Res Publica

, 17:261 | Cite as

Duties to Companion Animals

  • Steve CookeEmail author


This paper outlines the moral contours of human relationships with companion animals. The paper details three sources of duties to and regarding companion animals: (1) from the animal’s status as property, (2) from the animal’s position in relationships of care, love, and dependency, and (3) from the animal’s status as a sentient being with a good of its own. These three sources of duties supplement one another and not only differentiate relationships with companion animals from wild animals and other categories of domestic animals such as livestock, but they also overlap to provide moral agents with additional reasons for preventing and avoiding harm to companion animals. The paper concludes that not only do owners and bystanders have direct and indirect duties to protect companion animals from harm, but also that these duties have the potential, in some circumstances, to clash with duties owed to the state and fellow citizens.


Companion animals Pets Duties to non-human animals Animal ownership 



My thanks to two anonymous reviewers for a number of very helpful comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of this paper.


  1. Archard, David. 1993. Do parents own their children? The International Journal of Children’s Rights 1: 293–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bearup, Brooke J. 2007. Pets: Property and the paradigm of protection. Journal of Animal Law 3: 173–191.Google Scholar
  3. Beck, Alan M. 2002. The ecology of stray dogs: a study of free-ranging urban animals. West Lafayette: NotaBell Books.Google Scholar
  4. Britton, Ann Hartwell. 2006. Bones of contention: Custody of family pets. Journal of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers 20: 1–38.Google Scholar
  5. Callicott, J.Baird. 1989. In defense of the land ethic: Essays in environmental philosophy. New York: Suny Press.Google Scholar
  6. Cochrane, Alasdair. 2009. Ownership and justice for animals. Utilitas 21: 424–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Favre, David. 2000. Equitable self-ownership for animals. Duke Law Journal 50: 473–502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Francione, Gary L. 1996. Animals as property. Animal Law 2: i–vi.Google Scholar
  9. Gomez, Samantha. 2005. Custody of pets, Accessed 18 May 2011.
  10. Hanrahan, Rebecca. 2007. Dog duty. Society and Animals 15: 379–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hill, Thomas E. 1980. Humanity as an end in itself. Ethics 91: 84–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hohfeld, Wesley Newcomb. 1917. Fundamental legal conceptions as applied in judicial reasoning. The Yale Law Journal 26: 710–770.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kant, Immanuel. [1780–1781] 2004. Duties to animals are indirect. In Animal rights: a historical anthology, eds. Andrew Linzey and Paul Clark, 126–127. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Kelch, Thomas G. 1998. Toward a non-property status for animals. New York University Environmental Law Journal 6: 531.Google Scholar
  15. Kittay, Eva. 2008. At the margins of moral personhood. Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 5: 137–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kraut, Richard. 2007. Desire and the human good. In Ethical theory: An anthology, ed. Russ Shafer-Landau, 315–324. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  17. Locke, John. [1690] 2003. Two treatises of government and a letter concerning toleration, ed. Ian Shapiro. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Milligan, T. 2010. Beyond animal rights: Food, pets and ethics. London: Continuum.Google Scholar
  19. Oh, Minjoo, and Jeffrey Jackson. 2011. Animal rights versus cultural rights: exploring the dog meat debate in South Korea from a world polity perspective. Journal of Intercultural Studies 32: 31–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Raz, Joseph. 1989. Liberating Duties. Law and Philosophy 8: 3–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Regan, Tom. 2004. The case for animal rights, 2nd ed. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  22. RSPCA. 2010. Measuring animal welfare in the UK 2005–2009. Horsham: The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.Google Scholar
  23. Scanlon, Thomas M. 1998. What we owe to each other. Cambridge, Mass: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Singer, Peter. 1977. Animal liberation: Towards an end to man’s inhumanity to animals. London: Granada Publishing.Google Scholar
  25. Steiner, Hillel. 2008. Universal self-ownership and the fruits of one’s labour: a reply to Curchin. Journal of Political Philosophy 16: 350–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Steiner, Hillel. 2002. Silver spoons and golden genes: Talent differentials and distributive justice. In The moral and political status of children, eds. David Archard and Colin M. Macleod, 183–95. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Welfare of Stray Dogs. 2008. Welfare of Stray Dogs: FAQs. The welfare of stray dogs, Accessed 3 May 2011.
  28. Wenar, Leif. 1997. The concept of property and the takings clause. Columbia Law Review 97: 1923–1946.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Wise, Steven. 2004. Animal rights, one step at a time. In Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions, eds. Cass Sunstein and Martha Nussbaum, 19–50. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.Google Scholar
  30. Wolf, Susan. 1992. Morality and partiality. Philosophical Perspectives 6: 243–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Yeates, James, and D.C.J. Main. 2011. Veterinary opinions on refusing euthanasia: justifications and philosophical frameworks. Veterinary Record 168: 263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Yeates, James. 2010. Ethical aspects of euthanasia of owned animals. In Practice 32: 70–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Manchester Centre for Political Theory (MANCEPT), School of Social SciencesUniversity of ManchesterManchesterEngland

Personalised recommendations