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Connecticut Bill May Impact Animals' Legal Status, Hurt Ownership Rights

(Thursday, March 28, 2013)

Connecticut House Bill 6690, which will be considered by the Connecticut Joint Judiciary Committee on Friday, April 5, seeks to permit courts to order that a separate, independent advocate be assigned to represent the interests of an animal in any proceeding in which the welfare or custody of the animal is at issue. The American Kennel Club (AKC) is deeply concerned with the unintended, and potentially far-reaching, consequences this proposal will have on the legal status of animals in Connecticut. All concerned dog owners in Connecticut are encouraged to contact the members of the Joint Judiciary Committee and express their concerns. HB 6690:

  • Gives courts the power to appoint a separate volunteer legal advocate to represent the interests of an animal that is part of a civil or criminal case in which the welfare or custody of the animal is at issue.
  • Mandates that the animal advocate conduct an independent investigation of the case, permits the advocate to present pertinent information at a hearing, allows the advocate to be subject to cross-examination, and guides the advocate’s consideration of prior arrangements made for the animal.
  • Directs the state’s Commissioner of Agriculture to maintain a list of individuals with expertise in animal welfare or legal advocacy to serve as animal advocates, and specifies that such list may include, but not be limited to, veterinarians, students and faculty members of law schools, attorneys and law firms.

The AKC abhors any type of negligence or cruelty to animals and supports full enforcement of existing negligence and cruelty laws. However, AKC is concerned that the creation of court-appointed animal advocates as provided in HB 6690 will result in 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 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 dominion over their animals by having to share those rights with courts and third parties. As a result, appointees 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 such advocates, who are usually reserved to protect the interests of minors or other people lacking legal capacity, may fundamentally impact their legal status as property. AKC believes that current law does not confuse the roles incumbent to animal owners, and protects animals and their owners better than the law would if HB 6690 is enacted.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Connecticut dog owners concerned with the unintended and far-reaching consequences of HB 6690 are urged to contact the members of the Joint Judiciary Committee and their concerns with the bill. The committee will consider the bill on Friday, April 5, at 10:00AM, in Room 2C of the Legislative Office Building, 300 Capitol Avenue, Hartford, CT 06106. For more information on the committee hearing, click here.

Please address concerns to:
Sen. Eric D. Coleman and Rep. Gerald M. Fox, Chairmen
Joint Committee on Judiciary
Room 2500, Legislative Office Building
Hartford, CT, 06106

Letters of concern may be emailed to JUD.Testimony@cga.ct.gov.

For more information, contact AKC’s Government Relations Department at (919) 816-3720, or email doglaw@akc.org.