The Oregon Supreme Court has made a landmark ruling, stating that like humans, animals can be considered victims of abuse. It sounds obvious to animal lovers, but until now, and still in most other places worldwide, animals are just considered property. Now in Oregon they have additional rights to help protect them from abuse and ensure justice for the victims.
The ruling was made based on the 2009 case of Arnold Nix, who was convicted for starving 20 horses and goats. The judge noted that each animal was a separate victim, and created separate counts of second-degree neglect for each animal.
“To acknowledge that animals are victims of crime, that’s really common sense to us,” said Lora Dunn, staff attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund in Portland.
This judgment could lead to longer sentences for convicted abusers, particularly in cases of multiple animals being abused.
“It is not a novel ideal that entities other than humans can be considered crime victims. Businesses, corporations, neighborhood associations, and government entities have been defined as crime victims in state statutes,” says a Michigan State University report. “Including protections for animals as crime victims is a natural progression in the development of the law.”
“Legal personhood” is currently being sought by the Nonhuman Rights Project in the case of four chimpanzees in an effort to release them from cramped basement cages and bring them to wildlife sanctuaries.
“Traditionally, Lady Justice is portrayed as wearing a blindfold as she holds the scales of justice. The idea is that justice should be blind – impartial and dispensed without regard to the classes of persons who appear before her,” reads a blog post on The Dodo. “Ironically, however, justice has been blind in another way, too: blind to all living beings except humans. To this day they remain invisible to the legal system.”
Hopefully someday all humans will come to their senses and realize that just like us, animals can understand pain, fear, discomfort, loneliness, and boredom, and will treat them just as well as they would like to be treated.