When the State Takes our CompanionsPosted by Carter Dillard, ALDF's Director of Litigation on November 15, 2010
This week ALDF filed an amicus curiae brief in Washington state’s Supreme Court, arguing that the court should hear the appeal of Arnold Sather, whose dog was found to be dangerous and impounded by the City of Spokane. The case revolves around the question of what due process a city owes the guardian of a companion animal when the state accuses that animal of being a threat to society.
If our constitutions exist to protect us from the state, and to ensure that the state does not imprison us without trial, or take our homes without some compensation, what does the state owe us before it takes, impounds and kills our closest companions? One of the many reminders that our society has a cavemanishly regressive view of non-human animals is that in many places, like Spokane, governments offer citizens very little protection – much less than if it were placing its citizen in jail for a short while, or seizing even a small portion of its citizens property.
Of course that makes no sense. We value our companions because we love them, and many of us would rather spend a night in jail, or allow the public to use part of our property, than lose them. There are unfeeling members of our society that can’t empathize with animals, that only value an animal for the work it can do or the food it can provide. It’s that sort of thinking that has robbed Mr. Sather and his companion of the protections they deserve. But just as the development of constitutions themselves represents progress, from a time before them when, for example, women or minorities had no rights, constitutions have evolved to respect our love of non-human animals. In the months to come ALDF hopes to argue that point, and specifically that they offer Mr. Sather and his companion the protections they deserve and much more than they received.