Not a Living Room Sofa: Changing the Legal Status of Companion Animals
Although the law has traditionally treated non-human animals as property, public attitudes and many of our current laws already are beginning reflect many ways in which animals, and especially companion animals, are fundamentally different from inanimate property. Despite these trends, the differences between animals and inanimate property need to be more clearly reflected in our laws, because there are still too many cases where the results under current laws are inconsistent with this understanding of companion animals.
This article proposes the legislative creation of a new status that formally recognizes companion animals as a distinct legal category: “companion animal property.” A separate legal category for companion animals has both intuitive appeal and would better reflect the way in which we value companion animals in our society. In addition to recognizing the bonds between humans and animals, formally creating a new legal category for companion animals leads to more consistency in the law and would help to make sense of a number of judicial and legislative trends that have been emerging in the past decade or more.
Changing the legal status of animals has many positive implications for the veterinary profession. Previous opposition to such change – driven primarily by fears about increased malpractice awards – should give way to recognition of the numerous ways the veterinary profession will benefit from enhancing the legal status of companion animals. It is ultimately in the best interest of the profession to raise the status of companion animals above that of inanimate property.
Date of this Version
Susan J. Hankin, "Not a Living Room Sofa: Changing the Legal Status of Companion Animals" (September 6, 2006). bepress Legal Series. bepress Legal Series.Working Paper 1700.