IT’S THE DOGS BULLOCKS [ archive- UK ]

4 Jan

Endemic to Northern Ireland is an unusually high number machismo dogs wandering the streets. Some say black Labradors, mastiffs and other militant type dogs are a fashion statement. Others, a reality encouraged by military presence in Northern Ireland. For generations, dogs warned Irish Catholics British Military and Loyalist invaders were prowling at night. Military, refusing to investigate high number of canine poisonings over the years, alleged dogs were trained as canine alarms

A United Kingdom dog welfare organization concerned with Northern Ireland presence is the NCDL, National Canine Defence League. Working to promote Responsible Dog ownership, the NCDL experienced unforeseen challenges in cultural nuances defined relationships between canine and their owners.

A study sought to define the Northern Ireland relationship. An excess of 11,000 dogs in a people population of 1.7 million stray annually; 5,000 dogs are put to sleep; 6,000 dogs might rehome; 2,200 dogs may be reclaimed. 1 out of every 156 dog owners in Northern Ireland let their dog stray.

The men identified with their dogs. Devastated by inability to secure work, an intact, aggressive, roaming dog gave them a warped sense of machismo. Having a dog was important; caring for the dog was not.  Few hold emotional ties to dogs, perceived as disposable ‘if they wander, who cares.’ Little loyalty was found. A dog could be replaced within days or hours. 

37 year old Ronnie Milsap, spearheading the NCDL Northern Ireland campaign, is making a difference. A former Dog Warden, Milsap found diminishing support from 26 Councils employing him. Education materials were leaflets. There was no support for neutering campaigns. His budget, less than for Cemeteries, was continually reduced. His aide was let go.  Milsap, a dog lover, dreaded going to work. He knew he would have to destroy dogs he collected. No longer dog warden, solely responsible to feed dogs, walk them before putting them to sleep, making room for new dogs coming in daily, he felt he was playing God. The deaths of thousands of dogs preyed heavily on his mind aging him prematurely. 

Daily confrontational problems with dog owners threatening personal harm, brought him close to a nervous breakdown. ‘I had no sense of a good deed done for returning a dog to its owners’ says Milsap. Promise of a City pension and higher salary wasn’t motivation he needed to go to work. The NCDL’s motto ‘A dog is for life’ was. Milsap responded to the Charity’s classified ad looking to hire a Northern Ireland campaign officer.

The NCDL focused to develop campaigns intended to stroke Northern Ireland male egos. Milsap would like animal welfare investigators to work closer with police. Believing there is a connection between neglect of children and animals; physical abuse and animal abuse, Milsap says closer lines of communication must open between animal welfare and police investigative agencies.

‘It’s the dogs bullocks’ campaign seems to be a winner. The £1000 cash incentive drove male participation  up 30% – 40%. Money in the pocket of an unemployed man went the distance towards boosting his ego, calling himself a winner. Future incentives might include tickets to football and other machismo sporting events. 

‘It was never the Council’s responsibility to leash and neuter dogs. It remains the owners responsibility,’ says Milsap. ‘The solution to canine control lies in my educating dog owners.’

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