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4 March 2001 Issue
Another City Makes A Change From Owner to Guardian

from - Neiel Cavin - neiel@idausa.org 

BERKELEY, Calif. - On Tuesday, February 27, the Berkeley City Council unanimously voted to amend the city's municipal code and refer to people as the owner/guardian of their companion animals instead of as their owner. The approved change makes Berkeley the third, and the largest, U.S. city to grant official recognition to companion animals as fellow creatures and not as mere property.

According to the Berkeley Citizens Humane Commission (the advisory commission to the City Council on all animal related matters) the amendment signals a paradigm shift that acknowledges companion animals as members of our families, beyond their worth as mere commodities that can be bought, sold, and discarded at an "owner's" whim.

The Berkeley City Council decision continues a string of recent victories focused on elevating the status of animals. Last Tuesday, February 20, 2001, at the request of West Hollywood, Calif. Mayor, Jeffery Prang, the West Hollywood City Council voted to replace the term of owner with that of guardian in reference to companion animals in the city's municipal code. Mayor Prang's impetus to amend the city municipal code was strongly influenced by the precedent setting, July 2000, decision of the Boulder,
Colo. City Council to replace the term of owner with that of guardian.

"A key reason for the campaign is to end the abuse and to save millions of animal lives by encouraging people to adopt pets at animal shelters rather than buy them in pet stores," said Rita Anderson of Boulder, who heads IDA's They are Not Our Property, We are Not Their Owners campaign. "Last year, 5 million adoptable dogs and cats were killed by euthanasia, while "puppy mills" were producing thousands and thousands of dogs and cats to be sold in pet stores."

"I am delighted that Berkeley has joined with the cities of Boulder and West Hollywood," praised Dr. Elliot Katz, President of In Defense of Animals. "This is another important step forward in changing the consciousness of the American public regarding the animals they come in contact with and that share their lives.

Dona Spring, Berkeley City Councilwoman, pleased with last night's unanimous decision, called the vote, "A small step for person kind, a giant leap for the animals."

Similar guardian amendments are proposed for the state of Rhode Island and the cities of Chicago and San Francisco.

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