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Who shut the dogs out?

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 22, 2012

Finding a pub where dogs are welcome is becoming increasingly difficult

Finding a pub where dogs are welcome is becoming increasingly difficult

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I imagine that yesterday, or over the coming days, many of you will try to work off the excesses of Christmas by going for a walk with family or acquaintances. And, of course, it wouldn't be the same without our four-legged friends.

There is, however, increasingly a problem. Such a walk will, inevitably, end up at a pub – it would be rather pointless otherwise, wouldn't it? And if you have taken the four-legged friend with you, he may have to be tied up outside in the cold, so he shivers while you toast your feet and enjoy some Christmas cheer by the fire inside.

In recent years, pubs have become less and less dog-friendly. They seem to be overrun instead by noisy children, who do not inevitably cheer people up. However, a faithful hound lying harmlessly under the table is now increasingly deemed offensive to the customers. The reasons are sadly predictable.

For pubs to survive the relentless and cynical above-inflation increases in alcohol duties the Chancellor insists on inflicting on them, and the smoking ban that drives tobacco addicts to drink at home where they cannot be persecuted, they have had to diversify and be 'family friendly'.

A pub that is family-friendly seems to find it rather a struggle to be dog-friendly.

This is because, to entice families in, pubs have to offer elaborate menus of food, and start to consider themselves as restaurants in all but name. In fact, even if a pub serves only baskets of chips and the odd sandwich, the rules and regulations that come with that are enough to ring alarm bells for wary publicans, this endangered species that lives in fear of the health-and-safety commissar.

This army of busybodies is never so vigilant as where food is concerned. It lives in permanent combat with such enemies as the norovirus and E.coli – neither of which, so far as I can tell, is transmitted to humans by dogs.

Nonetheless, many publicans, café owners and restaurant proprietors take the view that dogs are incredibly dirty, and a potential health hazard, and therefore must not be allowed anywhere near where food and drink are consumed.

There also seems to be a growing idea that the public – in this nation of dog-lovers – don't really like dogs that much after all. As far as I can tell, people do like dogs, just as they like most domestic pets – the swelling coffers of the RSPCA seem to be proof of that. And as for a fear of contamination keeping dogs away from people who are eating, that is nothing but a grotesque over-reaction.

Nor can the usual villain of the piece – the European Union and its propensity to interfere at every turn – be blamed for this. However fascistic some aspects of European Union legislation are, they are not – as any traveller to the Continent knows – so fascistic as this.

EU rules say that dogs are not allowed in areas where food is being prepared. However, there is nothing to prevent them being in places where food is served. If you wander into a bar or a restaurant in France you almost feel undressed if you aren't accompanied by a dog. Nor do I mean the preposterous little handbag-size dogs that French women walk around with like fashion accessories. It is quite common in France to have to step over steaming great hounds as they stretch out waiting for Gaston to finish his cafe creme. The culture here, sadly, has become rather different. Dogs are assumed to be dirty, the carriers of all sorts of the most disgusting diseases. Allegedly, one has only to see a dog in the same place that egg, ham and chips are being eaten for the entire clientele to require immediate medical investigation.

It's man's best friend we're talking about, for pity's sake, not a sewer rat. Many of us have dogs at home. In flagrant violation of EU law, Bert the Dog – Mrs Heffer's devoted companion – has, to my certain knowledge, frequently been present in her kitchen not just when food is being eaten, but even when it is being prepared. We have entertained guests when Bert has sat under the table staring intently and hopefully up at a susceptible diner – he can usually spot a softie five miles away – hoping for a scrap of left-over roast beef, or a morsel of cheese, to come his way.

His regular presence over the past 12 years, dog and puppy, has not, so far as I am aware, resulted in the rapid admission to hospital of anyone present, or even their rapid admission to the nearest bathroom. If people do not catch hideous diseases from their dogs at home, what is it that makes a dog so insanitary when it enters a place of public refreshment that it must be banned from there? Nothing, of course: it is simply an absurd prejudice.

Even more ridiculous, however, is the sign one sees occasionally in the windows of pubs and cafés that says 'no dogs, except guide dogs'.

This has always posed two important questions for me, though I may be rather naïve.

First, what is it about a guide dog that gives it a superior bill of health to a purely ornamental dog like Bert? If dogs are kept out of pubs and restaurants because they spread some sort of plague, how do guide dogs avoid this common pestilence?

Second, what is the point of putting up such a sign when a blind person with a guide dog cannot, by definition, read it? Or do guide dogs, as well as being superior in their cleanliness, also have the means to read these out to their masters before entering?

Happily, there are many like-minded people on this particular case. A search of the internet shows a number of websites that list dog-friendly establishments, where landlords and proprietors choose to interpret the law literally rather than excessively, and let dogs in. The Kennel Club has a campaign called 'Open for Dogs' to encourage businesses to become more dog friendly. After all, the anti-smoking law has already driven customers out of pubs in their legions, and caused thousands of them to close: discouraging people with dogs from going into them can only achieve more of the same.

The bottom line, surely, is this. Most of the offensive and quite possibly contaminating living creatures we know are human. Very few are canine. Enter most pubs or restaurants and some of the people you will see there are far more revolting than any dog we might want to take with us. Yet very few of them are barred pre-emptively from entering, and it usually takes a judge to do it.

Dogs, on the other hand, are genial and relaxing, and can be the life and soul of the party. Who can forget the scene in The Dam Busters when Guy Gibson's legendary dog — the unfortunately-named Nigger – downs a pint of beer in the officers' mess just before the raid?

Many of us, on entering a pub, a restaurant or a café, will quickly surmise that some of the humans in there are far more objectionable than any canine who might enter the premises.

And it is the case with most dogs who are difficult that the real problem is their disgusting owners. The rule should be that dogs are welcome: but dogs with thoughtless or unpleasant owners are not. It is rare that we should feel the need to take lessons from the French.

But if they can accommodate dogs wherever they go out to eat and drink, and not keel over afterwards, then so can we.

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  • Cerdicboy  |  December 24 2012, 8:54PM

    This is one of the few days in the hunting calendar that you will see the hunt, riders and hounds out on parade. Many of the riders will be adorned with Christmas tinsel and their mounts will be superbly groomed. But what you are witnessing is the public face of a cruel and barbaric activity vested in our brutal feudal past. After the hunt has departed the Town centre the huntsmen and associated terrier-men mounted on Quad Bikes will be in two-way communication, using the latest GPS and terrain mapping facilities available. All these hounds, riders, terrier-men and followers after a lonely and scared fox which has probably been bolted from its den earlier that day. You can hardly call it hunting or indeed a tradition!

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  • Kindanimal  |  December 24 2012, 1:51PM

    The article above is so full of inaccuracies, there are far too many to comment on now, but one point I would like to dispute is the comment that 90% of a readers poll taken by the WMN was in favour of retaining hunting. Clearly this figure does not reflect the true percentage of the general public's opinion of hunting with dogs. In a very recent IPSOS Mori poll 75% want the hunting of foxes with hounds to remain banned, and the percentages for stag and hare hunting and coursing is even higher in the 80s. Maybe the author of this article ought to at least leave out his inaccurate non-fact, with all the multitude of other inaccuracies, and advise his hunting cronies to stick to legal trail hunting. After all they can still turn up in their fancy dress and parade down the high streets to present the same spectacle. Keep it legal and no animal suffers persecution and there's no problem.

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  • Wisernow  |  December 24 2012, 10:15AM

    This article makes a great case for the banning of fox shooting with shotguns but not a lot else!!

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  • edkidu  |  December 23 2012, 9:45AM

    Currently protection policies of animal rights organisations lead to disruptive and unproductive conflicts between countryside managers and the so called environmentalists, resulting more often than not in massive losses to national productivity, ridiculous costs to taxpayers, and catastrophic impacts on farming and wildlife populations. D. Human Rights – The Countryside Alliance were unsuccessful in their three legal cases, because they failed to address the central issue of the Human Right to use the most humane methods of management. The most humane methods of management are those highlighted by the Welfare Equation, which draws fully on the Animal Welfare Science of comparing suffering between different methods of control and management. The search and dispatch of casualties being the fundamental issue ignored in the debates and legal cases about the Hunting Act, and a major reason for the current need for improvements to legislation. The Countryside Alliance also failed, when given the opportunity, to address the illegal use of the Parliament Act, which was corruptly used to transfer powers for the exclusive use of the Commons, in defiance of our Constitution and Rule of Law. No doubt the essential repeal of the Parliament Acts, now being discussed, would invalidate the Hunting Act. Edmund Marriage – 8 May 2012 - http://tinyurl.com/d3ayu82

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  • edkidu  |  December 23 2012, 9:38AM

    Basic moral principles to consider in drafting wildlife management legislation – Submission to Law Commission. A. Primary factors in establishing humaneness, minimising cruelty, eliminating unnecessary suffering, and removing sick, diseased and injured animals, namely deer, fox, hare, mink, squirrel, badger and rabbit. 1. Ability to move or disperse, inspect and locate specific individuals or species. 2. Careful selection of the individual within the target species before killing, or survival of the fittest on being tested by scent hounds. 3. Selective as opposed to non selective or indiscriminate culling, is a moral principle reinforced under international law. 4. Providing instantaneous death, or best prospect of an instantaneous death. 5. Achieving no or low wounding rates. 6. The provision of a clean carcass (deer and hare and sometimes fox). 7. Ability to quickly follow up wounded or casualty animals, for humane dispatch. 8. Rapid availability of an efficient professional casualty service for key species, dealing with Road Traffic accidents, and veterinary inspection. 9 Management of species by rural communities to ensure the survival of well dispersed, healthy animals in balance with other species. The need for full health inspections are a growing requirement, together with protection from human disturbance when and where appropriate. 10. Maximisation of the economic benefits of the species management activities. The above ten factors are key features of hunting methods, nearly always absent in the stalking or shooting of the above species. The current indiscriminate slaughter by undisciplined mass shooting and poaching is causing serious population collapses (e.g. red deer), and legislation is required to ensure that point nine above is competently addressed. This requires all shooting to be supervised by well informed local managers/harbourers. B. Welfare Equation – Government manages to draw up guidelines in order to provide good advice on humane methods of killing or capturing wild animals in most forms of managing wildlife, with the exception of using dogs and guns. The animal welfare science through the use of the welfare equation can now be used to address this and many other wildlife management issues, not connected to hunting with dogs. High standards of species management can be assessed and acted upon using simple arithmetic. Carrying out Species Counts and defining Predator/Prey Ratio's to illustrate good and bad management to the public, will remove the need for conflict, and encourage the successful self funding of high standards of countryside management that we can all be proud of. This is best provided by a State backed Wildlife and Forest Service. C. Management Best Practice or Protection Policies - The central objection against killing animals, continually quoted by the RSPCA is that they are sentient beings. The Oxford University Reverend Professor Andrew Linzey reinforces this statement by drawing on the biblical texts to support his case that we humans have no moral right to kill. Professor Linzey has two cats in his garden and is not concerned when they hunt and kill. The central guidance issue within all religions is that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us. If animals are considered sentient beings, then all the more reason why we should execute our duty of care to manage individuals and species to the highest standards using the most humane and suitable methods. That means we should not allow a sick animal to suffer for any longer than necessary, or let some animals impact adversely on other wildlife species. Mankind's dominion or duty over the natural world is set out clearly within the revised translation of the early chapters of Genesis reproduced on http://tinyurl.com/d3ayu82

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  • edkidu  |  December 23 2012, 9:35AM

    Within Clause 170 of the Labour Government's Report of the Committee on Cruelty to Wild Animals in 1951 we find the following: We have already mentioned that the RSPCA, although they cannot approve ethically of any form of hunting, regard fox-hunting as an effective and traditional method of control, and they also feel that if hunting was abolished greater cruelty would be caused to foxes by the more widespread use of other methods, particularly shooting. The RSPCA held this position from the time they were founded in 1824 and have never given a satisfactory explanation for their change of policy in 1978. Their campaign to protect, rather than humanely manage sick badgers, is projected to unnecessarily cost the taxpayer over £3bn. Over the past twenty years they have been repeatedly found to be responsible for presenting misleading and untruthful statements to the public and Parliament on wildlife management issues upon which they raise funds. Under British law this is fraudulent. (Revolt against RSPCA 20th December- Daily Telegraph).

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  • eyeopener  |  December 22 2012, 11:32PM

    The majority of Newspapers within the Northcliffe Media stable try and represent ALL of their readers on both sides of any arguement. Where they make a judgement readers are made aware of what is opinion and what is news. If they are running a campaign, then like The Daily Mail they say so. The Western Morning News is obviously running a campaign on both fox hunting and culling badgers and the material is clearly biased. In its last article about the RSPCA claiming that it was waging a war, it did not even give a comment facility, presumably because they know most of the public are against fox hunting. Funny how other THIS IS sites managed to report the issue and give readers a comment facility. At one point in this article it says "Those that I have seen." Who was that person? Articles by senior journalists normally qualify for a byline. Why not one here? Surely if the journalist has written a quality piece he/she deserves the credit? Isn't it time that the Western Morning News and THIS IS DEVON should they wish to run an Opinion Piece or Editorial followed the example of THIS IS GLOUCESTERSHIRE. There editorials from 'The Gloucestershire Echo' and 'The Citizen' appear clearly labelled editorial. Readers are then in a position to form their own judgement. Do the readers of THIS IS DEVON deserve any less?

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  • bullocks400  |  December 22 2012, 10:35PM

    Not that clever. There are so many inaccuracies and simple lies, rubbish and nonsense in this stupid article that one has to think it was written by an anti hunt activist. It certainly isn't likely to gain any support for a repeal of the ban on hunting. Purile.

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