The National Trust gift shop at the base of Glastonbury Tor has become the battleground for yet another dispute over the rights of pet owners to use the dog trolleys.
Regular readers will know that the trolleys were donated by the Glastonbury Pilgrims Union last year to allow less able dogs to enjoy the view from the top of the tor. But after protests from owners of other pets, restrictions were eased over which pets were allowed to use the trolleys.
Last month, in a bid to ease queues for the trolleys, new rules were imposed that limit their use to mammals and some breeds of bird such as parakeets.
Owners of lizards and snakes have not complained about the ban because the permanent ice cap on top of Glastonbury Tor makes conditions uncomfortable for cold-blooded creatures.
But the many owners of goldfish affected by the ban are up in arms over what they regard as an affront to the personal freedoms previously enjoyed by their pets. Goldfish are historically important to the people of Glastonbury, appearing in the town’s coat of arms.
In an attempt to fight back against what they perceive to be an unfair limitation on the freedom of movement traditionally enjoyed by goldfishes the Glastonbury Pet Shop Consortium are asking residents of Glastonbury to display protest signs in their windows. You can download the goldfish protest sign here.
Following a recent outcry, owners of other pets are also now allowed to use the trolleys, as long as no dog requires that particular size. Non-dog owners are expected to allow their pets to share with other animals, and this has already caused quite a stir, with fights breaking out among trolley occupants who have no previous history of violence.
Patricia Barnyard of the Glastonbury Dogwalker’s Trust has frequently been on hand to mediate in disputes over who should be allowed to take the next trolley, and in a landmark decision has announced that owners of Shih Tzu dogs should be treated as though they have brought a cat for a walk.
Over a cup of lentil tea in one of Glastonbury’s many wholefood cafes, Patricia explained the basis for her decision; “I realise that this will cause a bit of difficulty for Shih Tzus, as they have short legs and don’t have the stamina required to scale Glastonbury Tor, but the reality is that with so many dogs in the queue, some difficult decisions have to be made. I decided that where more than one dog is competing for a trolley it should be awarded to the animal with most canine characteristics – to the butchest dog – and in that case a Shih Tzu is always going to lose. Think about it – a Fox Terrier or even a Dachshund is fundamentally more deserving of a place in a dog trolley. In fact, can you imagine any breed less deserving of the epithet ‘dog’ than a Shih Tzu?”
A public outcry has followed the recent announcement that Glastonbury Pilgrims Union has donated thirty dog trolleys to enable people to enjoy the tor with their dogs. These trolleys were necessary because the tor has grown by 30 metres in the last decade which meant that many dogs were no longer able to get to the top under their own steam.
This week three hundred owners of other pets signed a petition that was handed in to the Lord Mayor of Glastonbury the Rt Hon Lawrence McKnight, that claimed equal rights to trolleys for all pets.
In a partial step-down the Pilgrims Union have agreed that if trolleys are not being used by dogs then other pets may use them. However it is not good news for all pets. Very small animals may be expected to double up and share with others in order to avoid wasting space. So for example, if two people arrive with chinchillas, and there is a spaniel sized trolley, they would be expected to share. There are no plans to force animals from entirely different species to share trolleys, but many people think this will be hard to enforce. The rule of thumb is that if a pet is likely to eat or attack another animal that it shares a trolley with, then it should wear a muzzle.
Fortunately muzzles for a wide range of species are available in the National Trust gift shop if pet owners arrive without one.
Patricia Barnyard of the Glastonbury Dogwalker’s Trust remains upbeat; “Obviously dogs take priority. They are the best sort of pet, and this new ruling on trolleys accepts that fact. It means that dogs are never expected to share a trolley. They are always welcome to enjoy their visit to the tor, although there have been occasions when a queue of beagles has developed. On the other hand, if you want to bring a hamster or a cat for a walk on the tor it is possible that they will be able to use the trolleys too, and visitors will find a good selection of cat muzzles in the shop, on the shelf below the Hobgoblin Marmalade.”