Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dog ownership for dummies?

I don’t like government any more than the next person and the last thing I want is to advocate for more laws and restrictions.
We have plenty of laws already; laws that tell us what kind of pets we can own and how many, where we can and cannot walk our dogs, and in some communities, we’re even told what type of dogs we can and cannot own — laws that come from our townships, our county and all the way up to the state and even some federal laws that address animal rights.
And those are just animal-related laws. We have tons of other laws coming at us from all sorts of directions. It reminds me of the Tesla song, “Sign says that everybody got to have a membership card to get inside ...”
Sure, signs aren’t laws. But the message is the same — we’ve got people telling us how to live our lives in every direction we care to look.
And while I might not be into that, I understand that lots of laws serve good purposes and I can even think of some new laws that would add value.
For instance, I wouldn’t mind that all first-time dog owners be required to take a short class and become certified before being allowed to own a dog.
Think about it — why should it be any different than getting a license to drive a vehicle? Or a license to carry a gun?
Dogs can be as dangerous as guns and more difficult to manage than a vehicle. And certainly, the standard of care required to be a dog owner is greater than owning a vehicle. Vehicles need gas, oil, money and maintenance and if you screw it up, you’re probably the only one to be negatively impacted by it. But if you do hurt someone else with your vehicle, we have all sorts of punishments lined up for you.
Dogs need companionship, medical care, food and water and shelter and so much more. Screw up dog ownership and you could inflict pain and misery on not just your dog, but you could create a dog that inflicts pain and misery on other people or other dogs. And yet, the punishment is usually small and nothing guarantees you won't own another dog in the future.
I’m not saying we should have an extensive, prohibitive system blocking people from getting a dog. But why not offer a free, one-hour required class where someone talks about the importance of vaccinations and daily feedings, regular medical care and how actions like leaving a dog on a chain can create behavior problems, and making licensing part of the program. It’d offer a venue to hand out literature — think pamphlets listing local training resources, veterinarians and little tid-bits of dog ownership advice.
At the end of the hour, each person must pass a short and easy test to determine that they at least know what the law requires of dog owners. Here’s a sample of questions I envision:
  1. Is it state law to keep your dog vaccinated against rabies? Yes or No
  2. How often must you renew your dog’s license? A) Monthly, B) Yearly, C) Every three years
  3. If you intend to keep your dog outside, what must be provided for it? A) A chain, B) Food, water and appropriate shelter from the elements, C) A companion animal
  4. If you keep a dog outside in cold weather, what is the best thing to provide warmth? A) blankets, B) hay, C) A bunny
  5. Animal cruelty charges can result from which of the following: A) Not seeking medical attention for injuries, B) Dressing your pet in silly outfits, C) Walking your dog regularly
So you can see, I’m not talking about a brain-splitting battery of questions. Just simple things that so many people don’t seem to know.
Take, for instance, the case of an 18-year-old man from Eaton Rapids who was caught dragging a Rottweiler mix named Lucky behind his SUV — causing the poor (and might I say, unlucky) pooch to lose her pads and toenails, suffer severe road burns and undergo three surgeries so far for her injuries.
Or all the cases of pit bulls getting loose and chasing, attacking and even killing people and their pets.
It’s all wrong, so clearly wrong. How anyone cannot see what is wrong with their approach to dog ownership when their dogs are getting loose and harming others, or worse, as they’re dragging a poor dog behind their vehicle, is just beyond me.
And so yes, I think an dog-ownership-for-dummies class would be a worthwhile requirement — as would tougher punishments for bad dog ownership.
If your pit bull gets loose and kills a puppy or mauls a person, you should be banned from owning dogs. You had your shot at dog ownership and you did such an incredibly bad job that other people or living beings had to suffer as a result of your stupidity and/or irresponsibility.
And if you’re caught dragging a dog behind your car, well ... I hope karma gives you back the pain you caused another living being tenfold.


  1. The idea of offering free classes for first time dog owners is fine but requiring them only opens doors for more and more intrusive laws. Things like, requirements for first time parents, perhaps?

    The potential for irresponsiblity is everywhere. One thing we ought to have learned about laws by now, is that you cannot legislate good sense. Sadly, there will always be people who are careless. There are no laws that will save the rest of us from that.

  2. Hi Lynn,

    I can't believe it took so long for someone to point that out! I agree with you. It's the slippery slope thing.

    When I hear about instances of such irresponsible and cruel dog ownership, it makes me so upset. But as I wrote in the beginning of the post, we have enough laws already. And requiring a class for first time dog owners certainly begs the question, what about requiring a class for first time parents? After all, there certainly are some people with poor parenting skills out there. At that point, though, it just seems like we're stepping all over peoples' rights. And I don't like that.

    As you so aptly stated "You cannot legislate good sense." You are right. Thanks for contributing!