This is a great article about the fraudulent practices people pursue to try to take advantage of rules about service animals that help people with true disabilities to bring their pets with them everywhere. This kind of crap strikes me as being in the same category as folks who used to hire disabled kids to go to Disneyworld with them so they could skip the lines (a practice, by the way, that led to Disney giving fewer special privileges to handicapped kids because of the abuse).
I will say from personal experience that the pressure on service businesses to succumb to this sort of service animal fraud is immense, especially in places like California where the financial penalties for even tiny well-meaning infractions of bewildering ADA rules are substantial. My employees once felt they had to allow a woman to bring her horse (!) into the park because she had letters like the ones in this article saying she required the horse for emotional support.
This week I was at a conference where a featured speaker was an executive of the Forest Service named Joe Meade who happens to be blind. I say "happens to" because Joe is one of the best, and best-loved, executives in that organization and what makes him great has little or nothing to do with his disability. But I watched him work his way through a hotel with his service dog -- a casino hotel I got lost in about 4 times and I could read the signs -- and the skills that dog had are simply amazing. Service dogs like that get deference from service businesses for a reason. It infuriates me that people are trying to counterfeit that kind of credential so they don't have to pay an extra airplane fare for their cat. And the only way they get away with it is because of our screwed up tort system that leaves service businesses at the mercy of even the most outrageous claims. Because we businesses have given up on, particularly in places like California, ever getting real justice.
From San Francisco, of course. Via Maggies Farm's great daily link roundup
If the commission approves the ordinance at its meeting tonight, San Francisco could soon have what is believed to be the country's first ban on the sale of all pets except fish.That includes dogs, cats, hamsters, mice, rats, chinchillas, guinea pigs, birds, snakes, lizards and nearly every other critter, or, as the commission calls them, companion animals.
"People buy small animals all the time as an impulse buy, don't know what they're getting into, and the animals end up at the shelter and often are euthanized," said commission Chairwoman Sally Stephens. "That's what we'd like to stop."
This is the same city that is replacing Cokes with Soy Milk in its vending machines. Oddly, when you read the pet article, it turns out their main concern is with hamsters, that get euthanized a huge rates as people who initially think they are cute wake up one day and realize they are just irritating rodents. One wonders then why they ban on all animals just to get at one kind. And why are fish OK but dogs are not?
I think I blogged this the other day but I want to repeat the un-ironic comment made by a city official on the soda ban in vending machines:
"It's entirely appropriate and not at all intrusive for city government to take steps to discourage the sale of sugary sodas on city property."
One wonder if any limitation on individual choice (save perhaps on abortion) would be considered inappropriate or intrusive by these folks.
More here on the failure of European green energy subsidies.
At a speech a while ago, I told this to an investing group a while back: Do the math. You can't build a growth company on public subsidies. It may be possible to grow at first when the subsidized activity (e.g. solar) is a tiny percentage of the market. But once it starts to grow, the projected subsidies are astronomical. The German solar subsidy is something like 50 cents per KwH -- to give one a sense of scale, the typical electricity price from fossil fuels there or here is something like 8-10 cents per KwH. Subsidizing just 20% of US electricity production at this kind of rate would cost $50 billion a year. Subsidizing all production would cost a quarter of a trillion dollars a year.
Take a company dependent on subsidies, figure out what their implied size is in 10 years based on current stock multiples, and then calculate what the public subsidy at current rates would have to be to support that size and a reasonable market share (because competitors are following the same model). Investors who do this will quickly figure out that the subsidies needed to support their favored company are unsustainable. Phoenix-based FirstSolar, a sometimes-darling of Wall Street, has had a rocky year. Its stock price has had several steep falls, each one just after rumors that Germany would cut its solar subsidy rate (actually its feed-in tariff, but the same idea).
My advice to the group was that if you were investing in green energy, either your company had a three year plan to reduce costs to be able to compete profitably in a subsidy-free environment, or else you are investing in pets.com.
Update: If you have Nancy Pelosi's husband on your board, you can probably extend your window to five years.
Via Q&O: Former French President Mauled by Clinically Depressed Poodle
Former French President Jacques Chirac was rushed to a hospital after being mauled by his pet dog who is being treated for depression, in a dramatic incident that rattled the ex-president's wife.
The couple's white Maltese poodle, called Sumo, has a history of frenzied fits and became increasingly prone to making "vicious, unprovoked attacks" despite receiving treatment with anti-depressants, Chirac's wife Bernadette said.
As an aside, does anyone else of my generation remember the Saturday Night Live fake commercial for "Puppy Uppers" and "Doggy Downers?" Do you remember how this seemed, you know, like a ridiculous spoof? (video here).
Update: By the way, here is our white Maltese, who to date has not received any of the benefits of veterinary psycho-pharmacology, but who is a great dog none-the-less.
I toured a commercial seahorse farm here in Hawaii this afternoon. It was really an interesting tale, of a couple who saw a problem with the over-catching of wild seahorses and attacked it with a private farming effort. Not only has private seahorse farming cut the capture of wild seahorses for pets almost to zero, it also produces a better pet (their seahorses born in captivity are taught to eat dead shrimp rather than live food, they live much longer than wild seahorses, and they are easier to breed). Kudos to these folks. I love seeing private action solving environmental issues, and their story gets me interested again in the many proposals to allow ownership of tigers and rhinos in private farms to save those species. Their website is here, and if you are in the market for a pet seahorse, I highly recommend their product.
Postscript: The biggest threat to seahorses is the same one faced by rhinos and tigers: The huge Asian market for fertility drugs based on these animals. Generally, any animal included in Asian folks wisdom as improving sex in some way is on the fast track to endangered status. I am hoping that Viagra may turn out to be a savior for these species, as a substitute, in the same way John D. Rockefeller saved the whales in the 19th century with cheap kerosene. Maybe the Sierra Club should take some of the huge funds they allocate to paying off Congressmen for more regulations and direct it to Viagra donations to China.