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(Updated 08/02/01)

Worcester dog demonstration

by Anne Roslin-Williams


SOME 200 well behaved dogs and their owners turned out on a damp morning in Worcester to demonstrate concern about the dangers to the ordinary dog-owning public under the Hunting with Dogs Bill.


Among breeds represented were the Rough, Smooth and Border Collie, Rottweiler, Dobermann, GSD, Tervueren, Newfoundland, Briard, Papillon, Sheltie, Cavalier, King Charles Spaniel, a range of sizes and shapes of crossbreeds and mongrels, Border, Cairn, Staffordshire Bull and Parson Russell Terrier, Dalmatian, Brittany, Ridgeback, GSP, Vizsla, Labrador, Flatcoated and Golden Retriever, Cocker, Irish Red and White Setter, Gordon, Glen of Imaal, English Springer, Greyhound, Beagle, Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen, Lurcher, Spinone and Irish Wolfhound. There were also present some owners whose dogs had to be left at home for various unavoidable reasons.


It was stressed that this meeting was purely to draw the attention of all dog owners to the content of the Bill which might concern them. Tim Pinney, county chairman of the Worcestershire Country Alliance, a farm machinery salesman, opened the proceedings. He told us how those anxious to get this Bill through Parliament were paying little heed to the expressions of concern of the ordinary dog owner, who was being caught up in the net of this legislation. He recounted how it had even been suggested that dogs should be taught to differentiate between various mammals before chasing them, and that every dog in the land should be so well disciplined that it would never chase (some hope!).


Suspect


Jan Wood, in a most coherent speech, outlined salient points in the bill, a very important one being that this is yet another “sus” dog bill, one where the accused must prove their innocence rather than the accuser having to prove the indisputable guilt of the accused. A constable may, without warrant, arrest a person whom he reasonably suspects of allowing a dog to chase a wild mammal, and furthermore, may seize and detain the animal, vehicle and “other things”. Jan pointed out that, as with all bills, this takes some understanding but from what she can see the dog does not have to be pursuing the actual animal but this applies to the dog hunting where the animal has been up to 24 hours previously. Another danger is that the dog can be out hunting alone without the owner having any knowledge of it chasing something, this in effect making it unsafe to let the dog out of the house or kennel without the owner accompanying it and, unless the dog is very well trained, having to walk it everywhere on a lead. If convicted, the owner is liable to a fine of £5,000 per dog, to have the dog destroyed, to be banned from keeping a dog and to lose the car. If the dog was chasing on the owner’s own property, then the owner is liable to a further fine of £5,000, on top of all the rest of the penalties.


Jan pointed out that, in the current anti-dog feeling, it would only need a difficult neighbour or casual passer by to point the finger and the owner of a dog or dogs chasing a wild mammal would be in deep trouble. Apparently, it is permissible to hunt a wounded animal to put it out of its misery.


Richard Adams, prospective Conservative MP for Worcester, spoke briefly in support of the ordinary dog owners, and was appreciative of the concerns of those present.


Fears and doubts


An open letter from the assembled company was sent to Michael Foster, the Worcester MP who introduced the Hunting with Dogs bill to this government, asking him to alleviate their fears and doubts through a reply in the Worcester Evening News, to whom a copy was also sent.


Everyone was asked to write to their MP expressing their concerns, as ordinary dog owners, on the wording of the Bill which is now in committee stage. It was stressed that it was important to get this sorted before the Bill became law, as then it would be too late to do anything about it.


It is hoped that this effort to draw the attention of the ordinary dog owner to what is happening might reach some of those who are unaware that this Bill concerns them and their pet dogs, not just those involved in organised hunting.