Thursday, 22 April 2010

Dog Licensing Speech

The following is the text of the speech I prepared for yesterday's full council meeting. I didn't get to give it unfortunately - the meeting was 'guillotined' immediately before my speech (by pure coincidence of course!).

I would welcome people's feedback on this issue.

Text of Speech

Let me begin by saying that I welcome the discussion we are having around this white paper today.

Members may recall that I asked a question on the issue of dog licensing not so long ago in this council chamber, though it was with regard to the question of whether the re-introduction of dog licensing would serve as a useful deterrent against the barbaric practice of dog fighting.

As this example shows, there are a number of broad themes that may be discussed when examining whether the re-introduction of dog licences should be seriously contemplated.

Would dog licensing help to combat dog fighting and the use of dogs as weapons for example?

This would depend entirely on the degree of enforcement that came with it. I view people who engage in behaviour such as dog fighting or using animals to attack people as being among the vilest members of our society. Clearly without the strictest enforcement, there is no way that such criminals would bother to buy licences for their dogs. Only decent and law-abiding dog owners would do so.

We then come to the related question of animal welfare. Would the re-introduction of dog licensing help to stop harm coming to dogs, either through evil intent or just pure ignorance? It may scratch at the surface of the problem, but once again, unless rigorous enforcement takes place, it is highly unlikely that negligent or wilfully cruel dog owners would bother to buy a license.

If we are seeking to address the problems of animal neglect and cruelty, it would arguably be better to introduce compulsory dog registration at a local vet and making pet insurance compulsory for dogs.

These steps would help to ensure that all dog owners have automatic access to medical treatment for their dogs and advice regarding their care, and registration with a vet would ensure that all dogs are registered somewhere and could be subject to health checks and monitoring where necessary.

Compulsory micro-chipping of dogs would be a similarly interesting idea.

We then come to the question of revenue raising in order to finance initiatives concerned with the problems of dog fouling. This is indeed a huge problem but we must be careful not to cast all dog owners as being responsible for the ignorant minority who do not clean up after their dogs.

Blaming all dog owners for the actions of the irresponsible minority is like blaming all pedestrians for the anti-social minority who drop litter in our streets.

The vast majority of dog owners are indeed responsible and look after their dogs properly – and clean up after them – and we must work together with such dog owners to help to address the various problems caused by bad dog owners.
Much better enforcement and far harsher penalties for people who do not clean up after their dogs are urgently required.

I do not discount the possibility that the re-introduction of dog licensing, if done correctly, could be beneficial in some respects, but I feel we need to look at the bigger picture and consider a number of other steps that could be taken that would result in the problems I have discussed being addressed, whilst keeping to an absolute minimum the disruption caused to decent and law-abiding dog owners.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Aire Valley Homes awards ceremony

Tonight I attended the 2010 Aire Valley Homes Community Awards at the John Charles Centre for Sport (see picture).

The award ceremony was presented by the BBC's Harry Gration and was extremely well attended. There were various councillors and an MP in attendance, although I was the only Leeds City Councillor there representing Morley.

The ceremony was billed as an event to recognise the hard-work and dedication of community volunteers, and there was also a category for Aire Valley Homes Employee of the year.

The highlight of the event for me was the presentation of the award for the 'Group of the Year' category, which was won by the Denshaws and Newlands Tenants and Residents Association. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with this group during the past few years, and I know from my own personal experience that they certainly deserve this award for the hard work that they have put in on behalf of this part of Morley.

Let me conclude by congratulating them along with all the other groups and individuals who won awards tonight, as well as those who were nominated but failed to win on the night. I hope tonight's event goes some small way towards showing that the hard work and dedication of such volunteers is very much appreciated.