A lot of stick about nothing... - Veterinary Practice
Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now



A lot of stick about nothing…

Andrew Coe wonders about the fuss over a dog, a prince and a stick

I have no doubt that there are many of you out there who were, like me, shocked and outraged by the recent story (with accompanying pictures) concerning Prince Edward brandishing a stick over one of his Labrador dogs.

The shock and outrage I refer to is not, of course, through any concern that the said dog may have received a “whack” on his backside. More that the public response to this incident once again appears to clearly demonstrate that a significant number of otherwise rational people have taken a collective leave of their senses. What on earth has this “event” got to do with animal welfare or, for that matter, with anyone other than Prince Edward and the Labrador in question?

My reason for saying this is that there was no suggestion that the Prince had given the dog a gratuitous beating or had pressed home a sustained attack. He had simply swung his stick at the dog in an effort to immediately stop it doing what it was doing: variously reported as engaging in a fight with another dog or attempting to grab an injured or dead pheasant.

The fact that an incident as trivial as this in animal welfare terms (indeed, in any terms) led to an investigation from a well-known animal welfare charity, confirms to me (as if any confirmation was still needed) that the lunatics really are now running the asylum.

Let’s then look at the incident (and to use a contemporary and favourite political term) “in the round”. Being a dog owned by a member of the Royal family can only be said to be the canine equivalent of having come first in the dog welfare lottery of life. You will, after all, have an owner who has been brought up in a household full of dogs and who has both the experience and wherewithal to ensure that you receive only the best in terms of food, accommodation and veterinary treatment.

Put that together with the opportunity to spend many a “working” holiday roaming probably the best sporting estates Europe (perhaps the world) has to offer and it is as though one has been born with a silver bone in one’s mouth. The occasional whack (or attempted whack) with a walking stick for gross misconduct seems to me to be a rather small price to pay for the privilege.

Logically, it was, of course, only a matter of time before the State’s obsession with preventing responsible parents from giving a timely clip round the ear to a wayward child spilled over into preventing any sort of physical punishment (however measured and appropriate) of a dog by its owner.

The link between the abuse of children and other vulnerable people and the abuse of pets in some households is well established. This, though, is the sort of abuse that takes place behind closed doors, out of the public gaze. It is right that legislation should be enacted and enforced so that such abuse is outlawed, hopefully prevented, and any perpetrators punished if found guilty of carrying it out.

The danger is that common sense may be concurrently thrown out of the window with the result that perfectly reasonable and well-adjusted people end up being punished, even criminalised, for acting in (as seen through the eyes of many) a perfectly reasonable way.

To explore this theme further, and to inject a degree of levity into this furore, you might like to have a go at the little quiz which follows.

  1. You are out for a walk with your pet Labrador/Border terrier/ grinning mongrel (the breed is not too important) when your dog chances upon an inquisitive young kitten and appears to be getting ready to crush said kitten between its carnassial teeth. You have a walking stick in your hand. Do you: (a) give your dog a whack (with appropriate force for the size of dog) across the backside, or do you (b) calmly tell the dog to “Leave”.
  2. Whilst out for a walk your dog stumbles upon a half-eaten sheep carcase and appears to be just about to “dive” into the thorax for a juicy meal. You have a walking stick in your hand. Do you: (a) give your dog a whack (with appropriate force) across the backside, or do you (b) calmly tell the dog to “Leave”.
  3. Whilst out for a walk your dog comes across some particularly ripe-smelling fox faeces and appears (from your vast previous experience) to be about to roll in it. You have a walking stick in your hand. Do you: (a) give your dog a whack (with appropriate force) across the backside, or (b) calmly tell the dog to “Leave”.
  4. Whilst out for a walk your dog starts fighting with your friend’s dog and appears to have it by the throat. You have a walking stick in your hand. Do you: (a) give your dog a whack (with appropriate force) across the backside, or (b) calmly tell the dog to “Leave”.


If you have answered (a) to all of the above questions, congratulations! You still have a modicum of common sense. You are probably now sitting by the fire reading your newspaper, having fed your dog on the return from the walk.

Said dog is now sleeping peacefully in his basket (having completely forgotten about the whack on the backside) or on the sofa (tut tut, he may be poisoned by the chocolate button one of the kids dropped down the back of the cushion during the Christmas festivities, leaving you open to the risk of prosecution).

If you have answered (b) to all of the above questions then you really should consider getting a life. You are probably now pouring yourself a stiff drink after having secretively buried the dead kitten; cleaned up the vomited sheep innards from the living room carpet; tried in vain to remove the smell of fox crap from both the car and your dog who has been banished to the garden shed and is now showing his distress by howling; and having just returned from A&E where, after a sixhour wait, a rather lovely young nurse dressed your dog-bitten hand.

You can, though, rest easy in the secure knowledge that no one has a photo of you whacking your dog across the backside (using appropriate force) with a walking stick, and you will not therefore face future questioning by the dog welfare police.

All in all then, a pretty satisfactory result … “Cheers!”

Have you heard about our
IVP Membership?

A wide range of veterinary CPD and resources by leading veterinary professionals.

Stress-free CPD tracking and certification, you’ll wonder how you coped without it.

Discover more