In law, pets are generally seen as property with limited legal rights of their owners. This allows owners agency over what is in the best interest of the animal. This is a problem when it comes to the interpretation of Anticruelty laws, as they allow owners to get off without punishment for physical or cosmetic modification of their pets which might not necessarily be in the best interest of the animal, such as ear cropping. This also allows owners to lay off pets for being “too rowdy” to veterinarians or to get them euthanized. This puts minimal responsibility on owners of the provision of basic necessities and nothing more, such as food and water. Even in cases where Anticruelty applies, the interpretation has been made to create exceptions for industries where cruel practices are socially acceptable, such as agribusiness, poultry or scientific research on animals, which include starvation of animals as it is interpreted as necessary and justifiable.
The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and the Humane Slaughter Act provide limited protection to these animals and create balance between animal harm and human need.This is to regulate humane treatment and minimizing pain to animals and encourages alternative ways than animal use but allows for use in experiments where this is a research component. This is only protection in cases of slaughter which in the case of poultry does not save animals from pain or harm. Animals in suffering are finding a hard time to find their voice in courts. With the recent examples of (Citizens to End Animal Suffering and Exploitation, Inc. v. New England Aquarium) where researchers were unsuccessfully litigated against on behalf of Kama the dolphin.
Though there is hope, many animal rights groups have started working to change the legal term from “owner” to “guardian”, which although does not affect the status of animals within law, it is one way to change the way society sees these animals and to create more empathy in the way we deal with them. Groups fighting based on similar genetics of humans and apes are also making breakthrough in making sure research does not come at the expense of animals enduring undue pain.
Animals need to be seen as more than just property, as companions without emotional connections but the current laws disallow such an interpretation and groups around the world are trying to change the way law sees animals and humans such as in the case in Gluckman v. American Airlines.