The Dog Warden is Coming for You

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Jon Rowe

Jon Rowe is a full Professor of Business at Mercer County Community College, where he teaches business, law, and legal issues relating to politics. Of course, his views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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46 Responses

  1. Avatar El Muneco
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    says:

    Monty Python had a sketch which, in part, lampooned the “TV Detector Van”, which supposedly came through neighborhoods scanning for TVs operating in houses that hadn’t paid their BBC license fee. By humorously extending the concept to a “Cat Detector Van” – everyone could see how ludicrous it was when applied to pets, so is it any less ridiculous applied to TVs?

    This was forty-six years ago.Report

  2. Avatar Will H.
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    says:

    The rule here is no unlicensed vehicles in the drive. No plates, it goes in the garage.
    I’ve seen places with a “no vehicle on blocks or a jack” ordinances.Report

  3. Avatar Badtux
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    says:

    So the question is, why is there a requirement in 47 states and the District of Columbia that dogs and cats be vaccinated, anyhow? Quite clearly it’s a vast Big Brother conspiracy in all 47 of those states to penalize dog owners, a law passed simply because they could pass a law, right?

    Uhm, well…. no. Not exactly. Rabies kills thousands per year in nations where dogs are not vaccinated. It’s a very horrific death, and 99% fatal once symptoms start. It kills half a dozen per year in the US, mostly due to bat bites. The problem with dogs and rabies is that dogs can bite not only you and spread rabies to you, but they can spread rabies to your friends, relatives, children, etc. also. You might have the right to risk yourself getting rabies. But you have no right to risk those other people getting rabies from your unvaccinated dog.

    So those other people at risk of getting rabies from your unvaccinated dog got together and passed a law to force you to vaccinate your dog. Because you have a right to be as rabid as you want. But you don’t have a right to risk other people becoming rabid because you decided not to vaccinate your dog.

    I.e., your right to endanger people stops at the end of your nose. You have a right (IMHO if not in law) to endanger yourself any way you want. But once your reckless behavior starts endangering others, that’s where your rights stop, and their rights begin.Report

    • Avatar El Muneco in reply to Badtux
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      says:

      Because we as a culture value other people’s pets more than other people’s children.Report

    • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to Badtux
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      says:

      A person not getting vaccinated, or not vaccinating their children, also endangers others. (And, not being a libertarian, I’m not particulary opposed to making vaccination mandatory except when there’s a valid medical reason why it can’t be done.)Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Badtux
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      says:

      The issue is not the licensing, its the proposed mechanism of enforcement (going door to door to verify..Report

      • Avatar Badtux in reply to Oscar Gordon
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        says:

        It appears that it’s going to be more of an informational visit and the dog wardens are not going to enter homes, they’re just going to knock and remind people that animals need to be vaccinated and licensed.. Note that Pennsylvania is in the midst of a rabies outbreak right now, with dozens of cases reported in multiple areas of the state. Also note that historically, Pennsylvania had no mandatory vaccination law for dogs, it was not until 1986 that they passed their first mandatory vaccination law and the law was only recently modified in 2013.

        There’s been widespread criticism of Pennsylvania authorities’ response to the rabies outbreak, one criticism being that they’ve taken no outreach steps to educate the public on the need for rabies vaccination of domestic animals. There’s a lot of people in Pennsylvania who’ve never even heard of the law. This appears to be such an outreach program, rather than some sort of Gestapo situation of dog wardens breaking in doors to roust people out of beds to prove their animals are vaccinated. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture emphasizes that no dog warden will enter any home. I have no reason to doubt that they’re telling the truth.Report

        • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to Badtux
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          says:

          But… but… libertarian panic is so much more fun! (And downright fashionable around these parts)Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Badtux
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          says:

          The county did something similar a few years ago. It was very polite and was clearly an effort to inform & facilitate licensing (they would grant a temporary license on the spot, which of course got you in the system).

          Thing was, the people going door to door looked like volunteers, not uniformed officers. Made the interaction non-threatening. Not sure if that is what Pennsylvania is doing (article is behind a registration wall).Report

    • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Badtux
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      says:

      Because you have a right to be as rabid as you want.

      I am not entirely sure that is true. It is possibly true for rabies, which is not contagious from human to human. (From human to anything, really.)

      Humans do not go insane and bite other people, no matter how much zombie movies seem to wish they would.(1)

      But you don’t have the right to be, for example, as ebola as you want. If you have ebola, we will, in fact, detain you as a danger to others, aka, quarantine you.

      1) OTOH, people with rabies will *eventually* become delusional, so, despite the lack of *biting* (and contagion) this results in, they will start posing a danger to *themselves*, at minimum, and probably to others. So, yeah, you wander around with uncured rabies, you would end up committed (Or at least in a condition where you *could* legally be committed) *even if* you refuse medical treatment. And then you will die, because at that point, it is way too late to start treatment. Assuming you didn’t die *before* that.Report

  4. Avatar Joe Sal
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    says:

    “by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so.”Report

  5. Avatar Damon
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    says:

    My vet won’t see animals without certain immunizations. I don’t recall what they are, but there are less vaxes required between cats who stay inside the house and those that don’t. My state also requires all pets to be micro chipped, which I will not do. My cats don’t leave the house, there is no need.

    Given how some counties in my state operate covenants enforcement, ie measuring the grass and writing fines, I’d be leery of anyone coming to to my door “for informational purposes” or anything else. And Jon, don’t answer the door.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Damon
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      says:

      Damon: My vet won’t see animals without certain immunizations

      It’s not the vet’s job to *give* immunizations?Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Vikram Bath
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        says:

        To continue to be a customer, the vet insists that certain immunizations be given to the animal. I don’t recall all of them, but let’s say, rabies is mandatory. Feline leukemia is not, as the cat doesn’t go outside the house. Stuff like that.Report

        • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Damon
          Ignored
          says:

          Ah. Thanks, that makes sense.

          Over here, you can’t even get a date with the hairdresser without a letter from your vet saying you’re up to date on a variety of things. Same goes for kennels. And it’s something like three vaccinations. Somehow I remember as a kid rabies being the only one that mattered.Report

  6. Avatar Kim
    Ignored
    says:

    PA game wardens are allowed into homes without warrants, to search for poached meat.
    If we’re going to panick about something, can we panick about something real, plz?Report

  7. Avatar Kazzy
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    says:

    I don’t think the analogy holds. If your car is unregistered, uninspected, and unfit for the road but sits idle in your garage, it poses essentially zero threat to anyone.

    But if you have an unlicensed and unsafe dog, you can’t guarantee that it remains on your property and therefore it does pose a risk.

    That said, this assumes that the licensing system ensures unsafe dogs are kept away from the public. I don’t know enough about the system to know whether this is reasonable, but my gut tells me it isn’t.

    To boil it down, I couldn’t care less if my neighbor keeps an old beater in his garage. I do care if my neighbor keeps an unlicensed and potentially violent pit bull in his basement. That thing could get out and harm me or my children.

    ETA: Does that justify these inspections? Not necessarily. Just that I don’t think comparing dogs to cars is particularly useful.Report

    • Avatar Iron Tum in reply to Kazzy
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      says:

      Advocating for the mandatory incarceration of the mentally ill in 3… 2… 1…Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Iron Tum
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        says:

        Because the mentally ill are dogs (which are basically cars).Report

        • Avatar Iron Tum in reply to Kazzy
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          says:

          You’re worried about a dog escaping from a basement, but not a person with opposable thumbs who can operate a gun, a gas can, a lighter and a motor vehicle?

          How many people have been killed by the mentally ill v. dogs?

          And you’re worried about which one, exactly?Report

          • Avatar Badtux in reply to Iron Tum
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            says:

            You do realize that the mentally ill commit fewer violent crimes per capita than the mentally able, right? We already have laws that say that the violent mentally ill can be involuntarily institutionalized until they are no longer a threat to others. Are you saying we don’t need / shouldn’t have those laws?

            I suppose the next question is, if there was a vaccine that could prevent people from becoming mentally ill in the first place, would it be acceptable to have mandatory vaccination of all schoolchildren to prevent them from becoming mentally ill?Report

            • Avatar Art Deco in reply to Badtux
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              says:

              You do realize that the mentally ill commit fewer violent crimes per capita than the mentally able, right?

              No, I don’t realize that, nor do I believe it.Report

              • Avatar Badtux in reply to Art Deco
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                says:

                Reality does not require you to believe it. Reality simply is.

                Google “mentally ill violent crime” if you’re interested in facts. I’m not interested in doing your homework for you. The first link, in particular, has links to dozens of studies showing that the mentally ill are far more likely to be victims rather than perpetrators of violent crime. The violent mentally ill are a very small subset of the mentally ill, which is why we have laws that allow involuntary institutionalization of the violent mentally ill if they pose a threat to others yet have a quite small number of people involuntarily institutionalized under those laws.

                But I suppose making decisions based on prejudice and ignorance is far preferable to making decisions based on reality. Carry on, then!Report

              • Avatar Art Deco in reply to Badtux
                Ignored
                says:

                1. Define ‘mentally ill’ and

                2. Tell me where they reside. and

                3. Tell me with whom they reside. and

                4. Tell me for what other factors you are controlling.Report

              • Avatar Badtux in reply to Art Deco
                Ignored
                says:

                Excuse me, but it’s not my job to educate you before you go off making stupid statements about things you know nothing about. I’m just some guy on the Internet. You should no more believe me than you should believe Donald Trump. I told you how to find all that information, i.e., how to fish. Go fish. The truth is out there, kimo sabe… and please do report back to us with the statistics in question. Or not. Whatever.Report

        • Avatar Iron Tum in reply to Kazzy
          Ignored
          says:

          The point is “that which scaresez me should be illegal,” or as you put it:

          I do care if my neighbor keeps an unlicensed and potentially violent pit bull in his basement. That thing could get out and harm me or my children.

          Proves way, WAY too much. And that’s not even considering how the “unlicenced” is supposed to have anything at all to do with dog safety.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Iron Tum
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            says:

            I’ve noted that licensure does not equate to safety. But I stopped short of saying that the dogs should be killed or confiscated. Only that the state — acting on behalf of its citizens — have more of a vested interest in potentially dangerous animals than potentially dangerous cars, primarily because the “potential” is far greater in the former than the latter.

            Furthermore, dogs are not people do not have the same rights as people. I, personally, am far more willing to accept the risks that come with other people exercising their freedom to exist than I am the risks that come with dogs existing. If you feel differently, such is your right, but that doesn’t make my argument anything close to one for institutionalizing the mentally ill.Report

            • Avatar Iron Tum in reply to Kazzy
              Ignored
              says:

              Only that the state — acting on behalf of its citizens — have more of a vested interest in potentially dangerous animals than potentially dangerous cars, primarily because the “potential” is far greater in the former than the latter.

              And people are vastly more dangerous than either. Again, the problem is that your justification has no limiting principle. There’s nothing intrinsic to it that prevents someone from expanding it to people.

              Furthermore, dogs are not people do not have the same rights as people.

              Well, dogs have more rights than inanimate property. And children have fewer rights than adults (but more than fetuses). And the mentally ill (and/or mentally/developmentally disabled) have fewer rights than “competent” adults. So “we” as a US-ian society have already determined that some categories of people aren’t fully human vis-a-vis legal rights, responsibilities, and powers.

              Just where, on this sliding scale of dangerousness and legal personhood are the intersections for “licensing” and “pre-emptive incarceration?”Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Iron Tum
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                says:

                Strawman and slippery slope all you want. I object to analogizing cars to dogs and I object to analogizing dogs to humans, neuro-typical or otherwise. Noting that the state has a vested interest in the safety of its citizens is not an iron clad statement impervious to argument but taking it to an extreme end that I vehemently disagree with and insisting it is in fact what I advocate for reveals you to be a dishonest debater.

                There is a perpetual tension and balance between freedom and risk. Yes, humans of all stripes pose greater risk than dogs. But humans hold greater rights and claims to freedom. Do I think the state can restrict individual human’s freedoms based on demonstrable risk? Yes. I don’t think this is controversial: we jail murderers and rapists and rightly so.

                Given that dogs do not enjoy rights — no right to due process, no right to life or liberty or pursuit of happiness — AND that dogs can pose any numbers of risks inspite of their owner’s best efforts, they are categorically different than both cars and humans.Report

              • Avatar Iron Tum in reply to Kazzy
                Ignored
                says:

                Given that dogs do not enjoy rights

                Talk to Michael Vick about that one.

                Look, you made a (I’m assuming) a glib and thoughtless argument. An argument that has historically used to do really horrible things, from forced sterilization, to Korematsu, to HIV patients and transgendered folk (to name a couple of things that you should have witness directly).

                You could have done a number of things when you were called on it.

                You chose to call me dishonest.

                Right back at’chaReport

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Iron Tum
                Ignored
                says:

                What was my thoughtless argument? That dogs aren’t cars and that states have a legitimate interest in the safety of its citizens? You can engage with what I’ve actually said or toss stones. You chose the latter.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy
                Ignored
                says:

                Again, my argument is as follows:

                1.) Comparing cars to dogs is a poor analogy because the latter has agency and an ability to cause harm absent a human that is not present with the former.
                2.) As such, arguments for handling potentially unsafe cars make poor arguments for handling potentially unsafe dogs.
                3.) That said, this licensing plan is likely ineffective in addressing the potential risk that unsafe dogs pose.
                4.) The state can take legitimate steps to address the potential risk that unsafe dogs pose as part of its duty to protect the safety of its citizens.

                There is room to disagree and take umbrage with each and everyone one of those arguments. But no honest reading of them even begins to approach “[a]dvocating for the mandatory incarceration of the mentally ill.”Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Iron Tum
                Ignored
                says:

                Just where, on this sliding scale of dangerousness and legal personhood are the intersections for “licensing” and “pre-emptive incarceration?”

                Only the Precogs know.Report

          • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Iron Tum
            Ignored
            says:

            Proves way, WAY too much. And that’s not even considering how the “unlicenced” is supposed to have anything at all to do with dog safety.

            Yeah, I’d like to know that also.

            I’m all for requiring the licensing of pets, BTW…I’m just completely baffled as to what the hell that has to do with stopping *dangerous* animals.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Kazzy
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      says:

      I’m vaccinated but unlicensed. (Another reason I need a pseudonym!) How much does one have to do with the other?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath
        Ignored
        says:

        @vikram-bath @davidtc

        My concern is less with vaccinations and more with dangerous breeds. If dog licensure is required, we’ll know if the guy on the corner has 30 pitbulls and can look into that. And if he isn’t licensed but his neighbors say, “Hey, this guy has a ton of dogs,” or “Hey, this guy’s dogs keep attacking people,” the state has a path to intervene.

        Again, my argument isn’t that this or any particular licensure program ensures safety… Only that the state has a vested interested in certain pet ownership.Report

        • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Kazzy
          Ignored
          says:

          I have to admit that doesn’t make much sense to me. “Hey, this guy has a ton of dogs,” isn’t, in my view, a valid complaint in the first place. And I’m curious if police departments would actually research whether the dogs are licensed before stopping by.

          “Hey, this guy’s dogs keep attacking people,” is actionable in any case, licensed or not.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath
            Ignored
            says:

            Maybe I’m off-base. As a not-fan of dogs, I’m heavily inclined to favoring people over dogs.

            If I noticed my neighbor had an inordinate amount of large, aggressive dogs in my yard, I’d be inclined to call it in and ask if such a thing was kosher. If the authorities could say, “Well that guy is only licensed for 5. You say he has how many?” that’d help protect MY interests. And if they went further and said only X number of Y breed absent a certain facility for their car, even better. All of that becomes enforceable via licensing.Report

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