Based at Kensal Green The Mayhew Animal Rescue Home does an incredible job of both rescuing dogs, cats and rabbits and of working to prevent animal welfare issues arising. This is a huge issue in King’s Cross where we face a massive problem with dog abuse.
The Mayhew specialises in working with bull breed dogs. They are those scary looking ones that too many people are attracted to because they want to train them to fight or to be aggressive trophy pets. The folk that want to abuse their dogs in that way are often the ones that won’t give two hoots about where their dogs are toileted which results in our streets and parks being in such a filthy state. They are also the most commonly abandoned breeds. Staffordshire Bull Terriers (known as a ‘nanny breed’ because they are so good with children and families) now fill our rescue homes, left in London’s streets in varying states of health and disability by uncaring owners. Bull breeds, when looked after properly, make the most wonderful and sweet natured pets.
Like many local people I got sick of all this, so I wanted to do something positive about it. I don’t own any pets, although years ago I did have cats and as a child was brought up with a family dog. A good friend in Somers Town recommended I contact The Mayhew to talk to them about fostering a dog. Helping this animal rescue home is one way to feel I am doing something rather than just passing the problem by. I have now fostered two dogs consecutively: Vlad, a Patterdale Terrier (a popular ‘fighting’ breed) and Buster a Collie/Spaniel cross breed. And I have learned a heck of a lot about King’s Cross that my 25 years here without a dog never brought to light.
Have a look at Bernard Park. You’ll notice in the section used by dog owners (the lower end) mature tree trunks are wrapped with bamboo fencing. Out and about, on the towpath for example, mature tree trunks have wire fencing wrapped around them. Our trees often have the lower branches cut off. This is to protect the trees from pet owners forcing their dogs to bite the trees as they encourage them to be aggressive or learn to fight.
When out walking a dog it’s become common practice when spotting another dog walker in front of you to call out, ‘is your dog friendly?’. It’s a kind of code. Any dog with aggression issues should be on a lead and muzzled when out and about so the question shouldn’t have to be asked. A muzzle can be a sign of a caring and responsible owner doing what is right. But, you have to ask the question because there are those dog owners that take their dogs with aggression issues out without a muzzle or even let them off lead in public places. It’s dogs that are most commonly attacked by other dogs trained to be aggressive – so many times I’ve stopped to chat with another dog walker only to hear how their dog is recovering from injuries after an attack.
(Note to towpath users BTW, I’ve been shouted at in the most frightening way by some towpath users because my dog is off lead – please read the signs that state in large print ‘Dogs on lead’ because in smaller type just below that are words similar to ‘when asked by a responsible officer’ – it’s poor signage design I know, but that’s just not my fault!)
Walking dogs after dark can be a frightening experience. Going to our nearest off-lead area often results in being turned away by groups of young men telling me in no uncertain terms that they are busy training their dogs and I am not welcome. I leave without saying anything, it’s the best course of action. And it’s obvious what those abused animals are being trained for…
When out and about with the gorgeous Vlad I was often approached by people wanting to breed him with another so-called fighting breed, or by people wanting to buy him. It wasn’t because they had fallen for his many charms. It was because they raise fighting dogs. This is common for people walking bull breeds and leaves a chill running down your spine knowing just the toss of a coin and your dog could be surrounded by a baying crowd urging him or her on to draw blood from another dog.
And you really notice all the disgusting waste in the streets and parks. Not all dog related though. King’s Cross, home to so many takeaways, is awash with food scraps. Dogs, being natural scavengers, will be tempted to eat this rubbish. Half eaten pieces of chicken are the worst for dog owners – a cooked chicken bone can splinter when eaten by a dog and cause nasty injuries and even death. It’s a problem for all of us though – rats, pidgeons and other city scavengers thrive on this mess.
Walking a dog means you carry all sorts of paraphernalia with you – the treats, the long lead, the short lead and of course, the poo bags. My new year’s resolution is to carry poo bags even when I’m not fostering. Rather than get angry or try to unsuccessfully shame people into picking up after their animals, I’m just gonna pick it up and dispose of it myself. Wonder how many of us direct action nuts it would take to keep our neighbourhood clear of dog mess?
I’m not currently fostering but will be again soon. By doing that I know I’ve helped take an abandoned dog off the streets where they can cause all sorts of nuisance let alone become incredibly vulnerable, and get them permanently homed with a responsible and caring owner.
Here’s a short film about all the work The Mayhew does. Do contact them if you are interested in helping in any way.