Unintended Consequences

Part of being in leadership, is to have a bigger picture of what might happen when certain decisions are made.

Legislative authority carries with it great responsibility.  A large part of it is to have an understanding of human nature, and the effect that some rules will have on people’s actions.  So it is important to be able to step back and logically follow through on what might happen when a vote is cast for any particular issue.

Rules made with the intention of limiting bad behavior often cross the line into the limiting of good behavior as well. Certain regulations and laws sometimes must necessarily encroach on the absolute freedom of the individual to do whatever is desired at the moment.  Examples of this might be anti abortion measures,  rules limiting the ability to marry (even those with consent) minors, drug and pornography laws, and poaching.

Our social fabric depends on certain limits and boundaries to ensure that ALL are equally protected under the law, in ways that promote life, healthy families, safe communities and vibrant resources.  If all of the people in our communities behaved perfectly, had good hygiene, and gratuitously respected boundaries, such laws and rules might not be necessary.

So its no surprise that when more stories of inhumane treatment of animals appear, the natural reaction of so many is to call for more laws to protect our animal friends from being at the hands of those who are disposed to cruelty and abuse.  Why wouldn’t we want to promote such legislation?

Dog-poundPerhaps because the consequence of such legislation can be far more cruel than the problem being addressed?

The current representative for Michigan’s 104th House (Larry Inman)  may have considered House Bill 4353 to be a good measure that protects animals from falling into the hands of those who might abuse them.  The bill mandates a criminal background check for those who wish to adopt a pet from a shelter. The beginning legislation of the Animal Protection Adoption act passed through the house February 10, 2016.  The passed through the house version amends an existing PA 269 of 1969 with the following section:

Sec. 8c. (1) An animal control shelter or animal protection shelter may consider an individual’s criminal history when deciding whether to allow that individual to adopt an animal. An animal control shelter or animal protection shelter shall not allow an individual who has been convicted of an animal abuse offense to adopt an animal unless a period of at least 5 years has elapsed since the date of his or her conviction. An animal control shelter or animal protection shelter may choose not to allow an individual who is charged with committing an animal abuse offense and enters a plea to any other crime in exchange for dismissal of that charge to adopt an animal.

On its face, it seems that animals are going to be better protected, yes?

That is, until one factors in the human nature part of the equation.   What is the natural response of a human being to discomfort?  What do people do when they can choose between benignly passive and intensely intrusive? (a criminal background check is quite intrusive)

Clearly, the more comprehensive answer depends on what is gained through the engagement of such a process, but there can be no question that the more difficult any process becomes, the less likely it is completed.  In other words, if the bar is higher than the desire to reach it, fewer will try.

Otherwise we might ALL be doctors, engineers, or even accomplished musicians.

But pet ownership is (or should be) fairly low on the list of important things to accomplish.  This ought not lessen the value, but most of our bucket lists probably don’t include ‘getting a cat,’ though many of us have, in our lives had pets and furry critters around us.  Casually picking up from the box of adorable best friends at the local supermarket is a thing of the past. And with such legislation as HB4353 pending, it is entirely likely that scores of those litters will be left unwanted at the shelters for good.

And if one has even the most rudimentary knowledge of what happens to unclaimed animals in most shelters, it shouldn’t be hard to realize what happens next.

Even no-kill shelters have limits on their ability to handle pets.  What happens when the money runs out, and the adoption rate from the no-kill shelter drops off?  Our legislators must do better than this.  Cruelty has many facets, and one of them is total and complete abandonment.

This bill had (and may still have) popular support, but needed the full weight of its resulting aftermath measured.  Most folks should eventually realize how this is an inhumane way to handle  situations that are still an aberration, and not commonplace.  But in the meanwhile, it could pass through and into law, cementing its adverse effects.

Lazy legislators get us bad policy.   Representative Inman might have had good intentions, but did not do the homework, and lacked the foresight and consideration of the actual consequence of the bill he voted for.

He was wrong to vote for this.  Call him and tell him so.