Donkeys on the loose near Ivy

There seems to be some livestock on the loose just east of Ivy. Two mules (or are they donkeys?) were spotted walking along West Leigh Drive today at 8:33am. As the Hookmobile slowed to take note, one of the stray equines peered in for a closer look.

Note: original headline: Mules on the loose near Ivy.


Looks like the chairman of the Albemarle County Democratic Party. :)

That picture is awesome.

It IS the Albemarle Dem Chairman. See, he's hardworking and friendly.
Unlike the elephant Rep. Chair. Large, slow moving, smart, but unyielding when shown that his politics don't always work in the real world.

Yeah, hard working and friendly. And looking for something else in the car to assess and tax. Hawes should have hidden the CDs on his sun visor. They will be taxed now. :)

sadly, they were probably hungry.

it's been in the news a lot that folks can't pay their livestock feed bills and have been dumping their animals. Could also be that without their usual hay/grain the mules busted out in search for food.

So true, Phonypony! I have dozens of deer living in my neighborhood now. They have been driven from their natural habitat thanks to the rapid growth taking place in Albemarle County, and they are literally starving to death. The little fawns are just absolutely pathetic. A few of them got within 6 feet of my daughter the other night while she was tossing them vegtables. It's so sad to watch any animal starve to death!

It's not just farms. I adopted a beautiful and very intelligent black and white stray in my neighborhood. She lives in my garages now and keep mice away from the cars and trucks (as in chewing up electrical wiring). She went from a skinny malnourished stray to a plump healthy member of my family. And she stays indoors with us during the winter months.

She lays in the window sometimes looking out. I think she hopes to see the person who dropped her or abandoned her in the neighborhood, she's going to ask them who got the last laugh.

I've fostered a lot of SPCA cats and kittens in my time. (Just two weeks ago my wife and I found a home for Domino, a polydactyl that lived with us for a few weeks while he recuperated from an upper respiratory infection. I've got nothing wrong with cats. But my comment was within perhaps a more narrow context than it was presented.

I was speaking in terms of economics, which is substantially what the law concerns itself with. A dog, for instance, may well guard livestock, such as on several of our neighbors' farms. He may also assist physically disabled people, as my neighbor trains dogs to do. Or herd sheep, as I've enjoyed watching at the trials at Montpelier each fall. The loss of a well-trained dog can represent a significant economic blow to an individual or a family farm. The same cannot be said of the loss of a cat, no matter how much it is loved and wanted by its owners.

Although, to be fair, there's a reason why most cat humor involves the lazy cat who barely acknowledges her owner's existence. :) If you're going to blame anybody for that, blame Jim Davis.

Most dogs, though, don't herd sheep, guard livestock or assist disabled people, just as most pet cats don't live in barns and kill mice. (My declawed cat did injure my pet bird once. Traumatic experience.) However, I've had my current two cats, also CASPCA rescues, for about seven months now, and in that time I've probably sunk about $1,000 into food, supplies, vet expenses, etc, with the assumption being that I'm investing in young cats who will in turn provide me with companionship for the next 10 years or so. If somebody kills them, there goes my investment - yeah, I could adopt another cat fairly cheaply but that cat may well also need lots of dental work.

For that matter, why should the law only concern itself with the face value of our pets? If somebody kidnaps a child, that's certainly a felony, and to the best of my knowledge it's not a felony only because the kid might have grown up to make lots of money and support the parents in their old age. The fact that mixed-breed cats can be found for so cheaply suggests that anyone who would steal one is only doing so for sinister purposes - so, what is the harm in making cat-stealing a felony? I certainly don't think it belongs in the category of "stupid legislative tricks."

There are two things that the criminal law primarily concerns itself: human well-being and financial harm, and the former is basically a subset of a latter. (I suppose the same could be said of civil law, provide one ignores the human well-being part.) What I am attempting to explain, although apparently not doing much of a job of, is that the law does not presume that any financial harm accompanies the theft of a cat.

Remember that our legislature still labors under the impression that this is a farming state. This is why our legislature meets only a few weeks each year, and in the winter, at that. If one has a dog, the law figures, it must be a working dog.

Whether or not this bill is a "stupid legislative trick," I cannot say. I didn't call it that. I simply explained why this bill does not fit within the existing framework of our animal theft law: the law values (potentially) working animals more highly than those that do not provide any financial value. It's well worth mentioning that it's already crime to steal a cat. It's simply a misdemeanor.

Here's a thought exercise: If it should be a felony to steal a cat, what other animals should it be a felony to steal? That is, if our criteria is no longer the animal's utility, then what shall our criteria be? Should it be a felony to steal a rabbit? A chinchilla? A parrot? A monkey? A duck? A hermit crab? An exotic cockroach? Where is the line, and why do we draw it there? And what is it about classifying it as a felony that's so important? Is it that we want to take away somebody's voting rights for parakeet thievery? That the loss of a box turtle warrants prison time?

I don't have any answers here, only the observation that were this bill to pass (and it is thoroughly and utterly dead, so there is no danger of that) then we'd need a whole new basis on which to classify the severity of the crime of animal theft. It would be very interesting to hear some proposals as to what that new basis should be.

All good points Waldo, and I understand where you're coming from. Personally, I wouldn't have a problem with the law making stealing of ANY pet a felony, whether it's a goldfish, parrot or dog. I don't know too many pet owners who would prefer to have their cat or their parrot stolen over the car. However, I understand that the law looks at the monetary value of items stolen, not the trauma imposed on the owner. So I suppose if I were defending this bill to the General Assembly, I'd go back to the letter writer's argument - cats can certainly be useful for pest control. Though, I concede, probably easier to replace than a dog.