POLITICS and religion are generally viewed as topics to avoid at dinner parties and polite gatherings if you wish the atmosphere to remain cordial. In some parts of the country I suspect that you could lob in sport as well.
Following the tragic event in Bromley in London it may be advisable to add the urban fox to that discussion black list.
A month-old baby is currently recovering in hospital after being dragged from his cot by a fox.
The issue of urban foxes is always an emotive one and indeed a fraught one for commercial pest control companies.
Public opinion and sentiment are frequently polarised by the issue with as many people calling for their protection as for their eradication.
I am often asked why we see so many foxes in our cities and the answer is really quite simple – they are attracted to our inner cities to seek shelter and food, which we provide in abundance.
In our urban environment they do not have any natural predators and indeed have gathered an increasing number of guardians who feed and protect them.
In the past year we have seen a marked increase in the number of contracts involving foxes in cities.
For too many, the old adage that a fox is a wolf that sends flowers does not ring true. And it is not unusual for pest control companies to find their traps damaged by such sympathisers.
I am always aware that taking on a fox control project in the city could be fraught with problems outwith our own control.
This has an impact for the bill payer as it can normally be a lengthy process anyway even without factoring in any element of sabotage.
Catching and removing a fox cannot be achieved in one quick visit during normal working hours and as experts we are painfully aware of the possibility of feuds erupting between neighbours.
However, the recent case of the Bromley baby should serve as a timely reminder that we all have a duty not to provide food and shelter to foxes. The next victim may not be so lucky.
• Hugh Robertson is director of pest control experts RCS Enviro.