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Animal Cruelty: A Libertarian Dilemma

Written By Jeff Siegel

Posted December 2, 2014

puppymillsSo I’m going to need a little help with this one, folks.

I didn’t know this until today, but apparently, in the city of San Diego, it is illegal to sell or offer for sale a commercially-bred dog, cat or rabbit from a Midwest puppy mill or local breeder.

As a free market kind of guy, I typically find myself in opposition to any law or ordinance that burdens or harms private business. But as an animal lover, I’d be lying if I said I was OK with puppy mill atrocities or soulless breeders who treat animals as high-priced commodities instead of the beautiful living, breathing creatures they are.

I’ve given this some thought and I’m trying to figure out if its even ethical to sell these types of animals. Certainly there is a valid reason to buy and sell farm animals or animals that serve in an occupational capacity. Whether its a service dog or a draft horse, I see no moral dilemma here.

But what about dogs, cats and other pets? With so many of these animals being euthanized every day, does it even make sense to buy such a pet from a pet store when you can act honorably and rescue one of the thousands upon thousands that just need a loving home?

Of course, from a free market perspective, morality and ethics are relative, and therefore cannot be used as considerations when determining what is and is not appropriate to sell in the marketplace. It’s also worth noting that it is not up to the government, but instead the individual to determine what he or she wishes to buy or sell.

That being said, the government doesn’t allow me to buy or sell marijuana. If I want to purchase a firearm, I must jump through dozens of regulatory hoops and pay all kinds of unconstitutional fees. Hell, I can’t even drive a car without getting permission from the Department of Motor Vehicles. Yet there’s no issue with me buying a dog from an individual that abuses animals for profit?

I suppose there really are few laws in place that make sense. But I can’t help but feel that I would actually support a law that banned the sale of dogs from puppy mills. I tell ya, the hardest part about using libertarian philosophy as a guiding principle is that it forces hard questions and even harder truths.

So what do you think? Is the city of San Diego enforcing a law that never had any business being passed in the first place? Or is there some underlying reasoning that can help me align my views on government and my views on animal cruelty?

Please let me know your thoughts.