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Don’t let the dogs out for the quintessential British

The English aren't the most friendly and amicable people around. If you walk on the streets the odds of getting a customary greeting are quite slim.

world Updated: Jun 11, 2013 01:08 IST
Rohit Bhaskar

The English aren't the most friendly and amicable people around. If you walk on the streets the odds of getting a customary greeting are quite slim. They're famous for their stiff upper lip. Well, as it turns out their dogs show even more restraint. You know, as they say, like master, like pet... like Pommies, like Pomeranians!

In the two weeks one has spent in the British Isles one has seen many Britons taking their pets out for a walk - on sidewalks, in parks. The species are varied, Poodles and Cocker Spaniels, Pugs and Yorkshire Terriers, but one thing is common — they just don't bark. We've all heard of dogs barking up the wrong tree, but this is just ridiculous.

Laws of the land

At the heart of this reticent behaviour are the laws of the land. The UK government's official website has a five-point agenda on dog ownership.

The 'Dangerous Dogs Act' means that if your dog is uncontrollable and unruly, either in public or even in private premises, then the owner is liable to a £5,000 fine and/or prison. The poor canines are put down. Or muzzled. Or leashed. Or neutered. Talk about leading a dog's life!

On the list of banned dogs in the UK are, Pitbull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileiro. The Brits haven't been as successful in curbing illegal immigrants, humans that is, but there's no way you'll be able to sneak in any of those breeds, unlike that cousin from Phagwara! Misplaced priorities? Maybe, just a tad.

It's reached such ridiculous levels that burglars have made more money, in courts, from being bit by the owner's dog than the actual loot. Many Britons have filed cases, and indeed won settlements, after being bitten by police dogs. The cops have to pay for their sniffer dogs being 'dangerous'. Wonder how those peddlers are smuggling cocaine and heroin. What with such 'alert' dogs.

But, then it's hardly a surprise. The first Briton to introduce dog laws is the only British monarch to be given the epithet 'the Great'. According to historians, dog-related fines were introduced under Alfred the Great (fine, he was given that epithet for keeping at bay Viking invaders and becoming the first king to unify Britain, not necessarily for introducing dog laws). The law, which could date as far back as 849 AD, said: “If a dog tear or bite a man, for the first misdeed let six shillings be paid.”

So, while a dog may still be man's friend, one wonders if the pooches echo the sentiment.