Saturday, 18 April 2009

Barking Dogs - How to Share the Joy

Response to recent media on dogs barking.

I too am frustrated by urban residents who permit their dog/s to bark unnecessarily. Even in semi-rural areas, the sound of a dog barking pierces a quiet, peaceful night. It is no longer accepted behaviour, though it is as organic to some dogs as talking on a mobile phone in public is for some people.

But annoyances should be viewed in context. Unlike the ubiquitous and more annoying car or house alarms, the benefits of the companion dog cannot be underestimated. Though some will abhor the choice of expensive accessories, the economic contribution of $4.6 billion annually from pet owners should not be overlooked. Think about this number the next time our government cancels a $500,000 project to your disgust. Alternatively, consider that this is a greater contribution than fishing/forestry combined. Though fish don’t bark, fishing has its own pros and cons, including beach and sea litter.

Quoting NSW Dept. of Health: Animals visit older people in nursing homes, young people in paediatric wards, trauma victims in acute care wards, and people under care in mental health and palliative care services. They provide comfort, entertainment, distraction, solace and a unique form of interaction. The benefits of these visits are well established and comprehensively documented.

There is no such comparison of an public-health benefit for other urban noise such as alarms, diesel buses, pool pumps, the neighbours air conditioner, etc.

As our homes get smaller, and single-person homes become the majority, the solace and motivation a companion dog provides to get out and walk must not be negated just because dogs bark.

It's said that 99% of lawyers give the rest a bad name (SMH Letters, 17 April); I would suggest 10% of dog owners annoy others so much as to blind them to the proven benefits of pet-ownership.

Banning dogs from every public space doesn’t work. In Europe dogs are better-behaved and invited into more community spaces. We live in a pluralistic society; if you are annoyed by a dog barking, why not offer to co-parent or pet-sit, then you can share the joy. If the dog is happier or not alone as much, it’s likely to bark less. If this doesn’t work, for the benefit of us responsible owners, throw the noise-regulation book at them. 'Thou shalt not be annoyed by a nuisance dog' has a place is legislation - truly.