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C.W. Nevius has a good column in today’s San Francisco Chronicle that dovetails with a post I wrote the other day about the abuse of medical marijuana laws by patients, doctors, and “clinics.”  Apparently in San Francisco—where nothing aberrant should ever surprise us—so many service animal permits are being  given out that chaos is beginning to ensue.  From the column:

San Francisco has become a city filled with “service animals,” meaning the owner has a permit that allows him or her to take their dog, cat, or snake (seriously) into restaurants, libraries, and often even rental properties that don’t allow pets. In 2004 the city’s Animal Care and Control Department issued 244 permits. In 2008 the number was 500, and interim director Rebecca Katz speculates that 2009 numbers are at least as high. Unfortunately, the practice of granting service animal permits so generously is undercutting the intent of the law. Permits that allow an animal full access to buses, restaurants and public places should go only to service animals that perform a specific task and it seems too often that’s not happening. That needs to change.

A good example of the problem can be seen on Haight Street. Residents complain that many of the street bullies have intimidating dogs, often pit bulls, which they take into restaurants and stores. “They go into a restaurant, sit down with the dog, and when the owner says he doesn’t allow dogs, they show him a service animal tag,” says Bill Herndon, who works for the SFPD’s Vicious and Dangerous Animals Unit. “The police are called, they see the tag, and that’s the end of the discussion.”

This is a much bigger problem than pit bulls in restaurants.  It reflects a breakdown in general comity. Society laudably accommodates those with a real need—e.g., medical marijuana (currently dispensed the wrong way), bringing service dogs into restaurants, reserved parking for people with handicapped tags, etc.—and then others without a legitimate need take advantage, which abuses both those who require the exemption, as well as society generally.  And when, as in San Francisco, there is a general breakdown in even the pretense of authority, well, the results are predictable.

Still, it all comes down to individual honor, doesn’t it?  Without it, society will eventually become so chaotic that it will cease to function.

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