Shooting Cocker Spaniels in Boston’s Zoos

It’s called “shooting the cocker spaniel.” When governments must choose between unpopular tax hikes, or government spending cuts, a trade-off is announced: “If we make program cuts, they will be very, very, painful.”

In other words, “Don’t make us shoot this dog.”

That appears to be the strategy of both the Franklin Park  Zoo and the Stonehman Zoo in Boston. They have announced that the state’s budget cuts (from $6.5 million to $2.5 million in annual state funding) will force it to lay off 165 workers and find new homes for 1,000 animals.

According to the zoo’s director, “Not all the animals in the collection will be able to be placed at other facilities. The Commonwealth would then be forced to either continue to maintain the animals in the closed facilities or euthanize them.”

Governor Deval Patrick has rightly stated that the Zoo’s threat to kill up to 200 of the potentially homeless animals is nothing more than an inflammatory scare tactic. According to the governor’s spokesman, “In the midst of an economic crisis like this one, when families and businesses alike are making sacrifices, we would all do well to remain level-headed and focus on solutions.”

Apparently, it’s not the first time the zoo has threatened to euthanize the animals in its care. The Stoneham Zoo tried it in the early 1990s in the face of budget cuts, to no avail. The animals were actually moved temporarily to the Franklin Zoo.

I cannot help but be a  little alarmed. Are these partially-government-subsidized employees caring zookeepers, or are they holding the animals hostage to their demands?

One can’t help but be reminded of Crazy Ernie from Weird Al Yankovich’s 1989 film UHF. This is how low the discourse on state finances seems to have sunk.

Addendum: Crazy Ernie was beat the the punch by National Lampoon.