Cupertino Councilman Compares Dog Rights to Minority Rights

Mark SantoroDogs may be man’s best friend, but take it from Mark Santoro — you shouldn’t mix animal rights with civil rights. During a Cupertino, Calif. council debate about relaxing park rules and allowing dogs to run leash-less, councilman Santoro referenced a “No Chinese. No Dogs.” sign found in a Bruce Lee movie and compared the prejudice against minorities to the prejudice against dog owners.

"In the United States, we used to have signs that said, 'No Mexicans. No Negroes. No Dogs.' Do we really want to go back to that?" asked Santoro, who favors relaxed regulations.

So the blatant discrimination suffered by minorities in the United States is parallel to the discrimination suffered by those who don’t want to keep their dogs on a leash? Ouch.

Santoro’s remarks have angered the large Chinese population of Cupertino. Despite printing an official apology in the Chinese World Journal newspaper, readers of the Cupertino Courier have written in with negative responses.

“I am very disappointed because his apology was just for his poor choice of wording, and he still does not realize the serious flaws in his reasoning for promoting off-leash dog areas in the city parks” said reader Runpong Qi.

Some lambasted his “strategic mistake” and others defended him against an oversensitive crowd, but all agreed that this is not an issue about legislation anymore.

While it’s unlikely that Santoro meant to offend anyone, especially considering that his wife is Chinese, he should have known better than to use rhetoric with racial undertones. More important, he should have his priorities straight and realize that these two issues do not carry equal weight. There’s nothing wrong with supporting more freedom for dog owners, but insinuating that Chinese and dogs are similar and comparing civil rights to legislation allowing dogs to run free in parks was sorely imprudent and offensive.

Unfortunately for Santoro, reelection time is just around the corner. As reader Julie Ma wrote “To me, he is a perfect candidate to serve as the head of a dog rights movement, but I am afraid he is not here to represent citizens like me.”

Photo of Mark Santoro from his website