The Magazine

Crime and (Doggie) Punishment

A tale (or tail) of lost freedom.

Jan 13, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 17 • By ANDREW B. WILSON
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Beth Ann, my wife, wanted to be there—with Gus. She is planning to write a children’s book about our several encounters with the law on this issue—and also our more numerous encounters with other dog-owners who scrupulously obey the leash laws and shout out enviously to outliers like us: Don’t you know there’s a leash law? For the purposes of the book, she wanted Gus to have his day in court.

I didn’t think Beth Ann had a chance of getting through security with a dog—even with such a beautiful and noble-looking dog as Gus. But I am never surprised by my wife’s inventiveness.

I had been sitting in the Clayton municipal courthouse for about an hour—along with about 100 other miscreants waiting their turn before the judge—when she and Gus (on a leash) came sweeping down the aisle. Beth Ann stopped to talk to a lawyer friend who was just leaving the court. Then, just as suddenly, she and Gus were gone.

To skip ahead to what would seem to be the end, when I was called to go before the judge, he told me that I had two options: I could plead not guilty and face a quick trial with the possibility of a fine of $300 or more; or I could talk to the person on the same dais seated to his left, who was the prosecutor and who had the discretion to negotiate a settlement. Naturally, I took the second option.

In a brief conference that took less than a minute, I told the prosecutor that Gus was not my dog, but my grand-dog, and that I had not known that I was violating any leash law at Concordia Seminary. He seemed faintly amused. Here was the deal, which I quickly accepted: If I agreed to pay court costs ($26.50), there would be no fine and, as the prosecutor put it, both Gus and I would be on six-month probation.

I won’t tell you what Gus and I might or might not do between now and next May. But I will tell you how Beth Ann and Gus got into the Clayton municipal courtroom.

As Beth Ann tells the story—

In her first approach to the courtroom door with Gus in tow, she was stopped and told she had to sign in first. Patrolman Karl pointed to an open ledger along the wall on the other side of the anteroom. She signed the ledger. When she returned to the big courtroom door, Patrolman Karl stopped her a second time.

“Dogs aren’t allowed in the courtroom,” he said.

“But he’s the perpetrator. He’s asked to appear in court.”

“I don’t think he has to be present in court.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’ll go ask the judge.”

With that, Patrolman Karl went through the door and Beth Ann and Gus followed a moment or two later. Having determined in private discussion with the judge or prosecutor that Gus’s presence in court was not an absolute requirement, Patrolman Karl duly shushed Beth Ann and Gus out of the courtroom.

So Gus really did have his day in court.

I wish the moral to this story was that you can’t keep a good dog down. But I fear the reality is that the nanny state and its obedient servants will keep any number of good dogs down for a long time to come. We are witnessing the death of common sense as a substitute for rules and regulations.

Life is less fun, with less freedom.

Andrew B. Wilson is a resident fellow and senior writer at the Show-Me Institute, a free-market think tank in St. Louis.

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