Is Your Dog Worth More than Your Child?

Sometimes, laws just don't make sense.

For example, in Massachusetts, it's against the law to allow your dog to ride in the back of an open pickup unless the animal is protected in a secured container or cage, or if he is protected by a four-point leash contraption that prevents him from being tossed out of the truck.

If you do break the law, and put the pooch in the back of your truck, without cage or restraints, the fine is $50.

Here comes the unfair part.

You can't put a child under 12 in the back of a pickup, unless the truck is in a parade or on the farm. No restraints necessary. The parade can't be longer than five miles, and the truck can't go faster than five miles an hour.

But, if you do haul a child in the truck, the fine is only $35. That's $35 for a child. And $50 for a dog.

I've introduced legislation to increase the fine, for children, to $500. I admit the amount is totally arbitrary. Certainly children--and dogs--are more valuable than $35, $50 or even $500. They're living creatures that no one can really put an absolute value on, of course.

Speaking of living creatures. The black bear population is growing in Massachusetts.

My friend, state biologist John MacDonald, says that the population is at or near record levels, with more than 1,700 roaming the western and north central parts of the state. So, biologists have to figure out how the bears and the people can live together. Coexist, if you will.

After all, these lovable wild creatures grow to between 150 and 350 pounds in this area, as much as 800 pounds in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. And they're quite adaptable, known to raid homes, camps, cornfields, bee hives, even backyard feeders, in search of food.

Biologist MacDonald says that it's as much a people management issue as it is a wildlife management issue.

Black bears live 15 to 25 years in the wild. Females have babies only every other year, with 50 percent of the pregnancies resulting in triplets. The cubs have a 70 percent survival rate. So, we'll be seeing even more.

In the sky over Massachusetts, we'll be seeing more eagles, ospreys and peregrine falcons than in recent years, according to Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. We have nine pairs of nesting bald eagles, four pairs of nesting peregrine falcons and 350 nesting pairs of ospreys.

Fisheries and Wildlife is also interested in our earth. And, they've certified 1,720 vernal pools in recent years.

Speaking of water. Drinking and boating don't mix. But you knew that, didn't you?

Deaths on waterways are second only to deaths on highways. In fact, more than 800 people die each year in boating accidents, and alcohol is a major factor.

In this country, 48 states impose a legal blood alcohol limit for boating and drinking. Various states impose fines, jail time and substance abuse education or boating safety classes on violators.

Massachusetts goes one step further. Based on the assumption that those who operate a boat under the influence are more likely to also drink and drive a car, Massachusetts (and New Jersey) can revoke automobile privileges upon a conviction of boating under the influence.

If you're interested in other laws, or other pieces of legislation, or just interested in what various state departments are doing, you can access it all on the Internet at www.magnet.state.ma.us. There's so much information there, that you can spend a day, a weekend or more. Enjoy.

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