Saturday, January 03, 2015

A Word of Caution to Animal Owners -- Exodus 21:28-32

--> “And if an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall surely be stoned and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall go unpunished.  If, however, an ox was previously in the habit of goring, and its owner has been warned, yet he does not confine it, and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned and its owner also shall be put to death.  If a ransom is demanded of him, then he shall give for the redemption of his life whatever is demanded of him. Whether it gores a son or a daughter, it shall be done to him according to the same rule.”
 
Picture by: PAT MCGRATH / POSTMEDIA NEWS: Pitbulls account for 3% of dogs, but almost a third of fatal dog attacks. They are bred for battle.   (from the National Post, January 2, 2015)

The actual words of this passage are clear.  If your animal has a ‘habit’ of goring, and it kills a person (male or female), it is to be killed and so is its owner.   The owner's life can be redeemed if such a redemption is acceptable by those suffering the loss.  It is its application in today’s world that may require some careful thinking.  What is this passage saying to us now?
What oxen do we have today?  The following come to mind: our personal vehicles, large pieces of equipment in businesses that we own, and of course, our animals, be they working animals or pets.
If we are to follow the principles given to us in this passage, we are personally responsible for the damage that our vehicles cause to others, whether we are driving or our dependents are.  And to protect us from the losses that we can incur, we purchase insurance.  We do, however, fall short in the case of dealing with drunk drivers, and even repeated drunken driving by the same driver – even if injury has been caused on previous occasions.  For some reasons, we seem to allow these people to keep on driving – and unfortunately, drinking.
We are also responsible for any damage caused to others by our machinery, be it at home (by our lawnmower, our skill saw, or snow blower, etc.) or at our place of business (by heavy machinery e.g.).  Homeowners have insurance for that and employers are also insured against lawsuits for accidents at work.
There seems to be little opposition to applying penalties in these two areas, although imprisonment or capital punishment seems to be reserved for occasions where it is proven beyond any reasonable doubt that an individual acted with ill intent and planned to actually do harm or kill another individual using such machinery.
The most difficult of the three most common potential applicable scenarios identified above is that of the ownership of pets.  And here we are talking about owning pets that are potential killers.  For example, pets that are known to have the ability to harm others include members of the wildcat family (lions, tigers, cougars, etc.), some dogs (pit-bulls, Dobermans, etc.), and some members of the snake family (boa constrictors, pythons, asps, etc. come to mind), among other animals.  Of course, there is great argument by many that these animals are only dangerous when handled without care or handled inappropriately.
Assuming we accept that for the moment, the problem arises in that there is no guarantee you the owner (who knows how to handle these so-called pets) will keep them from having access to someone who does not.  On the other hand, exposing a gold fish to such a person is not likely to endanger their life.  And therein lies the difference.
The debate still goes on even today and as recently as January 2, 2015, columnist Barbara Kay wrote about it in Canada’s National Post (see Pit Bull Denialism).
The waters of course get even more muddled when an owner of a pet in this category (i.e. one having the greater likelihood of harming a person) argues that all guns have the potential of killing or maiming someone when exposed to the handling of an untrained or unstable individual.  True enough.  And therein, lies our dilemma in not knowing how to address these issues.  There’s no consistency and thus no sense of fairness.  What we allow in one area, others can claim they expect in another.  We have lost our moral compass and thus we argue from the position of what suits us best.  Let me close our own study with this thought.
It is noteworthy to point out that God allows the owner of an ‘ox’ that has killed a person to go unpunished if the ox has not gored anyone before.  The owner is only killed if the ‘ox’ has been in the ‘habit’ of goring.  So, even here there is some forgiveness for those who own or are responsible for the animals (or machinery) that kill the first time.  But notice, the animal would be destroyed and by implication today, any machinery (think vehicle) would be taken away from the person forever – even the first time. 
   
The bottom line is that God does not expect us to kill or hurt others or to have possessions or animals that kill or hurt others.  I think we can all agree on that.  With that being the case, we must all do what we can to prevent, minimize, and eliminate all such possibilities to the best of our ability.

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