The Kennel Club and PRO Dogs are pleased to announce the launch of UKDOG at Crufts 2003, which will provide guidance to encourage dog owners to form regional groups with a view to defending their rights as responsible owners. Initially it will be the intention of UKDOG to advise owners regarding the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CROW), although the remit will be extended to other anti-dog issues.
This initiative follows the highly successful campaign in 2001 by the New Forest Dog Owners Group (NFDOG), whose proactive committee gained significant progress and successes in lobbying against the Forestry Commissions attempts to implement parts of the CROW Act on New Forest land, to the detriment of dog walkers in the New Forest area.
The Kennel Club and PRO Dogs have been involved from the inception of NFDOGs activities and continue to share their concerns about the effects of the CROW Act across England and Wales, if dog owners do not have their say at the earliest opportunity of the process. A similar stance will be taken in Scotland when access provisions in the Land Reform Bill are implemented.
As well as advising dog owners, UKDOG plans to meet with various bodies who have an interest in this issue such as the National Trust and the RSPB, with a view to more clearly understanding their position and working with them to ensure that as far as possible, dogs are not further discriminated against.
UKDOG also aims to make the countryside more accessible to dog walkers by exploiting provisions in the CROW Act, that can make local councils take action against the thousands of illegal blockages, restrictions and threatening notices that remain along public paths.
Official figures from the Governments Countryside Agency show that dog walkers meet a "serious problem" on nearly every mile of path they try to use; current delays in putting things right particularly discriminates against the less agile and people with assistance dogs.
UKDOG also intends to provide speakers for presentations on issues of concern such as the CROW Act and will make available to newly established UKDOG groups the training, information and tools to help them cut through the red tape and make things happen. It also welcomes contact from dog owners eager to establish their own groups and will help them to do so.
Said Mike Findlay, Chief Executive Officer of PRO Dogs, "The anti-dog lobby in the media was the primary reason for the founding of PRO Dogs some 26 years ago and we see the setting up of UKDOG as key to future local lobbying activity. There is a need for vigilance and for information-gathering on a local level which can then be used centrally in our continuing fight for dogs rights in the UK - locally, regionally or nationally. Of course, every area and each group of dog lovers will vary, but it takes just one motivated person to start the ball rolling.
.The first step is for dog owners to let us know the key issues in their areas; weve devised a questionnaire that will be available on the PRO Dogs stand at Crufts - Hall 4, Stand No 12 - to help them do just that, so that UKDOG can then best meet their needs."
Caroline Kisko, Secretary of the Kennel Club added, "We would encourage dog owners to take the time and trouble to set up a local group as it will bring huge benefits to dogs and owners. We have learnt from the experience of NFDOG that local politicians and professional bodies will listen and act if the weight of protest from local people is sufficient and we recommend that those interested contact the UKDOG Secretariat between 9am 5pm to find out how they can become further involved. It will be the ultimate intention of UKDOG to become active on a broad raft of issues which will provide a voice for dog owners the length and breadth of the country, so that we can protect and promote the rights of dog owners."
Caroline concluded, "For all those attending Crufts 2003 with an interest in this issue, please do attend the PRO Dogs stand to register your interest and we will then contact you after the event."
If readers would like a welcome pack from UKDOG, which includes advice on establishing local Dog Owners Groups, please contact the secretariat, UKDOG, 4 New Road, Ditton, Kent, ME20 6AD, Tel: 01732 848499, Fax: 01732 842175, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org