We’re dog people around these parts. You might have kind of guessed that from the accidental menagerie I so often moan about, or the fact that Scott’s entire professional life is devoted to the care and well being of canines. So when we hear a story like Stitch’s (and thank Moses we’ve never before heard a story quite like Stitch’s) it digs in on a pretty emotional level.
My friend Alex said that in her telling of the absurd legal battle that has shadowed the lives of Stitch and the family that loves him — a family with a little boy who have given everything they have to fight not only for their own dog, but the well being of domestic animals everywhere, a family who is at risk of losing their dog to an abusive former owner for a SECOND time. An owner who left cigarette burns in his skin, and abandoned him a state away only to sue the family that rescued him and nursed him back to health for emotional damages. Stitch deserves better. All living creatures do.
I want to be clear about something here. Animals are not humans. No one knows that better than Scott and I do, working with dogs and caring for them on a daily basis. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve their own set of protections. They’re alive, and intelligent, and emotional, and we have no right to treat them as inanimate property. But that’s exactly what the courts are doing. As Stitch’s fearless Mama Bear Hollye tells it:
“Although this man has no legal documentation or paperwork of any kind linking him to Stitch, and we have all the legal paperwork and proof, we’ve still had to defend ourselves in court. For the past two years we have been fighting this with our attorney, specialist in animal rights, Jill Ryther. It has drained our finances, and maxed out our credit.
In June of last year, the unthinkable happened. WE LOST THE TRIAL. THE JUDGE RULED BASED ON LOST PROPERTY STATUTE, equating Stitch to a bicycle. It doesn’t matter if an owner neglects or abandons an animal. It states that no matter how the owner treated the “property”, it has to be returned to the original owner.”
Aside from the fact that if you had left that bicycle in the condition Stitch was found in – burned and neglected – chances are nobody would want it, the treatment of a living breathing animal CAN NOT be equivalent to the treatment of a bicycle in the eyes of the law, and yet that is the statute currently set in place. A 150 year old Lost Property Statute cost Stitch and his family the case, and unless their appeal is successful, could send poor Stitch back into the hands of his abusive former owners (although thankfully the previous judge already threw out the inane emotional duress charge).
But we can help. If Stitch wins this case, it will be a win for domestic animals everywhere.
Again, from Hollye:
“Our appeals hearing is set for JUNE 7th,2012 1:00pm, in downtown Los Angeles appeals court. This is our opportunity to show the courts that we are invested in OVERTURNING this law which considers our pets nothing more than property- like a bicycle or a stereo, with no regard for safety and well being. PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD in all your animal communities. If tons of people show up to this hearing, and we get media attention, the court will see that this is a matter of public concern. HELP US SAVE OUR STITCH- and in return, the law may save your pets one day.”
When I was in my early twenties I had a bicycle. I have no idea what happened to it. Around that same time, Madden - our recently departed German Shepherd – came in to my life. Yesterday, Delilah asked if we could bring Maddie back, and I made it a little longer than usual without sobbing. I don’t think I even really remember what color that bicycle was.