Pets are like family, and deserve to be treated as such. They deserve many of the same protections under the law that humans have: laws that make it a punishable crime to neglect or abuse animals.
It’s inspiring when states and cities step up and enact new laws that further protect local pets from mistreatment. But now, one California lawmaker is going even further by proposing that cats and dogs get their very own “Bill of Rights.”
On February 11, Miguel Santiago, a California assemblyman who represents the 53rd district in Los Angeles, proposed Assembly Bill 1881, the “Dog and Cat Bill of Rights.”
Just like our own US Bill of Rights, the bill would grant important, inalienable rights to our pets, aimed at protecting them from neglect and abuse and guarantee basic needs like healthcare and nutritious food.
According to the bill’s text, the “Dog and Cat Bill of Rights” consists of:
(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 enrichment.
(d) Dogs and cats have the right to sanitary food and water in an appropriate and safe environment.
(e) Dogs and cats have the right to preventative and therapeutic health care.
(f) Dogs and cats have the right to be properly identified through tags, microchips, or any other means.
(g) Dogs and cats have the right to be spayed and neutered to prevent unwanted litters.
“As an owner of two dogs myself, I am proud to author the Dog and Cat Bill of Rights to help our furry friends live happier, healthier lives,” the Santiago said in a statement, according to KTLA.
“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.”
While a lot of the bill sounds like common sense that most caring pet owners would follow anyway, Santiago said he was motivated to compose the bill after seeing how many pets were adopted during the pandemic, only to be neglected or sent back to shelters.
“In a perfect world I wouldn’t necessarily do a bill that says you have to give clean water to your dog, have nutritious food, and, by the way, you have to walk them!” he said, according to FOX LA. “You can’t just leave them outside in the cold rain. That’s a perfect world and in some cases, people don’t understand what it takes to be a pet owner.”
While abusing or neglecting a pet is already a crime under California state law, the bill of rights goes further and declares that pets “have the right to be respected as sentient beings that experience complex feelings that are unique to each individual animal.”
The text also takes a stand against breed-specific bans, declaring that “Dogs and cats have the right to be judged for actions, not generalizations from their attributes, such as breed type.”
If passed, the bill would require all the state’s public rescue groups and animal associations to post the bill of rights, or face a $250 fine.
“Those rights go beyond just food, water, and shelter,” Santiago said, according to The Hill. “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.”
What do you think of this new bill? Do you think dogs and cats need their own “Bill of Rights”?
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