New Animal Control.Org

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The Erosion of Dog Owner Privileges, and the Case For Exclusionary Licensing

When you look at the amount of barking and biting and the number of dogs suffering and being euthanized, it couldn't be more clear that, every year, millions of people who are not fit for dog ownership, acquire dogs. The question is, why do we continue to allow it? How many millions of canines have to be put to death each year before we are ready to admit that dogs are falling into the hands of people who should not have them? How many millions of people have to be bitten and how many years of our lives have to be spoiled by the punctuated barking of untrained dogs before we are ready to acknowledge the obvious?

The fact is, allowing unfit people to acquire dogs is ruining the experience of dog ownership for the rest of us. Due to the growing number of unleashed dog attacks on park users in recent years, the city of New York has instituted a new leash law with a vigorous program of enforcement to go with it. Now all residents of the city must walk their dogs on the lead. Everyone, even master trainers whose dogs are under perfect voice control must still keep them on the lead at all times. The problem was caused by the irresponsible, but the consequence befell everyone.

Similarly, the city of Rockland, Maine, was plagued by ruffians who intimidated the citizenry by loitering on main street with their out-of-control Pit Bulls and Rottweilers. Local government responded by banning all dogs from its historic downtown. Now the street thugs with their vicious dogs are gone, and so are the well behaved canine companions who, in a happier time, daily traveled downtown with their masters to keep them company in their place of employment.

Now we see one city after another banning Pit Bulls. Why? Is it because Pit Bulls can't be controlled? No, not really. Pit Bulls make first rate canine citizens when they are raised from puppyhood by knowledgeable, conscientious owners who train them rigorously using meticulous kindness, and take care never to let aggressive behavior get started.

True enough, it has been proven that those who are unfit for dog ownership are going to cause problems if they are allowed to acquire Pit Bulls. It has also been proven that those who are unfit to drive automobiles will wreak havoc if we let them get behind the wheel. But the answer is not to make it illegal for anyone to ever drive, the answer is to learn to tell the difference between those who know what they are doing and those who do not.

However, rather than learning to discriminate between the fit and the unfit, and then taking action to hold in check the behavior of those who do not have what it takes to own such a creature, the animal control system is again reverting to the lowest common denominator as, increasingly, they pass laws declaring that no one, regardless of their qualifications or expertise, will ever again be allowed to keep a Pit Bull.

Pit Bull attacks have reached epidemic proportions because an enormous number of ignorant, belligerent, and aggressive dog owners keep that breed. But when Pitt Bulls are outlawed, all the nut cases will purchase Rottweilers who, as a result, will also bite a large number of people. When Rottweilers are subsequently outlawed, the lunatic fringe will all rush out and buy German Shepherds, who will soon thereafter, also fall to the legislator's ax.

Where will it end? Few people much like Pit Bulls, but how will you feel when they come to take away your Welsh Corgi? Don't laugh. Corgi's have now been outlawed in Germany, where they are just the most recent on a growing list of breeds that no one is any longer allowed to have. So don't think it can't happen where you live.

The writing is on the wall. If we continue to allow irresponsible people to acquire dogs, they will continue to behave in irresponsible ways that will result in increased restrictions in the future, on all dogs and all dog owners.

It may seem strange to you to hear talk of allowing someone to acquire a dog. But, society has the right to prohibit any individual from having a dog and to place whatever restrictions on ownership we see fit. Because, as far as the law is concerned, no one has a right to own a dog. Like driving a car, dog ownership is a privilege.

Licensing People to Keep Dogs

Up to this point, dog licensing has been a pro forma affair, consisting of little more than documenting the animal's immunizations and paying a nominal fee. To date, we have licensed only dogs, as opposed to also licensing dog owners. However, if we hope to loosen the ever tightening noose of restrictive dog laws, and protect both dogs and humans from abuse and injury, we need to institute a program in which we not only license dogs, but license people to keep dogs.

When I see someone in public with an imposing canine, unless the animal is obviously friendly, I move in another direction, because I know that most people have only minimal control over their dogs. However, automobiles are many times more dangerous than dogs, yet I don't head for the hills every time I see someone coming in my direction from behind the wheel of a car.

The difference is, before you receive a driver's license, you must first prove that you have learned everything you need to know to safely operate a motor vehicle. And you must take the automobile out into the real world and prove to a trained evaluator that you can control the car and control yourself in stressful, real life driving situations.

We need a licensing system sufficiently rigorous to move us from our current expectation that any given dog owner we encounter, probably cannot control his dog, to one in which we can safely assume that every dog on the street is under near-perfect control. And that every owner is trained, disciplined and committed to behaving responsibly.

This page is part of the New System section of New Animal Control.Org