It’s a subject I often hear on social media and articles online. The dog licence is a debate that constantly reignites on a daily basis among dog lovers and professionals. A system that requires the owner to prove that he/she is a fit individual to be able to keep a dog.
On my blog post – Dog Attacks and the Media Causing Hysteria I mention that groups such as the RSPCA mention that there is a ‘animal welfare crisis‘ in the UK. More and more irresponsible owners are unaware of the basic responsibilities of owning a dog which causes neglect and abuse. There is obviously a public need for action and one that keeps coming up is the idea of a dog licence.
A little bit of history! For those who don’t remember, the UK had the dog licence until 1987.
It was abolished after the government believed that the impact of a dog licence was very little and at the time. Estimates suggested that less than 50% of owners had a dog licence. However in Northern Ireland they still adopt the dog licence, unfortunately there are estimates that only a third of dog owners currently licence their dogs. (Source – Dogs Trust)
So for me, it’s obvious that it was a broken system that didn’t work. It was a potentially good idea that wasn’t enforced thoroughly enough and as a result, was almost ineffective. There are many ways of enforcing it, but when there are government cuts everywhere you go, how realistic is it going to be? There are many welfare regulations currently in the UK that are ineffective and due to lack of man-power and funding.
For example, the Control of Dogs Order 1992 states that every dog must wear a collar and tag – how many dogs do you see in public without one these days? I see them on a daily basis and the majority of owners are completely unaware of it, being microchipped does not count as collar and tag and those owners risk being fined £5000 if caught. But lets be honest, who has been fined £5000 for not having their dogs collar and tagged by their local council in recent years? I would be very surprised if that figure was over 5. I have spoken to many councils who just have the lack of resources and manpower to enforce it.
So, demanding regulations and legislations are one thing but it’s another thing entirely to identify your available resources to make them enforceable. These days where government funding is being squeezed left, right and centre – it’s going to be incredibly difficult.
So, for those who are undecided I’ll use, arguably, two of the biggest dog welfare charities that have two different views on the matter. For and Against. I think that peoples views on either charity shouldn’t influence their opinion on the matter of dog licencing.
It was suggested recently by James Yeates, the head vet of the RSPCA that all dog owners should be forced into obtaining dog licences. This idea received just as much praise and as well as criticism from all industries.
“If you are talking about registration, there are a number of potential advantages. Traceability and accountability are two things that could be solved and if you put certain conditions in place for pet ownership, you could ensure competence or training, or capacity.You could use some of the money … for buying a licence to offset harm to animals − either part of the licence would have third-party insurance or some of the funds from that could be used elsewhere. It would also make it clear that pet ownership is a privilege and a responsibility.”
(The Telegraph 29th December 2013)
In a report by The Independent, a study by the RSPCA said that an annual fee of just £21.50 could raise £107.4 million in resources to improve dog welfare, if half the owners of the UK’s 10 million dogs complied. The money could also go into enforcing dangerous dog control regulations in local areas.
The RSPCA also said that two thirds of British dog owners were in favour of a licence scheme, with 70% of those supporting the move happy to pay more than £30 for owning a dog. (The Independent 1st September 2010)
Dogs Trust has adopted the view that dog licencing will not solve this issue at hand and firmly believes that the best way in tackling this is through local action with the use of dog control orders and good public education. They used the examples of the impact it made before 1987 which was statistically poor and did very little to improve animal welfare generally.
They mention that;
“The licensing regime was essentially a tax on dog ownership, it did not encourage a more responsible attitude towards dog ownership in the long term, nor did it protect in any way the welfare of dogs in the short term.”
Despite their views against dog licencing, Dogs Trust were in the frontline of campaigning for compulsory microchipping which will be coming into force on the 6th of April 2016. They feel like this would significantly impact on Local Authorities in terms of dog welfare and a much more cost-effective and realistic approach.
Read their full statement on their website here.
Poll – You vote and decide!
So what do you think? Do you agree with the RSPCA and think that it will make a impact on dog welfare across the UK and put more funding into enforcement?
Or do you agree with Dogs Trust and believe that there are more efficient ways of improving dog welfare other than putting a ‘tax’ on dog ownership?
I’d love to know your thoughts, feel free to submit a comment below!