Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Super Dog Registration?

Barking Mad has a draft ‘user-pays’ companion dog policy. This policy may best be explained by a comparison to your driver’s licence. A ‘normal’ licence requires a certain test and fee. To obtain further privileges such as driving a heavy vehicle or riding a motorcycle, additional training and financial contribution is required. In other words, you earn and pay for those privileges.

The ‘dog debate’, unlike many environmental issues, does have edges on both sides of a line. One edge is ‘no dogs as pets or companions in my town’ and the other is ‘dogs anywhere on a lead’. These edges give us a defined area in which to work to achieve our goal of a safe and pet-friendly society where companion animals and their utilitarian values are recognised and utilised. A middle ground.

We are conducting ongoing research from dog owners; in asking the question ‘Are restrictions on where you can take your dog fair?’ our response to date has been:

Yes 2%
Fair? We’re 2nd class citizens 25%
It MUST change 44%
No 29%

Community expectations and tolerance of dogs in urban Sydney has changed dramatically in the last thirty years. (Barking Mad notes a greater tolerance in other cities and states). No longer are we tolerant of the off-lead dog visiting us during the day or of dogs on our beaches. Barking Mad accepts that we have to work with the community expectations as they are today. (Take the dangerous dog provisions of the Act and substitute with dangerous youth and you may be enlightened at how our need to blame has shifted to the domestic dog).

A dog user pays policy would involve training for the dog and owner to a certain standard, an additional fee paid, and would provide an ID for dog and owner. Should the dog change owners, the ‘privilege’ would not transfer. Should the owner obtain another dog, the training process would have to be completed again for that guardian/dog partnership. The recent achievement of unifying the microchip database provides the technical capabilities for this system of identification to be implemented now.

The ID would provide regulators (rangers) with a level of confidence and mitigate the effects of dealing with the constant complainers each council encounters. An additional part of the ID would be requiring proof of vaccination (as is the case with any dog school) and also insurance (which is not yet required, but often in existence).

The Local Government Act has provisions to accommodate this user-pays system such that it does not discriminate against the economically disadvantaged. Barking Mad does not advocate for this system; rather we recognise that it may be a way to ‘earn back’ our rights as dog owners even if those rights were taken away unfairly. Our research shows that:

  • 88% of dog owners would attend training if this would allow them greater access with their pets.
  • 66% would pay more for registration if this would allow them greater access with their pets.

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