Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Parable-Dog Law in Virginia

(Flashing blue lights in your rear view mirror. You pull to the curb and stop. A cop stops behind you and approaches. He goes to the front of your car, breaks a headlight with lug wrench and comes back to the

"Lady, didn't you see the speed limit sign back there?"

(You struggle to control your anger.)

"Ah, no, officer. But I was only going about 25."

"The sign says 'DON'T DRIVE TOO FAST OR TOO SLOW.' That's how we do the speed limits in this town."

"OH ... I didn't know that. But I was only going about 25."

"You were, ahhh ... (looks around) going too slow. And you're driving an unsafe vehicle with a broken headlight."

"I'm sorry. I didn't hurt anything. I'll be more careful next time."

"Good idea, lady, now get out of your car."


"I said, get out of your car. You can take your purse and cell phone but leave the keys in the ignition."


"You heard me. DO IT, or I'll arrest you."

(Cop gets in car. You start to lose it.)


"Better call a cab; my partner has to get the cruiser home in time for his dinner."


(Cop laughs)

"Yeah, lady, you do that. Hey, nice wheels. See you!"

(Drives off in your car, followed by cruiser.)

Less than two weeks later having been trashed as an 'abusive driver'-- "Her car was in deplorable condition" -- in three newspaper articles, you go to a hearing in front of a judge. You are required to forfeit your car and pay all costs. Several days later the Prosecutor charges you with ten counts of driving a vehicle in unsafe condition and nine counts of driving too fast.

Your attorney explains that the loss of your car was a 'civil forfeiture' -- you were using the car to violate the law, so the state had the right to take it away. NOW you are being given criminal charges for your actions. Since each 0.1 mile is a separate violation and the cop followed you for a mile, you're up for 19 Class
1 misdemeanors. Bad -- if convicted you could spend up to 19 years in jail. The good news is that you're being offered a plea bargain: If you plead guilty to two counts of driving too fast they'll let you off
with just a fine -- no jail time.

"I thought the charge was driving too slow."

"I donno -- the cop says you were going way too fast. You're lucky he didn't check his speedometer until he'd been following you for a bit, or it would have been an even 20 Class 1's."

"Can't I fight the charges?"

"Sure -- but can you prove you weren't going too fast? Can you prove that your headlight wasn't broken? When juries aren't sure, they often split the verdict. They might find you guilty on 10 counts for the headlight but not for the speeding."

So you take the plea bargain. You agree to two years supervised probation, you are barred from ever driving again, and given a ten year jail sentence, suspended on good behavior. Your fine is $2000 plus $3231.37 in court costs. You lose your job because you can't get to where you work by public transportation. Your attorney -- retainer $5000 -- says "Well, that's the law." He explains that the cop had the required two weeks of training but like a few others on that town's force, he had lost a loved one to a reckless driver, so "He really doesn't like people who don't obey speed limits."

You see an ad in the paper where a garage owned by the cop is selling your car for the blue book value.


Impossible and stupid, right? Couldn't happen, right? RIDICULOUS, right?

Absolutely right on all. However that IS the way Virginia's laws work for dogs and cats. And the fact that not one Virginian in 100,000 has been on the short end of those laws is why the need for HB 2482 wasn't understood.

Of course the targets are nearly all dog breeders and it's not likely that more than one Virginian in 1000 has done that. You are all perfectly safe, for now. And for now, you'll be able to get your next pet from someone -- either in state and not yet driven out of breeding or in another state whose laws aren't yet as bad as Virginia's.

However the HSUS campaign is nationwide; in ten years or so those laws will be nationwide (look for a federal law within five years) and we'll be making do with dogs that are bred or imported illegally at much higher prices.

You think HSUS will stick to dog breeders with these campaigns and not move on to farmers? Researchers who use animals?

I think we should also consider that a nation that allows laws of this kind for animal owners might one day allow them for other people.

"First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist."

Walt Hutchens

Timbreblue Whippets

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