my selfish personal motivation disclosed

Warning: This is a personal and (for me, at least) a highly emotional post. Much as I hate it when a political topic becomes personal, there's no way for me to avoid the fact that it has, and I feel I'm under a duty to disclose why I feel so strongly about this issue, and why I don't think it is as trivial or frivolous as it might appear.

There are a lot of things over which people are should be concerned. Whether it's the war in Iraq, the election in France, the endless election in this country (and whatever issue might be more important) it may seem frivolous that I have devoted so much time to California AB 1634 (the mandatory spay neuter bill).

Considering that this is my ninth post on the subject, it may seem that I have become single-mindedly obsessed with AB 1634, but the fact is, that bill is only one tentacle of a growing, seemingly unstoppable juggernaut. To me, government-mandated pet surgery is both a symbol and a clear line that is being drawn. It's an early warning sign of something far worse -- the growing public acceptance of the idea that government can and should invade the most utterly personal areas of our lives.

Few things are more personal to me than my relationship with my dog, Coco. The idea that the government can make me a criminal for not cutting out her ovaries (something which is entirely my business and no one else's) fills me with horror.

What happened to all the people who used to scream "KEEP THE GOVERNMENT OUT OF OUR BEDROOMS?"

What about the idea that a man's home is his castle?

A dog is personal. And it's property. But it's different than ordinary property, because there is a personal bond, an emotional investment between a dog and his owner that cannot be measured in economic value. Because of this emotional component, a dog may be the most valuable property that a person can have. I can't speak for other dog owners, but if my house was on fire, my very first thought would be to save Coco! I think many dog owners would feel the same way. That is the real test of value.

So, people who care about property rights ought to care very about this special form of property which, to the people who have it, is the most valuable property of all.

The idea of the government entering into my relationship with my dog is thus more than an ordinary violation of property rights. It's highly personal.

Good intentions are said to be behind the people who want to do this. The theory is that Coco is not my property, but is now the property of others, who lay claim to her under a theory that they, not I, should have power over her. In the name of her "rights." (No really.) Yet, some of the same people and organizations who would make it a crime for me not to cut out Coco's ovaries also want to kill Coco. Why? Because they don't like her breed.

I don't know if there is any way to put this more simply, but Coco is my dog, and that's all there is to it. I am loyal to her, and in being loyal to her, I am being loyal to myself. The people who want to make me cut out her ovaries and the people who want to kill her I must oppose resolutely, lest I cease to be a free citizen.

I find it depressing to live in a country which would invade my home and kill my dog, and despite my use of satire, ridicule and sarcasm as weapons, I don't think their movement is funny at all. It is sinister. I do not think it is hyperbole to call it Orwellian, and yes, even totalitarian.

So for now, I'm drawing the line at ovary control.

And yes, I have a very personal motivation. My best friend.

CocoPortrait4.jpg


What kind of country is the United States becoming, that I have to worry about the government invading my home and attacking my dog?

Yes, "attacking" is exactly what it is. We are not talking about a debate here, or about doing the right thing. Even if I were to concede for the sake of argument that I might be well advised to "fix" Coco, from where derives the idea that the government has a right to come into my home and use force to make me do it? It's from an idea based on a theory -- and this theory has such unbridled contempt for my most personal property rights that the mindset behind it believes the government is fully justified in killing my dog, simply because they disapprove of the appearance of her genes.

It must be remembered, though, that this is not just an idea and a theory; it's a well-organized movement, now very much in the mainstream. That this "movement" is within striking distance of being able to use government force to invade my California home and mess with the dog that I love is something I would find unbelievable if I didn't see it happening before my eyes. Sure, I can continue living in Pennsylvania in what amounts to exile status, but if I return to California I become a criminal thanks to this movement.

And mark my words, this will spread.

That apparently well-meaning people could be so low puts me at a loss for words right now. But I just wanted to explain why I felt the need -- by means of a little personal disclosure -- to write this post. And this post. And this post. And this post. And this post. And this post. And this post. And this post. And this post.

posted by Eric on 05.07.07 at 08:40 AM










Comments

Let's address the emotional aspect of this. You are very upset about the prospect of the state intruding on what you consider to be your private affair. I refuse to question your feelings on this point; everybody has their own hot buttons. I have my own and I am not the person to cast that stone.

I agree that the case for this law is tricky. It is clearly an imposition of the state's interest on the personal life of the owner. Whether the state's interest overrides the owner's interest is a highly debatable point. I believe that the current slaughter of millions of unwanted pets every year is unacceptable and that the state does have a legitimate interest in reducing that slaughter. Yet I also agree that the owner has some rights as well. I do not accept the absolute position you seem to be taking; correct me if I'm wrong, but you seem to argue in favor of animal cruelty, if that be the desire of the owner. Here I think that the interest of the state does override the interest of the owner.

I find the proposed law a bit heavy-handed and would prefer something a bit more fine-tuned. My preference would be to ban the sale of dogs and cats entirely; that would put an end to the worst abuses without intruding upon people like you. Such a law is not feasible at this time, as it would destroy an industry that has money to donate to politicians.

Froblyx   ·  May 7, 2007 1:28 PM

"you seem to argue in favor of animal cruelty, if that be the desire of the owner."

I have written a number of posts condemning animal cruelty, which is already illegal. This has nothing to do with animal cruelty, but involves restricting the freedom of everyone because some people behave in a manner deemed irresponsible.

Selling a dog (especially by a breeder) is no more cruel than giving a dog away, although it might have the effect of being less cruel, because someone who pays for a dog is more likely to be committed to keeping and maintaining it.

I'm not sure I'd call euthanasia by injection "slaughter," because that word means butchering (usually for meat) and that is not what goes on in animal shelters.

Where we seem to disagree is over collective responsibility. I am not responsible for the fact that someone else lets his dog roam any more than I am responsible for feral cats.

There also seems to be an idea that someone who wants, say, a Beagle and buys one from a breeder is "dooming" an animal he does not want. This assumes that he would want what he does not want if his choices were limited by the government. While I don't think that such social engineering should be up to the government, I also don't know why someone who wants a Beagle would want a mutt. If Coco died tomorrow, would you force me to adopt, say, a full-grown poodle that turned up for adoption? Why?
Because of a collective obligation?

Sorry, but I am not a collectivist, and I don't believe in forcing people into artificial choices these situations based on someone's idea of the collective good.

Eric Scheie   ·  May 7, 2007 1:56 PM

I like the distinction you draw between criminalizing the specific act of animal cruelty and criminalizing the failure to neuter on statistical grounds. That's a solid point of discrimination and I think it demolishes my animal cruelty argument -- although I think that the acceptance of animal cruelty laws implies an acceptance of the state's right to intrude into private lives in pursuit of the goal of minimizing animal suffering.

"someone who pays for a dog is more likely to be committed to keeping and maintaining it."

I disagree with this. I don't see any evidence in support of it and certainly the devotion that many owners show to their shelter-sourced dogs argues against that point. I will point in particular to those people who purchase rare breeds for purposes of conspicuous consumption.

"I'm not sure I'd call euthanasia by injection "slaughter,""

You're right. I used the term in its sense of mass murder, but it's not quite the right term. 'Mass killing' would have been better.

"I am not responsible for the fact that someone else lets his dog roam"

Absolutely -- and this is also why I have misgivings about this law. It's a blunt instrument, punishing many innocent people for the sins of a few. However, this principle has been accepted by our society. For example, I am forbidden to possess certain extremely dangerous substances such as radioactive materials or toxins. Why should the government care if I want to have a little plutonium just for kicks? The reason, of course, is that a very few people might use such materials for evil purposes, so we all accept this diminution of our liberty for the common benefit. While dogs are not the same as plutonium, the principle is the same: society imposes some restriction on the individual in pursuit of what it deems to be the greater good.

The problem is always balancing society's interest against the individual's interest. There's no question that the state has a legitimate interest here. But is it great enough to justify the intrusion into the lives of so many innocent people? I can't give an answer to that. Let it be decided through the democratic process.

"If Coco died tomorrow, would you force me to adopt, say, a full-grown poodle that turned up for adoption? Why?"

(Perish the thought. I have two dogs myself.)
No, I would not force you to adopt any particular animal. But I would be willing to require you to choose a dog from among those available at the pound. If no dog strikes your fancy, you can come back in a week, and have a new set of choices. The pound could put you on an email list announcing all new acquisitions. You'd have plenty of choice in such a system.

Froblyx   ·  May 7, 2007 2:17 PM

Honestly, the pet is a possession. It may be living, but it is a possession.

The government's responsibility is to kill the unwanted pets and not to force the owners to neuter or spay them.

You cannot cure the results of failed education and society with heavy handed coercion.

Eric, I believe you are correct, though how many years it might take for that to happen is unknown.

To wit: The less men know truth the more laws are required to make them behave.

You can argue the efficacy of this in regards to reducing the number of pets that need to be slaughtered, but you can not argue that it is ethical.

Liberty is far more important than clean hands.

We don't need the right 'systems' we need less of them.

RiverCocytus   ·  May 7, 2007 2:27 PM

"What kind of country is the United States becoming, that I have to worry about the government invading my home and attacking my dog?"

Look, I love dogs. *LOVE* them--to the point where I currently don't have one because I can't provide the things a good dog needs. I think this bill is heinous and wrong, BUTwe have city, state and federal regulations that try to regulate almost every single thing a person does, from what kind of lightbulbs to "unsafe" firearms, plastic bags in grocery stores to whether you can cut down a tree. In some areas a 3 inch deep puddle that forms for a couple months a year is a "protected wetland" and now you can't landscape. Some places you can't park your RV on the grass, and you're not allowed to pour an extra slab for it. You can't spank your children for fear of a child abuse lawsuit.

Heck, the hospital claimed they wouldn't let us leave with our baby until we had an approved car seat properly installed. I so wanted to pull up in a side-car rig with an approved car seat duct-taped to the rig. Wife wouldn't let me.

Billy Oblivion   ·  May 7, 2007 2:31 PM

Eric, suppose you keep your home in Philadelphia and occasionally visit California? And suppose you bring Coco with you. Will you have to check her ovaries at the border? Make sure you get a receipt!

In addition to the arguments you have previously made, I think a commerce clause argument can be made on a set of facts similar to the above questions. I also think there is an efficacy problem similar to the abortion and gun control issues--only outlaws will have guns, women will have dangerous back-alley abortions, and the irresponsible dog owners who are most likely to contribute to the feral dog animal shelter problems are also the least likely to obey the spay/neuter law.

Under contract law (see Sherwood v. Walker), an animal that can reproduce is fundamentally different from an animal that cannot, and dogs, of course, are property, so there is a 5th Amendment takings argument (maybe not successful, but not irrational).

Finally, there is the definitional issue of "what is a Mutt". To my knowledge, the government does not define Mutt/Pure Breed. There are competing private organizations that so define for their own purposes, but such definitions are totally arbitrary and new definitions are constantly being added for certain dog-interest groups and designer fashions. There is a wider informal use of those definitions in the dog market, but if the bill passes, I predict some intense lobbying for new breed recognition among dog lovers.

tim maguire   ·  May 7, 2007 6:23 PM

It's not 'What kind of country is America becoming?', It's 'What kind of state has California become?'.

I left California years ago. I have no regrets.

Roy E   ·  May 7, 2007 7:04 PM

froblyx pontificates:

>> You'd have plenty of choice in such a system.

Not the choices you'd LIKE to have, but the choices that I've decided to allow you to have. Just trust me, that will be plenty.

>>The problem is always balancing society's
>>interest against the individual's
>>interest....But is it great enough to >>justify the intrusion into the lives of so
>>many innocent people?....Let it be decided
>>through the democratic process.

Let freedom ring!

1bodyand2faces   ·  May 7, 2007 11:16 PM

"Not the choices you'd LIKE to have, but the choices that I've decided to allow you to have. Just trust me, that will be plenty."

The choices that will be available are impossible to predict. From what I have seen of animal shelters, the choices should be pretty wide. I'm sure that there will be some animal shelters that have limited choices at some times of the year. However, what's wrong with waiting a few weeks or months to get the ideal companion whom you'll have for years? And if your attitude is that you absolutely, positively, must have a dog with forelegs exactly 19" long, hair coloring of precisely the correct shade you desire, with exactly the spots and blotches in exactly the right places, and with the ears shaped in exactly the manner you desire -- if that is your demand, then I very much hope that the democratic process denies you this particular liberty.

"Let freedom ring!"

Indeed. But where is the dividing line between libertarianism and anarchism?

Froblyx   ·  May 8, 2007 12:12 AM
"My preference would be to ban the sale of dogs and cats entirely; that would put an end to the worst abuses without intruding upon people like you." - Froblyx

Ok, coolness. Now that we've established what you are over the course of x-number of posts, what size jackboot and armband do you take, sirrah? ;)

You should take pains to dress the part, if only for the duration of the ball.

"Indeed. But where is the dividing line between libertarianism and anarchism?" - Froblyx

Oh, I reckon it falls about the same place between Eric and I as the dividing line between "Rule of Law" and totalitarianism falls between you and Mao?

Jest about fucking zilch, based on Eric's post up there. Welcome Brother Eric, we've been expecting you. I saved you a seat by the coffee pot. ;]

Do hope you don't mind my cutting to the chase on dissecting froblyx's BS about his having any real concern for the rights of owners in this, Eric. I was pressed for time, and that always wears my threadbare diplomatic skills a bit thinner than usual.

Ironbear   ·  May 8, 2007 3:02 AM

Also my proofreading skills, it seems. ;]

Ironbear   ·  May 8, 2007 3:03 AM

"Oh, I reckon it falls about the same place between Eric and I as the dividing line between "Rule of Law" and totalitarianism falls between you and Mao?"

The suggestion that a law forbidding the sale of dogs and cats is tantamount to totalitarianism is hyperbolic. Totalitarianism is very serious stuff that strikes at the heart of the human condition; restrictions on the breeding of dogs and cats do not address what I would call the central issue of the human condition.

Frobly   ·  May 8, 2007 11:21 AM

>>But where is the dividing line between
>>libertarianism and anarchism?

Right about at the point where people claim the right to make decisions regarding OTHER PEOPLE's dogs.

>>restrictions on the breeding of dogs and
>>cats do not address what I would call the >>central issue of the human condition.

Which pretty much gets at the points Eric has been making for years. "I do not consider light bulbs the central issue of the human condition", therefore I will decide for you what light bulbs you may use. "I do not consider eating meat the central issue of the human condition", therefore I will decide for you that you may not eat meat. "I do not consider living in the suburbs (and causing 'suburban sprawl') the central issue of the human condition", "I do not consider the right to choose what car you drive the central issue of the human condition", and "I do not consider gun ownership the central issue of the human condition".

Cool, this works for just about any right we want to deprive people of. Because it's a really, really thin freakin' line between civilization and anarchy. ANARCHY, I tell you! Absolute lawlessness!!!

1bodyand2faces   ·  May 8, 2007 12:50 PM

....and now I see that Hayek put it much better than I can (surprise!) in Eric's RINO post, two posts up.

Or as Frobly(x) would say, "Vanilla ice cream does not address what I call the central issue of the human condition".

1bodyand2faces   ·  May 8, 2007 1:19 PM

"'I do not consider light bulbs the central issue of the human condition', therefore I will decide for you what light bulbs you may use."

The causality upon which the sarcasm relies does not exist. At no point have I stated anything of the kind. The reasoning I see here is little different from the claims that Mr. Bush is a Nazi. My point is that controlling the breeding of dogs is not in and of itself tantamount to totalitarianism. If a person wishes to make the case that controlling the breeding of dogs is in and of itself tantamount to totalitarianism, I will be most interested in seeing the reasoning for that case.

Froblyx   ·  May 8, 2007 1:26 PM

These posts have been interesting reading for me because I don't know much about the current state of the debate regarding spay/neuter laws or the lack thereof.

My questions, as someone who's new to hearing about the debate, are:

How does this differ from legislation regarding animal cruelty? One could reasonably argue that not spaying or neutering your pet actively causes animal cruelty, since it leads directly to more homeless animals (as well as to more wandering animals, when they run away due to breeding urges). Is saying you have to spay or neuter your pet substantively any different from saying you can't beat or otherwise grossly abuse your pet?

One response to the above could be that we're talking about the difference between negative law (no doing X to your pet) and positive law (you must do Y to your pet).

In response to that, I would ask, how is requiring spaying or neutering different from requiring that you educate your children, or any other positive law regarding them? Is it ethically impossible to have a thou-shalt-do-X law regarding a non-human creature?

I'm not really on a side here, just giving my initial reactions and wondering what the responses to them would be.

fencerchica   ·  May 8, 2007 2:00 PM

The distinction that the anti-neutering people draw is between direct cruelty to one's OWN dog and indirect cruelty to some as-yet unborn dog. The distinction has merit, but not enough in my judgement to constitute a compelling argument.

Froblyx   ·  May 8, 2007 2:45 PM

Froblyx:the state does have a legitimate interest in reducing that [killing].


On what basis does the State have an interest in what happens to pets? I don't accept those laws, even though I would never be cruel to an animal. I don't like those laws, because one man's cruelty is another man's inefficient training.


You argue that "the acceptance of animal cruelty laws implies an acceptance of the state's right to intrude into private lives in pursuit of the goal of minimizing animal suffering."


No, it implies the State has a right to set boundaries on treatment, on what people can and cannot do with their property. Those laws do not imply that the State should be able to do anything based on the simple existence of a pet.


Further, your logic implies a tu quoque fallacy: "You can't object to us neutering your dog, because you didn't object when we said you had to feed it."


This whole thing is like saying the State can tear down our buildings not designed by an architect because we didn't object to other zoning laws.

Socrates   ·  May 8, 2007 3:34 PM

"No, it implies the State has a right to set boundaries on treatment, on what people can and cannot do with their property."

Is not mandating neutering just another form of setting boundaries?

"Further, your logic implies a tu quoque fallacy: "You can't object to us neutering your dog, because you didn't object when we said you had to feed it."

No, the logic does not imply that. The acceptance of animal cruelty laws establishes the principle of state intrusion into treatment of animals. It does not justify any particular intrusion. The public may well determine that a particular intrusion goes too far, and will reject that intrusion. My point is, if you argue that the state cannot intrude into your treatment of your pet because your pet is your property, then your argument has already been demolished by the acceptance of animal cruelty laws. ONLY that argument. You can still raise a reasonable objection that the intrusion goes too far, or that it accomplishes little, or that it is impractical.

Froblyx   ·  May 8, 2007 3:54 PM

Jeeze.
And gimme a break!
The state has already gone too far in its mandates. Next they'll be fining you for not
brushing your teeth twice a day!
It is no one's effn business what or how many
dogs, cats, pigs, birds, etc a body owns.
The line should have been drawn long ago, and
anyone crossing it should have been scotched.
Give these bastids an inch and every time they'll take a mile.
As to outlawing the breeding of dogs and cats, well instead let the outlawing of breathing be passed for those stupid enough
to suggest such insanity.

Winchester1886   ·  May 8, 2007 4:41 PM

...your argument has already been demolished by the acceptance of animal cruelty laws.

A) I do not "accept" those laws, except in the sense of abiding by them because the government of the place of which I am a citizen carries them as baggage.

B) Acceptance of those laws, even supposing that I fully endorsed them, does not endow the State with authority to enact any further restrictions on my property rights.

C) There is a fundamental difference between taking minimal care of an animal and rendering it incapable of reproducing. In another context, we'd call that mutilation.

I'm not sure I've fully made my point, but I have other things to do. I posted on this elsewhere.

Socrates   ·  May 8, 2007 4:52 PM

Socrates:
Isn't it ironic that the left proposes to interfere with 10,000 years, perhaps 100,000 years of human breeding of dogs, while at the same time they have pushed us into primitivism?
The thing to do now is have a tattoo; if Caucausian and of norhtern Europen descent, it must be one of Celtic design. If of African descent, the design should resemble some primitive animal motif.
Yet, the tribal collective now dictates the castration of dogs, the guardians of the clan.
I wonder what Jean Auel thinks of this mutation in humanoid thought.
Perhaps it's the result of a long hidden & supressed gene?
Whatever the thinking behind this, it breaks with human history and is beyond radical.



Frank   ·  May 9, 2007 12:09 AM

"Isn't it ironic that the left proposes to interfere with 10,000 years, perhaps 100,000 years of human breeding of dogs"

There's a huge difference between the slow artificial selection of pre-modern times and the manic artificial selection currently practiced. The earliest factors favored social bonding with humans and neotony. More important, in the last fifty years, natural selection factors for health and longevity have been overridden. Now, it's true that the dramatic increase in life expectancy due to improved veterinary care has brought to the fore various genetic factors that were not selected for in ancient times. Nevertheless, the strong selection factors in ancient times in favor of overall good health have been seriously eroded in modern times.

Current breeding practices deny or even reverse the selection factors of the ages.

Froblyx   ·  May 9, 2007 11:32 AM

Froblyx:
It really doesn't matter about breeding practices present verses past. What matters is individual choice that was available then, and what you, and people like you propose to curtail now.
What gives YOU the right to dictate to us your individual preferences?
A gun aimed at our heads by the state, that's what.
As to your lame assertion that animal cruelty laws somehow give extention to any and all state regulated practices, your reasoning (assuming you have that ability) is completely off the mark.
Did you ever think that perhaps animal cruelty laws were not enacted to protect animals at all? That just maybe they were put in place to protect us from THOSE would abuse animals?
If the protection of animals was the motive of these laws, we wouldn't have slaughter houses and meat on our tables, idiot!

Frank   ·  May 13, 2007 1:14 AM

Correction to the post above (sorry):
"That just maybe they were put in place to protect us from THOSE who take pleasure in abusing animals?"

Frank   ·  May 13, 2007 1:20 AM

"What gives YOU the right to dictate to us your individual preferences?"

Absolutely nothing. However, I am not attempting to dictate my individual preferences; a political bloc is making that attempt, and if that political bloc can muster enough votes, then it most certainly does have that right. It's called democracy.

"As to your lame assertion that animal cruelty laws somehow give extention to any and all state regulated practices,"

I made no such assertion. I instead asserted that animal cruelty laws establish the principle that the state has the right to intervene in an owner's treatment of his animals.

"Did you ever think that perhaps animal cruelty laws were not enacted to protect animals at all? That just maybe they were put in place to protect us from THOSE who take pleasure in abusing animals?"

Animal cruelty laws do not provide citizens with any protection. They protect animals, not citizens.

Froblyx   ·  May 13, 2007 11:03 AM

"I am not attempting to dictate my individual preferences; a political bloc is making that attempt, and if that political bloc can muster enough votes, then it most certainly does have that right. It's called democracy."

It might be called democracy, but if it encroaches too far on the rights of the individual, it's also properly called tyranny. Jim Crow laws, sodomy laws, laws against "miscegenation," and confiscatory gun control laws are but a few examples. IMO, so is the burgeoning confiscatory dog control movement.

And actually, when a law is passed by the legislature, it is not pure democracy, but representative (republican) democracy.

If AB 1634 were on the ballot, I doubt it would pass.

Eric Scheie   ·  May 13, 2007 11:20 AM

"if it encroaches too far on the rights of the individual, it's also properly called tyranny."

Ah, but how do we define "too far"? This is an inherently subjective issue. How are we to resolve the unavoidable subjectivity? We usually resort to the Constitution to answer this question; if the Constitution gives no answer, then the next avenue is to ask the people, either through their elected representatives or through the initiative process. I am happy with either outcome. If AB 1634 fails, that's fine with me: it's the will of the people (to our best determination). If AB 1634 passes and a popular initiative overturns it, that's even better: the will of the people has been even more clearly expressed. I applaud your efforts to resist it; I myself would give it weak support. But I respect the democratic process and will be happy with whatever results from it.

Froblyx   ·  May 13, 2007 12:58 PM

I've explained in detail why I think AB 1634 is unconstitutional.

Eric Scheie   ·  May 13, 2007 2:14 PM
"The suggestion that a law forbidding the sale of dogs and cats is tantamount to totalitarianism is hyperbolic." - Frobly

*gasp* Not... not.. not... HYPERBOLIC!!! (00) Egads.

And here I was thinking it was pejorative. Silly me.

Hate to break this to you, chup, but I wasn't making a "suggestion". I was stating a declarative.

Should I use smaller words next time? ;)

Umm... is it just me, or did you misplace an "x" somewhere?

Ironbear   ·  May 14, 2007 9:43 AM

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