Last week Malthouse hosted a summit with members of the Met's status dogs unit and the RSPCA. All agreed on a need for further action, but none have publicly endorsed Malthouse's call for a policy of managed extinction similar to that in Ontario. Why not?Because it won’t resolve the problem, Dave.
The problem isn’t the dogs. The problem is the owners…
And the last time a politician got up on his hind legs and begged for more legislation, we got the DDA. Did it work? No.
But hey, politicians love creating new legislation like dogs love rolling in fox crap. You can’t breed it out of them, Dave, it’s their nature…
It's an emotive notion, of course. Packs of dog-lovers have turned on Malthouse. K9 magazine called him the "biggest moron in Britain" and a blogger opposed to the DDA has (the brute) compared him to a grumbling appendix.Well, I don’t think Kit’s the ‘biggest moron in Britain’, that’s for sure. He’s up against a hell of a lot of stiff competition, after all; Ed Balls, Kerry McCarthy, John Prescott…
But I digress. Dave is like most modern liberals; suspicious of personal freedom:
So have others. Roger Evans, who leads the London assembly's Conservative group, commented here that there is a real problem with dog nastiness that needs to be "tackled robustly" But he gave expression to gut Tory instincts when adding:So, that’s what Dave considers to be a ‘gut Tory instinct’, is it?
“On the whole I'm not in favour of banning things – deprived of 'status' dogs, the owners would just find another way to make a nuisance of themselves. We need legislation which targets those few antisocial individuals and removes them from circulation.”
The desire to act only against the people causing the problem, whilst avoiding trampling on the rights of the responsible dog owners?
If so, I say ‘Bring it on, Tory boys!’, for once...
Both these views seem broadly congruent with the stock line of dog defenders, as repeated by skinnysprinter: "There are no dangerous dogs, only dangerous owners … give me the puppy – any breed – and I'll give you back the well-socialised, friendly pet we'd all like to see."And that’s true, barring no inherent temperament problems with the individual animal.
Sensible, responsible dog owners are always cognisant, too, that no matter how well-trained and well-socialised their dog, it is still an animal, and take the necessary precautions – leashing in public, never leaving it alone with a child etc.
Here's where scope for common ground seems limited. "Bull terriers were bred as weapons, to duel or bait with, for their owner's entertainment and status," Malthouse wrote, "and only once we recognise their atavistic instincts, as those who train them to fight do, can we start to frame legislation that may have a lasting effect." He argues, in other words, that laws to nail bad owners can do only so much to tame beasts that are inherently bad; where bull-breeds are concerned no amount of nurture can guarantee to get the better of this variety of canine nature.I didn’t realise that Malthouse was a canine expert, able to ignore the acknowledged dog behaviourists at K9 magazine and the RSPCA?
I'm in an instructive quandary. I share the view (as does Malthouse) that bad owners are integral to a problem that is growing, and I have no objection to the full powers of the authorities being brought to bear. Though I quite like dogs in general I dislike even passing encounters with "status" varieties on the streets or in parks; I resent the apprehensive tingle in my calves. At the same time I've an aversion to crude prohibition measures on much the same grounds as Roger Evans.Yet you consider rejection of them to be ‘Tory gut instincts’, Dave…
It is partly my need to resolve this dilemma that causes me to look on the long-term "phasing out" idea with a degree of sympathy. I can see there might be practical problems and I'm no expert on human manipulation of canine genetics – dog breeding, as it is known. But until someone convinces me that bull-types have not been deliberately evolved with a view to maximising and perpetuating their capacity for aggression I'll find it hard to disagree with Malthouse's point about their psychological hard-wiring.So, you’re no expert, but you’ll defer to Malthouse, over the acknowledged real experts?
How does that make sense?
Like many other kinds of dog, bull-types are the product of human intervention to serve a specific human purpose. If that purpose has resulted in adverse social consequences, is there anything morally or intellectually inconsistent about the principle of humans intervening, using the instrument of law, to see that these are gradually bred out?Not really.
But rather than ponder the deep philosophical questions, why not ask yourself instead if it will work?
I think you know the answer, don’t you, Dave?