Dog Politics in New York: Fighting the Medusa

By Mahlon Goer

The New York State regular legislative session ended on June 23, and elected NYS representatives packed their bags and hightailed it for their home districts. No time for long good-byes here in Albany, as New York State Senators and Assemblymembers have people to talk to and places to be. That’s because November elections are just around the corner.

But what you didn't know is that New York State legislators left behind a big, steaming, unsightly pile of you-know-what for dog owners, and it won’t go away so quickly.

A BIG Pile of You-Know-What

That big, steaming pile of crap I'm referring to is a big pile of dog laws.
This year - there were 100 proposed bills on dogs & pets. There were no less than 70 - count 'em folks - that's 70! proposals on dogs PLUS another 30 on pets (including dogs).

Now NY was the first state in the union to require dogs to be licensed, way back in 1894, and today New York has one of the most comprehensive sets of dog laws in the country.

Article 7 of the NYS Agriculture and Markets law, aka “Licensing, identification, and control of dogs” is huge. Its humongous.

Its so big, and so complex, that the helpful people at the New York Council of Mayors and Municipal Officials had to actually circulate a cheat sheet on the NYS dangerous dog portion alone. If elected officials charged with administering the law have a tough time finding their way through it, imagine the trouble the average dog owner has with it.

Can You Feel The Love?

Get a load of what dog-owning New Yorkers had to wade through - the giant load (pun intended) of dog bills by those NY legislators (who feel it necessary to leave their mark) submitted during the 2005-06 legislative session:

· Twenty-two (22) proposals on dangerous dogs

· Fourteen (14) on dog breeders
· Thirteen (13) on dog licensing
· Six (6) proposals on dog groomers
· Two (2) guardianship bills
· Two (2) highly restrictive “anti-tethering” bills
· Two (2) dogs-in-open-vehicles bills
· Two (2) dogs-in-closed-vehicles bills
· Two (2) bills mandating surgical removal of doggy gonads and endocrine systems
· One (1) bill which invents the mental illness of “companion animal hoarding”, and promptly makes it criminal
· One (1) mandatory microchip and widely accessible “dog database” bill
· One (1) bill banning the surgical removal of doggy tails and ear flaps
· And a partridge in a pear tree--

Oh, wait! Sorry, wrong list.

Democracy In Action?

Somehow, despite all of these proposals on dogs, I’m just not feeling the love of freedom and justice shining down on me from Albany. Are the 43% of New Yorkers that own dogs especially blessed with all these proposals to further regulate and restrict them? I don’t think so.

Its more like watching legislators throw (you-know-what) proposals at the wall, hoping something will stick.....

And some legislators make making dog laws practically a career!

Dog Law Frequent Flyers

NYS Assemblymember Michael Benjamin of the Bronx:

During one busy week in March, 2005, Asy. Benjamin submitted three dog law proposals. Then one more in April. And then yet another one in June. We won’t even discuss how many more he partnered on with other legislators.

Call me crazy, but I’m thinking Asy. Benjamin’s constituency would love to see some of that energy devoted to other things. Like helping them cope with rising fuel costs. Asy. Benjamin's district reports some of the lowest median incomes in the nation. Why is trial-ballooning statewide dog laws such a big part of Michael Benjamin's agenda?

NYS Senator Carl Kruger, of Brooklyn:

In a freak accident, a small dog sadly died at a pet grooming facility in his district in June 7th, 2006. By June 16th, Senator Kruger had drafted and submitted a bill calling for pet grooming facilities across the state to be comprehensively regulated.

Impressive! If only legislators could work that fast to stop child abuse, or pass a budget. But what happened with the bill? Well, Senator Kruger’s proposal joined the other five on pet groomers already before the state legislature. But, hey, it’s the thought that counts, right?

Stop The Madness!

The truth is that with very few exceptions, we have plenty of dog laws in New York. Really. Like the snakes growing out of Medusa's head - there seems to be an endless supply of proposed dog laws that dog owners must battle in every legislative session here in New York.

Addressing real problems is tough. Its hard work. Incredibly hard work. It can't be done in front of TV cameras, despite what they told you in Albany.

Is Your Dog A Cheap Date?

Legislators looking to add a feather in their caps can whip up a quickie dog bill, and then woo the dog-owning public - which is about half of us - just in time for mid-term elections. And if that makes you feel like a pawn on a larger political chessboard, you would be right.

Well, I’m here to tell you: I’ve been taking names. When November elections roll around, politicians who misdirect the public from real and pressing concerns and instead focus on yet another unnecessary or poorly considered dog law won’t get my support.

My dog votes! And when my dog looks at that long, long list of pending legislation in New York, he shakes his head and wonders what the heck is wrong with humans, and who he's gonna vote for.

Mahlon Goer is a founding member of the Dog Federation of New York, Board Member and Regional Legislative Coordinator, American Dog Owners Association. A published author and frequent commentator on dog issues, Mahlon lives in the Hudson Valley region of New York with her husband, daughter, and Cuba --who consistently votes the dog ticket. This post and discussion about it can be found on Dog Politics. For more information on Dog Laws in NY, visit the Dog Federation of New York blog.

Editor's Note: Submissions to York Staters on any Upstate topic are alway welcome. York Staters will be on hiatus Wednesday afternoon through Sunday, as Co-editor Natalie will be visiting Co-editor Jesse in the nature-and-culture-rich (but internet-poor) Adirondacks. Expect comment approval, new posts, and tales of excitment come Monday.

No comments: