Fraser Nelson

Tough on dangerous dogs, blind to the causes of dangerous dogs

Tough on dangerous dogs, blind to the causes of dangerous dogs
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It's 'dangerous dogs' season again - but is there more to the story? The Today programme gave this its main 8.10am slot. The BBC sought to interview some chavs to sneer at - the listener being invited to conclude that the law must be brought to bear on them. But Brendan O'Neill was quite right in this week's magazine, where he describes how government seeks to use this scare for yet another power grab over the citizens. The aim, he says "is not only to bring dog-owners into that very big tent of People Continually Spied On By The Authorities, but to weed out the 'devil dogs that terrorise socially deprived areas' by controlling the kind of people who are allowed to own such dogs."

One of the dog owners interviewed by Today said he owns a dog by means of defence: it was a response to the rise in violent crime. If things kick off, he said, the dog will help its owner. Those who carry knives say the same: this is what creates a spiral of violence. I'm not saying for a moment that they, or anyone else, are justified to use dogs as weapons. But I'd like to introduce another point.

We read today that violent crime is up 44 percent since Labour came to power. You can bet that, due to the social segregation which we have seen since 1997, this means very little rise in crime in the rich areas and a surge in the poor areas. I bet that, in vast numbers of council estates, violent crime has doubled. So, sure, it's deplorable that people are using dogs to protect themselves. But we should spend a while asking why they think they have to. Consider the microsociety these people live in: welfare ghettoes where violent crime has soared, a rise always underplayed by the national statistics because it's countered by a fall in crime in rich areas which are always better policed.

We have incubated dreadful, brutish hellholes in this rich country of ours - and tend not recognise, far less care about, them, because the dispossessed people live there. The people who don't vote or buy newspapers. The people many on left see as guinea pigs for a 65-year welfare state experiment. The people whom many on the right simply see as scroungers. My point: it is deplorable, but not inexplicable, that some people buy dogs as a means of self-defence. We should be asking what kind of micro-societies we are incubating whereby this explanation can be given for dog ownership.