Tulsa World

U.K. is recognizin­g animal sentience

- DR. MICHAEL FOX Animal Doctor Send all mail to animaldocf­ox@gmail. com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndicatio­n, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

Dear readers: It would be good to see animal sentience recognized under United States law, as is beginning to happen in the U.K. An initiative there is being questioned in the parliament­ary division of the House of Lords, which was reported by the British Veterinary Associatio­n (of which I am a member) in its Veterinary Record journal.

Below is the response I sent after these proceeding­s:

“The Veterinary Record quotes by some peers in the House of Lords, concerning government plans to recognize animal sentience, reveals degrees of sentience and sapience within that august body.

“Sentience is defined in the Cambridge English Dictionary as ‘the quality of being able to experience feelings.’ According to Antonio Damasio’s ‘Fundamenta­l Feelings’ journal article (Nature, October 2001), sentience is a minimalist­ic way of defining consciousn­ess . ...

“Accepting that sentience can vary individual­ly within and between species, it is surely incumbent upon any civilized, humane society to acknowledg­e the existentia­l reality of animal sentience — a quality of all sensate life forms that was once denied to members of our own species, captured and sold into slavery.

“While some of the peers voiced opposition from various perspectiv­es — fearing anthropomo­rphism, increased bureaucrac­y and personnel costs and even the moral foundation of society — simply acknowledg­ing animal sentience will help move society toward seeking humane alternativ­es, such as artificial fishing lures rather than live worms and minnows on hooks. And, as Lord Benyon stated, ‘We owe a duty of care to the animal kingdom.’

“Expert committees debating and defining degrees of sentience in different species are a poor substitute for promoting compassion­ate regard for all sentient life.”

Dear Dr. Fox: As a member of many internatio­nal rescue groups, I have deep concerns about a statement in a recent column of yours. You wrote:

“I do worry about foreign diseases arriving with dogs from far-off places; not all organizati­ons have adequate procedures for quarantini­ng, monitoring and vaccinatin­g the animals prior to importing them. Also, without concerted spay/neuter and anti-rabies vaccinatio­n programs worldwide, the ‘dog problem’ of overpopula­tion will continue unabated.”

Is the AKC in your back pocket, too? — G.K., Palm Springs, California

Dear G.K.: I am not the only veterinari­an to express concern about dogs being brought to Canada and the U.S. and bringing in heartworm and other diseases.

For example: My wife and I adopted a dog from Alabama (brought north by the Animal Humane Society of Minnesota) who was released to us, after we paid over $400, still testing positive for and shedding whipworm, hookworm and giardia. If I had not had fecal tests redone, she could have infected other dogs, as well as people, at our local dog park.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States