Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Responsible Advocacy: II

. . . we need to embrace a comprehensive
dangerous-dog law that will actually work.

Kara Holmquist, MSPCA

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It took us a moment to realize why this line is funny. Then we remembered that we're deep in the political season, and the word comprehensive, when it appears in the same sentence as plan, law, bill, etc, takes on a whole new meaning.

For those who are addicted to the news (as we are), the following terms are as common as air:
  • Comprehensive tax bill
  • Comprehensive energy legislation
  • Comprehensive immigration reform
  • Comprehensive health care reform
And now we have comprehensive dangerous dog laws. News junkies understand that when a politician uses the word comprehensive, it's his promise that nothing, absolutely nothing, will happen. (We may have come close with health care reform, but close only counts in horseshoes.) The speaker adopts a principled manner  and promises that any interim or inferior bill will not be tolerated (bills which, however imperfect, might actually accomplish something).

Advocates of fighting breeds rarely make original statements so we checked the web and sure enough, "comprehensive dog laws" has become a favorite of those wanting to torpedo Breed Specific Legislation (BSL).
  • The ASPCA’s Government Relations department has a strong history of helping to create and promote comprehensive, breed-neutral dangerous dog laws. (ASPCA)
  • . . . urges all state, territorial, and local legislative bodies and governmental agencies to adopt comprehensive breed-neutral dangerous dog/reckless owner laws  (ABA TIPS)
  • Comprehensive "dog bite" legislation . . . would do far more to protect communities than banning a specific breed. (HSUS)
  • etc, etc, etc.
Needless to say, many of these advocacy organizations make kind offers of assistance to states and municipalities, offering to help them write their animal legislation. Boston already had dog laws which worked just fine, thank you very much, and Ms Holmquist helped mightily to send them to the trash bin.

Ms Holmquist also indulges in additional silliness in her letter to The Boston Herald. Her Logic 101 lesson in the first sentence:
Using the recent dog bite incident in East Boston — which occurred while the pit bull ordinance was in place and didn't prevent it — to argue the ordinance is needed is flawed logic.
. . . is itself an example of the fallacy of cause and effect or final consequences, take your pick (not to mention an example of obtuse syntax).  Remember, Ms Holmquist is referring here to an attack in which two pit bulls burst out of a house and went on a rampage; no law other than a strict ban could have stopped such an attack.

It is disingenuous of Ms Holmquist (and Dr Finocchio) to pretend that BSL is ineffective if it doesn't stop every single pit bull attack -- neither do conventional, comprehensive dangerous dog laws. The primary goal of BSL has always been:
. . . to reduce dog attack fatalities and disfigurements, and to reduce shelter killing. These goals have been fulfilled wherever breed-specific laws have been brought into force.
Animal People, Oct 2011
BSL has been effective in Boston. The advocates of fighting breeds must come up with relevant, honest, responsible arguments, rather than the tired, frivolous, borrowed arguments they habitually use.

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News source: Law lacks bite, Boston Herald
Google News: Today's pit bull attacks