Understand that Maryland’s recently enacted anti-devocalization law, though well intentioned, is inadequate.

i Apr 30th
HOW YOU CAN HELP ANIMALS!
 Understand that Maryland’s recently enacted anti-devocalization law, though well intentioned, is inadequate.

  

As ISAR’s supporters know, one of our major programs is STOP DEVOCALIZATION NOW. Foremost among our tools to STOP DEVOCALIZATION NOW is “ISAR’s Model Statute Prohibiting Devocalization.” We’ve circulated it widely, and encouraged laypersons to urge their legislators to adopt the statute.

              

ISAR’s Model Statute Prohibiting Devocalization1

The Legislature hereby declares that it intends by the enactment of this statute to provide for the public health, safety, welfare and morals by prohibiting the veterinary practice of devocalization.

The Legislature finds that devocalization affects the public health, safety, welfare, and morals by, among other consequences, contributing to the overpopulation of dogs and cats, increased levels of euthanasia, and costly animal control expenditures.

The Legislature finds also that devocalization affects the public health, safety, welfare, and morals by fostering the indefensible belief that the practice’s brutal treatment of dogs and cats is humane and morally acceptable.

Section 1. Prohibition

(a) No person within this jurisdiction shall surgically or by any other means devocalize a dog or cat, or cause, or allow others to cause, the devocalizing of a dog or cat, unless a veterinarian licensed in this state shall have first filed a written certification with the county clerk stating that devocalizing is medically necessary to treat or relieve an illness, disease, or injury, or correct a congenital abnormality that is causing, or will cause, the dog or cat medical harm, pain or suffering.

Section 2. Written certification

(a) The written certification described in Section 1 shall contain (i) the date and description of the veterinarian’s examination and evaluation of the dog or cat, (ii) a statement certifying that devocalizing is medically necessary to treat or relieve an illness, disease, or injury, or correct a congenital abnormality that is causing or will cause the dog or cat harm, pain or suffering(iii) any supporting diagnosis and findings, (iv) the name and current address and telephone number of the dog or cat’s owner or keeper, and (v) the name and current address and telephone number, state license number, and signature of the veterinarian.

Section 3. Veterinarians

(a) No person except a veterinarian licensed in this state, using anesthesia sufficient to eliminate all pain, may devocalize a dog or cat.

Section 4. Penalties

(a) Any person in violation of this statute shall be punished by not more than eighteen months in jail, or by a fine of not more than $2,500, or by both.

(b) Any person convicted under this statute may be ordered to submit to a mental health evaluation as determined by the court and undergo any recommended counseling or treatment.

(c) In addition to any other penalty provided by law, any person convicted under this section may be barred from owning or possessing any animals, or residing on the same property with someone who owns or possesses animals, for a period of time deemed appropriate by the court, and may be further required to take humane education, pet ownership and dog training classes as ordered by the court.

Section 5. Sale or gift of devocalized animals

(a) Anyone selling, gifting or otherwise transferring ownership or possession of a dog or cat shall disclose to the recipient whether the dog or cat has been devocalized and provide the recipient with a copy of the veterinarian certification required by Section 3.

Section 6. Definition

(a) As used in this statute, “devocalize” and any word derived therefrom, is defined as “any procedure performed on the larynx or vocal chords of a dog or cat causing the reduction or elimination of vocal sounds produced by that animal and includes procedures commonly referred to as “debarking,” “silencing” or “bark softening.”

Several weeks ago when ISAR was contacted by Maryland legislator Benjamin F. Kramer’s office in Annapolis we learned that the State of Maryland was considering enactment of an anti-devocalization bill. Because in our long experience with those who draft animal protection legislation, usually with the best of intentions, ISAR’s chairman, Professor Henry Mark Holzer, volunteered to submit testimony regarding the provisions that should have been contained in Maryland’s proposed anti-devocalization statute.The next thing we heard was that the bill had become law.

 *****

Chapter 187 

(House Bill 667)

AN ACT concerning

Crimes Relating to Animals — Unauthorized Surgical Devocalization of Cat or 

Dog — Penalties

FOR the purpose of prohibiting a person from surgically devocalizing a dog or cat; authorizing a certain veterinarian to surgically devocalize a dog or cat under certain circumstances; defining a certain term; providing penalties for a violation of this Act; and generally relating to crimes relating to animals.

BY adding to

           Article — Criminal Law

           Section 10-624

           Annotated Code of Maryland

           (2012 Replacement Volume and 2013 Supplement)

            SECTION 1. BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF

MARYLAND, That the Laws of Maryland read as follows:

Article — Criminal Law

10-624.

(A)(1) “DEVOCALIZE” MEANS TO PERFORM A SURGICAL PROCEDURE INVOLVING CUTTING, NOTCHING, PUNCHING, ABRADING, LASERING, SUTURING, OR OTHERWISE PHYSICALLY ALTERING THE VOCAL APPARATUS OF A DOG OR CAT WITH THE INTENT OF ALTERING, REDUCING, OR ELIMINATING VOCAL SOUNDS PRODUCED BY THE ANIMAL.

(2) “DEVOCALIZE” INCLUDES DEBARKING, DEVOICING, SILENCING, VENTRICULOCORDECTOMY, VOCAL CORDECTOMY, BARK REDUCTION, AND BARK SOFTENING.

(B) EXCEPT AS PROVIDED IN SUBSECTION (C) OF THIS SECTION, A PERSON MAY NOT SURGICALLY DEVOCALIZE A DOG OR CAT.

(C) A LICENSED VETERINARIAN MAY SURGICALLY DEVOCALIZE A DOG OR CAT ONLY IF:

(1) ANESTHESIA IS ADMINISTERED TO THE ANIMAL DURING THE  PROCEDURE; AND

(2) THE VETERINARIAN PROVIDES THE OWNER OR KEEPER OF THE ANIMAL A WRITTEN CERTIFICATION THAT:

(I) STATES THAT THE PROCEDURE ON THE ANIMAL WAS MEDICALLY NECESSARY TO TREAT OR RELIEVE A PHYSICAL ILLNESS, A DISEASE, OR AN INJURY, OR TO CORRECT A CONGENITAL ABNORMALITY THAT IS CAUSING OR WILL CAUSE THE ANIMAL MEDICAL HARM OR PAIN; AND

(II) CONTAINS:

  1. THE DATE AND DESCRIPTION OF THE VETERINARIAN’S EXAMINATION AND EVALUATION;
  2. SUPPORTING DIAGNOSES AND FINDINGS;
  3. THE NAME AND CURRENT ADDRESS AND TELEPHONE NUMBER OF THE ANIMAL’S OWNER OR KEEPER; AND
  4. THE NAME AND CURRENT ADDRESS AND TELEPHONE NUMBER, STATE LICENSE NUMBER, AND SIGNATURE OF THE VETERINARIAN.

(D) A PERSON WHO VIOLATES THIS SECTION IS GUILTY OF A MISDEMEANOR AND ON CONVICTION IS SUBJECT TO:

(1) FOR A FIRST OFFENSE, IMPRISONMENT NOT EXCEEDING 90 DAYS OR A FINE NOT EXCEEDING $1,000 OR BOTH; AND

(2) FOR A SECOND OR SUBSEQUENT OFFENSE, IMPRISONMENT NOT EXCEEDING 1 YEAR OR A FINE NOT EXCEEDING $2,000 OR BOTH.

SECTION 2. AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, That this Act shall take effect October 1, 2014.

Approved by the Governor, April 14, 2014.

*****

Please note the following…..

Maryland’s statute (Section (A)(1) requires an intent to change vocal sounds. ISAR’s Model Statute (Section 6(a)) does not require any such intent. This means that under Maryland’s statute the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that by the accused’s surgical conduct the desired end of the procedure was to change vocal sounds. To the contrary, ISAR’s Model Statute would allow conviction simply upon adequate proof that the defendant actually changed vocal sounds, whether or not he or she actually intended to do so. As most trial lawyers know, proving intent is not a slam dunk because it requires an x-ray into someone’s mental state. While it’s true that intent can often be inferred from acts, it can’t always. In this regard, ISAR’s Model Statute is importantly better than Maryland’s.

Maryland’s Section (B) provides that “a person may not surgically devocalize a dog or cat.” There are two weaknesses in this section, shown by ISAR’s contrasting prohibitory language. First, our “Section 1. Prohibition,” bars devocalization “surgically or by any other means.” Second, it not only bars the person him/herself from devocalizing, but covers a situation where the person shall “cause, or allow others to cause” devocalization of a dog or cat.

Maryland’s Section (C) allows a veterinarian to perform devocalization, “only if (1) anesthesia is administered to the animal during the procedure.” What if it’s inadequate? ISAR’s “Section 3. Veterinarians”, plugs this loophole by expressly requiring that the anesthesia shall be “sufficient to eliminate all pain.”

Other important provisions, present in ISAR’s Model Statute but absent from Maryland’s, are:

  • Findings. “Findings” are essential predicates to legislation at every level of government. They provide the explicit rationale(s) for enactment of the laws, and usually enable reviewing courts to understand why they were passed.
  • Penalties. Absent from Maryland law is ISAR’s “Section 4. Penalties (b) and (c),” the former allowing for a mental health evaluation and therapy, the latter allowing for a court-ordered prohibition of contact with animals, etc.
  • ISAR’s “Section 2. Written certification,” requirement is considerably more stringent than the four requirements found in Maryland’s (C)(2)(II).
  • ISAR’s “Section 5. Sale or gift of devocalized animals,” imposes disclosure requirements on anyone who transfers ownership or possession of a devocalized dog or cat. Maryland’s statute has no such requirements.

Maryland’s governor and legislature are to be applauded for their intention to criminalize devocalization, and ISAR is sure that the new law will go a long way to eliminating that barbaric practice.

But, as is often unfortunately the case, Maryland’s new anti-devocalization statute could have been better drafted.

ISAR welcomes the opportunity to help.

 ___________

1 ISAR’s proposed Model Statute Prohibiting Devocalization draws almost entirely on the Massachusetts law enacted several years ago. ISAR’s Model Statute is drafted for the state level. With appropriate adjustments, the statute can be used at any other level of government.

Good Intentions Go Astray

i Nov 6th

Bill S.767 has been introduced in the Massachusetts Legislature. Entitled “An Act relative to a private cause of action to prevent the cruel and inhumane treatment of animals,” the bill seeks to confer “standing to sue” on citizens of the Commonwealth, allowing them to invoke the judicial system on behalf of animals–a worthy proposal, but put forth in a wholly inept form.

Referred to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary, the bill provides as follows:

SECTION 1. Chapter 243 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2010 Official Edition is amended by inserting after section 6 the following new section:

Section 7. A party of interest may bring an action under this chapter for the protection and humane treatment of animals. It shall be proper in any action to combine causes of action against one or more defendants for the protection of one or more animals. A party in interest as plaintiff shall include any person even if the person does not have any legal interest or possessory rights in an animal. Such person has standing to bring an action under this section based on the public policy against animal mistreatment. The action may be commenced against any individual, guardian or any entity that has possession of an animal and has engaged in or defendant shall include any guardian who has or is engaging in cruel or inhumane treatment of an animal or animals.

To make the proposed statute more intelligible to laypersons, we’re going to rearrange it.

Who can sue? A party in interest as plaintiff shall include any person . . . . In other words, anyone. Presumably, infants to the aged, whether citizens or residents of Massachusetts or not.

Must they have a personal interest in a specific animal or animals? . . . even if the person does not have any legal interest or possessory rights in an animal. No interest of any kind whatsoever is necessary in order to invoke the judicial power of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Why are they authorized to sue? Because Massachusetts has a “public policy against animal mistreatment.” In other words, because the Commonwealth has laws against animal cruelty, anyone, even persons with no connection to any specific animal or animals, can bring someone to court.

Who would be the defendant or defendants? Well, this crucial sentence of the bill is unintelligible: “any individual, guardian or any entity that has possession of an animal and has engaged in or defendant shall include any guardian. . . .” Yes, that’s what it says.

Engaged in what? “cruel or inhumane treatment of an animal or animals.” While on its face the bill is meaningless because “cruel or inhumane” is not defined, it probably refers to conduct prohibited under other Massachusetts’ statutes. Maybe.

We could say more about the bill–how its vagueness probably renders it unconstitutional, how as a practical matter it would be unmanageable, how it fails to differentiate between civil and criminal lawsuits, how damages are to be assessed, and more–but to ISAR, which has said quite a lot about the subject of standing to sue (See Animals and “Standing to Sue”Litigation) it is sufficient to observe that yet again legislators sympathetic to animals have made a colossal mistake, revealing once more good intentions gone astray.

Bill S.767 188th (Current)

By Mr. Montigny, a petition (accompanied by bill, Senate, No. 767) of Mark C. Montigny and Benjamin Swan for legislation to prevent the cruel and inhumane treatment of animals. The Judiciary.

Sponsors: Mark C. Montigny

Status: Referred to Joint Committee on the Judiciary

Download PDF

View & Print Full Page

“Cruel and inhumane treatment of an animal or animals” shall include a violation of chapter 272, sections 77 to 80G or any circumstance in which the life, health or safety of the animal is at risk.

HOW YOU CAN HELP ANIMALS!

i Oct 1st

Among the many useful features of the Internet is the phenomenon called a “Weblog” — now universally referred to as a “Blog.”
Originally used as a means for the expression of the writer’s personal views, Blogs have evolved into a powerful tool enabling ISAR and other organizations to inform their supporters and others throughout the world about their activities. And to provide them with “ammunition” needed to fight their many battles.

Some of the ammunition ISAR has provided for those fighting animal protection battles appears below.

For example, if you abhor the inhumane practice of cutting dog’s vocal cords as a convenience to the “owner” see Stop Devocalization Now and ISAR’s Stop Devocalization Now Video — and then join us in trying to end the barbarism. And if you’d like to help us spread the word about mandatory spay/neuter, see Only ISAR “Gets It” About Mandatory Spay/Neuter.

Accused Animal Abusers to Pay Care Costs of Seized Animals
Not one of our projects, but…….
ISAR’s Stop Devocalization Now Video
Wanted — Volunteer Lawyers for ISAR’s Amicus Curiae Brief Program
Another “Half a Loaf”
ISAR gets out the word about our Stop Devocalization Project
Stop Devocalization Now
Outdoor Life, or Outdoor Death?
Eyesore or ISAR
Michael Vick And The Presidential Seal Of Approval
ISAR’s Semi-Annual Report: January – July 2010
“No Kill” Advances
The “Half-a-Loaf” Problem Arises Again
The People v. Keith Chung, Revisited
Search Warrants In Animal Protection Cases
The Puppy Mill Sewer Is Beginning To Overflow
Ends and Means
Will lack of “standing to sue” once again rear its ugly head?
Massachusetts Ban On “Devocalization” Becomes Law
United States v. Stevens: A Half-Full, Not Half-Empty Decision
Mandatory Spay/Neuter Beat Goes On
The Stevens Decision: Speech 8, Animals 1
Animal Lawyers and Animal Law
Las Vegas spay/neuter ordinance: Two steps forward, one step backward
ISAR Interviews Lt. Col. Mark Eichelman
ISAR Interviews Elizabeth DeCoux
Putting animal offenders on a par with sex offenders.
Silencing the already silenced: De-barking/de-meowing/de-purring dogs and cats.
Breeders May Court Disaster
ISAR’s Model Statute Regulating Dog Breeding, Facilitation and Sales
Half A Loaf, Revisited
The Need For ISAR’s Mandatory Spay/Neuter Law
United States v. Stevens: Popular Wisdom May Be Wrong
Why Animal Suffering Matters, by Andrew Linzey. Reviewed by Professor Henry Mark Holzer.
ISAR’s Analysis Of The Supreme Court Oral Argument In United States v. Stevens
ISAR’s Model Spay/Neuter Tax Deduction Statute
Profit Trumped Principle
Vick Scores Yet Again
Veterinarians Are Running Scared
ISAR Seeks Twenty-First Century “Coast Watchers”
Animals In Court
Vick Scores Again
Th-th-th-that’s all folks!’: Henry Cohen’s Review of Steven M. Wise’s New Book
ISAR’s Amicus Curiae Brief Has Been Filed In The Supreme Court
ISAR Hits a Nerve
ISAR Amicus Curiae Brief in U.S. v. Stevens
ISAR vs. Michael Vick
Great Success for Animal Legal Defense Fund…and Hundreds of Dogs
Another Milestone For Animal Rights Law
ISAR In The Supreme Court Of The United States
Another ISAR Legislative Idea is Copied
Only ISAR “Gets It” About Mandatory Spay/Neuter
Free Speech and Cruelty to Animals
Half a Loaf
ISAR’s Model Mandatory Spay/Neuter Statute Garnering Attention
Important New Publication: Stanford Journal of Animal Law and Policy
Annotated Text of ISAR’s Model Mandatory Spay/Neuter Statute
Websites Providing Information About Animal Law
Overview of ISAR’s Revolutionary Model Mandatory Spay/Neuter Statute
The Case Against Zoos
ISAR’s Revolutionary Model Mandatory Spay/Neuter Statute
Vive Brigitte Bardot
ISAR’s ‘Harming Companion Animals’ Monograph To Be Used In Law School ‘Animal Law And Rights Course’
ISAR and Animal Rights in Europe
Harming Companion Animals: Liability and Damages
Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation in America by Nathan J. Winograd
Get Political for Animals and Win the Laws They Need by Julie E. Lewin
Suing on Behalf of Animals: New Case
Capitol Hill’s Animal Friends
ISAR as Friend-of-the-Court
Celebrities and Animal Abuse
Decartes is Dead
ISAR in Action
Mother Jones Meets an ISAR Billboard
Token Mandatory Spay/Neuter in Palm Beach, Florida
Another Municipal Adoption of ISAR’s Model Mandatory Spay/Neuter Statute
Heart Bleeding for Vick, But Not His Victims
What made Michael Vick?

 

And there’s another way to help animals: By forwarding this E-Bulletin/Blog to individuals and organizations who share ISAR’s goals and believe that, through law and education serving animals, together we can ease their suffering and promote their rights.

Accused Animal Abusers to Pay Care Costs of Seized Animals

i Jul 16th

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has signed into law a bill that will require alleged animal abusers, under certain circumstances, to pay reasonable costs for the care of their seized animals.

Reasonable costs of care are $15 per day per animal, in addition to necessary medical care, as determined by a licensed veterinarian.

The law will help reduce the enormous burden placed on non-profit animal shelters across the state that provide food and veterinary care for abused animals while cruelty cases are pending, often for a lengthy period.

The legislation will allow the appropriate authorities to bring an action in the Court of Common Pleas. The statute should provide an incentive for reluctant defendants to get into court promptly, thereby alleviating expenses, eventually charged to the defendant, incurred by animal shelters in caring for abused animals.

For the full text of the bill, click Here.

Not one of our projects, but………………

i May 20th

As ISAR’s supporters know, using law, legislation, and publications our organization’s mandate is humane education to foster the recognition and advancement of animal rights. Our most recent involvement with the ugly subject of dog fighting was ISAR’s attempt to prevent the dog fighting Michael Vick from being reinstated in the National Football League (See Michael Vick and the Presidential Seal of Approval).

After our anti-Vick campaign, we continued to attack breeding and puppy farms, to fight for mandatory spay/neuter and anti-devocalization laws, and to advance our other programs through law, legislation, and publications.

And now a new twist on the reprehensibly barbaric practice of dog fighting has come to our attention — apparently engaged in by the same kind of human savages who fight dogs in other ways.

Apparently gaining momentum in Florida, there’s a new twist on dog fighting. Two dogs, often pit bulls, are thrown into the trunk of a car. The driver turns up the radio, either to aggravate the dogs and/or to muffle the ensuing barking and screaming. About fifteen minutes later, the driver stops, dumps the dead or wounded dog out of the trunk, and proceeds on his way. Police in the southern part of Florida see an increase in this activity.

A newspaper recently reported that “[p]erhaps the worst case of trunking so far was recently uncovered in Miami-Dade County. Five pit bulls and four puppies were discovered at a residence . . . after animal services received an anonymous tip. In the back of the home cages were covered in urine and feces. The dogs exhibited clear signs of fighting and are currently being treated for open wounds and broken bones. The face of the oldest dog of the group, Max, is obscured by cuts and scars.”

Trunking is criminal under Florida law, the police have a low tolerance for it, and they make arrests when they can. Prosecutors will enforce the law if the police bring a case to them. Normal citizens can, and should, report evidence of “trunking.” Laws raising the penalty upon conviction can, and should be, strengthened. Vehicles used to perpetrate such crimes should be seized and forfeited.

And one last thing can be done: Petitions to the Governor of Florida can heighten his awareness that barbarians are loose in his state, venting their sick psychologies on defenseless animals.

Another “Half a Loaf”

i Dec 13th

Colorado Springs is the county seat of El Paso County, Colorado. The county is the most populous of the 64 counties in the state.

Recently, by a 3-2 vote of the county commissioners, the following law was adopted: “It shall be unlawful for any person to sell, trade, barter, lease, rent, give away, or display for any purpose a pet animal on any public street, road, highway, alley, sidewalk, or any other public place, or in open areas where the public is invited by the owner or person controlling such areas, including commercial parking lots, outdoor special sales, sap [sic] meets, flea markets, parking lot sales, or similar events.”

Violation can result in a fine.

ISAR certainly approves of the law’s intention, and has long disapproved of, and fought against, so-called “roadside sales” of companion animals.

That said, however, the El Paso County law raises once again the problem we have addressed in the past: “Half a loaf.” (Half a LoafHalf a Loaf, Revisited and The “Half a Loaf” Problem Rises Again)

While Section (a) of the law, quoted above, could have been better drafted, it would probably get the job done standing alone.

The problem is that it doesn’t stand alone. Section (b) is shot through with exceptions which take much of the punch out of Section (a).

Section (b) does not apply to:
1. Agents of state licensed pet stores.
2. Events for the sale of agricultural livestock.
3. Shelters.
4. Sales of pet animals on private property who have the owner’s permission.

Cumulatively, these exceptions allow for many animals to be sold at the “roadside,” gutting to a considerable extent the intent and express language of Section (a).

Although ISAR has long approved of, and fought for, mandatory spay/neuter laws, several years ago we opposed one introduced into the California legislature because it, too, was gutted by exceptions (Mandatory Spay/Neuter Beat Goes On.)  We believed that its enactment would have allowed the opponents of mandatory spay/neuter to resist further, proper legislation on the ground that the pro-mandatory spay/neuter forces had already received enough and that no further laws were necessary or appropriate.

Since the El Paso law was narrowly passed on a 3-2 vote of the county commissioners, it is unlikely that a tougher law without some or all of the Section (b) exceptions would have been enacted. So the majority obviously accepted the exceptions.

In other words, they accepted “half a loaf.”

In ISAR’s view, that is not “better than none.”

Michael Vick And The Presidential Seal Of Approval

i Jan 3rd

As ISAR’s supporters know, our animal rights organization was in the vanguard of those who attempted to ban dog-torturer/killer Michael Vick from returning to professional football after he was released from prison. ISAR published blogs (see What Made Michael Vick, Heart Bleeding For Vick, But Not His Victims, ISAR vs. Michael Vick, Vick Scores Again, Vick Scores Yet Again, Profit Trumped Principle), wrote articles (see Don’t Let Michael Vick Benefit By Abusing Dogs, Vick Petition Update 1, Vick Petition Update 2, Vick Petition Update 3, Vick Petition Update 4, ISAR’s Anti-Vick Campaign Is Being Heard), circulated petitions, erected billboards, designed posters for our supporters to have printed and distributed at events such as NFL games where Michael Vick and the Eagles were present, and provided an online button featuring our Profit Trumped Principle design for our supporters to facilitate ISAR’s anti-Vick campaign online.

It was bad enough when HSUS was complicit in Vick’s resurrection when the commissioner of football restored the felon’s eligibility, when the Philadelphia Eagles hired him, and when countless football fans welcomed Vick back to the gridiron despite his soul and hands being covered with the blood of tortured and murdered dogs.

Frankly, ISAR didn’t believe that anything worse could happen in the Vick story.

But it has.

Thanks to the President of the United States, as recounted below by one of America’s most astute commentators, Jonah Goldberg.

Shortcut to Redemption
By Jonah Goldberg
Jewish World Review Dec. 31, 2010 )

One of the best things I read all year came in a magazine I don’t read, about a subject I don’t follow, by an author I don’t agree with on nearly anything. But Matt Taibbi’s “The Jock’s Guide to Getting Arrested” in the August 2010 Men’s Journal was simply a great piece of writing.

I bring it up because Michael Vick is in the news, and Taibbi’s rule No. 1 for athletes who get arrested is “Don’t Suck.”

“Before you go out and start committing crimes,” Taibbi writes, “it’s important to first make sure you’re at least slightly better than the 30 or 40 guys the team’s assistant GM could instantly pull off some practice squad to replace you. Otherwise you will become fodder for the team’s zero-tolerance discipline policy. Conversely, if you’re awesome, the line will be, ‘There’ve been some bumps in the road, but hopefully he’s learned from that.'”

Enter Vick, a star quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons until he was caught, tried and convicted for dog fighting and animal cruelty. Vick had been warned to abandon the hobby he loved, but he just couldn’t resist brutalizing dogs for sport and drowning the losers.

He went to jail for 21 months, lost a vast amount of money, and was publicly shamed for his misdeeds.

As a dog lover of the first order, I can sympathize with the sentiment behind pundit Tucker Carlson’s hyperbole about wanting Vick executed for his crimes. But at the end of the day, nearly two years in jail, personal bankruptcy and the loss of some prime playing years is a reasonable punishment. Though I think lifetime banishments should be more common in professional sports. (Why is betting on, say, basketball more of a reason to ban someone than betting on dogfights? No one drowns the Celtics when they lose.)

Anyway, because Vick is a close student of Taibbi’s First Rule, he doesn’t suck. Which is why he was picked up by the Philadelphia Eagles. Fine, one more reason not to root for the Eagles.

But the story leapt from the sports pages to the editorial pages because the president called the team’s owner, Jeffrey Lurie, to congratulate him for giving Vick another shot in the NFL.

“So many people who serve time never get a fair second chance.” He reportedly told Lurie. “It’s never a level playing field for prisoners when they get out of jail.”

Obama is surely right that ex-cons face a lot of hurdles in life. But is Vick really a good example?

Michael Vick had it all. He received a $37 million signing bonus when he joined the Falcons. Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, another liberal writer I rarely agree with, is exactly right when says: “You would think from the commentary that Vick was some poor kid who got caught swiping something so he could get something to eat. You would think he had on the spur of the moment stolen a car, gone for a joy ride — and collided with a police car at an intersection.”

No, this guy was such a self-involved creep that he couldn’t stop himself from running a gladiatorial canine torture mill, even though he knew he was risking everything.

And why did Obama wait until Vick’s second year with the Eagles to congratulate Lurie for his “brave” decision? It was only after an entire year as a backup quarterback had passed and Vick emerged as a superstar again, taking his team to the playoffs and coming in second in Pro Bowl voting, that Obama congratulated Lurie. If Lurie’s decision was so virtuous, why wait until the decision panned out?

The answer, again: Vick doesn’t suck. At football.

But what of the millions of men released from prison who have little education, few skills and a criminal record that would make any reasonable employer think twice, and then twice again, about hiring them?

If our prisons were releasing top-flight software engineers, physicists and biologists, they’d all get second chances too. Ironically, it’s the folks who need government licenses — doctors, stockbrokers, et al. — who often can’t get second chances in their vocations. Obama could actually do something about that.

How to deal with the ex-con population is very hard knot. But neither Michael Vick’s example nor the self-flattering preening that has come with it helps cut through it.

The “Half-a-Loaf” Problem Arises Again

i Jul 19th

More than once ISAR has confronted what we call the “Half-a-Loaf” problem, highlighting the dilemmas faced by serious people in the animal protection movement — especially those who recall Voltaire’s famous observation that “the perfect is the enemy of the good,” meaning that while one seeks utopia, “the perfect,” in human affairs, “the good,” doesn’t get done.

This principle applies to animal protection. While we wait and work for much better laws than those now being proposed (“the perfect”), the benefits that could have accrued from current proposals (“the good”), are lost if we oppose them.

We were reminded of this problem last year when ISAR was asked to support anti-tethering legislation pending in Pennsylvania. (Tethering is the cruel practice of chaining a dog to a stationary object, thus severely restricting its freedom of movement.)

Should we not have supported the proposed legislation because in doing so we would be accepting the existence of that cruel, indefensible practice, even though the law would ameliorate some of the more egregious conditions under which tethered dogs live? In other words, should we have sought “the perfect,” with not even a nod to reality?

Or should we have supported the proposed legislation precisely because of the amelioration, abjuring “the perfect” to gain “the good”? In other words, should we have accepted the reality that “the good” meant reducing suffering, at the expense of “the perfect,” which in a utopian world would be an outright prohibition of tethering?

After much soul-searching, ISAR concluded that half-a-loaf was better than none.

To paraphrase what we have written before, as to tethering in particular: Is half-a-loaf better than none? Much better–if you’re a dog chained to a stationary object and whose entire universe consists of several square feet (at best), primitive shelter (at best), almost no human contact (at best), and little interaction with your own kind (at best).

But to make our position unequivocally clear, we concluded with two paragraphs that bring us to the subject of this current blog. We wrote:

This said, however, ISAR insists on making unmistakably clear that we unequivocally oppose the practice of tethering both as a moral and humane imperative, and that our support of the pending Pennsylvania legislation is not intended, nor should it be construed as, our sanction, approval, or any other kind of endorsement of the cruel practice of tethering.

If ISAR had its way, Pennsylvania and every other state would immediately enact laws making tethering of dogs illegal, with severe penalties. Let there be no mistake about ISAR’s position!

California appears poised to enact a statute (AB 2743) that would prohibit landlords from requiring tenants to declaw or devocalize their animals. According to Legislative Counsel’s Digest of the bill, it “would prohibit a landlord, that allows a tenant to have an animal on the premises, from advertising or establishing rental policies in a manner that requires a tenant or a potential tenant with an animal to have that animal declawed or devocalized, for nontherapeutic purposes, as a condition of occupancy.”

All well and good, and ISAR supports the effort.

But AB 2743 illustrates the half-a-loaf problem, yet again. Yes, it is “the good” that some few companion animals will be spared the barbaric practices of devocalization and declawing. But what about the rest, mutilated in the name of annoying barking and scratched couches? If devocalization and declawing are objectionable (let alone immoral) and so to be prohibited by California in the relatively minor landlord-tenant context, it is not possible to justify the imposition of those practices on any animals in any context whatsoever.

Yes, ISAR supports AB 2743, but with the same reservation we have expressed as to tethering and other animal protection legislation. We insist on making unmistakably clear that we unequivocally oppose the practices of devocalization and declawing, both as a moral and humane imperative and that our support of the California legislation is not intended, nor should it be construed as, our sanction, approval, or any other kind of endorsement of those barbaric practices.

If ISAR had its way, California and every other state would immediately enact anti-devocalization laws, as Massachusetts recently did, making devocalization (and, while they’re at it, declawing) of companion animals illegal, with severe penalties. Let there be no mistake about ISAR’s position about both of these practices!

We will have much more to say about devocalization and declawing in the near future.

Half A Loaf, Revisited

i Nov 3rd

One year ago we published the blog that appears below.

The animal rights/welfare movement here and abroad is awash in proposed legislation (see ISAR’s Model Mandatory Spay/Neuter statute), much of which will never be enacted or, if enacted, never enforced.So the question is whether it is cause for rejoicing when pro-animal legislation actually becomes law.

We have seen three examples in as many months.

The Swiss have enacted a sweeping animal protection law. It includes handling guidelines for cats, dogs, sheep, goats and horses. There is a six-hour time limit for the transportation of livestock. Piglets cannot be castrated without anesthesia.

Massachusetts has banned greyhound racing throughout the Commonwealth.

A California ballot initiative has just been approved that seeks to provide more living space to animals raised for human food: “Certain farm animals [shall] be allowed, for the majority of every day, to fully extend their limbs or wings, lie down, stand up and turn around.”

However, the Swiss law allows dairy farmers to keep their cattle tied up in stalls for 240 days of the year. Tie-stalls for horses are to be phased out over five years. Zoo animals, like rhinos, can be confined in small winter quarters. Wild animals in circuses are still permitted (though banned in neighboring Austria).

The Massachusetts greyhound ban does not become effective until 2010.

California’s “living space” initiative gives farmers until 2015 to shift to more humane animal production systems. Yet, for some in the animal rights/welfare movement these measures are not only not enough (and they aren’t!), but the laws are to be disdained because they don’t go far enough.

These folks believe that when laws like this are proposed they should be fought, because passage of these useful but wholly inadequate enactments give opponents the ability to argue that “enough is enough”–that the movement clamored for these laws, they were enacted, and that’s all the affected animals are entitled to, at least for years to come.

This absolutist position is defensible, making for a hard choice: wait for perfection, while countless animals continue to suffer, or take what can be had when possible, but continue fighting for perfection?

In other words, is half-a-loaf better than none?

Much better—particularly, if you’re a veal calf spending your entire life in a crate.

The blog highlighted the dilemma faced by serious people in the animal protection movement, especially those who recall Voltaire’s famous observation that “the perfect is the enemy of the good”—meaning that while one seeks utopia in human affairs, “the perfect,” much else, “the good,” doesn’t get done.

As to animal protection, while we wait (and work toward) much better Swiss, Massachusetts California and other laws (“the perfect”), the benefits that could have accrued (“the good), are lost.

We were reminded of this problem recently when asked to support anti-tethering legislation pending in Pennsylvania. (Tethering is the cruel practice of chaining a dog to a stationary object, thus severely restricting its freedom of movement.)

Should we not support the proposed new legislation because in approving it we would be accepting the existence of that cruel, indefensible practice, even though the law would ameliorate some of the more egregious conditions under which tethered dogs live? In other words, do we seek “the perfect,” with not even a nod to reality?

Or do we support the proposed new legislation precisely because of the amelioration, abjuring “the perfect” to gain “the good”? In other words, do we accept the reality that “the good” means reducing suffering, at the expense of “the perfect,” which in a utopian world would be an outright prohibition of tethering?

After much soul-searching, we recalled the concluding two sentences of our earlier blog:
“In other words, is half-a-loaf better than none? Much better—particularly, if you’re a veal calf spending your entire life in a crate.”

To paraphrase, as to tethering: Is “half-a-loaf better than none”? Much better–if you’re a dog chained to a stationary object and whose entire universe consists of several square feet (at best), primitive shelter (at best), almost no human contact (at best), and little interaction with your own kind (at best).

This said, however, ISAR insists on making unmistakably clear that we unequivocally oppose the practice of tethering both as a moral and humane imperative the practice of tethering, and that our support of the pending Pennsylvania legislation is not intended, nor should it be construed as, our sanction, approval, or any other kind of endorsement of the cruel practice of tethering.

If ISAR had its way, Pennsylvania and every other state would immediately enact laws making tethering of dogs illegal, with severe penalties. Let there be no mistake about ISAR’s position!

Why Animal Suffering Matters, by Andrew Linzey. Reviewed by Professor Henry Mark Holzer

i Oct 14th

Andrew Linzey is a warhorse of the animal rights movement, and one of its leading intellectuals. He is Director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics and a member of the Faculty of Theology at Oxford University in England.

Dr. Linzey’s newest book, of some twenty, is published by Oxford University Press and is important for at least four reasons.

First, in his own words, “[t]his book attempts to provide a clear, introductory text accessible for high school and university students. * * * This volume is also intended to meet the specific needs occasioned by the increasing number of university courses in animal welfare, animal rights, human-animal studies, animal ethics, animals and philosophy, animals and religion, animal law, and even animal theology at the university level in both Europe and the United States. This is in addition to the many pre-university, advanced-level, and high school courses in the United Kingdom and the United States in liberal arts, humanities, philosophy, religious studies, and ethics that now increasingly include normative questions about our treatment of animals within their fields of study.” Few tasks are more important than this for the animal protection movement, for it is the future generations that will be responsible for making another quantum leap in the understanding of the human-animal relationship, and the protection of the latter. In that respect, Dr. Linzey’s book is more than a welcome addition to the literature; it is an indispensable one.

Second, the structure of Why Animal Suffering Matters well serves the case it makes. Part I is entitled “Making the Rational Case,” and consists of two chapters. Of them, the first—“Why animal suffering matters morally” (Chapter 2 is entitled “How we minimize animal suffering and how we can change”—sets the tone for everything that follows. At the end of Chapter 1 Dr. Linzey provides a summary of its main points, a useful tool for his intended audience. Most important is his central point that whatever differences exist between humans and animals, they are not necessarily morally different. This emphasis on the moral, though not overly theological, aspects of human treatment of animals suffuses Dr. Linzey’s book in a welcome departure from some other works in this genre which minimize the moral case if they address it at all. The reason the book’s structure serves the case it makes is because Part I is an essential predicate to Part II, which examines “Three Practical Critiques”: hunting with dogs, fur farming and commercial sealing. In Dr. Linzey’s discussion of each of these topics omnipresent is always the moral calculus, the litmus test by which these, and other animal-destructive, activities must always be judged.

Third, is the content of the moral calculus itself, too important and serious to be facilely summarized here. Suffice to say that despite the author’s life-long association with theology, his moral case does not rest entirely by an appeal to a “higher being” which somehow bespeaks of the need for humans to be kind to animals. For example—one of many—Dr. Linzey makes the point that if the principle of medical informed consent “is morally sound, the absence of the capacity to give consent [by animals], informed or otherwise, must logically tell against [emphasis in original] the abuse of animals. It makes the infliction of injury not easier, but equally difficult, if not harder, to justify. At Tom Regan extols when weighing the relative risks and harms involved in experimentation: ‘Risks are not morally transferable to those who do not voluntarily choose to take them’.”

Fourth, in Why Animal Suffering Matters Dr. Linzey takes on Peter Singer, a utilitarian considered by many to be the father of the animal rights movement (which, by his own admission, he is not). Among other indefensible ideas, Singer believes it is permissible for “society,” which is nothing more than an aggregation of individuals, to murder disabled newborn babies up to a month old—a “logical” corollary of his view that even partial-birth abortion is morally acceptable, and should be legally as well. If for no other reason—and there are many—Andrew Linzey’s book should be read is because of his critique of Singer’s views, which, for whatever good they may have done years ago for the animal protection movement, have lately allowed our critics to point to his unsavory position on infanticide in an effort to discredit his defensible arguments for animal liberation.

In the end, the first paragraph of Dr. Linzey’s conclusion, sums up much of his book: “Concern for animal suffering, like concern for the suffering of young children, ought reasonably to arise from the following considerations: their inability to give or withhold their consent, their inability to verbalize or represent their interests, their inability to comprehend, their moral innocence or blamelessness, and, not least of all, their relative defencelessness and vulnerability. These considerations, and the sheer volume of animal suffering, are masked, minimized, or obfuscated by a range of powerful psychological and linguistic mechanisms that prevent us from directly confronting our treatment of animals as a moral issue” (emphasis supplied).

Dr. Linzey’s invoking the parallel between young children and animals comes at a coincidental time. On October 6, 2009, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral argument in the case of United States v. Stevens, which presented the question of whether the government can suppress the creation, possession and sale of depictions of cruelty to animals just as it has been held to possess the constitutional power to suppress depictions of child pornography (a copy of ISAR’s brief in that case can be viewed HERE). There is indeed a correlation, and in each situation the principle which binds the treatment of young children and animals and should protect both is morality.