I read a terrifying headline in the New York Post recently. Well, most of them are terrifying, but this one was more terrifying than usual. It said, “Barkers get ruff justice” and described a new law in a French village that fines residents whose dogs engage in “prolonged or repeated barking.”
Feuquieres is a town where you can hear a chihuahua yapping from one end of Main Street to the other. It’s also a tourist’s delight, so to control the problem, the mayor plans to slap a $70 fine on dog owners (or “dog guardians” or whatever we’re supposed to call them) whose canines can’t exercise self-control.
This law seems to leave a lot of room for subjective interpretation. I’m afraid that when there’s a budget deficit or downturn in the tourist business, there will be an aggressive crackdown on the canine population and even puppies will have to go into hiding.
When the village fathers, and mothers, see the potential revenues, there will be no stopping the citations, which leads me to believe this could be another source of easy money for Connecticut, which is a national leader when it comes to taxation innovation and is always eager to put its hand in your pocket.
“The aim is not to ban dogs,” Mayor Jean-Pierre Estienne insisted, “We won’t be fining people for the slightest hint of a yap.” But some people have doubts.
One animal-rights activist growled, “You may as well stop church bells ringing on Sunday morning.”
The French should know better than to persecute dogs. After all, they gave us the French poodle, the labradoodle, the goldendoodle and the schnoodle. They also gave us Beaujolais, Cabernet, Chardonnay and French kissing.
I have to wonder whether they’re overreacting just like they did during the Reign of Terror. This law could well lead to civil conflict between cat and dog owners. Neighbor will turn against neighbor.
A few years ago, one of my neighbors called the local gendarme because my collie allegedly barked too much; she wanted to have my dog thrown behind bars. But animals have rights, too. Even Pamela Anderson says so.
Ever since lawmakers first prohibited dogs from wandering the streets off-leash, we’ve been infringing on their God-given rights. Now, they want to take away their freedom of expression. Instead, they should fine celebrities and politicians who abuse Twitter and super models who wear hideous outfits during New York Fashion Week, along with people who are always using the F-bomb in public.
When I was a boy, my dog Rover used to roam the neighborhood, doing what dogs love to do — sniffing fire hydrants, chasing cars, growling at delivery men, not to mention toddlers, rolling in the dirt, scratching for fleas, burying bones and biting things, many things. He was a productive member of canine society until the enlightened Board of Selecthumans drafted rules that required dogs to be collared and leashed.
I speak as a man who is a passionate supporter of the constitutionally guaranteed right of freedom of expression. I speak as a man who owns a dog that barks to express her inner self and outer self. She barks at everything, at anything, at nothing.
She peers out the window and waits for a passing Postal Service truck. Of course, she’ll settle for a FedEx or UPS truck. She barks at squirrels, high school students, grammar school students, pollsters, politicians and Jehovah Witnesses. I’ve taught her not to discriminate, which means to say she also barks at Catholics, Buddhists and other dogs, especially when they’re sniffing around our mailbox.
If my lawn man is within his legal rights to cut down trees and use a leaf blower at 8 a.m., what’s so bad about a bark or two … or three thousand?
As a conscientious objector, I urge the immediate repeal of this law and a constitutional amendment in America that reaffirms freedom of expression for EVERYBODY and EVERYTHING … man, woman, child, dog, politician, evangelist, celebrity, Howard Stern, President Trump, Al Sharpton, Nancy Pelosi and SpongeBob Squarepants.
Joe Pisani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.