Only in New York, kids: State Senator Ruben Diaz has introduced a bill that would require dog owners to take a basic instructional course, with their dogs, either before the dog’s first birthday or within 180 days of getting their dog. (Via NY Post.)
Senator Diaz himself owns a Pekinese named Chewie, and is quoted as saying:
When my dog barks a certain way, I understand what he wants. If he doesn’t get what he wants, sometimes he creates another behavior.
Well, how ’bout this, Senator Diaz? When a politician gets up in the morning, I understand what he wants (hint: to control people). If he doesn’t get what he wants, he creates another law.
So, for my part, I’m against this for reasons of principle, which are sufficient in themselves: We cannot (or at least, we should not) legislate every time there is a behavior we wish to induce in our fellow man, or our fellow man’s canine companion.
However, the practical considerations should also blow this notion out of the water. First, how does it encourage people to adopt dogs out of the overflowing shelters if now they have to undergo (and presumably pay for) a training, in addition to everything else? As it is, there is an adoption fee, which can be a hundred dollars and more, and there is the existing requirement for licensing, which again costs money, and there is the mandatory vaccination for rabies, which means mandatory veterinary visits down the line.
A mandatory training is a way of confiscating not only the dog owner’s money, but also the dog owner’s time. Imagine how people would feel who already know very well how to train and care for their dogs! They would be apoplectic. The idea ought to be a non-starter. And I’m guessing it will be, unless a pull-out-the-stops campaign by the dog obedience school lobby (i.e. those set to gain financially here) gets it rammed through.
None of this is to say that there aren’t many dog owners who should get some training, along with their dogs. Going to the places where other dog owners go — parks, dog-runs, and just walking down the street — one sees plenty of examples of those who could use some instruction. But no instruction will guarantee that people will then be more responsible about their dogs. Government should by all means encourage training, with handouts and written instructions at shelters and the like. Perhaps, as part of punishment for dog owners whose dogs act out in a serious way, mandatory training could be considered, just as with dangerous drivers. But mandating it across-the-board for literally millions of people and dogs who don’t necessarily need it is bureaucratic government overkill at its worst.
And we will doggedly oppose it.