Posts filed under ‘bsl’

There But for the Grace of Dog…

Schadenfreude is a complex thing. It’s that scrumptiously malicious sense of pleasure we feel when we see bad things happen to people we don’t like.  The sense of having escaped the danger heightens our feelings of comfort and happiness. Seeing someone we disagree with get the come-uppance we think they deserve feeds our sense of justice.  And while we may recognize that Schadenfreude is a guilty pleasure –  the added bonus of feeling smug because we weren’t the ones responsible for causing our enemy’s pain lends an added frisson of satisfaction.

Why do dog-related crimes whet our Schadenfreude so deeply?

Is it the enormous amount of divisiveness in the many worlds of dog?  Conformation exhibitors who feel superior to obedience competitors.  Show breeders who vilify performance breeders. Purely positive trainers who denounce balanced trainers. Competitors who feel superior to average pet owners.  Toss in a few heaping helpings of envy and the widespread idea that “you’re with us or against us” — and it’s no surprise that the world of dogs is sometimes as combative as the Middle East.  That divisiveness feeds our Schadenfreude and makes it awfully easy to turn us against each other.

Witness the big, ugly can-o-worms I opened last week when I posted about the story of the Murder Hollow Bassets. Is Wendy Willard an arrogant animal hoarder who taunted law enforcement or is she the innocent victim of over-zealous grundyism?  I don’t care, because the thing is – her rights should be protected either way.

In too many cases today basic violations of noise laws, limit laws and sanitation laws are being confused with demonstrable animal cruelty.  When we read stories of animal busts – especially when the perp is someone we don’t agree with (and in the world of dogs, we are bound to disagree with him in some way) – we assume that, of course, that horrid animal abuser must be guilty.  In the rush to judge we forget that we are all innocent until proven guilty.

As society oozes deeper into political correctness, increasing numbers of Grundy laws are being passed and enforced at all levels of government. Laws that make it easier for a neighbor that doesn’t like the way you look or an animal rights group that doesn’t like the way you live – to find a law they can use to harass you.

We don’t need these laws. We’ve already got enough dog-related laws on the books. Think about it. Is it the number of dogs kept on a property, their breed or even their sexual status that creates problems or – is it just a single, lazy, clueless, disrespectful or irresponsible owner?  An owner who will be a problem even if he’s only allowed to have a single, loud, dirty, neglected obnoxious or abused dog in his care?  If existing cruelty, sanitation, noise and related laws are enforced in a timely and lawful manner – and if we treat our neighbors with mutual respect – dogs aren’t a problem.

YesBiscuit wrote an excellent post last week illustrating how we all need to pay careful attention to the context of the reasons given for animal seizures.  Be sure to read the comments – these make it stunningly clear that there but for the grace of doG walks every single one of us.  Sure, you may be able to avoid things like limit laws by moving to a rural area – but Mrs. Grundy seems to live everywhere now and unless laws regarding the seizure of animals change – the Mrs. Grundys of the world will eventually be able to hold all pet owners hostage.


Now, even though I’ve been accused by some of being a black-helicopters nut job – I really do agree that we need laws.  And I believe that the laws should be enforced.  But I also believe that there is such a thing as too many laws – and that enforcement can be conducted too vigorously.

If were up to me, when should animals be seized?

  • When their life or health is in immediate danger.  Minor cases of parasite infestation, out of date vaccinations, temporarily unsanitary conditions and minor lapses of grooming do not constitute an immediate threat to the life or health of an animal.
  • When an owner has been given written notice of an animal-related offense and not come into compliance within a reasonable, specified time period (such as 30 days).  This warning must be given in person by an officer of the court or by registered letter.
  • When an owner is arrested and there is no one else available to care for them.
  • When they have been abandoned.
  • When an owner voluntarily relinquishes them – after he has been read his rights and allowed to consult with legal counsel.
  • In addition to the above, except under circumstances where their immediate health and safety can be proven to be at risk, pets must only be seized by, or under the direct supervision of, officers of the law.

How should seized animals be handled?

  • If they are seized because their life or health is in immediate danger – they must be put under the care of a veterinarian.
  • If they are seized as evidence in a case (such as limit laws, breed specific legislation, nuisance laws, etc.) they must be kept in such a way as to maintain chain-of-evidence requirements.  I do not think that, in most cases, releasing them to foster care meets these requirements.  Killing them, selling them or adopting them out most certainly does not meet these requirements.
  • Intact animals must be kept their original reproductive state and even aggressive animals must be kept alive whenever possible until they are either released by their owner or he is found guilty.
  • Puppies must be kept with their dam until at least the age of seven weeks unless there is a health-related reason to separate them from her.

I’m deeply concerned by the growing trend to grant police powers to private citizens who are then given the authority to enforce humane laws.  Humane officers aren’t police officers yet they are granted the power to search and seize our property. Our living property.  In some municipalities they even are even granted the power to charge us with felonies.

Humane officers are accountable to their supervisors and local boards of directors – not the public.  In most areas there’s no internal affairs department or grievance board to file a complaint with that provides an external, civilian review of their actions – so short of filing expensive, time-consuming lawsuits (and risking the loss of our beloved pets while we wait to settle them) – we have little or no recourse when non-police humane officers step beyond the boundaries of their positions.

The issue here isn’t the Murder Hollow Bassets or the PSCPA per se.  It’s the disturbing increasing trend for states and municipalities to farm out enforcement duties to private citizens.  Citizens who, in some cases (not all!) are more interested in advancing a personal agenda than enforcing the law.  The issue isn’t Wendy Willard’s guilt or innocence – it’s the need to recognize that animals need to be treated as living  property.  That animals need to be treated humanely – but so do their owners.

And if believing this makes me an ignorant, lying, right-wing loon searching for black helicopters – I’m okay with that.

August 10, 2009 at 9:14 pm 7 comments

BSL Now!

Hordes Herds of vicious animals around the world are attacking and killing people with increasing frequency.  It was reported in today’s New York Times – the threat is real.  These savage creatures often attack from behind and frequently single out disabled people as their victims.

In 16 cases, “the animal was deemed to have purposefully struck the victim,” the report states. In 5 other cases, people were crushed against walls or by gates shoved by the cattle. Ten of the attacks were by bulls, 6 by cows and 5 by “multiple cattle.” A third of the deaths were caused by animals that had been aggressive in the past.

All but one of the victims died from head or chest injuries; the last died after a cow knocked him down and a syringe in his pocket injected him with an antibiotic meant for the cow. In at least one case the animal attacked from behind, when the person wasn’t looking. Older men with arthritis and hearing aids have the highest risk of being injured by livestock, the report says, probably because they don’t hear the animals charging and can’t move fast enough to get out of the way.

It’s time to end the madness. People, we need Bovine Specific Legislation – and we need it now!


Did you know:

Along with the dozens of bovine-related fatalities that occur worldwide each year, many people are also severely injured – even permanently handicapped – by bovine attacks.  The threat posed by these vicious animals is unacceptable. To deal with the threat we propose the following:

  • Bovine creatures must be kept muzzled and leashed hobbled or safely confined in sturdy box stalls labeled with appropriate warning signs.
  • All bovines must be spayed / neutered and those with a history of aggression should be immediately slaughtered euthanized.
  • Bovines found roaming at large should be seized and slaughtered. (nom!)
  • Bovines will heretofore be banned from all county fairs, 4H events, rodeos and pit barbecue promotions.
  • Persons being caught with illegal bovines (intact animals, unlicensed animals and those without properly color-coded RFID ear tags) will be subject to fines and imprisonment.

Once we’ve successfully eliminated the terrible threat bovines present to society we must move on to outlaw properly legislate swimming pools, automobiles, bathtubs, roller skates, stiletto heels, hot dogs – and the gutless, gormless politicians who waste their time and our money as they focus on promulgating this kind of pointless, time and money wasting crap legislation rather than dealing with important – but potentially controversial – issues that might come back to bite them in the ass.


August 1, 2009 at 4:00 am 3 comments

Bulldog Mauls Orangutan

And I am overwhelmed by the unspeakable horribleness adorableness of it all

Hat tip to the most excellent One Bark at a Time

July 10, 2009 at 8:28 pm 1 comment


Comments on this post on Tamara Follett’s program of blatant self-promotion Canine-Threat Assessment Guide over at YesBiscuit  annoyed me enough that I felt I had to write this post.  Dangerous dogs aren’t born – they’re created by ignorant and / or inattentive owners.  We don’t need a system to assess the potential danger a dog poses to society- we need one that puts responsibility squarely where it’s needed – on the shoulders of dog owners.

Dog Owner Threat Assessment Guide (DO-TAG)
Categorization of Dog Owners by Risk Factors

The goal of this draft guide is to provide a free, easy-to-use tool for authorities to employ in assessing a given dog owner’s risk  to his dog and the public.  The guide could allow local authorities to identify potentially problematic dog owners with regard to their real or potential threat so that limited resources can be focused on those dog owners most likely to have unplanned litters, encourage aggressive behavior in their dogs, let them run at large or otherwise engage in potentially dangerous and/or antisocial behaviors.

As one small step toward this goal I have created this draft assessment guide that lets you determine the level of threat you pose to society as a dog owner.  The test not only places risk where it belongs, but it also allows your score to change over time.  Answer each question honestly, sum up the points and see what kind of risk you present to society.

1. When you call your dog does he:
  I would never let my dog off leash!  7
  Only come if you have cheese or other treats in your hand? 5
  Come unless he’s distracted? 3
  Come as long as there are no large distractions like animals or people present? 2
  Turn and come even if he’s at a full run after a critter. -5
2. When you are gone your dog is:
  Running loose – he needs his freedom1!* 10
  Chained up out front to scare off intruders. 12
  Chained or on a tie-out in an area where people pass by. 8
  Loose in an area contained by an invisible fence. 8
  Loose in a fenced yard with people and dogs in adjacent areas. 6
  In a secure kennel in a quiet area. 1
  Loose in my house where he doesn’t get in trouble. 0
  Crated in my house because he needs more training. 0
  Crated in my house because he’s destructive and can’t be trained. 6
3. When you walk your dog on leash:
  I don’t have time to walk my dog, he gets plenty of exercise playing in the yard. 10
  I have to do it at a time when no one is around because of his aggression. 10
  He constantly drags me down the street no matter what I do. 8
  I let him run loose to check out the neighborhood. 9
  He’s good except when other people and dogs walk past. 3
  He walks politely by my side even around distractions. 0
  I don’t need the leash, he’ll heel around distractions without it. -2
4. When you groom your dog:
  I have to muzzle him to touch parts of his body. 8
  My dog doesn’t need any grooming. 10
  I have to take him to a vet or groomer, I’m afraid to groom him. 9
  He doesn’t like it but he puts up with it. 2
  He enjoys grooming! 0
5. When your dog misbehaves:
  I lose my temper.  The little b*$+d does it just to annoy me. 10
  I get frustrated because it happens so often. 6
  I sometimes ignore him because I’m busy. 8
  I usually discover what he’s done after the fact. 8
  I ignore it and hope the behavior will self-extinguish. 8
  I scold or correct him then move on. 5
  I correct the behavior then praise him for stopping or changing the behavior 1
  I look forward to it as a training opportunity. 0
  My darling little snookums never misbehaves! 15
6. Your dog is:
  The victim of terrible abuse and will to be treated with kid gloves forever. 10
  My perfect baby. 10
  Just a dog. 5
  A dog with a dog’s needs and desires. 0
7. When children are around:
  I leave my dog alone with them. He’s perfectly safe. 10
  I lock my dog up. He hates kids. 7
  I watch the dog. 4
  I always keep an eye on the dog and the kids. 0
  My dog has never been around children. 8
8. I have two or more dogs because:
  I don’t have time to entertain one. This way they entertain each other when I’m busy. 10
  I only have one dog because I don’t have time, space or money for more. 0
  I only have one dog because my dog hates other dogs. 8
  I have the time, energy, space, money and other resources I need to enjoy them all. 0
  I know I can take better care of them than anyone else.** 20
9. Your dog was:
  Spayed or neutered at your request at less than six months of age. 2
  Spayed or neutered at your request at more than six months of age. 0
  Spayed or neutered before you got it. 0
  Intact because he / she has papers. 8
  Intact because he / she would feel bad without all his / her parts. 7
  Intact because health and temperament tests show he / she is an excellent example of the breed. 0
  Intact because the breeder wants a puppy back from him / her. 8
  Intact because you’re too busy, broke or disorganized to deal with it. 10
  Spayed or neutered for health reasons (this includes not being a great representative of his/her breed). 0
10. Your dog obeys commands like sit, down and stay:
  My dog doesn’t need training. 10
  Only if I have treats in my hand. 8
  Only if there are no distractions around. 8
  When there are few distractions. 5
  As long as there aren’t big distractions around. 3
  Even around large distractions like other animals and people. 0

*     If you live in a rural area and the dog is a livestock guard dog give yourself one point, not ten.
**  If this is really how you feel, get help. You may be a hoarder.

If your scored:

75 or more points – You are a Potentially Lethal Dog Owner.  Unless you change your ways there is a significant probability that your dog will injure someone seriously or meet an untimely death himself because of your misbehavior. You have no business owning a dog of any kind.

50 to 75 points –  You are a Dangerous Dog Owner.  Your neighbors probably hate you – and your dog.  People walk on the other side of the street to avoid you. There is a significant possibility that your dog will injure a person or another dog.  Please get help!

40 to 50 points –  You are a Problem Dog Owner.  Everyone knows your dog – for all the wrong reasons.  The police know where you live because of neighborhood complaints.  The vet only pretends he’s happy when you come in.  Some people avoid visiting you because they don’t want to deal with your dog.  While he may never bite anyone, your dog runs a significant risk of being euthanized or rehomed for ‘his’ misbehavior.

30 to 40 points –  You are an Annoying Dog Owner.  Your neighbor likes you but sometimes secretly wishes you’d move away. Your kid’s friends don’t want to play with the dog.  And the dog probably spends a lot of its time either being ignored or coddled (or – worse yet, dealing with the confusion of alternating bouts of each).  Your vet likes you, but would give you a much less than glowing referral as a foster home.

20 to 30 points – You are a Reasonable Dog Owner.  Your dog is rarely annoying and his behavior is getting better instead of worse.  People are nearly always glad to see your dog and if they aren’t, he doesn’t bother them.  Your vet would give you a good referral if a breeder or rescue group called.

Less than 20 points – You are an Excellent Dog Owner.  Even if he started out with issues, you have a great dog. Friends and neighbors ask you for dog training advice. 

This guide is a draft.  You are free to copy, use, abuse, insult, change, throw out or otherwise adapt it any way you want.  If you’ve got suggestions, post them as comments here.  I’ll take the ones I think are best (hey – this is my blog) and post an update.

July 9, 2009 at 7:10 pm 22 comments

Labradors Are NOT For Dummies

This week Terrierman and RaisedByWolves post the snark on Sioux City, Iowa city councilman Aaron Rochester who thinks his short-coated, broad-headed dog should be exempt from dangerous dog laws even after its second documented attack on attacked an innocent person.  This – while he remains smugly entrenched in the belief that all short-coated, broad-headed dogs that don’t have papers saying they’re Labrador retrievers are born vicious and need to be killed.

Which dog would you rather have latched onto your back?  Councilman Rochester’s labbador who “is a great watchdog” or the born-to-be-vicious pibble show below?

H/T to BloggoTheDogBoy for posting this newsworthy video of a typically vicious pibble in action.

As the much maligned Cesar Millan says: “Breed is not destiny

July 2, 2009 at 2:51 pm 5 comments

Research Shows Pit Bull Owners are Psychopaths

A piece of sophomoric tripe study recently published by The Journal of Forensic Sciences states that owners of “vicious” dogs are more likely to commit crimes and exhibit primary psychopathic tendencies than people who don’t own such dogs are. 

Is this proof that we need breed specific legislation to save us from drug dealers, rapists and baby killers?  Hardly.  This bit of junk science has more holes in it than all the dog bite victims in America stitched together.

In his landmark work Sociological Methods Denzin stated that three properties must be demonstrated to prove a causal relation in sociological studies:

The researcher has to show that the cause is tied to and leads to the effect.

The researcher has to show that the cause occurs before the effect.

He also has to demonstrate that other causes, catalysts or intervening factors don’t produce the effect.

Note: This is part of that boring and annoyingly time-consuming work of eliminating unworkable solutions and collecting additional data to test the potentially workable ones.  Our friends at WVU get an F on this part of their work.  They simply handed a stack of questionnaires out to undergraduate students; compiled the answers; did some basic statistical evaluation — and then committed the cardinal sin of statistical studies by confusing correlation with cause.

And that’s just the start of it. Here are a few of their most glaring errors:

Propaganda as hypothesis:  The first, big, ugly mistake in this farcical creation sttudy is that the researchers start right out with an erroneous – and highly emotionally charged – assumption (rather than a group of facts).  To wit: that Akitas, Chow Chows, Doberman Pinschers, Pit Bulls, Rottweilers and “Wolf-mix” dogs are inherently vicious. They don’t provide any evidence that these breeds of dogs are vicious, and in fact, they don’t even define what they mean when they use the term “vicious”.

Studies have also shown (hopefully more rigorous studies than this one!) that research on emotionally-charged issues has an unfortunate tendency to be affected by the researcher’s own biased opinions on the subject. So, if the WVU group believed that the subject breeds of dogs were vicous before they even started their work (and they do indeed, state that this is so in the published article), they were much more likely to find and use data to support this hypothesis.

Collecting data to fit the hypothesis: A mastiff-sized hole in the study is the fact that the researchers  started out with a fixed hypothesis — and then went on a witch hunt fished for data to support it.  I’m not a social scientist. My education is in the hard, or physical sciences.  The standard there is to collect data and use multiple working hypotheses to evaluate it by a process of eliminating the unworkable solutions and then collecting more data to test the potentially workable ones.  I *know* that that’s a lot of work – but c’mon folks, good science (and – I think – good sociology) requires a lot of work.

Using potentially inaccurate data: To add further fuel to my fire they made absolutely no effort to verify that the dogs that were reported on in the study were of the alleged “vicious” breeds.  Breed identification is a notoriously difficult exercise.  Unless you’ve got papers, ask two veterinarians, dog trainers, groomers or animal control officers what breed(s) a given dog is and you are more likely than not to get at least two different answers.

They also didn’t even bother to ask if the dogs had exhibited any kind of aggressive – or “vicious” – behavior!

Next, the subject of their study were undergraduate students for crissakes.  The questionnaire on dog ownership asked them about all the dogs they’d owned.  I’ll bet that most of these kids included every dog that their family has owned since they were born in their answers.  So, do the results reflect their preferences in dog ownership – or their parents’?  Further, just how accurate is that self-reported data?

I’ll bet that the “Illegal Behavior Checklist” was prepared by the WMU group.  This was a 22 item self report questionnaire that addressed four types of “illegal activities” that included questions like “Have you ever been in a fight?”  Of course, they don’t define what a “fight” is. So – I wonder how many students who had never been in anything worse than a shouting match answered “yes” to that one and were subsequently labeled as violent criminals?

Collecting data from a nonrandom, non-representative population: A vital part of interview studies like this one is ensuring that a random sample of a representative population has been selected to participate.  The folks at West Virginia University failed this vital step when they simply selected a population of undergraduate students willing to fill out questionnaires for credit.  I’m just an ignorant dog trainer, but I have a nagging suspicion that this group isn’t a representative sample of American dog owners.  I’ll go a step farther and posit that this particular sample of dog owners tends to be a lot more impulsive and irresponsible than the much larger group of us who aren’t currently dog-owning undergraduate students.

Temporal aspects were not evaluated:  Even if it could be demonstrated that the ownership of allegedly vicious dogs was truly correlated with criminal behavior or psychopathy (and it most definately was not) – did the psychopathic tendency lead to pibble ownership or does owning a pibble make you a psychopath?

Alternative hypotheses were not considered:  Nope. Not at all. Too much work (or not enough grad students) to bother with that I suppose.

This “study” (and, yes – I am using the term loosely) was so poorly designed and executed, that frankly I’m shocked it ever saw the light of publication in a “peer-reviewed” journal.

I’m not just a scientist, I’m a person who is in head over heels love with science. But the thing that really disturbs me about the publication of a total piece of crap like this isn’t that it represents a complete and utter failure of the peer review system — it’s the sad fact that politicians and special interest groups will use junk science like this to justify the passage of oppressive, draconian laws and regulations that will punish the innocent.

This is truly a sad day for science.

June 7, 2009 at 2:58 am 8 comments

The “Creatures’ Caucus” – A Call to Action

Back in December the HSUS bragged that a record number of animal “protection” laws had been passed in 2008.  Their website states that; “The nation’s largest animal protection organization ushered in a whole new era of policies for animals by helping to pass 91 new animal protection laws this year, surpassing the previous record number of 86 new laws enacted in 2007.” 

While we’re absolutely in favor of well-written legislation that improves the lives of animals — it is our opinion that the goal of the “protective” legislation pushed by HSUS lobbyist is to end all use of animals.  HSUS lobbies for breed-specific legislation, limit laws, mandatory spay-neuter and overly restrictive breeding regulations designed to put hobby, show and working dog breeders out of business.  While 2008 saw record numbers of these kinds of laws introduced at every level across the country, 2009 may be even worse. According to a press release just posted by United States Sportsmen’s Alliance:

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) couldn’t be happier with the formation of a new group of Congressmen that will promote its agenda.

On February 18, U.S. Representatives Jim Moran (D- VA) and Elton Gallegy (R- CA) announced the formation of a new Congressional Animal Protection Caucus. The goal of the group is to get like-minded members of Congress together and promote animal rights policy in Washington, D.C. through forums and briefings. 

According to the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF), the legislative wing of the HSUS, the new caucus will “take lawmaking for the animals to the next level.” HSLF went on to gush in its blog, “we could not be more excited about their leadership of this new organization of humane lawmakers.”


This group of legislators, also known as the “Creatures’ Caucus” appears to be operating under the false assumption that HSUS speaks for American pet owners.  A press release published yesterday on Moran’s website prominently features this quote:

“The American public is united in its belief that all animals deserve humane treatment,” said Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States.  “The newly constituted Congressional Animal Protection Caucus will help better align our federal policies with public opinion, and we are excited to work closely with its leaders and with the entire Congress to combat cruelty and abuse.”

NEWSFLASH Representative Moran — the beliefs of the American public are in no way “united” with those of the HSUS.  Most of us enjoy eating meat, drinking milk, wearing leather and wool and owning pets.  Lots of us enjoy hunting and fishing.  Many of us love “dangerous” breeds of dogs. And unlike the self-rightous a$$#*les at HSUS, we don’t feel entitled to force our social / religious / moral standards on other people.

Folks, this is something we all need to keep an eye on. Write to your senators and representatives and let them know that “Humane Wayne” and his vicious pack of mindless, mean-spirited monsters don’t speak for you.  According to USSA:

As of press time, a full list of other U.S. Representatives joining the caucus was not available. However, the USSA will let sportsmen know as the names become available. Each member of the caucus should be contacted by constituents in their districts. 

Don’t wait for that list to come out. Call or write NOW.  We all need to make sure that we are the voice our elected representatives hear.

February 19, 2009 at 10:19 pm 4 comments

Vicious Pibble Attack!

%$&#@ EVIL DUCK!

It’s a crisis of epidemic proportions. We MUST ban Mallards. And all “mallard-type” ducks.

February 5, 2009 at 2:48 am 5 comments

Controversial Common Sense

In our Proof That The world Is Going Crazy category the Springfield, MO News Leader reports:

State Rep. Jim Viebrock plans to resurrect a controversial bill requiring a veterinarian to inspect farm animals suspected of being abused before authorities can impound the animal.

Let me get this straight, it’s a controversial idea to have someone who is an expert in assessing the health of animals inspect them before they are seized, impounded and then killed or sold?

Well, I suppose in a world where hundreds of dogs are killed in the name of “rescue” it might make sense. I mean, after all, if we can justify killing nearly 200 seized dogs without giving them even basic veterinary and behavior assessments — and do it before the owners they were seized from had been convicted of any charges — it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to require that an impartial, expert third party evaluate the condition of an animal before it’s seized from its home.

Who cares that some  many of the folks conducting these search and seizure operations are armed volunteers with personal agendas who operate outside government control? That they weren’t hired (and can’t be fired) by the public or local municipalities, that they are often hired by radical animal rights groups who seek to end all use of animals, or that they don’t seem to think that they need to preserve our civil rights.

‘Cause after all, when we seize and impound animals based on nothing more than the opinion of one everyday citizen (even if he is a man with a great big political axe to grind), we might save one more animal. Well we may save it — if it isn’t killed by its saviors after it’s seized.

Regardless, one crazy Missouri State Representative keeps fighting the good fight:

By bringing in an impartial state veterinarian from the Department of Agriculture to inspect an animal, Viebrock’s bill aims to curtail abuse of the system by some animal rescue groups that reportedly inject themselves into alleged abuse cases for the chance to sell and profit from the animals.

“People believe that the animal rights activists are all good-natured, big-hearted people,” he said.

In some cases in Missouri and across the country, Viebrock said, owners have been acquitted of animal abuse charges, but their herds have already been sold off by the government or given away to animal sanctuaries.

“There are some of those folks who really are stealing from people who aren’t guilty,” Viebrock said.

He added that in some cases, alleged abuse is overblown by animal rights groups to get law enforcement agencies to obtain a search warrant.

“If you have nine healthy horses and one skinny old mare standing there … you can take pictures of that mare and excite an animal rights group beyond imagination,” Viebrock said.

While Viebrock acknowledges the bill faces a tough uphill climb against well-funded and well-organized animal rights activists, “we need to keep that conversation alive.”

Amen brother. We need to keep this conversation alive.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m most certainly not in favor of animal abuse and I think that animals who are truly in peril should be seized and impounded (but, please – not killed); but instigating search, seizure and impoundment operations to prove a political point is wrong.  And doing it to get publicity and make money reselling the animals you stole illegally seized from an innocent person is reprehensible. And — it voilates our civil rights.

If thats a controversial position – plant me right in the middle of it.

December 30, 2008 at 6:01 am 1 comment

Moral Hygiene

Ritual washing and purification ceremonies are a feature of many religions — but now research shows that those rites may put us in a less forgiving frame of mind.  A study published earlier this month in the journal Psychological Science  indicates that washing with soap and water can make people view questionable activities as less acceptable and reasonable than they would if they had not washed.  The study also indicated that being exposed to disgusting stimuli can make us judge situations less harshly than we ordinarily would.  This appears to indicate that people rely more on emotion and intuition than deliberate reasoning when we make decisions regarding what is right and what is wrong.

From The Economist:

Dr Schnall’s study was inspired by some previous work of her own. She had found that when feelings of disgust are instilled in them beforehand, people make decisions which are more ethical than would otherwise be expected. She speculates that the reason for this is that feeling morally unclean (ie, disgusted) leads to feelings of moral wrongness and thus triggers increased ethical behaviour by instilling a desire to right the wrong. However, as the cleanliness and purification rituals found in many religions suggest, physical cleanliness, too, is linked to moral behaviour, so she decided to investigate this as well.


The researchers report that those who were given the “clean” words or who washed themselves rated the acts they were asked to consider as ethically more acceptable than the control groups did.

I found it interesting that all the reports I read interpreted the results of this study to mean that washing our hands causes us to make less moral judgements. Hey — wait, what happened to the idea that qualities like understanding and forgiveness are moral values? Are we only moral and ethical when we judge others’ behavior harshly?  Oddly (especially in this age of political correctness), the researchers and the press both seem to be inferring this.

And maybe I’m weird, but I thought that the most interesting aspect of the study was evidence that we don’t make moral judgements in a rational way. That our sense of physical cleanliness directly affects how easily we become outraged.  Seriously – doesn’t this make some things a little clearer? 

Things like making a judgement that killing dogs solely because they resemble a certain rather broad physical type that has acquired a reputition for viciousness through human abuse and ignorance?  [Dirty, icky people own those kinds of dogs — and they do vile things with them – off with their heads!]

Things like feeling justified in demanding that all licensed dogs be spayed and neutered before sexual maturity because some irresponsible people (people who usually don’t license their dogs anyway) have unplanned litters and abandon unwanted dogs?  [Eww, dog sex.  Disgusting.  Have you seen how that dog licks himself — off with his balls!]

Things like believing it’s right to limit all households to a specific number of dogs just because some people are bothered by morons who keep loud, obnoxious, untrained beasts in unsanitary or unsafe conditions?  [Revolting, nasty yard full of dog poop and filthy dogs who bark all day.  Sleazebag owner that I wish would move away — off with his property rights!]

Maybe the people who are convinced that we need more of those kinds of laws need to wash a bit more — and judge a bit less.

Our Lady of the Immaculate Decision

Our Lady of the Immaculate Conclusion

In fact, an earlier study (published in  Science in 2006) which also studied links between morality and hygiene, found that people commonly felt an urge to wash themselves after committing, or remembering  they had committed, acts that they felt were immoral.  The “MacBeth Effect” was manifested through increased attention on hygiene-related words and ideas, an enhanced desire to have and use cleaning products, and a craving for antiseptic wipes (seriously, I could not make this stuff up).  The researchers noted that the study indicated that “physical cleansing alleviates the upsetting consequences of unethical behavior and reduces threats to one’s moral self-image.”

Interesting.  So — while on the one hand (pun intended) we are more likely to judge other’s actions less harshly after washing ourselves — we also feel an urge to cleanse ourselves after commiting or thinking of an act we think of as wrong or immoral.  Does this imply that we subconsciously feel that judging others is wrong?  And that we should engage in ritual purification before making moral judgements instead of afterward?

And maybe that people who think we need to live in a harshly judgemental, politically correct world are exposed to too many fithy and disgusting experiences in their own lives?

December 18, 2008 at 2:15 am 2 comments

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