I have had the pleasure of meeting Peter on a few occasions and confess to rather fancying him many years ago (sorry Peter, and now too!) as the neighbour in “Ever Decreasing Circles”. Still as charming and handsome now, Peter works hard highlighting dog welfare problems and particularly helps bull breeds as Chairman of All Dogs Matter. Peter has given some interesting responses to our questions and his love for dogs shines through.
Peter Egan, Actor, animal lover
Peter lives in London and owns six rescue dogs. Sam, a blonde fourteen year old labbie’. D.J. (Short for Dinner Jacket) because he looks like he’s wearing one. He’s a Spaniel/Collie cross. Fynn a Lurcher Whippet. (Both DJ and Fynn are twelve). Cassie a black female Labbie’, She’s three years old. Megan a two and a half year old Staffie and Pippa a six month old StaffieX.
Q. 1. What makes a good pet owner?
I think a good pet owner is a guardian rather than an owner. It may sound pedantic but for me part of the problem lies within the term owner, owner is a very misleading word because it implies, I own therefore it is mine; I can do with it what I please. I would prefer all owners to behave like guardians because that is what we are; we are the guardians for these creatures that we take into our care and that commitment is for life, it is all embracing. Unlike our children, or indeed our partners, when we take on a pet, it relies on us for everything for their entire lives. Our pet doesn’t eat unless we feed it. It doesn’t drink unless we give it water. It doesn’t exercise unless we provide the time for it to do so. It doesn’t socialise unless we provide the means for it to do so. Simply, a good pet “owner/guardian”, is someone who understands that when they take on the responsibility of a defenceless being, it is must be for what they can give to it, not what they take from it that will define them as a good in any circumstance.
Q.2. How do you make your pet’s life the best possible?
By doing everything I’ve mentioned in question 1 but with a few additions. Firstly when you exercise your dog, leave your headphones at home, and then you can listen to your dog. Don’t imagine that your having a jog is doing your pet any good. Dogs like to communicate with other dogs and pick up smells when they exercise, they don’t want to chase some self interested jogger who puts what they want before their pets need to experience the outside world.
Don’t over feed your pet. Fat doesn’t equate with happy and food is no substitute for attention. Don’t treat you pet aggressively and don’t try to turn it into a weapon.
I would do away with Cruft’s and all the breeding of the perfect specimen and let dogs be dogs. I’d get rid of the kennel club and its spurious policing of breeds. I would make the public aware of just how many dogs are killed in England each year because of careless mating. I’d enforce a compulsory micro-chipping, neutering and spaying policy.
Q.4. What advice would you give to someone buying their first pet?
Be absolutely certain that you want a pet in the first place. Read up on what a puppy will be like and what you will have to provide in order for the puppy/pet to mature successfully. Think very carefully about why you want a pet and how it will fit into your life. Go to your local rescue centre before going to a breeder. See if you can rescue first. If you go to a breeder, check out the living conditions of the puppies. Always insist on seeing the mother of the pup. Don’t buy from a puppy farm. Insist on knowing the age of the puppy; don’t take it from its mother if it’s less than twelve weeks old. There is lots of information available in relation to taking on a pet for the first time, take the trouble to read up and research the idea thoroughly first.
Q.5. What animal have you never owned and why?
I have always lived in a city and that precludes a vast selection of animals for obvious reasons. Ever since I started to learn about the individual needs of various species I’ve concluded that only specific creatures fit in happily, with a life which is predominantly a controlled existence. These creatures become our family pets. Our duty is to give them as much freedom as possible within our controlled environment. So I can’t think of an animal I’ve never owned because to date I’ve owned the ones I really wanted.
I like the fact that the world is becoming more aware about the fact that certain species should never be owned in the first place. We are also becoming more aware of the appalling conditions many animals live in right under our noses, added to that we witness the truly appalling business of keeping bears for their bile in China and Vietnam. Campaigns are in place to try and stop this disgusting practice but they need support and I would encourage any animal lover to investigate and support these campaigns.
We have a duty of care to our own pets but we also have a duty of care to others. When I tell people about the truly dreadful conditions inflicted on animals of all kinds in England and throughout the world, they put their hands over their ears and say “Don’t tell me I can’t bear to hear it.” But if we don’t listen we won’t know it happens and then it will never stop.
Peter Egan now on Twitter, follow him HERE
Hear Peter Egan and his Downton Abbey exclusive in episode 21 of The Dog News Show
Our thanks to Peter Egan for a really in depth response.