Comment: Time for dogs to have their day

More people are choosing to have pets as companions, so why do we discriminate against them?

It’s about time Australia put a halt to 'species discrimination' and took more notice of the European way with pets in public, writes Renée Brack.

What would you rather sit next to - a badly behaved child or a well-behaved dog?  

It’s about time Australia put a halt to species discrimination and took more notice of the European way with pets in public.  You can find dogs any time at Italian beaches, in French cafes and on public transport.

Due to Australian health regulations, only guide dogs and canines assisting with human impairment can be in public places such as restaurants.

But untrained children are allowed inside a dining area based on their membership card to the human race.

With more people having less children and electing to have fur kids instead, the harsh laws barring pets from restaurants, flights, some housing and most public places will have to change.

The focus should be on what is acceptable behaviour in public – not on whether you are part of a certain species.

So what are the advantages of the fur child over the human child?

You can choose your fur kids. Fur kids are cheaper and faster to educate. Provision of fur kid food, medical care, shelter and clothing is more cost effective. They are happy to watch what you want to watch on TV.

A fur child might steal food, destroy your personal property and occasionally run away on an adventure – but is unlikely to grow up hating you. A fur child is also unlikely to put you in a home and go after the inheritance.

Where the discrimination is prevalent and also where some positive change is happening in favour of the rights of fur kids, is air travel.

Qantas allows some pets to travel with you as cabin baggage but there are limits in terms of which airports allow it and which breeds qualify.  If your pet is a Brazillian Fila, or a pit bull or any dog that exhibits aggressive or ‘excessive chewing’ – forget it.

So what about kids on planes?

A poll by revealed seat-kicking, unruly children were the most irritating thing on flights – ahead of drunk or lecherous passengers and rude cabin crew.  Passengers were willing to pay extra to not put up with kids.  Singapore and Malaysian Airlines took action to contain the damage caused by disruptive kids – especially in first class where some seats can cost thousands of dollars – segregation and outright bans of kids under a certain age.

And how’s this for extreme.  An American tourist was barred from entering Brazil after he threw water on a crying child. 

Police claimed Ronald Duffy, 36,of Pennsylvania was drunk. When the child cried, he complained he couldn’t sleep. So he asked for a glass of water and then doused the child with it as the shocked parents watched.

There is the other side of the coin – these considerate parents knew their noisy twins were a pain so they handed out earplugs to passengers on the flight.

We expect a dog owner be in charge of their dog’s behavior at all times in public.  To be fair, the same expectation should be had of parents with kids.  But here’s the discrimination – if the child is human, we are expected to put up, shut up and even sympathize.

Parents of fur kids need to lobby for equal rights.  Behaviour should be the decider without species discrimination.  We need equal respect for everyone’s choices.

And if you are sitting in a seat at a restaurant or on a plane previously occupied by a fur child and you get some stray animal hairs on your clothes, relax.

That’s why they call it ‘fur’-niture.

Renée Brack is a journalist, media producer and adventurer.

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