I've written very little this January, haven't I? Well, I'll have to fix that.
Before we go on, may I very strongly recommend the movies City Lights and Modern Times, by the great Charlie Chaplin.
The following, with slight re-edits, is a somewhat breathless email vent I wrote yesterday morning and first sent to Christy and ended up sending to three different people:
I'm drinking coffee this morning, trying to work myself up to a good rant and rave about this. It needs it.
They killed the dog, Christy. They killed the DOG. (I said that to Gwen about nineteen times last night after she told me about this story. "They killed the dog." .... "They killed the fucking dog.")
And the reason they killed the dog was "practical": '"Because of the way it was taught to interact with people, it couldn't be placed in another home," Chase said.'
So, what, either 1) the new owner might have been annoyed by the dog's behavior (assuming that the dog might have wanted to be that way with a strange new human, which is not certain), an annoyance intolerable in advance... or 2) my God, the new owner might not have rebuffed the dog, and that would be horrific?!
So it was necessary.
(I neglect the simple "retraining" or "rebuff the dog till the dog learns" possibilities, which, you know, could have fucking been done by the new owner.)
They killed the dog. They killed the alleged victim in the case.
Of course, the previous sentence is looking at it wrong, that is, as if "the dog was a victim" arguments were the real reason for the case, or were anything but tools that were used, which is not really what happened. Everything the state did in this case was done out of a disgust reaction.
In reading through the comments on the story, I am also finding that one side is declaring the other side to be mentally and morally sick if they say or think anything uncongenial - also from a disgust reaction.
It is not mentally ill to try to think clearly about this, whichever side you end up on. Having said that, let me go on and establish that I'm in the ranks of the loons (yes, my dander is up)...
Let's pretend that the animal abuse is indeed the issue here. I'm going to say that it matters whether the dog was happy. (And I'm bloody sure that the state did not worry about this, or even check. They would in fact have been horrified to check.)
We're talking about a male dog. Who it sounds like was pitching. Let's think about this.
1) Dogs can communicate their feelings pretty well to humans. They've got a good communications palette for it. We've been together a long time.
2) Dogs frequently happily volunteer sex feelings to their humans, very obviously at the time. Male dogs - hell, even female dogs are great leg-humpers.
(Our female dog Cookie used to leg-hump us all the time, especially my little brother Ben. If we didn't move or discourage her - we frequently didn't, and Ben thought it was hilarious - was that abuse? Would it have become abuse if we'd liked it more?)
Now, the Band-Aid in the argument about this, which is supposed to seal off the whole area beyond, is the proposition that animals can't consent. They can't talk, therefore this is equivalent to the situation with a child, therefore etc. The indisputable fact that animals can't talk is supposed to cinch this.
The thing is, if we are talking about a sexually mature animal, and one that is not just "not in pain" but is visibly and plausibly acting enthusiastically, then we can see that this argument being applied and being said to be absolutely beyond doubt and decisive is ... well, it's being applied and insisted to be beyond the possibility of doubt for a reason that has nothing to do with this.
Despite the compulsive absolute assertions throughout the comments that the dog was forced (do we know? is there reason to think so? actually, did anyone in the prosecution even check or have any interest in checking? ) and that the dog was traumatized and suffering (ditto).
That reason is pure disapproval. And, in this case, for reasons of pure disapproval, it seems that they took a happy dog - yes, the happy part seems quite possible, plausible, even likely; why wouldn't it? why couldn't it? - took it away from its family, whom it trusted to keep it safe, and then killed it.
(Killed it evidently for fear that it and its next owner might be happy in the same way. No other explanation of why the next buyers couldn't take their chances with the dog quite makes sense. Perhaps the state had thoughts about who might want to be the next owner. Clearly the dog must be killed. Clearly. Clearly.)
Sometimes my written voice is too rational and I don't show my anger. What I mean to be pointing at here is disapproval.
It's the visceral disgust reaction as clear sight, and as morally authoritative. So morally authoritative that the state's actions based on it are not at risk of being in moral question.
(Random thought: In one of Frank Herbert's science fiction novels with Jorj X. McKie, there is a reference to the fact that, in the court system of the alien Gowachin, it is necessary to exonerate the prosecutor.)
I have written before of the morality of prosecutions and sentences based on pure intrinsic disapproval. Here is a phrasing that I have thought, but that I do not think I have written down before: A prosecution and sentencing and punishment based on pure disapproval, where no one else has been or is being injured but where the prosecution is carried out simply because others do not like the defendants doing what they have been doing, is - not is like, is - human sacrifice. It is hurting someone not because they have hurt others or hurt the society but in the name of a god or godlike thing - and to satisfy the worshippers.
Human sacrifice, I've thought.
I never thought of them sacrificing a pet.
Literally sacrificing. To death.
Look, you may think of bestiality as bizarre, repulsive, disgusting, however you want to think of it. I certainly have no interest in non-humans that way.
Animal cruelty should be prosecuted and punished. Yes. If and where cruelty is going on.
But I am not sure - actually, no, that's not true, I have very strong ideas about - who to be horrified and frightened by: 1. these people with an unusual pastime and relationship with their dog, or 2. the people whose moral sense is ruled by their sense of disgust, such that there is no doubt about what it tells them, and no doubt about whether anyone it points at is utterly evil and insane, and no doubt about what "can't be tolerated," and no qualms about what follows, and inability to see any doubters - read the comments - as anything but mentally ill and depraved.
Finished typing, I read the article again, and the feeling comes flooding back again past the words.
They killed the dog, man.
They killed the dog.
Actually, I thought of another possibility for why the dog died a few hours after I wrote that email - and then my mother said that she had had that suspicion immediately when I had told her about the story...
The couple were sentenced to probation. That undoubtedly isn't what the D.A. wanted when he brought the case to trial, not a D.A. who would have done it.
Might the D.A. have decided to punish them by having the dog put down?
... Gee whiz. I'm not nearly nasty-minded enough, am I? *sickened grin*
Thinking of that, I wished that the D.A. and I were face to face in his office and he could see the look on my face that I'd have had as I looked at him.
Well, that may not be true, and would be unprovable. (Certainly that would never fly as an admitted reason with the Eighth Amendment around.)
But it's another angle that illuminates a central point here. Whatever you think about the bizarre business the couple were prosecuted for... and whether or not you are with me in thinking that a prosecution of a law on the books, or a prosecution for disapproval, can indeed be morally questionable or outright wrong action itself... I hope that we can agree on one thing about this: the state did not do this for the dog's benefit.