I took Harry (3 years old) up to the Halswell Quarry Park this afternoon for a walk. The Quarry Park has a large dog exercise area, but in most of the park dogs are supposed to be on a leash. There are areas with walking tracks, picnic areas, mountain bike tracks and even a conservation area — where dogs are not supposed to go at all.
Of course there is was a constant stream of loose dogs, running up to us and jumping up on Harry. One dog after another. Some dogs running around with no owners in sight. I'm sure they kept track of the dogs droppings, though. I mean, they would, wouldn't they.
I asked a few people if they knew dogs were supposed to be on a leash. They basically said they didn't care. Their dog was okay. And they probably were — but a three year old doesn't know the dog jumping on them is 'just being friendly'. And when it happens every couple of minutes … anyway, then the owner gets angry. God help you if you post something like this on Neighbourly or Facebook — partly why I no longer have accounts on either platform.
Since I have been taking kids around the place, we've had dogs jump up and knock James into the mud in Westlake Park twice (James was two. One owner said 'Its all right - he's only playing'. The other said 'Its okay - he's just a puppy'), dogs poo right next to our picnic on a dog free beach (the owner laughed and threw a handfull of sand on it), had dogs try to pee on our bike helmets right next to the 'All dogs must be on a leash' sign (the owner laughed), seen a primary-school aged friend of James' being chased, screaming, across the park by a barking, snapping dog (the owners were laughing), seen dogs leave a puddle of urine on the bottom of the slide (the owners were holding the leash and just watched, barely pausing their conversation), people take their dog past 'Quarantine area - No Dogs Allowed' and 'Lambing in progress - No Dogs Allowed' signs, and other fun things. There is often poo on our front lawn, always poo in the park. You see the owners walking, eyes glued to their phones, headphones on their heads, no clue where their dog is, let alone what it is doing. Responsible.
It is ridiculous that you can't take kids to the park without dogs harassing you, and ridiculous that the owners just don't care. Parents are not known for objectivity when it comes to their darlings behavour, but if one child pushes another child over, even they will apologize. A dog owner will just laugh. Screaming toddlers are funny.
If you question somebody, you get vilified. Their dog is fine. They're responsible owners — responsible owners who let their dog knock kids to the ground and piss in playgrounds. Today we met around about a dozen 'responsible' owners who didn't give a toss about anything other that their dog. There were another dozen owners who greeted these owners with smiles and said nothing about the dogs running loose. These are the owners who will say a minority is ruining it for the rest of them.
And there is no point complaining. The owners don't care. I complained to the council and got told — firstly — by a pretty rude council officer not to waste their time, then, after complaing about that, that there are only two animal control officers covering Christchurch and they are very busy. Christchurch City now extends from the Waimakariri to Akaroa. Of all the parks and beaches in the city, its unlikely an animal control officer will walk into yours. It's all very well saying owners could be fined but we all know there is almost no chance that will happen. Even if you do mange to identify the owner, all that will happen is that they will be 'reminded of their responsibilities'. They can effectively act with impunity.
Meanwhile, In New Zealand, every thirty-seven minutes — give or take — a dog injures someone badly enough to require medical attention and an ACC claim. Over one and a half injuries every hour of every day. And, according to the dog owners, it's okay to blame the victim. In Christchurch alone, there are three claims every day for dog-related injuries. 1 400 claims for dog related injuries every year.
I am sure a lot of people will say I'm not a dog lover. Well, maybe. I'd never lock a dog up in a small back yard twenty-three hours a day like a lot of dog lovers around here. You hear them barking and snarling behind fences if you are out walking with the kids. Every couple of houses there will be a large, bored dog locked into small back yard slowly going crazy. Our neighbors dog barks constantly all day and I don't recall ever seeing it being taken for a walk. They got a second one for christmas.
Nor would I breed animals that cannot breath properly — like Bulldogs, have eye problems — like Pugs, bad hips — like Alsatians, or bad backs — like Dachshunds. These breeds don't just suffer from these afflictions by accident. Some Bulldogs have been so deformed by breeders that they cannot even mate without assistance, nor can they give birth naturally.
These afflictions are deliberately bred into the dogs — squashed up noses and long backs are desirable to the owner, and the dogs comfort is a secondary consideration. And they are just a drop in the bucket of cancers, cardiac problems, eating and a host of other genetic problems that result from deliberately inbreeding animals and condeming them to a lifetime of misery and suffering because 'dog lovers' think it looks nice. Some Bulldogs breathing is so laboured they cannot sleep without waking themselves up. Without surgury they live a life of exhaustion.
I'd have a dog — not a pedigree dog — if I lived in the country and had a lot of space. But I don't love dogs enough to confine one to the back yard and to breed it to a life of breathing or back problems. Not enough to dismiss a crying two year old or to laugh at a screaming primary-schooler.
So I guess I'm just not a dog lover.
At the next local body elections, I'll be voting for any candidates that promise to increase the budget for animal control, to restrict dog access and to increase fees for dog owners to cover these costs. RFID tags so we can identify responsibly owned dogs with out being injured by the owners wouldn't be a bad idea either.