Oregon Supreme Court Makes History By Saying Dogs are "Sentient Beings”
In a landmark ruling, the Oregon Supreme Court has affirmed what animal lovers all know in their hearts: that dogs are not property, but living, sentient beings who deserve protection under the law. The decision came about through the case of a neglected, beaten, and emaciated dog, Juno.
Amanda Newcomb, Juno’s owner, was visited by the Oregon Humane Society in 2010, where the pup was found in a terrible state. He was taken into immediate veterinary care, where blood was drawn to test for any condition that could account for his presentation. The results excluded any parasites or illnesses and confirmed that it was his owner’s neglect and poor treatment that made him so sickly.
The blood draw was challenged in court, after criminal charges were brought against Newcomb. Her defense argued that, because Juno was her property, taking his blood amounted to performing an illegal search without a warrant. The prosecutor argued that the procedure was no different than taking blood from a human child in a case of suspected abuse, and the court agreed.
The decision was reversed in the Court of Appeals, yet the State Supreme Court upheld the original trial court’s findings. The high court’s unanimous opinion reads:
“Reflected in those and other laws that govern ownership and treatment of animals is the recognition that animals ‘are sentient beings capable of experiencing pain, stress and fear.’”
For right now, pets are still considered property under the law. But this new court ruling means that, under circumstances similar to Juno’s, the welfare of the animal – including his or her ability to feel pain, stress, and fear – is taken into serious consideration. There will be no doubt that those acting in the interest of of the animal by providing treatment or drawing blood will not be violating the owner’s right against warrantless search and seizure.
Sharon Harmon, the Oregon Humane Society executive director, stated:
“This ruling removes what could have been a major roadblock to cruelty investigations.”
We are now one step closer to a world where animals have full protection under the law.
Photo credit: Anita Peeples via Unsplash