The effort by activist groups to change the term “owner” to “guardian” in local ordinances and state laws relating to pets continues in a number of jurisdictions. While this campaign is marketed as a feel-good exercise, this “simple” change in language elevates animals above their current status as property – with potentially enormous legal implications.
There are 17 cities and 2 counties that have adopted such an ordinance. One state, Rhode Island, has included similar language in its constitution.
Guardianship designation agreed to:
|Beverly Hills, CA||December, 2008|
|San Jose, CA||June 19, 2007|
|Imperial Beach, CA||July 19, 2006|
|Santa Clara County, CA||April, 2006|
|Bloomington, IN||January, 2006|
|St. Louis, MO||August 9, 2004|
|Albany, CA||June 7, 2004|
|Wanaque, NJ||May 13, 2004|
|Woodstock, NY||February 10, 2004|
|Marin County, CA||December, 2003|
|Sebastopol, CA||December, 2003|
|San Francisco, CA||January 13, 2003|
|Amherst, MA||April 24, 2002|
|Menomonee Falls, WI||March 11, 2002|
|Sherwood, AR||September 24, 2001|
|State of Rhode Island||July 5, 2001|
|West Hollywood, CA||February 19. 2001|
|Berkeley, CA||February 27, 2001|
|Boulder, CO||July 12, 2000|
City of Pasadena Agenda Report
On September 20, 2004 the Public Safety Committee of the Pasadena City Council voted unanimously to adopt a staff recommendation against changing the term animal “owner” to animal “guardian” in city law. Read the report (pdf)
LA City Asst. Attorney Letter
In the summer of 2002, the Los Angeles Animal Services Commission voted unanimously to replace the term “owner” with “guardian” in its documents and conversations. A letter dated September 18, 2002 from the Office of the City Attorney of Los Angeles to the Board of Animal Service Commissioners discussed the implications of changing the term “animal owner” to “animal guardian” in the municipal code and other city correspondence. In the end, the Los Angeles City Council did not vote on a proposal to expand this new policy to all citywide documents.
Other Items of Interest
Susan J. Hankin, Making Decisions About Our Animals’ Health Care: Does It Matter Whether We Are Owners Or Guardians?, 2 Stan. J. Animal L. & Pol’y 1 (2009).
AVMA Position Statement