A recent ruling by the Oregon Supreme Court is the first step towards an easier life for law enforcement agents who think a pet is being abused – the court announced that dogs aren't mere property, but should be viewed as living, breathing creatures. Debated in response to an animal cruelty case, during which 28-year-old defendant Amanda L. Newcomb argued that the dog, Juno, was her property.
Newcomb stood trial for animal abuse and neglect after Juno was seized by Animal Control following reports of ill-treatment. Although blood test results confirmed that Juno was malnourished, Newcomb's lawyers argued that the dog's blood had been taken illegally as the dog was the defendant's property and she had given no authorization; a warrant should have been issued. However, the prosecution fought back with claims that a dog is as deserving of medical treatment as a child, and that pets have a right to be free from neglect. The Supreme Court agreed and decided that Juno could not be deemed property.
The Supreme Court’s decision notes: "In these circumstances, we agree with the state that Juno is not analogous to, and should not be analyzed as though he were, an opaque inanimate container in which inanimate property or effects were being stored or concealed. Juno's 'contents' – in terms of what was of interest to Dr. Hedge – were the stuff that dogs and other living mammals are made of: organs, bones, nerves, other tissues, and blood." The court's ruling isn't absolute; pets must have been obtained legally after welfare concerns have been raised, and only medical procedures that are appropriate to diagnosis and treatment may be performed. Thanks to the court's ruling, the defendant's charge was upheld.
In future, Oregon pets that are being abused or mistreated can be removed from their pet parents and charges brought without the fear of reprisal. This is fantastic news for all animal rights advocates, and we hope that its influence spreads across the U.S.