It’s interesting to see micro-chipping of dogs in the news again. About 10 years ago, the Lib Dems discussed animal welfare and micro-chipping.
It was a long, earnest and fairly one-sided debate – and some of the journalists and researchers watching appeared to be losing the will to live – when I stood up and opposed the motion (at least part of it).
It’s safe to say, it’s not the most serious speech I’ve ever made. Mark Pack and I came up with the idea for it in the bar the night before. But the journalists liked it. And I didn’t have to buy myself a drink for the rest of conference on the back of it.
The Guardian described it the ‘wittiest speech of the day’ – which I’ve always been rather proud of.
And the policy I was opposing ended up being cited in The Orange Book
as an example of the nanny state. I once had great fun asking Paul Marshall why it was only me – a social liberal – who actually opposed the policy at the time, while the Orange Bookers stayed silent…
Speech made on Animal Welfare debate – Brighton – September 24, 2003
Fellow Liberal Democrats
I know some of us have had our run-ins with dogs in the past while out delivering – but lines 41-42 really are a bit of an overreaction.
After all what are these lines asking for?
“A self financing system of compulsory registration for the ownership of dogs, involving clear identification, ideally through microchips.”
Or to put it another way, we’re asking for compulsory ID cards for dogs.
So while, as Alan Beith just said in the terrorism debate, we think compulsory ID cards are a bad idea for people – apparently they’re a good idea for dogs.
But there’s more…
If you go back to the policy paper, it then talks about
“a registration fee paying for the microchip, the national register and [a] dog warden network”.
Or a poll tax for dogs!
So while we think the poll tax is a bad idea for people – apparently it’s a good idea for dogs.
I read on in the original policy paper. I wondered what was going to come next frankly. And found even more surprises. It gets worse.
“6.6.2. In Germany, the police can confiscate dogs suspected of being dangerous.”
Only suspected! Sounds a bit like a new sus law to me – just for dogs of course.
“The dogs are then subjected to a series of tests to prove whether they are actually dangerous. If the dog passes the test, it is returned to its owners. If the dog fails the test it is given one more chance to be retrained and retake the test and if it fails again it is destroyed.”
So now we’re introducing more compulsory testing. As if there wasn’t enough already in the UK. And we’re backing the death penalty for failing a test.
So here you have it. In two paragraphs, our party commits itself to:
- Compulsory ID cards
- A poll tax
- A new ‘sus’ law
- Extension of compulsory government testing for the mostly under 10s
- Death sentence.
Admittedly this is all for dogs, and they do bite innocent hard-working people out delivering leaflets, but it seems a bit over the top.
Anyone might think this part of the motion had been written… by a cat… possibly a feline version of David Blunkett.
If I was looking for a cheap laugh, which I’m not of course, I’d go so far as to say the whole thing is absolutely barking.
And you’ll have noticed that cats get off very lightly in this motion. This is not a surprise to any cat owner. We know how sneaky and manipulative cats can be. And I have it from reliable sources that the Cowley Street cat was seen near the policy department PC as the final draft of this motion and paper were being pulled together.
On a more serious note – and I would stress that I’m only asking you to vote against compulsory registration:
If ID cards are going to be complicated, bureaucratic and expensive for people – why are they not going to be complicated, bureaucratic and expensive for dogs?
And how will this be administered? How will people check whether people, or rather dogs, are abiding by the law? After all, if a dog is not chipped, you won’t know whose it is. And responsible owners chip their dogs anyway, so how on earth will this law be implemented? Who’s going to check this? Don’t the police have enough to do already?
If ID cards aren’t going to be able to stop terrorists, I really don’t understand how ID chips going to be able to stop dogs biting you or making a mess on the pavement.
I mean, what are you meant to do if you see a dog misbehaving on your lawn? Rush out the front and try to scan the dog with a scanner before it runs away. Take it down to Tescos and put it through the till?
The most amazing thing is that we’re intending to fund this via a poll tax on dogs. Another regressive tax. As if there weren’t enough already. It’s not costed out. It will have to carry the considerable cost of a dog warden network. There’s no provision for a reduction for pensioners or people on lower incomes or people with working dogs or the blind.
And what happens to the people who’ve already paid to have their dogs chipped? Do they have to pay again to get a government approved chip?
Fellow Liberal Democrats – this part of the motion is not thought through – compulsory ID cards aren’t just a bad idea for people – they’re a bad idea for dogs too. They will be bureaucratic, expensive and regressive – and they won’t work. They don’t deserve your support. Don’t let the Cowley Street cat pull a fast one on you. Please vote against lines 41-42.