They Came for the Bassets
These days the media seems to be filled with stories of dogs seized from puppy mills, dog fighting operations, animal hoarders and abusive homes. Millions of average pet owners across America read these stories with a mixture of outrage against the animal abusers and pity for the abused animals. Relieved that the unfortunate animals were saved from a terrible fate, they move on to the next story, never considering that there might be more to the story than meets the eye…
I doubt that any of us thinks that we’re an animal abuser. While ideas on owning and raising dogs are at least as wide-ranging (and deeply emotionally driven) as those on rearing children, most of us feel that our ideas fall well within the mainstream and that we have little to fear from animal rights legislation. But if we remain content to sit back - silent and uninformed - will we find that our dogs are next in line to be seized?
The idea is not as far-fetched as you may think. Today, Never Yet Melted (go and read it all!) reports that:
The sort of people who go in for basseting are typically well-educated, upper middle-class animal lovers of a preparatory school sort of background. In other words, absolutely the last sort of people imaginable as dog abusers or law breakers.
But neither gentility nor middle-aged respectability was sufficient to protect the Murder Hollow’s master Wendy Willard from a full scale raid by Philadelphia police, nor did it prevent 13 hounds from being taken from their kennels and turned over to a private animal rights organization hostile to hunting.
At night, and without warning the SPCA of Pennsylvania showed up at raided Wendy Willard’s kennel and seized the dogs under the aegis of a newly passed law that allows no more than twelve animals to be kept on any property in Philadelphia County (note if they had just given her a chance it appears that Willard may have been able to get a waiverthat would allow her to keep her dogs). Not only were the animals turned over to (i.e. given away to) a private entity – some of the hounds seized were reportedly the property of another person and were only being kept at Murder Hollow temporarily. Apparently the jack-booted AR fanatics of the PSPCA didn’t give Willard a chance to explain that.
The dog seized have now been spread out among several local shelters and rescue groups (in other kinds of cases – do the police make a habit of giving seized property away?). Neither the dogs’ owners or other area basset pack owners have been able to get any information on the dogs’ location or welfare.
It may be a natural reaction to feel smugly self-rightous when we hear stories about dogs seized from those kinds of people (i.e. the ones whose practices we don’t happen to agree with) but it’s time to wake up and smell the dog poop. If a yuppie suburban basset fancier with no criminal record whatsoever isn’t safe from having her beloved dogs seized without notice - none of us is.
The goal of many of these raids – especially those featured prominently in the media – have nothing to do with animal welfare. I’m willing to bet dollars to dog toys that the hounds of Murder Hollow were healthier and happier than most over-fed, under-exercised suburban pets. The goal is the kind of publicity that fills the coffers of ‘humane’ groups who lobby for anti-pet legislation and don’t operate shelters. And the long term the goal is animal rights - and the end of all pet breeding and ownership.
It’s time. Time to take lobbying power away from the animal rights extremists who want to chip away at pet ownership until it’s gone. Time to tell our legislators and representative that animal seizures must be conducted in ways that preserve our rights – not as publicity events. That protecting the animals seized includes considering the possibility that they might be returned to the home they were taken from – and that, as with other seized property, this consideration needs to be given precedence. (I don’t understand why these kinds of seizures aren’t prohibited under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment – perhaps someone out there can educate me?)
UPDATE: Here’s Walt Hutchens post re this from Pet-Law. (Walt says all his posts can be cross-posted.)
Ms. Willard was raided by the PSPCA and police due to a first time noise complaint, and told that unless she released 11 of her 23 hounds to them they would seize them all, under a new 12-dog-limit city ordinance.
As my friend Shirly posted over at YesBiscuit:
I have no way of knowing the full facts of the case or whether the post making the rounds is accurate. But to my mind, even if we totally discount it as fiction, the scenario is at least plausible which is what concerns me most.
Exactly. I’m a huge fan of respecting the law. But even if Ms. Willard was not in compliance with zoning regs, didn’t have a kennel license – or even if she had a filty, nasty, disgusting kennel – she did not deserve to have her dogs, in effect, stolen from her. The right thing to do, if this was indeed a first time complaint – was to cite her and give her a reasonable time period to come into compliance with the law.
This is happening more and more and it scares the crap out of me. There but for the grace of God…
UPDATE AUGUST 10, 2009:
See new blog posts at Terrierman’s Daily Dose; Stephen Bodio’s Querencia; Never Yet Melted, Philly.com and YesBiscuit and the news story published by The Philadelphia Daily News - and make up your own mind.