512 Killing Fields

by   David Hancock

 Before you fall asleep tonight, ponder the thought that another 136 dogs have been destroyed that day. Some will have been destroyed on humane grounds; some because they resemble a different dog. It's called dog-control and it is the law in our democratic society, our dog-loving nation. But we not only over-euthanise, we over-produce. We are careless, not only about the number of dogs destroyed each day but also about the number bred each day.

 One informed estimate has indicated that, when every dog-handling agency is accounted for, as many as 50,000 dogs could be destroyed each year in Britain. It is the usual practice to describe such killings as 'humane destruction', but there is nothing humane about it. Every one of these dogs was bred by humans for humans. Some of these dogs were killed because of their undesirable temperament. But tell me of a dog-breeder who breeds primarily for temperament. Some would have been killed because they were judged by 'experts' from our leading animal charity to closely resemble dogs bred for fighting. Would such a brainless criterion ever be applied to humans in any sane judicial system?

 Some of these unwanted dogs would have come from puppy-farms, a number of which having been funded by tax-payers' money in agricultural diversification schemes. Many would have been casually discarded by heartless owners, without penalty and always at a cost to the nation's finances, mainly local authority or police expenses. Why are we constantly being described as a nation of dog-lovers when we are a nation of dog-killers! Owners of newly-born litters boast when a large number of pups are born, yet they know of the shortage of genuinely good homes for dogs. The Kennel Club boasts of how many newly registered pups come on to their books each quarter; but they are well aware of the dog-welfare problems in Britain. When are we going to acknowledge that too many dogs are being bred and that this in itself creates an animal welfare problem?

 I have nothing but admiration for those admirable souls who commit themselves selflessly to rescue work, but, because we aren't addressing the problem, their task gets harder not easier each year. I will always try to support the impressive work of organisations like the Dogs Trust, the PDSA and the Blue Cross. But their burden is the direct result of our national willingness to ignore the problem. Sensitive souls express justified disgust about bull-baiting, badger-drawing, bear-baiting and legal dog-fighting in times past, but when more dogs are killed now each year than in the barbaric era, there is just a mute acceptance of the fact. It would take a brave man to stand up and demand an end to uncontrolled dog-breeding.

 Would our inalienable right to breed a litter of pups not be reconsidered if every single one of us exercised that right? If the answer is yes it would be, then that can only mean that it is not a matter of principle at all. More pedigree dogs are now being destroyed each year in Britain than ever before. This is condoned recklessness not dog-care. There is already a need for rescue organisations for the Japanese Akita, the Alaskan Malamute, the Australian Shepherd, the Basset Griffon Vendeen (Petit), the Belgian Shepherd, the Bouvier des Flandres, the Giant Schnauzer, the Dogue de Bordeaux, the Neapolitan Mastiff, the Italian Spinone and the Weimaraner. All of these are relatively recent introductions and already there are welfare problems.

 I was told a month or so ago of an import which within a few months of leaving quarantine had bitten seven different people. The humans recovered; the dog died, echoing the words of Oliver Goldsmith three centuries ago: The man recovered of the bite, The dog it was that died. It has become just too easy to import a dog, breed a litter, sell a pup. It is clearly becoming more difficult to look after dogs properly and it is not easy to see a way out of this dog-threatening situation. If the government could be persuaded that far too many dogs are being bred, they would, perhaps understandably, look towards the Kennel Club, a national canine organisation and the RSPCA, our principal animal charity, for solutions.

 But you only have to look at the shameful Dangerous Dogs Act to see the dangers in that. The DDA embraces breed-specific legislation and both those bodies had a major role in the drafting of this despicable Act. The Home Office regards the Kennel Club as an organisation 'concerned with breeds of dog'; for the KC to help frame this unfair law in that role can only mean that it once supported breed-specific legislation, whatever their stance now. The RSPCA, now dubbed by some the Royal Society for the Persecution of Canine Animals, is experienced in dealing with dog-fighting but has little knowledge of breeds of dog. Why should we trust either body to act effectively in any attempts to reduce the number of dogs being bred and subsequently being destroyed?