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6 Animal L. 179 (2000)
Animal Custody Disputes: A Growing Crack in the Legal Thinghood of Nonhuman Animals

handle is hein.journals/anim6 and id is 187 raw text is: ESSAYS
ANIMAL CUSTODY DISPUTES:
A GROWING CRACK IN THE LEGAL THINGHOOD
OF NONHUMAN ANIMALS
By
BARBARA NEWELL*
Despite the traditional view of animals as mere chattels, courts are increas-
ingly viewing animals as more than things, recognizing the intrinsic value
of animal companions. With the help of organizations such as the Animal
Legal Defense Fund, case law, local ordinances, and popular attitudes are
changing, reflecting the understanding that animals have the capacity to
live full mental and emotional lives. This essay tracks these changes, argu-
ing that the time has come to recognize a different legal status for compan-
ion animals.
I. INTRODUCTION
One of the greatest obstacles to safety and justice for nonhuman
animals in this country has been the common law's traditional view
that animals are things.1 Although criminal laws may recognize non-
human animals' sentience by prohibiting cruel acts against them, civil
law has regularly treated them as mere chattels, just like lampshades,
to be obtained, used, and disposed of at will. Increasingly, however,
courts are viewing animals as more than things.
As part of a comprehensive effort to encourage courts to acknowl-
edge animals as something other than things, the Animal Legal De-
fense Fund (ALDF) has been filing amicus curiae briefs in companion
animal custody disputes. These lawsuits primarily arise when couples
* StaffAttorney, Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF); responsible for the Great Ape
Legal Project, a joint undertaldng of ALDF and the Great Ape Project to develop legal
rights for nonhuman great apes, and for other ALDF efforts to obtain direct and appro-
priate treatment of nonhuman animals' interests under the law.
1 Steven M. Wise, The Legal Thinghood of Nonhuman Animals, 23 B.C. E,,v'ri.
AFF. L. REV. 471, 473 n.11 (1996).

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