Overlook for the moment what a Canadian judge said in settling a Saskatoon, Saskatchewan canine custody conflict about where a divorcing couple’s dogs would live. Spare me now the case histories, legal citations and genuflections to ancient custom that characterize and ‘justify’ dogs as so much chattel — mere inanimate objects — property like a toothbrush, a table lamp or what Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Richard Danyliuk analogized to “the family butter knives.”
I don’t know anyone who treats a lamp, a toothbrush or a set of butter knives the way most of us treat our pets. “Am I to make an order that one party have interim possession of [for example] the family butter knives but, due to a deep attachment to both butter and those knives, order that the other party have limited access to those knives for 1.5 hours per week to butter his or her toast?”
This year, Americans will spend well over $60 billion on their pets. One fourth of that will be for veterinary care. Granted, they aren’t children. But clearly that doesn’t stop many of us from treating them like kids with fur.
“Dogs are wonderful creatures,” wrote the jurist in his 15-page order. But despite the feel-good bromides and empty nods to societal views about companion animals treated like “family,” Justice Danyliuk nonetheless admonished the couple’s inability to settle for themselves “an issue unworthy of this expenditure of time, money and public resources.” He further lamented the “wasteful” use of judicial resources “which should be discouraged.” See “Judge rules dogs should not be treated like kids”
Ah — as though every matter seeking a legal remedy or a prayer of juridical wisdom was always of great moment and exceptional portent. And if only people had capacities so facile to solve disputes writ large and small, petty and important on their own — without employing courts and lawyers and without “demeaning for the court and legal counsel to have these parties call upon these legal and court resources because they are unable to settle . . . .”
But better still, the best rebuttal to pets as butter knives is my favorite video of the year.
Happy New Year to those we rescue and to those that rescue us.
Credits: Dinner for One, by Georgie Pauwels at Flickr Creative Commons attribution license; morguefile.com, no attribution license.