“Dog Debate” seems to grip the whole of greater Cape Town like no other, says Murray Williams.
Cape Town - There’s a not-so-small war brewing in my street. It involves my neighbours, so I’ll say it quietly. It’s torn our street apart before. A matter that stores tempers, poisons relations and ignores reason.
It’s not that my neighbours are strange, because “Dog Debate” seems to grip the whole of greater Cape Town like no other.
Take the most contentious issues in town – gay priests, shade v fynbos in Cecilia Forest, Gavin Rich’s view of Gio Aplon, Trevor Manuel v Cecil John Rhodes, white man’s contribution to Africa, whatever – they pale into comparison. Nothing compares to Dog Rage.
Dog debate drives people ballistic. People lose the plot entirely.
So it’s with some trepidation that I greet news of another barking dog.
As a peacemaker, I may be able to help, so I refreshed my memory on the City of Cape Town’s “Animal By-Law of 2009”. Some highlights are:
“No person shall urge any dog to attack, worry or frighten any person or animal or, through negligence, fail to prevent any dog from attacking, worrying or frightening any person or animal, except where necessary for the defence of such first-mentioned person or his or her property or of any other person.”
This is top news, as it points out that a dog that terrifies the public – without actually chewing someone – is just as illegal.
The next time a Rottweiler chases and traumatises my children on their bikes in the park, I’m going to effect a citizen’s arrest on its owner. And shoot acorns at the owner with my catapult if they try to flee.
Another clause is: “If any dog defecates in any public street, public place or public road, any person in control of such dog, excluding a person assisted by a guide dog, shall forthwith remove the excrement, place it in a plastic or paper bag or wrapper and dispose of it.”
And they all have to “carry a sufficient number of plastic or paper bags or wrappers, within which to place the excrement of the dog, in the event of the dog defecating”.
This, too, is excellent news. It’s profoundly unpleasant plodding through steaming piles of Siberian wolfhound dung on one’s Saturday morning stroll.
Both the above should be common courtesy on the part of dog-owners. But then comes the tough part, the “nuisance” clause, that no person shall “keep any dog which barks for more than six minutes in any hour or more than three minutes in any half hour”.
It’s impossible to take an objective position. When you’re the dog owner, and your neighbour calls law enforcement, you feel as if someone’s trying to kidnap one of your own children.
And yet when you’re woken up for the seventh time in an hour by Rufus next door, baying at the moon, or the pool pump, you want to haul out the shotgun.
There is no answer. So if I see these neighbours are coming to chat, I’m going to hide under my bed. Anyone want to debate Tony Yengeni’s contribution to South Africa instead? Please?
* Murray Williams’s column Shooting from the Lip appears in the Cape Argus every Friday. Follow him on Twitter: @mwdeadline
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.