June 24, 2005
Teeth in the laws?

I know I should be writing about the government shutdown, but can I get something off my chest first? Why do people in Minnesota feel the need to own lions and tigers? And not just one, but eight or nine? The latest story about this exercise in misguided pet ownership involves a 10 year old boy in critical condition. Here's the story from the St. Cloud Times:

Russell LaLa was in the intensive-care unit at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, where he was flown after the Wednesday night attack.

The animals that attacked the boy were euthanized about 1 p.m. Thursday, Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel said. Their remains will be tested for diseases that may be harmful to the boy.

LaLa, who will be a fifth-grader at Royalton Elementary School this fall, is a "sweet young man," neighbor Fred Taylor said.

"He's always with his dad. Where his dad was, there he was," Taylor said. "He's very special to me in many ways because he cares so much about his dad."

LaLa was with his father when he was attacked about 10:45 p.m. Wednesday at Best Buy Auto, three miles south of Little Falls.

LaLa and his father were visiting friend and Best Buy Auto owner Chuck Mock, who is the registered owner of 11 large cats tigers and lions and a bear, Wetzel said.

Well at least he's registered. The lion and tiger who attacked the boy have already been killed. The neighbors have been complaining about these animals for some time, but there was nothing authorities could do under the law. Maybe it's time for some new laws.

MPR's Erin Galbally did a story on the issue a few weeks ago and here's what she found:

[Mower County Sherif Terese] Amazi says a recent state law known as the Regulated Animal Statue has helped matters slightly. It requires exotic animal owners to register with the state board of animal health. It also restricts the importation of new exotic animals into the state. But as of right now, there's no list -- either state or federal -- that comprehensively details how many tigers there are in Minnesota.

Whatever happened to having a dog for a pet?

Now back to that government shutdown. Gov. Pawlenty and Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson met yesterday, but they didn't report any progress. That was after a judge issued an order to continue critical services in the event of a shutdown. MPR's Laura McCallum has that story:

Ramsey County Chief Judge Gregg Johnson said in court that he would rather stay out of the budget fight, and he urged state leaders to reach agreement. But if they fail to do so, Johnson's order would ensure that state money continues to fund core services.

The order says that core functions include matters relating to the health and safety of Minnesota citizens. That includes education funding, public health services, welfare payments, and road construction projects. A list of services Gov. Tim Pawlenty's office deemed to be critical will help guide, but not stricly define, what functions continue.

Legislators who aren't directly involved in the negotiations are growing increasingly frustrated as are ordinary citizens who are watching from the outside. Rick Keimig of Marshall sent me this note:

I think that I have an idea on how to stop special sessions. Legislators get half of their salary midway through the session, and they only get the second half if they finish on time.

That might work. Then again, people might try to apply the same standard to journalists. That would mean you would hear a story on MPR about every weak idea I come up with. I'm pretty good at hitting deadlines, but I don't think you or I could live with that!

Posted by Mike Mulcahy at 6:38 AM