Are Cats and Dogs People, or Toasters? A Primer on Pet Personhood

David Grimm

 “Dogs Are People, Too”. So ran the headline of a New York Times op-ed over the weekend. The piece, written by Emory University neuroscientist Gregory Burns, argued that because dogs experience some of the same emotions we do (as evinced by some preliminary MRI studies Burns and a friend carried out on canine brain activity), they should be granted rights and “a sort of limited personhood”. The National Review shot back with its own editorial, arguing that personhood for dogs is a threat to human pet peopleexceptionalism and that it would effectively turn pets into slaves.

What exactly is pet personhood, and how could it impact the relationship between you and your cat or dog? I cover this topic in my new book, Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs, to be published this spring by PublicAffairs. In the meantime, here’s everything you need to know.

What is the current legal status of pets?

We may view our cats and dogs as friends, family, and even virtual Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Hurricane Sandy Affected Animals Too

Eliza Boggia

Superstorm, Frankenstorm, Halloween Ruiner. Regardless of its nickname, Hurricane Sandy ravaged much of the east coast, causing severe, and in some places, irreversible damage.  However, people were not the only ones put in grave danger by this storm.  While many of New York City’s weak swimmer rats drowned, many domestic pets were also displaced from their homes.

There is some good news. New York City has rallied around protecting the lives its domesticated animals. According to USA Today, all of the shelters in New York City accepted refugee pets, which legally they are not required to do. The efforts being made are a grim reminder of the results after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which left approximately 250,000 pets homeless. It is unknown just how many animals were killed or subsequently died of dehydration/starvation in wake of Katrina.  To avoid a repeat of this type of tragedy, city hotels that are usually not animal-friendly have waived restrictions and allowed pets to stay during the disaster. It remains unknown whether they were entitled to room service.

There were a few voices supporting animal rights and the importance of a safe haven during and after the storm. Tim Rickey of the ASPCA says, “”If your home isn’t safe for you, it’s not safe for your pet. Once you evacuate you never know when you will be back.”  Furthermore, ASPCA at large is helping out in three major ways—by distributing pet supplies at several key points, providing veterinary care, and rescuing animals who were left behind. To donate to ASPCA’s Sandy relief efforts, visit here. Continue reading

NYC Legislation Passed: Restrictions on Tethering & Increased Dog License Fees

Matthew Paul

Local Law Amendment Int. No. 328-A and Int. No. 425-A where both passed into law on March 9th, 2012.  Int. No 328-A: Increase in NYC Dog License Fee dictates that the dog licensing fees within the confines of New York City will be boosted increased from $11.50 to $34.  The additional fees will be transferred to the New York City Animal Population Control Fund, where the money will be used to alleviate the costs associated with spaying and neutering.  While, Int. No. 425-A: Tethering Dogs changes the tethering laws by implementing a ban on tethering animals outside for more than three hours per day.  The reasons sited for catalyzing the law include the aggressive behavior, depression, and anxiousness many dogs exhibit as an effect of long sessions of tethering. Continue reading

Boo: World’s Richest Dog

Eliza Boggia

Boo

Meet Boo, the world’s cutest dog. This is not a judgment call, but actually a trademark. Not only is Boo (actually, his owner) an intellectual property rights holder, but the little dog is quite popular. This 6-year-old Pomeranian has product endorsements and his own line of toys.  His stuffed animal, modeled after him, goes for about $20.  He has 5.5 million fans on his facebook page, about half as many as international icon Madonna. His page says, “My name is Boo. I am a dog. Life is good.” His favorite foods include chicken, cheese, flowers, grass and dirt. Continue reading

What to Do with the Doo Doo?

Brittany Taylor

Should we make a big stink about dog waste? The Citizen’s Committee for New York City sure thinks so. The organization has committed grant money towards composting stations that would turn New York City’s dog waste into a resource. According to the New York Post, there are 2 million dogs located in New York City producing about 275,000 tons of poop per year. This means that instead of being wasted in a landfill, the poop would be used as fertilizer for grass in multiple locations. The Citizen’s Committee for New York City was inspired by dog waste composting programs in Ithaca, New York and Cambridge, Massachusetts, where in one case the compost was used to produce electricity!

The Citizen’s Committee for New York City is creatively dealing with a problem that plagues many New York City residents, what to do with the doo doo. The composting program is both innovative and advantageous to New Yorkers. The amount of poop sent off to landfills will be decreased, as well as the plastic baggies that are used to pick the poop up. Dog waste left on NYC sidewalks is a common problem and poses health hazards. New York City passed the “Pooper Scooper Law” back in 1978, which proves difficult to enforce, as a police officer must be present at the scene of the crime. With any luck dog walkers will feel more inclined to scoop their dog’s poo, as it will now be a beneficial resource to the community. The Citizen’s Committee for New York City hopes to have some of the composting stations up and running by the end of the year.

Man’s Best Friend

Eliza Boggia

 

         On August 16, 2012 in the east village of Manhattan, man’s best friend gave the ultimate sacrifice—being willing to die in an effort to protect his owner. What for do you ask? Maybe in a valiant effort save his owner from a burning building? If only. Unfortunately, the pit bull mix named Star was shot by a police officer on 14th St., while protecting his owner who was having a seizure.

A witness who was visiting a doctor’s office nearby alerted police officers that the owner of the dog was in danger of being hit by traffic.  He was lying in the middle of the road, twitching and shaking.  Now here’s the rub. The police get too close, the dog, in an effort to protect his owner, lunges at the police. The police officer shoots Star at nearly point blank range, he says, in an effort to provide medical assistant to the owner having a seizure. What’s missing here? The police officer that shot Star discharged his mace on Star after shooting him. According to theblaze, “In a split second, the officer pulls his gun and fires a single shot that sends the dog writhing in pain. The dog eventually stops moving as a pool of blood is visible.”  Continue reading

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