This Article proposes a new use of existing property law concepts to change the juristic personhood status of animals. Presently, animals are classified as personal property, which gives them no status or standing in the legal system for the protection or promotion of their interests. Professor Favre suggest that it is possible and appropriate to divide living property into its legal and equitable components, and then to transfer the equitable title of an animal from the legal title holder to the animal herself. This would create a new, limited form of self-ownership in an animal, an equitably self-owned animal. Such a new status would have two primary impacts. First, the animal would have access to the legal system, at least in what has historically been the realm of equity, for the protection and assertion of his or her interests. Secondly, the human holder of legal title will, like a traditional trustee, have obligations to the equitable owner of the animal, that is the animal himself. As the subject matter of this trust-like relationship would be a living being, not money or wealth, the legal owner would best be characterized as a guardian, rather than by the traditional category of trustee. The Article concludes with a short discussion of the use of anti-cruelty law and human guardianship concepts as providing a context for the further development of this new concept of equitable self-ownership.
Equitable Self-Ownership for Animals,
50 Duke Law Journal
Available at: https://scholarship.law.duke.edu/dlj/vol50/iss2/2