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Pet Friendly House

Going Too Far? How Much Input Should the Government Have in a Pet Owner’s Home?

Picture of dog looking at a woman that's sitting on the bed

You love your pets. In fact, you bristle to use the term “pet” at all as it’s an inadequate term to describe the relationship you’ve built with the animals in your home. They aren’t pets to you; they are cherished family members. They share your home. They sleep on your furniture, and every now and again, they even share your bed. It goes without saying that the thought of anyone harming an animal is more than you can bear. You are thankful that societies exist to address cruelty and prevent suffering, and you support them wholeheartedly. Yet in today’s political climate, are things starting to go too far? With left wing animal rights groups clamoring for an end to breeding, and ultimately, “pet ownership” as a whole, the government is inserting itself more and more into the lives of pet owners, seemingly dictating even the most minute details of their lives to them. When is enough, enough? Just how much input should the government have in a pet owner’s home?

How far could things go?

When life is humming along nicely, it’s hard to imagine that things could take a dramatic turn for the worse. Yet change sometimes happens very subtly. A small tweak here and a little adjustment there, and before you know it, many of the rights and freedoms you have enjoyed as a pet owner have simply been taken away.

How does this happen?

When heartstrings become involved, reason sometimes goes out the window. Having a heart tender to the need of animals in distress is critical; of this, there is no question. However, it is all too easy to project human emotions onto an animal and to make the assumption that their feelings and reactions are akin to our own. This is particularly troublesome when these assumptions are based on an image out of context. We cannot possibly know the circumstances that transpired prior to the photo or after it was captured. Without context, we are only glimpsing a very small portion of the total picture. Our perceptions may be correct, but they may also be completely wrong.

There is no doubt that animals experience pain, and they are also capable of love, attachment, jealousy, and many other feelings that humans also undergo on a daily basis. However, no matter how much we may love them, they are not human. It is important to bear this in mind.

Animal rights activists today claim to be a voice for the animals. They aspire to be a voice for the voiceless. But are they assuming too much? Do they really understand what the animals they claim to protect really need?

Animal rights activists use powerful imagery to induce intense reactions in potential supporters. After all; to continue their work, they require funding. Who isn’t moved to open their chequebook at the sight of an animal hurting, presumably as a result of human hands? Yet, many animal rights agencies don’t just aim to alleviate the suffering of animals who are sick, hurting, or abused. Their ultimate goal is to seek to end a relationship they view as unfairly inequal: that of an owner to his dog or cat. They assume that there is a master-servant relationship at play, and that the subservient party (the animal) is not happy in his given role since it was not one of his own choosing. This is faulty logic at best.

But, unfortunately, our government, who is given the responsibility to protect those who cannot adequately protect themselves, listens well to the compelling agenda of animal rights activists; some of whom often border on the verge of zealotry. Eager to end any potential for suffering, they cling to far-fetched proposals of left wing supporters and race to enact legislation that is overreaching. These proposed amendments strip homeowners of their basic rights to privacy, instilling an atmosphere of perpetual fear in honest, upstanding citizens. They propose awarding power to parties without the skill to adequately fulfil their job duties and without a third party governance to provide oversight, accountability, and performance reviews. Without these checks and balances in place, the countries best known for freedom and individual liberties are at risk of becoming a police state. Many feel this is an alarmist reaction, but the sands are already shifting in favor of this direction.

In a region not too far from what we call home, the following changes to an act designed to protect animals have been proposed: 

Changing the name of “Owner” to “Custodian”
This seemingly innocent change has far-reaching implications for families with pets. Words do matter, and the word “owner” carries an important connotation of both care and responsibility. It also insinuates rights and privileges.

While pets are not equivalent to human children, there are many parallels between the two. A custodian merely manages something they don’t own until they return it (or vacate the premises) to its rightful owner. If you have a maid in charge of cleaning your home, she has access to your home and cleaning supplies during a specified time to do a specified job, and no more. She is not at liberty to allow people into your home nor to take things from it. She is also not at liberty to give your home away to another who requests it or to use it in any manner other than to do the agreed upon work. It is the same with a custodian of a pet. They are entrusted to care for your pet in the prescribed manner, be it grooming, dog day care, or even a veterinary visit, for a specified amount of time and for a set fee. They are not given any more authority than that. They cannot give your dog away, sell your dog, or authorize any procedures or activities outside of the mandate agreed upon by the two of you prior to relinquishing your pet to their care. And they most certainly cannot allow your pet to leave the premises with a third party without your consent.

This is a dramatic difference between the role of an owner in a pet’s life. Though the government may insist there is no change in sentiment, there most certainly is, and you can bet there will also be a change in legal rights and ramifications as well should this change be made law.

Bestowing full ownership privileges on any person in possession of the animal, regardless of their relationship to the animal
It is essential that pet owners entrust their pets to the care of others for various different services that they, themselves, cannot provide. These pet service providers are screened with the utmost of care, and many pet owners even require references of potential caregivers.

Changing the terms of the law from owner to custodian bestows extraordinary rights to pet professionals who are merely providing a singular service to an animal. The custodian does not want the additional burden, and the owner certainly doesn’t wish to relinquish that level of control to an outside party. After all, service providers such as groomers and day care owner are contracted for a very specific job. They do not possess advanced knowledge of the health records of each pet entrusted to their care, and thus cannot possibly know an animal’s medical history or current treatment regimes, if any.

Would you find it objectionable for your dog to be seized from a caregiver without your knowledge? Would you give consent to a third party for your dog to receive treatment, be subject to testing, or even euthanized without your direct consultation and input? A change to the word “custodian” would not only make this possible, it would place the full support of the law behind it. 

Forced inspections of animals on private property without cause
No one disagrees that animals should be protected to the fullest extent of the law. Nor would anyone argue that animal control officers should have full authority to investigate suspected cases or complaints of animal abuse, suffering, or cruelty. But simply put, would you object to a person in authority coming to your home and without just cause asking you to bring your children out onto your front lawn for an inspection? Left wing parties argue that if you have nothing to hide, you would simply comply without complaint as you have nothing to fear. In what part of the world is it considered acceptable conduct for an unauthorized person to enter a private property and make demands without even a hint of misconduct having occurred? Since when are random inspections by personnel without even a basic knowledge of proper medical care for pets considered normal and appropriate conduct?

If cruelty, neglect, or mistreatment is suspected, the powers that be should have the freedom to perform an inspection to the fullest extent of the law. But law-abiding animal lovers deserve respect, protection, and the same rights that are extended to citizens who own property but who do not welcome pets into their homes. Simply put, this proposed amendment is an unjust invasion of privacy. Under the law, we are still innocent until proven guilty.

Permission for animal control officers to enter a private residence without the homeowner’s permission or presence, without a warrant, and without cause
In today’s legal climate, the police do not have the authority to enter a home without a warrant. This includes strong suspicion and even evidence that a felony has occurred in which the homeowner is implicated. If the police cannot enter the private residence of a potential murder suspect without first procuring a warrant, why should an animal control officer be permitted to break into a home without just cause and without the homeowner on the grounds? This is granting far too much power to any one agency and is unconstitutional in scope.

With sufficient cause and the proper legal paperwork in hand, no one would have an issue with a visit from an animal control officer. However, for one to simply surmise that something might be occurring and then enter a private dwelling on a hunch is a violation of basic human rights.

Seizure of any animals that don’t meet the Animal Control officer’s definition of a properly cared for animal

If a person is harming or neglecting an animal, there is no question that that person should not be allowed to own an animal and should also be subject to criminal charges. It is unconscionable to permit, induce, or fail to alleviate suffering in a living being, be it human or animal. However, an animal control officer who visits a home unannounced is seeing an animal taken out of context, and thus, does not have all of the facts to make a true assessment as to the state of the animal, in most cases. For example, many animals suffer from allergies. Allergies are particularly difficult to pinpoint and to treat, and as such, animals who suffer with them are prone to flareups which can leave them with bald patches and open sores on their bodies in spite of the best ongoing veterinary treatment money can buy. If an animal control officer stopped by on a surprise inspection and saw a dog in such a state, he or she may assume the dog is in this condition as a result of neglect and seize the dog. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth! The dog is well-loved, being cared for, and under proper and thorough veterinary treatment and care.

In addition to this, animals do not always respond well to the presence of a stranger. If called out into the front of their home near an owner who is extremely distressed, animals that are normally mild-mannered may react in a way that is completely out of character for them. They may even bite. Should their behavior be judged when under such extreme and unusual conditions? Is it possible that a beautiful, well-tempered family pet could be deemed a dangerous dog when his only crime was in protecting his beloved owner from what he sees as an attack from an outside party?

Purposefully left grey areas subject to personal interpretation of law
Intentional grey areas are always problematic. Laws put things in black and white for people to clearly understand. When there are areas within an act that are subject to interpretation, it leaves people uncertain, and it is very difficult to function well without established guidelines to follow. People are then vulnerable to potential lawsuits due to an animal control agent’s different interpretation of the law. Whether or not a court of law would uphold that interpretation is irrelevant as the time and money lost, not to mention the stress incurred, to fight the case takes a deep toll on an individual’s health and well-being. No one should be subjected to this.

Strict legislation regarding what is defined as “cosmetic surgery” for companion animals while still permitting the same surgeries to legally be performed on farm animals
Whether or not you agree with what is termed “cosmetic surgery” for companion animals is not the issue at stake here. The issue is that if it is cruel and unnecessary for companion animals then the same holds true for farm animals. The law must be clear and consistent for both sides of the equation. 

Making it lawful to stop any vehicle at any time for an inspection of the animals in it
We are all quite used to police checks on holidays. Roadside stops where officers inspect vehicles for up to date license and inspection stickers, and potential drug and/or alcohol use, are a routine part of our society. However, being stopped simply because you have an animal in your vehicle is not something we are used to. It perplexes us because we don’t understand why we are being stopped or what an officer is looking for. This is yet another infringement on personal liberties. Will an officer take our dog away if he finds vomit from a pet whose tummy was upset from a car ride, assuming it is neglect? What about an animal who is injured or sick and on its way to the vet? Is the pampered pooch asleep beside you on the passenger seat neglected in the eyes of the law because he is not crated or safely buckled in? All of these things weigh heavily on the minds of pet owners who DO want to do everything to ensure the safety of their pets as well as to comply with the law. 

Awarding animal welfare omnipotence to minimally qualified individuals
We need animal control officers, and their job is not easy. However, it is also important that these individuals be properly trained to effectively do their jobs. The minimum requirements for an animal control worker are shockingly low. How can we entrust people to make medical decisions who have no formal veterinary training whatsoever? Are the people the government proposes giving such totalitarian authority to knowledgeable in canine and feline behavior? These skills are critical for someone who is given such power. This position cannot be left in the hands of a novice at best. 

What can we do?

Think these things sound extreme? If only it were so. In a community not so far from where you live, these changes have been proposed and are under serious consideration. Concerned citizens and breeders are lobbying for this bill to be brought back to the table for further discussion. There is no question that the animal protection acts of the land do require restructuring and much of the language should be tightened up. However, care must also be taken not to grant more authority than is necessary to achieve this goal. Good, loving pet owners should not be infringed upon or punished because evil exists in our midst.

If we do not want to become a police state, what can we do to stop it? Here are a few things that concerned citizens can do to help enact a fair and balanced law:

  • Stay on top of all animal-related legislation in your area
  • Write your government officials
  • Join your local SPCA and let your voice be heard
  • Stand up for your rights by speaking at policy hearings

WE must be the voice for our own pets. There is no question that animal cruelty must be prevented, and stopped, if at all possible. But we don’t have to give up all of our rights in order for this to be accomplished. We must work WITH the government to achieve legislation that is balanced and equitable for all.

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2 comments

Joel C. Brothers September 27, 2018 at 1:00 pm

Most of the things you purport are not even under legal consideration. It would probably be political suicide. You greatly over-estimate the influence of PETA, and other Animal Rights lobbies on Congress. They have been dismally unsuccessful on most of their campaigns,. Hunting is still legal, as is logging, rodeo, livestock production, and the legal ownership of pets and other animals with all the rights that entails, with the exception of animals that are regarded as unusually dangerous, threatened, or represent a possible environmental threat., At present, pet owners are in no danger of losing their rights to their animals.

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David September 27, 2018 at 2:12 pm

Actually in the province of New Brunswick… the types of changes mentioned in the article have just been passed into law. You can read about the bill here: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/breeder-animal-protection-spca-dogs-cats-bill-27-proposed-law-1.4826817

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