(The Hill) — A California lawmaker introduced a bill this month to give cats and dogs in his state the same legal rights and protections the American people have — a formal bill of rights.
Assembly Bill 1881, dubbed the “Dog and Cat Bill of Rights,” gives the pets multiple rights, including freedom from neglect and abuse, the right to health care, nutritious food and appropriate exercise, among others.
The legislation, if it becomes law, would also require every public rescue group and animal association to post the bill of rights in a conspicuous place or face a $250 fine.
Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), a fellow pet owner, announced the introduction of the bill on Feb. 11.
“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 lawmaker said in a statement. “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.”
Existing California law makes it a crime if any owner subjects a pet to abuse or neglect or fails to give the animal proper attention.
But the “Dog and Cat Bill of Rights” goes beyond that, calling the pets “sentient beings that experience complex feelings that are common among living animals while being unique to each individual animal.”
The bill is apparently in response to millions of dollars spent every year to euthanize or otherwise control a booming number of cats and dogs. The legislation text says the pets have a right to be spayed and neutered to “reduce the state’s dog and cat overpopulation.”
The legislation is sponsored by the Social Compassion in Legislation, an animal advocacy group. The group’s founder and president, Judie Mancuso, said they were appreciative of Santiago for “recognizing the need to uplift the conversation around the rights our dogs and cats deserve.”
“Those rights go beyond just food, water, and shelter. 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,” Mancuso said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to be codifying this into law.”