In recent years, police officers have developed an unfavorable reputation for shooting and killing dogs. Sometimes they do it while raiding the wrong home; sometimes they do it just for fun. While this epidemic of dog-killing cops has garnered a great deal of attention, the government is killings canines in another, equally sinister manner.
Animal control agencies are often tasked with euthanizing dogs that are vicious or who, because of limited resources, cannot fit in shelters. Few people question these deaths. However, a new report from CNN reveals that animal control has been killing pets for far less legitimate reasons: because their owners cannot afford to pay fines on minor violations.
This was the case in Stockton, California, where Gerilynn Aflleje found her Husky mix, Chunk, at a local shelter after he had gone missing for three weeks. The shelter demanded $180 within 24 hours for “storing” Chunk. When she couldn’t pay, they killed him.
She lamented that
We didn’t only lose our pet. We lost a family member.
Colorado resident Caitlin McAdams faced tragedy when her two dogs were seized from her home two months after they were accused of killing a neighbor’s cat. There was no evidence to support the claim, witnesses denied the dogs’ guilt, and an autopsy proved the allegations unlikely. Nevertheless, McAdams was told she had to pay $1,200 within 10 days of the confiscation of her dogs or they would be put to sleep. This required immense financial sacrifice to prevent.
We’ve had to come up with extra (money) that frankly we just don’t have…It’s hard – it’s definitely hard.
She has a jury trial this month, but as CNN reported:
Until then, her family can only see their dogs during approved visits and will be spending thousands of dollars on storage fees and legal costs. To help cover these expenses, they’ve sold an old car, used a tax refund, borrowed money from friends and raised money through crowdfunding.
Dogs have been killed for less than this. Reasons include “failing to license a pet, owning a dog that barks a lot, or accidentally letting an animal get loose in the neighborhood.” Owners are charged for the storage of their pets until they are given a chance to argue their innocence. A CNNMoneyanalysis studied 15 cities and found thousands of warrants out for pet “offenses.” The fines run from hundreds to thousands of dollars; they often disadvantage the poor.
In Riverside County, California last year, inspectors came under fire for going door to door in low-income and mostly Hispanic neighborhoods in the city of Indio, handing out fines up to $400. Residents were ticketed, among other things, for failing to have their pets licensed, not being up to date on vaccinations, not having pets sterilized, and failing to microchip their pets. The county claims to have a “payment plan” and “fix it” options for low-income families, but refuses to address the fundamental problem of killing people’s pets for an inability to pay exorbitant fines.
They are threatening people. They are intimidating people…[But] if people have lawyers and speak English, they don’t go there
A representative for the pet licensing department in Riverside argued tepidly that,
It’s not our fault that we don’t go to the gated communities – we go there all the time, they refuse entry.
Further, Riverside County argued that it needs to charge fines in order to generate revenue to house and take care of shelter pets. While this sounds noble, it ignores the contradiction that is exploiting pet owners and killing their animals in the name of helping animals.
While these instances of state-sanctioned dog murder are disturbing, they highlight a deeper and even more sinister reality of government: it claims the moral authority not just to kill, but to make demands of money and subsequently murder when they are not met.
This applies whether a police officer writes a ticket that a citizen refuses to pay or whether the IRS demands individuals give money to be spent on corrupt programs and destructive wars. If one refuses to give the government money, it will eventually lead to their arrest. If they resist, they will be killed or at least physically attacked. This power of taxation and violence defines the state. It is what embodies the institution of government.
That it is now being used to kill people’s beloved pets because of their inability to pay ransom shows how severe the stranglehold of state authority has become. Highlighting these heart-wrenching stories of state abuse is a small but necessary action to raise awareness about the practices. Read more about this story here.