The author of California AB 1881 (the “Dog and Cat Bill of Rights”) has agreed to remove the word “rights”, along with other substantive amendments from the text of Assembly Bill 1881 and will be verbally stating this in the public hearing tomorrow.
This amendment comes after significant concerns were expressed by the American Kennel Club, the California Veterinary Medical Association, the Animal Health Institute, animal control officers, AKC clubs, NAIA, and many individuals across California.
This is in addition to amendments posted last week which remove the words “guardian” and “companion animal”, among other changes requested by the AKC and others.
AKC thanks all those who joined with us in explaining the many concerns, dangers, and consequences of implying that animals have inherent “rights”. Your calls and letters made a difference!
The new amended draft will be made available after the Assembly Business and Professions Committee hearing. Once the new text is made official, AKC will send out additional information. There is no further need to contact the committee to ask that the amendments be accepted or provide comment to the committee.
While AKC did not get every amendment we requested, we are grateful to the author for agreeing to this compromise and addressing our primary and most significant concerns.
Summary of Compromise Amendments:
The official draft will not be made available until later this week, after the Assembly Business and Professions Committee hearing on the bill. However, the committee chairman has indicated it will provide a compromise to allow the author to keep his stated goal of advancing education about responsible pet care at shelters while removing terms that elevate the legal status of animals.
AKC has been informed it will also replace the declarations that “Dogs and cats have the right” with “Dogs and cats deserve”, thereby removing any implication to inherent legal rights and instead providing a list of guidelines or goals for owners obtaining a dog or cat from a shelter or rescue.
Although the compromise will also allow the author to call the bill the “dog and cat bill of rights”, as amended, AKC has also been informed the amendments will rename the new division of law simply “Ownership of Dogs and Cats”.
These changes are in addition to the amendments added last week that remove the words “companion animal” and “guardian” and state that the purpose of the bill as “solely to inform potential owners of the standards for basic physical care and emotional well-being of dogs and cats.”
These amendments are essential in clarifying that there will be no enforcement for failure to live up to the recommendations in the bill, and also replace animal rights language with the term pet “ownership” to ensure that the legal status of animals will not change.
Official Assembly Bill Analysis:
The author, Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, has continuously stated that the purpose of Assembly Bill 1881 is simply to help owners understand when they are getting a pet from a shelter or rescue that there are many responsibilities that come with acquiring a dog or cat.
However, as the official committee analysis acknowledges, using the word “rights” creates more issues:
Some of the specified rights are at least partially enforceable through existing law. For example, the Penal Code does specifically criminalize forms of “exploitation, cruelty, neglect, and abuse”—the first of the enumerated rights. However, there is no similar citation available for the second right, which is “to a life of comfort, free of fear and anxiety.” (There is also no legally enforceable right under the law for human beings to experience such a life.) While various rights enumerated in the bill could be loosely corresponded to provisions of law, it is undeniable that the majority of the language in the list of rights is purely aspirational.
…The author has made it clear that the goal is not to imply that there would be any direct repercussion to pet owners who fail to live up to the language in the bill. Instead, the goal is to “educate” potential dog and cat adopters about the standard they should hold themselves to when it comes to the quality of home they intend to provide. However, this could understandably still be very confusing for some members of the public. Language like the statement that “dogs and cats have the right to nutritious food” might appear to be tied to an actual enforceable law, and could potentially lead to fewer adoptions by potential owners concerned that they could be liable for failing to meet a vague requirement.
AKC greatly appreciates Chairman Berman and the Assembly Business and Professions Committee staff for recognizing the concerns with use of the term “right” in legislation, even where a measure does not provide for enforcement.
AKC Government Relations will continue to provide updates as they are available. For more information, contact AKC GR at firstname.lastname@example.org.