Australia’s gone to the dogs. Part 4.

Australia has gone to the dogs. The nation is one of the world’s major drivers of climate change and is decimating its native wildlife and ecology, and is thus becoming an international pariah. The current government controls its gullible population with marketing spin, and education levels continue to decline. A tiny fraction of the population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and natural disasters arrive one after the other. But all Australians seem to care about are their dogs. Dogs are everywhere – in parks, beaches and cafes, and even public transport and libraries. This country has gone to the dogs.

Literacy dogs

Children can now read to dogs. Reluctant or weak readers can now attend sessions at local libraries and read to therapy dogs. Organisers claim it encourages reluctant readers to develop the vital habit of reading and thus improve their literacy skills.

Surely that’s a good thing. Yes, but is it necessary?

First of all, dogs can’t read. Secondly, reading to dogs won’t solve Australia’s literacy problems. Australia has some of the lowest literacy (and numeracy) levels in the developed world, and solving this problem requires a joint effort from society, governments and parents, not from dogs.

Parents must:

Read to their children.

More actively support reading and study in every year of schooling.

Spend less of their own free time glued to their devices while at home.

Buy and read books themselves.

Stop attacking teachers.

Stop buying their children smart phones, and stop paying for their data.

Society must value school teachers and academia, and governments must adequately fund all levels of education as well as increasing teachers’ salaries. Otherwise, the following scenario is likely to develop:

One reluctant reader enjoys reading to a therapy dog. The child insists on reading to a dog, even at school where most reading occurs. The student is allowed to bring a dog into every class. That student is not the only reluctant reader. Soon, school classrooms are overrun with therapy dogs. Teachers are then forced to integrate dogs into their curriculum after attending at-cost ‘literacy dog’ training sessions in their free time. Multiple dogs cause chaos in classrooms and in the playground, and at the end of the day, who will be forced to clean up the mess?

Even some university students, at one of the more prominent universities in Sydney, are able to pat a dog upon entering an exam hall – to help calm their nerves. The country’s best and brightest can’t handle the stress of doing an exam. More proof that this country has gone soft. More proof that this country has gone to the dogs.

Image: 2PhotoPots

Australia’s gone to the dogs. Part 3.

Australia has gone to the dogs. The nation is one of the world’s major drivers of climate change and is decimating its native wildlife and ecology, and is thus becoming an international pariah. The current government controls its gullible population with marketing spin, and education levels continue to decline. A tiny fraction of the population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and natural disasters arrive one after the other. But all Australians seem to care about are their dogs. Dogs are everywhere – in parks, beaches and cafes, and even public transport and libraries. This country has gone to the dogs.

Vaccine dogs

Dog lovers now have another Instagram account to follow. The account features pets accompanying their owners to COVID-19 vaccination centres in Australia. Sure, it’s a nice distraction from Australia’s shambolic vaccine rollout, which places the nation 101st in the world, but it distracts from the shameful reality. Only 2% of Australia’s population had been fully vaccinated at the time of writing this article, and the city of Melbourne has been plunged into yet another lockdown.

So incompetent is the current federal government in its handling of the pandemic, and the preceding bushfire crisis, that the prime minister’s popularity fell. In response, Scott Morrison was photographed with a cute little dog. 98% of Australia’s population are not vaccinated against a deadly virus, but the prime minister was photographed with a dog and his popularity has since increased. A sure sign of a gullible population. A sure sign of a country that has gone to the dogs.

But wait, there’s more…

Another prominent person was photographed with a dog. Tongan rugby league star Jason Taumalolo played his 200th NRL game for the North Queensland Cowboys recently, and the NRL/ Cowboys PR team arranged for his family to form a guard of honour as he ran onto the field. His dog was included in the guard of honour. An emotional Taumalolo rushed to pat and cuddle his dog (before acknowledging his wife and kids) and social media erupted with compliments for Taumalolo. They’re forgetting the time in 2016 that he was fined for throwing eggs at cars.

A dog’s breakfast

Cafes, beer gardens, picnic areas, barbecue areas, children’s playgrounds, sports grounds and beaches are overrun with dogs these days. Many of these places are officially off limits to dogs. In addition, most accommodation providers are pet-friendly, despite what PetCulture might think.

Strangely, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, when patrons are required to check in, socially distance and use sanitiser, muddy, sweaty, dirty dogs are still allowed to sit next to, or on, the furniture at eateries throughout the country.

Mobile dogs

Dogs have even found their way onto public transport. Guide dogs have always been permitted on public transport, as they should be. Now therapy dogs, or companion dogs, are allowed on buses trains and ferries across the country. Sufferers of mental health issues can now bring their dogs with them, and dogs of any breed, size or temperament can be therapy dogs. Subsequently, inefficient, overcrowded, slow and outdated public transport has been further compromised to satisfy the owners of dogs.

A trip to the Sydney CBD recently highlights the problem. Two young adults boarded an overcrowded bus heading towards the city centre. The tattoos, attire, cigarette breath, vocabulary and general demeanour of the pair suggested a troubled past and a fondness for illicit substances. The dog was some kind of Pit Bull, Mastiff, Bulldog breed – short, muscular and aggressive. It appeared agitated and nervous and its presence clearly concerned the people sitting close to it. As I pondered how this breed classifies as a ‘therapy dog’, I heard the owners say that it had recently become a therapy dog, and that they were taking it to the local shopping mall,

“…to get used to people…”

The couple soon alighted, leaving the bus with the overpowering stench of a sweaty dog.

Image: Gabriel Crismariu

Australia’s gone to the dogs. Part 2.

Australia has gone to the dogs. The nation is one of the world’s major drivers of climate change and is decimating its native wildlife and ecology, and is thus becoming an international pariah. The current government controls its gullible population with marketing spin, and education levels continue to decline. A tiny fraction of the population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and natural disasters arrive one after the other. But all Australians seem to care about are their dogs. Dogs are everywhere – in parks, beaches and cafes, and even public transport and libraries. This country has gone to the dogs.

A dog is a child…

Owners of dogs (and other pets) were recently invited to sign a petition by online pet company PetCulture asking employees to grant their workers the same rights as parents.

Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper, as well as website Kidspot, ran articles about the petition, which calls for employees:

  1. To be granted sick leave to care for their pets.
  2. To be granted leave to welcome their new pet family members.
  3. To be able to have their pets stay with them whether they are glamping in a five-star resort.

The article is not an April Fool’s Day joke (although one pet owner featured in the article is a comedian). It is not merely another example of lazy, shallow, gutter journalism from a NewsCorp publication. It is an advertorial (a paid advertisement dressed up as an editorial) placed by the ‘new online pet store’ PetCulture. Regardless, it indicates an obsession with pets in a country that has gone to the dogs.

The petition lists three primary demands.

  1. Owners expect time off work, on full pay, to look after a sick pet, just as they would look after a sick child. Colleagues would have to cover for the pet owner and/or the business would suffer a loss of productivity and profit. In addition, employers are expected to support the notion that pets are equal to children.

Some parents love their pets as much as their children, and some children love their pets with equal devotion. But does a dog or cat need the same attention as a sick child? If so, why can a healthy dog or cat be left unsupervised for hours or a whole day, but a young child (or even a teenager) cannot be left for hours on end? Owners seem to be forgetting that even though a sick animal requires appropriate medical attention, their innate survival instincts will stop them from falling down steps, or from touching or eating something that could harm them. Children lack the same survival instincts.

  • Owners are demanding time off, on full pay, to welcome a new pet into the home. How long does this take? An ‘expert’ recommended two days be spent familiarising the animal to its new surroundings. Easy, bring the pet home on a Friday afternoon, use the weekend to welcome it and return to work on Monday. Even within a less structured work schedule, time can be made to welcome a pet without taking time off work.
  • Clearly the word ‘or’ is missing from between ‘glamping’ and ‘in’, because five-star resorts don’t offer glamping, no matter how fancy the tents. Nevertheless, pet owners are complaining that they are prohibited from taking their pets to the most luxurious and expensive accommodation options, at a time when many Australians can’t afford to take a holiday at all, let alone to a five-star resort, especially after the financial stress of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Poor timing

PetCulture appears to have mistimed its advertising campaign. They are calling for greater access to luxury resorts just as JobKeeper and JobSeeker have been removed or reduced, and many Australians still don’t know when they’ll return to full-time, stable employment. PetCulture may be positioning itself as a high-end pet supply company, but the press release is still rather poorly-timed, especially since pet access to five-star resorts is one of the top three listed demands. This is a great example of clever marketing. It’s also a great example of a first-world problem, and a great example of a country gone soft.

PetCulture’s advertorial also claims that:

“…introducing a new animal member to a home is stressful, so it’s important to be supported…”

Really?

Fighting a bushfire is stressful. Fleeing domestic violence is stressful. Losing a job is stressful. Is introducing a pet to a house really that stressful?

Pet peeves

In recent years, pet owners have petitioned various levels of government to pressure landlords to allows tenants to bring their pets into rental properties, which has always been at the discretion of landlords.

Renters complained that owning a pet increased the difficulty of finding rental accommodation in an overcrowded and expensive rental market. A solution to this problem exists: don’t own a pet. Sit down, and do the calculations. Examine current and future earnings and expenses, and estimate the length of time that will be required to buy a property. Buy a property, then buy a pet.

Petitioning the government to change rental laws is symptomatic of a problem plaguing the nation: citizens expecting the government to bail them out of a problem of their own creation.

Housing crisis

Housing in Australia is becoming increasingly problematic. Rental properties remain scarce and overpriced, and home ownership is out of reach for many Aussies. Australia is estimated to have the world’s biggest gap between median salaries and median house prices, and many young Australians will never be able to buy a property.

Furthermore, social housing developments are insufficient and more Australians will be forced into homelessness or substandard accommodation – many of them older women. Meanwhile, the politicians who could introduce policies to alleviate many of these problems are too busy being photographed with cute dogs. The people who could vote out the current government are too easily persuaded by photos of politicians with dogs.

Australia’s gone to the dogs. Part 1.

Australia has gone to the dogs. The nation is one of the world’s major drivers of climate change and is decimating its native wildlife and ecology, and is thus becoming an international pariah. The current government controls its gullible population with marketing spin, and education levels continue to decline. A tiny fraction of the population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and natural disasters arrive one after the other. But all Australians seem to care about are their dogs. Dogs are everywhere – in parks, beaches and cafes, and even public transport and libraries. This country has gone to the dogs.

Dogs v native animals

Australia is home to an estimated 29 million pets and about 25.7 million people. That’s right, more pets than people. We might have to stop teasing New Zealand about having so many sheep. Most of those pets are dogs and cats, and roughly one in three households has a pet dog.

Australia also has the world’s highest rate of native mammal extinction – outright. Pets are one cause of the extinctions. Cats are the single most destructive introduced species in the country, and wild dogs cause large-scale destruction. Wild dogs were once pet dogs. Native mammal extinction points to a disregard for native animals among Australian people who demonstrate an obsession with pet animals. Australians clearly prioritise dogs and cats over wildlife.

Natural disasters

Even during the Black Summer bush fires of 2019/2020, concern for pets over native animals was evident. Unfortunately, many pets were lost, but millions of native animals also perished in the unprecedented fires. However, at one emergency centre, evacuees complained that their pets were not allowed inside the building, because health and safety regulations prohibit the entry of pets into the premises. Evacuees and fellow Australians erupted on social media and blasted the evacuation centre co-ordinators. The dogs were safe, they had food, water and medical attention, and they were supervised outside the premises. Even some of the evacuees themselves chose to sit outside the building while they waited for the fires to be put out. Australians decried the treatment of pets, while millions of native animals were dying.

National parks

Pet dogs are banned from national parks in Australia. Domestic pets have an adverse effect on native wildlife. Some dog owners ignore signage and they take their dogs into national parks. According to NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, rangers cannot effectively monitor all of the parks to prevent domestic pets from entering, because they lack the resources. National parks services are not sufficiently funded by government.

Where is the national outcry?

Why aren’t Australians demanding the protection of our national parks? Perhaps for the same reason that Aussies are not doing more to protect another national icon, the koala.

Experts warn that koalas could become extinct by 2050, and wild dogs are a major cause of koala deaths, along with land clearing and climate change. Environmental groups and concerned citizens are campaigning for habitat protection to ensure koala survival, but where are the owners of the 29 million pets?

Koalas are also a major contributor to the nation’s (pre-COVID-19) tourist sector and the economy. Tourists flock from all across the globe to see a koala up close. They will not fly halfway around the world to look at someone’s pet dog.

Wildlife shelter vs pet shelter

Controversy surrounds changes to the RSPCA NSW Blue Mountains Shelter in Katoomba, near Sydney. Essentially, the debate centres around the expansion and modification of the shelter to cater for native wildlife harmed by the 2019/2020 bush fires. The fires were so widespread in the Blue Mountains that the national parks and the animals therein are still being rehabilitated.

RSPCA members and community members have voiced objections to the inclusion of native wildlife in the shelter. The RSPCA conceded that:

“…wildlife could be stressed by the sight, sound or even smell of the dogs…” and thus dogs would have to be housed in a completely separate building. One member then stated:

“I am concerned for the dogs which will need to be locked away in the new, totally enclosed kennels…” and a local politician, Kerry Brown, expressed similar sentiments.

Many of the animals housed at the shelter are strays. They are animals left without a home due to the neglect of owners. Therefore, rehabilitation of native animals is being obstructed due to concern for dogs.

The RSPCA website states that:

“Along with cats and dogs, RSPCA helps a wide range of other animals from horses to rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, goats and sheep. All of these animals are non-native, (birds may be native or introduced). Rabbits cover Australia in plague proportions and destroy native flora and fauna, as well as crops. In contrast, an organisation called WIRES (Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service) cares for native animals. If the majority of Australians heard the names of these two organisations, which one would they be more familiar with?

Image: Gabriel Crismariu