Desktop version

Home arrow Environment arrow Pets and People: The Ethics of Our Relationships with Companion Animals

Rights to Residency and Mobility

Animal citizens are guaranteed rights to permanent and stable residency in a safe and comfortable environment and rights to “mobility and sharing of public spaces” (Donaldson and Kymlicka 2011, 123). This means that in no cases should an animal of any species be confined in a kennel, crate, or cage outside of short, temporary periods—during transport, for example. Residency and mobility rights are based on “a very strong presumption against any form of restraint or confinement, except in cases where individuals pose a demonstrable threat to themselves or the basic liberties of others” (129). At present, service dogs are typically confined in kennels for the first eight weeks of their lives, ostensibly to “protect” them from exposure to environmental dangers and diseases (Serpell et al. 2010). This is cruel and unjust treatment and is incompatible with the citizenship model.

The restriction on confinement also translates into “a positive right to sufficient mobility providing access to an adequate range of options needed for a flourishing life” (129). Not only should animals not be confined, but they should also be given ample opportunity to move around freely in ways that are appropriate to them. For example, whether involved in AAI or not, all dogs should be able to go on long off-leash runs and walks on a regular basis. There should be sufficient parks and off-leash zones within urban centers to facilitate access, particularly for people who do not have vehicles. Overall, as members of the social and political community, animals engaged in AAI should not be hidden from the community. They have a right equal to that of human citizens to visibility, to the sharing of public space, and to determining how the public space is designed. At present, most public spaces are designed with human and commercial interests in mind. Cars on city streets and highways plow through animal habitat, causing scores of violent deaths on a daily basis. For dogs, cats, and other domesticated animal citizens, not to mention liminal and wild animals, living in proximity to humans carries enormous risks. Constitutive of enabling animals’ agency and promoting their subjective good is providing safe public spaces for animals to “do their thing” without risk of injury and death.

Finally, under the citizenship model, animals involved in AAI must be guaranteed residency and mobility rights, as well as duties of protection, medical care, and so on, after they are no longer willing or able to participate. Humans owe to them a lifelong commitment to providing a safe, comfortable, and peaceful environment for them to live and grow as individuals before, during, and after their participation in AAI. This means animals cannot be abandoned, neglected, or killed when their work tenure is up and that their special needs must be attended to when they reach old age or develop illnesses. Like humans, they must be guaranteed a secure place in the community and the institutional, financial, medical, and social support a flourishing life at any stage requires. While a dog may have shown an interest in engaging in AAI at one stage in her life, for example, she may lose interest at another stage and should not only be able to discontinue her work in AAI but also be provided full canine retirement benefits.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >

Related topics