We all have choices to make. In the strange case of Kari Knopp, it’s troubling how many have been wrong.
Until a couple of weeks ago, Knopp was living on the chilly streets of Whitehorse with three dogs. Now, thanks to compassionate citizens, she’s dogless and homeless.
Throughout the summer, many people phoned bylaw and the media expressing concern about the well-being of Knopp’s healthy-looking pets. Not about Knopp, mind you, just her dogs, which were frequently tied to posts around town while Knopp visited various businesses and restaurants.
Filled with compassion, for the dogs, which many assumed lacked food and shelter, these big-hearted folks demanded action.
After several months, bylaw checked out yet another complaint about the dogs, which were tied in Shipyards Park.
Knopp was nowhere in sight.
Though he knew the owner, her dogs and about their homelessness, bylaw manager Dave Pruden chose, finally, to deem the animals at large and impounded them.
This is an interesting decision, and warrants consideration by all dog owners.
According to city law, dogs can’t be tied up and left. So people who, while walking their pets, tie them up outside while visiting a friend or shopping might emerge to find them impounded simply because some compassionate individual has made an assumption and complained.
An inconvenience for most pet owners. A much more significant action to take against Knopp.
In this case, the homeless woman lost the companions that, undoubtedly, she depended on to keep warm and to ward off any predators she might encounter during the long night.
Remember, for a second, that Knopp’s dogs were healthy.
Despite this, Pruden chose to get a court order guaranteeing the 21-year-old woman couldn’t spring her animals from the pound without promising to provide food, water and shelter for her pets.
After months of complaints, he didn’t want to be fielding more calls about the animals the next day, he said.
However, he felt compassion for Knopp and was bothered by her homelessness. In that, he was unusual.
Few of the people calling about the dogs were, he said. Most were indifferent to the woman’s plight.
She has a choice. The dogs don’t, seems to be the refrain.
But what, precisely, were people protecting Knopp’s dogs from?
And why do people feel compelled to protect dogs and not a young woman? That, again, seems an odd choice.
Society itself has a hard time grappling with such cases. Dogs are chattel and easily impounded. People less so, even when their decision-making abilities are suspect.
For whatever reason, Knopp has also made a poor choice – placing herself at risk on the cold, wet streets of Whitehorse. Why?
Without talking to her, it’s hard to know.
However, many who have spoken to Knopp have their suspicions, even if they are reluctant to voice them publicly – another choice.
And society itself has made a choice, for the liberty of the individual.
It is up to you to seek help for an illness, even if you are unaware it afflicts you. Others may see it plain as day, but if you don’t, or can’t, society has decided it’s not its business.
As long as you don’t pose an immediate threat to yourself, or others, you can refuse help from the police. From ambulance attendants. From doctors. From nurses. You can check yourself out of the hospital … it’s your choice.
No professional will intervene.
A young woman, alone on the streets of Whitehorse, is not at risk. At least, not enough for officials to act on her behalf.
Scared about making mistakes, they will not do anything for these people.
Neither will fellow citizens.
Unless, of course, the homeless person has dogs.
Then the choice is clear.
The dogs must have food and shelter.
And the young woman?
We’re content to leave her out in the cold.