I returned home from a trip to find in the stack of unopened post, a letter from our local town council. The letter was addressed to the “owners” of our house, not addressed specifically to me by name.
Usually these types of letters are general updates on what the council intends to do, vis-a-vis planting new trees or plants, building a new school or playground for the kids, so I was shocked to read that they had decided that from January 1st 2012, all dogs owners would be required to register their dogs with the council so that they could then send me an invoice for dog tax.
Three things about this annoyed me:
The first was that this tax is aimed specifically and exclusively at dog owners. There is no mention of a tax for cat owners. Now, I will readily admit that I’m a dog lover. I’m not overly enamoured about cats at all. Most cat owners here let their cats out into the neighbourhood, and very early on, the ones that would have traditionally used our garden as a toilet learned very quickly to find a new place to take a dump once our dog arrived on the scene.
Cat owners in general are the first to complain if they see your dog taking a pee or a shit anywhere that might result in them trodding in it. But they could give a flying fuck about where their cat goes to relieve themselves, even if it is in the next-door neighbours garden. Most dog owners are responsible, walking their dogs on a lease until they get to the sanctioned dog walking area before letting them loose, picking up after their dog, and making sure that their dogs behave themselves and don’t bark and howl incessantly. Most cat owners, I have found, are as selfish as their feline charges.
Which lead me to the second thing that annoyed me. Why is this tax exclusively laid at the door of dog owners? Why isn’t there a cat tax? What is it specifically that dogs do to warrant a tax being slapped on their furry asses that cats are not admonished for? And more to the point, if I am now having to pay a tax on my pooch, what am I going to get in return? If it’s just a ploy to raise more coppers for the councils war chest, then I have a problem with it. But if it’s to do things like placing poop bins and bags etc, then I’m OK with it I guess. When asked, the council said that the local law is based on a National law, which in itself has nothing related to a tax on cats enshrined in it anywhere. Thus, they explained, they were unable to include anything pertaining to a “cat tax” when they drafted this local bye-law.
A quick Google search later revealed that this dog tax harks back to the Middle Ages when poor peasants who owned dogs used them as a form of protected transport, pulling them around in a little carriage….an armoured car that can bite the hand off you, as it were. It seems that our Middle Ages forefathers introduced this tax as a way of dissuading owners from keeping too many dogs in efforts to minimise the spread of disease amongst the canine population
The last thing that began to annoy me was the fact that the letter never even mentioned how much this tax was. After a quick call to the council, I found out it will cost me €77 per annum. Not a lot of money, you might think. But now consider this. The money will not, as it transpires, be used for the specific benefit of the local dog population and their owners. It is simply another rouse to tax hard-earned money from my pockets to prop up the coffers of the council. Money they can use for whatever they want.
Rather than increasing everyone’s local taxes in the area, they decided, for whatever inane logical reason I fail to fathom, to specifically target dog owners. Add to that the fact that they will now have to police this, which means having to hire a bunch of NIMBY-minded-pencil-pushing-toe-the-line-I-have-a-uniform-and-I-am-God type inspectors roaming the city, pressing their noses up against my window, looking inside to see if there is a dog sleeping contentedly, and then checking up in their little database to see if I have paid my tax or not.
I hardly think that the amount of money they will generate from such a tax is enough to pay for the ludicrous salary, pension and taxes said Public Sector employees would get AND make them a profit at the same time. Maybe if you added the local cat population into the mix, you might make some real dough!
The questions I find myself asking are, if I should let sleeping dogs lie and just pay the money, or if I should see if the councils bark is worse than their bite?