The Legal Status Of Lab Rats

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 21 2014 @ 11:24am

David Grimm, author of Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship With Cats And Dogsnotes that the recent successes of the animal personhood movement have medical researchers worried:

In what way have dogs and cats moved beyond the status of property?

They can inherit money, for one thing. And since property cannot inherit property, that makes them different. Legal scholars say that is the biggest change. About 25 states have adopted the Uniform Trust Code, which allows animals to inherit. Also judges have granted owners of slain animals awards of emotional damages. You cannot get emotional damages from the loss of a toaster. In 2004 a California jury awarded a man named Marc Bluestone $39,000 for the loss of his dog Shane; $30,000 of that was for Shane’s special and unique value to Bluestone.

But why is that a problem for biomedical researchers?

They see this as a slippery slope, because there is no reliable legal distinction between companion animals and lab animals. The National Association for Biomedical Research [NABR], the leading medical research lobby group, has been very much on edge about animal law since the Bluestone verdict. They’ve started an animal law–monitoring project. What worries them is how lawyers, like the Animal Legal Defense Fund, could use some of these cases to expand rights for animals crucial to research. If a cat or a dog becomes closer to a legal person, it has a say in what you do to it. A lawyer could argue that a lab rat would not consent to being injected or cut open.

Previous Dish on animal personhood here, here, and here.