Thursday, June 14, 2012

Unequal protection, part deux

Continued from the last Equal Protection.  Note the following is strictly a work of fantasy and any resemblance to characters living or dead is strictly coincidental!

If you need legal advice, contact an attorney!

You kick open the door, and there is the COMMIE pointing a 1911 .45 at you.  You scream “Die you DAWG killin’ commie!”  Your finger was a little itchy and the .22 discharges into the wall above the neighbor’s head.  The 1911 discharges with a thunderous, bass BOOM and a sledge hammer hits you in the upper chest. Your arms and legs go numb as you are thrown back through the open doorway.    You can’t feel anything but you can still see and hear. 

About 20 seconds later, the neighbor kneels down by you and presses a towel over your wound.  He says, “just stay cool and quiet pal help is on the way.  I’ve already called the cops and the paramedics”.  You are choking on your blood and still can’t feel your arms or legs.   You hear a siren in the background as your vision starts to fade.  You are drifting down…. Down…. Then nothing.

(Scene change.  2 off duty plainclothes cops in a diner.  One is in his mid 40’s the other late 20’s.)

20ish Cop:  So, what was the deal with that shooting on Lakeshore last week?  I was out that week… inlaws.

40ish Cop:  Let the guy go.  He said the magic words “Castle Doctrine” and it was hands off.  The grand jury will no-bill the guy, guarantee it.  He did everything right, called the paramedics, gave aid.  The dead guy has a rap sheet, forced his way in and shot at the resident.  It’s a no brainer. 

20ish cop:  Yeah, but what about all the dogs he shot?  He shot 6 dogs in their own yard, for chrissakes!

40ish cop:  Zilch on that one, too, my friend.  Word came down from the DA a while back:  Take NO action against anyone who uses force against a dog.  Technically, the shooter has to prove that the dog was behaving offensively in some way at some point, but you produce a 2 minute video of the dog barking and it’s a pass.

20ish cop:  (surprised) You kidding?  What about animal cruelty laws?  I thought you couldn’t shoot a dog unless its in the act of attacking you or somebody else.

40ish cop:  Sorry to pick nits, but we can shoot anything we want… the question is, will we get away with that?  In his case, yes. 

20ish cop:  OK, I’ll play… how come I get to shoot a dog for barking or pooping on my lawn?

40ish cop:  You familiar with Hilsberg v. Shaw?

20ish cop:  Whats that, a boxing match?

40ish cop:  (eyes rolling) No, dummy.  That was a supreme court decision a few years ago.  Substance of the decision was, if you are denied due process in an animal related offense, you are empowered to take matters into your own hands.  As long as you do not bring bodily harm to another human being, you cannot be charged.   If we had charged the shooter the other day, not only would we have had to let him go, we would have been nailed with a particularly nasty lawsuit.  So, we have a choice… let the guy go OR let the guy go with a big settlement in his pocket.   The first option is preferable.

20ish cop:  Damn, that’s really something.  So, if a dog bites me and the owner doesn’t put it down and AC doesn’t pick it up, I can just shoot it on the owners property?

40ish cop:  Yup, that’s exactly what it means.  It doesn’t even need to bite you.  Dog at large, barking, pooping, you name it.  Its open season.  In any case, our shooter gets a double pass:  He's protected on shooting the dogs by Hilsberg and on shooting the owner on the Castle Doctrine.  Shooting someone's pet is not considered "provocation".

20ish cop:  Why didn’t I hear about this?

40ish cop:  Got no media coverage.  Even the animal rights whackos won’t say a peep about it because they know its going to result in more people taking, ah, “advantage”.  Blowback.
See, its all about equal protection.  The State did nothing to curb dog-related offenses.  You had no protection at all, and people finally just had enough. 

20ish cop:  Why didn’t they just make the rules tougher on the pet owners?

40ish cop:  Enforcing rules against animals and their owners is fundamentally very difficult, maybe impossible.  Look, when a dog bites somebody who is to blame?  Dogs act with volition.  You go after the dog, people say “but it’s the owners fault”, you go after the owner and people say “but you can’t punish the owner for something the dog did”.  It’s a circular argument that goes nowhere. 
Same thing with barking:   I had a neighbor with a barking dog a few years ago and my life became HELL.  My wife lost her job due to sleep deprivation.  My kids were sick all the time and flunking out of school.  *I* almost lost MY job!  I tell you, its easier to bust a guy on murder one than to get a conviction for nuisance barking.

20ish cop:  Jeez!

40ish cop:  Even Jesus couldn’t shut that dog up.  You think I’d have some pull ‘cause I’m a cop?  Forget it.  People could do whatever they wanted to you with their dogs and there wasn’t much you could do about it.

20ish cop:  Come to think about it, you are right.  It WAS bad!  My cousin is missing 2 fingers from a pit bull attack from when we were kids.  I remember the dog just got returned to its owner.  I guess we got so used to dog owners and dogs getting a pass it seemed normal after a while. 

40ish cop:  I am not surprised.  Hey, you want the details behind the court decision?  I actually spoke to one of the cops that worked the original scene.

20ish cop:  Yeah, do tell!

40ish cop:  I’ll keep the long story short.  About 5 years ago, there’s this single mom with a 7 year old girl.  Dad has split the scene.  They live in this semi-crappy neighborhood.  Lots of loose dogs, backyard breeders, just a lovely situation.  It was all they could afford, apparently.

20ish cop:  Gotcha.

40ish cop:  Anyway, they’d been having a lot of problems with a backyard breeder breeding pit bulls.  Barking, dog at large, dogs behaving dangerously towards people.   The dog had chased the little girl a couple of times.  Other pets were killed.   A little boy farther down the block got bit by one of the pits, needed something like 50 stitches.
So, the lady and a few other neighbors had called cops and AC a bunch of times, gotten the run around.  Contacting the breeder likewise produced no results

20ish cop:  And nothing was done?  Why?  … wait, I KNOW why!  We ALL had to love Fido no matter what, right?

40ish cop:  Right.  Dog owners were likewise above reproach.  So, the little girl and her mom are walking back from the school bus stop and 4 pit bulls that “somehow” escaped the breeding pen jump her.   Mom is attacked too, and tried to save the girl but all she got for her troubles were some near life-threatening injuries.  A bunch of neighbors came out and beat the dogs with bats, shovels, rakes, you name it.  It was this massive human vs. canine street brawl.  Anyway,  I’m not going to go into gory details… and they are plenty gory… but the kid was DOA at the hospital. Closed casket funeral.

20ish cop:  Jeez, that is just plain nasty.  Being torn up by a dog has to be the WORST way to die!

40ish cop:  Agreed, I’d prefer being shot in the head any day.    The mom gets no relief… they could never prove which dogs did what.   Its suspected that the owner hosed the blood off the dogs after he rounded them up, but again no concrete proof.  The pit bull whackos came out of the woodwork threatening to sue the city if any dogs were put down.  The pit nuts held candlelight vigils, staged a massive protest, compared the mom, AC, cops, etc… to Hitler.  You know, the usual treatment.  

20ish cop:  So what was the outcome?

40ish cop:  The breeder got a $200 ticket for dog off leash.  The judge threw it out.

20ish cop:  (slaps the table)  DAMN!

40ish cop:  Indeed.  Well, that’s not the end of it.  Turns out the mom goes a little bonkers.  The dog owner and the pit bull whackos had been harassing her when she threatened to sue… slashed the tires on her car, calling her in the middle of the night, spray painting “breedist” on the front of her house, stuff like that.  They went to the media and publicly blamed the incident on her, said she and the kid deserved what happened, etc…
So, anyway, she loses a few of her marbles.  Pawns her engagement and wedding ring and buys herself an AR15 and about 1000 rounds.

20ish cop:  Whoa!

40ish cop:  Indeed.  So, she practices with the gun for a couple days.  Gets up one morning, loads about 10 mags, she even got a tactical vest to complete the outfit.  She locks and loads and marches down to the breeder, and…

20ish cop:  Man, she wastes the owner!  Holy crap!

40ish cop:  Nope.  The local cops found the owner hiding in a closet after the incident with a load in his pants, but unharmed.  Nope, she shoots every dog on that property.  Blows them ALL away.   There were a couple witnesses that said that she had this flat expression on her face.  She was cool as a cucumber the whole time.  She did it calmly and methodically.  SWAT got called and she was standing out front with the gun at her feet when they show up.
So, they bring the mom in.  Book her on around 20 counts of animal cruelty, trespass, brandishing a weapon, and a few other charges.  Now, this is where it gets interesting.  Not only was the act pre-meditated, it looked like even the legal arguments were pre-meditated!  Her lawyers said she had a right to take the law into her own hands since she was denied her constitutional right to equal protection of laws.  They laid enough briefs and other paperwork on the DA to make his head spin.  The substance of the legal argument was, if there was no protection FROM the dogs there should be no protection FOR the dogs.  The dogs were clearly a systemic and demonstratable threat to public safety and absolutely nothing was done about it by authorities. They had a stack of complaints against the breeder about two feet high.   The civil rights of not only the mom and her kid but indeed the entire community had been completely denied.  Furthermore, the argument went, we destroy nuisance and dangerous animals all the time and the threshold for killing a dangerous or disruptive dog should be the same as a rat, mouse or cockroach… in other words, not very high.  This was not a “Death Wish” type scenario where the object of vengeance is other human beings.

20ish cop:  Hell, yeah.  You got a bunch of dogs, known to be dangerous, kill her kid and the guy gets a TICKET?  Plus the dogs were still terrorizing the neighborhood, right?  The dogs should have been put down and the owner jailed WAY before that kid got killed.  The whole situation was totally avoidable.

40ish cop:  Right.  In any case, the litigation went all the way to the Supreme Court which voted in her favor, setting a BIG legal precedent.  The scope of the decision was very narrow… relates to animals only.   

20ish cop:  Seems like we went from Unequal protection to equal UNprotection.

40ish cop:  Exactly.  Nature abhors gross inequalities and it was inevitable that that some sort of equilibrium would eventually be reached.  This just happened to be the way it played out.

20ish cop:  So, what happened to the mom?  You’d think the whackos would try to take her out.

40ish cop:  She had her rights fully restored.  She’s now a NRA pistol match champion.   I think that what she did was so massively intimidating that even the pit bull whackos are scared to death of her, now.

20ish cop:  Hey, look, I have to split.  This has been fascinating.  Catch you at the office tomorrow.

40ish cop:  Yeah, I gotta get home to the wife and kids, too.

20ish cop:  You said your wife lost her job a while back, what is she doing these days?

40ish cop:  She’s a 911 operator.



  1. You do need to write a book!
    Love this post.

  2. Hey AU, this is the only way I know to contact you, so here's a heads-up. Apparently Rainesville AL has passed an ordinance about dangerous and -- get this -- NOISY animals.

    Check out:

    About 1/3 down the page you'll see this: It's a violation...

    * to keep animals which are considered "noisy," by means of barking, howling, yelping, roaring, bellowing and other audible noises sufficient to annoy or disturb neighboring residents.

    In Alabama of all places...though it be just one town, it's a start!

  3. P.S. In that ordinance they also deal not only with dogs that have already bitten or attacked, but also dogs that charge people or animals, that have wild-canid genes, or are of the pit-bull type.

    It's like your (our) dream come true, the backlash at the Narcissistic Entitled Crappy Dog Owner. Wham, slap 'em all down in one go, in one ordinance.

    Now just hope they strictly enforce it.