An August 28 article on Care2 by Susan Bird, entitiled, “Yes, Animals Can Be Individual Victims of Crime, Says Oregon Supreme Court” reports on two Oregon Supreme Court Decisions:
In the case State v. Nix, a defendant charged with starving 20 goats and horses was found guilty in the trial court of only one count of second degree animal neglect, based on the theory that individual animals cannot be victims of a crime, and that the only victim was the state.
This ruling was overturned on appeal, with the appeals court finding, on August 7, that animals can indeed be individual victims of a crime. The defendant was guilty of 20 criminal counts, not just one.
In 2013, the Animal Legal Defense Fund had helped to draft Oregon legislation stating that “animals are sentient beings capable of experiencing pain, stress and fear.” This was referred to in the Oregon Supreme Court’s decision which upheld the ruling of the Appeals Court. This Oregon Supreme Court finding is being seen as a sign of the evolving legal status of animals, away from being perceived solely as property, towards legal recognition of animals as individual, sentient beings.
In a second court case, Fessenden/Dicke, a police officer, with experience in animal cruelty cases, was found to have acted within the law, while seizing a dying horse believed to be the victim of cruelty, without a warrant. The Court applied the ruling specifically to this case, but left open the door to similar findings in the future.
These court cases are significant because they lead to a time when animals will be protected by law as individual legal persons, with rights, rather than solely as the property of human beings.
To read the original article in Care 2, click here.
To read the article on the same topics on the Animal Legal Defense Fund website, click here.
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