Er, sorry, I changed the title of the post. I said “dogs” but I want to be accurate as possible, and right now they’re only going after dogs capable of reproducing themselves — which means the dogs’ eggs and sperm. (See my last post about California’s mandatory spay and neuter law, and also take a look at this web page.)
But still, whether you call it the right to keep and bear dogs, or keep and bear a dog with ovaries, what about it? There is no such “right” in the Constitution. Does that mean we don’t have it? There’s no right to do a lot of things we do, but I want to ask, from where derives the government’s right to tell us what to do — especially in the privacy of our own homes?
I realize that Coco enjoys no constitutional right to her ovaries, because she has no rights at all. She is my property, and it is up to me whether to let her keep her ovaries. When I see “the government” ready to intrude into my life by compelling me to remove my dog’s ovaries, I am forced to ask some basic questions about the nature of government, and the nature of control.
Now, it would be one thing if I caused a problem, by allowing my dog to roam, or by breeding so many dogs that the smells and noises disturbed the tranquility of my neighbors. But if my dog is in my house and in my yard, under what conceivable theory do her ovaries become the government’s business? The theory that is advanced is that there are “too many dogs.” Well, who has too many dogs? I don’t see them. There’s a puppy shortage. And if irresponsible pet owners let their dogs run around so that they’re a nuisance, or if they crank out so many puppies that they’re annoying the neighbors, well, go after them. Round up the problem animals, issue citations to the problem owners. Whatever needs to be done about people who create problems, fine. What is not fine is to take action against people who are not creating problems by invading their lives, on the theory that they might create a problem.
How many dogs constitute too many dogs? What is “dog overpopulation”? While the evidence points away from the existence of any such problem, let’s assume that there were too many dogs, that they’re running around loose, and that they’re creating problems. Why not round them up and humanely kill them?
As it happens in my neighborhood, I don’t see stray dogs, but there are too many deer running around. I counted thirteen in a herd recently, and neighbors complain constantly about their yards being invaded. Deer are starving to death, and running into the road and causing accidents in record numbers. Yet, very little is being done about the problem. Bureaucrats hold meetings, and that’s about it. The reason nothing is done is that the solution is to kill off the excess deer. This is seen as unacceptable.
It’s easy to look at deer overpopulation, though, because deer are not owned by anyone, and no one can be blamed or legislated against. But suppose for the sake or argument that some farmer owned and bred deer, and had a fenced herd of deer which were never allowed to roam away from his privately land. Would anyone in their right mind blame him for “deer overpopulation”?
So under what theory would we blame responsible dog owners who don’t let their dogs roam for the existence (if any) of roaming dogs?
Maybe readers can help me, but I’ve thought about this, and the only theory that makes any sense is that because I own a dog, I belong to an inherently suspect class. This “class” is a based on the conflation of people causing problems and people who aren’t causing problems, and the tenuous connection is made that people who aren’t causing problems might cause problems. I think it is identical to the central philosophy of gun control. Because some people who have guns are bad and do bad things with them, while other people with guns are good, according to the “suspect class” theory, the good gun owners should be treated as if they are presumptively bad.
According to this, um, “unified theory of irresponsibility,” all gun owners are presumed to be irresponsible, as are all dog owners. But where does it end?
And what are the implications for the traditional American jurisprudential view that citizens are innocent until proven guilty? Preemptive legislation such as gun control and ovary control cause a mathematical shifting of the view of criminality so that instead of the actual social harm (roaming dogs or drive-by shootings) being the crime, the precursor ingredients (ovaries and guns) become the crime. While I would like to think that the deleterious effect on freedom should be obvious, apparently it isn’t obvious enough, or else people don’t care.
So I’ll just stick with the effect on crime itself. Clearly, a small minority of gun owners and dog owners (and probably cell phone and computer users) are behaving in an irresponsible manner and committing crimes of one sort or another. Under this unified theory of shared irresponsibility, if the laws are changed to criminalize things which are not crimes now, how could that possibly decrease the rate of these crimes? Common sense suggests that it would increase it — and dramatically. No one argues that the existing minority of current law-breakers would do anything but continue to break the law, only they’d be breaking new laws as well. But clearly, when large numbers of people in the the responsible class are suddenly turned into criminals by new laws, two things happen:

  • 1. the crime rate goes up; and
  • 2. many middle class law abiding people become instant criminals.
  • Why would anyone want to increase crime while transforming law abiding people into criminals?
    Now, I expect many conservatives and libertarians would answer by saying that this is just what liberals do, and it’s part of the liberal, or statist, or control-freak philosophy, and I think there’s a certain amount of truth to that.
    What I want to know is why are so many law abiding people willing to go along with it? Don’t they realize that it won’t stop with gun control and ovary control?
    Anyone who thinks it will should read the Simpson approach to gun control, which Glenn Reynolds linked yesterday and which Eugene Volokh satirized by applying it to drug laws. Rather than quote the satirized Simpson plan verbatim, I thought that in the spirit of this post I’d change “drugs” into “dogs”:

    Special squads of police would be formed and trained to carry out the work. Then, on a random basis to permit no advance warning, city blocks and stretches of suburban and rural areas would be cordoned off and searches carried out in every business, dwelling, and empty building. All dogs would be seized. The owners of dogs found in the searches would be prosecuted.
    Fairly quickly there would begin to be dog-swept, dog-free areas where there should be no dogs. If there were, those harboring them would be subject to quick confiscation and prosecution. On the streets it would be a question of stop-and-search of anyone, even grandma with her Chihuahua, with the same penalties for possessing.
    America’s long land and sea borders present another kind of problem. It is easy to imagine mega-dog dealerships installing themselves in Mexico, to funnel dogs into the United States. That already constitutes a problem for American immigration authorities and the U.S. Coast Guard, but not an insurmountable one over time.

    [Sorry, but I just couldn’t resist adding a link.]
    I’d like to think the above was a joke, but it’s no joke in China. Not only have they applied the Simpson method to dog control, they have ovary control — for humans!
    Anyone who thinks this Simpson character is just a joke should think again. The man was actually a United States Ambassador. Isn’t it bad enough that other countries commit such egregious violations of freedom (and treat all citizens as criminal suspects) without having a U.S. ambassador come back from countries like that and advocate doing the same thing here?
    Responsible, law abiding people in this country need to realize that freedom cannot be taken for granted, that what may be law abiding behavior today may be illegal tomorrow, and that there is in fact a growing movement to treat law abiding responsible citizens as criminal suspects.
    Of course, I have a personal stake in this. Aside from wanting to preserve what freedom I still have, I’d rather not be a criminal.
    Why is it being made so easy to become a criminal when you’d rather not?
    I used to think of criminals as people who actually went out and messed with other people, by, you know, committing crimes. Yet here I am, minding my own business and not so much as inconveniencing anyone, while an ever-growing number of people want to make me into a criminal. As it is, I’m forced to live as an exile from California, where my dog and my guns would be criminal activities.
    So, should I just sit around in Pennsylvania and imagine it could never happen here? Or should I move South and hope it doesn’t happen there?
    Wherever I go, it seems that it’s easier and easier to become a criminal by doing nothing.
    AFTERTHOUGHT: It occurs to me that some readers might tend to get hung up on the merits of particular issues, and miss the larger philosophical one. Sure, people shouldn’t allow their dogs to roam, and sure, responsible pet-owners might be well advised to sterilize their animals. Gun owners should practice gun safety and should never behave in an irresponsible manner with firearms. Responsible behavior is a good thing, and responsible behavior should be encouraged.
    However, I think passing laws that turn responsible people into criminals will discourage — not encourage — responsibility.
    UPDATE (05/01/07): I realize the post has worked its way so far down from the blog’s masthead that few will see it, but what the hell, today is Mayday — the day in which collectivism is feted, so I just thought Glenn Reynolds’ Quote of the Day from Samizdata belonged here:

    The problem is, they will outlaw almost everything while enforcing very little. Imprisonment by stealth. People will not know they are encircled until it is too late – like putting in all these very deep, robust fence-posts with no fence panels. All seems open. One day you will wake up and the panels are in, you are trapped and they can decide what law they wish to impose to nail whomsoever they desire.

    MORE: I’ve written a somewhat more detailed constitutional analysis of AB 1634 here.
    As curtailments on freedom go, I think AB 1634 sets a new standard.