Cats are only as cute as their owners

So it turns out that my boss, the one who gets to edit this piece, doesn’t like "dogging". This happens to come hand-in-hand with a discussion about why a licence for dogs would make sense, and I agree, but it doesn’t solve the issue that is raised at the beginning – that of dogs that are already illegal. As with the TV licence, it’s something that’s not easy to stamp out.

©Nicolas Suzor

But why dogs? Why is it the "Dangerous Dogs Act" and not anything comparable? The “Dangerous Wild Animals Act” of 1976 protected us from the more dangerous animals – though foxes were allowed alongside a variety of cats and dogs – and the later act really protected us from four breeds of dog. But are dogs any worse than cats?

I’m going to ignore all of the obvious reasons to claim dog superiority; dogs, as we all know, care about us far more than cats. They’re better looked after and they go missing less frequently. They are more intelligent than cats, and they get run over less. This is partly down to the massive hypocrisy in how we treat the two animals in the UK – that on the one hand makes dogs the only of the two to have laws protecting us from and on the other hand makes dogs the only animal of the two that it is illegal to run over and ignore.

This hypocrisy extends to the fact that you can legally report dogs for being ‘stray’ and are treated as trespassers, but cats are allowed to wander. If you were allergic to animal fur, you’d be safe in your garden from dogs – but not cats. And cats are worse for pet allergies. Whilst it is true that dog bites tend to be worse than cat bites (due to size), bees and wasps cause five times the number of deaths of either of them.

Cats inflict over 400,000 bites per year in the US and fewer in the UK, but they carry a number of diseases including “cat-scratch disease” and toxoplasmosis. Fleas can carry disease and cat faeces spreads disease – and, unlike dogs, cats tend to do their business in other people’s gardens and at local parks without fines. I tried to find a good source for that but all I could find were millions of people posting rants (such as this) across the internet at their hatred of their neighbours’ animals.

The 2009 incident, in which a four-year-old boy was killed by an illegal animal kept in his own home, just goes to show that the problem isn’t dogs but people who disobey the law. The people would have ignored dog licensing and the dogs posed little threat to those outside their own home. Cats tend to be less noticeable – their danger comes from their general existence more than violence – but they could potentially harm neighbours who had no say in their purchase.

I could simply have spent several hundred words ranting about cats (and I was sorely tempted), but I think it’s important that the message reaches its conclusion: dogs are, in general, not dangerous. Cats are, similarly, as safe as most domestic animals. Irresponsible owners, of both camps and of other animals besides, are the real menace – endangering themselves and those that they care about, as well as strangers – and it’s hypocritical to treat different animals differently just because of generalisations. All pets should require a licence, because ultimately the animal welfare is more likely to be questioned than the human welfare – and as we’ve seen recently in York, even hamsters aren’t safe from insane student hands.

Animals are more than property – both due to their capacity to feel pain and their capacity to cause it, and the government should do more to protect us from ourselves.

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