|You are in: Talking Point|
Thursday, 2 May, 2002, 13:22 GMT 14:22 UK
Should pets get a bill of rights?
Pets will be legally entitled to a minimum quality of life under plans the RSPCA has put forward to the UK Government.
Ministers are expected to unveil proposals later this week which would see pet owners facing prosecution if they failed to provide enough food and water or space in their pets' cages.
The move would entitle farm animals and house pets to the same standards that apply to the care of laboratory animals.
But the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) wants the government to go even further by making pet owners have a legal "duty of care" to their animals.
What do you think? Should pets get their own bill of rights? Is enough being done to protect the rights of animals?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
How about a bill to protect non-pet owners from inconsiderate and selfish pet owners? I'm fed up with dog owners letting their pets use my garden as a public toilet just because they're too lazy to clear up their own mess.
As a caring cat owner, I'm all for looking after animals humanely but come on! Does anybody REALLY believe an animal 'bill of rights' will deter the 'wrong' people from buying (and mistreating) animals?
If this became law, would it mean an end to testing on animals?.
Chris Dunne, Scotland
If you take an animal into your household then you have a responsibility towards it as regards keeping it away from danger and providing suitable food, shelter and medical care. It's a sad fact of life that many people do not have the commonsense or moral urge to do this automatically. If a simple piece of legislation can help prevent unnecessary suffering then it should be put in place without delay. It is not acceptable to use the argument of the morally bankrupt hunting fraternity that, "there are other more important things to worry about". If we took that line on everything then nothing would ever get done and society would not progress.
I can not believe so many people are critical of this idea, all it offers is a few basic standards of comfort for a pet, that's not too much to ask is it? Sure there are problems all around the world that are far weightier, but with a small bit of effort we can make a big difference for pets.
Kaye Davidson, Canada
Look at the Bill of Rights as some kind of minimum standards for pets- after all, they need protection like us humans.
Of course pets should have their own bill of rights. At present, the law doesn't do enough to those who are cruel to animals. Put your dog in the microwave, get a three month suspended sentence. What kind of message does this send out to people? There will always be brainless people who feel strong by torturing animals incapable of defending themselves. In a civilised society the law must be their defence, even though in most cases the law can only help after the offence, rather than preventing it from happening in the first place. Make the sentences as hard as possible. Violence, be it directed at humans or animals, has no place in the modern world.
Those who are kind have nothing to fear. Those who are unkind should be punished.
I don't think pets should have a 'Bill of Rights', I think pet owners should have a 'Bill of Wrongs'.
This bill appears very heavy-handed. There is a minority of people who treat pets badly, but I suspect the bill will not catch them. I also understand that the bill may impact people who keep cats indoors.
What this Bill will do is make people think two or three times before committing to a pet, and it will also allow the authorities and charities like the RSPCA intervene if the animal is suffering in any way. I have reported a neighbour several times to the police and the RSPCA for neglecting their two rabbits, which sit in a tiny hutch day in day out, in all weathers and temperatures, and only rarely get hay and old vegetables thrown in. But the police and RSPCA are powerless to act because they can't prove that the animals are suffering enough to warrant a criminal charge. I now sneak over there most nights to give these poor neglected animals fresh food and water.
As a civilised nation, we should be measured by how well we treat our elderly, our children and our animals. We pretty much seem to fail on most counts.
Sean Fear, UK
I tend to be with Sean Fear, and Caron on this one. Whilst I agree that there are minimum requirements for the care of animals, I'm not sure how this proposed legislation will guarantee it, any more than the existing law about neglect prevents cases of ill-treatment. I live with a cat whose comfort requirements frequently take precedence over my own, and I defy anyone to codify in legalise how I may or may not take care of his interests. Having said that, I would like more legal provision for redress should my pet be hurt or damaged by someone else (especially children or teenagers with fireworks or air rifles).
In a civilised country we should be able to afford a minimum standard of living for all creatures to be able to live their lives. As long as there is proper consultation on what these standards should be. I bet one of them will include a right to be released of suffering.
My God! What next? I used to wonder just what most politicians did when they were not dozing off in the Commons. Now I know. Mulling over crackpot schemes such as this nonsense. Next they will be suggesting an animal helpline which pets can ring if they feel their water needs changing or their walk was not far enough.
Obviously Shaun, Teignmouth, UK has about as much sensitivity on this subject as someone who would subject their pet to some disgraceful suffering. Somethings got to be done to protect them
Children legally cannot be held responsible for their actions, so should we treat them any less, or say that they do not have the same rights as adults? This is basic stuff here. If you take an animal as a pet or even for profit YOU should also take the RESPONSIBILITY for that LIFE, and for the quality of that life. I agree that we are not free from pain, injury or disease, but we are free from any of those being forced upon us and so should animals. If you are not adult enough or responsible enough to look after a pet, don't get one.
Sean from UK. Your surname sums it up mate. I wouldn't want to be a pet in your household.
Joanne Crawshaw, West Yorkshire, England
I wonder if Shaun from Teignmouth actually keeps a pet and how would he care for it if he did? I am an animal lover, but do see reason. Animals have a BASIC right to a minimum standard of living. Just like humans. In the majority, Humans can help themselves. Animals cannot. If we want to keep an animal we should be held responsible for it's welfare. Otherwise what is the point?
I am personally sick of hearing stories of cases of cruelty when it could have been avoided through proper care. Good Luck to the RSPCA.
We project an image that we are one of the major countries at the forefront of the Western world yet we can't even guarantee that our pets will have a minimum standard of living.
The Bill of Rights will only seek to ensure that the RSPCA will have something more to prosecute the minority of society who feel that the they can abuse defenceless creatures and get away with it.
I am sure that people will argue that there are other issues more pressing such as those relating to the care of children, which I don't dispute, but we need to start somewhere.
As Shaun from Teignmouth pointed out, like children, pets can't ring anyone for help, so it is up to the responsible adults of this country to make decisions which relate to welfare instead.
How cranky you lot are! Animals do so much for us. They provide companionship and exercise; they lower blood pressure; they provide benefits to mentally ill and developmentally disabled adults and children; and what do they ask in return? A pat on the head and some kind words! The fact that the RSPCA has reason to exist should tell you all that this bill is a good idea. The day that all animals live with clean water, enough food, and no abuse is the day you should start bitching about this idea.
Let me get this straight: the NHS is crumbling, the trains don't work, the education system is in crisis and in a government minister's own words, Britain is "swamped" by illegal immigrants. So what are the government working on? Equal rights for budgies! Funny, these days I can't find anyone willing to admit voting for New Labour!
Well that's the end of the line for Britain's cat population. Can't keep them indoors because it's 'cruel' to the cat. Can't let them outside because it's massively cruel to the wildlife (and if it not covered by this bill this certainly
should be included in any anti hunting legislation).
Of course our pets deserve to have rights, they give years of love, loyalty and friendship and are more deserving of rights and care than some "humans".
People are making a lot of fuss about vermin infestation and fish farms, but they are not "pets." I believe the law would only apply to animals kept as pets, and it is about time that someone stood up for animals and demanded a minimum legal standard of living for them. Too many animals live in pain, fear, disease, and squalor. It is shameful that the government has discuss requiring these kinds of measures, but it is better than nothing. People who have problems with this sort of legislation should not have pets in the first place.
It shows the true priorities of our Government, persistently refusing a Bill of Rights for us, but wasting time granting that privilege to our pets. What next from our overpaid, underworked overlords - a Bill of Rights for the plants in my garden?
I can't help thinking that this is another ploy allowing vets to supplement their incomes through government legislation. Bearing in mind many pets are rescued, there is an inherent goodness between animals and humans. Whatever the government does, it should not impose costs on owners, otherwise things could get worse.
How many kittens and puppies are put in bags and thrown into canals every day because the owners can't be bothered to look after them? I approve a bill of rights if it'll prevent such cruelty.
Of course pet owners have a 'basic duty of care' towards their pets. Owners make a conscious decision to keep an animal & therefore should be aware and made to take responsibilities for their actions. Pets are not toys to be played with and discarded when their owners have lost interest. They are living, sentient beings who, much of the time, depend on humans for food and shelter (due to our domestication of them in the first place.) To provide adequate food, water and shelter should be a basic requirement.
It is ludicrous to argue that humans do not always have proper access to food and water etc therefore why should animals. It isn't acceptable for humans OR animals to exist in this state. Wanting proper care and responsibilities shown towards animals does not detract from human rights and needs in any way - the two are not mutually exclusive.
Any bill that serves to end the suffering of any creature, whether animal or human, has to be a good thing.
I really don't understand why some people object to this bill! If you've got nothing to worry about you should welcome it. I've seen enough cruelty to the poor things, that it's about time they get the protection they rightly deserve.
The only thing that is need is for the police and the RSPCA to be given more powers to seize and prosecute people who are cruel to animals. As for the tail docking issue, this should be examined carefully without the RSPCA being involved (they are heavily biased).
Instead of wasting money on such a daft scheme (who will police it?) surely it is better to do things that enforce the current animal protection laws. The RSPCA has a devil of a time trying to do what it already does and bringing successful litigation with a worthwhile sentence to the accused, is as rare as politicians being on the ball.
Anything to help prevent cruelty or the mistreatment of animals is a good thing. It's about time that humans realised animals are just as entitled to a decent life than we are. The planet belongs to all creatures, not just humans. How anyone can have a problem with animals being guaranteed a better life is beyond me.
If we spent as much time worrying about the human situation in our country as we do about animal welfare, then we would all be in better situation than we are now. Although I sympathise with animal welfare, I think there are far more important things to be spending our time and money on.
Anything that makes prosecution easier for people that make animals suffer is a good thing. I think if this law were introduced, then it is those people that abuse animals that would be prosecuted, not little old ladies that forgot to feed their cat for a day or two. If you don't abuse your animals then you have nothing to worry about
I'm trying to imagine an NHS attempting responsibility for all creatures great and small. THAT boggles the mind. Or how about London Transport accommodating chickens and pigs? At least the cows of last years cull didn't have to sue for the right to die. Not only are animal rights unethical but absurd.
The majority of cruelty is borne out of ignorance and while the intention of good care may have been evident to begin with, this soon flags when pet owners realise how much they need to spend in order to look after their pets correctly. It is not just wholesome and nourishing food that an animal needs, but exercise, innoculations, neutering to prevent indiscrimate breeding and companionship. After all, that is why most of us pets in the first place.
Animals do not have rights anymore than buildings have rights. In this country we think it is bad for old, beautiful, buildings to be allowed to fall into disrepair and decay, and we have laws that require owners to maintain historic buildings, and planning permission laws that prevent them being destroyed.
Likewise, we can create laws that require animal owners to keep their animals healthy, and to prevent the owner doing certain (cruel, unnecessary) things to them.
Rights are simply not required here. To constantly frame every issue as a matter of someone or something's rights, only devalues the notion.
It is amazing that humans ever evolved. We are the only mammal that goes out of its way to harm others, be it in the name of religion etc; or just because we want to. No amount of legislation will protect animals from cruel humans because like the child protection act, the very ones it will be designed to protect are not in the public domain. No, animals cannot be accountable for their actions, only their owners! Like the 'Dangerous Dogs Act' this is, unfortunately, doomed to failure and/or ridicule.
We already have laws against cruelty to animals. This is simply a snoopers' charter and will provide some fun for those who simply don't like an animal, an owner, or both.
I'm definitely for this Bill in theory, however it is probably unworkable. I think that if people take on the responsibility of a pet then it shouldn't be allowed to be mistreated.
I don't believe this. I had to double check the date to make sure it wasn't April 1st! Rights for animals? Haven't we seen enough with the damage that the Human Rights Bill for humans has done without bringing one in for animals as well! And yes, I do love animals and would never harm them. It's just such a crazy idea to bring in a bill for their rights. What next? Appeal courts for them?
Well considering what happens to animals kept in laboratories, I find that a very strange standard to apply to the treatment of our pets.
Stop animal cruelty now! Feed our pets the decent nutritious food they deserve and not cheap cat and dog food- meat that is seconds to the human food chain and filled with BHA and BHT. Stop the food poisoning that leads to premature cat and dog death.
I can't agree with some of the other people who say this proposal is heavy handed. I myself hail from the Conservative side of the political spectrum and am not a vegetarian, but I see no infringement of liberty or erosion of rights in making sure that our pets and farm animals are treated with care, compassion and respect. How we treat our fellow mammals - capable of feelings and suffering just like ourselves but without a voice to speak up, is a key measure of whether or not we are a civilised society. I challenge any of the people here who've been making a joke of this matter, to go down to their RSPCA centre and look at some poor starved dog or battered and bruised cat and still crack heartless jokes. People who mistreat animals deserve to be charged under the law, this will make it much easier to do so.
To those of you that scoff at this bill, surely you would agree that anyone that takes on a pet (no-matter what animal it is) should then be obliged to provide it with its basic requirements, i.e, food, water and suitable living accommodation. After all, what is the point of them keeping the pet in the first place. If a person is not willing to provide the basic requirements for an animal what on earth are they keeping it for? Maybe sadistic pleasure at seeing an animal suffer!
I think a minimum standard is required for animals. But for god's sake, there are millions of HUMANS dying in the world, can we first look after them!
Hopefully, the fact that most pets will remain ignorant of their civil rights will prevent the courts from becoming overburdened by hapless pet-owners being sued by thirsty gerbils. With this in mind I predict a boom in goldfish sales, simply because it's fairly easy to spot when a goldfish must be thirsty.
While we certainly have a moral responsibility to look after our pets, the sort of loopy legislation being proposed makes the RSPCA look like a bunch of recidivist hippies. It's also likely to lead to a spate of well-intentioned but nervous pet owners dumping the cause of their anxieties out on the street.
This is just a waste of time. Good and caring pet owners will continue to treat their animals responsibly, whilst those who are going to mistreat their animals (whether through cruelty or ignorance) will not be affected by a change in legislation.
It saddens and disappoints me that the government can waste time and effort on such an obviously populist policy such as living standards for Tibbles the cat, when a huge percentage of the world's HUMAN BEINGS live in the most horrendous conditions, mostly due to the intervention (or lack thereof) of countries such as the UK and USA. It would seem that our priorities are all wrong! Another reason why I am ashamed to be British.
Pets are living creatures, that cannot survive by their own in a civilised world. If we want to have them, we must be responsible for caring them. The laws are not created because of good caring owners, but for those who treat their pets irresponsibly. I think will be good idea to protect the animals. I wish my country's government would establish such a good law in México; I can see a lot of cruelty towards pets, which I dislike very much.
Maybe we should get a bill of rights for the citizens first - preferably one that can't be overridden at the whim of the government.
If memory serves this idea was first introduced as an election campaign promise in the 70's by the Monster Raving Loony Party. Now it's up for serious debate. Interesting.
Can we also have a bill of rights for people who do not have pets?
1) The right to have a garden free of cat excrement
2) The right to have footpaths free of dog excrement
3) A limit on the density of cats and dogs living in a particular residential area.
It's about time too. Trying to stop the worst excesses of animal abuse is just about the least crackpot thing a government has done in many a year. I only hope the measures have 'teeth' - pun intended.
It's an interesting idea - but one with a number of inherent problems. The current definition in Law of "cruelty" is "unnecessary suffering", and this raises enough problems. How do you know, objectively, if an animal is suffering - it can't tell you itself, so you have to decide. This is (relatively) easy with dogs and cats - but what about snakes? Or spiders? As if that weren't enough, how do you define the term "unnecessary"? The simple answer is, you can't, without using a circular argument. Bearing in mind the problems with this apparently simple two word legal definition, are we wise, or even sane, to suggest further complications?!
Currently I have been studying about the welfare of animals, particularly in the circus. I think that animals deserve the right to live a free, healthy life. I think that pets should have their own bill of rights. There needs to be more done to protect the rights of animals. After all, they are the next closest thing to us, besides humans.
Yes they should have their own bill of rights. And no, not enough is done for any animal tame or wild. I have four horses, and if they need a vet I don't think twice about getting them out. They are never with out food or water.
Whilst sitting in the garden the other day, it struck me that if the animals we treat so badly were discovered on another planet then they would be treated infinitely better than they are here. And that's the problem - we think we own this planet and can do what we like. Until people appreciate what amazingly complex and wonderful creatures we share this planet with, and treat them accordingly, then some kind of legal recognition of their status is required.
I am very keen on animals being treated well, but I do not agree with a Bill of Rights for one reason - the more you specify in the law, the bigger mess it seems to create. All we need is a catch-all 'not maltreat' and I think that no more cases would be unpunished through that lack of specific detail, than would through the ability to find loopholes etc in more defined law. With law in general, I think that we are causing ourselves too many problems by defining law in too much detail. If we hire judges to judges why don't we make use of their judgement more?
Is this April 1st - Utter lunacy. Two points: 1. If the supporters of nonsense like this devoted some of their time to children's rights and welfare, the NSPCC could reach their aim of ending cruelty to children far quicker than they would otherwise. 2. A legal duty of care would get us nowhere and be a complete waste of time: abusing children is unlawful but countless thousands of children continue to suffer at the hands of malicious adults.
This bill will give pets the same standard of living as lab animals? Many lab animals then go on to get abused and treated inhumanely - something I would hope doesn't happen to most household pets.
I find the whole idea of listing and delineating 'rights'
for anyone rather foolish, but if we're going to grant them to the human species, then it's about time we showed the even-handedness to afford them to other species as well. There's no
valid ethical reason to treat the 'bald, destructive, stupid ape' as anything special.
I am all for this legislation and believe it is long over due but the plight of farm animals used in intensive farming is an example of great suffering which is allowed by law - look at battery hens - what rights have they got?
I agree with the proposed bill - animals should enjoy the same level of comfort and care that we do. I think it is shame that the UK has to resort to having such a bill of rights for animals but then it only a sad reflection of the disgustingly high level of animal cruetly that takes place throughout this country every single day - which needs to stop. The RSPCA perform a tremendous service and long may they continue to do so.
It never ceases to amaze me how loopy we are in this country about animals. Let's worry about ourselves - human beings - first before we embark on lunatic schemes such as this. There is enough pain and suffering of humans in the world to occupy us for ever without having to be concerned about demonstrably unknowable things like how gerbils 'feel' or the 'rights' of a parakeet. Of course deliberate cruelty to animals is wrong, but 99.9% of people aren't cruel to the, What a waste of time when the government should be doing a hundred other things.
What a waste of time and money.
With so much strife in the world can't politicians spend their time and OUR money on helping starving people?
If the bill simply makes it an offence to fail to provide your pet with sufficient food, water and space then how could this be a bad thing. We think we are a nation of animal lovers but organizations such as RSPCA and NCDL say we're kidding ourselves.
What utter tosh! Shouldn't people get a bill of rights first?
Here's a thought: why not? How might the bill affect anyone, except those rare and twisted individuals who do such things? Indeed, judging by the other responses, one might find this even more necessary. The difference between an animal marinading in its own dung, and the jokes posted, is rather wide, is it not?
There are thousands of people living on the streets of Britain with little access to healthcare, food or shelter. Surely this should be given a higher priority than animals.
All over the planet, animals are treated terribly by humans, so any move to help their plight is a good one.
I think this is a good idea. Anything that helps to prevent animal cruelty is important.
Pets should have their own bill of rights. They can't defend themselves and they silently suffer - it's up to us to help protect them from evil people.
Why shouldn't animals have a charter of their own? Far to many people take on the responsibility of having a pet without having a clue what it entails or have the willingness to fulfil the needs of keeping a living being. I do NOT think that it is the same as giving "human" rights to the animals it is just recognising the (very basic) needs that the animals have. It is also imperative that a minimum age is introduced for children to buy animals, a young child cannot be expected to know how they are supposed to look after an animal properly or understand its needs, let alone have the money etc. to find when the animal in question gets ill and needs veterinary attention.
Another thing that is desparately needed is some sort of licencing of pet-shops etc. to make sure that only animals that are fit to be sold over the counter are sold. (having myself bought a kitten that had been weaned before being able to eat solids I was lucky enough to be an experienced cat person and hence was able to take the necessary steps to ensure that he got what he needed. Could a child be expected to know/do this? He was on offer in a pet shop and anyone with £8 in their pocket could have bought him.)
If pets get a bill of rights, will I be able to sue the local cats for fouling my garden and killing the local bird population? After all, surely with rights come responsibilities.
Hmmm....Could prove a difficult one to police - one man's big enough hamster cage is another's far-too-small-one. However, the amount of wilful neglect inflicted on pets and livestock every day is horrendous - I know of a horse that had to be destroyed at the weekend due to the owners neglect and ignorance. Too many people do take on pets they have no hope of being able to care for properly and anything which makes them think twice - and helps the RSPCA to prosecute - can only be for the good. Snimals cannot be held accountable for their actions - but we should be.
29 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Pets may get 'Bill of Rights'
15 Apr 02 | Wales
Cat 'epidemic' campaign takes to road
30 Jan 02 | Wales
Loophole warning over dangerous pets
Other Talking Points:
Links to more Talking Point stories
|^^ Back to top
News Front Page | World | UK | UK Politics | Business | Sci/Tech | Health | Education | Entertainment | Talking Point | In Depth | AudioVideo
To BBC Sport>> | To BBC Weather>>
© MMIII | News Sources | Privacy