Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Stealing pets a felony? Must we?

Valley Democrat Eddie Lucio filed HB 435 which proposes making it a state jail felony to steal a "pet."

Must we, really? Is this a big problem? Has there been a rash of pet-nappings and I wasn't informed?

I can think of two incidents in my adult personal life involving allegations of "stolen pets." Both were essentially pet custody disputes, which makes me think such a law could be easily mis-applied. Pinning a felony tag on somebody - even the lowest level felony - places a scarlet letter on the offender's back potentially for life. We ought to be more cautious about putting more and more petty crimes in that category.

RELATED: From Jamie Spencer, we learn why, in Texas, one pet = nine cows = ninety nine goats. Robert Guest offers a quote from Einstein he hopes will inspire the Lege to oppose overcriminalization.

AND MORE: In the comments, the Houston attorney blogging as Rage Judicata suggests that "this one is easy. This bill was sponsored by the State Rep. for Jim Wells County, which includes Alice, Texas, where the mayor was asked to keep a friend's dog while they were out of town, which she did, but told them the dog died and never gave it back." That certainly did happen: See this account. Pretty darn funny stuff. Still a bad idea.

RAGE WAS RIGHT: Capitol Annex reported on this bill in December and confirmed that the story about the Alice Mayor is the source of the legislation.

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

STUPID, STUPID, STUPID. Another fine example of the mental problems that we have running our state.

JSN said...

Catnapping a felony?

number 9 said...

All legislative bodies keep creating new offenses, and upgrading minor ones. Before too long there will be so many laws, we will all be criminals.

It's really a psychological issue. The representative that opposes Lucio's bill will be considered to support pet stealing. We don't want to be soft on pet stealing, now, do we?

Anonymous said...

Pets are like people to way to many people. Even though it sounds silly ....this will get the popular vote. Sorry, this is big pr points for Lucio.

Anonymous said...

Really. I think stealing someone's dog is more egregious than stealing a car. They used to hang people for stealing horses.

Don Dickson said...

I wouldn't worry about it, Grits. I expect the oyster lobby will kill this bill.

Pinkycatcher said...

Anon at 9:31,

The reason they used to hang for horses, was because horse thieving was a relatively large problem, and a horse (especially with gear) might be most of what a person owned, the horse was not only a pet, and it really wasn't even that, it was transportation, and a primary work animal.

dirty harry said...

It may be a measure to help put a stop to stealing expensive hunting dogs, or to curb dog fighting. Lots of pets are stolen to use as "chew toys" to train pit bulls.

Anonymous said...

Would a goldfish be considered a pet? I was thinking of buying one and I'd like to know that there would be no discrimination in the way the law was applied.

FleaStiff said...

Some laws have to be EFFECTIVE.

Pet stealing can be custody disputes but is also a crime-mill for Gypsies and the use of draconian laws against a minority population is nothing new. If it were a felony better statistics would be available on this crime.

Shoplifting can be a childish impulse, a moment of weakness or a way of life! Making it a felony helps eliminate the career criminal.

Overcriminalization? Heck, so what?

Anonymous said...

I just want to know WHO would be willing to steal my bad dogs! Believe me, they would be the posterpets for crime prevention (and self induced punishment for anyone dumb enough to take them)
However stupid they are though, they are still smarter than the average politician in Texas....

Anonymous said...

Steal my dog, PLEASE!

She wants to bite everyone in the neighborhood (She is fenced in and doesn't leave the yard). But she thinks I am the whole world.

Anonymous said...

Somebody from out of town, or at least from the other side of town, please steal my neighbor's dogs. They run free and bark at us when I'm walking my great grandson, they use my back yard for potty purposes. By the way, Texas is not an open range state. By law if my neighbor's cows get out and damage my property, I can impound them and hold them for damages. Maybe we can impound pets. The city can but doesn't, at least not if you live on the right side of town.

Panhandle curmudgeon

Anonymous said...

I guess we won't be able to pick up stray pets anymore, unless we want to risk being accused of stealing somebody's pet. After all, the pet can hardly take the witness stand to say why they snuck out of the fence and we just happened along to keep them from being ran over.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

9:13, one of the two personal incidents I mentioned involved precisely my better half taking in an emaciated Doberman stray she thought was abandoned then later being accused of "theft."

As a compromise, we wound up buying the dog from the homeless family who owned her for $50. If they'd been less accommodating and reported a "theft" ... quien sabe? It doesn't seem worth a felony rap.

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding this is Texas, the DA would put the dog on the stand and get a conviction from its testimony. It’s a “rough “ deal.

Anonymous said...

Just think - if oysters were kept as pets,that would make twelve oyster related felonies. Crazy.

In any event, I don't have my penal code handy, but wouldn't theft of a pet be just that - theft - anyway? (I can't remember how the code defines property). So why have a special law? Because there may be votes in it, that's why.

Rage Judicata said...

Come on now, this one is easy.

This bill was sponsored by the State Rep. for Jim Wells County, which includes Alice, Texas, where the mayor was asked to keep a friend's dog while they were out of town, which she did, but told them the dog died and never gave it back.

I love it that one incident leads to a new crime on the books. Has nothing to do with expensive hunting dogs, or stealing dogs for dog fight practice, both of which would be better reasons than the real one--that someone's Shih Tzu was kept after dog-sitting.

http://dogblog.dogster.com/2007/12/14/mayor-of-alice-texas-accused-of-stealing-neighbors-shih-tzu-puddles/

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Rage, that's friggin' hilarious. :)

Anonymous said...

Now it is even sillier than it was when I begged someone to steal my dog.

Rebeckah said...

Actually pet theft, or more specifically, dog theft, has been rising. I recently got a Yorkie (never owned a small dog before) and was told that I should never, ever leave her alone -- not even in a fenced in back yard. I'm not sure why but dogs, particularly purebreds and small dogs, are popular items to steal. I don't know if it should be a felony, mind you, and I don't live in Texas anyway, but I thought you'd like to know that there really is a rise of "dog-napping" going on. ;)

Anonymous said...

Isn't theft of property already a crime? How is pet theft different from other kinds of theft? Anyone?

Anonymous said...

To many the dog is worth more than the wife. Female anyone?

Anonymous said...

1104.....point your pistola at your head and fire.

Anonymous said...

Really Pinkycatcher! I had no idea! I thought they just loved their horses so much! Duh.

I am curious though, if transportation was the real reason, why didn't they hang people for stealing automobiles?

Anonymous said...

Horse are not considered pets in a ranching environment. They are work animals and have been a major part of ranching in Texas since the 1800's.
A felony for stealing pets is ridiculous. What happens if you find a stray dog and take it in, and all of a sudden that dog becomes the most beloved pet in all of this part of the country. OOPPSS you are screwed and now you are a felon.

Rage Judicata said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

"any domesticated or tamed animal that is kept as a companion and cared for affectionately."

Even if horses were/are considered "work animals" to ranchers I think they still meet/met this definition. I think it absurd to think that the historically stiff penalties regarding horse thieving had nothing to do with the companionship/pet nature of the horse/owner-rider relationship.

I also wouldn't be surprised if the horse stealing-hanging law is still on the books in Texas.

By the way, I don't necessarily agree with the proposed law, I am just trying to add a dimension to the debate/discussion.

I know for me, and my family (two elementary age children), our pets are an integral part of our family's daily life. Walking them, caring for them, feeding them, petting and giving/receiving attention. I would be more upset about someone stealing my dogs than my car and think the proposal that the penalty be more equivalent is not that unreasonable. All these "what if" responses are the part of any law making process.

The background presented by Rage however makes the whole thing bears semblance of something that might happen in Illinois.

Mean Rachel said...

RE: Who steals pets, a big concern can be dealers to animal research companies, who have been known in the past to steal pets from yards in order to sell them to the animal research firms.

Anonymous said...

Someone napped my turtle; right off of my back porch. The poor little thing is probably traumatized. I'm pretty sure I know who took it. Should I get a tap put on his phone?

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