I love Governor Chris Christie. He’s the kind of straightforward, clear-thinking, no-nonsense, fat guy I aspire to be. However, yesterday New Jersey implemented an intrusion into the lives of their citizens worthy of Michael Bloomberg or Jerry Brown. Now in New Jersey anyone caught driving a vehicle in which a dog or cat is riding unrestrained can be fined up to $1,000. Before I launch into my reasons for disliking this law, let me state that I almost always drive with my dogs restrained (see exception below). I have two Terriers and an Italian Greyhound my wife calls “Froot Loops.” Individually, each might be a pleasant traveling companion, but together they are a trio looking for trouble.
I admit to a libertarian distrust of any government intrusion into our everyday lives. However, here’s a statute that has a couple of especially interesting features. This law allows animal control officers to stop you and cite you for not having your pet restrained. Really, I’m gonna pull over for an animal control officer? My children, at age 10, would ask an animal control officer for a warrant. Is that animal control officer also going to ask me how many other pets I have or run me through some law enforcement computer to see if my dogs have their up-to-date licenses, or lecture me on having unaltered dogs? I think it’s better for everyone involved if traffic enforcement be left to real police.
The fine for a human not wearing a seat belt in New Jersey is $46. That’s right: unbelted child, $46, unbelted Chihuahua, $1,000. Now don’t even try to tell me that dogs are more distracting than children. Have you ever driven 1,200 miles with a kid kicking the back of your seat while throwing Cherrios in your hair? Not once have any of my dogs asked, “Are we there yet?” Now if you have been reading between the lines, you have discovered that this law has nothing to do with traffic safety. It is another subterfuge of the animal rights lobby to harass the dog owner sold to a bureaucrat desperate for an alternative revenue stream. OK, I know that sounds a little paranoid. Go ahead, I’m waiting for a believable rationale for charging 20 times more for an unbelted Boxer than unbelted Bozo.
My real objection is the way government pretends to protect us while stealing the simple joys of our lives. Riding in the back of a pickup truck with the dogs while out hunting with your dad and uncles probably isn’t a common experience with many of today’s youth, but is a memory I cherish. Another is the way my wife cradled our old Toy Poodle whenever he had to go to the vet. Pity the poor animal control officer that might have told Brenda that Scooter would be better off in a crate. Google “Dog with Head Out Window,” and you will find over 10 million images of dogs with the wind in their faces, every image guaranteed to make you smile. The children of New Jersey will have to find something else to smile about… I’m not sure a pregnant Snookie is a worthy substitute. And that’s today’s Back Story.