Service Dogs: Between Animal Studies and Disability Studies

Service Dogs: Between Animal Studies and Disability Studies Kelly Oliver For at least the last thirty years, there has been an ongoing debate between animal studies and disability studies on the comparative status of highly intelligent animal species versus severely cognitively disabled human beings when it comes to membership in the moral community, which was spearheaded by Peter Singer's claims that some animals should have more rights than some humans based on their intelligence and functionality (see Singer 1999, 2009; see also McMahan 2009). Eva Kittay and other disability scholars, especially feminists, have responded with outrage, along with compelling arguments. In this essay, I consider beings whose intelligence and functionality put them at the intersection of animal studies and disability studies, and embody some of the contradictions within both discourses, namely, service dogs. Obliquely engaging the Singer-Kittay debates, I suggest that both sides make questionable assumptions about humans and animals, which come to the fore when considering service dogs and their human companions. Specifically, I focus on the notion of functionality in relation to issues of dependence and independence in order to rethink the human-animal divide in terms of what feminist philosopher Cynthia Willett calls "interspecies ethics" (2014). While endorsing Kittay's claim that we have an http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png philoSOPHIA State University of New York Press

Service Dogs: Between Animal Studies and Disability Studies

philoSOPHIA, Volume 6 (2) – Dec 21, 2016

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State University of New York Press
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Copyright © State University of New York Press
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2155-0905
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Abstract

Kelly Oliver For at least the last thirty years, there has been an ongoing debate between animal studies and disability studies on the comparative status of highly intelligent animal species versus severely cognitively disabled human beings when it comes to membership in the moral community, which was spearheaded by Peter Singer's claims that some animals should have more rights than some humans based on their intelligence and functionality (see Singer 1999, 2009; see also McMahan 2009). Eva Kittay and other disability scholars, especially feminists, have responded with outrage, along with compelling arguments. In this essay, I consider beings whose intelligence and functionality put them at the intersection of animal studies and disability studies, and embody some of the contradictions within both discourses, namely, service dogs. Obliquely engaging the Singer-Kittay debates, I suggest that both sides make questionable assumptions about humans and animals, which come to the fore when considering service dogs and their human companions. Specifically, I focus on the notion of functionality in relation to issues of dependence and independence in order to rethink the human-animal divide in terms of what feminist philosopher Cynthia Willett calls "interspecies ethics" (2014). While endorsing Kittay's claim that we have an

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philoSOPHIAState University of New York Press

Published: Dec 21, 2016

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