Sammy Nickalls
June 23, 2016 1:00 pm

There are plenty of pet owners out there who love their furry friends more than they love most (if not all) humans. However, pets have always been considered mere “property” in the eyes of the law. . . until recently, that is.

Last week, the Oregon Supreme Court issued a groundbreaking ruling that viewed an emaciated dog named Juno as a living being, rather than just a “thing.” Of course, any human with a heart knows that dogs are more than just “things,” but under the law, they were considered to be property just as much as a bookcase or a car. Oregon law cared more about who *owned* an animal rather than the animal’s rights. However, in the case last week, the court unanimously ruled that Juno’s negligent and abusive owner is guilty, despite a vet’s gathering evidence via medical exams and treatments without a warrant.

The case began six years ago, when the Oregon Humane Society found that a Portland resident, Amanda Newcomb, was beating and starving Juno. Juno had “no fat on his body” and “was kind of eating at random things in the yard, and trying to vomit,” according to Oregon Live.

When Juno was brought to the Humane Society, he was given a body condition score of 1.5 on a scale of 1 (emaciated) to 9 (overweight). The Humane Society vet also drew blood from Juno to make sure he didn’t have a condition that would have caused a low body weight. Finding nothing, Newcomb was charged with second-degree animal neglect.

During the trial, the defense tried to argue that because the vet had obtained evidence without a warrant, it was like searching through a chest of drawers — it was illegally obtained, because Juno was Newcomb’s property. However, the prosecutor argued in response that it was rather like drawing blood from a child suspected of abuse, which is legal. Luckily and awesomely, the court agreed.

“It is really a landmark ruling,” Attorney Lora Dunn of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, told BarkPost. “In this specific context, the animal sentience matters.”

Oregon’s animal cruelty deputy district attorney, Jacob Kamins, added to Oregon Times that the ruling is the third to boost animal protection efforts in the past two years. “There’s a feeling that the issue of animal welfare is really coming into its own in the criminal justice world,” he said.

We could not be happier about this landmark decision. Pets are so, so much more than just “property” — they’re living, breathing beings who feel pain and love. Hopefully, with this decision, we can lessen the former and increase the latter.

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