In the past, animals were recognized in legal terms as mere commodities or property, not as individual beings, and often their exploitation and abuse was ignored, rationalized and even justified.
The Guardian Initiative was created in 1999 as a nationwide platform to reflect growing public support for a redefined public standard of relating to animals. As more people use the updated term “animal guardian,” evidence of society’s deep personal relationship with dogs, cats and other animal companions comes to light. Society’s views change over time and every so often, society calls for a language facelift. It is not so long in human history that women, children and others were seen, in legal terms, as merely property.
It appears that society is ready to acknowledge that animals, too, are worth something more than their price tag. It is important to note that this update in language must supplement and strengthen, not replace, other animal welfare and protection efforts.
Many professionals are choosing to use the term animal guardian to supplement existing humane education, character education and juvenile restitution programs. Animal shelters, schools, child and animal welfare organizations, local governments and community groups have also endorsed using the term “guardian” as an inexpensive, enduring educational tool that can help supplement adoption and spay/neuter programs by communicating the value of animal care and protection to the whole community.
There will be those who oppose the term animal guardian due to economic interests or fear of losing past ways of thinking. However, it is the majority who decides where the world is going. The majority is clearly moving toward compassionate and responsible animal care that includes embracing their roles as animal guardians.