What if we couldn't just go out and buy a puppy whenever we wanted one? Is it really okay to pick up a Chihuahua with your cheeseburger, or a Groenendael with the groceries?
In this article, I'll be arguing the case for making it more difficult to own a dog. Dog licenses should be like drivers' licenses -- granted subject to passing a test of knowledge and skill. Getting a dog license would involve passing a test to demonstrate that you know enough about basic animal welfare to give a dog a good life, and that you don't intend to engage in any dangerous practices.
The question of whether dog ownership should be denied to some people is often put in terms of whether dogs are rightly seen as property. Legally, all animals are property, and so people argue that if we have a right to own property, we must therefore have a right to own a dog. This leads to the argument being out in terms of whether animal welfare can trump human property rights.
I'm going to sidestep this particular issue by offering arguments that can be accepted whether you believe dogs ought to be property or not. I'll argue that if dogs are fairly seen as property, this still doesn't mean that people have a simple right to own one -- the legal system distinguishes between different kinds of things we can own, and puts restrictions on some of them. And, I'll argue that if dogs are better seen as family members rather than property, this doesn't give us an automatic right to own them like we have a right to family life, because the basis for the right to have our own children doesn't apply to dogs.