By: Rick Berman
Newspaper: Republican American

Cats and dogs are considered family members by many, but the legal system has long distinguished people and animals. And for good reason: People can control their actions, while you can’t exactly put a cat on trial for killing a mouse. But a bill that passed the Connecticut House is the first step in turning our legal system into a veritable kangaroo court.

The bill would allow the state to appoint a legal “advocate” for animals in cruelty cases. While well intentioned, this is unnecessary and also would open Pandora’s Box.

Veterinarians can offer expert testimony on animals in court, but animals don’t have legal “advocates” because they are not legal persons, for obvious reasons. Humans have moral responsibilities and mental competence, and animals don’t.

Creating legal “advocates” for animals moves toward allowing animal-rights activists — you know, the ones who think beekeepers are modern-day slaveholders — free rein to clog up the court system and drag in everybody from farmers to hunters to hot dog stand operators.

Sound crazy? In Zurich, Switzerland, a government-appointed lawyer represented animals in court with puzzling zeal. In one famous example, a fisherman was put on trial for taking too long to reel in his catch. Other things that could land one in the legal doghouse include not buying a goldfish a proper companion.

On this side of the Atlantic, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sued SeaWorld in 2011 for “enslaving” the orcas in its care. Supporting briefs relied on the 13th Amendment to the Constitution outlawing slavery. Meanwhile, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which is not affiliated with local humane societies, has dreamed in fundraising material of representing animals in court. “The critical goal,” HSUS explained, is “getting litigation into a format where someone with ready access to the judicial system is representing the animal.”

In other words: allowing PETA and HSUS to file lawsuits for Fido, Fluffy or Babe.

We use animals in so many facets of life, it would allow activists who claim to “speak for animals” to go hog-wild and sue just about everybody. Meat, dairy and egg farmers are a logical start.

Medical research would also be stymied. Over the last 30 years the Nobel Prize has gone to 58 scientists for work that involved animals, yet PETA co-founder Ingrid Newkirk has said she would oppose using animals in scientific research even if it resulted in a cure for AIDS.

Courtroom overreach could even extend to pets. Newkirk wants to phase out pet ownership and opposes seeing-eye dogs.

The court system is abused enough by animal activists and their attorneys. In one high-profile case in federal court, several animal rights groups, including HSUS, are being sued under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act for allegedly conspiring to bring fraudulent litigation against a circus company and bribing a witness. The litigation comes after a cabal of animal-rights groups dragged the circus through the courts for a decade for supposedly abusing elephants — a case that fell apart when a federal judge found the groups paid the key witness through a front group and that his allegations were “not credible.”

Animal-rights activists push a vegan lifestyle, meaning no meat, eggs, cheese, milk, leather, wool, silk or even honey. Allowing animal “advocates” in court would turn the legal system into a circus.