Pets are Family, Not Property: For the Love of Smiley


Did you know that under the law pets are seen as replaceable property? That’s right, the law essentially treats losing a pet the same way as losing a table. In honor of Chloe the Mini Frenchie, Loni Edwards’ beloved dog who passed away due to medical error, PetInsider will be featuring a story every Wednesday about pets being family, not property. Please join us by reading the stories and signing the pledge we created with the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) to push for change


Smiley the blind therapy dog – a loveable dwarfed Golden Retriever born without eyes, and without any rights or protection since he was seen by the law as “property” much like the watch you’re wearing on your wrist. 


Smiley was born into the life of a resident puppy mill dog – he was never sold off like the rest of the puppies. He wasn’t used for breeding like the other 100 plus dogs in that barn.  He spent his existence fighting for adequate food and space. He was bullied by the other dogs and the wounds and scars on his face showed what it must have been like for him during the 2 years he spent there. 


Finally, this breeding facility was under investigation for her large operation. This should have been life-saving for the many dogs that lived there. The SPCA is supposed to provide animal advocacy and protection. They are supposed to protect the most vulnerable at times of crisis. But since dogs are considered property, they have no familial rights under the law. 



We all think of dogs as part of our family. They form emotional attachments to their owners and are capable of being emotionally affected by their care. Having them considered property puts them at great risk. I realize that dogs aren’t children, but they deserve more consideration and rights than a wrist-watch. They serve us in so many ways, and this isn’t how they should be treated. Think of all the work dogs do for us – search & rescue dogs, service dogs for people with disabilities, police dogs, therapy dogs, and even dogs who are detecting cancer – the list is endless for what they do for humans.  Dogs are not disposable or replaceable.


When the authorities came to investigate the facility where Smiley was – they examined every single dog. They made a list of the dogs that needed veterinary care. There were some that had minor wounds, some with major health concerns, and one dog who needed out desperately – a dog much smaller than the rest with infected eye sockets and a fresh tear in his ear.   That list of dogs became the euthanasia list given to the Vet hospital in where I was a technician. We were called to come to the facility and “take care” of the dogs on the list – they were to be put to sleep instead of given medical attention – and in the eyes of the law that was the owner’s decision and would have been completely acceptable in this investigation. 



There were about 20 dogs on the list, and I was asked to accompany the vet to assist in the euthanasia of these 20 dogs.  I refused.  I told them I wasn’t going to hold down 20 Golden Retrievers while they received the needle. My soul had been chipped away by 20 years of assisting euthanasias – consoling families who would do anything for their pet’s life – each one affected me. 


The staff at the clinic came up with a plan – we would go to the facility on her request, but with the greatest effort, we would talk her into surrendering the dogs to us instead. I borrowed covered trucks and filled them with crates for our mission hoping we would fill them with the dogs on the list.   



The good part of the story is she did give us the dogs – including that little Golden who we know now as Smiley who became loved all over the world. The dog who first showed us that dogs born different could live normal, wonderful lives.


The bad part is it showed us how the law deems them as so disposable and replaceable. It was completely within the law for this woman to dispose of her dogs when she was finished with them. Many of the dogs were her old breeding stock which was no good to her anymore, and one who was accidentally bred by the wrong male and now carrying a litter of mixed breeds.


We can work to change the laws that consider our dogs as property. The Animal Legal Defense League is in the courtroom every day fighting the legal system to recognize that animals are more than property. DOGS ARE FAMILY. You can help by signing the pledge and making a post on social media to spread awareness. Dogs deserve legal protection and basic rights. Tag me in your post so that I can share! Let’s do what we can to help change the laws that deprive animals of any rights.


Please join us in pushing for much needed change by signing and sharing the pledge ( Follow along every Wednesday for a new story, and sign up for our newsletter to receive it in your inbox. 

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