According to Glenn Blain of dailynews.com, a 2011 story about a woman selling kittens with body piercings (referred to in the ad as “gothic kittens”), got animal advocate Linda Rosenthal all stirred up. So stirred up, in fact, that this New York Assemblywoman authored and introduced a bill outlawing the tattooing or piercing of pets.
Blain reports, interest in Ms. Rosenthal’s bill accelerated earlier in 2014 in response to an Instagram posting. The photo, by Brooklyn tattoo artist Mistah Metro, featured his dog bearing a large, fresh, over-the-shoulder tattoo. The Instagram caption stated, “One of the many reasons my dog is cooler than yours! She had her spleen removed today and the veterinarian let me tattoo her while she was under.”
Blain further reports, thanks to Linda Rosenthal’s efforts (and Mr. Metro’s desire to strut his stuff), this story has a happy ending. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation that bans tattooing or piercing of pets in his state. Cuomo stated, “This is animal abuse, pure and simple. I’m proud to sign this common-sense legislation and outlaw these cruel and unacceptable practices once and for all in New York.”
Animal advocacy track record
Linda Rosenthal’s anti-tattoo/anti-piercing legislation is not her first foray into the animal advocacy arena. She’s authored multiple animal protection bills that you can view on the New York Stat Assembly website. Some of the bills relate to:
- Providing for the humane removal of downed animals.
- The sale of birds by pet dealers when such birds have not yet been fully weaned.
- Allocate funding for the New York City animal population control fund.
- Acts of animal cruelty in the presence of a child.
- Create a task force to study how to improve investigations of animal abuse and enforcement of anti-animal abuse laws.
- Include wildlife animals as those subject to the animal cruelty laws.
The list goes on and on! If I didn’t love where I live so much, I might just move to New York, thanks to Linda Rosenthal!
This veterinarian’s perspective
I was delighted to learn that tattooing and piercing of pets in New York have been banned. I have zero tolerance for performing procedures on pets that serve no purpose other than “cosmetic enhancement.” The animal derives no benefit from the forced change in appearance, but is certainly subject to complications such as pain, infection, and scarring that can be associated with such procedures.
By the way, tattooing animals is medically warranted in some cases for tracking ownership or making neutering status known. Such tattoos are exempt from New York’s recently signed legislation. To my knowledge, purposeful piercing is never medically warranted in the world of small animal medicine.
In summary, I say, way to go New York! Let’s hope your new legislation will be contagious around the country.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
All dogs and cats born after 10 April 2009 must be microchipped before they are sold or given away. All regulated dogs must be microchipped regardless of when they were born.
Microchips may be implanted only by a vet or other authorised implanter. When your animal is implanted with a microchip, the implanter must provide the microchip's unique number, the animal's information and your contact details to a licensed registry service. It is your responsibility to make sure these records are kept up to date.
When the microchip is read or scanned (harmless to animals) it shows the microchip number which is linked to information about the animal, including its owner and the owner's contact details. This information is important if your animal is lost or impounded.
For more information on microchipping, contact your:
Once a microchip has been implanted it can be removed only by a veterinary surgeon and only if it's in the animal's best interests.
A no-pets policy is an included clause in a landlord’s lease agreement with a tenant. This clause makes it clear that a tenant is not allowed to have any type of pet, such as a dog or a cat, in the rental property. If the tenant violates this clause, he or she could face eviction for violating the terms of the lease agreement.
Some landlords have a pet policy clause that allows certain animals but restricts others. A tenant may be allowed to have a cat, but not a dog, or can have a dog as long as it is not on their insurance company’s list of dangerous dog breeds.
Q&A: Pets Are Becoming People, Legally Speaking
Cats and dogs are gaining more rights, reports author David Grimm.
We love our pets. About 90 percent of owners consider their pets part of the family. More than 80 percent of us would likely risk our lives for them. Last year, we spent $55 billion on the animals that share our lives.
This is all fairly new. Dog and cat ownership has quadrupled since the 1960s, and our pet expenditures have more than doubled since 2000. As more and more cats and dogs (150 million in the United States) have licked and purred their way into our lives, they've also worked their way into the legal system. Pets have become the subject of legislation and court battles, and in some cases even have their own legal representation.
"As pets have become family in our homes," writes David Grimm in his eye-opening new book, Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs, "they've also become family in the eyes of the law."
National Geographic talked to Grimm about whether pets are property or (legally) people, and about what their evolving status means for the animals and for the humans who love them.
I have a dog and a cat. What legal rights do they have?
The last couple of decades, there have been a lot of laws that target cats and dogs specifically and give them what a lot of lawyers would consider rights, whether it's the right to be free of cruelty, the right to be rescued from a natural disaster, or the right to have their interests be considered in a courtroom.
It's still the case that cats and dogs are considered property. Technically, in the eyes of the law, they are no different from a couch or a car. But there have been a lot of legal changes that have really blurred that line between animal and person, and between property and person, especially when it comes to cats and dogs.
In custody cases, judges have started talking about the best interests of the cat and which home it would be better in, which you would never do for a couch or a lamp. If a cat or a dog is killed, owners are starting to be able to sue for mental suffering and loss of companionship, which traditionally have applied only to spouses and children. You are really seeing this revolution taking place in the legal system as well as in our homes.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is fighting the idea of legal personhood for pets. Why are they against it?
Veterinarians have realized that it's to their benefit for us to treat our pets like children. If you treat your cat like a toaster, there's no way you are going to spend $500 at a vet. If you treat your cat like a member of the family, you'll spend thousands of dollars on chemotherapy for your cat.
Vets have built a career on this sentimental relationship. They are the third most respected profession in the country, right behind doctors and nurses, because people have such intimate relationships with their vets.
However, veterinary organizations like the AVMA have drawn the line when it comes to treating pets like people in eyes of the law. They worry that, "Oh, my God, if this person considers their cat or dog a person, if I make a mistake they could sue me for vet malpractice. I could be sued for tens of thousands of dollars for an animal that's only worth 50 bucks."
The veterinarians are in a very tricky situation. They benefit when we consider our pets members of the family, but they are also starting to see the other side of that, too. When we view our pets like children, we sue like they are children when things go wrong.
Why, after thousands of years of domestication, are cats and dogs only now becoming part of the family?
I think it's really the confluence of a lot of factors. First of all, you have the disappearance of all other animals from our daily lives. At the turn of the 20th century, animals were still ubiquitous, horses were everywhere, pigs roamed the street. Those animals have all disappeared.
Also, we used to live with a lot of people in our houses—grandparents and parents and cousins. Now you have a lot of people living just as couples without kids, you have empty nesters, you have huge divorce rates, people living by themselves. There's a real emptiness in our homes that cats and dogs have filled. This isn't fringe behavior to treat a pet like a member of the family. It's not the crazy cat lady or the crazy dog person. It's society.
Some people you spoke with warned that giving legal rights to pets undermines what it means to be human.
One of the people I talked to was a Pepperdine University law professor named Richard Cupp. He's actually a big animal person—he has dogs that he considers members of the family—but he is very concerned about this idea of granting pets rights and considering them people in the eyes of the law.
His idea, which is shared by a number of legal advocates, is that humans are unique. Only we can have rights because rights imply responsibility and an understanding of how society works and how the law works. All of human civilization is built on us not only understanding our own rights but also understanding the rights of others. Giving animals rights completely shatters this: Not only are they not human, but we have no idea that they can even comprehend this status and these rights that we've given them.
If pets get legal rights, do owners lose some of their own rights?
That's something that the AVMA has brought up as a counterargument. If your cat was a legal person, and your neighbor thought you weren't treating your cat well—you weren't feeding the cat enough or you weren't springing for that $5,000 chemotherapy—your neighbor or something like a pet protective services could step in and take that animal way, just like if you mistreated a child.
Or some people might say, "Look, pets are people so we can't spay or neuter them if it's against their will. And we can't buy or sell them." As farfetched as some of this stuff may sound, we're on this dramatic trajectory, and it's really unclear where we're going. There are a lot of unintended consequences to treating pets as people.
What do you think of the comparison between the animal rights movement and civil rights?
It's a very touchy subject. On the one hand, you obviously don't want to compare the journey of animals to the journey of blacks because a lot of people would be offended—and rightly so—by that comparison. On the other hand, these animal rights and animal law advocates need some sort of road map. When you look at the journey of pets, pets went from being wild animals to being co-opted by human society to being turned into property. Now some people are trying to fight to turn them into people.
That's exactly the same journey that blacks were on. When blacks were in Africa, a lot of white culture considered them wild animals they were abducted and brought into society, and for centuries they were considered property. They could be bought, sold, and abused really without repercussion. Then you had the rise of the abolitionists who helped turn them from property to people. Animal advocates see that as an instructive road map.
But Africans were always people, and dogs are never people.
That's what critics say. We may have pretended for a while that blacks weren't people, but they were always people. Critics shoot back at the animal activists and say these animals are not people. You can pretend as much as you want that a dog or cat is a child or a person, but basic biology tells us that these are not human beings.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Should you have the right to euthanize your own pet?
Legally, you’re allowed to euthanize your pet through a licensed veterinarian in every state. In some states, laws even permit a non-veterinarian putting an animal to sleep, though these euthanasia techs are normally required to undergo training. For the purpose of “emergency” euthanasia, several states allow animal control agents, law enforcement officers and veterinarians to shoot or put down a dangerous, injured or sick dog that is beyond saving.
But as the saying goes, just because something’s legal doesn’t make it right. What really bothers most people about a pet owner’s ability to “play God” is that there’s no guarantee of a person’s motivation. You can only hope a pet owner has a dog’s best interest in mind when he or she chooses to end its life.
Just this year, a Phoenix dad was arrested for taking the law into his own hands and shooting the family dog that attacked his 4-year-old daughter — instead of contacting the authorities to have the dog destroyed. A California man killed a neighbor’s pit bull for killing his dachshund — another perfect example where authorities could have intervened. Even in my own family, two family members chose to put down their “aggressive” breed dogs instead of re-homing them because they didn’t think another pet owner could handle them. This is the kind of heartless pet ownership I’m talking about, where a dog is put down for all the wrong reasons.
More:10 Deadly dog illnesses every pet owner should know
It’s culturally acceptable to put a dog down if you’re putting it out of its misery. “I think when a pet has reached the end stage of life, it is our responsibility to end its suffering,” says pet psychic Terri Jay.
Chris Mitchell, director of Animal Shelter, adds, “Pet owners should have the right to put down an animal when there is just cause. Animals should not have to live in pain as people do. Euthanization is sometimes the best course of action. Pets do not speak a language which we are fully able to understand, but we do understand pain through subtle hints.”
So we know that plenty of dogs are euthanized in this gentle process of putting a sick animal “to sleep.” But what about the pets people don’t want? PETA tells us that approximately 3 to 4 million cats and dogs, many young and healthy, are euthanized by animal shelters each year. What about the dangerous dogs known to attack? The Euthanize Dangerous Dogs Facebook community advocates putting down aggressive breeds, like pit bulls, that have viciously attacked children.
Clearly, there’s much more to this decision than simple legality. Pet owners aren’t the only ones who get a say in ending a dog’s life. Dr. Judy Morgan, holistic veterinarian, says, “Pet owners do have the right to make the decision of when they think is the right time to euthanize their pet however, veterinarians have the right to say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ For instance, when someone brings the pet for euthanasia because it is not house broken, or they just don’t want a dog any more, I will say no. Particularly if the owner has not done due diligence to train the dog or find another home for the pet. I am pro-life for pets, unless the pet is suffering and the suffering cannot reasonably be relieved.”
I’m all for pet owners having the right to protect their dogs from unneeded suffering, but I am wary of giving every pet owner the permission to end his or her pet’s life for any reason he or she chooses. In a perfect world, pet owners would only euthanize after considering every option and coming to a difficult decision. Back here in the real world, millions of dogs are dying each year because pet owners don’t know how or don’t want to deal with them.
Dr. Morgan provides a simple solution: Let’s keep pet euthanasia legal, but let’s make it harder to euthanize a pet. “I think if we make euthanasia easy, it will become an easy solution for a lot of people. Many pets are destroyed at shelters all over the country every day. People have come to think of pets as disposable,” she says.