Animal Law Evolution: Treating Pets as Persons in Tort and Custody Disputes

Despite the fact that pets play an important and irreplaceable role in the lives of many people in modern society, the law continues to treat all animals—including pets—as property. This treatment is especially troubling in tort and custody cases, where the relationship between a pet and its owner is often at issue. The author examines the inconsistent treatment of animals under the law and the relatively recent develop-ments in society’s view and treatment of animals, ultimately arguing that the law needs to adapt to the changes in the way society views animals by treating pets as persons in particular cases. Specifically, the author pro-poses that animals be treated as persons only in tort or custody disputes where the animal is an anthropomorphic pet that has formed a strong emotional bond to its owner resulting in the owner’s treatment of the pet as a person.

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