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‘Wag the Dog’ issue in NJ service-animal bill

There’s a “wag the dog” component in a bill that awaits Gov. Chris Christie’s signature after passing the state Senate. The legislation has to do with — dogs. More specifically, it involves service animals.[1][2]

In political circles, “wag the dog,” means to create a distraction to take citizen and media attention away from a scandal that reflects poorly on an officeholder. Soon after release of Barry Levinson’s 1997 movie of the same name[3] that popularized the idiom, President Bill Clinton decided to fire missiles at al-Qaida targets in Afghanistan and the Sudan — at the same time as Monica Lewinsky was testifying before a grand jury. Many observers called it a prime, real-life example of “wag the dog.”

For a more recent example, look at how and when President Donald Trump issues his most controversial stop-the-presses “tweets.”

What does this have to do with New Jersey legislation to protect the rights of people with service animals?[4] Just this: There has been to much focus on the punitive aspects of the bill, as in fines, when the more important part addresses a need for less ignorance about laws and policies governing these animals.

“Charlie’s Law,” as it has been dubbed, emerged after Cherry Hill High School East prevented 16-year-old Ben Shore, who is on the autism spectrum, from bringing his goldendoodle Charlie with him to class. In a little bit of Statehouse theater, Assembly co-sponsor Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden) allowed Charlie to press the “yes” button[5] when the legislation unanimously passed the Assembly in January. This past Monday’s 38-0 approval in the Senate, which sends “Charlie’s Law” to the governor, is a credit to Shore, his persistence, and his willingness to know his rights under state and federal law. That’s a lot more than Cherry Hill school district officials knew when they enacted a boneheaded policy that clearly conflicts with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. The local policy, since reversed, denied Charlie admittance because the dog was not provided by a recognized agency, and was trained at home to respond to Shore’s panic attacks. Such discrimination against “home-schooled” service animals is strictly illegal under the ADA.

The bill allows someone like Shore to call police when gatekeepers of public accommodations let Ben come in, but insist that Charlie stays out. Police can issue summonses with fines starting at $250 for the first infraction, $500 for the second, and $1,000 for each subsequent violation. The money is supposed to go toward educational programs about the rights of people with service animals. By all means, Gov. Chris Christie should sign the bill. It would be a genuine feel-good moment if Shore and Charlie were with him at a public ceremony. But, as we noted this winter[6], police have higher-priority things to do than intervene in disputes over whether or not a dog can be admitted to a restaurant. We don’t expect these fines to add up to much, but the need for greater awareness is critical. What kind of compliance program can the state Attorney General’s Office establish on fine revenue that may be assessed only a few times each year? An ineffective one. So, back to “wag the dog.” Fines make good headlines, but lawmakers and the administration should commit to funding sufficiently an effort such that every government building security guard, every ticket-taker at a theater, and every bluenose who sniffs “No dogs allowed!” will know better.

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Bookmark Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find Opinion on Facebook.[9][10][11]


  1. ^ “wag the dog (
  2. ^ it involves service animals. (
  3. ^ Barry Levinson’s 1997 movie of the same name (
  4. ^ legislation to protect the rights of people with service animals? (
  5. ^ allowed Charlie to press the “yes” button (
  6. ^ as we noted this winter (
  7. ^ South Jersey Times (
  8. ^

Liberals table bill to remodel national security services

OTTAWA A super-watchdog to oversee the full array of federal intelligence services would be created under legislation introduced today.

The measure is part of a package of national security changes tabled by Justin Trudeau s Liberal government.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says the new expert body the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency would keep an eye on intelligence services across government.

The idea is to ensure a more seamless and comprehensive approach to reviewing Canadian security agencies.

Many have complained the current system doesn t work as well as it should because separate watchdogs review the activities of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the RCMP and the cyberspies of the Communications Security Establishment.

The existing watchdogs cannot always freely exchange information about complaints or collaborate on reviews a problem the new body is intended to solve.

The 150-page bill also follows through on Liberal campaign promises to repeal some elements of omnibus security legislation brought in by the Conservatives after a gunman stormed Parliament Hill in 2014.

The Conservatives gave CSIS explicit authority to derail terrorist threats, not just gather information about them. However, many Canadians have expressed concerns that such disruption activities could violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Read more:

CSIS waiting on Liberal reforms before using threat-disruption powers[1]

CSIS kept all metadata on third parties for a decade, top secret memo says[2]

Time to rein in security overreach: Editorial[3]

The legislation introduced today would require CSIS to seek a warrant for any threat reduction measure that would limit a right or freedom protected by the charter and it clarifies that a warrant can only be issued if a judge is satisfied the measure complies with the charter.

In addition, the new National Security and Intelligence Review Agency would have a role in reviewing the spy service s threat reduction measures.

The Liberal bill comes as MPs prepare to head to their ridings for the summer, which means the legislation is unlikely to face serious debate until the fall.

The government says it aims to strike a balance between keeping Canadians safe and respecting their rights and freedoms.

We all have a stake in it, so all Canadians can have confidence that our security and our freedoms are being protected, Goodale said. That is the goal of this legislation.


  1. ^ CSIS waiting on Liberal reforms before using threat-disruption powers (
  2. ^ CSIS kept all metadata on third parties for a decade, top secret memo says (
  3. ^ Time to rein in security overreach: Editorial (

Man runs across Route 3 after shoplifting at local store: cops

A Jersey City man managed to run across Route 3 unscathed after shoplifting at a local store but couldn’t outrun the law, cops said. Police arrested Mark Carter, 37, Sunday afternoon following a report of shoplifting at Marshall’s in Mill Creek, authorities said. Carter fled the store on foot at around 2:10 p.m. and headed in the direction of Route 3. There, he crossed all lanes of traffic and led police on a “brief foot pursuit,” Secaucus police Capt. Dennis Miller said.

Police eventually caught him on Roosevelt Avenue and arrested him. During the incident, Carter threatened a security guard with bodily harm and “gestured as if he had a weapon,” Miller said. Carter was charged with shoplifting, strong arm robbery, resisting arrest, obstruction of justice, disorderly conduct for crossing the highway, possession of burglary tools, cops said.

Carter, who also had a no-bail warrant out of Jersey City, was transported to Hudson County jail in Kearny, Miller said.

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