Is It Ever Right to Break the Law?


I adopted this dog from the Humane Society Naples (HSN) yesterday.


Some of you may be saying, “BFD. Happens all the time.” But hear me out before you exit, because my particular story has a moral dilemma that could use your input.

You see, in order to adopt Macie, who I had been fostering for the past 6 weeks, I had to clear 2 hurdles.

One problem is that HSN doesn’t generally allow fosters to keep and adopt their charges, because they are in danger of losing the volunteer’s services. If you know anything about animal shelter and adoption, you know that foster homes are in short supply and big demand by shelters and rescue groups everywhere. So the rule or policy is a benefit (easy, less-costly adoption) versus risk (losing volunteers) issue.

With the first problem, I felt that the shelter could make their own benefit-risk assessment and do what they felt was best. And they knew that, as a foster, I wasn’t going to leave them.

The second hurdle was, in my mind, the BIG ONE. Collier County, the political jurisdiction where I officially live, has the same 3- dog-per-household limitation that almost every urban area in the USA has. I already have 3 dogs, and we’re not talking internal policy here, we’re talking LAW.

There are good reasons why these dog limitation laws exists.  Barking, wandering, odor, hoarding, and other signs of improperly cared for dogs is a nuisance to others, and the more dogs one has the bigger the nuisance can be. But regardless of the merits of the law, we don’t let individuals decide whether a law is worthy of enforcement.  As a former police officer, I strongly believe that is the way it should be. I can imagine the damage that might ensue if we let each driver decide if it was necessary to stop at a red light, or if an employer could decide whether overtime was justified after a 40-hour work week.

Think about your internal HR policies, too. One of the things you know is that they must be consistently enforced, or they will have no legal teeth when you really need them to. If you decide that employee A,B, and C should  follow the policy, but employee X and Y don’t have to, you have lost your credibility, and makes it hard to enforce that policy  at all.

In other words, sometimes a risk-benefit analysis just doesn’t cut it.

So what do I do when I want to adopt a 4th dog who fits into my household, is quiet and well-behaved, and will not overrun my 1 and 1/3 acre, totally fenced in property? Do I break the law? And does the shelter overlook that law when they know that the animal – and they – would benefit?

Based on the first sentence of this post, you know what happened.

But was I – and were they – right?


I would really like to hear your thoughts about this.  Individual consideration or uphold the law/policy/rule? And who will bail me out if the Collier County Sheriffs Office reads this? Comments appreciated. :-)