Dogs deserve to use beaches too

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IN the natural scheme of things, if a beach was said to belong to any creature it might be fish or crabs. Humans of course, assume everything automatically belongs to them . . . elephant habitat, the rainforest, grassland, beaches, all theirs to be shared with no-one, not even their alleged “best friends”.

It’s no secret I’m an animal person. I don’t believe badly-behaved dogs should be allowed to run loose and terrorise folk, or that owners should blithely leave their dog “dumps” to bio-degrade rather than picking them up in bags and disposing of them properly.

But I have heard so much vicious, selfish, poisonous claptrap from the anti-dog lobby over the proposed banning of dogs on Portobello beach and other public areas that I’m pretty sure it’s some of the humans I want to ban from the sands.

People, as David Attenborough says, are a virus on the planet. Not only do we do all the harm (and while we’re on that subject, give me dog poo rather than broken bottles, plastic beer can ties, nuclear waste and other unsavoury human debris), but rights are something we keep to 
ourselves.

There are some smaller or less active dogs who can live life on the lead, but there are many breeds for whom a chance to run is absolutely essential to their wellbeing and their suitability as pets. Where are they to go?

Probably the most annoying comments I’ve heard throughout this whole dog v human debate are from people complaining that dogs “intimidate” their children and might inadvertently knock a toddler over.

I’m on their side completely if a dog growls at a child for no reason, if they snarl, bite, bark threateningly or really are “intimidating”.

A dog happily running along the beach, or digging in the sand with its tongue lolling and tail wagging, is not intimidating. An unstable 
toddler who falls on the sand because a dog has come near is at no risk unless mum’s left a sharp implement out of the picnic basket. “But my children can be intimidated just by the existence of a dog off the lead” pointed out one woman on a radio discussion.

Madam, that is your fault. Your child is a woose! And you are an inadequate parent if you have allowed that fearful attitude to develop. Children have to learn and get used to all sorts of things, the most benign of which is probably the existence of pet dogs. If they can’t cope with seagulls pinching their ice cream, the risk of a crab nip and dogs running about, keep them off the beach and in a 
padded play room.

The anti-dog lobby seems quite content to take for granted the efforts and intelligence of guide dogs, search and rescue dogs, hearing dogs, farm dogs, police dogs, drug sniffers, bomb detecting dogs, Therapet dogs who visit hospitals and care homes, beloved pet dogs and the millions of dogs who are companions for lonely and elderly people and give much-needed structure to their days.

Presumably they think that when they are not serving mankind, the poor canines should be shut in crates, or allowed to exercise only under the unnatural, human-imposed restraints of being always on a leash and on a concrete pavement. Grass and sand are for human use only, it would 
appear.

If people are scared of dogs and animals, I feel sorry for them because they are missing a wonderful part of life and love. But if they pass on that irrational fear and loathing to their children rather than accepting it as their own shortcoming, I have no sympathy for them at all.

The anti-dog feeling over Porty beach is way over the top. Have wardens. Punish owners who don’t pick up with severe fines. Ban dogs who are aggressive. I’m all for that.

But I would also urge the people of Porty to consider how important dogs are to them, how many dog walkers come down in all weathers and how much they contribute to the local economy. We always grab a coffee on the prom (with dog on lead), perhaps an ice cream, take a wander up the high street, buy some sausages from Findlays, look in the charity shops . . . all because we are going there to take the dog on the beach. Otherwise, living on the other side of town altogether, we wouldn’t really have any reason to set foot in the place.

Comedy council

SO now we know. The new tram company has no incentive to make money, no penalties to face, and any shortfall or lack of revenue will be paid for by us. Sometimes I think we in Edinburgh are living our lives as characters in a comedy series about a hapless council which consistently fails to get anything right and continually nurtures ideas and ambitions way beyond its capabilities.

This fiasco would indeed be hysterically funny – if only it was happening somewhere else. We are a laughing stock. I only hope certain councillors will see the funny side when they are voted out because of the disasters they have visited upon us with trams.