If Dogs and Cats Had Legal Rights…

Animals are not human. 

That means, at least in the US, they are treated as property in the courts.

But that is slowly changing, thanks to dogs and cats.

Laws pertaining to animals are changing as people go to court to address issues pertaining to their companion animals.
Laws pertaining to animals are changing as people go to court to address issues pertaining to their companion animals.


People are duking it out over custody of the family companion animal in divorce proceedings. People are suing for damages when a companion animal is injured or killed. People are demanding consideration of companion animals during disaster response.

I guess that means laws giving rights to, at the very least, dogs and cats should be right around the corner, right?

Not so fast, pardner. There are plenty of adversaries to face down before you ride into that town.

Like who?

Well, the American Veterinary Medical Association, for one. To be sure, they WANT you to consider your pet a beloved family member. But they don’t want you suing the crap out of them when you believe a member of their ranks provides substandard care.

They do have a valid point. If dogs and cats had rights, the cost of veterinary care would go through the roof. Think your vet bills are high now? What would they be if the cost of malpractice insurance was tacked onto the cost? And that thing I’m doing now with using a dog medication off-label with Bubba Cat? I’m sure THAT would not be allowed to continue.

Pet stores and Puppy mill breeders are most certainly not for animals having rights. Would that impact the sale of animals? Probably. At the very least, the standards of care required for breeder animals would be strictly regulated, unlike it is now.

Research labs would not be able to conduct the testing on dogs and cats, because dogs and cats cannot provide consent.

Dog food would be more expensive as the requirements for manufacture would become more stringent. Though, to be sure, dog food is already a cut-throat business, and manufacturers are already employing strict manufacturing standards to avoid recalls that can destroy a brand.

Shock collars would most certainly go by the wayside. Say good-bye to your invisible fence!


If you think the one-upmanship of pet owners is bad now, imagine how it would be if your neighbor could report you for not bathing your dog regularly or not taking him for a walk every day. It would be kind of like child abuse investigations are now: some investigations have merit, while others are nuisance calls made to harass the one being investigated.

If dogs and cats had legal rights, how would that impact other animals?

It wouldn’t take long for courts to rule that the Great Apes should also be afforded rights. After all, they are the animals most like humans in appearance. That would impact research labs and zoos.

Animal agriculture would most certainly be impacted. The cost of meat, milk, and eggs would rise as farms would be forced to provide humane living conditions for animals used to feed humans.

Extermination practices would have to change considerably, as it would no longer be acceptable to just poison rats and mice.

The cost of bacon would surely rise as farmers are forced to provide more humane living conditions for food animals. (Photo: Peta.org)
The cost of bacon would surely rise as farmers are forced to provide more humane living conditions for food animals. (Photo: Peta.org)

As you have no doubt figured out, this is not a change that people would willingly accept in one lump sum. It’s going to take time, and a continuing change in public perception to get us there.

Are YOU still willing to fight for animals to have rights, or is the cost going to be higher than you’re willing to pay?



National Geographic: Q&A: Pets Are Becoming People, Legally Speaking


22 thoughts on “If Dogs and Cats Had Legal Rights…

  1. The cost of eggs is going to go up because of the law recently enacted in CA. Even midwestern egg farmers will have to raise their prices if they supply to California, because they will have to comply with the new regulations, that require the chicken’s cage be large enough for it to move around and flap its wings. That means fewer chickens in the same amount of space, which means fewer eggs, and higher heating costs for farmers. Of course, you could just buy eggs from your local farms, where you can see the chickens running free the way they are meant to be. The cost will be comparable.

    You can always cut meat and dairy out of your diet if the cost irks you.

    There should be a way to grant animals more rights in terms of quality of life without granting full “personhood”.

    1. I see that law as a good thing. It slowly introduces the social changes that need to be made to move us toward a society that treats animals humanely. I already pay more for eggs, so that law means little change in my life.

  2. It is good that someone is tackling this subject. Like you say, it is large and complex. Mostly, I see it as sad.
    As to the veterinarians–over the years I have seen less and less who take up the profession because they want
    to help animals, and more who think it is lucrative…Their prices reflect their greed in many cases.
    There are faults on all sides, over breeding, shelters–(badly named if they ‘kill’), lax laws for abusers, the people who ‘have to have purebreds over mixed breeds, (those people should look at the percentage of purebred animals that end up in “shelters” and are destroyed,) the list goes on and on.
    The chicken / eggs controversy is good–a small step–hopefully enforced. I have my own chickens–and they run free–as long as I am alive–they will do that.
    Turning things around takes so long, it sometimes feels hopeless—actually a good deal of the time.
    Granting ‘personhood’–I wonder….’Personhood’ is what is responsible for the status of things now….
    I hope it gets better for the animals–who have no power.

    1. I don’t see vets entering the business because it’s lucrative. If a person wants a lucrative career, they should go into specialized medicine for humans. Vets go to school for years, rack up lots of debt, then make little money until they build up a clientele in their own business.

      What’s sad is they begin to see low-cost spay/neuter programs as competition instead of partners, and they start fighting to make them illegal.

  3. I don’t want cheap food and I don’t want cheap health care for me or my cats. A lot of other things about our society that have nothing to do with animal rights have to change before paying what things actually cost is a reality.

  4. Reblogged this on susanspetblog and commented:
    This is a good discussion of the reality and impact animal rights can have on society. This blog was originally posted on Rumpydog.com. Think about the end result. Where do we draw the line on abuse and animal rights?

  5. I was struck by the line society will draw between abuse of animals and their rights. Provocative questions and statements. I reblogged to susanspetblog.com. Thanx, Susan

  6. Sadly I don’t think I will live to see animals gain the rights they deserve. The way I feel about the human race at the moment I hope ebola gets a foothold and wipes us off the planet.

    1. Humans will eventually be knocked back significantly, because Nature cannot sustain our species’ depletion of the planet for much longer. Perhaps it will even be by our own creation- artificial intelligence.

  7. Thought provoking post. I think animals do have ‘rights’ or at least protection in law. I stand by the RSPCA (and other charities) in their fight for fair treatment of all animals – domestic or farmyard. And to bring prosecutions where necessary. Only by debating animal rights, will more people become aware of the issues and perceptions will change. In the meantime, it is incumbent on all animal lovers to bring wrong-doing to the attention of the authorities and social media.

    1. Animals have protections under the law, but they do not have rights. To have rights would put them on the same level as humans under the law, and that hasn’t happened in the UK any more than it has here. While there are protections in place, protection laws still see the animal as property, not as a living creature in its’ own right.

      1. well, we had a lawyer once who tried to make sure that his dog has the right to inherit. He sadly lost and the people laughed at him, without knowing the idea behind this court case, if his dog would become a “legal person”, it probably would change a lot of things…

  8. I don’t want human rights for animals as some people do, I want animal rights for animals. And not just cats and dogs either. To often small animals are seen as disposable

    The protection laws we have in place here in the UK are clearly not working so rights are needed. I don’t care how it effects puppy mills and pet shops. I would be happy to pay more for food. And vet treatment is one of those things you expect as a pet owner. I would pay whatever it took.

    However I do take your point on the off the label medicines. When one of my guinea pigs was ill, they recommended an anti-biotic which was actually for cat use but it worked exactly as they promised.

    However we already see pets as members of the family, why doesn’t the law reflect that?


  9. Today’s post makes me think again about what animal rights are……Before reading this post, I simply thought that we needed animal rights for animals strongly…..but I never thought of how things would been changed if animals have a right…..

  10. Good look at the many aspects of this issue.

    I like to start at the other end by seeing the price animals (including human animals) have paid for cheap food. Most people in the world pay about half their income for food. Which works out fine if you have access to excellent social services and don’t spend our money on worthless junk.

    Many people are willing (when they’re able) to pay more for food if it is more humane for animals. So we’re going in the right direction.

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