Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What We Can Do

Postings on blogs and email lists about abusive (most of them do seem to be legal) raids are important. If we don't know what's happening out there, then we cannot act to make things better.

Stopping the 'theft' (it mostly isn't real theft) of private property will happen when animal owners learn what their rights are, and insist on those rights. Informing other owners is one of the most important things that pet-law folks can do.

We have 3000-some people on the Pet-Law list. If one out of every ten wrote a letter to the editor calmly pointing out that the reported facts don't support the actions taken, and that in fact, when animals are sold within a week because 'they're in good shape except for a few ticks' (or similar non-issues) there's evidence that the seizure action was unjustified, we'd be doing something useful. 300 letters on the same subject to the same editor -- that would get attention!

When a judge says "Nobody can take care of 1000 dogs," that judge is disqualifying himself from any proceeding concerning a large number of dogs. One letter pointing that out might not even be printed, but 300 would make something happen at most papers.

My guess is that these letters aren't being written.

But letters to editors aren't the only thing we can do. All of us are active on other email lists for pet owners. Are we doing the education there?

1. Abusive seizures of animals are increasing fast.

2. You have rights; you must know what they are and you must exercise them. (with a summary and links to more ...)

My guess is that very few of us are doing that boring but essential education.

Have you offered to talk about the subject at your local kennel or cat club? Passed out and discussed George E.'s "What to do when ..."?

Of course the best place to stop this rubbish is at the source: Are you involved with your animal shelter? Do you support them publicly when they do good things and try to influence them to change when they get it wrong? Any chance you could become a member of the board of directors? A board member who asks for an explanation of a seizure that smells fishy in the newspaper account can do much to prevent these actions.

We cannot all do all of these things -- none of us have that much time and we have different talents. But all of us can do something -- if not something mentioned above, something else equally good or better.

THERE IS NO MAGIC BUTTON WE CAN PUSH TO MAKE THE PROBLEMS GO AWAY WITHOUT OUR HAVING TO DO ANY WORK. We have our rights; who is responsible when we allow them to be abused?

A guy comes up to you on the street:
"Scuse me, lady, but would you give me your purse?"
"Well, because I need money and I might steal it if you don't give it to me."
"Oh ... okay, here it is."

Would anyone here actually do that?

A cop pulls you over. He walks up to your window and says "You were doing 66 in a 35 mph zone. You can either give me your keys and sign over your title to me, or I'm going to write you up for a whopping fine." Your actual speed was 36. Would you take the cop's deal?

But to judge by the stories here, many animal owners are doing things equally stupid. Stupid actions are a self-inflicted wound and in cases involving the law, it can be near-impossible to heal that wound.

I am not blaming the victim, but when people stand in harm's way (by not knowing and exercising their rights) and they are harmed, they do have some responsibility. What we're seeing repeatedly here is $1000 or $10,000 cases being turned into cases that would cost $100,000-up to fight, by the victim's own actions in the first 15 minutes -- and a frequent response (here) is "There should be someone out there to give us the $100,000."

We can be sympathetic to this person, but we're not likely to find that $100,000, and if we did, there would be ways to use it that would prevent dozens or hundreds of such cases in the future.

Someone wrote, "The only idea I have is to have my shot gun at the door with plenty of ammo. Someone is going to get hurt. But what else can we do?"

This is dangerous to the point of irresponsibility. If a cop sees a weapon near at hand, and you make any movement toward it, you may very well be shot. If that doesn't happen, then (a) you've given that cop justification to make an immediate search, and (b) you're going to be facing far worse than the usual sorts of animal charges.

Of course the cop's actions will be investigated; maybe it will be decided that he overreacted. But if you're dead, that won't be much comfort.

I won't repeat George's advice on handling of authorities coming to your door. But we must stay within the law to avoid making the situation worse and introducing a weapon will make things far possibly fatally -- worse.

No, our constitution is not being destroyed, as some have said. No, it is all about the willingness of many citizens to allow others to ignore the Constitution, because learning your rights and saying "No" is more trouble than saying "Oh, whatever" and then complaining about how you were mistreated.

The Constitution isn't destroyed or even damaged when we allow bad people to violate its protections. It is simply unused. Whose responsibility is that?

I'm thirsty. There's a pump in the backyard: I could go out and work the handle, but I'd rather sit here and complain about my thirst. Please -- tell me how badly I'm being treated!

This all sounds terribly unsympathetic. The problem is, sympathy and armwaving isn't going to do us any good. So we spend a few hours a week agreeing with each other about how unfair it all is ... That might make us feel a bit better -- at least, morally justified in our sense of violation. But it wouldn't do a damn thing to help prevent the next "nobody can care for 1000 (or 100, or 10) dogs" raid.

Got 50 -- Friends who know how to handle an animal control knock on their doors?