by Dave McKague
My Dog Teaches … The Price of Freedom
Freedom does not come for free. There is always some cost involved. Throughout history, men and women have laid down their lives to attain it or to defend it. In more civilized times when we have progressed above bare-bones survival, it becomes too easy to take for granted. But we do so at our own peril, for if we do, freedom will be lost.
The Ontario government under Michael Bryant’s stewardship as Attorney General seems to be intent on trampling on the rights and freedoms we assume are inherent in this country. And you can be sure that if they have been so eager to restrict the rights of one particular minority, other examples abound.
The government spin-doctors have created the illusion that the Dog Owners Liability Act only affects pit bull-owning criminals. That would be wishful thinking. (Historically, the best way to reduce freedom is to convince a large percentage of the public that a particular law does not affect them – and then use it against them, even if only as a threat.)
This law states that any dog owner may be charged if it is alleged that, "the dog has on one or more occasions behaved in a manner that poses a menace to the safety of persons or domestic animals". "Menacing behavior" is undefined. Anyone who has been around dogs even slightly knows that all dogs display aggression to other dogs at some point or other – it’s how they establish the boundaries of behavior between themselves – and thus that every single dog owner could be charged under this vague criterion. If your dog barks at strangers, that could be menacing behavior. Chases cats? Menacing behavior. Growls at the mail delivery person? Menacing behavior. (And for those who are irrationally afraid of dogs, all dogs may be menacing no matter the circumstances.)
The law allows for seizure of your dog in any public place. It also allows for search of your home and seizure without a warrant. And, despite the fact that identifying breed confounds even the most well informed experts, the onus is on you to prove that your dog is not a "pit bull" (an impossibility for most dog owners) if it has been improperly identified by an over-zealous, biased or misinformed public official.
If you have a dog, I sure hope you don’t have any enemies and get along with all your neighbors. This is the type of law that can allow one person to use public officials to harass and intimidate others (using tax-payers’ money, of course).
"Paranoia," you say? Perhaps a little. But if an ill-conceived and badly written law is on the books, you can be assured that it will be badly used, as it has been throughout the province. (We will look at some examples in future Petitorials.)
If I play ball with Hunny, the government of Ontario can unleash its full might against me with the law on its side and order her to be destroyed. My only defense is to plead for common sense … and common decency. My only weapon is the knowledge I have on the subject. My only hope is that the other person will listen.
Do I want to break the law? Absolutely not! But the government has placed me and every other dog owner in the province in a vulnerable position where normal everyday behavior of our dogs is a criminal offense. Because I have a "restricted dog", in order to comply with the spirit of the law – to have a well trained and socialized dog that will not be a threat – I have to break the letter of the law. (And everyone should know that Labrador Retrievers and Dalmatians have been among the dogs misidentified and killed for being "pit bulls".) I will not condemn Hunny to a miserable life where she cannot get the exercise she needs and cannot socialize with other people and dogs. In making this decision, I have to live every day with the gruesome possibility that she may be taken away and killed just because someone sees us playing ball.
I could also be imprisoned for up to six months, fined $10,000 and have to spend many more thousands of dollars in court. In fact, I might have to face a team of high-priced government lawyers sent in by the Attorney General’s office, as they have already done in several small and inconsequential municipal cases involving "pit bulls", often against people who cannot afford a lawyer and who are representing themselves. Evidently, no taxpayer expense is being spared in the attempt to "prove" the Attorney General right.
For me, this is the potential cost of freedom that I have to be prepared to pay.
If you are a dog owner (and/or a person of good will who values freedom for yourself and others), what is the price you are willing to pay for that freedom? I would encourage all of you to get yourselves involved somehow. Don’t put a muzzle on yourself; speak up. Contact your Member of the provincial Parliament to demand a repeal of this law. Contact your friends. Vote … but for anyone other than this particular band of Liberals.
Make a donation to the Dog Legislation Council of Canada. They are the ones fighting in court for the rights of all dog owners. Many of your tax dollars are already being spent by this government to take away your freedoms; in order to get these back, I’m afraid that it will take more of your money to help with the fight. For more information, visithttp://www.doglegislationcouncil.org/donate.html.
"The Price of Freedom: Constant alertness. Constant willingness to fight back. There is no other price." L. Ron Hubbard
Previous "Petitorial" articles by David McKague:
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