Animals are now defined as “sentient creatures” in European law and no longer just as agricultural products (Treaty of Amsterdam, 1997). That change reflects ethical public concern about the quality of life of animals. In Italy, an important section of the regulation of man’s relationship with companion animals is contained in the “State-Regions Agreement on Companion Animal Welfare and Pet Therapy,” which was recognised by the Council of Ministers in DCPM 28th February 2003. The Agreement defines some basic principles whose aims are to create a greater and increasingly correct interaction between man and companion animals, to guarantee the latter’s welfare in all circumstances, to avoid their being inappropriately employed and to encourage a culture of respect for their dignity, also in the sphere of innovative therapeutic activities such as Pet-therapy. Among the various aspects examined, this agreement especially underlines the responsibilities and duties of a companion animal handler and specifies that any person who lives with a companion animal or agree to take care of one is responsible for its health and welfare and must house it and give it adequate care and attention.
The Agreement also introduced important new measures aimed at reducing the numbers of stray animals, such as the use of microchips for an official dog identification system and the creation of a computerised data bank. The Author, after having analyzed the legal status of animals under the current system and discussed the idea of extending legal personhood to such animals, considers the law for the current valuation of companion animals. Finally, the Author promotes the idea that there is a legal/rational basis for changing the way that companion animals should be valued by legal system (such as Agreement) and recommends the adoption of principles/guidelines for the care of pet evaluate these aspects of the Agreement.
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