Patrick Timpone

Lora Dunn

Attorney for The Animal Legal Defense Fund

Oregon Supreme Court Rules That Dogs Are Not Property, They Are Sentient Beings



As Staff Attorney for ALDF’s Criminal Justice Program, Lora Dunn assists prosecutors and law enforcement throughout the country on animal cruelty cases—from research and written support on motions, pleadings, and briefs to trainings and presentations.

O Sept issue

Lora Dunn

Lora has been instrumental in expanding the Criminal Justice Program’samicusbrief work (“friend of the court” briefs), including such seminal cases asState v. Fessenden(exigency exception to the warrant requirement applies to animal victims in emergency situations),State v. Newcomb(blood draw of a lawfully seized animal as a “search” under the Oregon Constitution and Fourth Amendment), andState v. Nix(animals as crime “victims” for sentencing purposes).

Lora has also been active in pushing for stronger animal protection legislation. In 2015, Lora successfully lobbied for an ALDF bill that allows private citizens to enjoin animal cruelty crimes through Oregon’s nuisance abatement code. In 2013, Lora assisted in drafting one of Oregon’s most extensive “omnibus” animal cruelty bills that set tougher penalties and sentencing guidelines for animal abuse, strengthened Oregon’s pre-conviction forfeiture process, and added new licensing and recordkeeping requirements for animal rescues.

Show Highlights:

-Sentient: Ability to suffer, feel distress, fear, and pain.

-Dog appeared to be abused and neglected, was seized, and vet drew blood for diagnostic purposes. Defendant said the blood draw was an endangerment of his property, even though dog had been legally seized.

-Court found owner did not have a privacy interest in the interior of the dog.

-Court said it’s inappropriate to apply property laws to animal. Animal sentience matters.

-Ground-breaking ruling. Pre-existing cruelty to animal laws. Now warrant does not need to be obtained before providing medical treatment to an animal. Animals are not just property.

-What will this lead to?

-John in Tampa concerned about animals eventually being given equal rights with humans.

-Cruelty to animals linked to other issues in the home.

-Emailer questions how animals are considered sentient beings, because they don’t plan, don’t have moral issues.

-Emailer asks if dogs and other animals would qualify as a protected class because they’re sentient.

-This ruling is not binding on any court outside Oregon. But this is the first time any court has ruled on this issue and other courts may look to this Oregon case.

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lura dunn, atty on oregon court case on animals being sentient beings, july 7

'Lora Dunn – Attorney for The Animal Legal Defense Fund – Oregon Supreme Court Rules That Dogs Are Not Property, They Are Sentient Beings – July 7, 2016' have 2 comments

  1. July 19, 2016 @ 5:06 pm jaz

    if animals “dont have moral issues” why do they care for their young, their mate, their tribe? why do they celebrate, or mourn, or leave us be when we torture or kill eachother or them? how about learning? what “obligation” do animals have that they would allow us to subject them to training, circusing, trafficking, testing, service work, etc. and what “obligation”, besides moral, would allow an animal to only mate with it’s own, i mean, we don’t even do that! we also kill alot more than they do, and needlessly torture all kinds of things and destroy our habitat. they do not. the human “morality” seems to be a code of conduct in theory, while animals seen to be very moral indeed.


    • July 23, 2016 @ 5:53 am bernard

      Animals are different to humans by way of the level of their consciousness, as well as intelligence. They are mostly behaving out of instinct and programming. It takes human intervention to train and change animal behaviours. And btw, you are painting ALL animals in a broad stroke. Different animals behave differently and have different social structure, not all animals are pack animals, some are more individual than others.

      And btw, Lions, Wolves, Bears are known to kill the other tribes youngs, they are also known to fight and kill each other for territorial reasons. Monkeys also known to fight amongst each other and males killing males to get access to the females. So in alot of ways, animals are more savages than humans (most humans anyway…), at least on the primal level.

      Animals do not destroy their habitat, because they do not have the capacity to do so. Unlike we humans, we have opposable thumbs, can operate metal tools, built and operate machinery, etc etc etc. I’m not saying destroying the environment is a good thing, I’m just answering your question.


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