by Erik Deckers
American Reporter Humor Columnist
December 2, 2004
ANIMAL INTERSPECIES DATING: SIN OR CIVIL RIGHT?
SYRACUSE, Ind. -- Just when we thought we would get a much-needed rest from moral politics, a new emotion-charged controversy has reached a fevered pitch in Provo, Utah.
According to a recent story in the Associated Press, it started when Utah resident Susan Sewell tried to adopt a kitten from the Utah County Animal Shelter. That's when they learned that Provo law prohibits a dog and a cat are not allowed to live in the same house. It's possible for two dogs or two cats to share a residence, but that's as far as the law will go. And it's raised the hackles of some Provo residents.
"This really has my back up! It's an invasion of our privacy, pure and simple," said pro-interspecies supporter Mabel Hutchinson. "Since when can the government start legislating morality for its citizens?"
Hutchinson, who has secretly owned a cat and dog for four years, shares the sentiments of many Provosians: that the city government needs to stay out of the sleeping rooms and dog houses of its citizens. But there are two sides to every controversy, and this one is no exception. "We're not going to let the actions of a few activist animal control officers dictate the acceptability of a such a heinous practice. The Bible is very clear on this," said Reverend Horton Jacobs, a vocal opponent of interspecies cohabitation. He has been an outspoken supporter for the city law, and has given countless sermons against the "evils of interspecies intimacy." Gregory Polenska, president of Provosians for Animal Values (PAV), echoed Jacobs' philosophy: "We don't see why dogs and cats should be given special treatment or treated differently. And allowing this vile cohabitation is just one more item on the anti-values agenda, along with shared benefits, like shared veterinary insurance. Pretty soon they'll begin promoting this kind of behavior in the pet stores, recruiting puppies and kittens to their perverted ways." Jacobs and Polenska joined hundreds of other pro-separation protestors outside Provo City Hall this past week. For six hours, they marched, carried signs, and chanted "God made Snowball and Fluffy, not Snowball and Scruffy." But the pro-interspecies activists have not been silent. They held a counter-protest just a mile away, at the Provo Animal Shelter. "It's species-phobia!" said Irene Morris, president of AIRS, Animal Interspecies Relationship Supporters. "Those anti-rights zealots need to quit sniffing around our private business. If two consenting grown animals want to live in the same house, it's no concern of theirs."
Morris and 300 other protestors then marched to City Hall, walking mixed breed couples on leashes, and chanting: "We're fixed! We're mixed! Get used to it!"
"This isn't just a question of whether two animals from different species can live together. It's much deeper than that," said Mabel Hutchinson, holding her dog Sebastian and cat Clover on a shared leash. "It's a matter of whether an animal can choose who he or she is going to share its life with. And no government should make that decision for them."
The Provo City Council has agreed to vote on the law, but neither side shows any signs of quitting when it's over.
PAV has already retained a local law firm, Alonzo, Macavity & Gus and have begun taking the necessary steps to file an injunction and an appeal to the Utah State Supreme Court if the vote does not go their way.
"I know this isn't a popular point of view among many Provosians," said Polenska. "But we're fighting for our moral values. And we'll use any means we can to make sure our way of life is protected from those who would seek to corrupt it."
The pro-interspecies supporters won't be caught by surprise either. Not only have they recruited their own law firm, Turpin, Lovett, & Todd, but plans are already underway for a Million Paw March in Salt Lake City next month.
Organizers originally had some difficulty obtaining a permit to have that many dogs and cats in a single location, but after contracting with a street cleaning crew and a promise to "bag any accidents," Salt Lake City officials finally agreed.
"When we explained that it was a million paw march, which only meant we were going to have a little over 250,000 animals - a lot of people out here own three-legged dogs - the officials were a little more agreeable. They were originally worried we were talking about a million animals," said March organizer Paul Zielinski
"We'll either be celebrating or protesting, depending on how the vote goes," said Irene Morris.
Erik Deckers is a weekly humor columnist and radio theater playwright. He is also currently obeying the Provo city law by owning two beagles. He would gladly violate it as a conscientious objector, but cats make him sneeze like he's "going to pop his eyes out of his head."