Answers to some Frequently Asked Questions about Animal Guardianship
1. What are the benefits of adding the term "guardian" to animal ordinances?
In current animal ordinances, people who have companion animals are referred to uniformly as "owners." This term does not recognize people who have adopted or rescued an animal, and who consider themselves the guardian of that animal. This classification is a way to recognize individuals who are proud to consider themselves as guardians and who do not see themselves as owners and their animals as mere property. Adding this new classification-which defines a guardian as "any person who adopts an animal from a pound or shelter" -to animal ordinances will also educate others about the thousands of animals who currently languish in our humane societies, and animal shelters. By using their actions as examples, legally recognized guardians will help to usher in a new ethic of respect, compassion and care by teaching others that companion animals are more than mere things to be bought, sold and discarded at whim. Without the new classification of guardian, people who choose to adopt or rescue animals are not recognized and respected by our current laws.
2. How is the classification of guardian legally different from the current classification of "owner?"
A guardian will possess the exact same legal rights, responsibilities and liabilities as the current classification of "owner." The classification will, in no way, muddy the laws or make it more difficult to prosecute those people who abuse or neglect the animals in their care. According to the City Attorney's own language, a "Guardian shall mean any person who rescues an animal from a pound or shelter and has adopted that animal. A guardian shall have the same rights and responsibilities of an owner, and both terms shall be used interchangeably. A guardian shall also mean any person who possesses, has title to or an interest in, harbors or has control, custody or possession of an animal." The titles are legally equivalent, so guardians would be prosecuted to the fullest extent if they violate the law.
3. Will the new category of guardian make it more difficult for animal control officers to do their jobs?
No, in fact, just the opposite is true. As more people choose to adopt rather than buy animals, a new ethic of compassion will develop, as fewer people will contribute to the cruelty which is so often inherent in animal breeding. Additionally, a person who adopts or rescues an animal for ethical reasons is far less likely to mistreat or abandon them than one who purchases an animal and sees them as mere property.
4. How will the classification of guardian benefit my town?
Your town's shelters, humane societies and animal control officers will see long-term benefits. Recognizing those who adopt animals as guardians will help to educate people about the many healthy, loving and adoptable animals available in shelters, which will increase the adoption rates. Instead of spending the majority of their time and financial budgets on reducing the number of animals in their adoption centers, animal protection agencies will now be able to focus on reducing violence toward animals and prosecuting animal abusers.