The best way I can introduce this subject matter, I think, is to use an analogy. So – here goes!
If I were to give you a spoon you’d probably know what it was. And if you were in a place – say, an island whose people didn’t have spoons in their culture, you’d be able to tell them what a spoon was. What it did, how it functioned and the like. Anything that you own, really, is known to you and you can explain it to others. It is defined as your property and there are laws that govern other people taking your property from you. As in theft, burglary, and grand theft. Although I’m not sure what makes theft so grand – kidding, of course.
Now if I were to ask you to explain a family member to someone else how would you do that? You might start out with “this is my mom, my sister, my brother, my nana.” In other words, descriptors that reflect the relationship you have with that person. If I asked again, “explain them to me” you’d be at a loss most likely. How do you explain who another being is? How they work and what they’re likely to do. With a spoon or other property it’s easy. The energy of that thing is locked in the physical realm with very clear parameters. Beings, not so much. We’re infinitely more complex and exist in more than just the physical dimension.
This past week there was a report of a judge who refused to grant a divorcing couple’s request to enter into the divorce decree a shared custody agreement. Of their dogs. Before you start the eye-roll that you may feel coming on, here’s the judge’s reason why. Because under the law, animals are considered property. A thing to be owned rather than a family member. There have been advancements in state law concerning domestic violence and animals but not in the area of shared custody. Which is happening more frequently.
The couple in question stated that as their “kids” the animals needed to be treated the same as dependent human family members would be under these circumstances. The judge’s response, of course, may be considered rational and logical and at the same time, unfeeling. Yet, this is where we arrive when we attempt to both advance the rights of animals at the same time as make them fit existing parameters.
Because with Animals, the mold has to be broken. They are not property as sentient beings. Nor are they humans who need identical human rights. They need their own separate category of protection and rights because of how unique they are on Earth. And when we agree to bring them into our lives we do become as responsible for them as we do any other being for whom we have full guardianship. For food and shelter and – love. While we may think we love our material possessions I’m fairly certain that those feelings pale in comparison to the ones we have for our family members. All of them, including the 4-legged ones. Everything we can do for them to lessen the impact of our choices that may affect them negatively I’m all for. Including first changing and in the meantime applying the law in a thoughtful and forward-thinking manner. We owe them that much, at least, not as owners of property but as guardians seeking to protect, cherish and maintain our incredible bond with them. Anything else they don’t deserve or need. And neither do we.