Oregon Comes Closer to Recognizing Animal Personhood
Animals in Oregon can rejoice because the state’s Supreme Court has taken a major step towards recognizing their rights.
A decision was made on August 7th regarding a 2006 case. The Oregon Humane Society, with the help of the local sherifs, rescued a horse who had been left without food or water. The officers didn’t have a warrant when they took the near starved to death horse away from private property but the Oregon Supreme Court ruled the action wasn’t illegal and that an animal should have his or her rights considered, just like a person.
It cited other cases like chimpanzees in New York for which Steven Wise, lawyer and President of the Nonhuman Rights Project, has been advocating for personhood and India banning captive dolphin shows because the animals’ status are “closer to that of ‘non-human persons.” In both cases, extensive expert affidavits were filed showing that the animals have a conscience, the ability to understand life, hold on to memories and share the same wish as humans to live their lives autonomously. The Supreme Court concluded that it doesn’t need “a mirror to the past or a telescope to the future to recognize that the legal status of animals has changed and is changing still.”
The decision, although it does not award animals personhood yet, was celebrated by Wise in an op-ed piece for The Oregonian newspaper as a great step in the right direction.
“I can attest that the Oregon Supreme Court accurately captured the rapidly growing stages of a state, national and international legal movement to recognize the legal personhood of nonhuman animals,” stated Wise who is also a professor of “Animal Rights Jurisprudence” at Lewis & Clark Law School. “This is important because legal persons count before the civil law, while legal things are invisible. Entities without legal personhood are mere slaves to legal persons, helpless in the face of their power.”
Thankfully, by setting this precedent in Oregon, the Supreme Court has made sure that animals aren’t quite so helpless anymore.
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