Monday, July 16, 2007

Dog Economics

The Virginia Veterinary Medical Association is advising its members to refuse to vaccinate dogs whose owners are upset by a new law that requires rabies certificates to be sent to local tax collectors. The measure is intended to improve compliance with the current dog-licensing law - which could mean a bill in the mail for a dog owner who previously avoided buying a license. But the association's advice could lead to fewer dogs being vaccinated, wrote Bob Kane, president of the Virginia Hunting Dog Owners' Association, in an e-mail to the group's approximately 2,700 members, state legislators and reporters. Some owners want to keep their personal and pets' information private, Kane said. He urged veterinarians to protect clients' privacy by giving the vaccination but not sending the certificate.

Politicians should take a few economics courses before they try to enact legislation. Here is a good quote from an economist which says it better than I can:

Politicians have what we economists call a zero elasticity vision of the world. They think people will behave after taxes just as they behaved before taxes and the only effect of a tax is to bring in more revenue.

Regardless of what you think about requiring people to license their dogs, you can't ignore human behavior when enacting laws. What is worse, people not vaccinating their dogs for rabies, or people not licensing their dogs? I am against dog licensing. I think the fairest and most simple way of covering the cost of animal control services is sales tax on dog food (a consumption tax). Sure, larger dogs eat more than smaller ones, but who cares? Big deal. Licensing is an invasion of privacy and is often used to ban certain breeds of dog. Licensing doesn't make people responsible pet owners. It doesn't make them pick up poop, stop excessive barking, deal with those who don't socialize or train their dogs... nothing. However, if your dog isn't licensed and bites someone, licensing is used by prosecutors as an indicator of whether you are a responsible dog owner. Ignorant stuff. The current system doesn't work, but politicians keep passing the same types of laws and expecting new results.

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