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Dogs Aren't Property, They're Family

01/03/2017 07:31 EST | Updated 01/03/2017 07:31 EST
sanjagrujic via Getty Images
Beautiful labrador retriever dog in the park, sunny day

It was reported in December of last year that a Saskatoon judge made a ruling that dogs aren't to be treated like children. This was in reference to a divorce case wherein the wife wanted the division of the couple's dogs to be treated as if it were a child custody dispute.

The judge decided that dogs are property and therefore enjoy no familial rights under the law. While it may be a step too far to endow pets with the same legal rights as human children, to refer to pets as no more than property is a dangerous precedent to set for animal welfare.

The judge does make note that statutory laws exists to protect pets from being treated with cruelty or neglect. However beyond just that, saying that pets are tantamount to property sets the example that dogs are disposable.

The judge noted that dogs are not equal to children because in Canada children are not purchased, bred for certain traits, or euthanized. I don't dispute any of this, and I am not trying to make the argument that dogs are children. However when you bring home a dog, while it may not be equal to a child, it nonetheless becomes part of the family.

Dogs form attachment to their owners, and are capable of being emotionally affected by changes to their care. Therefore, in separations and any other circumstances that would affect the living situation of a family pet, the welfare and feelings of the animal must be a strong point of consideration.

"A house or car are not capable of feeling emotion -- dogs are. Therefore it must be recognized, if not by the law then by society, that dogs hold a more privileged role than that of property."

This comes at a time of year when many people may have received pets as holiday gifts. While many groups, including the SPCA have been warning for years that pets do not make good presents, this is still a common practice. For those people who have just gotten a new furry addition to the family, we should not be sending the message that dogs are property.

Dogs are not disposable, something that should be bought or sold on a whim. Barring extreme circumstances, adopting a dog means taking responsibility for that pet for the entirety of its lifetime. That includes looking after both the physical needs and the emotional wellbeing of that dog.

Before having a dog I didn't realize pets were capable of such a range of human emotion. My family had two dogs that were a part of our family until they passed away. One we brought home as a puppy, and another we adopted from a rescue shelter midway through her life. Both had vastly different personalities and reacted to situations differently.

At different points they could express happiness, sadness, loneliness, excitement and even anxiety. Dogs are also very intelligent creatures that know and understand what is going on around them. One of our dogs could tell we would be going on vacation whenever we brought out our suitcases and would start sulking a day in advance. It must be appreciated that dogs are smart and emotional beings.

A house or car are not capable of feeling emotion -- dogs are. Therefore it must be recognized, if not by the law then by society, that dogs hold a more privileged role than that of property.

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