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Abundance of pets is becoming a pest
The British are well known for liking animals, in some cases more than humans, but in cities such as Brighton and Hove it has been taken too far.
More and more pets are being given homes in the city by residents, adding to wildlife which has been driven from the sterile countryside into urban areas.
Since the dog licence was regrettably abolished many years ago, it has been difficult to estimate how many pooches there are in Britain but numbers could exceed six million.
Cats are even harder to count but there are probably more, perhaps eight million and with numbers rising quickly.
I appreciate how devoted many owners are to their pets and how much joy they derive from them. But do we need to have so many in a crowded city which lacks open space, especially in the centre?
Dogs are by far the biggest problem. At their worst they can and do occasionally kill people, particularly young children.
Most adults would stand little chance in warding off a large, fierce hound and even small dogs are capable of inflicting nasty bites.
Except when on leads, which too often they are not in towns, dogs tend to rear up at strangers and this can be frightening, particularly for kids.
I can recall as a child meeting dogs that stood higher on four legs than I did on two and their attentions were not welcome.
Although many owners clear up mess on pavements and in parks, many do not, especially in the winter when it is dark.
Even if they do take the poo away, the ground has been soiled and the bagged mess is frequently dumped in the nearest domestic dustbin, which all too often is mine.
Few dogs are given enough exercise and spend most of their days cooped up in cars or small flats. No wonder some of them are so manic when they are taken out for a poop in the park.
A revived licence fee ranging from £50 a year for a chihuahua to £1,000 for a St Bernard would reduce numbers and bring in money to sanitise parks, banning dogs from all but special areas where they could have a run.
I used to like cats for their cussed independence and they are the only domestic animal whose role as pets does not involve some restriction or even cruelty. But they are overpopulating most areas with small gardens, which includes most of Brighton and Hove.
I was always told they are clean animals which bury their poo but they tend to use other people’s gardens as lavatories, often rooting out bulbs while doing so.
When they come and sit on your lap, I often think of how unhygienic they are with their unwashed bottoms and fur cleaned with glistening spit.
They are also the main killers of wild birds, probably more than 20 million a year, and no one who loves birds should own a cat.
Because they are stuffed full of cat food, most felines will not even bother to catch mice or rats, which could be useful for owners.
Keeping wild birds in cages is not practised much these days but it seems equally cruel to confine parrots and budgies. The same applies to rabbits and hamsters, while if they are kept out, they prove even less continent than dogs and cats.
We are also upsetting many wild animals by destroying their habitats in the countryside through use of excessive fertilisers and brutal hedge cutting, even today.
The result is that the more cunning creatures such as foxes are increasingly living in towns while the slower, less adroit ones like hedgehogs get run over.
Many foxes have adapted well to urban life. The other night in North Street, Brighton, I saw a fox sauntering along the pavement without a care in the world.
Much the same happens to birds, with songbirds declining in numbers while scavengers like magpies and seagulls thrive.
Seagulls and foxes are adept at breaking open bags of refuse and scattering the contents all over roads. One advantage of ugly wheelie bins is that they largely prevent this.
I like many animals and do not eat them, unlike many owners. But there are so many they have become a real nuisance.
It does not take long for pets to become pests.
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