IDA: Write a Letter to the L.A. Times In Support of Guardian Language

April 4th, 2007 4:36 pm by Kelly Garbato

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: In Defense of Animals – takeaction [at]
Date: Apr 3, 2007 11:08 PM
Subject: Write a Letter to the L.A. Times In Support of Guardian Language

On March 30th, the Los Angeles Times published a story about the recent Menu Foods “pet” food recall that has so far killed dozens of dogs and cats across the U.S. The article discussed how the deaths have prompted states to consider whether or not animal companions should be considered mere property under the law, and whether people should be able sue for emotional damages. Part of this debate concerns the language we use to describe people who have animal companions: that is, whether they should be defined as “owners” or “guardians” of the living beings in their care.

While the article raises this important issue for readers to consider, it fails to clarify the fact that IDA’s Guardian Campaign does not concern the question of animals’ legal status or their monetary worth in the eyes of the law, but rather the way we, as individuals and a society, regard our animal companions. Since 2000, 14 cities, two counties, and the entire state of Rhode Island have adopted guardian language. In that time, there has not been a single lawsuit or legal problem with the term, because these communities clearly stipulate in the wording of their ordinances that referring to people as “guardians” instead of “owners” has no bearing on animal companions’ legal standing.

Animals have thoughts, feelings, and experiences that give their lives inherent value. In addition, the emotional bonds we share with our animal companions make these interspecies relationships deeply meaningful for us and them. Dogs, cats, and other animal companions are living beings whose health, welfare, and lives we are responsible for. By using “guardian” language, we send a clear message that they have interests and needs of their own, and therefore cannot be “owned” like a car, TV, or other inanimate material possession any more than one could own a human being.

Guardian language reflects a change in society’s view of animals — a deepening appreciation of them as our friends and family members, and a greater concern for their welfare. A study commissioned by IDA showed that people who consider themselves “guardians” are more likely than self-defined “owners” to adopt rather than buy animals, have animal companions spayed and neutered, and generally provide their animals with more affection and better care. While opponents argue that guardian language will increase lawsuits against veterinarians, “pet” food manufacturers, and other businesses, they ignore the disrespect and abuse that the concept of animal “ownership” condones.

1) Write a letter to the editor of the Los Angeles Times to explain that calling people “guardians” instead of “owners” does not change animal companions’ status under the law, but is rather a way of aligning our language with the way people actually see their animals. Click here to submit your letter. Be sure to follow the paper’s instructions regarding your contact information and wordcount.

2) Get involved in IDA’s Guardian Campaign. If you would like to spearhead an effort to make your community a Guardian City, or simply distribute educational materials as part of your tabling or outreach efforts, please contact IDA President Dr. Elliot M. Katz at (415) 388-9641, ext. 225.

If you received this message from a friend, you can sign up for In Defense of Animals Action Center.

In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization with more than 85,000 members and supporters dedicated to ending the abuse and exploitation of animals by protecting their rights and welfare. IDA’s efforts include educational events, cruelty investigations, boycotts, grassroots activism, and hands-on rescue through our sanctuaries in Mississippi and Cameroon, Africa.

In Defense of Animals 3010 Kerner Blvd., San Rafael, California 94901 – P: (415) 388-9641 F: (415) 388-0388

email: ida [at]



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