Dog ownership. Right or privilege?
Is owning a dog a fundamental human right, protected by the state/something anyone can claim, or is it a privilege granted by the community? Or is it something else entirely? Is it really one thing but treated as if it’s actually something else?
First, let’s get the terms straight:
A right is something you always have, and it can only be taken away. Core rights such as life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, etc… are good examples.
A privilege is something for which you require permission from others. For example, driving an automobile on public roads is generally considered a privilege. You have to obtain a driver’s license from the State and maintain that license in good standing in order to maintain your driving privileges within the jurisdiction.
An entitlement is something you are empowered to take from someone else. For example, Social Security payments are an entitlement. You are taxed to pay someone else until you reach an arbitrary age and then someone else is taxed to pay you.
The repeal of Miami-Dade’s pit bull ban was *defeated* in both the Florida Legislature and the House. Florida itself has a ban on breed specific bans, essentially overriding the wishes of any Florida municipality to ban certain breeds of dog. However, the Miami ban pre-dated the state law, and Miami was thus allowed to maintain their ban on pit bulls. Anyone caught with a pit bull in Miami will have their dog seized, euthanized and fined $500.00. See the article on this site for more background. Banning breed specific bans indicates that some think that housing a dog in a human community is a fundamental human right to be protected by the state. However, the defeat of the repeal indicates that the State lacks the legal ability to force legalization of any dog breed.
Consider that just because the government does something does not indicate that it truly has a legal right to do so. There is much case history indicating that discrimination against certain dog breeds is legal. I don’t think the State’s ban-on-ban’s would hold up to much legal scrutiny, which is why I believed they allowed Miami to keep their ban. If Miami had taken the case to the Supreme Court I am confident they would have won, anyway.
Based on the above, I do not believe that owning a ANY type of dog is a protected legal right. The fact that some entities may overstep their bounds in this area doesn’t change that.
Furthermore, landlords are allowed to discriminate against prospective tenants harboring ANY pet. How many “houses for rent” clearly state NO DOGS or NO PETS. If owning a pet were a protected legal right, they would not be allowed to do this with the frequency that they do. This further lends weight to dog ownership NOT being a protected civil right.
So, if owning a dog is not a protected civil right, then what is it?
I believe that owning a dog is currently considered an entitlement by dog owners and authorities. Now, there is NO legal basis for this, but it is what it is. The absurd pro-bark and pro-bite laws that are on the books in most of the civilized world are indicative of this fact. Our neighborhoods are filled with endless loud barking, our emergency rooms are filled with dog bite victims, our soil and water is befouled with dog shit, and loose dogs trespass and destroy property and rarely are ANY action taken against any of these dogs or their owners. If you disagree, how many dogs are destroyed as a result of biting someone? How many dogs are silenced as a result of a barking complaint? I thought so.
Going back to what an entitlement IS: It’s the power to impose a cost on someone else. When you are entitled, someone else absorbs the cost for what you want. In the case of the dog owner, they destroy the peace, send people to the hospital, pollute and destroy property and pay nothing. Nearly ALL of those costs are borne by others: Tax payers, insurance companies, and nearby residents. Dogs and their owners have the POWER to impose those costs, both directly and indirectly, on YOU. All of these “costs” aren’t necessarily of the economic variety either, folks “pay” with their health, their freedom, their personal relationships, and their sanity. The dog owners play, YOU pay.
In my opinion, dog ownership should NOT be an entitlement NOR should it be a protected civil right. Housing a dog in a human community should be a PRIVILEGE. The solution to all of the problems outlined in the previous paragraph is to setup an owner licensing system. Anyone wishing to house a dog in the jurisdiction must apply for and receive a license. Liability insurance should be mandatory. If they violate the licensing agreement, their privilege is revoked and they are no longer allowed to house a dog. Until this is done, these problems will be allowed to escalate. How much longer are we going to allow dog owners to impose these costs upon us?