Man Without Qualities

Friday, July 18, 2003

Dogs Days

One expects slanted coverage and partisanship in the mainstream media where matters involve income or wealth redistribution, personal rights or the like.

But dogs?

The Associate Press reports on a nasty case of dog poisoning in Oregon stemming from a dispute over canine "leash laws." The story starts out fine - who could dispute the evil of setting out poisoned sausages in a public park?

But then the coverage gets strange.

Leash laws exist because unleashed dogs can cause trouble. They can attack each other; chase other animals; and jump on, knock over and terrify children (especially very small children), the elderly or just people who don't like dogs jumping on them and ruining their clothes. Unleashed dogs also often damage park landscaping and plantings and it is hard for their owners to control where dogs defecate, and hard for the owners to clean up after their dogs - indeed, that sometimes (but not always) seems to be the point of the owner letting the dog roam "free." Where more than one dog roams, they tend to form packs - as they do in nature - and whip each other up into even more energetic and potentially destructive activity.

Maybe it's all worth it. But that's for the city council to decide - and where leash laws exist, the council has decided the harm from unleashed dogs exceeds the benefits. City councils are not known to harbor a disproportionate number of "dog haters." It is certainly not the case that proponents of leash laws are "dog haters" (indeed, many advocates of leash laws think the laws protect the dogs from irresponsible owners) or people merely indulging their petty annoyance at being "sniffed." Dog owners are not victims of irrational or mean-spirited discrimination.

But that's not how the Associated Press sees things. To the AP, the advocates of leash laws (described only as the leash-your-dog crowd) seem to be one and the same with the psycho dog poisoner (the more tendentious AP vocabulary is in bold):

Poisoned sausages placed in a park have apparently killed eight dogs in this usually pooch-friendly town amid a heated debate over whether dogs should be allowed in parks without a leash. ... Canine owners are on edge, certain that some lifelong dog-hater got sniffed one too many times by an unleashed pet, and decided to take revenge. .... "It's a shame I can't let him off the leash without him getting in some poisoned sausage" ... Those in favor of leash-free parks have reported threats and insults yelled at them from the leash-your-dog crowd while in parks. ... The laws were ignored for years, angering those who leash their dogs and non-dog people, and spurring pro-leash advocates to launch a Web site,, for reporting free-roaming dogs. The site includes candid spy photos of free-roaming dogs ... The first sick dogs arrived at Dove Lewis Emergency Animal Hospital July 3 suffering from vomiting, diarrhea and mouth ulcers.

Heck, the article doesn't even make the point that if the leash-law had been honored, at least some of the killed dogs would never have died. Doesn't that mean the owners of the dead dogs have at least some culpability here for the demise of their own animals?

Personally, I don't care if Oregon cities have leash laws - that's for the Oregonians to decide. But I do find it passing strange that the AP has become so politically incontinent that the author and editor of this article cannot even bring themselves to suppress their personal biases and spin when it comes to supposedly objective reporting about a topic of dogs in a park.

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