The magazine your dog would want you to read
Editorial: September-October 2003
Sad state for dogs and seniors
THE knee-jerk reaction by New Zealand politicians after a spate of bad dog attacks has been to devise new Draconian dog laws for this country that have obviously had all of five minutes' thought put into their content.
As with most "tightening up" statements, whether referring to dog laws, gun laws, car laws or any other kind of laws, it is the law-abiding who are hit yet again, and those who couldn't care less still couldn't care less!
Reports are coming in that the elderly are already beginning to take their little companions in to the vet to be put down because they are anticipating the cost of compliance and know that they could never in their wildest dreams afford the requirements:
- Compulsory microchipping (not instead of but as well as registration) at a cost of anything from $70 to $150.
- Compulsory dog-proof fencing that ensures there is free and safe access to the house by visitors, tradespeople, school children, burglars or anyone else who wants to knock on the door... or not! This one could cost thousands of dollars, depending on how far the house is from the road and how large the yard is. And does this mean that the super rich now also have to comply and remove their permanently locked iron gates? ... I think not! Why is it that the same tradesmen, power meter readers, posties etc do not have to have access to these homes?
There are so many anomalies with this particular clause that one wonders if there are going to be thousands of exemptions - what about guide dogs, what about service dogs, what about farm dogs, what about guard dogs (a free entry into someone's business? I don't think so!), there could be hundreds of examples - are blind people going to have their dogs taken off them if they can't afford new fences?
Local bodies, quick off the mark and anxious to grab every dollar, have already been charging elderly people as little as a week late with their registration fees a penalty of $200 on top of the $45 fee. Of course they have not accounted for the associated stress. Older people would be devastated if they were forced to have their companions killed (sometimes the only friend they have in the world). Such stress just may kill the owners as well. If not it will at least see them unhappy and sick. If they no longer take their dog for a daily walk they will certainly become more ill and require more medical treatments. So I would say to pensioners with limited funds and a dog or two - don't get your little friend put down because of these costs as there are some facts that you need to know:
- Microchipping will not be compulsory for any dog already registered before the start date in 2006. So you do not have to worry about that at all!
- If you get caught out because you have forgotten to pay your registration and received a bill you can not possibly pay, don't panic and have your dog killed. First go to your mayor and complain - explain why you were late with the registration and ask that the penalty fee be dropped. If that does not work go to your MP and complain again, tell him or her that you don't have that type of money. If you have a particularly inactive MP who says there is nothing that can be done, then take matters into your own hands. Send the form in and tell them the dog has died (without any money of course). Then a few weeks later register a 'new' dog (don't forget to give it a new name).
- I have a feeling that the fence laws are going to turn to mush, because they are simply unworkable and not enforceable. So wait for this one - wait not only until the law start date is reached but also until you actually get a compliance notice. Then one suggestion would be for everyone who has had such notices to get together - get a written quote for the fencing job and send the quotes en masse to the MP responsible for these laws (Chris Carter) requesting a loan and a repayment rate of $1 per week (provide a budget in support).
Please, please NZ pensioners do not panic. If you have problems do get in touch with me and I will try to help you contact the right people, or if in the end all the avenues have been exhausted and you can no longer care for your companion, don't have him or her killed ... I can help you to find a new home for your dog through the magazine pages and contacts. There is plenty of time - you are not going to be prosecuted next week!
And readers, if you know anyone in circumstances such as these do pass on the magazine contact email email@example.com Such laws are always made to target the poor. Although the rich could pay whatever it costs to comply, they can also pay even more not to comply - and they will! If things become really bad, dog owners may launch a fencing fund, a fence working bee pool, or even a list of temporary canine care homes for the companions of any elderly or disabled people who own dogs and are targeted. In the UK there is an excellent organisation called the Cinnamon Trust that assists with pets of the elderly if owners have to go to hospital or can no longer walk the dog or even if owners are worried about who will look after the dog when they die. A Trust such as this should be in every country. - Elezabeth