Welcome to another Furry Friday here on Lawyers and Liquor, where our updates are as infrequent as our stability. As always, this Furry Friday is brought to you by FurPlanet, the premier furry book service thingy. Look, they print furry stuff, like books and prints and comics and shit and it’s all pretty nice. You should definitely go and check them out as I don a giant badger head to talk about a legal issue that is somewhat related to the Furry fandom or, in other ways, somehow relevant to the interests of giant animal people.
Like today’s topic, which has been one I’ve, admittedly, been working on for a while with little headway as other shit started seeping into my schedule of traveling from place to place and, you know, actually engaging in the practice of law. Namely, this one is for those of the canine persuasion and the historical discrimination that has resulted from the fining and otherwise punishing of Paul the Persistent Poodle for doing what comes naturally to members of that particular persuasion: engaging in the artistic Awoo. More specifically, the imposition of a $350.00 fine or, conversely, the requirement of a license to engage in the vocal demonstration of all that defines a person as a “good doggie” at 4 in the morning as neighbors may be trying to get a little shut-eye. And buckle up, folks, because we have a lot to go over with this. So much, in fact, that we’re going to be breaking the Legalization of Awoo into several different parts over a few Furry Friday posts because, let’s be honest, there’s some world building to be done here.
SOME BASIC ASSUMPTIONS
First, we’re going to make a couple assumptions. The basic assumption is that any sort of case of this nature would take place in an entirely anthropomorphic world, where all of the denizens are various forms of gigantic animal people that talk, sing, dance, and steal from the treasury as the Sheriff of Nottingham sleeps beside the jailhouse door. Once we accept that, we have to assume that the relative history of this anthropomorphic world is, in many ways, analogous to that of our current world. That means the wars, strifes, and legal decisions – with minor changes to account for the changed nature of the people within it – are the same. This means that, in our fictional world, there was an equivalent of a Furry Hitler, a Furry KKK, a Furry form of slavery, etc. This is not a utopia (you thought I would go for the obvious joke there, didn’t you), but rather simply the world we currently exist in slightly modified.
This also means that there is a furry version of the Civil Rights Act and other touchstones of American law – as well as a furry Constitution of the United States and all of the relevant amendments thereto. In other words, same world, different players. Just imagine everything exactly how it is now, except with giant animal people. No other changes except cosmetic or necessary ones.
So, with these general assumptions in place, let’s start laying the background for the fictional case that we’re going to call Bourough of Aycee v. Lou Howler.
THE BOROUGH OF AYCEE AND CANINE INFLUX
We start with the presumption that the Borough of Aycee is a community located in Barks County, Fursylvania. A community for over 200 years, Aycee was first formed as a company town for the iron furnace that originally vitalized the community’s coffers. But as the iron jobs moved, the borough itself fell into a bit of disrepair until a recent wave of gentrification in the early 1990’s, combined with a flight of the middle class from the nearby City of Ruffing, began to pump new life into the community. It turned once again into a respectable little town, a place for families of all species to gather, although the majority of the residents in the town were avian in nature due to their documented historical attachment to the area.
At the same time the City of Ruffing became heavily immigrant based, mainly canids from various areas of Eastern Europe. While predominantly lower income in nature, the immigrant canids were known to be hard workers, often investing meager savings in the city’s low-priced real estate and starting small businesses within the city limits. Within a generation many of the formerly destitute canine entrepreneurs were now among the very middle class that had left the Ruffing originally, and sought out the quieter and safer suburban towns on the edges of Ruffing for their families and homes. Some, mainly the more liberal minded, sought out the progressive and liberal attitude, better school districts, and burgeoning artistic community that was Aycee, moving in next door to their primarily avian neighbors. Here some of the entrepreneurial spirit again emerged as canines purchased older homes in Aycee, turning them into rental housing that was then primarily rented by canines of lesser means looking to move out of the city itself – but who couldn’t afford to purchase a home in Aycee.
However, even as diversity was coming into the small town people began to complain. Several residents took offense at their canine neighbors, complaining that their yards were often unkempt due to working long hours. The canine predilection to large “litters” of children also led to complaints about unruly teens or crowded houses. As many in the canine community were likely to reinvest their additional money into their businesses, houses were often not professionally painted as was preferred for the owners of other historic homes in the borough (but were still kept clean by the standards of many other communities). In general, while some citations for the violation of ordinances were handed out, many of the accounts were determined to be unfounded. At the same time, several residents who were (for reasons they swore were entirely unrelated to the movement of canines into the town) looking to sell their homes discovered that the recent low price purchases of rental properties combined with the number of new rental properties available near them — again mainly rented by canines – were driving down the prices in the town.
THE CAST OF CHARACTERS
Lou D. Howler
Lou D. Howler, Ph.D. was, when he moved to Aycee from the City of Ruffing, a tenure track professor of Soviet History at the Fursyvania State University – Barks County. A labrador and naturalized American citizen, Lou’s parents had immigrated to Barks County and the City of Ruffing during the fall of the Soviet Union. Under the U.S.S.R. Lou’s father had been an outspoken critic of the government in their native Poland, a situation which had led the family to flee the moment the government began to falter in the late 1980’s. Lou, who had been born Ludomir Howinski (his parents Americanized their surname on moving to Ruffing in order to better fit in with the local community), had grown up listening to how his father had been imprisoned in the early 1980’s when Poland was plunged into martial law, how lucky they were to have escaped when they did, and how it was the responsibility of all citizens to protect each other from their government through protest of the unlawful – stories that were told late at night in the cramped apartment above the small pawn shop his parents ran.
After leaving Ruffing to attend college, something his parents scrimped and saved for, and completing his doctoral program, Lou found himself offered a tenure track position at the satellite campus of Fursylvania State University in his adopted hometown. Due to his parents’ failing health and a desire to be near them, he accepted, and received excellent reviews in his work. After his father died of a heart attack behind the pawn shop counter, his mother decided to move to Arizona to live with Lou’s sister there, leaving Lou in Barks County alone. With nothing tying him to the city, Lou began to look for a home in the outer suburbs, eventually settling on a small historic home on a nice street in Aycee after a friend from the local Polish-American Club suggested he look there. At the time of the events, Lou has not only lived in Aycee for two years, but was recently elected to the borough council thanks to a combination of his neighbors’ respect, his position as a respected professor, his immigrant ancestry, and his ability to represent the concerns of canine citizens in the largely avian community.
Police Chief Roachell in an anomaly in the staid community of Aycee. Insect officers weren’t unheard of in larger cities, and before moving to Aycee Chief Roachell had been an officer on the Fillydelphia Police Department for a decade. When Aycee was looking for a new police chief twenty years prior, Roachell applied and was called in for an interview by the borough council – at that point entirely avian. The council, impressed with his ability and service record, quickly hired him to head up the small six officer police department for the borough.
An insect of meager upbringings who headed a department comprised primarily of raptors, Chief Roachell has always had a soft spot for the underdog. Privately he was known to encourage the recent diversification of Aycee by canine and other species. He privately found the immigrants and first generation Americans easier to work with and more steadfastly compliant with the laws. However, he remained aware that his pay was drawn from the city coffers and at any point he could be dismissed if they were dissatisfied with his work. So, while he didn’t go out of his way to find fault with the new residents, he did investigate every complaint filed in a timely manner.
Recently Chief Roachell has become very, very aware of the consternation of the council at the influx of canines into the area – based mainly on their immigrant background and the perceived economic impact. He was unsurprised when the recent election of Dr. Howler shook the other longstanding members of the council, and knew that privately the other council members were afraid they too would be unseated by these “new folk” moving into the community. Chief Roachell, though, doesn’t concern himself with matters of politics or policy, instead seeing his job as solely the enforcement of the law as written.
THE LAW AS WRITTEN
Shortly after the election of Lou D. Howler to the council, the Borough of Aycee council proposed a new ordinance to curtail unreasonable noise within the borough limits. Given the influx of new residents who were used to more urban areas, this was somewhat necessary – acceptable noise in a city is often different from acceptable noise in a quiet suburban town. The general noise ordinance itself was met with standard approval and banned loud radios, music, fireworks, overly loud cars, etc. exceeding a set decibel limit between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., and was prepared to be adopted by the council without objection. Then one of the other council members presented an additional “but related” ordinance relating to a more specific type of noise: howling, or as it was colloquially called by the council, “awooing.”
The ordinance stated, in pertinent part, that the “Borough Council finds excessive levels of sound are detrimental to the physical, mental, and social well-being” of the citizens of the borough, as well as “their comfort, living conditions, general welfare and safety.” To that effect, the ordinance recognized that “certain auditory emissions, consisting of a voluntary or involuntary vocalization rising and decreasing in pitch and volume and lasting more than ten seconds in length” which were “emitted in such a manner that they cause annoyance to an objective, reasonable person,” “occur during the hours set forth in the noise ordinance as being prohibited,” “occur on any public street, sidewalk, or park at any time in a manner likely to cause such annoyance,” or which exceeded a maximum decibel range were violations. A maximum fine of $350.00 was set for each violation of the ordinance. At the same time, the ordinance recognized “awooing” had cultural significance to canines and provided exemptions from the ordinance if: (1) the party obtained the appropriate license from the Borough and renewed such license annually (which could be purchased for a fee of $500 and renewed for a fee of $250 per year) or (2) “awooing” took place as part of a recognized religious activity during generally recognized hours of worship -Sunday from 7:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. Conversely, the ordinance set a stiffer penalty of $1,000.00 in fines on any single violation which led to a “howl,” being a subsequently triggered “awoo” by two or more others within thirty (30) seconds after the end of the initial offending “awoo.”
Obviously, Lou D. Howler fought this, arguing that in a largely avian community the ordinance would serve only to impact canines who – even involuntarily – awoo as part of their natural means of expression as well as culturally. However, being only a single vote on a council of avians, the ordinance was passed and immediately became effective on the first of the following month.
One the day after the effective date of the ordinance, Lou D. Howler – during daytime hours – walked to the public sidewalk in front of the police station. Awaiting Chief Roachell’s arrival at the station, Lou sat on the steps. As the Chief arrived, and with several elderly avians nearby, Lou stared at the chief, raised his head, and emitted a howl lasting approximately thirty-five (35) seconds. Chief Roachell, aware of Dr. Howler’s position, immediately warned Howler to move along and did not take action. Howler, instead, emitted another howl lasting, this time, one minute – which visibly caused discomfort to the avians nearby, one of whom shouted for the police chief to “do something.”
Chief Roachell, albeit reluctantly, wrote a citation for the violation of the new ordinance in an amount of $350.00. Howler, having received the citation, went home. Went the court date arrived he appeared in court, stated he was not guilty to the magistrate while admitting to the facts of the offense. The magistrate found him guilty of violating the ordinance and ordered Howler to pay $350.00, which Howler immediately stated he would not do. Shortly thereafter, Howler retained an attorney who appealed the conviction, stating that the ordinance as written was overbroad and discriminatory in nature. In effect, Howler had made himself the test case for the constitutionality of the new ordinance.
TILL NEXT TIME
And….This is where we stop today. Right here. Because next time we discuss the likelihood of success on the merits of the appeal, the reasoning and law behind it, and the limits of government authority to apply the law in Part 2 of Legalize Awoo!
But while you’re here, why don’t you go visit my sponsor, FurPlanet.com? They help make the site possible while providing a wide range of literature that features, you know, giant animal people – and at reasonable prices. So go check them out…
…and I’ll be back next time to build on this world we’re creating.