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 May 2009 - Nr. 5

My Dog Teaches … Personal Responsibility

Hunny by David McKagueRight off the bat, I must apologize for the plastic bag filled with dog poop that I left on city property. I didn’t really mean to leave it there; my intention was to take it with me and properly dispose of it. I could say I had a good excuse for my indiscretion, but as this column is about personal responsibility, I will not. So I will just say I am sorry.

Now the story. My dog Hunny loves to play. And run. And play. Now I am perfectly willing to concede that she may be an anomaly in the dog world; for her, playing and exercise are more important than eating. She never seems to tire of fetching a ball, dropping it at my feet and looking at me excitedly to throw the ball again.

But because she is an American Staffordshire Terrier and falls under the "pit bull" category, I have become very cautious about where we do so. Not because of any concerns about what Hunny might do to others – the only thing she might do is drop the ball at a stranger’s feet, looking expectantly at him or her to throw the ball and join in the game – but because of what others could potentially do to my dog and me.

So Hunny and I have tended to stick to out-of-the-way and sparsely populated areas to play ball so she can get the exercise she needs. On this particular Saturday afternoon, we were on a bit of greenery in an industrial area playing fetch. Not a soul around. An occasional car drove by.

Unfortunately, one of them happened to be driven by an animal control officer. What followed next became surreal, like a scene from a Kafka novel.

"Do you know that your dog has to be muzzled and on a leash?" To which I innocently asked, "What is the purpose of the law; is it to protect the public? There isn’t anyone around."

To my astonishment, she spat out with considerable vehemence, "The purpose of the law is for everyone to obey the law!" (Not only does this not make any sense, it is a perfect example of a circular argument.)

When she started telling me that she could have Hunny taken away and destroyed and that I could be fined up to $10,000, I became a bit nervous. But when she started on about how the law is the law, that she didn’t make the law, that the Attorney General is the person responsible for bringing in this law, that she was only there to enforce the law, I realized for the first time that Hunny and I were in a very dangerous situation.

For the real danger became clear. With the "pit bull" legislation on the books, this woman had become a robot. Somewhere along the line, she had relinquished her own power of observation and personal responsibility.

Blame it on the law. Blame the Attorney General. Blame anyone else. She had the power to cause some devastating effects and no sense of personal responsibility for her potential actions. An attitude of "It’s nothing to do with me." "I’m only following orders." "I didn’t make the law." "It’s your responsibility to obey the law."

In an absurd twist, she even had the nerve to tell me that, because I did not have my dog muzzled and on a leash in the middle of nowhere, I was being an "irresponsible dog owner."

This is when I beat a hasty retreat and left behind the bag of dog poop. And I admit, I should have returned to handle it after I realized my mistake when I was half way home. So, again, for this I am sorry.

But I will not apologize for "disobeying" a law that makes it impossible for me to give Hunny the exercise she needs. As any dog expert will tell you, exercise is the first and most important step in creating a healthy, happy, well-behaved and friendly dog. For a government to try to legislate out of existence what is natural behavior and to then demand rote obedience to an impractical law is asking for trouble. Responsibility can only be invited; it cannot be enforced with a hammer.

When common sense and personal responsibility are usurped by petty rules and regulations, chaos and injustice follow. For what was my grievous offense? Playing with my dog. Giving her the exercise she needs. And, yes, even being a responsible dog owner.

Except of course for the dog poop left behind. [Sorry!]

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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