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Dog fine unleashes political incorrectness in Pasco

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By JAN GLIDEWELL, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published January 13, 2002

First, a disclaimer.

There is absolutely nothing funny about the unwanted cat and dog population in Pasco County and across the United States. Thousands of animals whose only offense was their birth are put to death every year in Pasco County, and I have always supported groups who are making an affirmative effort to control that population. I have also, for the record, adopted unwanted stray cats and paid for neuter and spay operations (a few, not a lot) for cats whose owners could not afford them.

But Pasco's latest effort, fining people $93 for not supervising their female dogs when in heat, strikes me as being politically incorrect on about half a dozen different levels.

The concept of blaming and punishing females of all species for unwanted conceptions, despite its hallowed place in American tradition and darker spots like the minds of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, is one wrong that society has finally been putting right on the human level and, although dogs aren't human, you have a tough time getting most dog owners to draw the distinction.

And if you watch the pro and con arguments on the Pasco ordinance, you don't have to squint real hard to see the obvious comparisons.

In effect the owners of female dogs say, "Don't tell me I have to control my dog. Control the unleashed male dogs who shouldn't be unfenced or unleashed anyhow."

True, their arguments are motivated more by nonphilosophical issues, the expense for instance. The ordinance requires that female dogs in heat be kept locked in a cage or inside a house. That means people are either going to have to buy cages, teach dogs to use a litter box or accompany them outside every time digestive nature calls while reproductive nature is on call-waiting.

The last time, not counting the Clinton impeachment, I saw government involve itself in trying to get Mother Nature to take a cold shower, was in 1991 when the state of Florida decided that manatees in captivity like those at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, had to stop breeding.

State officials are always a lot more interested in goals than they are methods. In short, not a lot of thought was given to how one goes about telling a 10-foot-long 1,000-pound mammal when or when not to breed.

The folks at the park did manage to separate the manatees, praying that a sudden flood wouldn't allow for pen-hopping, and were successful.

One of the park's females, Ariel, gave birth a year after the males were removed and, since the gestation period for manatees, my expert says, is 13 months, it looks like Ariel managed to get in one last fling.

Since then the park has turned to urging reproductions, trying to use mirrors to fool flamingos into thinking their flock is large enough to trigger breeding behavior. Last I heard the net result was some nest-building activity and a lot of conceited flamingos.

But, back to the dogs. As I said, I sympathize with the effort to control the dog and cat population (You notice there is no cat ordinance. Nobody can control cats.) And owners of female dogs who don't plan on breeding have the alternative of spaying their pets -- just as the owners of male dogs have the option of neutering them.

I guess, in the alternative, you could make all of your pets watch Marilyn Manson videos and Pauly Shore, which just might make them contemplate the wisdom of breeding at all.

By the way. My old pal Citrus County Sheriff Jeff Dawsy's response to my crack about his ego requiring several pounds of raw meat daily was that he, himself, eats only turkey sandwiches and turkey salads and chews on a few people's butts every day.

(Which begs for the question of why he made his entire staff read Who Moved My Cheese?)

I am still researching and, in Dawsy's favor, both the words turkey and butt have come up in discussions with those close to him).

More as it comes in.

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