The Oregon Supreme Court has passed a ruling that recognizes animals as more than property, to be treated (or mistreated) as their owners see fit. The ruling establishes that animals can be regarded as legal victims, which should afford them greater protection from abuse.
Photo Credit: georgehawkins via flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0
The ruling was made on the case of a man who was convicted of starving 20 horses and goats on his property. The judge's decision allotted a separate count of second-degree animal neglect for each animal, noting that each animal was a separate victim on his own.
The distinction might sound obvious — but it wasn't legally accepted at the time that Arnold Nix, the defendant, was first convicted in 2009. During his case, Nix argued that the law defines animals as the property of their owners, so the word "victim" shouldn't apply to them. As of this month's hearing, the word "victim" does apply.
"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. And the ruling could lead to longer prison sentences for those convicted of animal abuse in the state.