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Who decides when keeping pets, children safe becomes infringement?

Jan Hearne • Apr 2, 2012 at 10:19 AM

From an Associated Press story: “Shelby County Commission members have shelved a proposal that would have set minimum care standards for pets in the county.

“After public meetings at which residents complained of government infringement and the need to limit government’s role, The Commercial Appeal reported commissioners voted 7-5 on Monday to delay the measure indefinitely, effectively killing it.

“The proposal would more specifically define vicious dogs and set standards for providing pets with food, water and shelter.”


Government infringement? Need to limit government’s role? These are words being thrown about so wildly, I am completely confused.

Who gets to decide whether a law or ordinance is government infringement or necessary for a kind and just society?

In a perfect world, people who have pets would provide adequate food, water, shelter, exercise and attention, but drive around town and you will find dogs chained in back yards with flimsy plywood doghouses and overturned water bowls. A former neighbor told me she kept her dog chained for 14 years, and regretted, after it died, the hellish existence she had imposed upon the poor animal. “I’ll never do that again,” she said sadly. My heart broke for the dog.

The idea of government infringement is circumstantial based on a person’s political views. Requiring everyone to have health insurance is considered government infringement; requiring every driver to have car insurance is not. It is OK to limit access to the voting booth, but it’s not OK to limit access to guns. Few question whether insurance companies should pay for vasectomies (or Viagra), but reimbursing women for contraceptives? It’s Katy, bar the door.

We are an irrational bunch here in America. Since 9/11, the government has turned the Constitution inside out in order to “fight terrorism.” During World War II, the same thing happened. Not only am I not complaining, I have my hands over my ears, singing “la, la, la” to block any talk of violated civil liberties. Who said I could decide this is permissible or at least ignorable?

Gitmo, airport pat downs, profiling of airline passengers — these are the big, painful issues. I expect for us to disagree about them. But pet welfare? Really? It is such a very small thing to require decent care of pets, and while we’re at it, children. It seems absolutely ridiculous to me that our society does not put child welfare first above everything else. How do any of us sleep at night?

But I suppose in order to accomplish a sufficient standard of child welfare, the government would have to expand its control and infringe upon our rights. Who gets to decide it’s not OK to take care of our kids?

Give me their names. I want them to tell it to me slowly, so maybe I’ll understand.

Jan Hearne is Tempo editor for the Johnson City Press. Reach her at jhearne@johnsoncitypress.com.

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