Understand the animal rights/welfare movement’s “half-a-loaf” problem (Part IV)

i January 23, 2015



By understanding the animal rights/welfare movement’s “half-a-loaf” problem (Part IV)


Another example of the “half-a-loaf” problem arose in Colorado Springs, the county seat of El Paso County, Colorado. The county is the most populous of the 64 counties in the state.

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, swap meets, flea markets, parking lot sales, or similar events.” Violation of the law resulted in a fine.

ISAR certainly approved of the law’s intention. For years, we have fought against, so-called “roadside sales” of companion animals.

That said, however, the El Paso County law raised once again the “half-a-loaf” problem.

While Section (a) of the law quoted above could have been better drafted, it would probably have been adequate if that was all there was to it.

The problem was that there was more. Section (b) was shot through with exceptions, which took much of the punch out of Section (a).

Under the statute, Section (b) expressly did not apply to (1) Agents of state licensed pet stores, (2) Events for the sale of agricultural livestock, (3) Shelters, and (4) Sales of pet animals on private property with the owner’s permission.

Cumulatively, these exceptions allowed for many animals to be sold at the “roadside,” to a considerable extent gutting the intent and express language of the supposed prohibition contained in Section (a). Here again, “better a half loaf than no bread?”

Although ISAR has long approved of, and fought for, mandatory spay/neuter laws, several years ago we were obliged to oppose a statute introduced into the California legislature because it, too, was gutted by exceptions to an unacceptable extent. (Mandatory Spay/Neuter Beat Goes On.) In that instance, we were unwilling to accept “half-a-loaf” because ISAR believed the statute’s enactment would have allowed the opponents of mandatory spay/neuter to resist further, proper legislation by arguing that the pro-mandatory spay/neuter forces had already received enough and that no further laws were necessary or appropriate. The companion animal overpopulation problem — one of ISAR’s five major programs — is so extensive, and of such crucial importance, that the proposed California statute was not worth accepting a compromise.

All of the laws discussed in this article, and many more like them, demonstrate that the “half-a-loaf” problem is a difficult one for the animal rights/welfare community. Because of moral, humane, strategic, and tactical considerations, it is often a close call to determine whether opposition to a proposed “mixed” law is appropriate because instead a “perfect” enactment might be possible, or whether support of such a law is better because the “perfect” is unobtainable while the non-perfect “good” can be achieved and at least ameliorate companion animal suffering and make a dent in overpopulation.

ISAR will continue to make those close calls, with betterment of animals always our prime consideration.