I don't mind dogs - it's their owners I dislike

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The Independent Online

One charming tradition in Britain is the warning, in the weeks before Christmas, that a dog is for life. So this year, may I suggest a slightly different slogan - "Don't get a dog in an urban environment. A dog is in fact a wild animal designed for chasing across the plains and ripping out zebras' stomachs, you psychopath."

One charming tradition in Britain is the warning, in the weeks before Christmas, that a dog is for life. So this year, may I suggest a slightly different slogan - "Don't get a dog in an urban environment. A dog is in fact a wild animal designed for chasing across the plains and ripping out zebras' stomachs, you psychopath."

The best insight I had into the mind of dog-owners was while I lived on a council estate, and one dog would regularly crap at the bottom of the stairs to the block. One day, I caught it in mid-dump, and asked the owner if he could not do it again.

He said, "Well, it's a dog; it's got to go somewhere." I pledged that if I ever became a millionaire, I'd hire a huge herd of buffalo and get them to gallop through his flat. And when he complained, I'd say, "Well, they're buffalo, they've got to stampede somewhere."

It's not that I hate dogs, just as I don't hate rhinos. But I'd be bloody irritated if they started chasing around Crystal Palace Park as well.

It's the owners who are to blame. If you shriek "Get your dog off my neck," the best you can expect is a token "yeah sorry mate, here Vinny!". But if you reproach the owner any more, they come over all indignant, leading to "You were in his way."

Which makes me wonder whether, for the last 100 years, dog-owners have been in control of American foreign policy. It's an uncannily similar attitude - "yeah, all right, sorry about the blown up hospital and the massacred civilians. But what do you expect, walking all over a crucial trading route like that?"

The other response is the jolly "Oh, don't worry, he'll only lick you, he won't hurt you." Which may be true. But it's not the point. Being hosed down with soy sauce doesn't hurt, but you shouldn't be made to go through it without some say in the matter.

Dog-owners get their enjoyment in life from being smothered in animal spit, and that's their right. But owning a dog entails inflicting the thing on everyone else. Most people would feel inconsolably racked with guilt if they were the cause of mounds of squelching excrement destined for bicycle wheels, shoes and children's hair. But I suppose letting your dog foul in public is like being a hit man.

The first time, it plays on your mind. But by the 50th, it has become normal, and you can merrily watch as steaming cakes are deposited from squatting, straining hound mid-pavement, and not register a single extra heartbeat.

Because owning a dog is fundamentally antisocial. It's practised by the same people who swerve their car across the road while shouting into their mobile, or jump in a swimming-pool to do the backstroke diagonally from one corner to the other. I bet the proportion of dog-owners who vote Conservative is significantly higher than, say, of people who own a tortoise.

Now, the latest trend in urban animal-loving is an affection for "exotic pets" such as cobras and tarantulas. Which displays a similar thinking to dog-owning. Because if you were round at someone's house and found a bird-eating spider creeping up your arm, the owner would probably say "Oo - he likes you."

But the problem is the same. These people want their wild animals sanitised, but they aren't like other consumer toys. Even the repulsive Anne Robinson couldn't sneer on Watchdog that "many people have bought these cuddly little fellows called 'crocodiles', but look at these teeth. They could give you a very nasty scratch indeed. We rang the manufacturers but they said the design was nothing to do with them. Typical."

If you really want an animal, get one of those Japanese robot dogs - a non-barking non-chasing non-crapping one. And if you still get fed up with it, you can always tie it up in a sack and chuck it in the nearest canal.

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