Friday, April 22, 2011

On hot heads and cold hearts

Once upon a time .... in what now seems like a galaxy far far away ... I lived a much different life.  My daughter was still a little girl, our labrador Max was just coming into his prime and I was enjoying the challenge of teaching at the military cooking school.  
In those pre computer days, lesson plans were still hand written.  Back then, it was still sensible for me as a 'girl' to keep my typing skills well under wraps to avoid becoming the secretary who formatted everyone else's work on the word processor. 
I was driving the only new car I have ever bought ... purchased for the princely sum total of just shy of ten thousand .... and that with leather seats!   A carton of cigarettes didn't cost much more than a package does now  ... and you didn't need a trigger finger to put five dollars of gas in the car!
One of my neighbours was also a coworker in my department.   His wife had been my matron of honor ... he and his wife were such regular visitors they knew not to put their drinks on the same coffee table that Max could clear with one wag of his tail ... in short he was as familiar as family to Max.
Teaching is a little like theatre, and I often brought lessons home to prepare.  One day, our guest lecturer had to cancel and the resulting shuffle meant that the lesson plan I needed at three was still sitting on top of my fridge at home.   I was booked solid for classes all day, so my neighbour offered to run home and pick up the lesson plan for me.
In theory that was a great idea!  In theory.  In realspeak, as soon as Dave unlocked the door and stepped into the entryway, he could hear Max growling on the other side of the door.    Being a cautious sort, Dave opened the door just a hair ... and shut it just as quickly.  Locked the front door and left without the lesson plan.
As he put it ... 'as soon as I saw hackles and fangs, I knew that door wasn't going to be opened!' 
The very next day, when Dave and his wife came over for backyard BBQ, Max was all tail wags and his normal goofy happy go lucky glad to see ya lab self.
Max was never trained to be a guard dog.  He was a family pet whose idea of a high old time was belly rubs after a big walk.  He slept on the furniture, countersurfed whenever opportunity presented itself and loved us completely and unconditionally every day of his life.
It really was the fairy tale that life is supposed to be for a dog ... and one that got to have a happy ending because of Dave's good sense.
Moral of the story? Would you like them in alphabetical or chronological order?  The short version is that BSL would have provided no protection if Dave had been foolish enough to open the door because:
  • Max was a Labrador Retriever
  • As a well socialized family pet, Max certainly was not attack trained
  • Even if he had been a banned breed, in a time and place with BSL, Max would not have been required to wear a muzzle inside his own home
  • most dog bylaws, including our own here in Kings County, allow for the provision that an acceptable defense of the charge of harbouring a dangerous dog is when the attack or bite was inflicted upon or sustained by a person who was committing one or more of the following:
    (i) a willful trespass or other tort;
    (ii) a criminal act upon the premises occupied by the owner of
    the dog; or
    (iii) a trespass contrary to Provincial or Federal Legislation.

 So exactly how does BSL create safer communities?  Sadly the answer to that is simple.  BSL only provides the illusion of safety, and indeed carries its own inherent dangers because:
  • it offers the illusion that all the dangerous dogs are going to be muzzled and does not encourage parents to teach their children safe behaviors around dogs
  • responsible, law abiding pet owners will be discouraged from owning an allegedly dangerous breeds dog.  In Aragon, Spain, it was discovered that after passage of BSL that the dog bite incidents from allegedly dangerous breeds actually rose from 2.4 to 3.5 % (B. Rosado et al., Spanish: Dangerous Animals Act: Effect of the Epidemiology of Dog Bites, 2(5) Journal of Veterinary Behavior 166-74 (2007).  40 Rosado, supra, at 172. )
  • it does not address the underlying causes.  If people were afraid to file a complaint with the RCMP about a specific dog owner, it isn't going to make them any braver about that.  
  • Nor is it going to be a magic wand that will wave away any of the criminal activity that is the real bogeyman here.
Here in Nova Scotia, animal control falls under the municipal police services.   What does that mean in realspeak?  It means that any funds spent implementing and enforcing BSL are going to come out of the policing budget.  Either the budget will need to be increased or policing criminals will face more funding challenges.   
In a political climate where the NDP bobsled team somehow fails to recognize that there are more pressing priorities than LED lights, all our municipalities are facing new funding shortfalls.  How will they pick up the slack?  With property taxes of course.
What time is it?  It is time to remember that Prohibition only created opportunities for criminal activity to become more solidly entrenched and did not actually prevent people from driving under the influence.  Our roads are somewhat safer today because drinking and driving laws have changed, eh? 
Hot heads and cold hearts never solved anything.  Billy Graham.

No comments: