These Ordinances Are About the Failure of Personal Responsibility

I think we can all agree that laws that require us to get our cars inspected are a good thing for society as a whole. If we didn’t have these laws, people would be killed from brake failures, skidding cars on slick roads with bad tires, impaired vision from faulty windshield wipers, and so on. And those deaths and injuries many times could be attributed to members of society who fail to take their personal responsibilities.

At some point lawmakers decided that citizens were not going to take personal responsibility to maintain their automobiles unless they were required to do so by law – with an annual inspection and a fee. We have come to accept this as a society. Are your personal rights compromised because of this law? No, actually not at all. I suppose you could argue that inspections and fees punish people who would obey the rules anyway. Not me.

But that’s what some people have argued about pet limits and mandatory spay/neuter ordinances being proposed by the city of Dallas Animal Shelter Commission and Dallas Animal Services staff.

I see it very differently. I believe responsible, law abiding citizens will be glad to “pay the price” even though they are not part of the problem, in order to have a more orderly and safe society.

As Vonciel Jones Hill, councilwoman for District 5, reminded us at the recent Quality of Life Committee Hearing in April, “your right to swing your fist ends where the tip of my nose begins.” Actually it’s a quote from former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Oliver Wendell Holmes. He knew a thing or two about personal responsibility and what an orderly society requires to stay orderly.

Now if you fail to do that inspection and you run a stop sign, then you will be cited for that offense, plus for an expired inspection, so the penalty for failure of personal responsibility is increased.

If someone in your neighbor, let’s say Oak Cliff, for example, violates pet limits and the noise or odor level causes neighbors to complain, there will finally be some teeth in the law to allow the violator to be dealt with as opposed to getting a slap on the wrist. Will all the good neighbors who obey the law, comply with the personal pet limit or apply to be grandfathered be punished by having to be responsible? No, but their neighborhood may be somewhat improved and therefore the gain in property values and a safer and cleaner neighborhood altogether.

Laws are always needed when a society fails to take its personal responsibility. I do not think there is any doubt that there are whole sections of our city that, as a Dallas Morning News columnist said, look more like Dodge City than a so-called civilized city in 2008. The Western frontier settled down, though, when laws were implemented and order finally ruled in the streets, not lawlessness. Yep . . . laws will do that.

Good, responsible citizens need not fear that the city will take away their personal rights or punish them. But the other guys. . . you bet they have reason to worry!

Elaine Munch, President – Metroplex Animal Coalition




2 Responses to “These Ordinances Are About the Failure of Personal Responsibility”

  1. I couldn’t have said it better myself. People often decry these kinds of changes as typical of a “nanny state”, but we wouldn’t have to live in a “nanny state” if people didn’t act like children; and that is precisely what people who fail to act responsibly and ethically are doing.

  2. Couldn’t agree with you more.

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