ETCETERA / Home Thoughts

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The Independent Culture
IF I RULED the world, which is of course unlikely, I would ban dogs from cities. This is something I have been thinking about a lot recently: not the world-rule bit but the dogs. Perhaps I'm obsessional, but dog shit is everywhere these days. More and more of it. My son tramples through it blithely on the pavements and in the park and then runs into the house, and I clear it up, muttering dark threats against all dog-owners.

I used to think lonely old people should be allowed to keep dogs but I've hardened my views. Apart from guide dogs for the blind, they've all got to go. The old people will have to content themselves with hamsters or goldfish, or perhaps a fluffy rabbit. (I'm not too keen on cats, since the neighbour's one started defecating in my pot of tulip bulbs, killing them all stone dead.)

In my more enraged Mussolini-like moments, I think dogs should be banned from the countryside, too, except for useful creatures such as sheep-dogs. I went for a bracing walk in Lynmouth two weeks ago, and there they were, evil little heaps of excrement just waiting to be trodden in: next to a waterfall, along the sea front, in the woods. Imagine if we let our children pull down their knickers and poo everywhere, completely at will. Imagine the outrage]

And another thing. Our local park has one small fenced patch - a children's playground - where dogs are banned (though that doesn't stop them leaping over the fence and infesting the sandpit with Toxocariasis, while their owners look on benignly). The rest of the park - the muddy expanses of grass, the bleak flower beds, the tragic little rose garden - is dominated by dogs. Great big slavering dogs, small yappy dogs, all chasing children, scaring babies, and shitting everywhere. You can't have a picnic in the summer without inspecting the grass first, or play football without falling over in some fetid heap. What is this about dogs and their owners that makes them so much more important than anyone else?

I'm not quite mad enough to suggest compulsory dog euthanasia, but once the ban is enforced I'm afraid all dogs will have to be sterilised. And despite the cries of outrage that would ensue, there would be very large fines for dog-owners who allow their animals to foul the streets or parks, without clearing it up immediately. The fines would be like parking tickets: issued by zealots, no argument, just pay up. The money raised could be spent by local authorities on those snazzy municipal street-cleaning machines - the ones like giant Hoovers, with washing bits attached.

Then we could all walk along with our heads held high, enjoying the beauties of nature and our fellow men, instead of being forced to watch our every step because of the stinking perils that lie beneath our feet. And the world would be a much happier place. Simple, really. -