Animal Shelter should rethink fees

Published 8:48 pm Monday, March 12, 2007

By By Tray Smith
This week, Vice President Cheney's former Chief of Staff was found guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice, Barrack Obama gained media attention for paying off his numerous seventeen year old parking tickets and Newt Gingrich admitted to having an extramarital affair. Yet, I became most outraged after reading an article in last Sunday's Advance entitled, "License intended for public safety."
Just when I thought that communism had been restricted to that relic of the Dark Ages North Korea, I discovered that the spirit of Stalin is alive and well at the Atmore Animal Shelter, whose dedicated public servants believe it is within their authority to ensure that "all animals have proper housing; a house that has a floor, roof and sides and is off the ground to keep them out of the cold, hot and wet weather." I believe the Advance forgot to mention the requirement that our furry friends must also have a broadband internet connection and a Jacuzzi.
The great thing about living in the world's most free country is that we are each guaranteed a certain level of freedom. As individuals, we are free to worship, speak and gather as we choose. It is these freedoms that make our country great. Thus, each step we make towards working to ensure "the common good" over the individual and each freedom we forfeit to a government authority is a step away from the principles and ideals our country was founded on and a step towards the socialistic and authoritarian ideals we have long opposed. I am not trying to compare forcing pet owners to obtain a license with forcing people to practice Islam, but it is truly hard to imagine Thomas Jefferson supporting a government role in ensuring that pets have proper housing. In fact, even the most ardent Federalist among our founding fathers would have been skeptical of government requirements that people have proper housing. Tourists cannot visit the second floor of Monticello because they do not meet the building code provisions for fire safety. We live in a society that says it is okay to abort your baby if you choose, but how dare you not put a proper floor under your dog house.
I am a dog person. Dubya, my two-year-old yellow lab, is like a brother to me. Dubya eats what our family eats, sleeps in a queen sized bed, goes on regular swimming trips to the creek and treats me to 15 minutes of "fetch" everyday. If it were up to me, every dog would receive the same treatment Dubya gets. But it is not up to me. Individuals have a right to buy a dog and they have a right to raise it according to their values. Luckily, I live outside of the city limits; therefore, Dubya and I will be unaffected by these new civil intrusions. Not that we would be affected by them if we lived in the city limits, because I would donate my life savings to the Hillary Clinton Presidential Exploratory Committee before I would buy a "dog license."
Beyond the grand theological principles of freedom that stand against the Animal Shelter's new intrusions into the daily lives of Atmoreons, these proposals are illogical policy prescriptions. There are two types of people who are going to purchase a dog license: those who care enough about their pets to keep them restrained to their own yards anyway, which is the whole point of the dog license scheme in the first place, and those who have no problem with allowing the government to violate their civil rights. Not many people are volunteering to round up strays and carry them in for their license. Not many people are going to be happy when government officers show up at their house and fine them for leaving their dog unsheltered in the cold, wet weather.
No one has explained who is going to decide what "proper" is, and I have yet to hear how a house with a floor, roof and sides is going to protect animals from the heat better than a porch or an awning with no sides. How are the animal control officers going to control the unrestricted flow of unlicensed animals from outside of the city limits into the city limits? What do they define as "all animals?" Does my hamster have to have proper housing too? If Dubya decides to take a field trip into Atmore and is found without a license, are these folks who care so much about our pets going to euthanize him like they do other poor animals they are trying to help? What about those dogs that are neighborhood figures, who go from house to house visiting friends in the community who actually enjoy having the animals on their property?
Pet owners have a responsibility to make sure their dogs and cats do not harm anyone or wonder off onto property where they are unwelcome. Animal abuse should be, and is, illegal. But dogs and cats roaming the sidewalks add to the character of a community. If they get out of hand or behave violently their owners should be punished and the Animal Control Unit should respond, but if these dogs are peacefully finding warm souls to bond with, the Animal Control Unit should focus on other things, like apprehending mangy strays. And they should not waste taxpayer dollars telling those who pay their salaries that they have not provided their pet with "proper housing" when they could be utilizing their resources to remove truly dangerous creatures from our streets. The way to solve our animal problem is to apprehend animals who are in visibly poor health, not to pester responsible pet owners with licensing requirements. That is the bottom line.
Tray Smith is a sophomore at ECHS and former intern in the Riley administration. He can be reached for comment at

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