The owner needs a licence too


I may ruffle some feathers here, but I think it is far too easy these days for people to own a dog. There seems to be no restrictions on the kind of person who can walk into a shop and buy one. A potential dog owner should have to undergo a series of rigorous checks.

Let me explain. I live in a pretty crowded inner city area, where houses butt up against each other, or are divided into terraces, and most have pretty small yards. I’m continually amazed at the number of dogs in the area, and even more amazed about how unhappy many of them are. Since I work from home, I hear them barking all day, cooped up in tiny yards, when their owners are at work. Sometimes there’s so many going at once I feel like I’ve been suddenly transported to a corner of Doggy Hell.

There’s a little white lapdog a few houses up that I have even gone to check on, since his barking has been driving me nuts. When I found the house and looked over the back fence, I saw him sitting up against the back glass door of the house, where he yaps at his missing owners all day. I left a polite note in their postbox informing them that their dog seemed very unhappy while they are away, but nothing’s changed.

Next door, there’s an old guy whose tiny square of outdoor space faces our tiny square of outdoor space—but in his, a Jack Russell—a dog specially bred to run and work, mind you—is trapped. In seven months I have never seen this dog taken for a walk, and not only does it bark, but recently it has begun crying and whimpering for hours and hours at a time. This disturbing sound woke me up at 4.15am this morning.

Today I finally got the courage up to talk to its owner (who I might add seems imprisoned himself—he listens to talk-back radio and watches TV all day every day, though I’ve seen him walking about the neighbourhood). He confirmed that it never gets to go for a walk, but that ‘he’s an active little guy’. I pleaded as politely as I could for him to take the dog for a walk, noting he really should do so once a day. He looked at me somewhat nonplussed, as though I was telling him what colour shirts he should wear from now on.

My point is, when you get a dog, no one comes to check how big your yard is, whether you will walk the dog every day, whether it will get enough attention and affection—damn it, whether you will be considerate of your neighbours—nothing. You just slap your money down, register it, and take it home to whatever fate awaits the poor powerless animal.

Doesn’t seem fair. Not on the dog, and not on the non-dog-owning neighbours who have to put up with its yapping all day.

All right, I fully expect a barrage from dog owners here. Go for it.

14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Annie
    Feb 03, 2006 @ 11:23:37

    I agree with you. I’m writing simply to say I wish YOU could take that poor Jack Russell with you when you go for a walk. Sometimes I take my neighbour’s dog for a walk. Flash is a sheepdog type of animal who I reckon should be on a farm – don’t say I said so tho’.

  2. UniversalHead
    Feb 03, 2006 @ 12:49:11

    I’ve certainly thought about doing it many times, and I expected someone would say so. But I don’t; and the main reason is if I wanted to take a dog for a walk regularly I’d own one. Without sounding insensitive (if I was I wouldn’t care about the fact that these dogs are unhappy), it’s not my responsibility to take care of someone else’s pet. I’m not really a dog person and don’t particularly enjoy dog walking, and if something happened to it—if it ran off in the park, or got attacked by another dog, or whatever—I would be held responsible.
    And besides, if I started walking all the dogs around here that are going nuts every day because their owners don’t take responsibility for them, I’d be a dog-walking service with ten of them on leashes dragging me down the road!

  3. Brad
    Feb 06, 2006 @ 11:03:00

    I’m not a dog person either, but I am still amazed how the Japanese treat their dogs. Everyone up here lives in small dwellings and many of them have dogs and they are in two different camps. The first is the one where they completely spoil their animals such frivolous things as ridiculous clothes, spas and doggie restaurants. The second group puts their animal on a three foot rope and leaves them staked out in the small yard with no attention or exercise. Both groups are kind of disturbing to me, but I agree with you that if someone owns a pack animal, then the dogs need to feel like they are part of a pack and get some attention.
    One other distrurbing trend up here in Japan is that dogs go through fashion stages. A few years ago large breeds were popular (and expensive at 400,000 Yen) as showy accessories and then when they became too large to handle they were dumped into a system that has no means to adopt animals out to other potential owners. Fortunately, the fashion now is the long haired dachshund which is much easier for them to care for through its lifetime. Strangely, the indigenous shiba breed has fallen out of favor even though it seems to have had all of that pack necessity bred out of it and they seem to be perfectly content to be on the short lead as a guard dog outside of the front door.
    All things considered, a cat is a better choice for over here.

  4. UniversalHead
    Feb 06, 2006 @ 11:28:54

    Interesting stuff Brad, thanks for the insight. I may be wrong, but the Japanese are really one for fads, aren’t they, even more so than Americans – it’s a shame this has been extended to animals. You can throw away the latest gadget, but you’re stuck with a pet for a long time.

  5. Annie
    Feb 06, 2006 @ 11:55:16

    In Chaucer there’s a character with pet dogs which she carries around Paris Hilton style – SO six centuries ago !!

  6. UniversalHead
    Feb 06, 2006 @ 13:02:38

    Have you seen that South Park episode where Paris Hilton dogs keep committing suicide in order to escape being her pet?

  7. Brad
    Feb 07, 2006 @ 08:48:19

    I haven’t made a fad sweep in about a month. I have casually noticed that the gals that work for me are wearing more black than normal, along with fur and stilletto heels. And lots of snow seems to be in fashion this year on the Kanto plain.

  8. UniversalHead
    Feb 07, 2006 @ 08:52:22

    Here’s hoping the fur’s fake … but black and stilettos – nothing against that at all! This reminds me of a recent Flikr set by antipixel, who’s an excellent photographer: Harajuku Girls.

  9. Brad
    Feb 10, 2006 @ 08:59:40

    The fur is real and the Harajuku girls are scary. The photographer didn’t show any of the Lolita gals.

  10. Annie
    Feb 11, 2006 @ 11:49:46

    Why wear a fur when you can wear a real live dog? (Hey did you like the way I brought the topic back around?)

  11. Kirsten
    Feb 22, 2006 @ 11:58:27

    Any good dog owner will tell you you’re completely right. What I lament most is the lack of dog-friendly spaces in many locales. Then again – if fenced parks that encouraged good dog socialization and exercise were built, would people already too lazy to walk their dogs go to them or not? Maybe so – at our local dog park, many folks come to let their dogs play together while they visit. Good for the dogs, good for community building too.

  12. UniversalHead
    Feb 22, 2006 @ 13:21:38

    It’s good to have the correct facilities available, though I do suspect that the kind of people who keep their dogs cooped up all day, or ignore their barking, or don’t exercise them enough, don’t do so because of lack of facilities but their own laziness and negligence. After all, all you have to do at minimum is take the dog on a walk once a day.
    What continually amazes me is how many negligent dog owners there seem to be. We’ve just moved to a new place and – while there’s no continually barking dog close by, thank goodness – there are still several in the area that bark for long periods of time and are obviously frustrated and upset.
    Here comes the grumpy old man’s catchcry – “something should be done about it!!” 😉

  13. ashley
    May 05, 2006 @ 07:33:54

    i think you can make flyers and slip under the doors. 🙂 i did that once, when i lived in a 120 unit apartment building in the city ( a dog friendly building)and dogs were barking left and right, up and down. After my postal service, the proactive silent protest really worked. I started the flyer with a title: 10 TIPS TO BE A RESPONSIBLE DOG OWNER
    1- walk your dog at least 3 times a day
    and etc etc etc… you can imagine.
    here, my pit’s picture if anyone is up for cute pics:

  14. Ashley
    May 14, 2006 @ 01:37:17

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. The only ones who wouldn’t would be the exact people you’re referring to here. If you get a dog, they should be treated like a member of the family. Not a stuffed toy you throw into the back of the room and forget about within a day. I think it’s a disgrace and people should be put through a series of tests to make sure they’re fit to have a dog. I am a mother of three four legged barkers and they wouldn’t know a hard day if it came up and nipped them on the butt!!