Florida Defines "Animal" as "Any Living Dumb Creature"; PETA Disagrees

Good thing animals can’t read (or can they?) because there’s a legal definition in Florida’s statutes that would certainly hurt their feelings. According to Florida Statute 828.27, an ordinance on animal cruelty, the term “animal” refers to “any living dumb creature.”

Calling any creature dumb, Homo sapien or not, doesn’t seem very nice. New Times reached out to PETA to hear its take on this contentious definition. 

“Florida is not the only state that defines an animal as ‘any living dumb creature’,” Brittany Peet from PETA explains. “And by dumb, they’re not actually referring to intelligence.”

It turns out “dumb” has many definitions. One is “lacking intelligence." Another is “lacking the power of speech.” PETA says animals are not dumb according to either of those definitions. 

According to PETA, defining animals as “dumb” goes back to the 1800s. There was an animal welfare organization in England called the Dumb Friends League. The England organization, however, changed its name to the Blue Cross. Today, there is the Dumb Friends League based out of Denver that opened an outpost in Quebec. It’s one of the largest independent, nonprofit, community-based animal shelter/human societies in the country. The organization likes the history and has embraced its name. Its mission is to “speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.”

But according to PETA, animals can speak. Peet points to Titi monkeys that communicate through a predator call, dolphins and their distinct whistles, gorillas and their sign language, and elephants with their own vocabularies.

“They all can communicate amongst one another,” Peet says. “Just because humans can’t understand it doesn’t mean they don’t communicate. So referring to animals as dumb — as in lacking the power of speech — is actually not accurate. At PETA, we're not speciesist.”

The definition of speciesism? The belief that humans are superior to other animals, used as a justification for any kind of discrimination against nonhuman animal species.
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Jess Swanson is a staff writer at New Times. Born and raised in Miami, she graduated from the University of Miami’s School of Communication and wrote briefly for the student newspaper until realizing her true calling: pissing off fraternity brothers by reporting about their parties on her crime blog. Especially gifted in jumping rope and solving Rubik’s cubes, she also holds the title for longest stint as an unpaid intern in New Times history. She left the Magic City for New York to earn her master’s degree from Columbia University School of Journalism, where she spent a year profiling circumcised men who were trying to regrow their foreskins for a story that ultimately won the John Horgan Award for Critical Science Journalism. Terrified by pizza rats and arctic temperatures, she quickly returned to her natural habitat.
Contact: Jess Swanson