Dog Fight: Rights vs. Responsibilities
Prairie Mary writes in her blog:
"When it comes to domestic pets, a terrible thing has happened which I should have foreseen and which has unforeseeable consequences itself. The extreme end of the humane movement has been matched by the development of growing organization at the other extreme which has no name yet but an equally militant and intransigent nature. Similar to the gun-owner’s lobby and often overlapping, these people defend their right to own large, possibly aggressive, unregistered and intact dogs. . . ."
". . . . The worst part of this present polarization is that both ends of the spectrum increasingly take out their feelings in hatred of the government, humane folks feeling that they are not doing enough and dog-defenders feeling that they are doing far too much. If there’s anything we don’t need now, it’s further erosion of our civic trust and integrity. In fact, our only hope of resolving this development is through governmental and non-governmental democratic consideration and action, sometimes called “animal control.” But both ends of the spectrum habitually attack animal control."
Bingo! Read the whole post. She is (sadly) right.
I have posted on the need to deal with dangerous dogs and the millions of strays that are euthanized every year, and I have proposed a few ideas that would, I think, take the steam out of the "Breed Ban" and "Mandatory Spay and Neuter" debates.
I have gone on to ask if anyone else has better ideas or suggestions? Not much response to that question, but quite a lot of heat from some regarding the idea that we should do anything at all. No problems here -- full steam ahead!
Now I for one, think there are a LOT of major problems in the world, and that too many dogs being euthanized and too many serious dog bites makes the short list on the importance scale. That said, this is my dog blog and not my public policy blog. And within the world of dogs, I think that scores of thousands of Americans being mauled every year, and millions of perfectly good dogs are being killed ever year, counts as a real problem. But maybe that's just me.
Fundamentally,the dog debate is a collision between rights and responsibilities.
The dog-owning community screams that they have RIGHTS. And YES, they do.
But do they have responsibilities as well?
Well sure, but . . . well . . . we don't need to articulate those too well right now, do we? After all, weren't we talking about RIGHTS?
This kind of dance occurs in a lot of debates, and folks on both the Far Right and the Far Left are equally guilty.
People claim (sometime simultaneously) that they have a right to guns, and a right to be free from gun violence.
People claim they have a right to shoot heroin, and a right to free drug treatment.
People claim they have a right to smoke, and a right to be free of cigarette smoke.
And now these same "rights rhetoric" people have come to the issue of dogs.
What an odd thing this nation is! It took 169 years -- from Jamestown to Philadelphia -- to develop America's greatest product, the Bill of Rights, but it seems that today Americans are discovering a new set of rights every 15 minutes.
We have grandparents rights, computer rights, and animal rights. We have the right to know the sex of a fetus, the right to own AK-47s, the right not to be tested for AIDS, the right to die, and (if we are a damaged fetus) the "right not to be born."
Airline pilots have a right not to be tested randomly for alcohol or drugs. Mentally ill persons have the right to treatment, and when they are dumped on the streets, they have the right to no treatment and, therefore, the right to die unhelped in alleys.
What too few people seem to be asking is whether a society as crowded and diverse as ours can work if every personal desire is elevated to the status of an inflexible, unyielding right?
Can America work if our defense of individual rights is unmatched by our commitment to individual and social responsibility?
And if we give a small nod to that idea, what does it really mean? How do we encourage, enable and, if need be, force the shouldering of personal responsibility?
Of course, good people will come up with different answers. Right now one side denies there is a problem. The other side, perhaps too easily, marches in with authoritarian answers like Breed Bans and Mandatory Spay-Neuter laws.
But is there a Third Way? Can we encourage responsibility and/or mandate it?
Dogs live a long time -- 15 years is common. How big a deal is it to require that every dog owner take a Canine Safety and Responsibility course, once in their life, as a condition of owning a dog?
We require a once-per-lifetime hunter safety course for a hunting license, and we require an up-to-date driver's license to drive a car.
Swimming pool owners are required to fence their yards in order to own a pool, and falconers are required to take an intensive and extensive apprenticeship program in order to own and fly a bird.
I will let others hash out who teaches the course and what is in it. A few quick answers off the top of my head . . .
- No, the course is not for the dog, but for the owner.
- The course might involve three hours of classroom instruction and a multiple-guess test at the end. A small booklet about dog training, feeding and health would be the "take away."
- Folks who already own a registered and/or licensed dog would probably be "grand-fathered" in.
- The course would stress the need for socialization, training and proper communication.
In short, this course is not a big deal in terms of time and money.
That said, it's a hell of a lot better than doing nothing, which is what we are doing now.
How many folks would rethink dog ownership if they were told what fencing their property would cost, how much fixing a dysplastic hip might cost, and how few landlords are OK with dog ownership?
As a result, how many fewer dogs would end up in shelters?
Would a Canine Safety and Responsibility course solve every dog problem in the world?
Of course not. The goal is progress, not perfection.
But if progress is going to occur, it will require more responsibility injected into the ownership equation.
Responsibility remains the "R-word" no one wants to talk about.