By: Jim Beers  Date: 01/8/2012 Category: | Canine Issues | Wildlife Journal |

Recently it was my pleasure to participate in a meeting of dog owners in northern Ohio. That evening, as I dined with my hosts and a couple of local owner/trainers, the conversation revolved around current efforts by animal rights groups to manipulate local governing boards to restrict dog ownership in various ways. As I listened it struck me how I could have been sitting down to dinner with informed hunters or informed gun owners and heard many of the same things. A few key government officials, in the pocket of radical groups who intend to eliminate dog ownership, were proposing one outrageous thing after another to continually restrict the historic freedom to own dogs in this country. The elected officials, the bureaucrats, the tactics, and the incremental approach to divide and conquer were the same, only the object (dogs) was different.

Let’s look at some of the similarities of the problems facing dog owners, hunters, and gun owners. The vast majority of what follows could not have been imagined 30 years ago.

Dog owners face a rash of breed specific legislation that outlaws certain breeds. The lists, once established are subject to addition each time there is an incident or some official wants to expand it for whatever reason. Hunters face a rash of ballot initiatives and regulation changes that outlaw cougar hunting, bear hunting, the use of dogs to hunt certain animals, and the use of bait to achieve humane and consistent harvests of certain game. Gun owners have been dealing with local and federal challenges to restrict handguns and certain automatic weapons.

Dog owners are facing efforts to restrict the numbers of dogs that they may own. Hunters are watching the public areas that are open to hunting dwindle as access and wilderness designations restrict not only hunting but also fish and game management. Gun owners face efforts to restrict the number of guns that they may own plus increasing requirements to purchase or possess a gun.

Dog owners face efforts to outlaw “ownership” and to replace that with “guardian.” Animal rights lawyers are poised to argue that certain animals have the “rights” of humans. Hunters who hunt bear or cougar with dogs or bait face efforts to outlaw the pursuit as not being “ethical.” Control of animal populations is increasingly taken from licensed hunters who pay the state and is given to state employees or contractors who charge the costs to taxpayers. Gun owners face arguments that gun ownership is antiquated and outdated, a relic of the past. Despite evidence to the contrary, concealed weapons permits are described as causing crime.

Dog owners face ever escalating license fees and breeder fees. Hunters and trappers face escalating export fees for fur and outrageous import fees for trophies. Gun owners face increasing registration and purchase fees. All of these things slowly impose new requirements and slowly eliminate the less affluent who no longer enjoy their freedoms because of costs. This reduces the number of opponents to future restrictions.

Dog owners face ever mounting penalties and growing police state tactics as extreme enforcement is used to compel compliance with new and resented requirements. Hunters and landowners face extreme consequences for violating endangered species law when they defend themselves against grizzly bears or clear brush around their homes. Gun owners face draconian measures by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and reports of raids and imprisonment of law-abiding individuals are legion in an era of understandable confusion over unreasonable laws.

Informed dog owners know they are up against organized groups with lots of money and lawyers who want to eliminate all pet ownership. Informed hunters, fishermen, and trappers all know that they are up against organized groups with lots of money and lawyers who aim to eliminate all hunting, fishing, and trapping. Informed gun owners know very well that they are up against organized groups with lots of money and lawyers with the purpose of eliminating all gun ownership.

Groups that advocate elimination of these freedoms control various key governmental power points such as committee chairmen, agency bureaucrats, commissions, and offices. These groups use sophisticated and proven propaganda to capitalize on incidents, make themselves appear to be reasonable, and denigrate their opponents. They routinely capitalize on high profile dog incidents, large hunting violations, and school shootings. Ballot initiatives, regulation changes, government charges, impediments of many kinds, and propaganda particularly of the young are some of their common tactics.


The Best Defense Is A Good Offense

We are constantly playing defense to the attempts by these groups to take away our freedoms to own dogs and guns and to hunt, fish, and trap – freedoms that are often referred to as “God-given rights” by lawyers and others who deal with them. Free men and women since time immemorial have exercised such freedoms except when totalitarian rulers took away the people’s right to do these things. Historically, guns were confiscated when dictators planned radical change. Cromwell gathered weapons before he executed the king and ventured to Ireland to make examples of mothers and daughters hung from trees. Hitler and his communist counterparts seized guns in order to implement repressive and murderous agendas. Today, Australians and Canadians ban guns, the English Parliament bans fox hunting, and Germany bans dog breeds on an expanding list with increasingly arbitrary standards.

In a republic such as ours, sweeping change is, thankfully, more difficult. Incremental change is the way sweeping changes are implemented. Radical change is put in place by a series of simultaneous restrictions on one or two items or practices at a time. The success of these changes relies on dealing with only a small segment of the population at one time, be they dog owners of a certain breed, hunters of a certain animal, or gun owners of a certain kind of gun.

If one-third of the population owns dogs; if 40 percent hunt, fish, trap, or have a family member who does; if most homes have one or more guns – who can eliminate these freedoms? What are the total numbers of these three groups combined?

There are many impediments to bringing the people who exercise these freedoms to a level of realizing what the threats to their particular freedom are and what they need to do to defend those freedoms. Over the past few years I have heard many reasons why dog owners, hunters, and gun owners don’t believe they should become involved with defending their rights to do what they do. Here are a few of those reasons.

  • The Labrador Retriever owners don’t want to be identified with Rottweiler owners.
  • A shotgun owner doesn’t believe that what happens to handgun owners will ever affect him.
  • Certain dog chat groups won’t allow any critical mention of animal rights groups.
  • The duck hunter doesn’t care what happens to cougar or bear hunters.
  • Rifle owners don’t believe that rifles will ever be registered or controlled.
  • Casual dog owners don’t care what happens to backyard breeders.
  • Fishermen don’t believe that laws will ever restrict the right to fish.
  • Bow hunters refuse to become involved in defending gun hunting.
  • Cat owners don’t believe that cats will ever be controlled like dogs.
  • The owner of one dog doesn’t care if others are denied more than a certain number.
  • The owner of a spayed dog doesn’t care if other dogs must be neutered.
  • The rich man doesn’t care that the poor are denied their freedom due to the costs of licenses and compliance with restrictions.


If we don't hang together...

It has been my experience that trappers, more than others, understand how their right to trap is threatened by all these other restrictive programs. Perhaps because they have been so harangued and vilified in recent years, they know that they must pull together and ally themselves with those who can help them. Your group can learn from the trappers without enduring what they have endured.

Here are a few thoughts or suggestions as to what I think will help. This is not inclusive, only suggestive and hopefully it will create dialog and more ideas.

  1. Since there is no Second Amendment for dog owners or hunters, many hunters have worked to get amendments to state constitutions to guarantee the right to hunt. Although many lawyers and wildlife managers privately question these efforts, the rabid opposition of anti-hunting groups tells me that such amendments must have some redeeming qualities. What about a state right to own dogs?
  2. State governments are more responsive to your needs than the federal government. State governments can set parameters for local governments. More often than not, state government is the first place to think of when you are facing a potential loss of freedom. Since the founding of this nation, state governments exercised the 10th Amendment, which reads: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” The nation has operated for more than 200 years with those responsibilities at the state level. Ask your state to resist federal takeovers and to regulate local governments to protect your rights.
  3. Think of proactive things that you can do: introducing legislation; noting and publicizing what your elected officials do or don’t do; and supporting friends and opposing enemies get you a long way down the road.
  4. Look to ranchers, loggers, farmers, veterinarians, and medical researchers for an understanding of what they are up against and what they are doing about it. Ask for their support when you need it and give them support when they need it. Look for common problems and don’t exaggerate differences you may have with these people. The more we dwell on our differences, the less common ground we can establish. All of these groups are up against groups utilizing government to eliminate their livelihoods and their way of life. Whether you object to trapping of beaver or pit bulls or concealed weapons permits, try hard to understand the other person’s motivation and establish rapport. Ben Franklin said it best when he said, “if we don’t hang together, we’ll all hang separately.”
  5. Consider the requirement in Utah to get initiatives on state ballots. Instead of the usual percentage of all registered voters, Utah requires a certain percentage of the voters in either 60 or 80 percent of the counties. This makes it less likely that by collecting signatures at a subway entrance, a group can get a measure introduced that adversely affects only the 95 percent of the state that exists outside the large cities.
  6. Probably most important of all, energize all of your fellow dog owners, hunters, and gun owners. At the same time form partnerships with the other two groups. Talk to each other. You have common problems, caused by common enemies (the right word if you value your freedom), and there are common solutions.


It is my hope that 10 years from now these problems will be things of the past. There will be other issues to be sure, but hopefully our children and grandchildren will look back on us and appreciate what we did working together to pass on these freedoms to them.


About The Author

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Jim Beers -

Member/Volunteer/Partner/Article Writer of the National Animal Interest Alliance.

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