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First of all, animals do not have rights under the Constitution in the same sense that people do. The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence refer to the equality of all men, not the equality of all animals. The Constitution is silent on the subject of animals. Therefore, the welfare of animals is a matter of broad debate.

No reasonable person disputes the fact that there is a massive problem
with unwanted animals in this country today. There are millions of
animals who are euthanized every year because nobody will adopt them. The one thing that everyone seems to agree on is that animals are a form of property. Even the most hardened animal rights activists agree on this. The disagreement is on what to do with them.

There are two main belligerents in the animal rights community -- the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the No Kill Advocacy Center and its spokesman Nathan Winograd. Both are in agreement on two main things -- that animals are a form of property and that animal cruelty is wrong. But they are in complete disagreement about how to address the problem of unwanted animals. PETA believes in birth control and euthanasia. However, Winograd believes in creating a no-kill nation in which all animals are wanted.

The fight is very acrimonious, with PETA and Winograd getting personal with each other. PETA, in its entry on its website on Winograd, has this to say:

 In his crusade to turn all animal shelters "no-kill," Nathan Winograd blames the shelter workers—who have devoted their lives to
caring for homeless animals, giving them a chance at a home, and
providing them with a painless death when no other humane alternative
exists—for the euthanasia of millions of animals every year. This is
akin to blaming hospitals for deadly diseases! This false "logic" lets
the real culprits off the hook: people who breed (or fail to spay or
neuter) their animals and people who buy animals from pet stores or
breeders instead of adopting homeless animals from shelters. No one
wants to see animals euthanized—least of all, those who hold the
syringe—but denying that a crisis exists and blaming those who have
devoted their lives to ending it solves nothing.
In the other corner, Winograd, in a letter to the Humane Society of the US, points out what he calls PETA's hypocrisy in saying they are against the torture of animals while euthanizing animals themselves and undermining no-kill shelters around the country:

It is time for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to stop
 legitimizing the deadly actions of People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals (PETA). Over the last two decades, PETA has willfully and systematically worked to undermine the welfare and rights of our nation’s companion animals.
 In addition to seeking out thousands of animals every year to poison
with an overdose of barbiturates, PETA is one of the most vocal
opponents of efforts to end the neglect, abuse and killing occurring at
animal shelters across the country.

PETA undermines the efforts of animal lovers to reform their local
shelters, even when those local shelters horrifically abuse animals.
They campaign to expand killing, urging shelters not to work with rescue
 groups, not to foster animals in need, to ban the adoption of many
animals, and to round up and kill community cats. They defeat
desperately needed shelter reform laws which have been introduced in
states across the nation—laws that have been proven to save hundreds of
thousands of lives in those states which have passed them. And by
continually perpetuating the myth that No Kill animal control shelters
do not and cannot exist, PETA is one of the greatest barriers to
building a kinder, gentler America for our nation’s companion animals.
But since animals are a form of property as agreed on by both society and the Constitution, what one does with animals is a matter of conscience. It therefore follows that raising animals for meat, milk, or eggs is also a matter of conscience since animals are a form of property. Therefore, HSUS and other such organizations have no right to tell people what they can or can't do with their pets or livestock as long as they are treated in a sanitary and humane way. In Missouri, the HSUS sought to regulate most dog kennels out of existence. That measure was overwhelmingly defeated in the rural areas and overwhelmingly passed in the urban areas and passed narrowly overall. However, the legislature, with bipartisan support, acted quickly to water it down and the measure was signed by Governor Jay Nixon. There are already laws on the books against animal abuse and the Department of Agriculture has been aggressively enforcing these laws here in this state.

Hunting is another issue which is a matter of personal conscience. Man has hunted for his food from the beginnings of civilization. Predators have been around ever since the earth was formed and single-celled beings evolved into more advanced forms of life. The role of predators has been to control the population in nature. Without predators, there is overpopulation, suffering, and death -- exactly what the no kill advocates say they are against.  That does not mean that we can and must hunt -- far from it. Man has become a sentient being with the ability to think for himself. Some of us are called on not to take a single life. Some of us believe in the need to hunt for food and to control populations. Restrictions on how many animals one can take are reasonable -- there is a compelling public interest in maintaining diversity of species and in leaving enough animals for other hunters.

However, there are always public health issues to consider. If I live in an apartment and my neighbor, who has 30 cats, refuses to do the hard work of cleaning up after them, then I have a right to complain to the authorities. Maintaining animals in unsanitary conditions is a public health issue and governments have every right to determine what is and isn't appropriate.

Then, there is the issue of abuse. I submit that there is a compelling public interest in preventing animal abuse because there is a proven relationship between cruelty to animals and violence against other people. This relationship has been known since at least the 1700's. However, recently, there has been empirical evidence growing in support of this relationship.

In addition to a growing sensitivity to the rights of animals, another
significant reason for the increased attention to animal cruelty is a
mounting body of evidence about the link between such acts and serious
crimes of more narrowly human concern, including illegal firearms
possession, drug trafficking, gambling, spousal and child abuse, rape
and homicide. In the world of law enforcement — and in the larger world
that our laws were designed to shape — animal-cruelty issues were long
considered a peripheral concern and the province of local A.S.P.C.A. and
 Humane Society organizations; offenses as removed and distinct from the
 work of enforcing the human penal code as we humans have deemed
ourselves to be from animals. But that illusory distinction is rapidly

“With traditional law enforcement,” Sgt. David Hunt, a dog-fighting
expert with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office in Columbus, Ohio, told
 me, “the attitude has been that we have enough stuff on our plate, let
the others worry about Fluffy and Muffy. But I’m starting to see a shift
 in that mentality now.” Hunt has traveled to 24 states around the
country in order to teach law-enforcement personnel about the
dog-fighting underworld, often stressing the link between activities
like dog fighting
 and domestic violence. “You have to sell it to them in such a way that
it’s not a Fluffy-Muffy issue,” he said of teaching police officers
about animal-abuse issues. “It’s part of a larger nexus of crimes and
the psyche behind them.”  
The article goes on to cite scientific research documenting the relationship between animal abuse and violence against other people:

But the intuitions that informed the narrative arc of Tom Nero are now
being borne out by empirical research. A paper published in a psychiatry
 journal in 2004, “A Study of Firesetting and Animal Cruelty in
Children: Family Influences and Adolescent Outcomes,” found that over a
10-year period, 6-to-12-year-old children who were described as being
cruel to animals were more than twice as likely as other children in the
 study to be reported to juvenile authorities for a violent offense. In
an October 2005 paper published in Journal of Community Health, a team
of researchers conducting a study over seven years in 11 metropolitan
areas determined that pet abuse was one of five factors that predicted
who would begin other abusive behaviors. In a 1995 study, nearly a third
 of pet-owning victims of domestic abuse, meanwhile, reported that one
or more of their children had killed or harmed a pet. 
To reiterate -- there is a big difference between people who hunt, fish, and farm and people who show brazen cruelty to animals. Some of the worst cases involve animals and domestic violence. Abusers will threaten to kill favorite pets in order to control the other partner or children. In many cases, animal abuse is about power, especially in patriarchal family structures. And children of domestic violence frequently kill or injure pets because they are acting out what they are witnessing on a regular basis. Then, they go on to engage in antisocial behavior themselves. It is a vicious cycle.

This also has a bearing on the gay rights debate. The right argues that the next step from gay rights is bestiality. But since animals do not have the same sort of rights under the Constitution as people do, no reasonable person can argue that same-sex marriage will lead to bestiality.


How should we deal with unwanted animals?

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Comment Preferences

  •  I dispute the "fact" (0+ / 0-)

    and I consider myself a reasonable person (YMMV).

    At least as concerns dogs, despite a lamentable lack of standardized record-keeping, evidence is that the number of unwanted animals is tiny as a fraction of the total. Whole cities and regions feature shelters that cannot supply enough dogs to prospective adopters, leading to importation of street dogs from other countries (talk about public health issues).

    Yes, there are unwanted dogs euthanized in shelters, and regions where the intake of dogs deemed "adoptable" is greater than the number of homes available locally.  But looked at in proportion to the number of owned dogs, the number is not "massive."

    •  Huh. I hadn't heard this. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      political mutt, ban nock

      If this is the case, it seems like there's a logical solution - rather than spend money to euthanize or store animals at no-kill shelters where there are too many, the money should be spent on getting them bus tickets to the areas with high demand...

      •  There's a lot of that going on (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dr Erich Bloodaxe RN

        There are a lot of rescue networks that pull dogs from shelters in underserved areas, and send them (from here, it's north--I think in general the direction is from red to blue areas) by a variety of means.

        There's an outfit called Pilots for Paws, where private pilots who need to put in flying hours to maintain their certifications fly rescue dogs between General Aviation airports.

        There are also ground transport services that make regular runs.  These are more economical than the "custom" transporters who go everywhere.  The cost of transport is usually a small fraction of the cost of rescuing and vetting a dog.  If you are on a portion of the route where they stop at 2 a.m., as I am, you just deal with it....

  •  You throw a lot of issues together. (2+ / 0-)

    So, rather than respond to everything, I'll just give my initial reactions as a vegan:

    *There aren't enough people to take care of all the unwanted animals, so humane euthanasia seems to be the only realistic alternative. I wish it weren't so, but there you go.

    *You appear to assume there's no cruelty in the factory farm/food processing system: In fact, factory farms and food processing plants are very cruel with abuse being documented all the time (Google it if you don't believe me). That's why many states are enacting laws making it a crime to film inside food processing plants because, rather than work toward a more humane system, they'd prefer to keep it cruel based on cost arguments.

    *As for hunting, well, I've known hunters -- some have respected my beliefs some haven't. What are you gonna do? They're within their rights and so am I. But, in my opinion, the moral ones, and the ones I've had decent relationships with, don't hunt for kicks. They do it for food. And they try to kill the animals immediately with the right weapons, instead of making a game out of it with some crazy bow-and-arrow stuff.

    Overall, I guess I'd agree with "...animals are a form of property and that animal cruelty is wrong..."  Unfortunately, people turn their backs on the cruelty part of that equation unless it's staring them in the face.

    "Michael Moore, who was filming a movie about corporate welfare called 'Capitalism: A Love Story,' sought and received incentives."

    by Bush Bites on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 05:52:01 AM PDT

  •  just plain euthanasia (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    political mutt, campionrules

    unwanted neutered cats are a big problem.

    Americans are so far removed from animals and nature that they mistake animals for human. They see in the death of animals their own mortality maybe. There is a big problem in the US with feral cats and horses. Also overpopulations of various large species.

    I'd disagree on one point, the role of predators is to make more predators of it's own genes. They are not put there to regulate herbivores for instance. Ecologists (the scientists) stopped teaching the balance of nature at universities some 30 years ago. They now say nature is in "flux" only sometimes reaching a temporary equilibrium.

    I'm glad you point out a distinction between hunters and farmers say, and abnormal people who like to hurt animals. Many here at DK can't understand the distinction.

    There are many millions of dollars spent by advocacy groups trying to keep scientists from managing wildlife species by hunting. We are about to add one more charismatic animal to the list, the grizzly bear, which has had robust populations in the northern rocky mountains for a number of years. I'm not sure if things will be as contentious as they were for the wolf. We'll see.

    How big is your personal carbon footprint?

    by ban nock on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 05:57:17 AM PDT

    •  When you say 'managing wildlife' (0+ / 0-)

      you mean killing it because whatever it's doing is inconveniencing humans, right?

      •  No, that's not what wildlife managers (0+ / 0-)

        mean by the term.  It's more like trying to approximate the role of the apex predators (which are usually sensitive to human presence and impact, therefore absent in many places) and keeping species numbers at or below the carrying capacity of the ecosystem.

        The alternative is excessive population of one or more species, leading to destruction of the environment, disease and/or starvation and massive die-offs.

        •  humans are the apex predator in all environments (0+ / 0-)

          we occur.

          There is nothing "wrong" scientifically with wild fluctuations in species populations or rapid environmental changes due to browsing or grazing. It's only with our brains and the recent development of scientific wildlife management that we seek to keep species at levels we decide on.

          How big is your personal carbon footprint?

          by ban nock on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 07:56:52 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I guess science in itself doesn't prescribe (0+ / 0-)

            right and wrong; but many of us prefer to avoid habitat destruction, loss of diversity, erosion, the spreading of disease (such as chronic wasting disease and Lyme), and the presumed misery of widespread starvation.  Granted, the world prior to human impact did not feature uninterrupted stasis, but I don't see that as an argument to wantonly trash the environment to no one's benefit.

            •  who is suggesting "wantonly trashing" the (0+ / 0-)


              Also, who gets to choose?

              Erosion? Spreading of disease? Widespread misery? These all are naturally occurring things. We need to go very careful in deciding what to do. Many decisions are based on which animal has big brown eyes.

              How big is your personal carbon footprint?

              by ban nock on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 10:08:35 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  Or because the land can't support the population. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        political mutt, melfunction

        Development has already substantially curtailed the population of natural predators that kill deer, for example; without that natural control on the deer population, that population grows to the point where the natural resources can no longer sustain it.

        I'd rather have a deer experience a quick death via buckshot and be used to feed human beings, than have it experience a slow and painful death via starvation where the only things its carcass ultimately feeds are maggots, bacteria, and small rodents.

        "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

        by JamesGG on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 06:55:29 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Oh, and well written post about a subject I'm (0+ / 0-)

    interested in. tipped recced etc.

    How big is your personal carbon footprint?

    by ban nock on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 05:58:01 AM PDT

  •  Well, no. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina, bumbi
    The one thing that everyone seems to agree on is that animals are a form of property. Even the most hardened animal rights activists agree on this.
    Actually many people consider 'pets', at least dogs, cats, horses, to be their 'wards', much as they do foster children.  And these are people who even still eat meat, so cannot be considered hardened animal rights activists.  But they won't leave burning buildings without them, will stay home from work if a pet gets sick, use hotels or motels that allow pets.  
    •  True. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ban nock

      But they are still a form of property since they are totally dependent on the human for their survival. Even the most hard-core animal shelters feed, care for, and shelter animals. And animals can't vote, lobby congress, or blog without one of us doing it for them. And the 4th Amendment protects the right to private property.

      •  Hmm, EH, that would mean (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        children are property, too. I guess that's a no-brainer to some.

        Animals deserve much better treatment than we give them. They deserve to have the habitat that we have overrun; peace that we have disturbed; families and social systems that we have rudely disrupted and destroyed.

        When you think of how cruelly humans have treated animals, we will probably deserve to be taken from our apex predator position by whatever rampant invasive organisms finally put us in our rightful place among the species--vulnerable, like all the rest.

        More and more, science has shown that animals have intelligence, emotions, communication systems, social affiliations, and even mourn their dead. In these respects, they are more "human" than many people.

        Not only animals, but all of nature deserves more respect than we have shown.

  •  Wait, what? The further I get in, the more (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    confusing your arguments become.

    But since animals are a form of property as agreed on by both society and the Constitution,
    The Constitution is silent on the subject of animals.
    Silence on a topic you never spoke of is not 'agreement'.
  •  Animals have the same rights as fetuses (nt) (0+ / 0-)

    Chechnya: Russia's North Carolina.

    by NE2 on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 06:44:52 AM PDT

  •  I have a couple of comments about this. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    political mutt, bumbi, Eternal Hope

    1. PETA - at their main headquarters, they have a huge freezer to hold the dead bodies of the animals they kill. In fact, PETA kills 98% of all the animals they take in. They don't even bother trying to find homes for them, they kill them as soon as they get them. The only animals that make it out alive from PETA are those that came in to get neutered/spayed.

    2. There is no pet overpopulation problem. As in real estate, the problem is location, location, location. Studies by several organizations have shown that, at a maximum, around 3-4 million "excess" animals are killed at shelters. However, those studies have also shown there are around 17 million people who would be willing to adopt from shelters. The problems at that point are that 1) shelters do a terrible job getting the people in to see the pets (hours, location, etc.) 2) Some shelters go out of their way to make sure that animals are euthanized as quickly as possible to prove there is an overpopulation problem so they can get strict no-breeder laws passed 3) HSUS spends MILLIONS each year to make sure, like ALEC, their brand of "punish legitimate breeders" laws get passed. 4) Rental units have no-pet rules that prohibit pet lovers from having pets. SFASPCA had a program that helped such unit owners allow pets. The new group of people running that great organization have changed it from no-kill to something HSUS and PETA love - kill 'em and stop the programs that allowed no-kill to actually work in SF.

    What works is voluntary low-cost spay-neuter, spay-neuter of shelter animals and an organization of people that are committed to no-kill (such as Nathan Winograd who worked at SF ASPCA when it became no-kill).

    Many groups try to get local organizations to change "ownership" to "guardianship". The problem is that if you are only a pet's guardian, rather than owner, the pet can be more easily confiscated if you violate some perceived law about ownership.

    There are already laws on the books just about everywhere about animal cruelty. PETA and HSUS don't care about those. They want to end the "use" of animals for everything, since they either don't like animals or they don't like people. Such uses as pets, food, service, recreation, sport, etc.

    I reject your reality and substitute my own - Adam Savage

    by woolibaar on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 07:36:44 AM PDT

    •  That "excess" figure (0+ / 0-)

      I would be willing to bet it includes numbers from a lot of shelters that submit euthanasia numbers with no breakdown of whether the animals are considered "adoptable" or not.  In other words, the biters, fighters, and dogs with other behavior problems beyond the skill and experience level of candidate adopters, plus those with communicable diseases, severe injuries, etc.

      IOW I suspect it's high.

      Sorry to hear about the SFASPCA.  Always sad to see something good, built as a labor of love, destroyed by someone else's ideology.

      •  Maddy's Fund has a form (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bumbi, political mutt

        to track all the ins and outs at shelters to get a handle on adoptables vs nonadoptables to come up with good numbers on how many adoptable pets are being killed each year. Very few shelters (relative to the number of shelters in the country) are actually providing such information.

        One problem is defining unadoptable. There is one shelter in CA that defines "unadoptable" as any animal that hasn't been adopted. So they kill them as soon as they can (7 days in CA I believe).

        There is also the problem of defining dogs as vicious - a dog in NY was tortured and tossed out a window. It survived its horrific injuries and a rescue group wanted to take it and find it a home after it recovered. However, the dog was overly protective of its food (growling, showing teeth if you tried to take his dish away), so it was deemed unadoptable and euthanized (a dog called OREO, which led to a suggested law called Oreo's Law that would have required the shelter to release the dog to a rescue group, ala CAs laws in the matter. However, ASPCA, PETA, Best Friends and other humane groups fought against Oreo's Law so it didn't pass).

        That's another issue. Rescue groups are not allowed to rescue pets that might be euthanized from some shelters. Those shelters really want to kill dogs and cats as quickly as possible rather than work to find them homes.

        I reject your reality and substitute my own - Adam Savage

        by woolibaar on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 07:59:16 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks for the info (0+ / 0-)

          I'm familiar with the existence of little empires with their gatekeepers, and it does seem that the animal shelter/rescue movement features a lot of them; and specifically with widely varying and controversial standards regarding aggression.

          Resource guarding (as in the food dish) often requires lifelong management, rather than a simple fix, and I can see a shelter wanting to avoid the liability.  On the other hand, I am a member of a rescue working with a breed that typically resource guards.  There are people who love this breed and are willing, and know how, to deal with the guarding behavior.  We believe our contract (vetted by lawyers, of course) covers us in the event of resource guarding aggression, and we would be incensed if shelters killed these dogs out of hand because of it.

    •  what about agressive animals that bite people? (0+ / 0-)

      wolf hybrids are notorious.

      How big is your personal carbon footprint?

      by ban nock on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 08:00:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Until we do not see animals as property (0+ / 0-)

    Nothing will get done.

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