Pema is sniffing a lot more than is acceptable before we enter the surgery, and I'm wondering why; thinking perhaps it's because we haven't been out in public much lately except at our glorious dog beach. Someone inside opens the door for us and I'm asked to move ahead into the waiting room where I promptly put Pema 'in her house' under the chair.

Whew, I'm thinking, so far so good. No idiots assuming to know the law needing to tell me only seeing-eye dogs allowed ("yeah? my dog can see you don't know what you are talking about"), or dogs are not allowed because they are a health risk ("she's a bitch and I'm feeling about the same right now, so please leave us alone") and while these thoughts are going around in my head a GIANT GOLDEN LAB COMES BOUNDING DOWN THE HALL is full flight from the front of the building and heading to see the OTHER golden lab at the back of the building.

Sniffers as they are, GIANT GOLDEN LAB (GGL), pulls up sharply, claws in the carpet and decides that Pema, the new bitch, is a LOT MORE INTERESTING than her relative in the back and does a sharp left where the appropriate nose to butt dance takes place and hierarchy is sorted for all time. Aha, I laugh, at long last after a very traumatic month. Is that why my G.P. sent me to this specialist? Did she know all along? I look around and animal cartoon books compliment the 1994 National Geographic. We know which one I picked.

We've been topped and I love it. When medical doctors have the dogs as 'an integral part of the practice', and it wasn't because of the hard work of Barking Mad, we know we have finally met common scents. Anyone with a visiting dog in aged or hospital care knows the benefits of dogs well, as do the medical professionals regardless of their personal view. I meet GGL again as I leave the surgery and she is exiting the other room with her doctor/mistress and most recent patient. HREOC discussion on assistance animals and the Disability Discrimination Act.


Monday, 24 March 2008

When Justice & Law part company

Not Just Yet. May I recommend to you the 2008 Manning Clark lecture by vocal human rights campaigner Julian Burnside QC, available on ABC Big Ideas.

One could easily spend a day reading Mr. Burnside's numerous publications and in my view, be a better person for it. A Google search will provide you with plenty to think about as to Australia's rule of law or rule of man.

This most recent lecture is not about dogs, or pets, or ageing, health or other Barking Mad campaigns, but it highlights some atrocities of our legislative system. A memorable quote is "when justice is placed beyond reach (in a democracy), we are betrayed". Or, more ironically: justice is open to all, just like the Ritz Hotel. How does this relate to Barking Mad?

I have helped numerous members successfully challenge 'silly dog fines', where a dog owner was acting responsibly, but allegedly illegally. An example would be where a $330 fine was received in the mail weeks after your beautiful morning walk on an empty beach, after a ranger 'just scans your dog' when they meet you in the car park and sends you away with 'have a nice day'.

Not one member was prepared for the extensive time required to make a case for common sense and all felt staggered by the legal resources (MONEY) put into stalling the process, denying information, hiring lawyers, writing letters, etc. Those who have been through it know, now, what I'm talking about. A case in point in having two Warringah Council rangers and a lawyer in court FOR A FULL DAY in February 2008 in a challenge against Barking Mad having one dog on an empty beach in an area in which they have stated they have no authority back in MAY 2007! (Members login required, this case continues in May 2008).
  • What is the cost to the community of a picnic with four people and one dog on a blanket on a secluded, walk-in only beach?
  • What is the cost to the community of two rangers and a lawyer in court for more than a day?

Mr. Burnside talks about how a State government (with deep pockets and a deep resentment for those who choose to legally challenge them) spent $4 million so that they would not have to compensate a member of the stolen generation.

Friday, 21 March 2008

For Sale: Buy or Bye?

Joyfully, Barking Mad has achieved much in a short time; started with a heart-felt passion based in common sense (scents), with no web experience or funding, the organisation serves the majority of Australians who care for pets. We have created links with important agencies who know the value pets provide financially and emotionally in community welfare, ageing, rehabilitation, mental health, mobility and especially to the disadvantaged and vulnerable members of our society. Health professionals and our new Labor government admit the benefits of pets far outweigh the negatives. We've got common sense on our side and our compassion for pets provides us with compassion for people who can't quite get that special link you can establish and maintain with a non-human animal.

Sadly, I must admit that my health is failing. The trauma of being arrested and locked up twice in 24 hours (both times acting legally), charged 4 times in a month and then being targeted (along with other members) for living a 'normal' life with our extremely well trained dogs has taken its toll. On medical advise, my work capacity is limited. After the brutal arrest that resulted in the NSW Transport Minister admitting Barking Mad was in the right, my wrists still hurt from being dragged and handcuffed. X-ray results are pending.

While good for the dog who can get walks based on 'rehabilitation' it's no way to run a business - even a not-for-profit one! I literally grew up in customer service in a family retail business and I am fully committed to serving my members who have trusted me with their financial contributions. As proprietor of Barking Mad I am facing difficult decisions in what would normally be such an exciting time in business with our recent successes with pubic transport.

  1. Sell the business - including trademark, goodwill, membership etc.
  2. Obtain sponsorship for a minimum of one year and $200,000.
  3. Bring in volunteers or partners willing to work for the cause and forego immediate payment. Accommodation on offer in exchange for income.
  4. Your idea?

Please contact me if you have a proposal or solution. If you have a suggestion, please contact me only if you can carry out the suggestion. Thank you all.

Monday, 17 March 2008

The Opera House Cross

Even VIP guests can get stopped by uneducated thugs in uniforms - dog forbid if we were non-english speaking or non-anglo! (and no, we don't 'blame' the thugs - it's a bigger issue of acceptance and understanding).

What do you get when you cross the national broadcaster (a rooster), Opera Australia (a poodle) and security men who are sure they know the Opera House By-Laws (because they have a uniform and fewer brains than a cocker spaniel) so well as to tell you that Federal Discrimination Law doesn't apply on 'their turf'? You get Cockerpoodle doo!

Or - You get two apologetic agencies, and probably a promotion from security guard to police for a few staff of the cocker spaniel analogy above. Or - you get two reputable agencies and one Trust willing to walk their talk, educate their staff and promote access to arts such as the outdoor Opera was meant to do.

Cryptic Crossword? Not really. Just another example of three agencies with only two knowing the laws and the third pulling rank to the benefit of No One. Very similar to bus driver letting dog on bus, transit police not knowing the rules so calling the NSW Police to violently toss off a passive passenger and her placid dog. This time, it was the Opera House Trust uniformed men who rustled both male and female VIP guests of the ABC off the site with their (invited) assistance dogs. Miscommunication or ignorance? I think you know where Barking Mad stands on that question. We hope this unfortunate incident will lead to more education (Barking Mad has qualified workplace trainers), an apology and please - an opera we get to watch, not act in.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Reserve the Axe for the Opera

Opera is a fantastic medium in which steal another person's property, take their partner and murder all the people who try to interfere before causing damage to yourself or the community around you. It's also a great forum to 'fall in love' but usually someone will die in the process, which is acceptable - in Opera. It's a place to take out aggression on someone you just don't like or discriminate because of their work or class. Barking Mad members and their assistance dogs are thrilled to be the guests of ABC Opera on the Big Screen in Sydney this Wednesday to enjoy the classic opera Carmen. It's another opportunity to demonstrate the benefit that 1 million 'assistance dogs' provide to a wide variety of people across Australia - and also how well trained (read quiet) these dogs are.

This BLOG is NOT an opera. Yes, Barking Mad has our share of drama, more in the form of discrimination or ignorance of the laws, than all the 'bad' things that dogs are blamed for. HOWEVER, Barking Mad is not an Opera. We want to hear to your opposition as well as glow in your support. Anonymous and personal attacks are not useful. Barking Mad is about community, not pets. Lots of things annoy us and we can tolerate them. Children can be SO difficult - but how can you help but love them? Some dogs are natural people pleasers, some require strong training, some are mistreated.

Is it not the same for people? We all go through phases. I'm still new to the blog thing but I'm quickly noticing that the few (and I mean few) people who strongly oppose our work refuse to identify themselves. I don't think this is the go. We as members show up with our pets, or look after our elderly parent with their pets. I want that transparency for all of us. I am looking to change the comment section so that you will need to be a registered user before posting. In doing so, I hope the debate continues, focusing on issues, not people. Remember, the majority of people have pets, public transport is for all, and pets are a known value to health and ageing. Facts - like it or not.

Friday, 7 March 2008

A most unusual apology - VOTE

Maybe it's a green thing. Maybe the transport 'guys' see their big buses, trains and timetables and not the social and environmental importance of public transport, especially to our ageing population. Maybe State Transit has a sense of humour I don't get.

But after they admitted to the media I was travelling legally - after I was arrested, I received two penalty notices in the post totalling $300. The first for 'passenger take animal on bus without permission' (um, they even published I had obtained permission), $100, and 'passenger not leave vehicle when directed.' $200. That's right, this girl had a ticket to ride, let's call that a CONTRACT, and I was holding them to their contract. Place your bet: Will the CCTV have been working in this new bus when I was arrested? Vote Yes. Vote No.

Silly! That's all I can say; what a silly waste of time and resources from so many people. There was no problem, no noise, no violence, no disruption to any travellers until the transit police emptied the bus and (the Burwood police came and removed that passenger who had the contract to travel). Click on the photo above to read State Transit's report on making transport accessible to the majority of the community - that's the 40% "majority" who don't have pets, I presume. They even refer to the State Plan on their home page, like we do in our draft policy; we have common ground!

I'm going on a bit about this because it's been over two weeks and my wrist is still sore and strapped up from big boy police officers who interpreted my reaching over to unhook dog lead from bus and collect by bags as 'resisting arrest', and who felt the need to hang on and pull handcuffs that were so gently (ha) applied. Also, members are STILL being hassled by bus operators, although finally today the reports from members travelling has been positive. One even got a free ride, but we won't tell anyone about that.

We're moving ahead with our call to the Federal Government to announce a national transport strategy for pets on public transport. The policy is a copy of the current policy in London - why can they do it, and why haven't we? Please write your support for this policy to your local Federal Member and to the Minister for Transport, Anthony Albanese.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Not a good look from RailCorp

We are seeking a national transport policy, guideline, direction or whatever that will provide national CONSISTENCY across the public transport services in regards to the responsible carriage of pets.

Here is one reason we want a national policy. In the last few months, we have written correspondence from three different departments of RailCorp (and countless different stories from employees at stations) as to the carriage of dogs and/or pets.

There may also be a constitutional issue here; if dogs are 'chattel', well, can't we move them freely between states? Sure, it's a stretch, but it points out the need for common sense (scents).

The majority of Australians have pets. The majority of Australians with pets will, most probably, be occasional or infrequent users of pubic transport. We want our RIGHT to public transport. If we're on holiday and left without our vehicle due to breakdown or other incident and need to travel home with pet - we need to be able to do this! If we are attending a big public event where public transport is recommended, such as DOGGYWOOD for Sydney Mardi Gras, we need access to public transport. Fair go. Pickup and pickup a bus ticket too.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Better for the environment to streak than use public transport?

Personally, I find this photo upsetting. Streaking is a relatively accepted and often funny way to make a point, but why get knocked down in the process? Some sports I will never understand, but the point of this entry today is that it is better (by law) to behave like this naked man (and after the Mardi Gras parade we would have hoped to see a better physique), than to take your pet on public transport.

You see, our streaker payed a $1,500 fine for his publicity and had NO CONVICTION recorded. That means, he is not a 'criminal'. Me, as Barking Mad's proprietor, risk having a conviction recorded for travelling legally on a bus, and therefore being a 'criminal' forever in the public eye.

I started Barking Mad after being defrauded in a business (in which I won in a protracted court case) and having my superannuation being taken by a bank agent passing off as a 'trustee' when he wasn't, (legal action still ongoing). I decided a dog was my best companion option after all this! But the criminal fraud charges have stalled against my perpetrator and I am now at risk of being a criminal for choosing to use public transport with pooch.

Let's make clear that's my 'public-access tested', 'approved to work with children' pooch. In other words - you can step on her, pull her tail, poke your fingers in her eyes, and she will choose to move away rather than retaliate for someones really silly action. She will also never trick you into signing over a mortgage or your super to her - yet we're criminals in waiting.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

State Transit say 'SORRY' (really?)

Fact or Fiction? Today the NSW State Transit, after finally admitting in Daily Telegraph that Barking Mad knew the law better than their bus drivers AND transit officers did; finally confirmed our legal right to travel on PUBLIC (note public) transport with our pets (providing we are responsible, of course) offered an apology to all Barking Mad members who have suffered abuse, inconvenience and public humiliation during the last year while Barking Mad has educated our members and encouraged State Politicians to proclaim a right that exists, but has been hidden. We regret that our elected officials have neglected to admit the current law and that it took a violent arrest on the 21st of February and inconvenience of many travellers for them to state the fact. (And Barking Mad thanks all our early members who have trusted us to point out their legal rights - yes, we have been justified.)

State Transit have offered free transport for all regular travellers with pets, with a special 'honorary' pass given to senior citizens from now until the end of 2009.

In regards to the arrest of me, the proprietor of Barking Mad, after being allowed onto the L20 bus on Victoria Road towards the city only to be subsequently harassed by transit officers for travelling with my cute, quiet, public-loving, pooch sitting inconspicuously under my seat, then violently arrested by the infamous Burwood police, State Transit have agreed to hire Barking Mad (a qualified workplace training organisation) to educate their drivers on the State Transit laws as well as the Disability Discrimination Act and 'assistance dogs'.

Fact or Fiction? Fiction. Although State Transit have admitted we were in the right, members are still being harassed even after the generous publicity in the Daily Telegraph and the public admission from the NSW Transport Minster, John Watkins. I am sorry it has come to this. We have known our rights for over a year and all our correspondence to the politicians has not helped. A female in a skirt, heals and a singlet (with dog, big handbag and legal briefcase) needed to get rolled off the bus and on to Victoria road to have her feet kicked out so she landed on the pavement to get handcuffed - separated from her dog, to have our civil right to travel on public transport acknowledged. It's really sad isn't it? What happened to man's best friend?

Monday, 3 March 2008

Man, Dog & Angry Bus Driver

Watch & Listen: that little dog is an assistance animal.

Saddened, but not surprised. Another "customer service" public transport staff deciding that they know more about dogs than the dogs' guardian. Read this story from the Adelaide Advertiser.

Vladimir (in photo) with his dog Roxy may well want to know about Pet First Aid for Cats & Dogs run by the Seattle Red Cross - but hurry, the first class is sold-out!

Even after NSW State Transit admitted Barking Mad was right - members have been hassled, and fines issued - after permission to board the bus was given!

Sunday, 2 March 2008

No Animals at the Mardi Gras Parade

L-R: Pema (in pram), Kane (with boots), Eedra & Clover Moore MP before the parade.

Well, we did it; two Barking Mad members & dogs walked in support of Clover More, along with 100,000 others marching for various rights for a vibrant and diverse community - and for FUN. Having only watched the parade once before, and not having been in a parade since I was twirling a baton and a silly wooden rifle with wearing cute white boots at age 8 surrounded by giggling girls - AND, not being a 'crowd' person - despite Pema the dog being one - IT WAS QUITE AN EXPERIENCE!!!!!!!

Would we do it again? While in the 'lock down' for three hours before the parade and after being HASSLED by another ignorant STA bus driver who hasn't been told of our right to travel with pets (and therefore upsetting passesengers), the operator refused to drive on and I could see this going crazy again. Eventually, she realised all was safe and well, but didn't miss an opportunity to be extremely rude when we got off the bus. SO tired of this... So would we do it again? NO WAY. That is until the parade actually started and the crowd went wild wanting to pet Kane and then thought Pema in the pram following was SO CUTE. The dogs were a big hit. We think they have fully passed their public access tests now - so please stop hassling us with well-behaved, highly-trained (and loved dogs).

A Barking Mad float next year? Volunteer here.