Are Pets Family?
According to The Harris Poll (2015), “nearly all pet owners (95%)…consider their pets to be members of the family.” Yet, legally, pets are still considered property or chattel. “Technically in the eyes of the law, [cats and dogs] are no different from a couch or a car.” (Grimm, 2014).
The terms “property” and “chattel” may be defined as follows:
Property: Anything that is owned by a person or entity. Property is divided into two types: “real property,” which is any interest in land, real estate, growing plants or the improvements on it, and “personal property,” sometimes called “personality,” which encompasses everything else. (The Free Dictionary, 2018).
Chattel: An item of personal property which is movable, as distinguished from real property (land and improvements). (The Free Dictionary, 2018).
More text from the book
The Five Freedoms propose the following for the adequate welfare of agricultural animals:
- Freedom from hunger or thirstby ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigor.
- Freedom from discomfortby providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
- Freedom from pain, injury or diseaseby prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
- Freedom to express (most) normal behaviorby providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.
- Freedom from fear and distressby ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering. (Brambell, 1965).
Building on the Five Freedoms, Favre (2011) developed a list, which he referred to as his own “ponderings,” to help initiate discussions regarding the rights of pets. These state that pets should:
- Not to be held for or put to prohibited uses.
- Not to be harmed.
- To be cared for.
- To have living space.
- To be properly owned.
- To own property.
- To enter into contracts.
- To file tort claims.
For the purposes of this work, we have expanded on each point and fleshed out what we believe to be its context and purpose:
- Prohibited Uses: Pets should not to be held for or put to prohibited uses, such as blood sports, research, captivity.
- Not to Be Harmed: Pets should not have pain or suffering inflicted on them.
- To Be Cared for: A pet’s emotional, environmental and physical well-being is a priority and requires a minimum level of care to constitute being “cared for.”
- To Have Living Space: Pets should be provided with adequate space to ensure sufficient and appropriate physical and mental enrichment.
- To Be Properly Owned: If a pet is not living under the conditions of the first four points, then he may be removed from the owner.
- To Own Property: The rights for a pet to be legally gifted assets to protect his current or future well-being.
- To Enter into Contracts: Should a pet be included in a contract for breeding, sale or some other scenario, then that contract represents the best interests of the pet.
- To File Tort Claims: A pet can sue a human if they violate one of the pet’s primary interests. This would cover a pet’s legal rights, e.g. if their guardian bequeaths them property or cash to look after them.
Nonhuman animals have “interests of their own that deserve to be nurtured and protected from human harm, both in the consideration of ethical acts and the laws that we humans implement on their behalf.” (Favre, 2010, p.1070). Further, “…those of us at the heart of the animal law movement envision a world in which the lives and interests of all sentient beings are respected within the legal system, a world in which animals are not exploited, terrorized, tortured, or controlled to serve human whims or purposes.” (Tischler, 2012).
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