Property rights or animal rights?


The 17th of July was a miserable day for the cats and dogs of the animal shelter of Santo Tirso, a Portuguese village located in the region of Porto. A fire that started in a nearby village spread to Santo Tirso. Many gathered around the shelter to try to save the animals but the shelter’s owner and the GNR (National Republican Guard) didn’t allow them to enter, causing the death of 54 animals and many animals being found charred. While cats and dogs were dying, the GNR protected the shelter’s owner’s property rights, who had prohibited the entrance. Antagonistically, animal rights were clearly more important than property rights to the citizens who stood outside the shelter trying to save the animals.

On the one hand, we have the National Republican Guard’s members who were doing their job, technically respecting the law. It can be argued that these police officers could have seen further than the law and understand that dozens of animals were being killed. Some say that they should have sought a judicial warrant in order to allow the entrance of the organizations and the people who went to provide help. Furthermore, the GNR officials followed the announcement of the municipal vet who had previously said that the animals were facing no risks.

On the other hand, in order to protect property rights, the life of more than 50 animals was taken away. The more unpleasant thought is knowing that such could have been avoided by letting people enter the shelter. Animal activists complain of the irony of a shelter’s owner, whose job is to rescue and save animals, and who didn’t enable the access of her shelter to many civilians who were willing to help. In the past, this same shelter had been the target of criticisms due to the lack of care they provided to the animals. 

The latter makes us wonder what are the limits of the aforementioned rights. Is law an ultimate truth that we should follow no matter what? What about society’s morale, that would rather save personal belongings than the lives of more than 50 animals? Should we ignore the law when we understand that the life of beings is at risk or is that an extreme thought too? The line is fine.


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