Thursday, April 27, 2006

In Effort To Encourage Greater Care Of Companion Animals, Santa Clara County Board Of Supervisors Tuesday Added "Guardian" To Term "Animal Owner."

A lot of people laugh at such a measure. However, they forget the importance of words. Pet signifies ownership and therefore the right to do what one wants with a “pet.” Companion signifies more equality and takes away a persons mental image of any animal termed a pet, as simple property. This has already occurred in numerous cities, including Boulder, CO.

Santa Clara Supes Turn Pet Owners Into Pet Guardians

POSTED: 2:11 pm PDT April 25, 2006

SAN JOSE -- In an effort to encourage greater care of companion animals, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors Tuesday added "guardian" to the term "animal owner."

The new county ordinance, which taps a pet owner an "animal owner/guardian," passed nearly two months after the Animal Advisory Commission introduced its recommendation to the board, hoping that the term guardian would elicit responsible treatment of pets and reduce the number of abused, neglected and abandoned animals.

"Language can make such a powerful impact," Animal Advisory Commission member Lorna Pusateri said today, noting how racial perceptions have changed following the public and legal denunciation of racist and hateful language. "... We lose nothing, but gain so much, by simply adding the word guardian."

The amendment passed 3-2 with Supervisors Liz Kniss and Donald Gage voting against the motion after Stanford University Assistant Vice President and Director of Community Relations Jean McCown requested a continuance to review the proposal's legal ramifications for Stanford's biomedical research activities.

"I don't think the word guardian is going to make anyone treat their animals better," Gage, who owns several pets himself, said today, noting that therefore it couldn't hurt to accede to McCown's request.

Kniss, while stressing the importance of humane treatment of animals, also voiced some concern about the addition's potential implication for animal research in the future.

Supervisor Pete McHugh, however, said he trusted County Counsel Ann Ravel's conclusion that the amendment would not change the legal status of animals as property.

"Adding the word guardian does not impact anything, it just emphasizes that there is a moral obligation for people to care for their animals," McHugh said today.

Veterinarian Elliot Katz told the board that cities and counties across the nation are pursuing similar changes in efforts to teach children compassion and respect for animals.

Animal Advisory Commission member Judy Jones said today that subtle changes, such as adding the term guardian, could influence how people think about pets and encourage the public to consider animals as beings with feelings and needs of their own.

As a result of changed attitudes, animal advocates hope to see fewer strays and more spayed and neutered dogs and cats.

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