Keeping Pets out of the Market

Seth Victor

Though there is a growing dialogue about how to classify domestic animals, the norm in America is, and will likely remain for a great while longer, that animals are property that can be bought and sold, like a chair or the computer on which you are reading this blawg.

puppies in window

Of course animals are not just property, and millions of people believe that their furry friends are essential members of their families, member who should be afforded certain protections against cruelty. Most of you are aware that we do consider some types of domestic animal abuse as felonies (unless you are from the Dakotas). Clearly we care about domestic animals (I emphasize domestic; I’ll refrain from discussing the hypocrisy of our nation’s CAFO situation), but we remain entrenched in a legal framework that considers them to be chattel. No matter how egalitarian the owner, there is inherent inequality and lack of agency in such a system.To draw a common and controversial comparison, no matter how magnanimous the slave owner, it’s still slavery.

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North Dakota Votes Against Animals

Seth Victor

In what must be a move of Dakotan solidarity, the people of North Dakota voted last week against Proposition 5, which would have  made it a class C felony, punishable by incarceration, “to maliciously and intentionally harm a living dog, cat or horse.” There would have been the typical exceptions for veterinarians, hunters, scientists, and, of course, agriculture workers. This is a measure aimed at domestic pets, which would have enforced against instances akin to Michael Vick’s dog torture. Nevertheless, 65.4% of voters opted to have North Dakota remain with South Dakota as the only two states in the nation without animal cruelty felonies.

Interestingly, this comes in the same election when three states approved same-sex marriage, a measure in nearby Minnesota to outlaw same-sex marriage was voted down, and recreational marijuana was legalized in two states. Additionally, within North Dakota, voters opted to ban indoor smoking in the workplace by a 2-1 majority, but also voted 2-1 for a measure that bans any law that would abridge farmers and ranchers from employing their own industry practices. It seems that while we as a nation are in a piecemeal fashion expanding the liberties of our own species, animals are clearly still an “other” that do not receive the same considerations. The vote on the smoking measure in a state that is traditionally wary of government intervention shows that individuals do not have an absolute right to do what they want to the detriment of others, but efforts to extend that same logic to establish animals as something more than property remain trapped in our legal schizophrenia. I can grasp the reasoning behind the farmed animal vote; established industry, I expect, advertised, lobbied, and campaigned more effectively to keep the status quo. Why anyone in 2012 would want to keep torture to companion animals punishable only by a slap on the wrist, however, is beyond me.

Is a pet-free world possible?

Seth Victor

Gary Francione rejecting the premise that animals can be property is not new; the good professor has been expressing his view for decades that the key to animal equality must be, in part, approached through our definitions of ownership. He recently posted  that pet ownership is unnatural, even if it were possible to create and enforce laws that gave pets legal status as persons. He goes on to say that even if there were only two dogs left in the world, and good homes could be assured to all of the offspring, pet ownership would still have no place, and he would work to end the institution. Continue reading

When the Wild Things Aren’t

Seth Victor

Here’s the situation. You have several domestic cats in a neighborhood from different houses. For one reason or another, a couple of these cats leave their homes and wander the neighborhood and breed, becoming more or less feral. This goes on for several generations. Does there come a point when these cats are no longer domestic animals, but should be considered wild?

I pose the question concerning cats because feral felines occupy a middle ground in our society’s ever complicated definitions when it comes to animals. Cats are cute and cuddly and are one of the primary “pet” animals; though probably just a juicy and tender, it’s faux pas to eat them, and even the dumbest cat is more lauded than the smartest pig. Cats are also noted for their more independent behavior. Ask a “dog person” why he likes his dog better, and you will inevitably hear some mention of loyalty and companionship that he doesn’t see in cats (though the “cat people” will vociferously disagree). But can that make cats more wild, and if so, what does that mean? When are animals wild, and can they cross or re-cross that line?

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Israel Bans Declawing

Adonia David

 Israel has banned the practice of cat declawing, joining the ranks of a number of other counties that have found it inhumane enough to prohibit.  This week, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) passed a law prohibiting declawing (with a few medical exceptions).  Violators can face up to a year in prison as well as a fine.  This is good news for Israeli cats.  Unfortunately for American cats, the situation is not quite as bright. In the United States, declawing cats is a common practice among pet-owners, with one poll showing 55% of cat owners approve of the practice.   Unfortunately many people do not understand that declawing a cat is not simply the same as clipping its claws.  Declawing is really amputation, and similar to actually removing the last segment of a human’s finger or toe.  While some pet owners insist that their cats act the same as they did before declawing and they do not know the difference, the hidden truth is that declawing affects the way a cat walks and balances.  The difference in the way thei r feet grip the ground can lead to back pain.  Other complications can include hemorrhages, regrowth of the claw inside the foot, lameness, and abscesses.  For more information on the physical aspects of declawing, see here.    Continue reading

Cat Talk, Kitty Litter, and Inglorious, Litigious Homo Sapiens

David Cassuto

From the Where Litigation Should Go To Die Desk:

I’d like to think that Arm & Hammer dropped its lawsuit against Clorox Co., the maker of Fresh Step kitty litter because it (Arm & Hammer) was embarrassed.  Apparently, the gravamen of the suit lay with Clorox’s contention that “cats prefer Fresh Step.”  “Cats can’t talk,” sniffed Arm & Hammer in its complaint.  Continue reading

Sex, Animal Abuse, and the Internet

Seth Victor

In Long Island, New York last Tuesday,  the Suffolk County Legislature unanimously approved a bill, sponsored by legislator Jon Cooper, creating the nation’s first registry for people convicted of animal abuse. The online registry operates in a similar fashion to the online registration required for sex offenders under Megan’s Laws. Anyone convicted of animal cruelty will be required to submit and keep updated their name, address, and photograph to the publicly searchable database for five years following their conviction. Convicted abusers will have to pay $50 annually for the cost of the registry, and those who do not face a $1,000 fine and one year imprisonment.

Mr. Cooper is quoted stating, “We know the correlation between animal abuse and domestic violence…Almost every serial killer starts out by torturing animals, so in a strange sense we could end up protecting the lives of people.” In acknowledging the link between animal abuse and domestic violence, a relationship of which many people are not aware, Mr. Cooper illustrates how animal protection laws can serve both human and animal interests.

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Fed up with Feeding

Seth Victor

Phillipsburg, NJ signed in a law Tuesday that makes it illegal to feed feral cats without permission. Violators could face up to $2,000 in fines at the discretion of the Municipal Court.

Animal advocates debated this measure earlier, arguing that people should be allowed to help animals in need without fear of repercussions. I agree with the sentiment, but the new law is intended well. Bobbi Santini, founder of the nonprofit Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab Inc. is on-board and helping to draft contracts between the city and advocates who want to feed the cats. Those who want to support the feral colonies will be required to trap, neuter/spay, and release the cats they feed. It’s a good compromise between the two camps, one that sees the cats as victims, and the other that sees them as pests and disease spreaders. It’s not terrible for the cats, either, as young females have enough trouble finding food for themselves, let alone a litter. Certainly Phillipsburg could have chosen a more violent solution that involved euthanizing the cats; some counties in New Jersey annually gas geese to keep their numbers down, and though I’m sure such action would have met sterner protest, it’s not inconceivable. I’m relieved that the law appears to have all interests in mind, including the animals’. With any luck the TNR program will produce results and the downtrodden cat colonies in the alleys will have less mouths to feed without destructive actions.

Still Thinking About Dogs (and Cats Too)

Bruce Wagman

There’s so many issues that come up with dogs that I am still thinking about them.  And much of this applies to cats as well.  Let me be clear to start that I live with three dogs, five cats and one wife, and it’s the rare event that I get to sleep on my pillow (because Nzuri beats me there every night) or stretch out my legs (Rafiki) or get near the middle of the bed (Paka, Sybil).  And the ones that are not there are sleeping not just on the couches, but actually on special beds that sit atop the couches, because those big-pillowed couches are just too hard for the cats and dogs to sleep on without some other cushion.  So I am certainly a canine and feline worshipper.  The smell and feel of dog or cat fur are nectar and succor; and if one of them decides to perch on me, their presence freezes time.

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And Now For A Brief Survey of the News…

First, I want to live in a world where no member of my species thinks the best way to relax a cat is to stuff it into a bong.

Second, President Obama has re-empowered the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  One of our former president’s last minute parting gifts was to decree that federal agencies could decide for themselves whether their proposed actions ran afoul of the ESA instead of attaining an independent opinion from the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  This meant that an agency could both propose an action and decide for itself  if that action had any adverse consequences instead of seeking a second opinion from a disinterested agency.  While the Bushies thought this a wonderful idea, most everyone who cares about endangered species and the integrity of the statute thought it horrific.  President Obama fell into the latter category and has now suspended the new rule and restored the status quo ante pending a full review.  Sweeter legalese has rarely been spoken.

dnc

UPDATE, 4/29/09: REVOKED!

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