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They Can't Enforce It, So Why Do You Care?
by Genny Wall
In one of the PAWS discussions, someone asked, "Why would you worry about this happening if the government can't even enforce existing animal protection laws?" Incredibly, that question comes up a lot in the arena of animal rights legislation. Do we really think it is okay to pass bad laws simply because we don't believe they can be enforced? This response from Genny Wall, a California attorney who has been personally involved in animal welfare issues for over 40 years, is the best answer we've seen.
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I am not worried, I am practical, and I respect the basis and purpose of our legal system. As a lawyer, I respect the law and the Constitution. Humans have rights, and in this country they are protected by our Constitutional system of laws.
Just because a law is passed does not mean it is legal or constitutional.
If any law is passed, I expect it to have a valid purpose, and I expect it to be carried out fairly, evenly, and in all events. The only way any of the provisions of PAWS can be carried out is by selective enforcement. Selective enforcement is not appropriate or constitutional. Selective enforcement is a vehicle and a tool of harassment and oppression by one group against another. It is never acceptable under our system of justice.
The AWA, as it presently exists, already gives the USDA the authority to stop most, if not all, animal abuse in commerce. If the USDA cannot carry out its existing legal mandate, then put pressure on our legislators to increase the budget for this purpose. Adding more burdensome laws such as PAWS on top of already unenforced laws is not the solution.
If a law is being considered, and it is clear at the outset that the proposed law cannot be carried out fairly, evenly, and in all events, then why pass it? It is not acceptable to say that because it cannot be enforced it should pass.
Would you also say it is acceptable for the government to outlaw being Jewish, or Catholic, or Republican, or Libertarian, or Communist, or homosexual? Or, to require them all to "register" and allow warrantless "inspections in their homes" to be sure they aren't engaging in "illegal practices"?
You could argue that those laws would never be carried out either. Yet would you support their passage simply because you belonged to a group that disapproved of their practices? I would hope not.
PAWS is clearly one of those proposals that cannot be carried out fairly, evenly, and in all events. PAWS has serious deficiencies, particularly in that it violates the Constitutional right of private citizens to be free from unreasonable search and seizure in their own homes. If PAWS is passed, it makes a legal hobby (breeding pets in your own home) into a criminal act with criminal consequences. Adding PAWS to the AWA also provides a vehicle for the government to identify and catalogue all pet purchasers. Why is any of this necessary?
What's next? Regulating all pet owners in their own homes because some of them abuse their pets? Outlawing the eating of meat and giving the USDA police power to make sure that none of us keep that "contraband" in our refrigerators? Eventually removing "unauthorized" pets from our homes? We already have "breed specific" legislation that allows the removal and euthanasia of "illegal" dogs from their owners (including gentle pets who have never threatened anyone). Do you really think that these kinds of things are not being fantasized by some who don't want us to own or use any animals?
Remember the old saw, "Be careful what you ask for - you just might get it". The government has no business regulating every aspect of our lives.
PAWS is unnecessary, overbroad, and overburdensome and will not accomplish what its proponents claim it is needed for. PAWS would make all home-based breeders wear a figurative yellow Star of David on their chests, simply because they have pets in their homes who breed.
Those who have written PAWS need to trash it. If they really feel a compelling need for more intrusion by the federal government into our lives, then they need to start from scratch to write an acceptable bill that will effectively address the claimed "wrong". If they feel a law is needed to stop import of diseased dogs, then they need to write a straightforward and comprehensible law that does just that. They need to stop trying to "pull the wool over the eyes" of everyone. We are not all as gullible as they would like to believe.
If they feel another law is needed to stop puppy mills, then they need to read the existing AWA and put pressure on USDA to use its limited resources to enforce the existing law against puppy mills.
Making sure that animals are cared for in existing commercial and public animal enterprises is a valid use of the police power of the federal government. Permitting the government and its agents to intrude into our homes, without evidence of a crime, is not. Making a legal act into a crime so that they can intrude into our homes is not a valid legislative purpose.
Nobody should be able to write a law that is so far-reaching that it violates the Constitutional right of our citizenry to be free from unreasonable search and seizure in their own homes just to make some people feel good that they are "doing something" to address the serious issues of animal abuse. In the case of PAWS they are simply wielding an axe to break down the doors of good, law abiding, people, most of whom give excellent care to the pets in their homes who breed.
"The world" isn't perfect. "Nature" isn't perfect. "People" aren't perfect. "Animals" aren't perfect. Our "legal system" isn't perfect, but it is what we have to operate with. That is reality. Our legal system isn't meant to make things perfect. It is meant to enable us to live together in a civilized way. In order to do that, everyone has to concede certain things so that society can operate in a relatively functional manner.
That includes animal rights fanatics who want to impose their beliefs on everyone else. They can't have it all their way, nor should they. Intruding into people's homes under the guise of making sure their animals are "properly" cared for is not going to enable us to live together in a civilized way. It will only serve to allow one group of people force their ideals on another group. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your viewpoint, force never really accomplishes its intended end. Those who are forced to comply will inevitably find another way to carry on. Human history is clear on that point.
I urge you to reconsider your support for PAWS - it is unnecessary, overbroad, overburdensome, cannot be evenly enforced, and will not effectively address the issues its proponents claim need to be addressed. PAWS is not a solution - it only creates unnecessary problems for law abiding animal lovers who breed pets in their homes.
"The priceless heritage of our society is the unrestricted constitutional right of each member to think as he will. Thought control is a copyright of totalitarianism, and we have no claim to it."
"You see these dictators on their pedestals, surrounded by the bayonets of their soldiers and the truncheons of their police. Yet in their hearts there is unspoken - unspeakable! - fear. They are afraid of words and thoughts! Words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home, all the more powerful because they are forbidden. These terrify them. A little mouse - a little tiny mouse! - of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest potentates are thrown into panic."