Animal Welfare

We Need to Find a Way to Stop the Deep Ellum Guy from Getting Dogs

Do we not have a social obligation to protect pets that is morally similar to our duty to protect endangered species?
Do we not have a social obligation to protect pets that is morally similar to our duty to protect endangered species? Leif Skoogfors/FEMA Photo Library/Wikipedia

First rule: I want to talk about how human beings treat dogs sometimes. No fair talking about how human beings treat kids sometimes. I know. Bad. We’ll talk about that another day.

But, OK, you brought it up, so let me ask you a question. People have an absolute right to have kids, am I correct? None of us would ever think seriously about a law abridging that right. The entrance requirements for parenthood … well let’s not get into that. You’re getting me off my point.

There is no right, there is no ordained privilege, no ancient dictum of the Magna Carta that says everybody and anybody should be able to keep a dog. And they shouldn’t.

I don’t know how to enforce not letting people keep dogs. The last thing I want to do is load yet another duty on the cops. But there ought to be some way to go to some people, snatch their dogs from them, give the bastards a bop on the head and a big nose twist, and tell them if they ever try to adopt another dog they will be hanged.

Maybe, with the sunglasses and the hats, a dead dog works as well as a live one for begging, without the troublesome biting.

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You probably know already what I’m talking about — that damned homeless guy in Deep Ellum whose dog was, indeed, snatched away from him last year because it bit a kid. He has been all over the TV news again in the last couple of weeks because he got another dog, and he was found riding around with the new dog dead in the handlebar basket of his bike.

He uses the dogs as props for begging. He puts those big joke sunglasses on a dog with hats and so on, crams the dog into the bike basket, and then rides up to people and asks for money. His dog last year, named Lamb of God, was taken from him because it bit a child in the face, requiring stitches.

The city had veterinarians evaluate the dog. They ruled that the dog could never be safe around people, so the city was going to put it down. A retinue of well-meaning animal rights activists and lawyers, augmented by the predictable claque of dog nuts, publicity hounds and out-of-work circus clowns persuaded a judge to stay the “execution.”

Supposedly, the dog was shipped to a place in Austin that specializes in rehabilitating vicious dogs that have been abused as begging props by homeless people in entertainment districts, which I guess is epidemic in Austin. I suppose some people assumed that would be the end of it here.

But, no, it wasn’t the end of anything because it wasn’t the end of Sean Baugh, the homeless guy. Oh, and by the way, another well-known Sean Baugh lives in Dallas — Sean Mikel Baugh, associate director of music and worship at Cathedral of Hope and artistic director of the Turtle Creek Chorale. So, in effect, we have opposite Sean Baughs in Dallas. I think you will be able to tell which one is coming at you from about three blocks away, especially downwind.

I think the dog found dead in the fragrant Sean Baugh’s basket two weeks ago was not the only one he has adopted since losing Lamb of God last summer. Readers and Facebook friends have been sending me photographs for some months showing Baugh with other dogs in his bike basket. For a while, he was staying out of Deep Ellum and working a pitch up on Northwest Highway, according to the photos. He seems to be back in Deep Ellum now.

Who knows if the interim dogs met the same fate as this latest one — a Chihuahua puppy, according to reports. We don’t know how or why this dog or any of them may have died. We don’t know why he was riding around with a dead dog. Maybe, with the sunglasses and the hats, a dead dog works as well as a live one for begging, without the troublesome biting.

If so, his use of a dead dog as a begging prop answers one question that has always bothered me: What’s the attraction? Answer: There is none. His effect on people is some mixture of revulsion, fear and pity. Mainly they pay him to go away.

Yes, Sean Baugh, the bad one, is a human being, and his entire life and presence on Earth are not contained in these macabre deplorable incidents. There was once a little Sean Baugh, someone’s adorable baby, and later on there was a Sean Baugh in grade school, probably killing flies by then, putting the dead ones down girls’ fronts, but bad boys have recovered from worse. Our hearts should go out to the human being who was once that little boy, and our hearts will, I promise. Tomorrow. Friday at the latest. But right now, I still want to talk about the dogs.

Some people should not be allowed to have dogs. They are not capable. Don’t ask me, please, why a person deemed unsuitable to own a dog is allowed to have a kid. That’s apples and oranges, possibly even apples and kumquats, it’s so unrelated.

The law forbids “the possession, selling, delivering, carrying, transporting, importing, exporting, or shipping of any endangered species of fish or wildlife” as a means of protecting those species from abuse and even extinction. So, in fact, our system of law already contemplates abridging our privilege to possess animals, and it does so for the purpose of protecting those animals.

For the animals we have brought into our domestic midst and rendered heavily dependent on our care, do we not have some related responsibility that would impinge on our ability to keep them? In other words, I wish there were some way we could snatch Sean Baugh’s next dog from him, bop him on the head, give his nose a big twist and tell him if he ever gets another dog, we’ll hang him.

Oh, I know, there will be abuses. In divorce cases, I’m sure the lawyers will start using dog-possession rights as leverage to wring more cash out of the other side. Wouldn’t that be better than fake child abuse allegations? Actually, let’s work on that problem another day. Totally crazy dog rescue groups will start staging vigilante raids on people’s backyards, but they do that already. Get a shotgun.

There are laws already against animal abuse, but I’m not really talking about abuse. I’m talking about what happens before abuse — possession. When we know from history that a person is not capable of responsibly keeping an animal, we should not have to wait each time for the most recently adopted animal to turn up dead or abused like the last one. A civilized society should be able to figure out some better system.

click to enlarge Sean Baugh, the bad one, is a serial abuser of dogs. Is there no way to stop him? - GAVIN MULLOY
Sean Baugh, the bad one, is a serial abuser of dogs. Is there no way to stop him?
Gavin Mulloy
The depressing thing about the Sean Baugh case is that he’s not going to get nabbed for a damned thing.

As I said at the top, the last thing I want to suggest is yet another job for the cops. Every time they do a traffic stop, check the vehicle registration, clear the car for firearms and determine whether the driver is drunk, I don’t want them to then have to do a welfare check on the dog. They’ll be stuck on the highway night and day, and people will be robbing banks.

But it does seem as if there should be a way to beef up the longstanding practice of dog licensing. There has got to be some way to marry the technology of microchipping to databases in order to know quickly whether a dog’s licensing is current, and there should be a way to withdraw licensing under certain circumstances.

The ability to keep a dog should never be construed as a property right. It should be set up more like a commercial driver’s license or concealed carry permit — something the state has a right to suspend or take away entirely. Then if Sean Baugh wants to go recruit a couple of pro-bono lawyers and five or six out-of-work circus clowns and sue to get his dog back, fine. But the burden should be on him, not the state.

It is utterly incomprehensible that the good people of Deep Ellum simply have to wait passively and watch while this guy neglects and/or abuses another dog to death before their very eyes.

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Who goes out and does the inspecting and the suspending? That’s a very good question, in these times of straitened public resources. Maybe this could be an opportunity for us to start talking more about why our public resources are so threadbare at a time when a cabinet secretary charged with protecting the environment in what was supposed to have been an austerity regime spends $36,000 to fly from Cincinnati to New York on a military jet for a personal trip. Is it possible we have some priorities askew, or are we just not going at things the right way?

It is utterly incomprehensible that the good people of Deep Ellum simply have to wait passively and watch while this guy gets another dog. There has got to be some sane, civilized legal way for society to intervene.

You know what’s scary? If there is no sane, civilized way for people to intervene and if this goes on much longer, somebody is going to intervene in a way that may not be very sane or civilized. Then we will have another human being in a jackpot. Oh, and I wasn’t serious about the hanging. Nose-cranking I am very serious about, and I would volunteer in a heartbeat.
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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze