Every proposed bill in the legislature addresses a pressing need, at least in someone’s eyes. The proponents of Senate Bill 73 would seem to be big animal lovers. I like dogs and cats myself, but here is the deal:
Under the old law, a person could be convicted of animal neglect if he
- Intentionally failed to provide adequate care and control over any animal in his care; and
- thereby caused substantial harm to the animal.
Under Senate Bill 73, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Jolie Justus, animal owners will be looking at a possible fifteen days in jail if–through negligence–a person fails to provide adequate care or adequate control of their animal, even if no harm whatever comes from it.
Bottom line: if your dog chews through the rope and gets loose; or if some busybody neighbor thinks its too hot (or cold) out for Spot; or if the cat escapes because the door stayed open too long, then you can have a criminal record and and maybe a jail sentence. And that’s even if nobody (including the animal) suffers the slightest harm.
In case you’re wondering, Missouri law sets a looser standard regarding the care and control of your kids. Thank heaven, otherwise I’d have doubtless been jailed myself by now.
When I was a child we had an expression that seemed true enough at the time. People still say it. We used it whenever someone was doing something that seemed foolish. We would shrug and then remark: “Well, it’s a free country.” Sometimes I still say it, but today it seems less a comment on foolish behavior, and more a sad irony.
Back in law school, I remember fellow students complaining that people did lots of stupid and mean things and how come those things weren’t against the law? The professor pointedly said: “Not every wrong is a crime, nor does every bad behavior have a legal remedy.” He explained that this was a given in any free society.
The contrary view is that with enough tweaking of the law, we can reach the paradise of perfect conduct. Even our words and our thoughts can be controlled and criminalized. There is nothing a more restrictive law can’t fix.
So we have this divide–or disconnect–between those who think a little freedom can be left to us; and those who would legislate so much of life as to make criminals of us all.