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30 September 2006

Does a fox possess urban houdou?

The question is not intended as a Zen koan.
It refers to an ethical dilemma in which I presently find myself.
Josie and I are trying to decide whether to work with or against
the will of a fox who wishes to squat in our backyard.
We're suburbanites, so perhaps the question is whether a fox
possesses suburban houdou, which is the right to enter a suburban
community legally. It seems the fox is not requesting protection,
since this morning we witnessed not only the presence of a fox
in our backyard, but the fact that the fox was in the middle of
a systematic marking of our property as its territory. This seems
to imply a claim of settlement, which is to say we may be liable
for sheltering a dangerous predatory wild animal. An attorney advised
me that I shouldn't worry about civil or criminal liability, and
that my legal options include calling (City of Warren) Animal Control,
calling (State of Michigan) Department of Natural Resources,
the Michigan Humane Society or nobody. Apparently inaction implies no
blame on my part, which seems odd in a climate in which 1-800-DOG-BITE
has become an ad blitz for lawyers on the civil complaint side of
the ideological fence. Combine this with Bush's assertions about the moral
implications of providing safe havens for terrorists, and one
can only wonder whether the lawyer's intent was to provide me
with assurance or a workable CYA strategy. In moral terms, I
don't think of the fox as a terrorist. I consider him or her to
be a de facto apex predator. I say de facto because I can't imagine
any wild animal that ranks above foxes on the food chain entering
our neighborhood. I assert that a predator is not a terrorist.
I am aware that cats are capable of terroristic predation,
which is to say toying with mice. I don't know whether foxes toy
with their prey, but I don't see how any wild animal can be morally
equated with a human terrorist, so I feel obliged to at least attempt
to accommodate the fox. Since MHS is on the legally sanctioned(?)
list of options, I figure MACS (Michigan Anti-Cruelty Society)
may also be able to offer expert assistance, perhaps of a
zoological rather than legal nature.

I wish to establish within the animal kingdom a schedule
of houdou suitable for deciding what wild animals are to be
allowed settlement rights in urban environments. I wish to
propose granting suburban houdou, on a probationary basis,
for foxes, or at least for the reddish-looking specimen
and its kin (species). Apparently foxes have always possessed urban and suburban houdou
in parts of England for centuries. This establishes precedent
(on British soil, which should in theory imply common law precedent at least within the Commonwealth)
of a long-standing social contract between foxes and humans.
Apparently the terms of the contract are that foxes enjoy more or less automatic urban houdou
in England. The catch (there's always a catch) is that foxes may, under certain
very special circumstances, be fair game for sportshumen, during certain specially
designated rural hunting expeditions. The catch in the social contract has
been challenged using every moral weapon the animal rights activists
in England (if not worldwide) have been able to muster in service
to the removal of the fair game clause. I am undecided on whether
an attempt to implement urban houdou in America should include
a fair game clause. Urban houdou for deer has been a hot issue
here in metro Detroit, along with controversies over fairly supervised
hunts of limited duration and gross harvest in specially designated areas
such as Metroparks™ and the like.

Another resource I am considering checking out is the Commonwealth Club.
This club has a branch office right in the neighborhood, so I consider
it a neighborhood resource. Perhaps in an city with an apparently sustainable population
of urban foxes, the presence of an Anglo-Saxon Community Center can help
deal with some of the public relations problems inherent in proposing
urban houdou for foxes.

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