Duty to Render Aid… to Ourselves


Recently, while flipping through a list of New York statutes applying to animals, I noticed that it is a traffic violation to hit a cat, dog, horse or cow and not attempt to locate the owner, report the accident, and “take any other reasonable and appropriate action so that the animal may have necessary attention.” However, nothing is said of wild animals, who seem to comprise the bulk of those animals injured by cars on roadways.


This law is interesting because it singles out certain species for special treatment. Additionally, it raises the penalty for accidents involving injury to “service” dogs: hearing dogs, guide dogs, etc. Thus, this law appears to aims to serve humans, not animals, by helping individuals and companies maintain their property (i.e. the animals they own).


There is nothing bad per se about this law. However, it is an example of a phenomenon I have previously blogged about: all too often, a law appears to exist for the sake of animals, only to really be geared towards preserving the human status quo. Thus, it is crucial that all those interested in serving animals through the law take the time to analyze what tools any particular statute truly offers us, and be realistic when assessing the tools in our toolbelt.


-Suzanne McMillan



One Response

  1. Your generalizations fail in certain instances. For example, in New York, as well as in other jurisdictions statutes have been enacted or strengthened in the past decade to make intentional death or injury to a “police animal” a more serious crime than it was before. The motivation behind these laws isn’t to reify property interests in these vital service animals but to recognize increased risk to them and the hope that heightened sanctions deter some conduct and effectively punish others.

    Police departments aren’t that concerned with the dollar value of their property per se and that is particularly true with regard to dogs and horses. The emotional bond and dependence by an officer with his/her dog or horse is very real. Believe me when I tell you, based on 12 years of service in a busy suburban police department, the arrested person who tried to or did hurt a police dog had a much greater likelihood of being booked through the local E.R. than the average perp.

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