Act now to muzzle this cruel plan

I wish to draw readers’ attention to something currently before the Scottish Parliament which has been overlooked by just about all of us while the focus has been on the independence issue.

This is the proposal that all dogs in Scotland should be muzzled in public places at all times. Not just dangerous dogs. All dogs.

This could become law in a matter of weeks.

There would not be a single responsible dog owner in the whole UK, let alone Scotland, who would excuse the keeping of dangerous dogs, or who would feel anything other than revulsion, sorrow and anger at the tragedies which they have caused.

Yet the fact is, as we know from the news, that these horrific attacks occur within the home, not in public places. Neither would the muzzling of canines in public provide protection from attacks by dangerous animals that posties and other workers suffer – again on private rather than public property.

But in a bigoted, knee-jerk reaction, the Scottish Parliament could be about to punish hundreds of thousands of innocent dog owners and their pets for the wickedness of the criminal few.

The proponents of this measure are blind to a number of factors, some of which actually undermine the very aim of achieving a safe environment for both dogs and the people with whom they come in contact.

Let us consider what it will be like if dogs have to be constantly muzzled when they are out. Never again will families, including children, be able to enjoy the fun of playing with their pets, throwing balls or sticks for them to chase and retrieve, or watching them romp with their canine friends.

There is a serious issue here. In order to be confident and non-aggressive, dogs need to play and generally to socialise with other dogs.

Furthermore, a mature pet which has always had the freedom to play is not going to be able to understand why its owners are now forcing this contraption onto its face and condemning it to a life without play. Ironically, this new law could turn a hitherto calm, relaxed and friendly animal into an anxious, mentally-disturbed and potentially-aggressive one.

Related to this is a second factor. Dog training relies on a combination of command and reward. Obedience to a command is rewarded by an edible treat. How can a dog be given a treat if its mouth is clamped shut? The new law will make it very much more difficult, if not impossible, to train and control dogs.

Perhaps most alarmingly of all is the effect that this measure would have on the welfare of an animal and, indeed, its life.

Would the brilliant brains at Holyrood who are behind this proposal care to explain to us how, in hot weather, a muzzled dog is going to be able to drink? Or even breathe? I wonder which MSPs are going to have the guts to meet distraught children and tell them why they had to watch helplessly while their much-loved pets died because they were forbidden by law to remove their muzzles?

We only have until March 31 to stop this cruel, heartless and thoroughly-stupid proposal becoming law.

If you share my views, as well as contacting your MSPs, please tell your friends and other dog owners to do the same. I’d also ask those of you who are conversant with social media to use this so that this plea can go as quickly as possible across Scotland.

Alan Williams

Langholm