What’s in a Name?

What’s in a name?   Plenty.   So when animal rightists disguised as normal, rational human beings say things like this,

“We needed to change the language [from “owner” of pets to “guardian”]…My feeling* was the term ‘owner’ denigrated the animal companions we share our lives with.”

it sounds reasonable.   But guardianship is anything but reasonable.

The above quote is from retired veterinarian Elliot Katz who also happens to be the president and founder of In Defense of Animals, an animal rights group.   Hmm, Elliot Katz is a retired veterinarian?   I wonder if his former colleagues know that “Doctor” Katz said this:

“It is time we demand an end to the misguided and abusive concept of animal ownership. The first step on this long, but just, road would be ending the concept of pet ownership.” — Elliot Katz, President, In Defense of Animals, Spring 1997.

So, in other words, it sounds like he’s trying to put his former colleagues out of business.   I wonder if they know that.   I wonder if they also know that when you change out the word “owner” for “guardian” you strip owners of their property rights to their pets.  

Oh but animal rightists won’t acknowledge that the word “guardian” removes ownership rights.   In fact, sometimes they’ll tell you the exact opposite.   Indeed, the article in which Katz is quoted also contains this comment from the Director of the York County, Pennsylvania, SPCA:

“The change [from “owner” to “guardian”] has no legal ramifications, Executive Director Melissa Smith said, but the hope is that it will make a difference in the hearts and minds of adoptive families.”

Ok, now does Ms. Smith just not understand the concept of guardianship because the whole point of switching out the word “owner” for “guardian” is to allow the shelter to take the adopted pet back for any reason.   In other words, the pet “guardian” has no legal rights of ownership.   That’s what guardianship means.   That’s the point of using the word “guardian” in an adoptive contract over the word “owner.”

For instance, in 2007, a suburban-Chicago shelter took back a puppy because when the owners, er, I mean “guardians” took their recently-adopted puppy back to the shelter for advice on how to make the pup eat, a shelter worker noticed the couple’s other dog had an anti-bark collar on.   The shelter director explained that the shelter felt that negative reinforcement training was inhumane, which the director claimed was stated in the contract. What was also stated in their contract was that the couple weren’t owners of their adopted pup; they were guardians.   This incident illustrates very well what happens when you play into animal rightists’ extremist ideology.   The shelter manager could very easily have sat the couple down and explained their concern about the type of training method the couple was using, i.e. that they didn’t want an anti-bark collar used on the puppy.   But instead they simply confiscated the pup.   This is the fallout that comes with the unreasonable nature of guardianship and it’s just one of the reasons that animals need to remain legal property.

As the couple who lost their puppy found out, the word “owner” is more than a name; it’s a legal right.   While the animal rights movement will paint those who advocate for animals as property as cold, and heartless animal abusers, they won’t tell you about their underlying agenda: that guardianship, like so many other animal rightist concepts, is meant to be yet one more stepping stone toward the ultimate eradication of domestic animal ownership.   They know that under the law, property has intrinsic value.   In fact, if you truly love your animals, then you will argue for them to remain as property because the status of your pet as property protects both your animals and you.   And in fact, the constitution not only protects your rights to the property you own, but defines property rights as inherent in the concept of freedom as Americans and indeed, as human beings.   As African-Americans can tell you, property ownership is very important.   That’s why some of the first things suggested as reparations for freed slaves were 40 acres and a mule (in other words: PROPERTY!).   That’s also why the 14th amendment outlines the right to life, liberty, and property.   Property equals freedom, and when the government or some other entity removes those property rights from its citizens, a loss of autonomy is soon to follow.   So when animal rightists play semantic word games and tell you that changing out the word “owner” for “guardian” is only to change the way we think about our pets, they’re not being above-board.

So what’s in a name?   Plenty. And as ever, what’s the end-goal of animal-rightist language and animal rights-sponsored legislation?   Well, I think “Doctor” Katz himself made that quite clear:

“It is time we demand an end to the misguided and abusive concept of animal ownership. The first step on this long, but just, road would be ending the concept of pet ownership.”

Read more about it:

What is Pet Guardianship?

Quotes from Animal Rightists

*Notice how animal rightists frequently frame things in terms of emotion using “feeling” statements like “I feel” or “my feeling is.”   The emotion is necessary in order to remove rational thought, because if they can get you to operate on raw emotion then you’re not thinking about the potential fallout of what they’re proposing.   And I think I’ve adequately illustrated that there is very serious fallout from the concept of guardianship.


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