ALARMING LEGISLATION - CALIFORNIA DOG AND CAT BILL OF RIGHTS
Fido and Fluffy Will Have More Rights than Unborn Children if a California Legislator Has His Way
Yes, you read that right. On February 8th, 2022, Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D) Los Angeles District 53, proudly introduced AB 1881, “The Dog and Cat Bill of Rights.” Santiago’s bill is sponsored by none other than the very active animal and environmental extremist group, Social Compassion in Legislation. It outlines seven broad clauses that range from the right to be free from cruelty and neglect to the right to daily mental stimulation. Other animal extremist groups are applauding this bill and so are others who are interested in animal welfare but who do not truly understand the consequences.
Santiago is quick to say that there are no fines or punitive damages to an owner who doesn’t give their pet their “rights.” Instead, he says that the Dog and Cat Bill of Rights must be posted and accessible to public view at all public animal control agencies, shelters, rescue groups, societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals’ shelters, and humane society shelters (not to be confused with ASPCA or HSUS because we know that between them they only have ONE shelter). These organizations would be subject to a fine for not having the Dog and Cat Bill of Rights posted in plain view.
California Has Plenty of Companion Animal Laws
According to West’s Annotated California Codes (Penal, Health and Safety, Fish and Game, Government, Civil, and Food and Agriculture Codes) as of October, 2021, there are well over 120 laws pertaining to dogs. These range from abandonment of animals, animal bites, service dogs, dog importation, dogs in restaurants, hunting dogs, sales of dogs, theft of dogs, dogs declared personal property, licensing of dogs, livestock guardian dogs, and any other section legislators can dream up. Of note, the California Penal Code 491, is titled “Dogs declared personal property: determination of value.”
Cats have significantly fewer laws about them than do dogs, but they are also classified differently. Most counties and cities do not require registration or licensing for cats, but they do require spaying and neutering. Interestingly, the Dog and Cat Bill of Rights does not take into consideration the large feral colonies most cities have, nor does it discuss barn cats.
This Is Not the First Animal Objective Santiago has Introduced
Santiago has introduced at least 2 other animal objectives sponsored by animal extremist groups Best Friends Animal Society (BFAS) and Social Compassion in Legislation. In 2018, Santiago introduced Assembly Concurrent Resolution 153 regarding implementation of “no-kill” shelters and implementing policies aimed at saving the lives of all healthy and adoptable dogs and cats by 2025. Los Angeles already had a No-Kill Initiative in the city since 2012, so why was this resolution introduced in 2018? Could it have been because BFAS was holding its national conference in Los Angeles in July of 2018? BFAS and a national no-kill steering committee had launched the “Save Them All” campaign to end the euthanization of dogs and cats in shelters in the U.S. By 2025.
Assembly Bill 702 – The Pet Breeder Humane Care Act
In February 2021, Santiago introduced AB 702, the Pet Breeder Humane Care Act, which originally would have regulated all breeders in the state of California. That bill was pulled from committee hearing agendas on April 27, 2021. This action was due largely to the AKC marshalling its club members, breeders and breed federations to contact Santiago’s office and the committee members prior to the April 27 scheduled meeting. We shared the alert from The Cavalry Group last year which showed that AB 702 would have made mandatory licensing for owners of intact dogs and cats. This would have given local animal control jurisdiction and access to private homes as well as confidential business information of anyone owning an intact male or female cat or dog. It would have required a breeding permit and a business license among other regulations.
Interestingly, in January 2022, the “breeder” language of 702 was removed and the bill was amended to include the language of the Dog and Cat Bill of Rights.
If the Dog and Cat Bill of Rights Passes, What Next?
For anyone who has followed the actions of animal extremists the past couple years, it is apparent that their “victories” have gone to their heads and they are out in force targeting all existing animal ownership, use, care and industries they can attack. With the circus closing, the end of breeding at Sea World, stopping greyhound racing, they’ve now set their sights on California and its animal industries.
California has always been an agriculture state with the largest dairy production in the country, fertile Central Valley, temperate climate and vineyards. Of course, it’s no surprise they are attacking all forms of animal use in the ag industry.
If this piece of legislation passes, there will be more and more incursions into animal ownership.
Language of the Bill
There are ten sections which are repeated to an extent in the “Seven Clauses” of the Dog and Cat Bill of Rights. The language is broad and should be viewed as very concerning.
“THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:
Section 1. The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) Dogs and cats have the right to be respected as sentient beings that experience complex feelings that are common among living animals while being unique to each individual animal.
(b) With the availability of free registries, microchipping with updated contact information is a key component to reuniting dogs and cats with their guardians and keeping them out of shelters.
(c) Local animal control agencies in California are forced to spend multimillions of taxpayer dollars every year to collect, control, and euthanize the state’s unwanted overpopulation of dogs and cats.
(d) Sterilizing dogs and cats is a key component to reducing the state’s overpopulation of dogs and cats.
(e) The Pet Lover’s License Plate was established to provide dog and cat owners or guardians in California access to free or low-cost spay and neuter services in an effort to reduce the state’s dog and cat overpopulation.
(f) Lifelong care of a companion animal should be a commitment to that animal for the entirety of its life.
(g) Ownership or guardianship of a companion animal requires an investment of time and resources. Selecting a companion animal that is suited to one’s home and lifestyle will lead to a more rewarding relationship between guardian and animal, while reducing relinquished or abandoned animals in our communities.
(h) Dogs and cats thrive with regular enrichment to maintain their physical and emotional well-being.
(i) While requirements for basic physical care, such as the provision of food, water, and shelter, are set forth in most jurisdictions, as one of the largest and most progressive states in the country, California can and should strive to recognize the importance of animals’ mental well-being.
(j) Prioritizing the mental and emotional well-being of dogs and cats can increase the animal-human bond, increase companion animal retention, reduce neglect and cruelty, and can contribute to a more humane and compassionate society.”
The Seven Clauses
The Dog and Cat Bill of Rights would be the actual title of the section and would give pets multiple “rights” that are the same legal rights and protections afforded American citizens. Additionally, the language would identify animal owners as guardians, which is problematic as a stand-alone issue.
Assemblymember Santiago, when introducing the bill stated:
“As an owner of two dogs myself, I am proud to author the Dogs and Cat Bill of Rights to help our furry friends live happier, healthier lives. Our dogs and cats deserve to be loved, and cared for, and the Dog and Cat Bill of Rights will help inform potential adopters of the care needed to create a healthy environment for their adopted pets.”
Sect. 2 Division 14.6 (Commencing with section 31800) is added to the Food and Agricultural Code, to read:
Division 14.6 Dog and Cat Bill of Rights
This division shall be known, and may be cited, as the Dog and Cat Bill of Rights.
(a) Dogs and cats have the right to be free from exploitation, cruelty, neglect, and abuse.
(b) Dogs and cats have the right to a life of comfort, free of fear and anxiety.
(c) Dogs and cats have the right to daily mental stimulation and appropriate exercise.
(d) Dogs and cats have the right to nutritious food, sanitary water, and shelter in an appropriate and safe environment.
(e) Dogs and cats have the right to preventive and therapeutic health care.
(f) Dogs and cats have the right to be properly identified through tags, microchips, or other humane means.
(g) Dogs and cats have the right to be spayed and neutered to prevent unwanted litters.
To say the language in this bill is both vague and alarming is stating the obvious. The words used are straight out of the animal extremist lexicon which is no surprise. The bill’s originator is none other than Social Compassion in Legislation. Its founder and president, Judie Mancuso (who is running for an assembly seat in Laguna Beach, CA) made this comment about the bill:
“We are so appreciative of Assemblymember Santiago for recognizing the need to uplift the conversation around the rights our dogs and cats deserve. Those rights go beyond just food, water, and shelter. As stated in the bill, dogs and cats have the right to be respected as sentient beings that experience complex feelings that are common among living animals while being unique to each individual. We’re thrilled to be codifying this into law.”
Was that an echo?
“Pet guardian” is the “new” way to refer to animal owners according to this bill. California passed AB 2274 in 2018 which made it clear that courts must view pet ownership differently than say the ownership of a car, boat, laptop, etc. However, the American Veterinary Medical Board addressed this very concern in 2005 and finds it still applicable as of November 2019.
This is a small portion of AVMA’s stance:
“Some animal owners may like to refer to themselves as ‘pet guardians,’ however ‘guardian’ is a legal term that has significant legal implications and repercussions. Its use to describe the relationship between animals and their owners is inappropriate. Under well-developed principles of guardianship law, guardianship is a fiduciary relationship (the highest legal civil duty owed by one person to another). The ward's interests are always to prevail over those of the guardian. Some conflicts that arise from application of human guardianship law to animals are described in the text that follows. On the basis of these conflicts, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends that ‘guardian’ not be adopted, even to semantically describe the relationship between humans and their animals.”
View of Author John Dewitt Gregory
In 2010, an article was written by John Dewitt Gregory, faculty member at Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University, entitled Pet Custody: Distorting Language and the law. The article was dealing with what happens in divorce cases when there are pets involved.
While there were many relevant points made, this one comment stood out:
“The hard fact is that pets or companion animals are property under the law. And this fact is undeniable, despite the desire to apply to animals some standard identical to or even resembling the best-interest standard in child custody and visitation cases.”
View of Author Jon Katz
Author Jon Katz, who is well known for his love of his dogs and has written several books about life with dogs, had this to say in his blog dated 12/9/21:
“Increasingly, it seems to me we treat helpless dogs better than vulnerable people in our country.
Our hearts bleed for them when they are in trouble. We treat them far better than we treat homeless or vulnerable human beings. More than twelve million dogs are kept in animal shelters; many are self-described ‘no-kill’ shelters where dogs languish in cages for all of their lives.
This is considered humane.
Humans suffer in the streets in silence and neglect.”
Mr. Katz also wrote about pet guardianship back in 2004:
“The guardian campaign is a vivid example of the growing tendency to blur the boundaries between us and our pets. Many Americans have already stopped seeing their dogs and cats as animals. They’re family members, emotional support systems, metaphors for issues from our own pasts, aids for healing and growth, children with fur.
Guardianship, a word always applied to human beings, implies equality—the highest and perhaps most noble of all goals in this democratic nation. Ownership implies responsibility. Americans who own dogs need to be more responsible for them, literally and emotionally—not more equal to them.”
View of Veterinarian Dr. Patty Khuly
Finally, on the Embrace Pet Insurance website, this blog by Dr. Patty Khuly, VMD MBA, gives a veterinarian’s point of view on the subject:
“‘Guardianship’ means that you are put in charge of your pet’s health and well-being for the rest of her life. Consequently, in the eyes of the law, she’d look more like your child and less like your refrigerator. But while it seems a sound principle for those of us who already treat our pets like children, changing this designation legally can get tricky.
Currently, if your cat breaks her leg, you’re legally allowed to elect any approach to its treatment as long as it’s considered roughly humane. You may even elect for no intervention at all, allowing her to slowly limp her way back to a reasonable state of functionality. Few jurisdictions would challenge your right to do so unless someone complained that you were allowing your pet to suffer (and it might be hard to prove that she was).
Meanwhile, under guardianship laws, you would be unable to forgo full assessment of her condition (including X-rays or any other means to determine her condition) before a licensed vet could legally treat her or euthanize her. If you had no money to treat her adequately (to alleviate her pain, at least), you would be required to euthanize her. Although this sounds horrible, it would be the humane thing to do and most of us would be on board with this effect of our new guardianship status.
If, however, euthanasia is considered too harsh an outcome (for example, when life-saving measures are readily available), a guardian would be liable for any reasonable treatment required to make her well again –– whether you wanted to spend the money or not.”
In the “Dog and Cat Bill of Rights,” your pet would be required to receive veterinary care whether you want to do it or not, whether you can afford it or not, and you do not have any say in the matter, because you do not “own” your pet. Instead, your pet basically owns your wallet when it comes to their health and safety.
It is no secret that dogs and cats are capable of feeling pain, anxiety, happiness, thirst and hunger. However, to place them on the same level as human sentience is unfair to the dogs and cats. Humans have the innate understanding of right and wrong (morality). Watch a very young child do something they think might be “wrong” and they act guilty. A dog may act “guilty” if caught getting into the garbage because it is reacting to the owner’s behavior of being upset, but if the dog is alone, he thinks it’s fun. Knowing “right from wrong” is important when considering the concept of sentience. If the dog and cat are declared to be sentient beings on a level with human sentience, the next step would be to give them “personhood” status. This is exactly the status animal extremist group Nonhuman Rights Project has been attempting with its ongoing appeals over Happy the Elephant in New York.
It is not surprising that this language is found in AB 1881 as this is the end goal of all animal extremists: to give animals “personhood” status.
“Free from Exploitation, Cruelty, Neglect, and Abuse”
“Free from cruelty, neglect and abuse” has already been codified into law in California, so why the author felt he needed to add this to his “Dog and Cat Bill of Rights” is a head scratcher.
Local news radio channel KNX radio interviewed Assemblymember Santiago and he had this to say:
“While there is an established law in the state that makes it a crime to put pets in a situation of abuse or neglect, Santiago said his bill of rights is about giving animals basic rights.”
“‘There is something to establish rights for a living creature in this case, a dog or cat because that changes the conversation to understand that ‘I’m not gonna throw this dog out into the backyard when it’s raining ‘cause it’s a dog,’ he said. ‘It has basic rights. The right not to be in cruel situations and sometimes that can be putting a dog out in the middle of the cold or in the middle of the rain. Like anyone else it should have rights. This is a starting point.’”
According to the Oxford dictionary, the definition of exploitation is “a situation in which somebody treats somebody else in an unfair way, especially in order to make money from their work.” The Cambridge dictionary defines it as “the or use or development of something for profit or progress in business; act of using someone unfairly for your own advantage.”
Animal extremists view all pet ownership as exploitation, whether its livestock, horses, or dogs and cats. The language of this bill is clearly straight out of the animal extremist lexicon. According to animal extremist groups, we exploit animals for food, fiber, fur, companionship, entertainment and profit. Most people understand that livestock is used to feed the world, that the products from the processing of livestock do not go to waste, but are used in many everyday products that everyone uses, whether knowingly or unknowingly. Extremists also believe that animals bred, bought, and/or sold as companion animals are exploited. On the contrary, they believe adopting abandoned animals for the purpose of rescuing them from a dreadful death or terrible life is not exploitation. Both scenarios involve money, whether to a breeder, rescue or shelter, so how are they both not exploitation if you follow their logic?
Animal extremists also believe that working animals lead lives of suffering and hardship and liken it to human slavery, and therefore are exploited. Tell that to the handler of a military K9 whose sensitive nose kept the handler from stepping on a land mine, or to the police officer whose K9 partner jumped through a window where a murderer was holed up, got stabbed by the perpetrator while biting, and whose partner raced him to the Animal Emergency and Critical Care hospital where he was welcomed by staff as a hero.
This “Dog and Cat Bill of Rights” language is so broad, with no distinctive definitions, that all animals, even dogs and cats, can be eventually forced to be given up by their owners who have “exploited” them by doing nothing more than loving them.
Constitutional Protection for Dogs and Cats – More Rights Than Unborn Humans
In an Opinion piece in the Sacramento Bee by Josh Gohlke, he made the point that if “Santiago’s bill had any means of enforcement, it would grant dogs and cats more--- and arguably more useful--- rights than their human companions, including the ‘right to a life of comfort free… of anxiety’ and ‘the right to preventive and therapeutic health care.’”
According to another opinion piece found here by Todd Starnes, this bill would give “cats and dogs MORE rights than unborn human babies. He states that if this “Dog and Cat Bill of Rights” passes, it could give pets civil rights, and should the bill become law, cats and dogs would have more constitutionally protected rights than unborn babies.
Protect The Harvest is continuing to follow this troublesome bill and will update. If you are concerned, we recommend letting your representatives know your feelings.
California AB 702 Bill Language HERE
California AB 1881 Bill Language HERE
AVMA Advocay Article Regarding Ownership HERE
Embrace Pet Insurance Article - Pet Ownership vs Guardianship HERE
The Cavalry Group Article - California AB 702 Will Impact Dog and Cat Owners HERE
Information About Social Compassion in Legislation for Animals HERE
Habeas Corpus is for Humans Not Animals HERE
KNX News Article HERE
Article by Todd Starns - California Bill Would Give Cats and Dogs More RIghts Than Unborn Human Babies HERE
Bedlam Farm Journal Article HERE
Scholarly Commons at Hofstra Law Article HERE
Slate Article - Are You a Dog Owner or a Guardian HERE
Article by Animal Extremist Website Animal Ethics on Animals as Tools HERE