Published in Chapel Hill Herald-Sun, May 26, 2008


Being a Responsible Dog Owner is First Step


The room rumbled at the Board of County Commissioners Meeting on Tuesday night, May 20th. The topic? An ordinance broached that would require tethered dogs in Orange County be limited to three hours per day on their lines - essentially an anti-tethering law.


Your alternative for the remaining 21 hours of the day? Build a fence or enclosure, get an electric fence, or bring Spot inside.


Is this sweeping new law right? Is it right for law-abiding, pet-loving citizens? Is it right for dogs? Just who gets the short end of the stick here? I understand the animal activists’ stance who were present at the public Board meeting. As I stated before the Commission, it’s hard to find an “animal hater”. Affection towards animals, especially domestic, is a bipartisan issue.


Yet is this being broached in an effective, American way? I think not. Animal activists care about animals’ welfare and rights. For any person equipped with a modicum of brainpower, this should be a given. Yet humanitarianism can often trump humanness. Peoples’ rights, who take wonderful care of their tethered dogs, are at stake here too. What right does a group of individuals have to say that my dog is not happy, healthy, and gets enough exercise on his lunge line? Is this to say that I am incapable of taking care of my animal, that I need monitoring – mandating by authorities to make sure I’m not like one of those evil PETA photos showing chains wrapped around their dogs so they can’t move?


As my husband says, those owners should have chains wrapped around themselves. We are as fervent about cruelty to animals as the activists on Tuesday night, but we care about people and fellow Americans, too. The way the problem of cruelty to animals is being broached is absurd. Tethering has nothing to do with cruelty to animals across the board. A general law to persecute all “wrongdoers” – and potentially, just maybe those who might not treat their animals higher than their children is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.


Amazingly we are being hit with pundit studies which claim that areas where tethering is banned have less illegitimate puppies, dog bites, and nuisance complaints. What is not noted in these “studies” is the causality factor. You can find correlations with just about anything, but causality is the key. In such areas there also might happen to be more responsible dog owners initially anyways. You could just as easily say that where such angelic dogs exist there are no liberals living there, or no conservatives. Or because there are people who exercise more and thus walk their dogs more less disorderly canines exist here. The possibilities are endless. Considering just a handful of other states in the country have considered this rigidity in pet ownership, we might want to examine if it constitutes legitimate US citizen inclusion or if outliers are stirring the pot - making life for most of us particularly difficult and restrictive through a gateway of concerned animal activists.


What is this really about? The responsibility of animal control is to investigate such horrible and unjust cases for animals. The plethora of divisions and echelons in government is supposedly made just for this purpose. Discussion earlier in the evening centered on cutting some Orange County positions or hours in certain offices to cut corners and save money. Could this law be a way out for slacking in responsibility for animal control and other related offices – at the expense of and impingements on good citizens’ rights?


The “Nanny-State scare” is a justified one. Obama has a lot of us already at the end of our tethers, and we’re not even dogs. Creeping socialism and bigger government control in our lives in America is not the cure-all for problems. The solution is the inverse. It is thinking and acting individually and with sagacity, and knowing what America stands for. It is about logic, temperance, humaneness and humanness, for animals and people. If animal activists choose to devote their lives to helping our furry friends that don’t have voices I commend them. However, it is irresponsible and wrong to lump families who love their pets and choose to tether their dogs into the same category as those monsters who treat their animals inhumanely. To pursue the individual perpetrators in this case is a good cause; to threaten the rights of good citizens is not only a casus belli but unforgivable.