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'Guardianship' Replacing 'Ownership'

by Patricia Collier

Children are not pieces of property - they are not 'owned.' Animals are not pieces of property, either.

If you are an animal lover, neither statement is a revelation. Anyone who has spent even part of their lives with a beloved companion animal knows their furry or feathered companion is not a lump of property to be neglected at will, bartered, or cast aside when something bigger and better comes along.

Now, a movement is rolling across America to explain that to everyone else.

It's called the Guardian Campaign. Its organizers call it a "nationwide platform to reflect growing public support for a redefined public standard of relating to animals."

Until fairly recently, the public standard was to look upon animals as commodities, from pet dogs to cows in the field, and as such they were often legally exploited.

Just as often, reports of abuse were taken lightly because, after all, an animal "owner" had a right to do what they wished with their "property."

People involved with the campaign said updating the term "ownership" to "guardianship" can create for many people a new way of perceiving the human-animal bond.

In other words, semantics do make a difference.

These days it is increasingly common to see animals referred to as "he" or "she" instead of "it." That change, small as it may seem, has helped shift the public perception of animals so that they are seen less as inanimate objects and more as living, breathing beings with feelings and emotions.

The Guardian Campaign recognizes that continued shifts in perception can play a large role in decreasing occurrences of animal neglect and abuse.

The campaign offers extensive guidance to empower regular citizens to help change ordinances in their home towns to reflect the new verbiage.

It also offers way for teachers, humane educators, anti-violence educators, and regular citizens, to help change curriculum in schools to reflect what the campaign leaders refer to as the "gentler terminology."

Called "The Guardians for Life Education Program", it is an approach to education which acknowledges the existence of a cycle of violence, and the fact that animal abuse by children plays a role in the continued cycle of abuse.

"There will be those who oppose the term animal guardian due to economic interests or fear of losing past ways of thinking," said organizers of the campaign.

"However, it is the majority who decides where the world is going. The majority is clearly moving toward compassionate, responsible animal guardianship," they said.

More information about the 'Guardian Campaign' can be found at www.guardiancampaign.com.

2004 Animal News Center, Inc.

 

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