Thursday, March 04, 2010

BSL Blues

This has been a nightmarish week on the breed-specific legislation watch, and next week promises to be similarly rough. I'm mentally exhausted and depressed. Sometimes it seems like politicians let their votes be swayed by primitive emotions like fear and hate, rather than careful consideration of real facts.

No matter how many reasonable, sane, highly educated and experienced individuals and organizations speak out against BSL, provide hard evidence of its failures, and offer reasonable dog laws in exchange, it all boils down to fear, again and again.

Why do people always want to destroy things that they're scared of? I gave up that attitude back when I, you know, grew up. I'm terrified of balloons--and they are, in fact, more deadly than dogs, as well as really bad for the environment--but you don't see me lobbying to ban them (too tired).

All I can hope is that, when election day comes around, these people get the boot. I'll be doing my part here in Texas by running a statewide candidate survey, so people know how their candidates feel about BSL.

Occasionally I see a news article about a great program being offered for "pit bulls" and their owners, like free or low cost spay/neuter, or free training classes. Inevitably, some jerkwad leaves a comment on the article about how "if pit bull owners are all against breed specific laws then they shouldn't support this special program!" (In other words, we shouldn't have our cake and eat it too.)

So here's the fundamental difference. Breed-specific legislation is mandatory. It is a law. Here are some things that make a good law:
  1. It is just or fair to everyone.
  2. Everyone can understand and follow it.
  3. It can be enforced.
  4. It does not take away constitutionally guaranteed rights.
  5. It is reasonable and serves a real purpose.
Breed-specific legislation fails miserably in this respect. But that's beside the point. The point is that a breed-specific law is foisted on us whether we like it or not.

Voluntary breed-specific programs are just the opposite. They are voluntary. They're almost always covered by a private grant and rarely, if ever, use taxpayer money. In fact, even if they did use taxpayer money, it's much cheaper to offer free spay/neuter than it is to kill thousands of dogs at the shelter due to overpopulation. Anyway, if you don't like the program or don't want to support it, then don't. Simple as that.

Furthermore, enforcing BSL results in dead dogs--and sometimes, dead dogs that weren't part of the targeted breeds to begin with. They just had the misfortune to look sort of like one of the targeted breeds, and got swept up in the tide.

On the other hand, with voluntary programs, the result isn't dead dogs. It's spayed or neutered dogs, or microchipped and vaccinated dogs, or trained dogs. Go ahead, misidentify the breed of as many dogs as you want! Dogs and owners benefit from these programs, so it's all bonus.

As an example, one article about free spay/neuter for "pit bulls" offered a quote from a very satisfied owner of a "pit bull/Chihuahua mix." Seriously? How much more likely is it that this person has a small terrier-type dog and simply wanted a free fix?

The people running these programs aren't likely to turn away many dogs because they aren't "pit bull" enough. They're not going to demand a DNA test. They're going to provide the service because, hey, that's one more dog that just got neutered.

And I repeat: these programs are totally voluntary and privately funded.

Let's take it a little further and imagine that a lawmaker has proposed a bill that would pay $100 to every "pit bull" owner so they can spay or neuter their dog. Would I support that bill? Absolutely, positively not. Such a law immediately fails Good Law Rule #1 above.

All my readers know that I'm a huge supporter of spay/neuter and rescue. But I will never support legalized discrimination toward any sort of dog owner based on their dog's appearance--whether that discrimination is beneficial for the dog owner or not.

Remember: discrimination always has two sides. When one side benefits, the other loses out. A just law cannot and should not be a discriminatory one.

Let's turn it back around on the pro-BSL folks. Do you think they would support a breed-specific law that pays certain dog owners $100 to get their dogs spayed or neutered?

Of course not. Because it's not fair to all the other dog owners.

Get it?

Bonus photo of the moon over a big rock (Casa Grande) at Big Bend National Park. I took this photo with my very own camera in 1995.