Here’s a story that is doing the rounds in the ‘Believe it or not’ columns of the newspapers. Some boffin is rubbing his hands delightedly, as they’ve actually persuaded the municipality of Jerusalem to commission research into a DNA testing programme… for dog poo. Yes, wardens will be able to do DNA tests on any stray turd in the street, match it to a database of registered dogs, and the convictions will roll in.
It all seems so simple, and obvious. Why isn’t every city using this wonderful new technology? Why indeed. Let’s see if we can find out. Continue reading
Dogs bred to fight, and dogs taught to attack people, are a serious problem in this country. It’s even attracting the attention of legislators. Earlier this year in a debate in the House of Lords, Lord Redesdale said:
This is an animal welfare problem and a growing social problem. Intimidation by dogs is now seen as an anti-social behaviour issue.
Dog fighting is a serious issue in urban areas – a BBC report described how
Young men openly parade their illegal pit bull terriers saying how police cannot tell the difference – while the police with stretched resources can only play a limited role in tackling the problem.
What the Ranger didn’t realise is how this problem is affecting the urban forest. Remarkably, a growing number of casualties in the dog wars appear to be trees. Continue reading
It’s another dog fouling story – and one you can tell if anyone ever asks you ‘Have you found Jesus’? Vigilante residents of an American town apparently took unusual action against a dog owner they accuse of not picking up:
The missing item has since reappeared. It turns out that it was not taken by a neighbour, but by her granddaughter, and I suspect the granddaughter knew exactly how well her grandma would take the joke. It’s hard to imagine what made this old lady take such a ridiculous family argument to the newspapers – probably she didn’t realise that teh internets would enjoy the story so much.
The Ranger’s colleague Tina J Williamson has posted an entertaining, and slightly poignant, picture on her Flickr stream:
An interesting take on the perennial problem of poo-in-the-hedge. The Ranger would be interested to know the story behind this sign… Who wrote it? Was it successful? Update: see this entertaining and scientific development of the concept at Island 2000!
Despite the huge furore over dangerous dogs in the early 1990s, resulting the in much-criticised Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, recent times have shown that dogs, particularly where children are concerned, can still present a lethal danger. It seems that something still isn’t right.
The Chief Constable of Merseyside Police claims that the the present legislation is confused and needs to be overhauled. The Observer reports:
Bernard Hogan-Howe said he had reached the decision after talking to other chief constables. ‘In consultation with partners, other police forces and the Association of Chief Police Officers, we would now welcome a considered and thoughtful review of the current legislation,’ he said. His intervention is likely to be interpreted as providing tacit backing for new rules that would target the owners of dangerous dogs rather than the animals themselves… Hogan-Howe is understood to back moves that would allow owners to apply for their dogs to be exempted from the banned dogs list without the need for police or court involvement.
This is of particular interest to The Ranger and no doubt his colleagues managing public spaces across the country. Although many of the more horrific incidents in the news seem to have occurred in private places, such as homes or gardens, there is no doubt that for most non-dog owners the places where they are most often obliged to face up to strange dogs is in a park or when walking in the countryside. It is this interface which causes many distressing, but less celebrated incidents such as scratches, falls, jumping up, taking food and other undesirable interactions, not to mention the equally upsetting attacks by one dog on another. A particular issue here on the Isle of Wight is that of dogs on beaches, not only because of dog fouling but simply the natural tendency of dogs to run around in an excited way – not a good combination with family picnics and young children. This year some new restrictions will be in force on the Island to exclude dogs from more beach areas in the summer season. These low-level problems often seem to be something that the law cannot help with. Although the statute is clear enough, as the issues are so minor it’s rarely sensible to launch a prosecution. Maybe there needs to be a canine ‘Highway Code’, an advisory code of practice for dogs and those around them, both owners and others. The Ranger agrees with the Chief Constable that the existing law is not working. It’s for wiser heads to work out the solution – perhaps this time we will take a bit of time to discuss and think about the best way forward rather than just making a law in a reactive manner. But whatever is decided it will be stronger and – crucially – more enforceable if it has considered the entire spectrum of dog-related issues, from the point of view of not only the ‘victim’ but also the dog owner.
Bonfire night… when all the fireworks go off and our pets go a bit funny. Recent changes to the law mean that fireworks can’t be set off between 11pm and 7am (apart from on 5 November, New Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year and Diwali, when the curfew is later), but that’s little consolation to Fido cowering under the bed for the preceding 6 hours. Usually there a whole lot of good advice for pet owners, or, to be honest, for dog owners mostly. It seems that cats don’t quite complain so much – or perhaps their owners don’t. Anyway, this year the DEFRA webpage giving advice to dog-owners has some suggestions which are slightly different to the usual common sense about keeping the animal indoors and not fixing fireworks to it with duct-tape and so on. They point out that:
The Protection of Animals Act 1911 makes it an offence to infuriate or terrify any animal.
DEFRA further suggests these slightly more unexpected items:
- Do not try to acclimatise your dog to the noise by insisting it faces the noise, they may never get used to the noise and you may be causing damage.
- Surprisingly your dog may jump into the bath! This shows its instinct to run into holes when danger is present.
- You may find that your dog starts to dig, this is following the same hiding instinct.
- If your dog shows any tendency to hide, let it.
Now that all sounds like good advice to The Ranger, although the jumping in the bath thing is a new one. But the idea of actually trying to make your dog endure the fireworks by “insisting it faces the noise” seems bizarre. Does anyone really do this? It sounds like some kind of Victorian dog-training technique. “Damage” seems like a bit of an understatement. Anyway, most frightened dogs seem to make plenty of noise of their own, without any need to be ‘made to face it’. Can infuriating an animal really be an offence? The Ranger has a friend who loves to entertain himself by infuriating his cats – and come on, now, you must admit that if you own a cat, you must have tickled their ears whilst they sleep enough to make them infuriated. At least once, surely. And who has not drawn back their arm with a big stick in it and then pretended to throw it? How infuriated can a dog get? Maybe ‘infuriating’ meant something a little more severe back in 1911. Keep safe, this firework night, and keep your pets safe too. Make sure that Guy Fawkes is the only one who gets a roasting! (Original link supplied by Cat)
At this time of year the leaves begin to flutter from the hedgerows as the winter draws on. We countryside managers are about to discover just where the summer’s clutch of dog-poo bags have been hidden this year. It’s something that The Ranger has considered before, and he is delighted to discover that a very comprehensive new bit of research on this topic has just been published, carried out just over the water in Hampshire – and at some of the sites he used to work on no less.
So, what’s the answer? The research included in-depth focus group discussions with many dog walkers, and part of the results were as follows:
…it was often commented that some members of the’out-group’ would bag their dog’s mess, but then fling it into a nearby bush or tree once out of sight of other people. Such walkers appear to be conforming to the subjective norms of the community of dog walkers (the’in-group’) in order to be accepted by that group and/or not reported by their peers to a site warden. Once out of sight, their own beliefs and attitudes concerning how to deal with their dog’s mess prevail. The fact that the’bag it and fling it’ dog walkers want at least to be seen to be part of the’in-group’ suggests that there is scope for promoting groups and group norms. It also substantiates the need for agreement on what is acceptable behaviour amongst the group and the extent to which deviant behaviour should be tolerated in’exceptional’ circumstances or exposed as not conforming to the group norm. For example, at one site, a participant had independently erected simple notices to the effect that’bag it and fling it’ behaviour was not acceptable to other dog walkers, with some noticeable improvement in reducing the activity as a result.
So, they do it because they think they can get away with it, and if they thought they’d be caught they wouldn’t do it. Perhaps that wasn’t too hard to predict. It is noticeable that the Warden is an important element in this process, too. Perhaps more helpfully, the research does include many suggestions for constructive ways forward on the dog mess and many other issues. It’s well worth a read for that alone. For example:
It is possible to use group cohesion and peer pressure to encourage people to behave in a desirable manner. However, messages need to be constructed in a way that reinforces group norms. For example, on the issue of dog mess, norms might be communicated via appropriate signage, such as: “All of our responsible dog walkers pick up after their dogs, please join in”, or, together with picture of someone walking away from dogs mess: “What makes you special? Please pick up after your dog”
The entire document is most illuminating and positive, and gives The Ranger plenty of ideas to try out. Have a read. What do you think?
Dog mess. Bagged, but not binned. The Ranger has pondered this modern mystery for many years. Discussions with his colleagues have revealed this this phenomenon is not uncommon. So why? Please, some bag-discarder, tell us, why do you do this? If you can bag it – which is the nastiest bit of the task – surely you can manage to carry it to the nearest bin? By way of exasperated exposition, The Ranger presents this photograph, taken this week on a cricket field near his workplace, and within 20 metres of a dog bin.
An unusual obstruction in the outfield
So, an enquiry. How widespread is this phenomenon? Have you seen it? Please do tell if and where you have seen dog mess bagged and discarded in hedges, fields, on paths or even on cricket pitches. Or if you live somewhere and this never, ever, happens, do tell – perhaps The Ranger will apply for a job there!
Ooer – now it’s getting scary. There were a few comments after our previous posting about dog mess, which seemed to suggest that the issue was being over-hyped. If anyone doubts that people really get bothered about dog mess, check out these slightly worrying messages left on pavements in Ventnor:
Let’s hope that vigilantism will not follow – the Ranger is aware that there are some pretty good legal ways of getting dog mess dealt with in Ventnor, so let’s keep to them, shall we? (Pictures by Simon Perry)
Dog mess – the perennial countryside management issue. Some people love dogs, others don’t, but all unite in disliking dog mess. No really, they do. Even the most ardent dog-lover can’t admit to liking the stuff. Well, anyway, if they do, the Ranger doesn’t want to hear anything about that.
Country parks and nature reserves are popular haunts of what rangers call the ‘dog emptiers’. These are people who drive up, let the dog out to run about like a mad thing, and then once the dog is emptied, call it reluctantly back and drive off. Hardly much fun for the dog, and worse for the poor blighter who then treads in what the dog left behind. Whilst such antisocial types are extreme, they are a lot more common than you’d think. Many more are almost as bad, walking perhaps 100m at most from the car park to allow their poor dog to squeeze out a steaming pile before it’s hustled back into the boot of the car. Why have a dog at all if you’re not going to walk it? It seems so harsh to take a dog to the countryside – in a car, it’s always in a car – and then not let the poor creature enjoy the place. Campaigns to ‘Bag it and Bin it’, backed up by fines, patrols, on-the-spot fines, free poop-scoops, dog bins, wardens, dog-free areas, bye-laws… it’s all been tried. And yet the problem remains. Today the Ranger got the bill for emptying the dog bins at a popular countryside site he works on.