‘Drugged’ dog shows why busking with animals should be illegal, so sign the petition! – Hayley Matthews

Jack is now safe: The St Bernard Trust says the dog has a 'wonderful new home environment with other doggy friends'
Jack is now safe: The St Bernard Trust says the dog has a 'wonderful new home environment with other doggy friends'
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After an allegedly drugged dog was taken into the care of the St Bernard Trust, Hayley Mattews calls for people to support a petition to make busking with animals illegal.

On the back of the rescue of Jack the St Bernard in Dublin recently, I want to write about my own experience with the busking dogs.

Last year I felt something wasn’t right on seeing the busking dogs looking lethargic, tired and very dopey while on the streets.

I approached many of the buskers who had dogs, several times, and told them to let the dogs drink the water, only for it to be moved when I turned my back.

I’d tell people not to give them money and warn them of potential mistreatment or possible abuse to the dogs as I had witnessed them being quite rough, and even saw them putting the dogs in a cramped trailer box at night that was meant for a gas canister – not a dog. Nothing about it felt right to me.

You need to make up your own mind about the situation, but it feels very dated to use animals on the streets to busk. I mean, who has a dog that sits for hours and doesn’t move, flinch or bark? It’s not normal behaviour.

According to the charity St Bernard Trust, Jack tested positive for benzodiazepines (which act as a sedative, slowing down the body’s functions and are used for both sleeping problems and anxiety), and I now suspect that what I saw last year was most likely the dogs being drugged.

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I may have seen it happen with my own eyes, I saw Jack being fed half a can of dog food and man squirting a clear liquid in to it from a syringe. I told the police and the SSPCA but seemed to be coming across many hurdles as the law on seizing these dogs seem very complex. I felt my concerns were falling on deaf ears and to say I’m disappointed that it’s taken another year to help some of these dogs is an understatement.

My adrenaline was pumping

My friend Alexis, who runs Edinburgh and Lothian Lost Dogs, sat with me while we watched six dogs being given a solution from a syringe. We videoed it for proof. All the dogs we saw being given the solution were spotted busking on the streets of Edinburgh last year and many again this year.

In fact, the dogs travel all over the UK and Ireland with the busking gang and the entire situation makes me very uncomfortable. Alexis and I kept a very close eye on the dogs last summer. I was seven months pregnant, my adrenaline was pumping and I just wanted to grab the dogs, put them in the back of my car and whisk them to a rescue centre.

Many of the Facebook community on ‘Save Jack The St Bernard’ had been claiming he was drugged because he didn’t react when people approached him. All the dogs acted in this way that I went up to during the festival. I put water next to them as they couldn’t reach their water bowls. Many believe they don’t get water to stop them from urinating in the street, I can’t confirm it, but I have my suspicions too.

I’m hoping our efforts helped Jack. However, what about the rest of the dogs? If you don’t like the thought of these dogs on the street, then sign the Change.org petition to make busking with animals illegal: www.change.org/p/uk-parliament-stop-the-use-abuse-of-busker-dogs-in-streets

It’s great that Jack has been rescued but there are so many more and these poor dogs are just collateral so this entire busking with animals must be stopped now!