Editorial: Smiley and Jack Bauer

In the popular TV drama “24,” bad boy government agent Jack Bauer occasionally breaks the law. It’s always morally justifiable, because if he doesn’t shoot the terrorist in the knee and make him talk, Los Angeles will be reduced to radioactive rubble when the nuclear bomb detonates in exactly 2 minutes and 14 seconds.

Island County’s own case of Smiley the dog isn’t nearly so dramatic, but there is a similarity in that a lawbreaker may have produced a positive result.

Smiley is the pound dog that was scheduled for euthanasia by the shelter operator, the Whidbey Animals Improvement Foundation. A couple tried to adopt Smiley, were told that he was too dangerous to release, and went to court to save his life.

After several hearings, Judge Vickie Churchill ruled essentially that the complainants didn’t have a legal leg to stand on. She stayed any immediate action against Smiley, providing time to appeal if so desired. But the handwriting was on the shelter wall: Smiley was doomed.

At this point, it’s doubtful that WAIF wanted to deal with the issue of euthanizing Smiley. Thanks to the internet and widespread media coverage, Smiley had accumulated thousands of sympathizers. WAIF, a wonderful organization that has saved the lives of countless Island County pets, was portrayed as the bad guy. After all the publicity, sending Smiley to his death would have been a public relations disaster from which WAIF may never have recovered.

Enter a lawbreaker who snuck into the WAIF shelter illegally sometime Friday night, cut a hole in the fence and lured Smiley out. Saturday morning the dog was gone and all relevant officials from the Island County Sheriff on down pleaded shock and outrage, as was required. After all, law breaking can not be condoned.

But consider the result. We can assume that Smiley is in the hands of people who are concerned about his welfare and want to find him a good home, perhaps in another state. He certainly won’t be euthanized, unless the case is cracked by the police. And WAIF has the entire hot issue off its hand, and can go now back to being Island County’s warm-and-friendly cat and dog rescue operation. In addition, no judge will have to risk the public wrath by making a final ruling that Smiley must die.

All in all, it’s about as good an outcome as can be imagined in the Smiley case. Not that we’re condoning lawbreaking. We’d never do that, unless it involved Jack Bauer.

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