Putting My Foot In It
Granma gives her views on dogs
Mothers in Dudley Road in Ore recently had to call in the council after steps to the local school were fouled by dogs – and they’re not the only ones complaining about dog poo. Children don’t look where they’re going, and we old people can’t see where we’re going. Once on our shoes, we’ll probably bring it into the house along with unpleasant bacteria and parasites that can cause anything from digestive problems to blindness.
If you scoop the poop in town but think leaving it in the countryside is natural, think again. The worm pills and parasiticides we give our pets
pass into their pee and poo and kill essential insects like dung beetles that would have transformed it into healthy fertiliser. With insects on the verge of extinction, that’s a problem.
What research shows
A study by the University of Central Lancashire estimates that the daily pile of poo is about 1,000 tons, and £22 million is spent annually by cash-strapped local councils in its disposal (Daily Mail 21/2/19). That’s not all. When we’re meant to be cutting back on red meat, as much as 25% of the environmental impact of meat production comes from pet food. Unlike cats, dogs are omnivores and will survive on a vegetarian diet, but with
a staggering nine million dogs in the UK, that’s a shedload of vegetables.
Back in 2009, The Guardian reported that it takes 0.84 hectares (2.7 acres) of land to feed a medium-sized dog, while in 2004 the average Vietnamese citizen used 0.76 hectares and an Ethiopian only 0.67 hectares. Can we really justify keeping pets that take more land than some people?”
Halting the increase
Since 2010 pet ownership has decreased from 71 million to 51 million but the dog population has gone up by 0.9 million (statistica.com). In England alone, about 21 dogs a day are euthanised because of overcrowding and lack of resources.
Unless it’s for working dogs, breeding any more is irresponsible, if not cruel. Puppy mills are churning out bespoke pooches in all shapes and sizes, from low exercise to non hair-shedding, with little regard for their health. Many purebreds suffer from congenital conditions such as heart disease, and respiratory problems: wrinkled dogs get skin infections and miniature ones have dislocating knee caps.
Of course dogs have positive benefits, but you don’t need a dog to enjoy a walk in the country park. You don’t need a dog to stop feeling lonely either – Hastings is buzzing with activities and community projects to get involved with. And you don’t need a dog to teach your children to love animals; keep chickens or pigs instead because it might not be long before our pets are impounded by the government and rationed back to us for dinner.
If you care about our children’s future, please don’t replace your dog; I won’t be replacing mine – yes, I’m currently a dog owner. Or if you really must have a dog, go to a sanctuary and save one from the chop. And for everyone’s health, not least the humble dung beetle’s, ALWAYS scoop that poop.
Barking up the Wrong Tree
HIP’s aptly named Kent Barker takes issue with Granma
A friend’s daughter just got a new puppy. It’s black and furry and quite adorable – despite not yet being house-trained. But ‘Indy’ isn’t just for fun. She’ll be trained to detect ketones on the five-year-old’s breath before her glycogen storage disorder can trigger a glucose dip and possible coma.
The stunning sense of canine smell is increasingly being harnessed to benefit humans. In Germany, dogs have been shown to detect the smell of lung cancer 93% of the time. A Japanese dog correctly identified bowel cancer from breath and stools. Other studies show that dogs can detect melanoma, bladder and early stage breast cancer and anticipate narcolepsy, migraines and diabetic seizures.
Canines are good for us in many other ways. We dog owners have lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol than non-dog people. We generally have a stronger immune system and spend less time getting over sickness and bugs. We recover faster from illnesses and even have higher survival rates after a heart attack.
So while I agree with Granma that stray dog faeces can be extremely unpleasant, I don’t agree with her anti-dog stance. As for dog food – well my hound eats all our leftovers – thus reducing methane-producing methane-producing landfill. Dog food manufacturers claim, probably with some justification, that they use by-products from the human food and agricultural industries which prevents the need for disposal and effectively reduces the price of meat for human consumption.
But ultimately it’s surely a question of choice. Increasing numbers of people in the UK live alone – 7.7 million in 2016. Should they be denied a pet? Almost one in four of us are dog-keepers. Our best friends help us stay healthy and, above all, provide us with great companionship. Dogs are good for people.
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