Rod Liddle

It’s dark days for dogs and their owners

Banned from parks, banned from beaches, and now poisoned at Crufts. It seems like Britain has stopped loving dogs

14 March 2015

9:00 AM

14 March 2015

9:00 AM

So who is poisoning all the doggies, then? I assumed, when the first horrible reports came through from Crufts, that it was either the Russians or the Muslims. Russians seem unable to go more than a few days without feeling the need to bump somebody off. Perhaps they’d run out of businessmen to kill and thought, during this morale-sapping lacuna, it would be wise to keep their hand in by murdering a few dogs.

We were told almost endlessly during Channel 4’s coverage of this year’s tournament — won this year by a small and unpleasant black thing, some sort of painfully sculpted terrier with an embittered expression on its face — that this was now a marvellously international event, diverse in every respect, five of the Best in Show finalists being from beyond the UK, including a white homosexual dog in a tiara from Italy. (It is written into Channel 4’s charter that the word ‘diverse’ must be used in every programme, of course, and always greeted with mass celebration whenever it is uttered.) And there were Russian competitors, along with the Swedes and the Dutch and the Americans. Not that the competitors themselves would have been the guilty parties, more likely some granite-faced shadowy maniac employed by Putin.

An Italian Maltese, Cinecitta Sacha Baron Cohen. Image: Getty

Anyway, a Belgian red setter called Jagger has just been cremated and his ashes scattered on the field where he used to run and gambol. And now another dog which competed in Crufts has died, a shih tzu, and several more are reported to be ill, one of them being on a drip. If any of these dogs start glowing like Belisha Beacons and bleeding from the gums, we’ll know for sure it was the Russkies. If not, it is probably the radical Muslims again — they can’t abide dogs and are notoriously homophobic. Crufts, as a convocation of very camp people and dogs, would be an agreeable target, before they move on to large shopping centres, etc.

Or perhaps it was the work of Jim Bailey, chairman of Britain’s most beautiful national park, the North York Moors — and current chairman of the National Parks governing body. Does anybody know where he was when those dogs were being poisoned? Have we heard an alibi yet?

The possibility of Jim’s involvement occurred to me when I was planning some Easter walks on the moors for my family and my dog. According to the park’s website, I can barely take my dog anywhere within its 550 square miles of stunning wilderness unless at all times it is on a lead. And not just a lead, I’m instructed, but a very short lead. What’s the point of that, then? Indeed the website basically says: ‘Piss off, dogs.’ And there are helpful suggestions as to where you might piss off to — Pickering, maybe, or the Dalby Forest.

There is some danger to ground-nesting birds from dogs — although not terribly much of one, if we’re honest. Nothing like the carnage wreaked on wildlife by cats, for example — and nobody worries very much about them. Dogs cause a tiny, tiny percentage of the damage caused by cats, but cat-owners have long been above both the law and any notion of responsibility for their verminous companions. In fact, Jim’s strictures are part of a much wider official disaffection with dogs and which even you urbanites may have noticed. The animals are regularly banned from parks, and they are banned from an increasing number of our beaches. With regard to the latter, the bans put in place began by limiting the times and dates at which dog owners could let their animals run free. Then it was stipulated that even at those times the dogs must be on a lead. And now,  especially in the grossly overrated and overpopulated county of Cornwall, it is being suggested that they should be banned entirely from some beaches.

It is the same sort of creeping persecution that afflicted (and continues to afflict) cigarette smokers; an epic intolerance, a determination on the part of our officials to do away with them for good, based on tendentious or simply spurious health and safety advice. As someone addicted to both my Labrador–collie cross and a pack of Super-kings, I noticed the similarities between these two pogroms pretty quickly.

The question is: why dogs? For sure, back in the day dog owners allowed their pets to crap copiously in our urban green spaces without clearing up after them. I am perhaps alone in relishing the sharp and even astringent metallic tang which comes from dogshit which has been baked under a hot summer sun on the pavements and recreational areas of our cities. I find it appealing and invigorating. But we have legislation against that sort of behaviour now. And of course there are the unemployed shell-suit-clad tattooed untermensch with their child-devouring pitbulls — but these are a tiny minority of dog owners; and laws, again, have been enacted to sort them out, even if those laws are not applied with sufficient rigour.

But there seems to me a deeper level of intolerance, the suspicion that the country has had enough of dogs. Has had enough of dogs and the old-fashioned virtues which dogs once epitomised — that of the petit bourgeois nuclear family, of discipline and obedience and loyalty. We do not value these commodities in quite the same way, they are thought a little de trop. And when this ideological disaffection is allied to an increasingly regulated life and an increasing intolerance of difference, of other people’s foibles — then dogs were always going to cop it from officialdom. What happened at Crufts was fairly horrible. But the truth is, it wasn’t even the half of it.

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  • gerontius redux

    Stay away from my cats dude

    • Violin Sonata

      Your furry assassins should stay away from my wildlife and stop peeing in
      my garden. Some animals have no decorum. Dogs don’t do that.

      • Rather worried

        A man who filmed neighbours’ cats killing birds and wildlife in his garden got an earful of insulting publicity in the papers a year or so did he not? The neighbours seemed to think he was some kind of pervert and it was outrageous to draw attention to the cruel secret lives of their felines.

        • gelert

          Cats kill birds – as do birds.

          • Rather worried

            Yes but we don’t artificially boost the population of birds of prey by sheltering millions of them in our homes. But I agree the sparrowhawk lobby is crazy and cruel to other species.

          • And birds have large families as this has always been so, and many British songbirds raise more than one in a season. The real test of the impact of cats is the bird population of urban areas. It is thriving and the range of species seen in urban gardens far outweighs that of our rural monoculture wasteland. The density of cats in urban areas is very far above that in the countryside, but surprisingly, it is the towns that are havens of burgeoning bird life and not the rural areas.

          • gelert

            Maybe because there are so many bird-feeders in urban area – often put in place by cat owners – ?

        • Violin Sonata

          There was a documentary a while ago about the secret lives of cats. They basically spend all night
          out hunting and some even kill chickens.
          A somewhat different side to what people see.

          • gerontius redux

            Mine spend all night asleep on the sofa.
            They’re as cuddly as I am

          • Violin Sonata

            I can assure you, your cats are not dreaming of balls of wool,
            but plotting some murderous act at daybreak. Not so cuddly when they bring a dead baby bird into the house, are they?
            Never trust an animal that wags its tail when annoyed and can
            outstare a human.

          • And what are you having for dinner tonight? Carrots? Cats act out their natural inclinations. It is neither cruel, or murder. I eat several birds every week and parts of other animals that were killed at my behest. Probably just like you do.

      • tjamesjones

        dogs just sh*t in the streets

        • Violin Sonata

          Well you’d thought responsible dog owners would clear up the mess. I rather like cats and have a comical one who visits the garden and looks through the kitchen window.
          I just don’t like wee and worse on my private property.

        • Mine doesn’t, she has impeccable whoopsie manners. She always goes off to the side of the path and never ever drops one in a public thoroughfare. I didn’t teach her that: she taught herself.

      • Muttley

        They just pee in your garden? Your feline visitors obviously have a lot better manners than mine.

    • MacGuffin

      I believe Mary the Cat-in-Bin Lady, briefly famous a few years back, had the right idea. It’s a shame that didn’t catch on.

      • gerontius redux

        I’d better get a bigger cat

    • But the whole point, G, is that cats have carte blanche to be as they are and do what they like. Dogs don’t. On the Gulf Coast of Florida, where (as you know) I live, dogs are not welcome on the beach or in most parks. The only exceptions are tiny special areas for dogs, which a) tend to be cramped and b) are full of other dogs — both of which facts make them useless for me and mine. (She does not want strange dogs rushing up to her, and I don’t blame her.) Some people do still take their dogs to the wide-open stretches of beach, and I turn a blind eye — even when the dog wants to meet me. I don’t take my own girl because she’s not that fond of water or other dogs and besides, I try to obey the law whenever I can.

      • Neil Ashley

        Countries that have endemic rabies in their wildlife tend to have much greater restrictions on dogs. I wish there were dog-free areas on the public footpaths around my village as they might then be free of excrement.

        • Yvon & Barry Stuart-Hargreaves

          Dogs bite 200,000 a year , and that is just the reported ones. Bring back dog licenses.

          • Neil Ashley

            Licences for producing children might also be a good idea.

      • Sally Smith

        Dogs are apex predators. They attack and kill things. That is the nature of dogs. To civilize them, we need to put them on leashes and use off leash parks. If you are good citizens, you may be able to win over other voters to give you more space. As it is, many people quietly do not like most dogs. Cats aren’t attacking people or visibly (to the human eye) ruining natural areas, and that is a very important aspect to an average person’s quality of life.

    • GraveDave

      8 year olds.

      • Yvon & Barry Stuart-Hargreaves

        For dogs that’s 56 year olds.

  • Ali

    Come and visit the agricultural flatlands, the wind turbines and huge power stations instead. You can walk your Labrador x Collie for miles on the flood banks while contemplating how sh*t everything is these days, as I do (did, Lab x Collie died last year now have Belgian Shepherd x Collie). It is a far more appropriate way for a man like you to spend your time and would make a much better juxtaposition to Dorset or whichever inappropriately pretty place it is you live.

    • rodliddle

      I can’t abide Dorset. Kent, temporarily.

      • Violin Sonata

        Dorset is somewhat twee.

        • Neil Saunders

          Not too twee for that great class-warrior Billy Bragg, though.

      • gerontius redux

        Norfolk is the place to be if you’re normal.
        That’s what my doctor said to be at any rate.

        • Is Norfolk the new Tuscany? My relations passed up a home in Dorset for one in Norfolk, and they’re not my favourite people so that’s one strike against Norfolk, I’m afraid.

          • gerontius redux

            Norfolk has a charm of its own
            I was alluding to a little joke that would never have reached Florida:
            “The term ‘Normal for Norfolk’ (or N4N for short) was allegedly devised by doctors at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital to categorise some of their more ‘intellectually challenged’ patients.”
            My father retired to Norfolk.

          • That must explain why I’m (cough) unusual. My people are from Suffolk, originally. %^)

        • P. S. Does this mean they’ve taken the handcuffs off? Does the warden know you’re bloggin’?

          • gerontius redux

            Keep quiet about the handcuffs honey. You know what this lot are like, we’ll never live it down.

          • Hey baby, it just adds to your sparkle!

      • Temporarily? Where next: Switzerland?

        • rodliddle

          THE. NORTH. EAST.

          • Thank heaven for that. They need more of your sort up there. Unless by the caps and stops you mean to suggest NORWAY, which is definitely very north and east of Kent. I suppose there’s more room up NORTH. EAST. but I’m fond of west Kent, myself.

          • gerontius redux

            Don’t listen to the madman: Its “bracing” up there.
            When I was about four my mother managed to lose me on Marsden beach in South Shields. I was swallowed up in a sea mist. It was in the middle of what they laughingly call summer.

          • Good evening! I do prefer the Sunny South myself, on either continent. But remember what Mark Twain said about the upper half of California, no less: ‘The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco’. San Fran is a wonder of the world, as is Marin, as in Sonoma and Napa where the wine is made. I spent the whole time with my mouth open, my eyes glossy for the love I would never have, and my belly full of fabulous vino.

          • gerontius redux

            I can’t match that!

          • Yes you can!

          • gerontius redux

            I’ll try when I return from the House of Correction
            It’s well past midnight and I leave in the morning.

          • All I can do is smile.

          • Speaking of the drear North, here is a lovely rendition of an old song that you are sure to know somehow:

          • gerontius redux

            But of course

          • You are so you!

  • Zanderz

    It’s the product of a cramped and over populated island – no space, no freedom. With overpopulation comes ever greater regulation to maintain order. It’s inevitable.


    Just ignore officialdom. Everyone is to busy having diversity training to enforce the law.

  • Rod’s right. Sigh. And he’s not even the editor of the paper. Maybe one day….
    In the meantime, here is the darling of my heart.

  • gelert

    Nothing against dogs, but we never have stories of children being savaged, sometimes fatally, by cats.

    Keep on smoking, Rod, just do it where we don’t have to inhale the smoke as well. How the tables have turned ! A few decades ago, anyone who objected to smoking was regarded as a social misfit and received short shrift from smokers who thought they had the right to pollute the air at anytime and in any place.

    • Rather worried

      Cats can sit on baby’s faces. I distinctly remember a cat net over my pram.

      • gelert

        Cats love warmth and that is the reason they are attracted to the heat from the warmest part of a baby’s body; there’s nothing vindictive about it.

        A cat net makes sense, but you can remember lying in a pram as a baby ??

        • Rather worried


        • Tad_Porter

          Who said he was a baby?

          • gelert

            Seems he did !

    • Sally Smith

      I think of smokers and dog owners as similar behaviors. What is strange is that if dogs were well behaved, and their owners a bit more socially presentable, not constantly attacking humans or other animals in one way or another with their dogs, I probably would not feel this way.

      It is dog owner behavior, and their spoiled dogs that make people dislike them so much.

      • gelert

        Intrigued how you are commenting on this item after three months.

        I live in France and have to be on the constant look out when going for a walk to avoid putting my foot in it !

  • Baron

    You have charmingly kicked the Ruskies for keeping the tools of murdering warm, but didn’t enlarge at all on the other lot mentioned. A smart move, Rod, ensuring you depart this world in bed, and not on the TV having your throat remodelled.

    And btw, we’re killing the wrong species, it’s the cats that ought to be got rid of.

  • njt55

    Pets are overrated. Don’t like ’em, don’t have ’em, don’t want ’em. Messy, noisy, inconvenient and smelly.

    • Messy, noisy, inconvenient and smelly.
      Like s x, then.

    • Frank Marker

      Rather like some of the commuters I have to travel with 5 days a week on the Central Line then.

  • Alexsandr

    Dog owners who think their animal is the cutest thing in the universe. Yuk.

    your own dog is probably lovely. Other peoples dogs arent.

    • Actually I know lots of dog people that would disagree with you on that. One woman I know claims that OPCs (other people’s children) are nothing like as charming as OPDs. Let’s face it, I have lots of people wanting to chat to my dog and touch her (I generally don’t let them), but how many strangers feel like engaging a toddler they see in the street?

      • Sally Smith

        Not me, I’m afraid. I think kids are the best. Dogs, not so much.

    • Frank Marker

      Not nearly as tedious as parents crowing about how wonderful their ‘little darlings are.

      • Alexsandr

        Cant argue with that.

      • Sally Smith

        Disagree. Kids are the best. All kids. They grow into the humans that help to feed you and your dogs. Your dogs just poop and bark.

        • Frank Marker

          Non. no! They are just little people who don’t pay the rent.

  • kazdix

    Cats require LESS actual effort to er.. own than goldfish, hamsters or caged birds so Q.E.D Cats = pets for lazy people!

    • Damaris Tighe

      Cats are not ‘pets’. Their humans are staff.

    • Frank Marker

      They haven’t quite mastered a tin opener yet though.

  • wycombewanderer

    My dog is gloriously UN PC a balladeur, bon viveur a shagger, a chasseur, he currently sleeps with an orphan lamb, he’ll chase deer but play with sheep, he swims he runs for miles, he can’t get lost because he knows every path, every road every village for miles around.

    For a dog he really does have the most wonderful life, I’m proud I’ve been able to give him that life having rescued him, my best friend, he’s in the prime of his life even if I’m not.

    • “he’ll chase deer but play with sheep

      Really? Play? Tell that to the sheep farmer with a 12 bore in his hands when your balladeur is playing with his pregnant ewes.

      • wycombewanderer

        I have my own sheep; thanks all the same for your unwelcome advice though.

        • You’re welcome. Always remember that when you post opinions or anecdotes on a public forum like this, you are not writing in your private diary. It is therefore ridiculous and extremely petulant to object to others making comments about what you say. It wasn’t advice, it was an observation.

  • GraveDave

    Keep saying it for Diversity Rod.

    Mort aux Chats

    There will be no more cats.
    Cats spread infection,
    Cats pollute the air,
    Cats consume seven times
    their own weight in food a week,
    Cats were worshipped in
    decadent societies (Egypt
    and Ancient Rome); the Greeks
    had no use for cats. Cats
    sit down to pee (our scientists
    have proved it). The copulation
    of cats is harrowing; they
    are unbearably fond of the moon.
    Perhaps they are all right in
    their own country but their
    traditions are alien to ours.
    Cats smell, they can’t help it,
    you notice it going upstairs.
    Cats watch too much television,
    they can sleep through storms,
    they stabbed us in the back
    last time. There have never been
    any great artists who were cats.
    They don’t deserve a capital C
    except at the beginning of a sentence.
    I blame my headaches and my
    plants dying on cats.
    Our district is full of them,
    property values are falling.
    When I dream of God I see
    a Massacre of Cats. Why
    should they insist on their own
    language and religion, who
    needs to purr to make his point?
    Death to all cats! The Rule
    of Dogs shall last a thousand years!

    — Peter Porter

  • John McPartland

    Cats despite thousand of years of domestication retain their hunting ability and all of their inherent behaviour that in human standards we could well say was cruel. They are self sufficient hunters and completely at one with survival without humans. On top of all else despite being sadistic ninjas, they are cute and cuddly with an ability to bend humans to their will. Dogs on the other hand are ****** stupid.

    • Callipygian

      You obviously never met my Boxer: and just as well: she wouldn’t like you.

      • Peter Stroud

        Yep, and my terrier would cock his leg and pee all over Mr McPartland’s foot.

    • Sally Smith

      Apparently dog waste is a huge environmental pollutant. 10 million tons of dog waste. Because links are not allowed, this is some more interesting information:

      USAToday reports that 40% of dog owners do not pick up their dog’s waste at all and all that waste pollutes waterways. Because scientists are able to track the origin of the fecal bacteria to the species that excreted it, we even know how much. One study showed as much as 90% of the fecal coliform in urban stormwater was of non-human origin, mostly dog.

      In just a couple of days, 100 dogs can deposit enough bacteria to close a bay. and all watershed areas within 20 miles of it, to swimming and fishing.

  • Sally Smith

    Dogs are the primary predator of human children. If you wonder how many children die of dogs, its more than you’d believe. In North American dogsbite dot org has data on it.

    And they are the primary carrier of human rabies…160 people per day, many of them children. Dogs are responsible for 97 percent of rabies cases. That’s almost all of them. Almost all of the 160 people that die awful deaths today from rabies are dying from dogs.

    Dogs actually do cause amazingly awful devastation to wildlife. Deer, native animals, livestock from farmers, almost everything runs from your off leash dog when you go for a walk. And that constant fear has effects on the ability of those wild animals to survive and reproduce. Saying that ‘its worse with cats’ does not make it better. Also, there happens to be no good proof that dogs aren’t worse than cats in these respects. Leash your dog!

    Dogs pee and poop poisons the environment. It causes native plants to die from the constant stream of urine, and the trampling and digging. Dogs threaten and harass everyone with this new ‘off leash’ thing in our cities and less populated area. There is not a single person I’ve talked to who hasn’t had a negative interaction with a dog, usually a near-attack. No one even bothers to mention the poop they step in. Its not as important as having our children and small pets killed and mauled by dogs.

    There are too many dogs in too small a space. Apex predators were never meant to be concentrated in a small area like this. Dogs need a real job and an owner who will actually train them to do a job.

    I understand that you love your dog. You may be in denial of this very large problem. There is a generation of children growing up to not like dogs. Adults are changing their minds about dogs. Its daily negative interactions that are causing this. Dogs are ruining our environment and impacting our heath in a negative way.

    Leash your dog, clean up the poop at least, and think about where your dog pees, please vaccinate your dog and train it properly. It isn’t a child, its a dog.

  • I am a fan of dogs. I have a male Border Terrier and I look after another during the day for a friend. However, I never let my dog run free in public, because he is not to be trusted and will fight any entire male dog he meets. I wish in fact that all dogs in public were kept by law on a lead. That way, I would not have to avoid the local parks where many a time, our walks have been rudely interrupted by loose male dogs leaping on my pal and biting him, just for being an uncastrated male. I can not go to the park. It is too unpleasant, so we walk five miles and more each day along the roadside pavements. Loose dogs are a menace, and I don’t care how much you love them. I don’t blame the dogs – they are dogs, and they do what their nature dictates. I blame the stupid, sentimental owners who think there is something necessary or romantic, in their canine chum running free, shitting where he wants, and savaging my dog on a lead. Of course I know mine would do the same, and he has done, just about any time he was let loose in public. That’s why he is now always on a lead, and under control.

  • Streikes

    The reason they are banned from being free range is because people like to enjoy times at the beach without a mutt running up to them while they sunbath or swim. Cats do not constantly bother people and cats are not responsible for over 1000 hospital visits daily from bites and attacks.

  • e small

    Cats don’t’ maul people to death. That makes them superior to dogs in most ways.

    Cats are not the primary carrier of human rabies (99% of cases), which are not insignificant..

    • MORE THAN:
    • POLIO
    • SARS

    in even the most prosperous countries the cost of an effective dog rabies control program is a drain on public health resources. The estimated annual expenditure for rabies prevention in the United States is over US$300 million, most of which is spent on dog vaccinations.

    Dog feces are a public heath hazard also:

    For as long as the dog has been man’s best friend, dog waste has posed a menace to man’s nose and foot. Now science has revealed a more unsavory truth: It’s an environmental pollutant.

    Domestic dogs are often a bigger problem than cats for native wildlife

    At some beaches, dogs help raise bacteria levels so high that visitors must stay out of the water.

    Oh, yes, and they bite people. And kill people. True, its mostly pit bulls and a few other breeds that kill.