Tag Archives: sentience

Desmond’s Law – and more coming

Desmond’s Law, in the US State of Connecticut, came into force in October 2016.

Desmond’s Law is a program that uses qualified pro-bono lawyers and volunteer law students to provide investigations to guide the court in animal abuse cases.

  • The program is discretionary and under the supervision of the Court
  • It allows volunteer advocates to access facts, records and other information regarding the animal, readily share information with each party (prosecutor, defense attorney), and make recommendations to the Court
  • It applies only to cases involving cats and dogs
  • The court-appointed advocate does not directly represent the animal, but rather the ‘interests of justice’

A Harvard Journal on Legislation article published last year discusses that the law, although groundbreaking, could be significantly stronger if it allowed the advocates to represent the animal – as is currently done in child abuse cases using a children’s advocate.  The rationale is that animals are sentient, as are children, and so they deserve stronger advocacy to represent their interests in the court system

Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island all have similar laws in the development and, hopefully, these laws will expand upon Desmond’s Law with even stronger advocacy for animals.

Desmond

Desmond’s body was found in a trash bag in the woods, emaciated, bruised, and starved. As punishment, his abuser was given Accelerated Rehabilitation, and the incident has been expunged from his record.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Dogs are people, too

In this New York Times opinion piece, Professor Gregory Berns discusses the MRI findings of brain activity in dogs, the evidence for ‘sentience’ and the reasons why dogs’ rights should go beyond consideration of animals as property.

For anyone involved in animal welfare advocacy, it is essential to have animal welfare laws that recognise dogs as sentient beings – with the ability to experience emotions like love and grief – because abuse and harm done to sentient beings carries a higher penalty in law than if an item of property is damaged.  (In many areas, dogs are considered nothing more than property.)

Jane Evelyn Atwood/Contact Press Images

Jane Evelyn Atwood/Contact Press Images