Select Committee on Committee on the London Local Authorities Bill Minutes of Evidence

Evidence before the Committee (Questions 620-639)


620.  Let us try public knowledge.

(Mr Cavill) Occasionally fighting instances do occur, and when they do occur, sir, they are very often exaggerated out of all proportion.

621.  They can be very disturbing, as a matter of public understanding.

(Mr Cavill) Yes.

622.  They are exacerbated when dogs pack. Do you agree?

(Mr Cavill) I think that is a generalisation that I cannot go along with.

623.  It is common knowledge and a common judgment in these things, is it not, when you see a small number of dogs being involved in a dog fight it gets much more nasty? Does it not?

(Mr Cavill) I have to question the foundation on which you are making the statement, because you are making a number of assumptions which I do not think you have thought through, if you will forgive me. Firstly, when you are taking your dogs for a walk, and you might have three, four, five or six, they are all dogs that know each other and, generally speaking, when you have got more than one dog they have to be reasonably well-behaved. They have to be, simply because you could not cope with them otherwise. If you are a professional dog-walker you do not give yourself a problem. If you are asked to take a dog out that you can tell is, or alternatively in practice turns out to be, unsociable, you do not take it with the others, you leave it at home. That is what a professional does. A professional looks at the situation and says "These are the things that I want to do, these are the things that are suitable" and they do the things that are safe, by definition.

624.  All right. I will leave it to the Committee to judge whether a dog is a pack animal and is susceptible to behave in a pack manner if there are more of them. I want to ask you this: is it desirable if more than four dogs are walked that they are kept on a lead, as you have just described?

(Mr Cavill) My view is that if anybody who is taking dogs out in a public place and they are not all of the same family, so you do not know them, and they are not in an enclosed place, they should be on leads, certainly.

625.  Why?

(Mr Cavill) Because it enables the walker to exercise the control that is necessary in a public place, and we would agree with that.

626.  Why is control necessary?

(Mr Cavill) In dog training terms we often say a dog is on an elastic lead. Within your small space, and within a confined space, generally speaking, a dog will be under control and do what it is told. There is a point at which the dog begins to sniff other things, say a bicycle goes past or there are other distractions, and that elastic snaps. Anybody responsible - and it looks from the photographs that all these dog-walkers were responsible (and it is noteworthy that despite the serious problems that they have they could not find photographs of people behaving irresponsibly or dogs being out of control) - in that sort of situation will ensure that the only dogs that are left off are the ones that they know will stay close to them.

627.  What you are saying is that if four dogs were out of control - that is to say, not on a lead - there is a potential for antisocial conduct. Do you agree?

(Mr Cavill) There is a potential for one dog out of control behaving like that. That is why I am saying that the foundation on which you are building this argument, I am afraid, is not sound.

628.  Could you photograph a pack of dogs that is taken off a lead and is dispersed round Battersea Park? You could not, could you?

(Mr Cavill) You take photographs of individual dogs doing their own thing - sniffing, defecating, lifting their legs against a tree, going up to people to be petted and patted. They do not gather together in a pack in the way in which you are implying.

629.  Look at the mischief if they were off the lead. First there could be concerns with other dogs and dog owners being defensive if they are off a lead. They could be worried about it, could they not?

(Mr Cavill) But that happens with one dog.

630.  Do you agree?

(Mr Cavill) Well of course.

631.  Second, there are concerns with parents and children, for example, in ball games. If a dog or dogs comes up out of control there are issues. Are there not?

(Mr Cavill) There are, Mr Clarkson, but they are irrelevant to what we are talking about.

632.  It may be irrelevant as far as you are concerned. What sanction is there, currently, for example, to keep the dogs on a lead?

I hope I am right in quoting that the 1911 Act requires dogs to have a collar, to have a tag and to be kept under control, so in my view that means on a lead where necessary.

633.  It is axiomatic that every multiple dog-walker will always keep his dogs on a lead under the current legislation.

(Mr Cavill) Not always because the legislation says "under control". I notice in the photographs that there is a walker with three or four dogs and they are on leads and there are two or three other dogs running about. They are the ones that the dog-walker knows will come when they are called, do what they are told. They are behaving responsibly and not causing anybody any trouble. In many ways it is in the interests of the professional dog-walker to ensure that they do not cause any difficulty.

634.  It may be, but it may be that others are cavalier and there is no regime, is there, that can control them?

(Mr Cavill) Absolutely, neither will this.

635.  Did you say a 15 per cent increase in dog ownership?

(Mr Cavill) 15 per cent decrease in dog ownership in ten years.

636.  I had misheard. There is nonetheless a trend, is there not, certainly in the last five years or so for professional dog-walkers to use the resource of London parks, do you agree?

(Mr Cavill) I think that is absolutely true. I think it is worth making the point that those dogs belong to residents of the borough by and large, so that resource is being used in the right way.

637.  It is a finite resource, is it not?

(Mr Cavill) Yes.

638.  Do you recognise that there is a potential issue with saturation at a particular time with too many dog-walkers at a critical moment, particularly if some of them are off the lead?

(Mr Cavill) There is the potential for that to happen.

639.  Do you also recognise that with every London park or open space that is at issue that we are discussing every one has other competing interests?

(Mr Cavill) Of course.

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