Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Right, privilege, or something else?

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?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Countering Pro-Barking Propaganda, Part II

The laundry list of excuses pumped out by pro-barkers, authorities and apologists is extremely long and as such deserves a "PART II".   Numbering scheme picks up where the last post left off....

6)  Its not bothering anyone else.  This implies a few things, 1) The pro-barker is able to definitively prove a negative, 2) They are not lying, and 3)  An offense requires at least TWO victims to trigger a violation.

Counterpoints:  First, there is no way they can possibly know that their dog is not bothering anyone else.  They can't prove a negative.   Offenses of all types go unreported for a variety of reasons:  Victims are afraid of either the perp or authorities, for example.

Second, YOU don't know if the perp is telling the truth.  He may have gotten ten complaints about the dog in the past hour for all you know.   The perp does not deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Third, what crimes/code violations require more than one complainant?  Are families of murder victims told "hey, he hasn't killed anyone else (yet)?"  Of course not.   If you are, in fact, the only person harmed by the dog, that is STILL one person too many.

Note that variations of this excuse drive the "multiple household law" and even "multiple bite laws", which are both a clear violation of our right to equal protection.

7)  This complaint is false and/or malicious or personal in nature.  Their point being,  You are making this up because you don't like me or you are a bad person in some way.   This excuse is often used by authorities in an attempt to evade doing their jobs.

Counterpoints:   This may actually be true in some cases... false reporting of offenses is a serious matter.  However, the number of offenses dwarfs the number of complaints, therefore the number of FALSE complaints is relatively small.  Further, whether or not you "like" the perp is irrelevant.  Where does it say we have to like everyone that offends against us?  Nowhere.  The only thing relevant is whether or not the offense actually occurred.  Your best bet is to build a portfolio of "evidence", video with sound is best.

8)  Its not bothering me.   This is probably the stupidest thing ever said by anyone.  However, pro-barkers use this from time to time.  Their point being, since their dogs behavior (barking all night, killing the next door neighbor, etc...) does not bother the DOG OWNER, the act is perfectly acceptable and legal.

Counterpoints:   This is an absurd argument that could be used to excuse anything.  I could blow up the Empire State Building and make the same claim.  I don't think I would get away with that, however.  Whether or not the offender is offended by the act in question is irrelevant.

9)  Just Get Used to It.   Their point being, their dog's behavior can not be restricted in any way and everyone else should be forced to endure the endless barking, trespass, dog crap everywhere, and dog on human attacks.   They feel that dogs and dog owners are empowered to do anything, to anybody, without any reprisal.

Counterpoints:  This is another absurd argument that could be used to excuse anything.  Again, if I am a terrorist blowing up buildings, can I merely state that everyone else should "Just Get Used to It?"   I can say that, but I seriously doubt I would be excused.

Dogs and their owners are, technically, not in a legally protected class.  They act like it, but they are not.  They should restrict their behavior in the same manner as everyone else.  Our right to equal protection, use of our property, etc... should not be automatically voided when there is a dog in the vicinity. 

Its probably noteworthy that authorities in many jurisdictions act as though dogs and dog owners ARE in some sort of protected class.   Multiple household laws, multiple bite laws, etc... are proof of this.  Those type of laws need to be defeated and we should demand equal protection of laws from authorities in all cases.

10)  There is nothing I can do.  Their point is, they are helpless/powerless to control their dog or ameliorate the problem in any way.

Counterpoints:  There is plenty they can do, they can:
- Train the dog not to bark.
- Confine the dog in such a way that it brings discomfort to no one.
- Surgically debark the dog.
AND, last but not least...
- They can choose to NOT have a dog in the first place!

If you can't control your dog, DON'T HAVE ONE!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Pro-barking propaganda and how to counter it

Anyone who's been the victim of a neighbor's yard barker is probably familiar with the various talking points dog owners and authorities deploy in an attempt to avoid taking responsibility and/or doing their jobs.

Here, I am going to offer some various talking points of OUR OWN.  Learn them well!

1)  Dogs bark, that's what they do.  You are sure to hear this universally absurd statement whenever you complain about a barking dog.  Their point being, since they have a loud dog it must be OK for not just their dog, but all dogs to be loud.  All the time.

Counterpoints:  First, the above suffers from a logical fail known as "weak induction", i.e. since this isolated example of something is true, anything similar must be true.  For example, I could say that since the bartender in my local pub is named "Pat", ALL bartenders must be named "Pat".   With dog owners, this can be used against them, since its a given that many dogs are quiet.  "Dogs are quiet, thats what dogs are" has the same weight.

Second, the underlying assumption of this statement is that, if a dog (or anything or anyone else for that matter), has the ability or tendency to do something (bark loudly, in this case) said action is, by definition, acceptable.   Again, this is a major logical fail as that could be said for anything.  For example, using that line of reasoning, any bad behavior could be excused, i.e. "Hitler was a genocidal maniac... thats what they do" is a poor rationalization for the holocaust.   The fact that Hitler was crazy and had access to the German war machine does not, by itself, excuse his behavior.  Likewise, loud barking or any other bad behavior exhibited by dogs or their owners is also not excusable.  Dogs bark at 105 decibels, and any reasonable person would agree that's too loud for the suburbs.   Note the same excuse is used for dogs that attack and kill people:  "dogs have teeth, what do you expect?"  was the glib statement made by a dog behaviorist after a german shepherd killed a 6 year old child.

2)  Its a watchdog.   The claim is, the dog is scaring away any potential burglars and/or warning about emergencies such as fires, accidents, etc...

Counterpoints:   Now, I don't necessarily have a problem with legitimate watchdog behavior.  However, its noteworthy that the amount of "legitimate" dog noises we are subject to is vanishingly small.  Most dog barking serves no useful purpose.

Furthermore, the typical "yard barker" is the proverbial "Boy who cried wolf" in that the incessant "false alarms" actually reduce the possibility that an actual crime or real emergency will be noted.  Victims of incessant, useless barking are often encouraged to NOT approach the owner (or they will be nailed for harrassment) and are ignored by authorities.   Therefore, even if by some remote chance the dog IS barking usefully, it is by definition rendered pointless.

3)  My dog has a right to express himself.  This implies a couple of things:  1) Dogs have equal protection under the first amendment of the US Constitution (or similar if in another country), and 2) This "right" supersedes the right of everyone else in the vicinity to peaceful use of their property.

Counterpoints:   Both of the above are fails.  My understanding is that right of expression is protected BY humans FOR humans, it is not extended to dogs or any other animals.  Now, the dog owner may side-step this by claiming that it is THEY that are using their dog to express THEIR self.  In other words, that endless, repetitive loud barking is their message to the world, or some such.   However, this still fails as a right "to" something also translates into a right "from" something.  I.E.  I should not be forced to listen to a barking dog inside my home any more than I should be forced to listen to rap music or anything else.  The noise level on my property is for ME to control, not them.  This is also a good counterpoint to items (1) and (2).

4)  I can do whatever I want on my property.  Their point being, they are the king of their castle and they can do anything they want in their space with no regard to anyone around them.

Counterpoints:  The above is an obvious fail because, if this claim is taken to its logical conclusion, I now have a "right" to set off an H-Bomb in my suburban 1/4 acre.  The hinky thing about property rights is that EVERYONE has them, including me.  When your activities affect me in any way, it becomes my business, and I can force you to stop doing what you are doing.   Your yard barker is lowering my property values, keeping me awake, preventing me from working, relaxing, and pursuing social activities.  You can bet that I am going to do whatever I have to to restore peace to my home.

5)  What about noise pollution from other sources?   This is a rhetorical question used to make the point that, its OK for them to manufacture a lot of useless noise since we are subject to noise pollution from other sources such as cars, railroads, airplanes, etc... even other barking dogs.

Counterpoints:  This fails on multiple levels.  The excuse "everyone is doing it" depends on circular reasoning... its OK for my dog to bark since that other dog is barking, and its OK for that dog to bark since mine is doing so.  However, both are nuisances that should be arrested immediately.   Its also noteworthy that "everyone" is most certainly NOT doing it as most people do NOT own dogs, and many dog owners have quiet dogs (see #1).

Comparing a yard barker to useful infrastructure such as railroads is also a major fail.  Railroads are a critical component to any modern economy.  We ALL derive benefits from rail transportation, even if we don't use it ourselves.  Comparing a uselessly barking dog to a train thats carrying millions of dollars in goods or hundreds of passengers to work is absurd.  One is clearly useful and the other is not.  Like most people, I am willing to tolerate some pollution, including noise pollution, in exchange for a high standard of living.  However, since the yard barker serves no useful purpose it needs to be silenced.  It benefits no one, least of all me.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Miami Dade Pit Bull Ban Challenged

There has been a lot of hoopla surrounding the challenge to Miami-Dade's 23 year old Pit Bull Ban.  A move to lift the ban, and allow pit bulls within that jurisdiction, was introduced to the Florida legislature this session.  You see, the state of Florida itself has a ban on breed specific bans.   My understanding is that the Miami-Dade local ban pre-dated the state law and has been "grandfathered" in.

Currently, anyone in violation of the ban in Miami-Dade county will have their pit bull(s) seized, euthanized, and the owner fined $500.00.   The law was passed in 1989 after a series of extremely grave dog attacks, the kind pit bulls are famous for, sent residents clamoring for relief.

So, along comes Pit Bull owning Mark Buerhle, a pitcher for the Florida Marlins who was lucky enough to recently land a 58 million dollar contract.   Buerhle got the ear of State Legislator Carlos Trujillo who has since been pressing the repeal of the ban.

Somehow I think this may be more about baseball and/or money than dogs, but I digress.

I am not the biggest fan of BSL:  I am not *opposed* to it, necessarily, but its another boutique issue that, generally speaking, offers little overall relief from those who use their dogs as offensive weapons.  A half a million US citizens are forced to seek medical care yearly as a result of a dog attack.  Many of these attacks are not pit bull related (though many of the more serious one's are).

However, I support the local government and people of Miami-Dade in their efforts to uphold their ban.

Dog ownership is NOT a fundamental human right.  It should not be protected by the state of Florida or any other entity.  Wanna-be pit bull owners in Miami, even if they have 58 million dollars, have no right to demand protection from the state in this matter.   The citizens Miami should not be forced by the State to allow pit bulls, or any other animal, within their jurisdiction.