I disagree with your May 16 editorial, “Our View: Dogs shouldn’t get their day in court” (Page A6), inspired by a case before the Maine Law Court involving disposition of a dog after a couple ceased living together.

As mentioned in your editorial, Alaska, Illinois and California have already passed laws allowing judges to decide the ownership of a dog by taking in consideration “the well-being of the companion animal” or the “care of the pet animal.”

To do this a judge does not need to determine with whom a dog wishes to live. (Every day, judges make decisions on the best interest of infants and severely impaired adults without considering their wishes.)

The existing property law, treating beloved companions like things, will not “do for now.” In a recent survey, only 1 percent of Americans consider their pets to be mere personal property. This disconnect between the law and public thinking is serious. Our society is built on belief in the law and voluntary compliance. It’s time for the courts and/or Legislature to act.

I also disagree that judges are overwhelmed and can’t address philosophical questions and the nature of consciousness. Maine’s judges are well educated, and Maine court cases have decreased significantly in the last two decades. (In 2003 there were 281,363 court cases compared to 198,790 in 2018.)

As for your fear that cows will sue under the state’s wage-and-hour statute and deer will demand a shorter hunting season, I get the slippery slope argument and the humor.

However, animal law is not a joke. Animal law is taught in almost every American law school and such courses only skim the vast body of law pertaining to animals. And of course, animal law will continue to evolve, just like every other body of law.

Beth Gallie

attorney and president, Maine Animal Coalition

South Portland


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