Thursday, May 12, 2011

Not above the law

Last week we saw a small dog with the force of the law behind her bad behavior. This week we're encouraged to see movement in the opposite direction.

Celebrities often act like the rules are made for someone else. But the city council in Brighton, UK is standing up to a bad animal despite his fame.

Bodhi, the skateboarding terrier, is all over the internet. You can follow him via his owner Jonathan Fell's Twitter account, Flickr photos like the one above, and You Tube videos. He's appeared on the website People Pets, in Skateboarding magazine... and he's also been in the newspapers, where not everyone is so enthusiastic.

Back in February, Fell was warned that he and his dog risked being fined and issued an ASBO, which for you non-Brits, is an Anti-Social Behavior Order.

What's the problem with this charming activity? In many communities, of course, skateboarding itself is seen as anti-social behavior, with kids endangering innocent pedestrians and public infrastructure by doing dangerous stunts on property that's not designed to stand up to the abuse.

But for a dog, there's an additional issue: The leash laws.

Fell poo-pooed the complaints: "As far as I am concerned if Bodhi is under control he is not causing a problem. He is always under control. If I call him he comes to me and sits," and told The Telegraph that if he was the first to get an ASBO for a skateboarding dog, "I would be proud of that. I would hang it on the wall. He is not doing anything wrong, it is a joke, Bodhi is no criminal."

But authorities disagree. This week, after two women complained about tripping over the skateboard, Fell was fined eighty pounds for having Bodhi off-leash.

He has two weeks to pay up, otherwise he may have to appear before the authorities and pay a penalty of a thousand pounds.

A spokesperson for the city council, obviously sensitive to the implication that they are spoilsports, said "We know Bodhi's antics are an amusing sight and the dog and spectators appear to enjoy it. But when people start getting hurt and we receive complaints we have a legal duty to act."

The spokesperson also pointed out that enforcing the leash laws was not the same as prohibiting skateboarding: Bodhi is free to legally continue skating in the local parks.

There's a time and a place for everything. Such reasonable restrictions, however, are often ignored by human skateboarders. Will the dog set a good example? We will continue to follow this story.

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