Now, although I am a fully trained cat owner, in my heart of hearts I love both cats and dogs. Many moons ago, too many I fear, as a stay-at-home mum of two boys we had both Arthur (ginger tom) and Roostie (ginger setter) as key members of the family.
We had them from kitten and puppy together and they were inseparable pals till the day Roostie had to be put down with dreadful cancerous growths bursting out of her back. After thirty years I still have her collar and leash hanging at the back door.
So you see, I would like nothing better than to have had a dog all these years I have been working since. But it’s simply not on the cards as a dog for me needs companionship as much as it needs training. Which brings me to my concerns when there is a horrific attack on someone (often a child or baby) and the dog gets the blame, as often as not it is immediately destroyed on the instructions of the owner.
Don’t get me wrong, there will be the odd dog which, for a variety of reasons – lack of training, size in unsuitable surroundings, lack of exercise, even temperament - will become unpredictable and perhaps ultimately aggressive. But most are not.
Yes, there will be the thugs who train their dog to be weapons, who acquire a dog as a status symbol and that certainly won’t be a poodle, but often the fault lies with the owner not the dog.
So some years ago I introduced my own wee Act of Parliament. Its Sunday name is The Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act. Why am I telling you this? You see, that piece of law is there so that if anyone, or indeed another animal, is put into a state of anxiety by the behaviour of a dog, this gives them the right to report it to the council’s Dog Warden who can then follow up the complaint.
If after enquiry the warden considers further action should be taken, he/she can issue a Dog Control Notice.
This can mean the owner might have to take the dog to training classes, keep it muzzled and so on. In other words, it puts the onus where it belongs, on the owner not the dog.
In the year 2015-16 City of Edinburgh only issued 14 of these, Midlothian and East Lothian seven each and Scottish Borders, one. I wonder why.
Perhaps part of the answer, though I am checking other reasons, is that you didn’t know this law existed. Well I hope this helps and to save someone injury or indeed their life and to stop a dog in its tracks from turning from friend to foe, you pick up that phone and let the council know. I’d be happy to hear how you get on.
In the meantime, one day, perhaps when I get my P45 , I will also get my canine friend and that old collar and leash will have a use again.
n Christine Grahame is MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale