Britain is a 'dog-ist' society for banning canines from restaurants and shops, claims Chris Packham

Expert says he was surprised at levels of his dogs' distress after monitoring their anxiety for BBC documentary

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The Independent Online

Britain is a “dog-ist” society which needlessly restricts canines from restaurants and shops, the wildlife presenter Chris Packham has claimed.

The BBC expert, who presents a new BBC documentary Cats Vs Dogs, is the owner of two miniature poodles and argues that his pets are “the most important organisms on the planet”, over and above his partner and stepdaughter.

Packham monitored his dogs’ anxiety when he goes out for the programme and says he was surprised at their level of distress.

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“Part of the problem is that we’re so dog-ist in the UK – you can’t generally take them into shops or restaurants.” He told Radio Times. “When I’m in France, no one gets het up at all, and why would they? The dogs sit under the table. No problem.”

The Springwatch presenter accepts that “both cats and dogs have the potential to damage our wildlife – why do we allow dogs on to nature reserves, for example? It’s anathema to me. And cat owners can help by keeping their pets indoors at night.”

Packham has previously urged both the RSPB and RSPCA to speak out about the havoc wreaked by cats on garden birds.

Two BBC films, one presented by Packham, the other by cat-lover Liz Bonin, attempt to answer the age-old question: which makes the best pet - cats or dogs?

“Dogs are better suited to me as companions, as I like to share a more complete relationship than you can get with a cat,” Packham claims.

Bonin, who researched cat behaviour for her film, said: “We’re finding that, even though they’re solitary animals, they’re (cats) incredibly good at adapting and learning to read our features. They’ve learnt how to communicate with us – they hardly ever meow to each other, only to humans. They never needed to evolve those traits, so for me they’re more remarkable for having done it.”