When I’m arguing with libertarians (I know, I know) I usually bring up the issue of dog control. When you visit countries that have poor local government there are usually packs of wild dogs roaming around. This is because there’s no free market model that makes a profit out of controlling them, even though they attack and kill people and keep everyone awake at night howling and fighting. (This argument often takes libertarians aback – few of them have actually been to places without robust local government, they just assume that if you get rid of the institution that provides you with drinking water and sewerage disposal you’re in paradise – and they generally conclude that they’ll take responsibility for themselves and shoot wild dogs on their property. Apparently utopia is wandering around your yard with a gun shooting dogs.)
I walk to work most days and there are a couple of houses on my route where there are big dogs that run out into the yard and bark at everyone that walks or jogs past. The houses are fenced – by law – so there’s no danger but this always takes me back to my childhood in the slums of Plimmerton when there weren’t any laws about containing dogs and walking to school always involved having a couple of big dogs run out into the street snarling at you. I was never bitten but every year there were stories about children being mauled by uncontrolled dogs.
The current laws seem like a great argument in favor of the nanny state: dog attacks are now quite rare – the last bad one took place in a rural area where confinement of the animals isn’t really possible. The days of children being routinely savaged in their own backyards seem to be over. Enter Rodney Hide:
Local Government Minister Rodney Hide plans a complete review of dog laws, saying dogs are subject to more controls than ever, and their owners’ rights to enjoy them are overly restricted.
Mr Hide said he had asked officials to look at a “first principles” review of all dog laws, describing present legislation as an “onerous muddle,” much of it created through emotion after of individual high-profile dog attacks rather than after clear thinking.
He was concerned councils were taking their powers too far, and said they needed to remember dog ownership was a property right and good reasons were needed to fetter it.
“I believe dog owners should be free to enjoy the companionship of their dogs and that their freedom should be constrained only if they or their dog interfere with the rights of others.
“I would go further, in fact, to say ‘significantly interferes with the rights of others’.”
Good old ACT. Always looking out for our freedom to be torn apart by a pack of savage animals. Bless them.