Bill respecting animals is one for the dogs

September 30, 1999

Here is an excerpt of an editorial from the San Francisco Examiner, which was published Tuesday.

AS MUCH as we admire and cherish the four-footed creatures that animate many of our favorite households, the campaign to alter the status of the pets' owners to that of "guardians" is a foolhardy exercise in anthropomorphic myth.

The family pooch, whatever the justice of treating it as more than a bloodless piece of property, is not ready for prime time in the struggles of human coexistence.

San Francisco (wouldn't you know?) is a particular target for animal rights folk seeking to change the concept of pet ownership to that of guardianship. Our nonhuman friends, under this revision, would get a share of the constitutional entitlements the nation's Founders thought they were laying out for people.

The city's Commission of Animal Control recently bought the idea of amending city codes to relabel pet "owners" as "guardians."

The city attorney's office advised against the change to avoid blurring the legal responsibilities of pet ownership. Indeed, we see big trouble if the legal burden of pet ownership fades out as Bowser, while still consuming large quantities of kibble and guardians' dinner leftovers on the back porch, becomes its own dog under the law. When it bites someone, will it face up to the tort claim?

Unfortunately, few pets have their owners' deep pockets or insurance policies. Will a pet be able to sue to change guardians?

But it's not quite time to taunt San Francisco as the haven of financially irresponsible pets. The commission has only advisory power, and the Board of Supervisors may wisely refuse to join the movement.

Pub Date: 9/30/99

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