Monday, October 19, 2009

It's Not About the Pets

A big topic on the mayoral campaign trail has been crime. The candidates agree that we need more police on the streets, but have offered few details on how they will accomplish this. I have previously suggested that one simple, quick, and effective solution is to eliminate enforcement of laws that violate individual rights. Rather than having police officers checking on the distance between "exotic" dancers and patrons in "gentlemen's clubs", police officers should be spending their time apprehending true criminals--rapists, thieves, and murderers. The city however, has different ideas on what constitutes a real threat to the safety and welfare of the citizenry.

The Chronicle reports that city officials are getting serious about fighting a growing threat to the well-being of Houstonians--renegade veterinarians:

For more than two decades, many Houston veterinarians have engaged in a quiet mutiny of sorts.

They have refused to follow a law requiring them to essentially name names — to turn over the identities and addresses of pet owners whose dogs and cats received rabies shots....

A 1985 city ordinance requires veterinarians to turn over the data, but just 20 percent have been complying. The rest have revolted, saying they don't want to become quasi-tax collectors or participate in a “Big Brother” surveillance of their customers.

The city has been sending letters to veterinarians warning of $500 per day fines for failing to comply with the ordinance. The city justifies these strong-armed tactics in a most interesting fashion. Elena Marks, director of health and environmental policy for the mayor, is cited in the article:

Marks said pets should not have more privacy rights than human beings, noting physicians already abide by requirements to report children's vaccinations to state databases.

Of course, Marks is right--pets don't have "privacy rights". But she ignores the fact that the information turned over to the city pertains to human beings--the owners of the pets. Further, she ignores the blatant invasion of privacy involved in reporting children's vaccinations to the state. The evasion doesn't stop there. Marks tells the paper:

This data helps us encourage residents to license their pets.

When the government "encourages" residents to do something, it is always accompanied with an "or else". And "or else" means fines, jail time, or both for those who fail to comply. The "encouragement" offered by the city is akin to the thief who waves a gun in your face to "encourage" you to surrender your money.

While claiming that vaccinating pets is a "public health issue", the article states that the city could raise $1 million per year in licensing fees. Given the city's budget deficit, it appears that this shakedown of vets is nothing more than an attempt to extort more money from Houstonians. Regardless of the motivation, the city is considering more drastic actions:

Efforts by veterinarians to simply hand their clients pamphlets on how to license their pets have not been effective, and city authorities don't want to use extreme tactics of going door-to-door to see who has unlicensed pets.

A home invasion by a gang of street thugs would be a horrifying experience. When it is conducted by city officials under the pretense of identifying unlicensed pets, we have reason for concern. Will city officials look under our beds to find a hiding pet? Will they search our pantry for evidence of pet food? According to Elena Marks, pets don't have a right to privacy. But what of their owners, whose homes will be subjected to invasive searches?

This isn't about pets or anything of the sort. Claims of "public health issues" are a mere pretense for the city government to invade our homes and gain even greater control over our lives. And that is a far greater threat to our well-being than rabies.


Anonymous said...

You say that kids have to be vaccinated but not all are.I think it is wrong to be force to do it to cats if they dont go outside ia the goverment going to pay to have it done some people can not afford it for It might be to high.If the goverment want to have it done then they should pay for it.

Brian Phillips said...

Actually, I didn't say that children must be vaccinated. I quoted a city official who said children's vaccination records must be reported to the state.

I am opposed to both mandatory vaccination of children and the reporting of such information to the state. Vaccinations protect those who receive them. If someone is not vaccinated, they pose no risk to those who are.

You suggest the government should pay for animal vaccinations. And where does the government get the money? From taxpayers, which includes pet owner and those who do not own pets. Government shouldn't be involved at all.