No, this does not mean what you may think.  I believe the best way to protect animals, is to provide for their humane care by their owners.  This position is juxtaposed to those who believe animals should be considered “persons” and have rights similar to those afforded to people.

Fortunately, a growing number of courts have rejected legal attempts to obtain “personhood rights” for animals in response to petitions filed for writ of habeas corpus on behalf of animals.  See, e.g., Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. v. Breheny, 52, 2022 WL 2122141 (N.Y. June 14, 2022); Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. v. R.W. Commerford & Sons, Inc., 192 Conn. App. 36 (Conn. App. Ct. 2019); Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. ex rel. Tommy v. Lavery, 152 A.D.3d 73 (1st Dep’t 2017), lv denied, 31 N.Y.3d 1054 (2018); People ex rel. Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. v. Lavery, 124 A.D.3d 148 (3d Dep’t 2014), lv denied, 26 N.Y.3d 902 (2015). 

Other courts have held that plaintiffs lack Art. III standing when filing lawsuits on behalf of animals.  See, e.g., Justice by & through Mosiman v. Vercher, 518 P.3d 131 (Or. Ct. App. 2022); Naruto v. Slater, 888 F.3d 418 (9th Cir 2018); Tilikum ex rel. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc. v. Sea World Parks & Entm’t, Inc., 842 F. Supp. 2d 1259 (S.D. Cal. 2012) Cetacean Community v. Bush, 386 F.3d 1169, 1176 (9th Cir. 2004).

The ability of humans to continue to own animals, with the caveat that their animals must be treated humanely, would be inextricably threatened if animals obtained “personhood” status or were able to sue their owners, even if through others.  As Richard L. Cupp, Jr. noted in the brief amicus curiae pro se, he filed in Justice v. Vercher,

“If animals . . .  were no longer classified as a form of property, the potential implications for food sources, scientific research, animals-based products, and the economy in general would be monumental.  If a mammal is a legal person for purposes of abuse and neglect laws, the jump to arguing that a legal person cannot be eaten or held “captive” for any human uses is obvious.”

At risk are the estimated 149 million dogs, cats and horses, 95 million cattle, 73 million swine, in addition to the other animals raised for food, and those who contribute to the well-being of animals and humans through the important, life-saving work of those involved in biomedical research. 

Even in the absence of “personhood” status or the ability to litigate against owners in court, the animal rights organizations continue to file lawsuits, using these oft-held “frivolous claims, and others under novel-legal theories, which require defendants to spend millions, collectively, in legal defense.  So, the historic goal of at least some animal activists—to keep those involved in animal enterprises busy defending their interests in every legal venue—has come to fruition.

With the healthy litigation revenue that animal activist organizations enjoy, these campaigns should be expected to intensify, particularly now that the Animal Law & Policy Clinic at Harvard Law School, with a seemingly unending funding source, has been filing lawsuits on behalf of animal rights organizations.

For all of those hard-working and devoted animal owners, pet breeders and pet stores who provide purposely-bred, healthy and humanely raised companion animals to those devoted animal owners; farmers & ranchers who provide healthy, wholesome food throughout the US and the world; zoos and aquaria who not only showcase their humanely-cared for and amazing residents as ambassadors of those species to the joy and amazement of their visitors, but also facilitate animal conservation efforts around the world; and to all those engaged in biomedical research, from animal care-takers to investigators who have provided countless and life-saving diagnostic tools and medicines and treatments . .

For all of you, and particularly during this week of Thanksgiving, I stand with you and am thankful for your dedication to the animals under your care.