Saturday, July 12

You Can't Legislate Good Parenting

In the wake of multiple stories over the last several months of infants and animals dying after having been left or trapped in hot cars, some people are calling for legislation making it a federal felony to leave children, animals, or the elderly in a car.

This kind of nonsense aggravates me for several reasons:

1. Legislation is not the answer to every problem - in fact, it's not even the answer to most problems. Moreover, as anyone who has ever read the news (or for non-readers, watched an episode of CSI) knows, the "letter of the law" and the intention behind it are often tragically disparate, and real people pay the price. The guilty go free and the innocent suffer on technicalities, and nobody wins.

2. Such a proposed ban would leave no room for challenges and trade-offs inherent to real life. Think about it. You take your very sick kid to the doctor, get a prescription, and stop at the pharmacy on the way home to pick up their medicine. He/she could sit perfectly safely, curled up and sleeping, in the car for the five minutes it will take you to get the prescription. Unless of course, it's illegal, and then you have to compound your child's misery by dragging their aching, feverish, highly-contagious self into the store to stand around for five minutes. Or you take your dog to the vet, the dog park, the groomer - anywhere - and it can be your only stop on that trip. You're not allowed to bring it into stores, restaurants, or most other public places, but you're not allowed to leave it in the car, either. Seriously, if you have to do so much as stop for gas and pay inside you're risking being arrested for a federal felony! Frankly, it's just not freaking practical for anyone who has a child or a dog.

3. This is not actually a big problem. Don't get me wrong - the death of every child and innocent pet is tragic and horrible. But statistically, this falls way near the bottom of the list of ways that children and pets die every year. With the amount of time, money, and effort it takes to get anything through congress these days, we'd be far better off focusing our energies on things that are going to make substantial impact rather than issues, however high profile, that at most effect a few dozen families a year.

4. You can't legislate common sense or prevent every accident.  I know, it's seriously inconvenient, but that doesn't make it any less true. This is real life, and we are all humans. Tragedy will happen, no matter how hard we try to avoid it. Let's not make life even harder on ourselves by further mucking up our reality with unnecessary and pointless laws.

5. Making it a felony wouldn't help. Last I checked, imprisoning people was largely intended to separate those who are threat to themselves or others from responsible, law-abiding citizens for the purpose of protecting the latter through the prevention of additional transgressions. But most of the people involved these types of incidents weren't a threat - they were involved in a tragic accident, which you can bet the bank they won't ever forget or let happen again. Imprisoning them accomplishes nothing, and in many cases just makes the situation worse. If they are a threat to other children or pets, there are far more effective and efficient ways to prevent future incidents.

I know this is a bit of a rant, but people seem to have gotten increasingly rabid about the dogs-in-cars thing in recent years. (I've dealt with my fair share of crazies, despite the fact that my dog is better cared for than most people's children.)

I'm not asking people to ignore the tragedies happening, or to not try to take action to improve our world. But I would ask, from the bottom of my furry-loving heart, that people stop and seriously thing through the realities of what they're proposing before they open their mouths and call for impractical, out-of-proportion responses to whatever injustice has the media's trousers in a twist on any given week. That or you come look into my furry baby's sweet brown eyes and let it be your heart that breaks trying to explain why he isn't allowed to go for rides or visit friends any more!!

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