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Adapt Florida “Stand Your Ground” Law for Animal Rights

Photo by Dr. William Weber

In his March 26 column “Repeal the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law,” The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson wrote, “The ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws in Florida and other states should all be repealed. At best, they are redundant. At worst, as in the Trayvon Martin killing, they are nothing but a license to kill.”

Perhaps instead of repealing the ill-conceived 2005 law, Florida legislators should simply amend its language to afford the state’s wildlife due protection from us.

It would be an easy fix, really.

As Mr. Robinson points out in his above-mentioned column, “The relevant part of the statute says that ‘a person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked … has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm.'”

Modified statutory language could read: “A nonhuman who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked … has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm.”

Easy, right?

Let’s look at an incident that occurred in the City of Longwood, Florida, which is located just a handful of miles from the City of Sanford, Florida, where in February George Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin.

On March 16, a female bear, who was “protecting a lot of things, its food source, its cub … basically its territory,” as Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman Joy Hill says in this Orlando Sentinel news video, bit area resident Terri Gurley on her posterior. The bear, as I sadly reported, was executed on March 22, which left her cub motherless.

In a separate Orlando Sentinel story, Ms. Hill was quoted as saying the bear had “crossed the line” and “taken up territory in human living conditions.”

In the Orlando Sentinel news video, Ms. Hill explains (as I pointed out in my March 22 commentary) that the bear “bit (Ms. Gurley) in the butt, but then apparently let her go, which indicates to us a bear that is protecting a lot of things, its food source, its cub … basically its territory. So this bear has made this little apartment complex her territory. Now, the woman got up and was, you know, hightailing it to get out of there and the bear was following her — not at a dead gallop, but following her. And by bear behavior, according to our bear biologists, that’s essentially escorting this person out of her territory. Had it been a predatory attack, the woman never would have gotten up.”

Ms. Hill continues, saying, “We cannot tolerate bears that set up territories that they’re defending in neighborhoods where people are living. We’ve been getting calls about this bear … since about January.”

OK. I get it. Biting Ms. Gurley’s posterior was the last straw for FFWCC officials who already considered the bear a pain in the ass. Just because I understand why Florida wildlife officials executed the animal does not mean that I agree with that course of action. Hell, I don’t agree that a human life is more precious than that of another species.

Those who admire and appreciate wild animals as long as they don’t wander out of our nightmares and onto our streets are the same folks who believe that we are entitled to hold dominion over other species. They are the same folks who scoff at the idea that species other than ours deserve rights — if not to be left alone to live their lives in peace, without us dictating where, under what conditions, and for how long.

The Orlando Sentinel’s initial report about Ms. Gurley’s encounter with the bear indicated that “she suffered four puncture wounds that will heal faster than the trauma.”

The bear, I would remind anyone who might be inclined to dismiss my opinion, is dead. Her cub, I’ve been told, will spend his life in captivity. Ms. Gurley will get over it.

We landlubbers can learn something from the surfing and Scuba-diving communities about coexisting with other species. When is the last time you read or heard about a surfer or Scuba diver seeking retribution after being injured in an encounter with a shark?

That’s right, you can’t remember — because the appreciation those communities have for the oceans includes the marine life therein.

Had the bear who bit Ms. Gurley’s posterior enjoyed the statutory protection of a modified “Stand Your Ground” law, she might have been given the benefit of the doubt that she had a “reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm,” to quote from the text of the current legislation.

As Florida legislators review the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law, they have, as far as I’m concerned, two acceptable choices: they can take Mr. Robinson’s sage advice and do away with the obviously ill-conceived statute, or they can take mine and amend the law to afford the other species with whom we share this earth the rights they so absolutely deserve.

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