How “Dangerous” Dog Registries are Unconstitutional and Dangerous in and of Themselves

May 17th, 2013

May 17, 2013

Lately we’re seeing legislation on the state and local levels where elected officials are now adding what are being called “dangerous dog registries” to their dangerous dog laws.  I’ve had a problem, and I’ve said so, with labeling dogs that attack other dogs or animals as “vicious” or “dangerous.” 

It’s simply a ludicrous notion that a dog is labeled vicious when, for instance, a much smaller dog like a Chihuahua who has an inferiority complex, picks a fight with a large dog at say a dog park, and the smaller dog is hurt or killed and the larger dog must then either pay for the instigation with his life, or by being stigmatized for the rest of his life by being incorrectly labeled dangerous or vicious.  That’s why signs often appear at dog parks informing those who take their dogs there that they assume the liability.  And there is liability, especially in today’s overly-litigious and overly-legislated, nanny-state society.

For instance, Virginia has had a dangerous dog registry since 2006.  And as Jennifer Daly can tell you, it’s simply unfair:

Jennifer Daly of Newport News had to register her dog, Ginger, after a scuffle with another dog.

“Another little dog was walking in front of the house at the time, and Ginger took off after her like a squirrel,” Daly said.

Ginger is a female Australian cattle dog mix. It now has a record of being dangerous.

“Being a fairly young dog, with her having that label now, we can’t take her to school and we can’t take her anywhere to get trained,” Daly said. “Now, she’s just sort of a labeled dog. There’s no chance of parole. Life is a long sentence.”

Not only is it ridiculous for Daly’s dog to be labeled “dangerous” and for Daly’s name, address, and the dog’s “offense” to be listed in a publicly searchable database, but by requiring the dog to be confined, the dog cannot receive training, which it sounds like she needs, and is kept isolated, which ironically may bring about the very behavior the dangerous dog law was intended to curb.

But then the radical animal rights groups behind the concept of dangerous dog registries aren’t going to explain their true end-game to the public or perhaps even to the elected officials they buy off to push these ridiculous laws.  And what is the goal when radical animal rights groups push dangerous dog registries?  It’s the same goal they have when they push breed-specific legislation, or dangerous dog laws, or mandatory spay/neuter laws, or the erroneously-named “puppy mill” bills: It’s to end domestic pet ownership as we know it.  And yes, radical animal rightists really do want to end domestic pet and agricultural animal ownership.  They seek to end domestic animal ownership through stepping-stone type legislation that eventually will so wholly restrict animal ownership, that few, if any, will be able to engage in it.

In addition to all the ways a dangerous dog registry does not achieve its claimed objectives, dangerous dog registries are an outright violation of the Constitution.  For this reason alone they ought to be done away with.  For instance, did Jennifer Daly have the right to appeal the dangerous dog label for her dog in a proper court of law, or was her dog simply labeled “dangerous” by the Animal Control Chief or during an administrative hearing? (And by the way, an admin hearing does not constitute a proper court of law, nor is an administrative hearing judge a proper judge, but most likely a member of one of those radical animal rights groups that wants to end domestic animal ownership.)  If Daly’s dog was ruled “dangerous” in no more than an administrative hearing, then she was denied her 14th amendment due process rights.

And how about the 4th amendment right to privacy?  Just like New York’s The Journal News publishing gun owners’ names and addresses in their paper is an egregious violation of those gun owners’ privacy rights (as is granting FOIA requests for same), so too is publishing the names and addresses of owners of so-called “dangerous” or “vicious” dogs in a publicly-searchable database.  What’s to keep a disgruntled owner of a dog attacked by a dog mislabeled vicious from looking up the “vicious” dog owner’s address and seeking vigilante “justice”?  What’s to keep a retributive neighbor from looking up your address and making a false claim that the “vicious” dog owner’s dog got out and did some kind of damage? 

Likewise, what’s to keep radical animal rightists from harassing a “dangerous” dog owner and/or their dog?  After all, every Spring there is a rash of dog poisonings by suspected animal rights activists who think, in their infinite wisdom, it’s better to poison a dog than have it wear a collar they don’t approve of, or, God forbid, that the dog’s owner keep it tethered outside because they don’t have a fenced-in yard, even if the dog owner does so humanely.

Also of concern is how well protected these databases will be.  While some information may be publicly searchable, other information, like Social Security numbers, may not be.  What’s to keep hackers from hacking into a database that perhaps isn’t as well protected as other governmental sites because it’s just a database of animal owners?  If the recent hacking of the Washington state Administrative Office of the Courts is any indication, then the hacking of governmental websites is a serious and legitimate threat. 

And just because no one may have challenged the constitutionality of “dangerous” or “vicious” dog registries yet, it doesn’t mean these databases are constitutional by any stretch of the imagination.  Bottom line, dangerous dog registries ARE unconstitutional and give bad people bad ideas.  So, do dangerous dog registries really keep the community safer, or do they just violate “dangerous” dog owners’ rights and expose them and their pets to bodily harm?