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Bite, fight and property rights

Bite, fight and property rights
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First Published: Thu, Aug 21 2008. 11 11 PM IST
Updated: Thu, Aug 21 2008. 11 11 PM IST
There are a whopping one million stray dogs in Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. And they bite, sometimes! While for some they are lovable pets, others sense the lurking menace. Parents fearing brutal attacks on children have been demanding immediate removal of stray canines from streets and public places — unacceptable to animal rights activists. Municipalities remove some dogs, vaccinate some, and leave some. But after every gruesome attack, a parent group–animal rights activist drama explodes.
The fundamental problem is that stray dogs are “public property”, which creates what economists call “negative externality”. Those who feed and pamper the dogs while benefiting from wagging tails and warm cuddles are not held responsible for the nuisance dogs inflict on other citizens. Moreover, scarce tax money is spent on canine vaccination, again a cost not borne exclusively by dog lovers. Under tort law, owners of property should be held liable for “accidental damages” they impose on others. Would it be just to enjoy the thrill of racing your BMW, yet not pay damages for breaking a 10-year-old kid’s leg in an unfortunate accident? No, it wouldn’t. And this is why parents’ associations don’t demand removal of all cars. Private property ensures costs and benefits are borne by the same person, encouraging citizens to behave with caution and due care.
But, what about “animal rights”? “Animal right” is a contradiction in terms. All rights derive from human beings’ right to own oneself, from which follows an individual’s right to own things non-human. Slavery is unjust, but rearing cattle is business. And dogs are no exception to this.
What is the way ahead? Privatize stray dogs. The municipalities of India’s metropolises should put stray dogs on sale. Animal rights activists and dog lovers are free to buy and own the canines as pets. They shall be held legally liable for damages their pets inflict on others. Animal lovers may even buy dogs from cruel owners if they are willing to pay more for their love than the brute for his hate. Peace dawns as citizens exchange property rights over dogs. And if each dog fetches Rs1,000, we can raise Rs100 crore, enough to take 40,000 children through primary school.
Should stray dogs be privatized? Write to us at views@livemint.com
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First Published: Thu, Aug 21 2008. 11 11 PM IST
More Topics: Ourviews | Animal rights | Canines | Views | OurView |