Sunday, 30 November 2008

Doctor's Orders - Dog is Good

Remember when our national broadcaster the ABC generously offered two VIP tickets to Barking Mad members with assistance dogs to the outdoor opera back in March this year? And then they were denied entry - something to do with multiple agencies being the ABC, Opera Australia and the Opera House Trust. The first two accommodated their guests, and the later did not, and refused to contact the first two to get this sorted. The result: DRAMA !

And now a complaint of disability discrimination after an offer to show the video claiming ''only guide dogs''' was refused by the Opera House CEO. Now that a formal complaint has been lodged, what did Sydney Opera House do with this complaint? They submitted 160 pages saying they did the right thing; the big bank strategy. And finally, they asked to see the video which we have put on YouTube. In their 160 pages, they claim to be experts about assistance dogs and people with disability. This is timely with the International Day of People with Disability this week, the 3rd of December. So we thought we would offer Richard Evans, CEO of Sydney Opera House, a man with a bigger budget than ..... a quiz on disabilities and assistance animals. This is one of the questions:
The 16 photos above are of dogs and the dog’s main carer/guardian. All are legitimate photos taken recently. 9 of these photos are of assistance dogs with the person they provide assistance to (a person with a disability). All of the assistance dogs in these photos are ‘working’ (on-duty, not resting) at the time the image was taken.

Please circle or put a cross in the 9 images where Sydney Opera House would allow dogs on site because they are assistance animals as defined by the DDA.

We will let you know how we go!

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Dog Friendly Big City + Poster

What a great example of the marketing and financial power of being dog-friendly; not to mention engaging youth in a big design contest. Vote now for your favourite! The winning 2009-2010 sticker design will be displayed on 1.3 million automobiles.

Chicago. Home to president elect Obama. He promised a puppy for his family in his victory speech and the city he is leaving to take up residence in the White House runs a campaign for a DOG FRIENDLY image. Love it, don't you?

Our families, our pets. Just like we previously shunned, but now embraced seat-belts and home water tanks, our culture will change (back) to one that recognises the important contribution of pets to individuals and communities.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Need we say more?

We are grateful for the images and stories our members send in. This one is timely with our meeting about pets on trains coming up soon. (A policy we have multi-partisan support for). Check out the comments on this image here.
  • I guess no one's gonna tell the dude that dogs aren't allowed on the subway.
  • Did you ask him if the dog was a service animal?
  • I take it the fur coat was his "first dog?"

Monday, 24 November 2008

A post from....

I feel very strongly about this.

I have worked hard to train my dog to walk with me politely in most places (he is two and has been attending weekly obedience training for 18 months), but never on public transport.
I would only rarely need to use public transport because I have my own car, but for instance, I’d love to be able to catch a bus with my dog on weekends and take him into the city.

For larger dogs (that aren’t carried in bags etc) perhaps there could be an examination day, where dogs catch a bus and a train, and are watched, and as long as they don’t cause a problem they gain a ‘travel licence’ or similar.

I have seen guide dogs for the blind crawl under the bus seats so that the dog is out of the way. I would need to train my dog before he was able to do this. Perhaps the testing day could also have some public transport furniture so that we could train our animals to be as non-invasive as possible.

I am worried about there being a single carriage for animals. I don’t think the numbers travelling with animals will be huge. In situations where there more than one dog is travelling on a train, placing them all in the same carriage is inviting problems. My dog is most unreliable where he meets another dog – he wants to greet it, mark territory and other typical dog behaviours. I can manage this by sheer force, but the easiest thing to do is to place greater distance between the dogs. Not to get onto the same carriage, or to sit upstairs when the other dog is downstairs.

Many RTA workers (and others in our community) come from countries where dogs are not kept as pets . Perhaps we dog owners could offer to work with our well behaved dogs and these people to show them how we expect dogs to behave in situations on public transport so they feel less threatened about managing dogs and dog owners on public transport.

Furthermore, those with perfectly trained dogs may forget that many well trained dogs are not perfect in all circumstances. Pretending anything else is probably inviting any progress to be undone by people naively presenting the training of large dogs for unfamiliar on-lead situations as totally routine. A better approach is to emphasise everyone’s willingness to work towards ensuring their dogs can travel on public transport without causing any problems.

Contributed by an owner of a gundog who lives in the northern suburbs of Sydney. The points mentioned are issues where discussion in invited, especially in our multi-cultural society.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

What is acceptable behaviour?

And who says so? (And how much grief am I going to get from this post?). We need to have this discussion.

This is NOT what is responsible pet ownership. This is what is acceptable behaviour for a handler and their dog/s travelling on public transport, and it's a discussion that needs to be had from those travelling with dog and those observing or opposed.

We've all seen breed-ist behaviour, most ill-advised. "Alsatians are dangerous, big dogs are worse than little dogs, little dogs are harmless, Labradors are perfect and don't get me started on Staffies!"

What to we expect from ourselves and what do we expect from other - specific to using public transport across Australia?

I will start with someone else's opinion: (with comments).
  1. Accepting a friendly stranger (is this necessary?)
  2. Sitting quietly
  3. Clean (what happens with wet dog coming back from the beach or having walked in the rain?)
  4. Walking on a loose lead.
  5. Calm walking through a crowd
  6. Sit or down on command and staying in place (may need to use both hands to get through ticket barriers or buy a ticket).
  7. Coming when called (necessary if we have the dog on lead for the entire journey?)
  8. Reaction to another dog (compare this with humans, we don't like everyone, do our dogs need to?).
  9. Reaction to distraction (do we want a dog howling when the train goes over a noisy railway bridge - but they it could be very funny....)
  10. Supervised separation (again, needed if we have the dog on the lead for the entire journey?)

I look forward to your comments with some trepidation and thoughts about cans and worms.

Friday, 21 November 2008


We've received buckets of mail about our upcoming meeting with a public transport provider. Here is a selection:

I'm in favour of anything that allows us to take our dogs on public transport. Training, registration - whatever it takes really. J.T.

I would love to be able to take my dogs on a train and bus so I would be happy to comply with any form of test/ fee/ regulation. All I want is to be able to catch a train so I can meet friends in the park or on the beach, be able to have a few drinks and then get home safely. S.A.

We should be able to take our dogs onto public transport as long as they are well behaved, and on a short lead. In Europe dogs traveling on trains are so well behaved, there are times you would not notice the dog at all even sitting next to it. I feel we have so many restrictions on where we can take our dogs, in the end it has caused so many problems as they are not socialised enough. D.O.

If someone (pet or people) does not behave well on public transport they should not be allowed to use it. The problem is to define what is bad behaviour. There have to be some guidelines (that are almost the same as for humans).
  • Pets not on seat - no shoes on seats
  • No noise - barking, whining, excessive use of mobiles and loud Ipods
  • No aggression - growling, lunge, elbows, stepping on toes
  • Other traveller should not be soiled - jumping, dribble, sweat and alcohol perspiration
  • No food/feeding.
So basically the same as for humans - which shows that there are no extra rules necessary really; and it shows as well what a highly regulated society we already live in. Definitely all rules should be applied with the same lenience as towards the human travellers. It is up to the conductor/driver to enforce good behaviour in their vehicles; the are the only ones that would need training. A.A.

Barking Mad Comments: Self regulation is another option. I've seen people sharing a train or bus take on people using offensive language and it worked.

I would really appreciate being able to take my dog on public transport and into more public places. I subscribe to the notion that the dog should be well behaved and under the total control of the owner (carer) at any given time. It is time that we the dog lovers/owners voiced our opinions to the many and various councils around this great country. I also think it would help if it was a federal ruling so that the rules would be the same all over the country. L.P.

To facilitate pets to travel on trains and avoid animal haters from complaining I think the dedicated pet-carriage is a good idea. Then people who like animals can choose to travel in that compartment with other people and their pets. Then you won't have the others complaining about noise, smell etc.

Clearly identify that persons and their companion animals can travel in a particular carriage. This will provide persons who do not have private transport the ability to commute without having to pay expensive pet taxis. Additionally, it will also create a community environment, because you know that people who travel in that dedicated area are pet lovers, whether they have one or not.

My dog is the love of my life. He currently travels on my motor scooter with me and is the reason why I got my scooter license. I can't afford a car and wanted to take him everywhere I could with him. Its not particularly good on longer trips and when weather is inclement. Having the option to travel by train to see my parents would be great. Currently I would not attempt the trip on the M5 on my bike...far to dangerous, so my elderly parents have to drive down to my place in Redfern.

I am one of the many pet owners with an unseen disability. For nearly 20 years I have suffered with (edited for privacy). Although I am still on medication and probably will be for the rest of my life, my dog has helped me so much I can't explain. He knows when I'm not well and snuggles with me. He gives me a reason to wake up, get out to the park and feel better. He is priceless and there is nothing I wouldn't do for him. Congratulations on all your hard work and dedication. (private)

Thanks for all your good work. I think some sort of test to gain a 'ticket' for dogs to travel on public transport would be necessary. Maybe this would act as an encouragement for dog owners to train their dogs adequately. No one wants an antisocial dog next to them on public transport - but then a well-behaved one would be a great advertisement! D. B.

Barking Mad Comments on the great advertisement: We know! Pema travels on public transport with her command of 'in your house' that sends her under the seat. However, when people DO notice her, over and over and over, they want to pat her, meet her, have her entertain their child in a pram. She either goes unnoticed, or is the facilitator of a community of joy created on a train or bus giving people 20 minutes of connection, joy and laughter. Today we visited Gosford Hospital (as we have done on Fridays for two years), a mental health clinic and a bank. It took A LONG TIME to get out of the bank as Pema had 5 staff enjoying her company while I dealt with a foreign currency exchange. Joy. Bliss. Community. The bank staff got out their photos - printed or on their phones or computer backgrounds and showed me their dogs. What a cack!!!

I'm a single woman with one small dog and two cats. I don't drive or have access to a car. For me to get my pets to a vet costs me at least $30 each way in a cab, which isn't cheap! Generally the cab drivers are quite rude as they don't want 'hair in their cabs' and so it is difficult to pin one down- not helpful in emergencies.

I think it is vital to have a service for people with pets who don't have cars to be able to transport their pets. Public transport is paid for by tax payers and we have the right to be able to use it for ourselves and our animals. Obviously the animals need to be restrained, confined and should be well behaved. But we really need this. I'd hate to think of animals going untreated due to the difficulties getting them to a vet.

I would also love the opportunity to be able to take my dog to agility classes, dog training etc (as there is none available in my area) on public transport. I lived in London where pets are always allowed on public transport and there is never any problems. Done properly, this is a vital service for communities and individuals.

Not everyone can afford to own a car or even get access to one when it is needed. We need to be able to provide a service for all pet owners. J.L.

Most dog owners that I know have had their dogs do some sort of training. Mine, for example, has a Canine Good Citizen certificate, which means that he is well behaved and can follow commands. I support your efforts and also think that some sort of training/certificate should be sufficient for the powers that be. U.A.

I think it is very important to have some sort of training program in place as a large or even a small poorly controlled dog with aggression issues (either to other dogs or humans) could put the whole cause back in the dark ages. Socialising dogs and teaching them appropriate manners is a lot different from an obedience trained dog. Some sort of temperament testing as well as handler control testing, maybe even requesting that some dogs be required to wear a muzzle on public transport might not be as bad as it sounds to some people. There will be always be people who think their dog is perfect but in fact the opposite is the case. Also there are people who will abuse the system.

I would suggest a list of criteria the dog must be able to pass before it is allowed to travel on public transport. As an example just expecting a dog to have say the Community Companion Dog (CCD -gained through dog obedience trials) certificate would not be enough. I have seen dogs who have this title or higher but can be aggressive towards certain other dog types.

I think allocating carriages for people to travel on is also an excellent idea. It allows people who are not dog friendly (either psychologically or physically) to be sure they will not have to have dogs in their faces.
I would love to be able to get on the ferry at Stockton and cross the harbour across to Newcastle with my 2 dogs. It would mean an easier access to the dog beach at Horseshoe Beach on Newcastle Harbour. Also being able to travel by train & bus from Newcastle to Sydney with my dogs would be great.

Read our letters from the transport and other ministers in support (link in progress, the writer has problems with her scanning technology!)

Monday, 17 November 2008

It's Ba ack! And it's NOTA Loophole

Remember the bus arrest? Well, it's back. The NSW Police realised they could not uphold a conviction, but that logical approach has not spread to the State Transit Authority. In fact, we have recent correspondence from our big-salaried Chief Executive of Sydney Buses (Safe, Clean & Convenient, Peter Rowley) stating that the issue of the fines has been reviewed and he is satisfied that they were correctly issued. Guess we'll see as the hearing is tomorrow at Ryde Local Court.

Has he read the legislation/regulations? Well, here it is, straight from the NSW Govt. website; Section 52 (1) A passenger must not take into or on any public passenger vehicle any dog, cat, bird or other animal: (b) in the case of a bus or ferry - except with the permission of,and in the manner permitted by, the driver of the bus or the ferry master.

Eedra Zey walks onto the uncrowded L20 bus at Ryde going to the city. She is obviously with a dog as Pema the border collie is by her side, on-lead. Driver asked destination, Eedra replies, driver says $4, Eedra provides a $20 note and apologises for not having the correct change, driver gives Eedra ticket and change. Eedra sits in the front of the bus and Pema is under the seat, virtually invisible. All is well.

Transit blokes board for routine ticket check. Eedra shows ticket, guys behind her do a dash, transit blokes go towards the back of the bus, but then 'their stop' comes up and they have to move on. Bloke Anal says to bloke Real, what about the dog? Real says to Anal what about it, she has a ticket. And the rest is dramatic history of which we have some very interesting video!

Responsible pet owners will make appropriate decisions about where and when to take their pet into public space. Many of us will even have our dogs 'public access trained' to earn back our privileges. It's time for common scents!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Dogs sniffing for your health

I hope you enjoy the latest videos on our amazing canines - those disguised as 'regular' dogs that actually save lives. Cancer and Bio-detection Dogs mission is "To improve the detection, recognition and diagnosis of human diseases and other medical conditions by the use of dogs and other animals trained in the recognition of relevant stimuli." A worthy mission indeed.

Barking Mad is on a mission too: "Creating a safe and pet-friendly society." Another worthy mission, I hope. It seems we need to appreciate the utilitarian aspect of something to give it deserving respect. As dogs become more "useful" to us, then we may become more pet-friendly in public spaces.

Did you know that both dogs in the photos are assistance animals with the same legal rights as dogs for the vision and hearing impaired? Yet, you can not register them such in NSW because the silly Dept. of Local Government doesn't recognise dogs trained by agencies or people other than the THREE they list! And yes, I have that in writing.

Pets are terrific company, man's best friend and all the rest in their own right, regardless if they help us live healthier, build our compassion or ease our anxiety. Yet, Australian cities have become SO dog-hostile. How local councils (Newcastle, Noosa as examples) can ban dogs from cafes is madness - and this is outdoor seating as well! It simply does not make economic sense. The pet industry is booming and now contributes more to our economy than fishing and forestry combined (the QUIZ answered).

You can read about Grace and her black lab Garbo here. Grace says everyone at her Tennessee, USA school loves the dog. Not so Australia! Remember when a Perth school refused to let a student take his specially trained dog to class? They used the lame excuse of 'concern' about how the dog will fit into a classroom environment and other students possible allergies. So, a child in a life-threatening seizure would fit better into a classroom environment than that child's' assistance animal? Thankfully for this family, another school with more common sense welcomed Corey and his scents dog Oscar.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Dr. John Church: Every family should have a dog.

60 minutes on dogs sniffing to benefit our health. Watch this story here.

An excerpt:
LIZ HAYES: And for those who have been saved by their pets, well, they'd be happy to see a good old-fashioned personal consultation. The dog sitting beside the doctor in the surgery as a way of scanning people?

GILL LACEY: It would be great fun, wouldn't it, and actually I think it would make visits to the doctors much more pleasant.

LH: The possibilities, it seems, are endless. We've all heard it a million times but has it ever been more true - the humble pooch really is man's best friend. For those mums and dads who are listening to you now what would you say to them?

DR JOHN CHURCH: You realise that they are wonderful, majestic creatures in their own right and watch their behaviour. If there is something for good or ill, if the dog is behaving in a funny way take note. Take note.

LH: It also makes a compelling argument for a family dog.

DR JC: Every family should have a dog.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

US President Elect promises puppy for his family.

As a yank in political exile for the past twenty-five years, I watched Barack Obama's victory speech today with a sense of pride and hope I do not remember ever feeling for my country of birth. I grew up with racial segregation, race riots at my school and memories of knives, burnings and fear (as well as mass-consumerism, 24 x 7 shopping and a yes we can attitude that still drives some Australians' mad).

So how special was it that after nearly two years of campaigning, president elect Obama could share with the world his promise to his daughters of a puppy. Very special indeed! At least we know it won't be the first black puppy at the white house...

He said, thanking his wife Michelle - "the love of my life and the nation's next first lady", for the journey they had endured and said he loved his two young daughters "more than you imagine, and you have earned the new puppy that is coming with us to the White House".

Speaking of which, we STILL have not received our reply from the guardians of Abby, the dog at the Lodge. We resent the letter in September. Pema, the Barking Mad mascot is becoming quite the campaigner herself. She has met most of the NSW MP's, and several Senators and Federal MP's. (Because she is so quiet, our most common joke is that she found the proceedings exceedingly boring!) Our most recent function was at the NSW Cabinet forum on the central coast.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Pets on Public Transport

Barking Mad (and mascot dog Pema) attended the Central Coast NSW Cabinet Meeting tonight.

Bag the government all you want, focus on the cuts to the department bureaucrats, the new budget deficit, scandals involving behaviour from MPs we would otherwise adore if from our footie teams. However, the opportunity to spend a few hours with all the State government ministers who have travelled to your regional area should not be bagged. Just because you are dissatisfied with community infrastructure, years of un-fulfilled promises, marginal seat financial gifts, etc., when an entire state government travels to your area, it's democracy in action.

Barking Mad as an organisation is cynical too - why fine a mother with her toddler as sole attendees at a playground $330 because she has her dog with her? Why fine people who park where they reduce visibility in pedestrian/school crossings less than the mum, bub and dog at the playground?

Just 200 people attended Toukley Senior Citizens auditorium to be part of the government’s roadshow which allowed people access to the Premier and his ministers.

Community Cabinet Meetings

Barking Mad fielded two questions at Premier Nathan Rees, including our suggestion the government use valet parking at railway stations (fit more cars into existing spaces and providing employment and security), and the ability to travel on public transport with our well behaved pets.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

My DOG isn't invisible - but my medical condition IS

Just 29 days to go until our events supporting the International Day of People with Disability. Barking Mad founded "MY DOG ISN'T INVISIBLE, BUT MY DISABILITY IS" last year and this was welcomed by many health care professionals. We want to make a bigger contribution this year, showing off the positive health contributions of dogs!

Please have a look at the IDPwD website and those in each State.