A major animal rights bill has been proposed in the District of Columbia. According to the Animal Agriculture Alliance, the 48-page bill (LB 89), also known as the Animal Protection Amendment Act of 2007, would:

  • Change the phrase ''animal owner'' to ''animal guardian/owner'';
  • Authorize non-economic damages for the owner of a pet;
  • Authorize non-profit humane societies to file lawsuits against violators of the district’s animal-cruelty laws; and
  • Require the DC Board of Education to provide instruction on the ''humane treatment and protection of animals.''

The section of the bill that specifies "non-economic damages" involves awards to a pet "guardian/owner" when a is killed either intentionally or by gross negligence in a veterinarian’s office. The court-based awards for non-economic damages are limited to $7,500 for intentional acts and $2,000 for acts of gross negligence. The non-economic damages will include recovery for the loss of society, companionship, comfort, protection, love, affection and others.

''The current system for animal liability works well because it balances an animal owner's rights to be compensated with the need to keep animal care accessible and affordable to all,'' says Kay Johnson, executive vice president of the Alliance. ''We are very concerned about this legislation because it will lead to more lawsuits against veterinarians and they will have to charge more to cover the costs of the lawsuits. Those increased costs will deter people from seeking treatments directly related to their animals' health and welfare.''

The section that adds the term ''guardian'' to current law, while it may seem minute, it is a first step by animal-rights activists to extend the rights afforded children and incompetent adults to animals, notes Johnson. If owners are legally classified as guardians, the government, or any individual, can sue over treatment of an animal.

Another section of the legislation would authorize non-profit humane societies to file lawsuits against "violators" of the district’s animal-cruelty laws. In those suits, plaintiffs may sue to obtain an injunction or restraining order against the accused offender. The legislation would allow an accuser to bring an injunction to stop the operations of a legitimate business, with no negative ramifications for the accuser if the accused business is found innocent of wrongdoing.

''The Animal Agriculture Alliance is highly concerned about this deeply flawed legislation and the long-term economic damage it could do to the nation’s capital and the businesses that serve its residents,'' says Johnson. ''Given the broad scope and precedent-setting nature of the proposal, the DC government needs to carefully review the long-term negative impacts that this legislation might inflict upon its constituents. It is a very slippery slope.''

Source: Animal Agriculture Alliance