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Rhode Island May Provide Advocates for Animals in Court Cases

Rhode Island May Provide Advocates for Animals in Court Cases

U.S. laws don’t do a very good job of protecting animals. Few laws provide real safeguards, but even those that do are difficult to enforce for two reasons: first, animals cannot bring cases to court on their own, and second, humans can’t do it for them because, with a few exceptions, we are allowed to sue only on our own behalf, not as stand-ins for others. (Courts have ruled that people can’t serve as attorneys to animals and, in most cases, don’t have an independent interest in an animal’s welfare that would allow them to sue on their own behalf to help the animal.)

The Rhode Island Senate is working to change that. It recently voted to permit the designation of an advocate who may speak for an animal whose welfare is at stake in court, according to

The concept is similar to how courts currently protect children in custody cases. A court will appoint a guardian ad litem, or advocate, to look out for the children’s best interests, while each parent looks out for her- or himself.

Cheryl Hanna of The Examiner reports that if the Rhode Island bill becomes law, court advocates will be available for animals in “abuse, cruelty, or neglect cases.” Hanna also writes that state veterinarians and representatives from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals would be eligible to serve as advocates.

This bill would be a major step forward for animals in Rhode Island. Currently courts treat them as objects, with no more self-interest or value than a chair. Under this law, the court would take into account animals’ own, independent interests, such as their interest in being removed from people who abuse them.

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8:55PM PDT on Oct 15, 2012


1:34PM PDT on Oct 1, 2012

I hope this passes and is is the start of all states doing the same thing.

7:25PM PDT on Jun 26, 2012

Thank you Rhode Island. When this bill becomes law, I'll happily book a vacation in Rhode Island with my fur kids in support of this wonderfully progressive view of animals.

9:52AM PDT on Jun 24, 2012

Grande Rhode Island.

9:51AM PDT on Jun 24, 2012

Grande Rhode Island.

1:59PM PDT on Jun 23, 2012

Rhode Island, Thanks for being a forerunner in this issue. Animals need someone to be their voice and to be heard.

3:47AM PDT on Jun 23, 2012

Most laws say animals, especially dogs, cats or any companion animal are "Personal Property" not a living, breathing being with emotions not too far from our own... They feel pain, they also feel emotional pain; they grieve for the loss of another animal or their human parent...

So let's hope this is a sign of hope and not some advocates just role playing without doing a damn bit of good, say like the Courts have them under their judicial thumbs as they do with public defenders, in my opinion...

Where was the real justice for Tony in Arizona or Lennox? None because Court Official had already decided their fates because of biased opinions, in my opinion, due to their breeds...

12:30PM PDT on May 29, 2012

Thank you, Rhode Island. Someone needs to take the lead on this issue.

3:49AM PDT on May 26, 2012

good news thanks for sharing :)

12:15AM PDT on May 21, 2012

I commend you Rhode Island!! Hope the law passes and that the rest of the U.S.A. follows suit. I sure hope that Canada does too!! Then we can move on to "pressure" the rest of the world!! After all, look what humans have accomplished: putting a man on the moon 40+ ywars ago......., but we have not yet done what is needed to protect our loyal, 4-legged companions and best friends!!

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