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U.S. Needs To Strengthen Animal Protection Laws

U.S. Needs To Strengthen Animal Protection Laws

American law “does nothing to genuinely protect animals, nor does it recognize their true value and special place in our homes and within our families,” two animal rights authorities say.

“Our legal system just does not recognize the bond between people and their companion animals, and when that bond is severed, it completely fails to compensate for that loss,” write law professors Diane Sullivan and Holly Vietzke of the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover.

Furthermore, they write, torture of laboratory animals is as widespread as it is unnecessary, and they question “the propriety of treating millions of animals like property for research at the hand and whim of the researcher.” Proponents of testing argue that animal research is “necessary” and/or “justified.” “To advance this position requires a rationale that a dog, cat, or chimp is the equivalent of an innate piece of property.”

With the advancement of science and technology, Sullivan and Vietzke continue, “it is now possible to conduct testing without having to use live animals. Human tissue, donated from human cells, can be grown in test tubes.”

Moreover, they assert, computers can use simulation software to virtually conduct tests, even incorporating “hundreds of variables” to simulate various human conditions and the effects the drug or product would have on them.

In an article in the “Journal of Animal Law,” published by Michigan State University College of Law, Sullivan and Vietzke write: “As wrong as it is, animals are considered property in the eyes of the law despite the fact we all know animals feel pain, display emotion, exhibit loyalty and sadness, and (in some cases) share most of our genetic make-up.”

In the past, the authors say, slaves, women, and children all were regarded as chattels and that animals today are defined as property “because it is convenient---and profitable.” When this occurs, it allows them to be “exploited, harmed and used for experimentation and entertainment, all with impunity.”

A glaring example of the mistreatment of animals occurred during the evacuation of New Orleans residents during Hurricane Katrina in August, 2005. “Refugees escaping with their pets to designated bus pickup areas” were “commanded to abandon their pets or remain behind with them in danger.”

Sullivan and Vietzke write, “To forbid people access to safety and shelter when they and their pets are giving deep emotional support to each other in unconscionable,” and two to three thousand animals, they add, perished as a result.

“The loss of these lives and the separation of thousands of others from their human companions have given urgency to the need to legally reclassify the status of domestic animals from property to beings,” Sullivan and Vietzke say.

Because of their classification as property, animals lack standing, which represents a significant bar to suits brought on behalf of, or for the benefit of, animals. “The requirement of ‘injury-in-fact’ is a tough hurdle to overcome,” the law professors note. “Plaintiffs suing on behalf of animals will be easily defeated if the injury is one of emotional harm. If an animal is property, how can a plaintiff satisfy injury-in-fact when emotional harm resulting from pain inflicted on property is non-recognizable?”

Sullivan and Vietzke reason, “If Mahatma Gandhi was correct when he said, ‘The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated,’ then the United States has a very long way to go before it is a great nation, as compared to our allies.”

The Massachusetts School of Law at Andover is a 21-year-old law school whose pioneering mission is to inexpensively provide rigorous legal education, a pathway into the legal profession, and social mobility to members of the working class, minorities, people in midlife, and immigrants.

Through its television shows, videotaped conferences, an intellectual magazine, and internet postings, MSL - - uniquely for a law school - - also seeks to provide the public with information about crucial legal and non legal subjects facing the country.


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