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California lawmaker introduces 'Dog and Cat Bill of Rights'
Isa Terli/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

California lawmaker introduces 'Dog and Cat Bill of Rights'

'Dogs and cats have the right to be respected as sentient beings that experience complex feelings'

A lawmaker from Los Angeles, California, recently introduced in the state assembly a bill that would grant America's most popular pets several legal rights and protections similar to those afforded to U.S. citizens.

What are the details?

Assembly Bill 1881, known as the "Dog and Cat Bill of Rights," proposes giving pets the rights to elements of basic physical care, such as freedom from neglect and abuse, the right to health care, and access to food, water, and shelter.

However, the bill — introduced by Democratic state Rep. Miguel Santiago on Feb. 11 — goes well beyond ensuring basic physical care. It also seeks to prioritize the "mental and emotional well-being of dogs and cats" by granting the furry friends daily mental stimulation and exercise and the right to lives "of comfort free of anxiety."

In all, there are seven proposed rights. Under the legislation, dogs and cats would have the right to:

  1. be free from exploitation, cruelty, neglect, and abuse,
  2. a life of comfort, free of anxiety,
  3. daily mental stimulation and appropriate exercise,
  4. nutritious food and sanitary water and shelter,
  5. preventive and therapeutic health care,
  6. be properly identified through tags, microchips, or other humane means, and
  7. be spayed and neutered to prevent unwanted litters.

What else?

It should be noted that existing law generally makes it a crime for an animal's owner or keeper to hold it in an enclosure without proper care and attention or to abuse or neglect an animal.

But under the proposed legislation, dogs and cats are considered "sentient beings that experience complex feelings that are common among living animals while being unique to each individual animal." As such, the bill argues they are entitled to more broad privileges.

"While requirements for basic physical care, such as the provision of food, water, and shelter, are set forth in most jurisdictions, as one of the largest and most progressive states in the country, California can and should strive to recognize the importance of animals’ mental well-being," the bill states.

"As an owner of two dogs myself, I am proud to author the Dog and Cat Bill of Rights to help our furry friends live happier, healthier lives," Santiago said in a statement, according to the Hill. "Our dogs and cats deserve to be loved, and cared for, and the Dog and Cat Bill of Rights will help inform potential adopters of the care needed to create a healthy environment for their adopted pets."

Anything else?

The bill specifically dictates that every public rescue group and animal association in the state must post a copy of the "Dog and Cat Bill of Rights" on-site or face a fine of up to $250.

The legislation is reportedly in response to millions of dollars spent every year to euthanize or otherwise control the booming number of dogs and cats in California. The bill's text states that pets have the right to be spayed and neutered to "reduce the state’s dog and cat overpopulation."

According to KTTV-TV, Santiago also claimed that the coronavirus pandemic has been bad for pets. He told the outlet it's remarkable how many people got pets during the pandemic only to fail to properly care for them and ultimately unload them at shelters.

"In a perfect world I wouldn’t necessarily do a bill that says you have to give clean water to your dog, have nutritious food, and, by the way, you have to walk them! You can’t just leave them outside in the cold rain. That’s a perfect world and in some cases, people don’t understand what it takes to be a pet owner," he said.

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