“I have never met an animal I didn’t like. On the other hand, there are plenty of people I hate.” – Me.
Anyone who has read these posts should know a few things about me by now. First, I love animals. Second, I have definite opinions about the law and related issues. Third, I am not shy about sharing them.
I mean come on, in the last couple of weeks, I’ve expressed my displeasure with the United States Supreme Court and the New York City police commissioner (among others).
So it may come as a surprise that I’m blogging about something that I actually agree with. Specifically, I am applauding Alaskan lawmakers who are trying to break with legal tradition by viewing pets as something other than personal property.
According to a recent KTUU report, state legislators are pondering a proposed rule that allows for the “protection” of pets when their caretakers are getting divorced or are embroiled in domestic violence. If enacted, the law would:
- Change the existing regulations so owners of animals confiscated due to neglect or cruelty would have to pay their cost of care through “bond or other security.”
- Revise current domestic violence measures to let courts include animals, and their temporary care, when issuing protective orders.
- Tweak the divorce and marriage dissolution statutes now on the books so animals’ “well-being” is taken into account in court decisions regarding ownership or joint ownership.
“Pets are often considered part of a family and the courts should be able to consider their well-being,” said Rep. Liz Vazquez, who co-sponsored the bill. “This legislation will make it more difficult for a pet to be used by an abuser to keep a victim from reporting that abuse.”
Now from what I’ve read, some Alaskans — who are understandably more pragmatic about animals than those of us who live elsewhere — question the wisdom of this legislation. Apparently they believe other issues deserve a higher priority.
While I fully endorse the proposal, I also understand why some might question it. In particular, I understand why some might mock the idea that courts should be allowed to consider an animal’s “well-being.” Those most likely to do so are the types of people who question the extent of animal intelligence, scoff at the suggestion that the average dog or cat has any self-awareness and shudder at the application of human emotions to our pets.
Personally, I don’t know what goes on in the space between my cat’s ears. But here’s what I know for sure: Eli is smart, sensitive and loyal, among other things. To me he is much more than personal property. He is my best friend. And if anything, I “belong” to him.