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.

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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

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

Running in Place

Seth Victor

The more things change, the more they stay the same, so the saying goes. I’m not one to abide by that logic, especially when thinking about animal law; if everything stayed the same, all of the tireless advocacy would be for naught. The progress might  trickle at times, but it does happen.

Yet today I read two articles that, juxtaposed, forced the maxim to mind. Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice has announced that her office supports adding animal cruelty and dog fighting under state penal law, as opposed to the current agriculture law that houses these offenses. Long Island has been pushing for stronger law enforcement for animal abuse in recent years. Suffolk County created the nation’s first animal law abuse registry  in 2010. Moving century old laws into criminal enforcement would certainly be another step in demonstrating the seriousness of these offenses. Continue reading

“All I Want for Christmas is a Puppy”: When Dog Shopping, the Devil is in the Details

Coral Strother

As the Holiday Season sets into full swing, and people begin to shop for the perfect gift for their loved ones, no doubt “puppy” will be on the top of many lists.  But before rushing out to the nearest pet store to find that perfect pooch, it is best to be aware of who you are really buying from.  An investigation launched by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) published on November 10, 2011 reported that more than 100 New York pet stores they investigated, including several upscale ones, bought their puppies from puppy mills, despite claims that they only sell dogs that come from private and reputable breeders.

The investigation by the HSUS consisted of two parts.  First, a HSUS investigator along with animal rights activist/ABC’s “The Bachelor” Lorenzo Borghese went undercover with hidden cameras to 11 New York pet stores posing as customers and asked the store staff questions about the stores’ breeder sources.  All 11 stores made either explicit or implicit and misleading statements that they did not get their puppies from puppy mills, but instead got their dogs from small private breeders.  The second stage of the HSUS investigation involved reviewing the shipping documents of over 100 New York pet stores (including the 11 visited undercover).  The results of the review concluded more than 100 New York pet stores (including the 11 interviewed) did in fact obtain their puppies from puppy mills.  All 11 of the interviewed stores as well as many of the 100 investigated stores used puppy mills that had numerous Animal Welfare Act violations, including citations for filthy conditions, lack of adequate space, exposure to extreme weather conditions, malnourished animals, and a neglect of proper veterinary care.  Most notably, several pet stores used facilities owned by Brandi Cheney (who has over 500 pages in of USDA inspection and enforcement reports linked to her) and facilities owned by Kathy Jo Bauck/Kathy Cole (convicted animal abuser who had her USDA license revoked).  Additionally, HSUS checked out and filmed several of the “small private breeding facilities” that some of the 11 pet stores investigated cited to use, only to find these facilities housed hundred of dogs in small cages. Continue reading

Thoughts on the ethics of pet ownership

Eric Chiamulera

On October 18, 2011, Terry Thompson released 56 exotic pets from a private zoo he owned and maintained on his 73 acre farm in Zanesville, Ohio. This group of released animals contained such species as lions, tigers, wolves, bears, and mountain lions. Because of the perceived threat to the public, authorities slaughtered over 50 of these unfortunate animals. As the story unfolded, it became apparent that Thompson had been ill equipped to properly care for these animals, and that he had been convicted of animal cruelty in 2005 based on his treatment of these exotic pets. One result of this tragedy is that it has increased public awareness of the existence of similar zoos around the country. It has also brought to light the fact that many exotic pet owners do not have the knowledge or experience to properly care for these animals.  Continue reading

Who’s Your Softer Side

Sarah Saville

Baltimore’s Anti-Animal Abuse Advisory Commission just launched a new campaign targeted towards juveniles.  The “Show Your Softer Side” Campaign features a series of photographs of famous athletes and their pets with the tagline “Only a Punk Would Hurt a Cat or Dog.”  It targets juveniles because youths often commit the worst abuses in an effort to show their “toughness.” More information on the Commission can be found here.

Although the Campaign has generally been well received, not everyone is happy about it.  Within hours of the launch, editorial critiques like this one, began popping up.  These critiques claim that it is a waste to spend resources on preventing animal abuse when there are still violent crimes committed against people.  Such critique misses the bigger picture.  Animal abuse is statistically a precursor to abuse against people.  Punishing and preventing these abuses prevents crimes against people.  And even without regards to preventing crimes against people, preventing animal cruelty is important in its own right.  Cats, dogs, and other animals are sentient beings capable of suffering.  We adopt them into our families and breed and train them to be dependent on us.  They deserve are respect and our protection.  And we have the ethical responsibility to give them as much.

Sexual Abuse of Animals, Bodily Integrity and Property Rights

Bridget Crawford

The New York Daily News reports here that a Long Beach (New York) man twice sexually assaulted a dog:

[The accused] entered the apartment in the house he owned and sexually assaulted the male dog, a 23-pound Shiba Inu named Snowball, prosecutors said.

They said the tenants called authorities after seeing the latest assault Thursday.

The other assault took place Oct. 12. * * * Snowball was examined at a nearby animal hospital and showed signs of trauma, including injuries to his legs consistent with being roughly restrained.

According to another news report (here), the accused man “used to own the dog but gave it to his tenants, who contacted authorities after reportedly walking in on [the accused] sexually abusing the dog in their own apartment.”  Did the tenants contact authorities only after the second incident?  Why did they turn a blind eye to abuse of any kind?   Continue reading

Torturing Beagles (Because They’re Nice Dogs)

David Cassuto

I’ve been bothered by this article in U.S.A. Today since I read it.  The article, which talks about the rescue and subsequent adoption of some 120 beagles who were vivisected, has the typical feel-good, happy-ending narrative one often sees in articles of this type.  And don’t get me wrong; I’m delighted that the dogs were rescued and it is certainly a much better ending than anyone had any reason to expect for them.

Still, I found one passage especially haunting:   Continue reading

Proposed Ban on Pet Sales in San Francisco

David Cassuto

I used to live in San Francisco and, in addition to the burritos, one of the things I miss most (did I mention the burritos?) is the degree of civic involvement and the public’s willingness to take on cutting edge issues.  To whit: the city is considering banning the sale of all companion animals except for fish.  That’s right, hamsters, rabbits, lizards, guinea pigs — everything.  Those wanting  pets would have to either adopt or go out of the city to buy.

The scope of the proposed ban addresses the fact that the problem is far broader than the by now familiar gruesome reality of puppy and kitten mills.  Small companion animals like guinea pigs and hamsters crowd the city’s shelters after their purchasers tire of caring for them.  Once at the shelter, the road to euthanization is straight and swift.    Continue reading

Robert Byrd, 1917-2010

Robert Byrd was a United States Senator for 51 years.  No one can be in the Senate for that long and leave an uncomplicated legacy.  However, at least 2 things are very clear.  One, Byrd was one of the most gifted orators this country has ever known.  Two, he cared deeply about animals and loathed animal cruelty. 

His 2001 speech on the Senate floor, which I reproduce here with a hat tip to the Animal Welfare Institute, says much, leaves much unsaid, and speaks to all who are capable of listening.  Those of us who work in animal advocacy may have very different methods and views but we all abhor cruelty.  Senator Byrd’s eloquent voice offers a lesson to us all and his common decency will be sorely missed.

CONGRESSIONAL RECORD-SENATE
July 9, 2001

CRUELTY TO ANIMALS

Mr. BYRD. Mr. President, a few months ago, a lady by the name of Sara McBurnett accidentally tapped a sports utility vehicle from behind on a busy highway in California. The angry owner of the bumped vehicle, Mr. Andrew Burnett, stormed back to Ms. McBurnett’s car and began yelling at her; and then reached through her open car window with both hands, grabbed her little white dog and hurled it onto the busy roadway. The lady sat helplessly watching in horror as her frightened little pet ran for its life, dodging speeding traffic to no avail. The traffic was too heavy and the traffic was too swift.        Continue reading

Wrath

Seth Victor

            I did not intend to include wrath as the second sin, though according to Dante I am already out of order by putting pride first. In light of Tuesday’s Supreme Court ruling in U.S. v. Stevens, I feel that this post is timely.

            Wrath is a terrible vice in the context of animal-human relationships. Wrath isn’t simply rage or force, a knee-jerk reaction at a perceived slight. This isn’t the classic “heat of the moment” response to seeing your spouse in bed with another lover. Wrath has a cool down period, a time to contemplate feelings, but instead of cooling down, those feelings grow into hatred, revenge, and a desire to punish. Wrath is a very conscious and intended vice, and for that reason it is a very human one.

            I am not claiming that other species are exempt from wrath, especially those species that share the same capacity for higher thinking as humans do. Why wrath is so dangerous in the animal-human context is that while other species may possibly carry out premeditated violence, only humans find it necessary to subjugate a number of other species and vent their wrath on countless animals who have no inclination to return the punishment. The ASPCA and HSUS have documented hundreds of cases against a variety of animal victims of varied species. Dogs may be the most commonly abused of them all.

            There is something about dog abuse that strikes a chord with the general population. Average citizens who are normally indifferent about animal issues will rally around the plight of abused dogs. Casual animal rights advocates will lament the condition of a kennel in disrepair, while in the same breath order a double-patty cheeseburger with bacon. Why is this? I think it is because dogs are able to abide by the maxims we are taught as children better than any of us are able to do. They treat you as they would want to be treated. Mark Twain, an animal rights advocate, says it best, writing, “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.” Can anyone reading this honestly say they have met an Irish Setter who didn’t have a smile on his face? Ignore a dog for hours, and he is still ecstatic to nuzzle you if you have a bad day. It is not surprising that people are so appalled by abuse against an animal that embodies so many of the sympathetic qualities we admire.      Continue reading

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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Thinking About Dogs

Bruce Wagman

I have had dogs on my mind lately.  They are the main players in many of my (and many animal lawyers’) cases, and they are the species I get the most calls about.  This week I had a call about a sheep owner shooting a roaming dog, with the caller wondering about the implication of the California statute that allows a livestock owner to shoot any dog on his land, even if the dog is nowhere near livestock, Cal. Food and Agric. Code section 31103, and the case that upheld the broad scope of that statute, Katsaris v. Cook, 180 Cal. App. 3d 256 (Cal. App. 1986).  I talked earlier in the year with a lawyer who convinced a court that her client’s dog breeding operation was a livestock facility, United States v. Park, 536 F.3d 1058 (9th Cir. 2008), on remand, 2009 WL 2949333 (D. Idaho).  The irony of that case seemed to escape everyone involved.  The issue in the case was whether this breeding operation could operate on land with a federal easement.  “Livestock operations” were allowed to do so.  So the interesting point of the ruling for me is the conclusion that breeders are in fact just like factory (livestock) farmers and others who operate commercial operations, use animals for profit, and in the short and long run contribute directly to the death of thousands of animals in shelters around the country.  When someone buys a dog from a breeder, they automatically kill a dog in a shelter who could have been saved – “buy one, get one killed,” as one of my t-shirts says.  The math is simple and can’t be denied; if a new dog if brought into the world for profit, and given to someone who has room for a dog, then that breed dog replaces the life of a dog in a shelter, who will then be gassed, injected or otherwise summarily wiped off the planet, dying sad and alone and wondering why.    Continue reading

Friedman and Norman on Maryland DV Protective Orders

Bridget Crawford

Joshua L. Friedman (Attorney Advisor, U.S. Social Security Administration) and Gary C. Norman (Staff Attorney, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) have published their article, “Protecting the Family Pet: The New Face of Maryland Domestic Violence Protective Orders,” 40 U. Balt. L.F. 81 (2009).  Here is the abstract:

Domestic violence is on the rise, and pets are increasingly becoming the victims of marital disputes. There is a demonstrated link between acts and offenses of domestic violence and animal abuse. Domestic abusers often do not think twice about beating or otherwise harming pets that have bonded with the other spouse in order to control, coerce, intimidate, or cause emotional harm to that spouse. Continue reading

The Truth About Track Closings

Jennifer Krebs (Board of Directors, GREY2K USA)

There was a lot of press coverage recently regarding the latest dog track closings in Arizona, Wisconsin and Massachusetts.  The closing of Phoenix Greyhound Park and Dairyland Greyhound Park was good news, in that they are more evidence of the gradual implosion of the dog racing industry – more proof that the tracks without the financial support of slot machines (known as racinos) simply aren’t viable.  The closing of Raynham Park was even better news, as it is the result of the first-ever dog racing ban achieved through the citizen’s initiative process, Massachusetts Ballot Question 3.

Unfortunately, much of the press coverage and public discussion of the tracks’ closings didn’t paint it as positive progress for the greyhounds.  You may have read some of the headlines, or the threads on greyhound discussion forums, referring to the ‘glut’ of dogs displaced by track closings… and dire predictions of a so-called ‘greyhound tsunami’.  A fraudulent e-mail was widely circulated, stating 900 greyhounds at Dairyland were going to be euthanized when the track closed, if they weren’t found homes immediately!  It is rare that the racing community and the greyhound advocates working to end racing agree on something, but that e-mail was met by a chorus of groans from members of both camps.  The last thing that people on either side of the issue wanted to see was panic-driven misinformation.  Continue reading

Starve the Poor (and the Animals)

David Cassuto

Lt. Governor Andre Bauer of South Carolina recently compared poor people to stray animals. He declared himself focused on reducing the number of people on government assistance because:  “my grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed.”

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How Not to Parent

Bridget Crawford

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports here about a mother who forced her son to bludgeon his pet hamster.  The 12 year-old’s offense?  Bad grades.  After the child told his teacher about the incident, the teacher reported it to the authorities.  The mother was arrested and charged with animal cruelty and child cruelty (as well as battery).

This makes my stomach turn.

Animal Control = Execution in Two Mississippi Counties

David Cassuto

What kind of a world do we live in where a person pledging to be the 41st vote against health care reform wins Ted Kennedy’s seat?  The same sort of world, apparently, where an animal control officer slaughters hundreds of animals and dumps their bodies in a creek.  Here’s some data:

A Mississippi animal control officer for both Canton and Madison Counties has been terminated from his position among allegations he slew hundreds of animals and dumped the bodies in a creek in Canton, according to reports.

Police would not disclose how many carcasses of dogs and cats were killed, but said that Alonzo Esco has been officially accused of poor treatment of animals, reports said.  Continue reading

Fast Friends – Adopting a Racing Greyhound

In my first guest post on Animal Blawg, I talked a little bit about my addiction to retired racing greyhounds and I mentioned that we have adopted six since 2003.  A few of the comments in response talked about what wonderful companions retired racers make.  Of course, this topic is near and dear to my heart, but it’s also a timely one in light of some recent changes to the dog racing landscape.

2009 has been unprecedented in the number of racetracks that have closed or ended live racing, and the same is expected for 2010.  This year, five tracks have already ended live racing, and three more will join the list at the end of this month:  Dairyland Greyhound Park in Wisconsin, Phoenix Greyhound Park in Arizona and Raynham Park in Massachusetts.  While the numbers of greyhounds being bred to race is down significantly, there will be a resulting influx of dogs being retired each time a track closes.   Continue reading

How Many is Too Many? When Does Having Too Many Pets Become Hoarding Syndrome?

Tiffany Gallo

Hoarding is a syndrome that has become more publicized in the recent years.  Normally, a hoarder collects inanimate objects and is addicted to the clutter. Compulsive Hoarding is the acquisition of and failure to use or discard such large numbers of seemingly useless possessions that it causes significant clutter and impairment to basic living activities.  Animal Hoarding is a similar, but involves the keeping of higher than usual numbers of pets without having the ability to properly house or care for them properly.  Compulsive hoarding is not a crime, but is rather considered a mental disorder.  Animal hoarding, on the other hand, leads to the abuse and neglect of animals. This raises the question: when does having too many pets become a syndrome?  Continue reading

Oreo’s Law

Christopher Cuomo

In June 2009, I was deeply saddened to learn that a fellow New Yorker threw his pit bull (Oreo) off the roof of a building. Despite the horrendous act I was happy to hear that the owner was being prosecuted and Oreo was recovering. In November 2009, after Oreo had made a full physical recovery the A.S.P.C.A decided to euthanize him. The A.S.P.C.A claimed that Oreo displayed aggressiveness. As was explained in Ms. Gallo’s November 16th post, the A.S.P.C.A made the decision to kill Oreo despite the fact there had been many offers from animal rescue groups and No Kill shelters to take Oreo and save him from being killed.  Once the announcement was made public the A.S.P.C.A received emails, phone calls, and an online petition was even launched in an attempt to save Oreo.   

All was done in vain.  What was once an act of animal cruelty by one became an act of complicity. The A.S.P.C.A had the resources available to give Oreo a good life, yet they chose the easy way out and ended his life.

Oreo may be memorialized and his death may have had a purpose after all. Not only did he defy all the odds by surviving the fall, but his death may be the catalyst needed to save thousands of animals each year. Two New York State legislators introduced a bill named “Oreo’s Law”.  This law would make it illegal for a shelter in New York State to kill an animal if a rescue group or No Kill shelter is willing to save the animal’s life.  “Oreo’s Law” is modeled after a similar California law.   Continue reading

Euthanasia is NOT the Answer

Elisa D’Ortenzio

As the year 2009 comes to an end, over 4 million dogs and cats will have been euthanized in the United States alone due to over population in animal shelters. Dogs and cats that do not end up living in shelters often live as strays on the street. Television commercials such as those from the ASPCA which focus on promoting animal adoption and ending violent animal cruelty, often fail to educate the public as to the fate of the millions of animals that live in the shelters if they are not adopted.  Continue reading

Another Shelter Fiasco

Angela Garrone

A three week investigation has been ongoing at the Memphis Animal Shelter in Memphis, Tennessee after authorities discovered deplorable conditions at the shelter.  Sheriff’s deputies raided the facility on October 27 2009 after receiving numerous reports of abuse at the shelter. (photo gallery from the shelter raid here)  Complaints about the conditions of the shelter have been thrown around at least since 2007.  In 2007, the state found that the shelter was out of compliance with the minimum standards established by the Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.  The state found various violations of record keeping concerning drug usage for euthanizations.

Memphis City Mayor A. C. Wharton fired  Memphis Animal Services supervisor Ernest Alexander nine days after law enforcement authorities raided and closed the shelter. (see City’s search warrant here)  Alexander previously oversaw a shelter in Albuquerque, NM until 2008 when he was hired after a nationwide search by former Mayor Willie Herenton.  Herenton was searching for a new administrator in response to long term complaints about the shelter from animal rights activists.  Three other shelter employees remain suspended with pay until the city finishes their investigation.

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Are We Protecting Our Pets?

Sarah Murphy

pet vaccinationVaccination is a hotly debated topic, appearing in the news on a regular basis.  Is there a link between childhood vaccines and autism?  Is there going to be a mandatory vaccination of healthcare workers for H1N1?  Why is it though, that the issue of companion pet vaccination also does not come up during these vaccination conversations?

Animals, like babies and young children that receive vaccinations, do not have a voice or say in the vaccine debate.  Pets’ human caretakers, veterinarians and lawmakers make the vaccination decisions.  People want to make sure their pets are adequately protected, that they are following the laws in place in their state, and that they are getting their pets the care they need.

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Oreo’s Survival Ends With Euthanization

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Tiffany Gallo

On June 18, 2009 New Yorkers were outraged and saddened to hear that a one-year old pit bull mix was beaten and thrown off the roof of a six floor building in Brooklyn.  Oreo suffered two broken legs and a fractured ribcage, but miraculously survived the fall. After months of rehabilitation, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was able to repair Oreo’s injuries.

Despite Oreo’s physical recovery, the ASPCA made the decision to euthanize the pit bull on November 13, 2009. Following months of both physical and obedience rehabilitation, the ASPCA determined that Oreo’s erratic aggression made her a danger to both humans and other animals.

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Does Your Pet Need an iPhone?

Bridget Crawford

Pet Acoustics” makes an iPhone app so that “you and your pet can experience the power of Pet Acoustics’ music for your dog, cat or horse from your iPhone, iPod Touch or other music player.” Here’s the official description from the company’s website:

Just as music for humans can change the mood and feel of an environment, this is true for animals as well. Pet Acoustics music has been specifically designed for the hearing sensitivities of your pet, both in frequency, volume and rhythm to calm and soothe your pet anytime, anywhere.

Amazingly, dogs, cats and horses hear two to three times more than humans. In our homes, barns and pet-care environments, animals can develop stress, anxiety, and aggression in reaction to sounds. Pet Acoustics music has been specifically developed to support your pet’s sensitive hearing thereby ensuring relaxation. An easy tool for pet owners, this music will greatly benefit your pet by filling their environment with a sense of safety, connectedness and love.

Play your choice of music with repeatable results for rest time, separation anxiety, thunderstorm nervousness, car travel, veterinary visits, barn time, trail rides, walking with your dog, grooming, puppy and kitten training or for quiet time.

Pet Acoustics music is designed for you and your pet together! Play My Dog and Me, My Cat and Me, My Horse and Me, whenever you and your pet want to enjoy quality time and relax!

I am quite willing to accept that animals are sensitive to music, but I’m still laughing at this. I’m sure the creators are, too…all the way to the bank!

Pets Sitting On High?

Sarah Murphy

Many people seem to be spending more and more on their cats and dogs.  High quality animal food (i.e. actually edible) can now be found in ordinary super markets, “gourmet” treats abound with some classified as USDA-certified organic, cat grass can be purchased alongside heirloom tomatoes at the Farmer’s Market and pet beds come swathed in faux-leopard print material complete with removable heaters.  Some people can even be seen venturing outside with their pets in strollers.  Using pet strollers seems to make a lot of sense for old or infirm animals who would otherwise have difficulty getting out and about, but beyond this, is such a practice ridiculous and ultimately detrimental to achieving greater respect and rights for animals?

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California’s “Pet Responsibility Act”

The California Legislature is once again attempting to control pet overpopulation through proposed bill SB 250 “Pet Responsibility Act” which outlines how owners must sterilize their cats/dogs.  The bill also imposes a penalty for violating these sterilization guidelines except in specified circumstances.  Under SB 250, if certain conditions occur, pet owners can apply for a license to have pets that are not sterilized or “unaltered.”

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Babies and Pigs in Diapers

cute_baby_pig_in_diaper_button-p145519727683822193t5sj_400Nadya Suleman, the California mother of 14 children, has said in a recent news interview that she is considering adopting a pet pig and/or a small dog.  PETA is urging Ms. Suleman to refrain.  According to PETA, a representative of that organization sent Ms. Suleman an e-mail dated April 27, 2009 (this is a copy, PETA says):

We’re writing to you today after reading an interview in which you said that you would like to buy a pig and a dog for your children. In today’s uncertain economy—and with all the demands that come with raising 14 children—we urge you to reconsider adding two more dependents to your family. Like children, pigs and dogs are intelligent, social beings with complex needs. They require a lot of attention, space, and exercise as well as a huge financial commitment.

You also said that you would keep the pig outside because of “the smell.” Keeping a pig outside and making him or her a playmate for your children—who do not understand a pig’s many needs and will only pay attention to him or her when it suits them—is not an acceptable way to treat an intelligent animal such as this.

I generally find PETA’s ads distasteful.  I don’t like the organization’s use of sexualized images of women in its ad campaigns (about which Ann previously has blogged; see, e.g., here).  I do admit, though, that I agree with the big substance of this particular communication: having pets or children is a big responsibility.  But in reading the PETA’s letter, I had a somewhat negative reaction.  Many thoughts swirl in my head.

Apart from the letter’s breezy “Dear Nadya” (followed by a comma, not a colon — a peeve of mine), its public judgment — of what I think should be a private matter — bothered me the most.  Yes, yes, the personal is political, the political is personal, etc. etc.  But still, isn’t it for each person or family or household to decide whether to welcome a companion animal?  For many animal rights activists, I appreciate that the answer is a resounding, “No,” just as for many opponents of abortion, it shouldn’t be for each woman to decide whether to carry a pregnancy to term.

I agree that having 14 children does not seem to be a smooth route to health, happiness or financial security.  Adding a pig or a dog wouldn’t make that route any smoother.  But in the end, I would leave it to Ms. Suleman to decide.

The PETA letter doesn’t mention concerns about animal hoarding (an indication of a real psychological problem).  But there persists a way (blogged here) in which  of Ms. Suleman is viewed as an abnormal “hoarder” — first of children and potentially now of animals, as well.

-Bridget Crawford

(H/T Amanda Ambrose)

Animal Scholarship Opportunity in Social Text

Call for Papers: Special Issue of Social Text

SPECIES

We are soliciting papers for a special issue of Social Text titled SPECIES.  The past decade has witnessed the emergence and crystallization of a field of scholarship hailed as “Animal Studies” or alternatively, the “Post-human turn.”  While this relatively novel formulation reflects a self-conscious interest in animals, it also intersects with longstanding forms of humanistic and social science research on animals that preceded the articulation of an animal-centered field of research.
Inter/disciplinary approaches toward and investments in the study of animals based in philosophy, literature, anthropology, postcolonial studies, history, to name a few—probe a range of critical positions.  Many studies in this field are interested in relations between humans and animals, often interrogating human/animal distinctions in order to de-center humans as ur-subject.  This special issue of Social Text in part will query this trend and thereby the transparency of this human-animal divide and where and how it gets marked; as well as the intellectual instrumentalizing of animals in order to understand humans, which often result in anthropomorphizing of animals through an accordance of “agency”
and “rights”; and will also pursue a potential “post-human” interest in animals in and of themselves.

Our aim for this issue is to map some of the above tendencies while at the same time charting the relatively unknown parameters of this rapidly evolving field. Crucial to our project is an emphasis on both geographical as well as species diversity.  Though there are notable exceptions, their exists a current Euro -American trend in animal studies as well as its tendency to focus on domesticated animals without thoroughly investigating how distinctions between domesticated and non-domesticated animals arise historically and geographically. These are tendencies we seek to disrupt.
Possible themes that submissions may address include:

•    the unsettling of taxonomies of scale and hierarchies of scientific
knowledge across species; heavily trafficked and policed boundaries between humans, animals, and other life forms.

•    animals and intimacy/affection/love/disgust.

•    primates, insect studies, parasites, bacteria, and other forms of
living that challenge the presumed stability and impermeability of human bodies as somehow separate from animals or separate from non-human animals (incompanionate species).

•    pets as neoliberal projects; animals as laborers, producers, consumed
and consumers; domestication as global phenomenon.

•    animals as ubiquitous but also geographically singular and wondrous;
place and species familiarity.

•    animals we ‘live’ with–interrogation of the category ‘domestic’ animal.

•    nature/nuture; animals as ‘natural”; animals as biological proxy for
research (like us, but not like us); use of animals in biotechnology; cloning.

•    animal demography; biopolitics and population construction; the rise
and demise of species.

In addition to standard academic essays, we are open to alternative forms for submissions such as comics, poetry, short fiction, review essays, photo-essays and images (pending production approval).  Essays should be no longer than 8000 words.

Deadline for submission of full essay/contribution is June 1, 2009, though the co-editors of this issue (Jasbir Puar and Julie Livingston) are happy to review abstracts beforehand.  Submissions should be emailed to both editors at jpuar@rci.rutgers.edu and jliving@tulrich.com.

Spay/Neuter Redux

The spay/neuter question came up in my animal law class the other night and I continue to ponder its many facets.  Perhaps some more public wrestling is in order (I previously raised the issue here) .

If forced to make a general distinction between animal and environmental advocates on questions relating to animals, I would say that environmentalists tend to concern themselves more with species and ecosystemic integrity whereas animal advocates focus more on individual animals.  If one accepts this distinction while also accepting that no animal volunteers or consents to be sterilized, then one finds oneself (or at least I do) in an ethical morass.

It seems to me that the rights perspective must acknowledge individual animals’ claims to bodily integrity.  After all, rights adhere to the individual, not the collective.  The fact that you have a right to vote does not mean I do, and vice versa.  Causes of action arise when individual rights are trampled even when the rights of the majority remain intact.

Professor Francione maintains that since the institution of pet ownership is morally wrong, it is permissible to sterilize animals because failing to do so perpetuates the wrong of pet ownership.  But I have to ask: regardless of the morality of pet ownership, do not those animals alive now have a claim to membership in the moral community?  And if so, how then can their respective rights to bodily integrity be ignored?

One might respond that sacrificing individual rights for the greater good is sometimes necessary, and that may well be true.  However, I remain unconvinced that those forfeiting their rights would agree that the greater good is being served.  This is particularly true, for example, with feral cat colonies and the policy of trap/neuter/return (TNR).  In the case of the cats, the overall goal is the eradication of the colony.  That goal seems more attuned to human needs than those of the cats.

Let me state for the record that I recognize the necessity argument here.  Companion animal overpopulation is a terrible problem and many animals suffer and die in shelters because of it.  I am also all too aware that TNR is by far the most humane option available for feral cat management and that those who manage the colonies often go to heroic lengths to save these cats from otherwise grisly fates.  Nevertheless, recognition of this reality need not preclude a full exploration of the ethics involved in the practice and I invite your thoughts as we continue this dialogue.

dnc

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