You have a dog, a
cat, a goldfish and a gerbil in your home. Your kids love ’em, as do
you. But one day, while you’re busy elsewhere, your gardener is filmed
kicking your dog. The footage is used in his prosecution. He’s found
guilty and fined. You fire him and hire another gardener, someone who
likes your dog, the cat, the goldfish, the gerbil and even the kids.
Life goes back to normal? No such luck.
The filmmaker, who trespassed
on your property to get the footage, was under contract to an animal
rights group. While a complaint was filed against the gardener, the
animal rights group did so days after the event, didn’t provide the full
uncut footage with audio, the date of the crime, or even a sworn
deposition from the filmmaker. Even though the prosecutor prevailed in
court, he found it difficult working without a police report, without
complete and timely evidence. Even worse, the gardener swears the
filmmaker encouraged him to kick the dog.
Meanwhile, the animal rights
group releases an edited, sensationalized film featuring the images of
your gardener — and other gardeners — kicking dogs, spliced in with
images of your home and your family, faces blurred, chasing the dog
around the yard. This propaganda is posted on YouTube and the animal
rights group’s website. As a result, traffic to their website soars, as
do donations. The images are incorporated into a legislative campaign to
severely restrict pet ownership in homes with kids or gardeners and,
for homes with more than 2 pets on the premises, the proposed law would
require 24/7 surveillance cameras, mandatory education and licensing.
Ignoring the existence of local and state cruelty statutes and the
successful prosecution of the criminal act, the group says suburban
animals are not protected and demands federal legislation.
Unreasonable, you think? Maybe not. Animal abuse is a serious issue.
But you wonder how images of
your home and family can be used without your permission and question
the proposed law. The media questions if you support gardeners kicking
dogs. Are you, they ask, in support of animal abuse?
You spend $25,000 on lawyers
and the same on a P.R. consultant in an effort to restore your good
name. Your children are taunted at school. You spend another $25,000 on
The animal rights group raises $5 million.
Is all this a reasonable use of the footage taken on your property?
You agree that the images of
the gardener’s actions were key to securing an animal abuse conviction,
resulting in the gardener being fined and receiving the counseling he
needed. But should the broader images, the images of your home and
family, be used forever in the public domain as fundraising tools —
especially by a group with an agenda with which you disagree?
Is the use of images of your home, your family and pets an invasion of your privacy? Is this “forced speech,” since your images are used to advance a viewpoint you oppose?
And then there are all the
millions of donations generated from the publicity. Shouldn’t the
animal rights group be required to secure a waiver for public use of the
images and even pay your family royalties, especially when using images
beyond those of the criminal act? Shouldn’t some of the money actually
go to animal abusers who need counseling or to save dogs that were
Beyond this, will the
reputations of gardeners and suburbanites be forever tainted? Will they,
as a group, be suspected of being animal abusers? Should images of
illegal animal abuse carry a disclaimer stating, “THIS IMAGE DEPICTS A
CRIMINAL ACT, NOT STANDARD AMONG ANIMAL OWNERS”?
All these are reasonable questions, a reasonable discussion for reasonable people.
Now, let’s move this scenario
to a farming family living 30 minutes from your home. Make the animal a
piglet or calf. Change the gardener to a person hired to clean the barn
and water the animals. The rest of the scenario pretty much stays the
Images taken on farms are
used to raise tens of millions of dollars, to advance an agenda with
which farmers disagree and are used to vilify farmers, those who choose
to spend every day, 365 days a year, caring for their animals.
Are you, the media asks the farmers, in support of animal abuse?
What do you think? If you
live in Iowa, Florida, Minnesota, Nebraska and New York, this issue is
being heavily debated — on the farm, at the coffee shop, and in the
What if this happened to you? If you own an animal, it could.
Contact your Congressman today and tell them what you think.
NOTE: Key link on this issue.