It has to be said that there is a certain hypocritical irony about Argyll and Bute Council soberly warning dog owners that they must comply with the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010.
The council themselves have now failed twice even to try to comply with the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010.
One law for the dog owners to obey. One law – enacted in the same year – for the council to flout – with an impunity that would not be afforded any dog owner.
However – Argyll’s first irresponsible dog owner has now fallen foul of this new legislation; and the Council says: ‘The Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010 is designed to ensure that communities are protected from dogs which are out of control and to tackle irresponsible dog ownership.’
It is unarguably intimidating and potentially dangerous to the point of being life threatening for dogs to be out of control. Often such dogs are the breeds that ought to be in strict control at all times; and often they are dogs which it is questionable to keep as pets.
The council’s media statement announces that: ‘Argyll and Bute Council’s Streetscene team recently issued its first dog control notice (DCN) to a Dunoon resident who had repeatedly failed to keep their animal under control.
‘Under the notice, the owner is required not only to keep the dog under control but also to have a microchip implanted in the animal within 14 days (if it does not already have one) as a means of identifying both the dog and its owner.
‘Officers also have the power to include other measures on the notice if appropriate, such as muzzling the dog whenever it is in a public place, keeping it on a lead, neutering a male dog and attending a training course in dog control.
‘Failure to comply with any aspect of the DCN, say the Council in full school marm mode, could lead to a fine of up to £1,000, an order disqualifying the individual from owning a dog for a specific period of time and – if the court considers the dog is dangerous – an order for its destruction.’
The comparison of this enforcement and the penalties for non-compliance it carries is a painful invitation to satire, given that the council’s non-compliance with the Schools Act 2010 threatened the lives of first 23 and now 9 of Argyll’s rural communities. Listening to the council – rightly – laying down the law comes close to the surreal, with its own disregard for the law it does not wish to keep a flagrant and public act of defiance.
The delights of control orders, microchipping, muzzliing, keeping on a lead, neutering, attending training courses, fines and disqualifications start to make satire irresistable in the case of Argyll and Bute Council.
It gets even more seductive.
‘The focus of the new legislation is the ‘deed not the breed’ approach. Any dog has the potential to be the subject of a notice, whatever its size or breed.
‘Councillor Daniel Kelly (oh bliss), chair of the planning, protective services (not of Councillor George Freeman upon whom he let four mad dog fellow councillors loose without demur) and licensing committee, said the issuing of such a notice would always be a last resort. “This is something our officers will do only when all other avenues have been exhausted. But dog owners should be quite clear that we will not hesitate to use the powers we have been given if we deem it necessary.
‘ “Irresponsible dog owners and their animals are often the scourge of their communities, and out of control dogs are not just a public nuisance but can create genuine fear and anxiety for local residents. (Is this the council talking about itself here?)
‘ “The legislation is primarily aimed at the owners (yippee), rather than the dogs. If owners can be persuaded to change their behaviour before their dogs become dangerous, then the behaviour of the dogs will also improve.” ‘
The impossibility of taking remotely seriously any instruction from Argyll and Bute Council to obey the law is proof of just how profound is the damage the council has done in its own disregard for laws it finds inconvenient.
We do not make light of the risks of uncontrolled dogs and our core dispute with the council over its disgraceful conduct of two successive rural school closure programmes is essentially its unlawfulness.
It is a matter of real concern that Argyll is governed by a local authority administration which simply cannot be taken seriously as an advocate for and an enforcer of respect for the law.
It is hard not to go on to consider the instructive role of Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby and her counterpart waiting in the wings until May 2012 – Mrs Bedonebyasyoudid.