A breakthrough study has discovered a link between growing rates of childhood obesity and the increasing numbers of pet dogs in Australia.
Experts behind the study revealed their findings in a comprehensive report which proves unequivocally that hordes of dogs in public spaces are preventing children from exercising outdoors.
“Dogs have taken over this country,” the research group explained.
“They have pushed children out of public recreation areas. This has led to an increase in childhood obesity.”
Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in 2017-18 indicated that 25% of Australian children aged 2-17 were overweight, and 8.2% were obese. In addition, young people aged 5–14 and 15–24 in 2017–18 were more likely to be overweight or obese than people of the same age in 1995.
Meanwhile, about 40% of Australian households own a pet dog, and there are about 5.1 million pet dogs in the country. The quantity and behaviour of dogs was the primary cause of childhood obesity in Australia according to the experts.
“Dog owners and local councils have let dogs dominate every inch of public space in this country, areas which would previously have been full of children engaging in healthy physical activity on a daily basis.”
“Parks, playgrounds, sports fields and beaches are full of dogs, even though the majority of these spaces are technically off limits. So prevalent are dogs that locals in Perth and Sydney recently requested separate dog parks for large and small dogs.
The study also discovered that most councils refuse to remove dogs from off limit areas, and as a result, children simply do not want to play outside.”
Interviews with young people uncovered specific deterrents to outdoor exercise.
“Kids won’t kick a footy around anymore, because a dog is bound to chase after the ball and likely puncture it with their teeth. Similarly, a dog will pick up a tennis ball and cover it in slobber. No one wants to bowl a ball covered in dog slobber, especially in the era of COVID-19. Then there’s the dog droppings owners refuse to pick up.
Also, younger children and their parents reported being harassed or even attacked by big dogs at the park, making them fearful of venturing out to play. Instead, children stay inside and play computer games or destroy their self-esteem on social media.”
Countless studies on children’s health and wellbeing in recent years have demonstrated a preference for indoor play among modern Australian children, and experts fear the COVID pandemic will only compound the problem.
“More children have become accustomed to entertaining themselves inside, and this is a very hard habit to break. Concurrently, more Australians have acquired a pet dog during the pandemic.”
The findings of the survey are likely to surprise many Australians, as they did the survey authors.
“We thought overweight and obesity were caused primarily by addiction to electronic devices and an obsession with social media and online gaming, and while those factors are significant, the overabundance of pet dogs in parks and sports grounds was found to be the leading cause.”
The findings refuted the notion that dog ownership promotes general health and wellbeing.
“Perhaps for the owners, but not for the rest of society,” say experts, who then issued a stark warning.
“This is a public health crisis. Overweight and obese youth will suffer physically, mentally and emotionally throughout life and place a great burden on the public health system.”
What’s the solution?
“Simple. Remove dogs from parks, beaches, playground and sports fields, and let the children play.”