Dog safety: Are we dog's worst enemy?

Last updated 15:00 16/09/2013

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Man's best friend: an expression said to have come from a courtroom speech made in 1870 by George Graham Vest in Missouri, USA.

Representing a farmer suing for damages after his working dog Old Drum was shot by a neighbour, he said, "The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog."

And there's no doubting the love and idolising loyalty a dog has for his human owner or family.

Why is it then that, every day there is example after example of how we humans neglect, abuse, torture and abandon the dogs we choose to bring into our homes?

Take an American Pit Bull, we'll call Jake. One of 30 or more dogs rescued from a dog-fighting ring. Jake could hardly walk, had multiple breaks and fractures throughout his body, was a mess of wounds, both old and fresh, had mange, the list goes on. Humans had done nothing but hurt that dog, yet his tail wagged for his rescuers.

Sadly, Jake didn't survive, the heart breaking decision was made to euthanise him due to the extent of his injuries. He died in the arms of one of his rescuers.

The story of Patrick some will know, a dog left to die by his owner, so emaciated he could no longer stand and barely clung to life. Patrick, with the love and care of a vet and others amazingly survived and thrives today.

Whilst these two examples might be from America and may seem extreme, that same level of neglect and abuse has occurred in New Zealand, just ask agencies such as Paw Justice and CDANZ (Chained Dog Awareness NZ) who deal with it daily.

For me, the need to question whether dogs are a danger to us, pales in comparison to the need, to address how we are a danger to the dogs.

Abusing and neglecting the animals we domesticated isn't a new thing, nor is it reserved to any particular societal group - having a fat wallet does not make someone a responsible dog owner.

The decision to own a dog is one that deserves the same consideration as the decision to have children - on some levels, more so - after all, kids eventually become adults capable of caring for themselves, a dog though, needs us for the extent of its life.

To survive, a dog needs food, water and shelter - to thrive, a dog needs those things as well as training, exercise and most importantly love - each and every day of its life.

And it's our duty to ensure they get it.

Registered Dog numbers in New Zealand have skyrocketed from around 390,000 in 1999 to a staggering 652,000 in 2008, with the biggest increase of 229,000 occurring between *2002/2008.

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Add to that the unknown number of unregistered dogs and we're at epidemic proportions.

The internet has made buying a dog as easy as clicking on "Buy Now" and little thought is given to the consequences and lifetime responsibility pressing that button brings.

Given you can list a litter of puppies for a one off fee of $29.00 and charge anywhere from $200 to $1200 per dog, the money to be made has created a monster in the backyard breeder and puppy mills, run by people who care little or at all about the people and homes their animals go to or that a good percentage of those dogs eventually end up either, in a shelter, turned over to the SPCA or dead from abuse and/or neglect.

We need to start educating properly about dog ownership and regulating and licensing the business of breeding and selling of all breeds of dog, otherwise the saying "Man's best friend" will be replaced by "Dogs worst enemy".

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