Tuesday, January 6, 2009

'Owner' vs. 'Guardian' of dogs - California ordinance debate

A friend of mine sent this article to me: http://www.ukiahdailyjournal.com/ci_11365700?IADID=Search-www.ukiahdailyjournal.com-www.ukiahdailyjournal.com - from the Ukiah Daily Journal, Ukiah, California (approx. 150 mi North of San Francisco, inland)

Some progressive-minded council members and animal advocates in Ukiah, California, are working to change the language of how their community refers to dogs (such as on legal documents, etc.) from "owner" to "guardian". They are on the verge of seeing this happen!

As you probably know, Rational Animal's Animal Guardian Ribbon (i.e. the pewter Animal Guardian pin) is a symbol of the concept that humans do not own animals as property but must be responsible guardians for their animals and view them as members of their family. Nice to see some people feel the same way and are taking action!

Just a couple of my own thoughts...

What I found most interesting were the opinions of those against this. There is a confusion between what dissenters believe is animal welfare and animals rights -- viewing a change in this one term as a start down a path toward animal rights extremism (naming PETA as one entity they regard as extreme). Both the councilmember and dog trainer note that there is a difference between animal welfare and animal rights, but they very clearly misunderstand where "animal guardian" falls in this context. In reality, the difference between animal welfare and AR is not even a relevant issue here.

I think you'll find that the proponents of changing the term used to describe people who have dogs in their household as "guardians" rather than "owners" come across as more educated, informed, and articulate than those against the ordinance change. This article also indirectly points out that there are still lingering stereotypes about those involved in helping animals and educating the public about the pertinent issues.

Feedback, comments welcome!