Monday, October 24, 2011

Does the Insanity Defense Cover Drunkenness?

If you are a Staffordshire bull terrier and your crime was committed in the U.K., then yes. "Diesel" mauled a ten-year-old boy earlier this summer, and according to something very silly called the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991, he ought to have been put down. But Diesel was granted a reprieve because a man who practices something equally silly called canine psychology told the magistrate that Diesel only lashed out because he was drunk. His owner's uncle had poured a can of Stella Artois down the dog's throat because the animal looked parched to him. It was a hot day, and no one was thinking very clearly.

This sounds a bit like an insanity defense, which implies that the court believes dogs have sanity in the first place. This troubles my inner speciesist. In human-people law, drunkenness is a valid defense only if a person's drink was spiked without his knowledge. What if Diesel had broken into the liquor cabinet of his own accord? Would that constitute voluntary drunkenness? If it happens again, will Diesel have to attend an alcohol diversion program? Conducted by whom, the canine psychologist?

I don't doubt that alcohol was responsible for Diesel's behavior. If plants can be anaesthetized (and it's true that chloroform makes a plant temporarily stop reacting to painful stimuli), then what the hell, we'll say that dogs can get hammered. I'm just curious how far we plan to extend the concept.

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