It seems like every time the ACT Government shows leadership on animal welfare, it cues the moans of lazy Canberrans across the Territory, complaining about the supposed red tape burden of being the base level of responsible when it comes to pet ownership.
This time, the moans and groans are in response to the announcement of a new digital dog database which will require dog owners to check and update the registration details of their pet each year – at no additional cost and prompted by a reminder. It’ll be easier than registering a car, which most people seem to accept is a reasonable and important thing to have to do.
And yet, the reaction online from the public has been one big eye roll and accusations of a nanny state placing too much of a burden on dog owners for seemingly no benefit (that, as well as cat owners smugly chiming in as if their animals don’t also roam and pose animal welfare risks – but that’s another article).
Having spent a portion of my career and much of my life committed to enhancing animal welfare, I personally think the barriers to pet ownership are too low in cost, regulation and requirements, and that increasing the expectations of responsible pet ownership is fundamental to protecting animal welfare.
Thousands of dogs across the country are abandoned, neglected, mistreated and (if they’re lucky) left at shelters by irresponsible owners every day. It happens in Canberra and our surrounding regions, and if we think our community should somehow be exempt from responsibility when it comes to registering and taking ownership of our pets, then there’s clearly a wilful ignorance at play.
I find it ridiculous that dogs are still bred in backyards and that it’s legal to sell animals on online platforms like Gumtree. It seems bizarre to me that people can purchase animals for less money than they would spend on eating out in a month, and that there is no validation process to check whether the animal’s wellbeing and welfare will be adequately provided for by its new owners.
In my view, no one is entitled to have a pet and, in fact, there should be more regulatory processes in place to ensure that animals are in homes that can properly provide for them, that know how to cater for their welfare, and that are committed to their long term care.
People treat dogs like fashion accessories. The number of people I know who pick dog breeds for their aesthetic and then seem surprised when the temperament of the animal isn’t what they expected (having usually done no research into this most important aspect of their breed choice) astounds me. The number of people I know who, despite knowing full well the consequences of puppy farms and the issues with backyard breeding, still buy their pets from strangers on Gumtree who aren’t in any way registered breeders, is frustratingly disappointing (I can count over 10 people in my own circles who have done this in the past year).
To then see people lashing out at the prospect of having to spend approximately five minutes making sure that their dog’s microchip corresponds to their current contact details, as if the safety of their pet shouldn’t be their responsibility, disappointingly confirms my belief that most people should never have the privilege of pet ownership.
Bring on the database, I say. Hell, make one for cats, birds, small mammals and any other domestic pets too. Make it harder to become a breeder and actually crackdown on unregistered breeders when they pop up online.
Make it more expensive and difficult to own a pet, and maybe we’ll start valuing them the way we do our cars and computers and other big-ticket items. It’s the least they deserve, as sentient beings who are completely dependent on human kindness for their wellbeing.