My granddaughter recently moved from her city apartment to our small town. She was having financial problems, and my husband and I decided to buy a small historic hotel in the hope that she could turn it into an artists’ retreat. She had always told us that it was one of her dreams.
In preparation for the move, my granddaughter brought her dog to stay for a week while she and her mother went back to finish packing. My granddaughter bought an Akita puppy during the Covid lockdown, and it became very attached to her. We learned that she had not tried to train or socialize it. We built a special kennel for it because it could not be put in the existing kennel with my daughter’s two dogs; they got into a fight on a previous visit. The first special kennel we built was only four feet tall, and the dog jumped out. So we built a new kennel with six-foot-tall panels. The dog chewed through the wire mesh and escaped. The next day, when my daughter, grandson and granddaughter decided to take all the dogs for a run, the dogs got in a fight. My grandson was bitten while trying to separate them and required medical attention.
Because my granddaughter needed to leave the dog while she and her mother returned home to pack, she decided to board it. The first night, the dog escaped and caused some destruction. Then it escaped again and did more damage. The kennel owner told my granddaughter that someone would have to come and pick up the dog. My husband and I had to drive an hour to get the dog. We constructed a secure pen with a roof so it could not escape. But it did, and then it got trapped in a room in the hotel we bought. It destroyed the curtains, the blinds, the bedding and an air-conditioner, and clawed the door and door frame, before crawling out a second-story window onto a roof and sliding off. The dog wound up at our daughter’s house a block away. I was upset and confronted my granddaughter upon her return. I said I did not want the dog in the house anymore.
My husband has worked with dog breeders. He says it would not be safe to allow the dog to stay, because if it escaped and injured someone, we could be liable. The dog growled at a neighbor who tried to catch it during one of its escapes. There are several Akita rescue groups in the area, and my husband wants my granddaughter to give the dog up. But she won’t, fearful that it might be euthanized.
My granddaughter says she can’t stay without her dog, and her mother says that we are responsible for all of this turmoil because we changed the rules and that we should compromise. My daughter insists that the dog is just very attached to my granddaughter and is not vicious, and says that I just don’t like the dog. It’s true that it has growled at me, and I am afraid of it. What do you think? Name Withheld
Keeping a dog — especially a large and powerful guard dog like an Akita — is a serious responsibility. It entails making sure that the pet isn’t dangerous to people (and other dogs) and won’t cause serious damage to property. That’s best done starting young. The Akita has been bred for centuries to defend, to protect and to hunt. Keeping one is less like keeping a hamster than like keeping a dragon: Training is critical. The evidence you offer suggests that your granddaughter wasn’t up to the task. The fault lies with her, not with her magnificently unmanageable companion.
Unless you get this hairy Houdini under control, there is, indeed, the possibility of harm to others, including guests at the proposed artists’ retreat. Were that to happen, the dog might be found to be dangerous by some sort of legal proceeding — the rules here vary from state to state — and then, if it offended again, it might even have to be euthanized. In other words, the current situation is bad for you, bad for the artists’ retreat and bad for the dog. Nor does it inspire confidence in your granddaughter’s ability to manage such a retreat. (The training and socializing of artists can itself be a considerable challenge.).
Given the history you recount, your daughter’s claim that your fears are a matter of prejudice suggests that she hasn’t grasped the reality of the situation. You needn’t roll over: The hotel is yours, and you’re entitled to require that any animals living there or with you be properly trained. A welcome-mat policy designed for Toto may not work for Cujo. So far as I can see, you’re not changing the rules; you’re responding to new information — in this case, about a granddaughter’s failures as a canine carer. You made some lovely plans for your granddaughter; like unruly pets, though, plans and people don’t always play well together. Perhaps, this holiday season, you could buy your granddaughter some professional dog training. The gift may be expensive, but at least you don’t need to wrap it.
A very close, decades-long friend who has been a professional colleague — we are both family-practice doctors, though we currently work in different states — is spreading misinformation when it comes to Covid-19. She thinks vaccines have toxic ingredients and are unnecessary. She also thinks that the case and death rates of Covid are overblown. Recently, she emailed that she has been prescribing ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine for use against Covid.
As bad as I think her misinformation is, I feel that she has crossed the line in prescribing drugs that multiple studies have shown are not effective for the prevention or treatment of Covid-19. Professional standards state that I must report her to the state board of medicine, just as I must report a colleague who was abusing drugs or alcohol. On the advice of a former medical-school classmate who is a bioethicist, I wrote to my friend stating that she could lose her board certification and her state medical license.
As might be expected, she is not vaccinated and has no plans for her or her family to be vaccinated. Obviously, I will not change her mind. As bad as I think her advice is for herself and her family, though, it is wrong and harmful when it comes to patients in her care. So what do I do? Name Withheld
There are over a million active physicians in the United States — more than the entire population of Austin, Texas. Even if a vast majority respect the practice guidelines set by their medical boards, there will be those whose training proves no match for the misinformation that incubates online, and their absolute numbers will not be insignificant. Sometimes ideological identities can undercut professional ones. When doctors reasonably believe that a member of their profession is endangering patients, they should pass what they know on to the medical authorities in the states where they work. Alas, you have good grounds for such concern. That she’s your friend made it appropriate to tell her first that you thought she was exposing herself to risk for violating the strictures of her profession. At this point, though, your obligations as a medical professional are the overriding ones. The sort of misinformation she’s both purveying and putting into practice is among the reasons that this pandemic’s costs in sickness and death have been so great.
Kwame Anthony Appiah teaches philosophy at N.Y.U. His books include “Cosmopolitanism,” “The Honor Code” and “The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity.” To submit a query: Send an email to email@example.com; or send mail to The Ethicist, The New York Times Magazine, 620 Eighth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10018. (Include a daytime phone number.)