M ore often than you might think, I find myself between a rock and a hard place when it comes to deciding how I feel about certain issues.
When the York County SPCA launched its campaign six months ago to encourage every municipality in York County to adopt an anti-tethering ordinance for dogs, I struggled with it.
But not because I think dogs should be kept outside 24 hours a day, in all kinds of weather.
I am an animal person, but I'm particularly fond of dogs. Of my near-64 years, I've had a dog in my house for at least 60 years.
And it's been a variety -- a cocker spaniel, a beagle mix, a shepherd mix, a St. Bernard, two Rottweilers and a boxer. I loved them all.
But here's my point -- they were all house dogs.
There might have been times when they were tethered outside in nice weather to do their business or for some exercise, but they were house dogs first.
Companions, in other words.
I've always treated my dogs as though they were friends, because that's what they were. Sometimes they were the best friends I had. And they returned the favor.
That said, you'd probably think I'd be a staunch advocate of any municipal ordinance that would force dog owners to keep their dogs inside, or build adequate shelter outside to keep the dog safe and comfortable when the weather is either too hot or too cold, too wet or too dry, or any of the extremes you have when you're dealing with Mother Nature.
But you'd be wrong about that.
I think having your dog live inside the house with you is the best option if you're going to own a dog. I'd never have it any other way.
But then I also had my dogs licensed -- even though I disagree with dog licensing. I've had them spayed and neutered (because it's the right thing to do). And I've provided veterinary care for my animals -- no matter how much it cost -- because I'd do no less for human members of my family if they were sick or injured.
I once had someone tell me when they died, they wanted to come back in their next life as one of my dogs, because they were treated with so much love. I took that as a compliment -- maybe the best I've ever received.
Anyway, I don't approve of extended tethering of dogs. It's bad for the animal in so many ways, all of which have been pointed out by the SPCA numerous times.
But the notion of mandating anti-tethering, instead of people just doing the right thing without being forced to do so by government edict, makes my teeth hurt.
This anti-tethering proposal clearly butts up against my desire to limit government involvement in my life. I want less government, not more.
And here we are asking local government to step in and force people to do something they should automatically be doing out of kindness for their animals.
The problem, of course, is too many people won't do it without being forced.
If it's not written down in the form of a rule, a law, an ordinance or something official, a lot of folks are going to do as they darned well please. Even if it's wrong. Even if it's cruel. Even if it's stupid.
And that ends up complicating life for everyone else.
Already four municipalities have endorsed the proposal. One more, West York, is reconsidering its "nay" vote in early September.
So I have a choice to make, I guess. Do I feel strongly enough about keeping government at arm's length that I'll refuse to support anti-tethering laws? Or do I feel so strongly about looking out for the interests of dogs, that I'll go along with anti-tethering laws?
I wish it wasn't necessary, but I'm supporting the anti-tethering mandate.
I do have concerns about its enforcement -- entirely by SPCA personnel -- because it's going to be a delicate and massive job. There are only 24 hours in a day, and it's going to be impossible to patrol the entire county to make the thing works the way it's supposed to work. It's probably going to require neighbors to complain about neighbors. The squeaky wheel will get the grease. It will create some hard feelings. That's not a good thing.
Plus, it's going to force someone at the SPCA to sit in judgment of "what's too hot," "what's too cold," "what's too wet," and "how many hours outside are too many?"
Where will the lines be drawn? What does the word "regularly" mean when it says dogs "must be taken inside regularly," and what does the word "severe" mean as it relates to "severe weather?"
All of those things will become thorny issues as this ordinance moves ahead. Consistency might be a problem.
Still, I support it.
Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: email@example.com.