Sue Gilmore -
In the early 1990s an Open University course studying politics and economics in relation to the environment triggered a desire to understand how government works and affects the day to day lives of us all. As her own interests have changed over the years, she became increasingly aware that whatever topic made headline news, or simply topics of local interest, underlying and sometimes hidden from public awareness, were political movements seeking to influence outcomes.
During the past decade, Sue’s interest has focused largely on dogs, initially her own German Shepherd Dogs. All are kept as pets, but one was trained as a search dog. The need for the dogs to receive regular training is, in Sue’s experience, essential and inextricably linked to being a responsible dog owner. Sue is very much interested in how government and especially DEFRA dealing with canine legislation, who influence changes and a fair system for all professions engaged in dog behaviour training and general welfare.
Public perception of certain breeds, including the German Shepherd Dog, compartmentalizes those perceived to be potentially dangerous to the person and those, generally smaller breeds, deemed to be friendly. This view ignited a need to know more about why such should be the case; on what grounds were these perceptions founded and what could be done to educate the public. In other words, Sue wanted facts.
Sue was invited to train with a local dog training centre to become an instructor, which she accepted and learned the basic theory and practical skills necessary. Finding that their outlook was somewhat blinkered, Sue started Essex Dog Academy with her husband, The aim is to give pet dog owners a firm foundation to their relationship with their dogs through simple training methods and, at the same time, giving them background knowledge of how dogs think. Sue is often surprised by the lack of understanding some owners have of their own dogs, their perception of dog breeds generally and how they see their role within society as a dog owner.
It became apparent to Sue that, looking at the bigger picture, dogs are a very important, if minor, influence on society as a whole. The occasional headline that a Service dog has saved lives or prevented a cache of drugs being sold on the open market and ruining hundreds of lives, bears out the importance of dogs to us. Conversely, news that a dog has attacked a child triggers politicians to act and the Government must be seen to be doing something. Political influence over certain aspects of dog ownership during recent years has oscillated from being successful to impotent. There is clearly a need to educate dog owners and the public in general.
Reforming the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and the subsequent Amendment 1997 under the heading the “Dog Control Bill” (currently at Committee stage in the House of Lords) is proving to be a hot topic in the media. It affects so many people and dogs. Sue’s interest in political debate and how it influences outcomes make this a critical time in how dog ownership will be impacted in years to come. A subject that Sue will continue to monitor and one that she seeks to ensure the welfare of both people and dogs are considered to be of just importance.
Degree of Bachelor of Science (Honours) Faculty of Social Sciences at The Open University -
Open University Diploma in Applied Social Sciences -