Newsletter - Animal Writes sm
29 September 1999 Issue


Animal Rights Online guest speaker on September 26th was Russell Tenofsky who is the Campaign Coordinator for In Defense of Animals in California on "They are not our property, we are not their owners. This campaign is to help society from distancing ourselves from animals and considering them as 'property' or 'commodities' that we can use as we please. The following is in Mr. Tenofsky's own words:

"Thanks so much. Let me give a brief outline of what the "Property" campaign is all about. And then we can discuss IDA's proposal to add the category of "guardian" to SF law. About 2.5 years ago IDA launched the "They Are Not Our Property, We Are Not Their Owners" campaign. Very simply, it's goal is to educate people about the plight of animals due to their status as property. Currently, as most of you know, the property status of animals is root cause for much of their abuse, torture and oppression. Our ultimate goal, as is the goal of every animal rights and protection organization, is to elevate the status of animals beyond that of property and have society and our legal system recognize them as individuals with needs and interests of their own. Similar to past liberation movements, once animals shed their status as property, then, and only then, will they start to receive rights.

That's the basis of the "Property" campaign. More specifically, IDA has recently introduced proposal to add the category of "guardian" to existing SF laws. Although this would not change the legal status of animals as property, it would recognize another relationship between humans and animals. One in which animals are viewed and treated as something more than mere commodities to be bought, sold and discarded at an "owners" whim. The proposal has passed through the SF Commission of Animal Control and Welfare, and the City's attorney is currently drafting new language. Hopefully this new language will be the blueprint for communities around the country and world. Hopefully this is enough basic background, but I can certainly explain further if needed.

Q: Thank you, could you explain further how this won't effect "ownership" in court?

A: The new category of guardian will have the same legal rights, responsibilities and liabilities as an "owner." The difference being a guardian made the ethical decision to adopt or rescue an animal instead of purchasing a commodity.

Q: Is guardianship like canine companions?

A: I don't know what you mean by "canine companion." A guardian is/would be someone who does purchase an animal and sees companion animals as something more than a commodity.

Q: Will it effect "purchasing" an animal?

A: IDA vehemently advocates adopting and rescuing. Both as a way to reduce the number of animals bred and killed in shelters and also because we do not believe in purchasing living beings. This is a little area of contention. However, I believe that one has purchased an animal and now wants to be considered that animals "guardian" then there is not a problem as long as the person understands the difference between viewing and treating animals as individuals and as commodities.

Q: So do you agree or disagree with people "owning" animals?

A: I do not agree with "owning," buying or selling any living beings.

Q: Where can someone find your website if they want to learn more about this campaign?

A: IDA's website is

Q: Russell, would guardianship eventually work into preventing sales of animals?

A: It would take quite a major change for our society to stop selling and buying animals. However, it is the goal of every animal rights and protection organization to end the buying and selling of animals. Just like past liberation movements, it wasn't until the oppressed had their status elevated beyond that of property, that they started to receive rights. Millions of animals are oppressed, beaten, abused and oppressed at the hands of "owners," people who bought them.

Q: Russell, will guardianship vs. ownership effect rights to spay/neuter?

A: No it will not effect spay/neuter. In fact, people who view and treat animals as a guardian would, are more likely to spay/neuter to help reduce the number of animals being bred and being killed in shelters.

Q: Russell, are there people standing in the way of this passing?

A: The proposal has passed through the SF Commission of Animal Control and Welfare, the advisory committee for the SF Board of Supervisors. It passed by a vote of 5-1. But of course, people are very concerned, which is why we have received media coverage from as far away as Japan.

Q: Russell, is the SF/SPCA backing this too?

A: The SF SPCA was one of the first organizations to endorse the "Property" campaign. However, that was when Richard Avanzino was president (he has since left). IDA has a meeting next week with the new president.

We are literally trying to create a new social ethic...very similar to past liberation movements. By planting the seeds, we can help to sway people's minds. Maybe not today, but down the line. It may sound cheesy, but many new social concepts have taken off from California, and especially San Francisco. There are numerous examples how concepts have been introduced here, made fun of by society and then, gradually, taken hold of and accepted by the rest of our society.

If people would like further info, I can be reached at [email protected] We do not have new language as of yet, but it will be available through when it's written. IDA's address is 131 Camino Alto, Suite E Mill Valley, CA 94941

Or you can email IDA at [email protected]
and and Russell Tenofsky at [email protected]

One last thing, we are also rewriting the language for Marin County, CA. This is currently also with the attorneys.

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