AKC CT Alert: HB 6690 Could Limit Rights of Dog Owners
From the AKC:
(Friday, May 03, 2013)
House Bill 6690 is a legislative proposal in Connecticut that seeks to create special “animal advocates” in the state. These advocates, similar to court-appointed advocates for children (aka guardians ad litem), would represent the interests of animals in court cases separate from their owners. The American Kennel Club (AKC) is concerned with unintended consequences that may result from the legislation, including the possibility that individual ownership rights could be diminished in ways similar to states that have animal “guardianship” instead of animal “ownership”. The AKC urges Connecticut’s responsible dog owners to contact the members of the legislature and urge them to more closely study the issues brought forward by HB 6690, including the potential detrimental impact on animal ownership rights.
HB 6690 DETAILS:
House Bill 6690 seeks to permit courts to order that a separate, independent volunteer be assigned to advocate for the interests of an animal in any court proceeding in which the welfare or custody of the animal is at issue. The bill also will:
- Require the animal advocate to conduct an independent investigation of a case, permit the advocate to present pertinent information at a hearing, let the advocate to be cross-examined, and guide the advocate’s consideration of prior arrangements made for the animal.
- Direct the state’s Commissioner of Agriculture to maintain a list of individuals with expertise in animal welfare or legal advocacy to serve as volunteer animal advocates. It specifies that the list may include, but will not be limited to, veterinarians, students and faculty members of law schools, attorneys and law firms.
AKC POSITION ON HB 6690:
The American Kennel Club has no tolerance for animal cruelty, and supports full enforcement of Connecticut’s already strong cruelty and negligence laws, which not only punish but also deter violators. However, AKC is concerned that the creation of court-appointed animal advocates, as provided in HB 6690, will create legal controversies about who is responsible for an animal, and will ultimately impact the ability and rights of pet owners to freely choose the most appropriate course of care and treatment for their pets.
Based on the long-standing legal traditions of both the United States and the State of Connecticut, pets are considered the property of their owners while also benefitting from laws governing their care and treatment. Traditionally, animal owners have the sole rights and responsibilities over the care of their animals. However, under the provisions of HB 6690, individual owners would lose this prerogative by having to share those rights with courts and third parties. As a result, court-appointed advocates could use the courts to force a person to make decisions that they believe to not be in the best interest of their animal. Additionally, providing for advocates—which is usually done to protect the interests of minors or other people lacking legal capacity—may fundamentally impact the legal status of animals as property. The AKC supports reasonable and enforceable laws that protect the welfare and health of all dogs and do not restrict the rights of breeders and owners who meet their responsibilities. We believe that current law does not confuse the roles incumbent to animal owners and governments, and ultimately better protects animals and their owners than if HB 6690 were enacted and its unintended consequences were allowed to impact dog owners’ rights.