Another global vote that animals feel

Is an animal a sentient being, that is, can it feel, perceive, and experience emotions? Many in the veterinary community, including pet owners, would say, “Yes.” New Zealand agrees.

Yesterday, New Zealand passed the Animal Welfare Amendment Bill, reported Parliament Today. The bill brings greater clarity, transparency and enforceability to the country’s animal welfare laws. It also now recognizes animals as sentient beings.

“The inclusion of sentience reinforces that people are obliged to meet their animals’ physical, health and behavioral needs,” said Stephen Merchant, BVSc, president of the New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA).

The NZVA played a key role in shaping the bill. “Veterinarians are at the vanguard of animal welfare advocacy,” said Merchant, “and public support is behind us in the call for greater clarity on issues concerning animal welfare and increased sanctions for animal cruelty.”

New Zealand isn’t the only country to recognize animals as sentient beings. The European Union, which consists of 28 member states, amended its 1998 legislation in 2009 to include such language, reported . The United States has yet to do so.

This week is National Pet Week, created in 1981 by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) to encourage responsible pet ownership, honor the human-animal bond, and increase the public's awareness of veterinary medicine. 

It is also a time to cuddle, walk, and just hang out with all the "pets" in your life, legally recognized as sentient or not.


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