Our Welsh correspondent R****** B******** sends this …
Most dogs bark, many in an undisciplined manner. All dogs shit, many in an undisciplined manner. Some dogs bite, some of them in such an undisciplined manner that people die. I am not talking about the pack of feral dogs that recently ate a British woman in Bulgaria, I'm talking about the UK, so it's our police and Courts who have to get involved. I don't dislike dogs. Many are friendly and polite and not so very much of their shit finds its way onto my carpets. But I have a bone to pick with the owners. Here I set out a civilised and constructive way to pick it.
We all pick up the tab for these dog nuisances, since we pay for the police and the criminal justice system and for local authority Environmental Health Officers, dog wardens, and poop-a-scoop bins. According to a recent official report about the work of Environmental Health Officers, 28% of domestic complaints are about barking dogs. My experience is that complaining to EHOs is a waste of my time but it still takes up officials' time which we all pay for.
It used to be that dog owners made some slight recompense to the rest of us, as they had to pay for an annual dog licence, but this fell into disuse some years ago. I propose that it should be reinstated, employing electronic technology to make it really precise and useful.
First, we should start thinking of dog licences in the same way we think about driving licences. Dog owners, like drivers, should have to be trained at their own expense. The largest element in the course would be canine psychology, so that the new licensee won't make elementary mistakes - mistakes like playing with Fido when he barks for attention. Why is this a mistake? Because it rewards barking and Fido will very quickly and very reasonably learn that barking is a useful thing to do if he gets bored or lonely.
And maybe dog owners, whose licences can be endorsed and ultimately revoked, might remember the lesson they are taught at the training course - the module that shows them how dogs are pack animals who tend to be unhappy and insecure when left alone. It is odd that the English are thought to be animal lovers when so many of them torture their dogs by leaving them in solitary confinement for hours every day.
Maybe the module would include sending out the trainees to find out the distance over which a barking dog can be heard in a built up environment and to calculate the number of people who can hear the barking. Then perhaps they could be sent to the local surgery to find out how many people suffer from stress and what proportion of them include barking dogs as a contributory cause of their symptoms. Perhaps a further element of the training could be role playing in which each trainee has to complain about something to an aggressive, stupid lout with tattoos on his knuckles and studs in his face; a stupid person who comes to the door in a wife-beater tee shirt to offer the opinion that persistent noise is a problem only for the innocent and virtually powerless victim. Then maybe they'd gain a little insight into what it means to be a good neighbour (I nominate Ross Kemp for the role of the lout - it'd give him some employment to keep him off the telly).
The second stage comes when the trainee has passed the test. His or her dog would have a microchip implanted under the skin of its neck or ear, or wherever dogs already get this kind of thing - it is an established technique for dog passports. The new element would be that the chip registers every bark the dog utters. When the licence needs renewing at the end of the year, Fido has to go to the local vet to have the chip read. The results are emailed securely to the Dog Licence Authority. The DLA then takes by Direct Debit from the owner's account a sum equal to the number of barks multiplied by whatever "rate per bark" the Treasury has set.
I used to live next door to a dog which, over the three years I was there, barked a third of a million times. I worked it out one evening while I waited for my blood pressure monitor to pump the cuff up to the number of pounds per square inch it needed to overcome the huge output of my hypertensive heart. 100,000 barks a year at, say, 10 pence a time would have been a pretty hefty incentive for those selfish, thoughtless but frightfully respectable bastards to get their bloody animal under control. Meanwhile it would have brought me great pleasure and peace of mind and a reduction in my blood pressure to know that, in this self-financing scheme, every bark was going to pay for dog wardens, EHOs, dogshit bins and dog-induced demands on the police, legal and NHS budgets.
I can see only two drawbacks. The first is that in the introductory phase there will be an increase in the number of stray dogs. Dealing with this will have to be paid for by general taxation and may be recovered from future dog licence revenue, though this remedy has the inherent injustice of penalising compliant dog-owners. Too bad. It'll only be a temporary phenomenon and maybe, during this phase, we could redefine the term dog meat as a way of using the animals economically. It'd be less hazardous than feeding dead sheep to cows, Margaret.
The other problem could be more durable. A tax-sensitive population will try to shift the burden of taxation by randomly attacking dogs to make them bark. Or possibly, since a beaten dog only whines untaxably, the more discriminating tax-payers will attack the owners instead, which would be far more effective as a revenue raiser and would be more just, as it would punish the owners for their past misdeeds rather than their relatively innocent pets.
I realise that, for my own amusement, I have fallen into a lampoon. This may give the impression that the whole idea's a joke. It isn't. It's do-able, given political will.
The GOS says: I think it's a great idea. We may need all those dog carcasses soon, to eat at Christmas. Presumably dogs don't get bird flu.
And think what fun the government could have with all the doggy data! Could be a nice little earner, properly handled. They could download it onto CDs and sell it from a stall down Walthamstow market, then pass the proceeds to some slimy little Russian gangster and ask him to very kindly donate them to Neue Arbeit.
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