Catchall phrases such as ‘Responsible Pet Ownership’ is likely to have little impact in terms of enhancing the public’s understanding of dog owner obligations when in a public place. The term assumes everyone holds to the same definition of the term. Being a responsible pet owner has many facets – care and welfare of pets, registration, compliance with dog control orders, consideration of others as neighbours and park users etc.
It is becoming more apparent through research and anecdotal feedback that some dog owners do not hold to this broad definition, particularly when it comes to compliance with off-leash dog control regulations. Most dog owners consider their dogs to be friendly and not prone to ‘unsociable behaviours’. However, this can be a cause for conflict between dog owners and people who are fearful of dogs or who do not want to be approached by a dog, regardless of how friendly the dog may be or the reassurances given by the owner.
For marketing purposes the term may have been concise and effective. However evidence shows that specific and targeted messaging and community based programs are necessary if public attitudes and behaviours are to be influenced.