The notion that animals could be granted rights under the law was once ridiculed, but now courts and legislatures have begun to move towards granting animals greater protections from cruelty and emotional trauma. Animal law as a course of study was not available in law schools until the early 1970's. It has since grown into a field of debate and study that has drawn in experts from around the world." The rules of law that treat animals as property have been fought by animal rights advocates as being archaic similarly to the laws that once allowed for slavery. Animal owners are now being treated as guardians of animals rather than property owners who may benefit from their animals, but who must also ensure their health. Due to a lack of legal personhood under the law, when animals are injured or their wellbeing is threatened, advocates and owners are often barred from bringing claims on the behalf of animals because of the lack of legal standing to argue for the animals they are attempting to aid. Children have been seen by philosophers and the law as property that are under the control of their parents. Examining the relationship between children and their caregivers has been likened to examining the relationship between "other sentient animals" and their owners. The earliest anti-child abuse laws stemmed from efforts to end animal cruelty and sought to protect children not only from abusive guardians, but also from exploitation through labor and medical experimentation. Inspired by anti-child cruelty laws, reforms were made to address medical research abuses, availability of education, eugenics, and a variety of other social problems. Interestingly, such reforms were often backed by arguments comparing the legal status of animals and children. The current state of the law is a hodgepodge of common law, statues, and agency regulations which makes it difficult to determine what, if any, choices a child can make and what protections from harm they have.
McLaughlin, Paul J., "If Animals Are Like Our Children Let Us Treat Them Alike: Creating Tests of an Animal's Intelligence for Determinations of Legal Personhood" (2019). Library Faculty Publications. 13.