Something ridiculous happened at this year’s hideously over managed, tiresome and predictable Christmas markets in Manchester. An employee of the dog Stasi, aka Manchester City Council, prohibited me from entering Albert Square (a public area, by the way) because I was carrying my beloved Chihuahua in a bag. I’ll say it again: a Chihuahua in a bag.
That wasn’t the worse bit though (and came as no surprise considering how increasingly regulated our lives are); no, the worse bit was the look of horror, and near panic on the official’s countenance. As though I’d strapped a suicide vest to the poor animal and darted toward one of those silly mock Disneyesque beer huts screaming Allah-Akbar.
‘Why’, I asked. ‘Don’t know, council ‘ave banned them,’ she replied, in your typical dim bat council employee fashion. But why? What’s the precedent? What possible disturbance could my Chihuahua in a bag inflict on the hundreds of already loud, mouthy drunken Christmas revellers?
In typical patronising fashion, here’s what the council say on their ‘we-know-better than-you-poor-peasants’ website: ‘Sorry pooch, but Albert square’s market area has a strict ‘no dogs’ policy…We love our canine friends but the enclosed space is just too busy and crowded, which isn’t a very suitable area for dogs…You can bring your dogs to other markets though…but it’s probably best to leave them at home while you visit the Christmas markets.’
Is it really probably best? Thanks nanny for informing me what probably is or isn’t best for my dog. The hundreds council pen-pushers (probably) who were paid to come up with that drivel are (probably) ignorant idiots. And here’s why: as any dog owner knows, the best way of bringing up a well behaved dog is by ensuring it is well socialised; in other words, by introducing it to a variety of social situations no matter how raucous, busy or enclosed, the dog will adapt and therefore behave more agreeably outside of the house. Restricting dogs in every conceivable arena of public life, as we do these days, is more likely to produce a problem dog.
The council though, in their new designated role as public life-coaches, have decided that it would probably be best if they legislated our dogs (along with smokers) out of existence.
Take, for example, the Metrolink, which has had a bye-law prohibiting dogs since 1992. Despite recent public consultations, which revealed that a majority were in favour of allowing dogs on board, they still refused to have the ban lifted – citing the usual waffle about health and safety, fouling damage, stress induced behaviour and allergies (By the same logic, you might as well ban children, the elderly, people displaying flu like symptoms, vomiting drunks, the agitated and infirm).
Bizarrely, dogs are now being discriminated against in the city’s parks. Certain restrictions apply in designated areas; or you must walk them on a lead, and a very short lead at that, or else. Some parks, including Platt Fields, have designated dog-walking areas – but watch your mutt like a hawk, in case they frighten an innocent bystander or maul a pigeon to death.
Anyway, I was reminded of all fascist big state stuff when reading Phillip K Dick’s brilliant dystopian novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep? (Later filmed and renamed as Blade Runner.)
In the novel, a simple empathy test is performed to determine who among the populace is an android. ‘Subjects’ are given hypothetical situations relating to animals (such as pulling the legs of a spider and lots of other weird stuff) and tested to see their reaction.
As you might expect animal empathy is pretty much a hard-wired human emotion, so naturally none of the androids pass (schizophrenics also fail, so it’s important to differentiate). The point being that loving and caring for animals is a basic human emotion; and since our city’s leaders clearly hate dogs, it naturally follows they too must be either androids or schizophrenics (I’d proffer the latter – in the novel androids have really high IQs).
So, the wonderfully diverse city of Manchester that caters and panders to every conceivable minority – no matter how ludicrous – has stuck two fingers up at the dog owning population, which you know, only accounts for between 200,000 – 300,000 council tax paying households in the region; 52,000 of whom live within 80 metres of the dog hating tram. And yes, of course, there are some skin headed hoodlums out there straining a pit bull on a lease – but these surely are a minority. Get a grip.