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March 1, 2019

A bill is scheduled for consideration in Illinois on Tuesday, March 5, that would assign a special advocate to “represent the interests of justice regarding the health or safety” of a dog or cat.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) has concerns regarding the legal implications regarding House Bill 1631.  There is the potential for legal confusion about who will be ultimately responsible for making decisions impacting animals if an advocate participates in a case.

It also provides advocates akin to guardians ad litem that are traditionally used to protect the interests of minors and other people lacking legal capacity.  Furthermore, the standard, “in the interest of justice” may reasonably be interpreted to allow an unlimited power of advocates in this role and therefore lead to unintended consequences.  A more reasonable alternative may read, “in the interest of the animal.”

All concerned dog owners in Illinois are encouraged to contact the House Judiciary-Criminal Committee prior to the hearing and express your concerns with House Bill 1631. Scroll down for contact information. 

Summary:

As introduced, House Bill 1631 would:

  • Require the Department of Agriculture to compile a list of pro bono attorneys and law students who may serve as “special advocates in the prosecution of cases involving the injury, health, or safety of a cat or dog.”
  • Allow the court on its own motion or the motion of any party to appoint a special advocate to “represent the interests of justice regarding the health or safety of the cat or dog.”
  • Allow the special advocate to monitor the case; attend hearings; consult with any person and review any records relating to the condition of the dog or cat and the defendant’s actions; and present information and recommendations to the court, provided it is related “to the interests of justice” and based solely on the duties permitted in the bill.

Talking Points and AKC’s Position:

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 will result in legal controversies about who is responsible for an animal, and 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 Illinois, 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 1631, individual owners could lose these ownership rights over their animals by having to give up those rights to 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, such advocates are usually reserved to protect the interests of minors or other people lacking legal capacity.  Animals do not fall into those categories.

What You Can Do:

Illinois dog owners are urged to express concerns with HB 1641 in one of the following ways:

For more information, contact AKC’s Government Relations Department at doglaw@akc.org or the Illinois Federation of Dog Clubs and Owners at schipnut58@yahoo.com

 

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact us at enewsletter@akc.org
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