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 February - Nr. 2

My Dog Teaches ... Human Rights

Hunny by David McKagueWhat can dogs teach us about Human Rights? Plenty, if we care to examine how dogs and their owners have sometimes been treated by those who make our laws.

Every dog is a unique animal. Likewise, every human being is also unique. Each and every one of us has his own personality, interests, ideas, beliefs, talents and goals.

In our so-called free societies, we generally presuppose that we are at liberty to pursue any of these so long as our actions do not harm others or put them at risk. Or that we do not infringe on the rights and freedoms of others.

We trust that, unless we actually put someone in harm’s way, we will not be arbitrarily punished. The constitutions of most countries in the free world have clauses to this effect. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ratified by the United Nations in 1948, states in Article 9, “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile”. Article 5 reads, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. And Article 10, “Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him”.

These points are all well and good in theory. How well do they hold up in the real world where all of us live?

Well, what happens when the laws themselves are completely arbitrary? It doesn’t much matter if you are entitled to a fair trial if the “offense” you have committed is against some arbitrary rule which has nothing to do with harming anyone or putting them at risk. It is little consolation for anyone charged or convicted of one of these “offences” to know that he is being punished simply because he didn’t follow the letter of the law.

Breed-specific legislation (BSL), enacted here in Ontario and in many other jurisdictions around the world, is an example of a law which can severely punish actions that are not in any way detrimental or dangerous to others. Perfectly harmless and friendly dogs can and have been taken away from their owners and destroyed just because they are considered to be of a particular breed, not because they have ever hurt anyone or even demonstrated that they pose any slightest threat. Even week-old puppies have been killed because they supposedly were of a breed that had been banned.

For me, it would certainly be arbitrary and cruel and unusual punishment if Hunny were to be taken away and killed just for the fact of her being of a particular appearance. Yet this possibility exists because the government here in Ontario has taken away my right to play with my dog outside in her natural environment.

Through the six years we have been together, Hunny and I have become extremely close companions, and I feel that no one should have the ability to interfere with that relationship if neither of us has done anything to threaten or hurt another. Yet in order for me to ensure that she gets the exercise she needs and to continue to be the very happy and sociable dog that she is, I have been forced into the extremely untenable position of being unable to avoid breaking the letter of the law. I believe that, in a society which calls itself free, the government should not be able to over-ride our fundamental right to choose our companions or have the ability to punish us for anything other than actions which could be considered harmful.

Of course, it is always stated or implied by those creating our laws that the laws are intended to be benevolent. In the case of breed-specific legislation, it is usually presented as having the goal of protecting children from dangerous and aggressive dogs. Yet some of these children may be forced to go through the very traumatic experience of losing a cherished childhood friend through government decree.

What makes life interesting is that we are all individuals. Although we have many things in common, we are not the same, person to person or dog to dog. Therefore, we must fight for our rights to maintain our own individuality and choices. Breed-specific legislation, based as it is solely on appearance rather than actions, instead of protecting us from harm, is an assault on our fundamental rights and freedoms by governments.


Previous "Petitorial" articles by David McKague:

Editor’s note: I would like to encourage dog lovers everywhere to start a PETITION to have this law thrown out or revised to such a form where justice prevails. SFR.

Email to David McKague
David McKague talks about the pit-bull or pit bulls, pets, dogs, the duress put upon dog and the owners, especially through laws in Ontario, Canada, that affect and encroach on rights and freedoms of the individual, human rights, reputation of individuals and owners. David stresses the importance of being responsible and understanding when dealing with pets.

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