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Duties of Protection and Medical Care

As citizens, domesticated animals are also owed “duties of protection.” This means that humans must protect them from “harm from human beings, harm from other animals, and more generally harm from accidents or natural disasters” (Donaldson and Kymlicka 2011, 132). Crucially, in a citizenship framework, these duties are not merely ethical ones, but political ones with legal weight. Harms to animals should be deemed criminal acts, while positive duties should be upheld (132). In the context of AAI, these duties of protection from harm must be met in several ways. Animal participants of AAI should be protected by labor laws that stipulate that they must be provided with opportunities for rest, food, water, and play (140). Jason Hribal puts it especially delicately: “[T ]he next time you cross paths with a service dog, your perspective should be turned upside-down. Don’t glance from above: ‘Wow, look at that beautiful, well-trained dog!’ But instead, question [from] below: ‘Hey! does that dog ever get a fuckin’ day off ?” (2006). We should not only ask this question of service dogs, but of all dogs (or other animals) providing AAI services.

All animal co-therapists should also be protected from harm from both clients and therapists, who are both often ill-equipped to attend to the animal’s needs. Alison Hatch (2007) recounts one story of a client in a residential center hitting a shelter dog in the face. The volunteer recounts, “I had a dog in my arms, and I brought it closer to this one person who I thought seemed to want to see the dog, and that person just swatted the dog in the nose!” (43). In this case, there appears to have been malicious intent on the part of the client who invited the dog into her/his personal space only to cause harm to the dog. Any client who behaved in this way would have to be removed from the program and/or provided with empathy training or other forms of guidance on how to engage with animals respectfully. As noted above, many volunteers and practitioners are ill- equipped to work with animals and must also be provided with proper education and socialization to prevent them from mistreating animals. Finally, citizenship also entitles animals to medical care and other forms of institutional, social, and financial support accorded (at least in theory) to human citizens (142).

We can imagine how these citizenship rights could be upheld in the context of a program like PAWS (Pets Are Wonderful Support) (2016) in San Francisco, which is devoted to providing this kind of support for a variety of vulnerable human beings, including “people with disabling HIV/AIDS, other disabling illnesses, and seniors 60 and older.” PAWS makes it possible for vulnerable people to share their lives with companion animals without having to compromise the animals’ wellbeing as a result of financial difficulties, mobility and health issues, and so on. The services PAWS provides include offering a pet food bank, providing and funding veterinary care, and providing in-home care such as cat care, dog walking, transportation, emergency foster care (for example, if someone passes away or feels they can no longer live with an animal), and grooming (PAWS 2016). Under a citizenship model, though, it would be important that organizations like PAWS monitor more than just the basic physical health of the animals. They would have to make sure that the animals’ subjective good was being promoted and that their agency was being enabled. If, for example, a dog or cat was well fed and healthy, but otherwise depressed, a care worker would have to figure out why this was occurring and take measures to alleviate it. If the dog or cat was expressing a desire to live elsewhere, have more space, have more toys, and so forth, the care worker would have to meet these demands.

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