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Enforced and maintained by a legal superstructure that regulated every aspect of a black [slave's] social, political, economic, and religious life, his property status continued until the middle of the nineteenth century when Congress passed the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, which overturned the Dred Scott decision and recognized that a black human being had legally protectible rights.

There are some signs in recent legal decisions that a similar evolution in the status of animals is taking place: judges are beginning to draw distinctions between animals and property.

But can we ever expect that the courts will grant full liberation to animals from their status as property? Blacks, although universally considered inferior to whites, were always considered to be members of the same species as whites. Does this taxonomic distinction between animals and man doom efforts to enhance their legal status? Although most states still view animals as the personal property of their owners, recent cases have begun to question this doctrine by rejecting its jurisprudential basis in the context of mounting scientific, sociological, and philosophical evidence to the contrary. More important, these decisions have in common a profound sense of disbelief in the present status of animals as property, based on an experience of animals that does not fit with their status as objects no more valuable than furniture or a television. It is at this most basic level of law as a formalized reflection of experience that the legal rights of animals have begun to grow and take shape.