#13 Legal Personhood
Enshrine in the Animal Welfare Act 1999 and the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 legal personality for animals.
Animals in many cases under New Zealand law are not treated as living beings, but simply as objects or property. Animals have no legal rights of their own. This encourages poor treatment of animals as it means they are seen solely in terms of their value to humans, rather than being recognised as independent living creatures. Our law should recognise that animals feel pain and fear and need the opportunity to display normal patterns of behaviour, in addition to being supplied with basic needs such as food, water and shelter. Companionship, exercise and mental stimulation are also important to animal welfare. The Animal Welfare Act now includes a declaration recognising that animals are sentient beings. However, this cannot be enforced without legal personality for animals. At present, under our law, companies – which are inanimate and non-living – are recognised as legal persons, but animals are not.