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Chattel And Pets, What Is Chattel?

Chattel And Pets, What Is Chattel?

Chattel And Pets, What Is Chattel?

What is Chattel?
Can our pets be classified as chattel?
Are our pets nothing but property?

In the Merriam Webster dictionary, the word ‘Chattel’ is defined as an item of tangible moveable or immovable property except for real estate, such as buildings.

Other definitions of chattel refer to slavery in which a slave is complete property of someone else.  Under this wide concept, chattel includes things such as furniture, cars, mobile homes, jewelry and even pets – simply put, chattel is a piece of personal property that is moveable. 

Now, are pets still considered as cattle? Let’s fully dive into this idea.

Chattel vs. Real Property

If you’re looking at chattel through a financial lens, chattel is opposite from real property. Real property is land and buildings. Because of their distinct characteristics, chattel and real property deserve different treatment when it comes to taxation.

Property that is chattel will often experience a decline in value over time. Here, it is important to understand that making improvements to chattel usually don’t make its value increase. A prime example of this is a vehicle.

Your own car has all the characteristics of chattel – you can move it easily, as time passes it experiences rapid depreciation and even if you enhance it with cool rims or a paint job, it does little to increase the value of the car.

On the other hand, real property can retain value, and its overall worth can be increased through improvements. An example of this would be a house – if you put thousands into renovations and redecorating, its value will increase. 

Chattel Mortgage


 A chattel mortgage uses chattel for loan collateral, and this includes things such as cars. The lender of the loan will own this chattel until the borrower pays off their mortgage.

If the borrower cannot pay it off the loan, the creditor having ownership over the chattel provides them with quick restitution.

Chattel mortgages apply when someone wants to purchase large chattel; for example, a boat, companies will use chattel mortgages to buy property while authorizing other assets as collateral.

If you have bed credit, a chattel mortgage can be easier to obtain that a regular loan. 

Chattel: A Bit of History

Chattel slavery is the most common form of slavery and as far back as history can be traced, the world has always had some form of it.

for centuries, the Ancient Egypt made the ancient Hebrew people their slaves. Same, Greece and Rome relied on slave labour for agriculture, home maintenance and manufacturing of goods.

Human chattel is a slave that receives the same treatment as a complete property. This implies that someone else own for their entire life.

Chattel slaves were bought and sold as property – this was made legal by European governments and was practiced regularly by European colonies, dating back to the 16th century and onwards.

Africans were the object brought to slave colonies and were established as chattel property.

Slavery included several types of chattel. For example, the domestic chattel. They were slaves who would perform household duties and productive chattel which were slaves working in fields or mines.

The horrible ideology behind chattel slavery included that the human was not a human, but rather an object.

People who owned chattel slaves would view them on the same level as a cow or even a chair.

During these times, as you would not conversate or engage with a random object such as a hammer, you would not engage with a chattel slave. In the mind of the enslaver, chattel are not human beings.

Chattel and Pets

Unfortunately, this meant that chattel did not have protection under the law. Instead, laws respond to the necessity of taking away all the rights of the enslaved.

As a result, chattel has no means to determine the direction of their lives. If a person was to murder a chattel, it was taken as a misdemeanour that only deserved the punishmento of a small fine.

On the other hand, chattel deserved the capital punsihment if they tried to escape, burnt crops or if they were found teaching writing or reading to one another.

Same, chattel slaves were inherited to next generations after their owners died. In many instances, chattel were used as a currency in trade, rather than being purchased with cash.

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Also, chattel slaves and their children, and their children’s children could automatically become enslaved as they were born. Slaves were abused, branded, beaten and killed.

And while many people believe that slavery has been abolished in today’s society, it is still practiced in certain areas and the entire world is impacted by it.

Slavery is a multi-billion-dollar industry and more than 40 million people are caught in modern slavery. It sounds too similar to pet commerce.

Chattel and Pets: Cattle Came After Chattel

When you ask someone what cattle means, they can give you a proper answer, however only some people could define chattel when asked. To recap, chattel defines a slave or, in legal terms, it refers to a piece of moveable property.

But, did you know that chattel and cattle both come from the Latin word caput?  Caput means head which later transformed into capitalis, meaning of the head. In Medieval Latin, capitalis evolved into capitale which started to mean property.

This is because your head is your property, funny right? Then, the French started to pick up the term chatel (yes with one t) – In this, the h was silent, and mostly because of pronunciation errors.

Unfortunately, the word was then picked up by the English who would use chattel to refer to slaves or, their property- And under this concept, we still use it.

Relevance of Chattel to the Animal Food Bank


So, you may be wondering how this blog post relates to the Animal Food Bank and why we are talking about what chattel is and the history behind it. Well, pets are considered chattel. Sadly, this tag limits their protection.

In the eyes of the law, animals are property. Similar to an inanimate object such as a chair. Yet, we agree in the point that animals are living beings, and they can experience pain, pleasure, happiness, fear and so much more.

Because animals and pets fall into the concept of chattel, their protection becomes more difficult, and as result, they are more vulnerable from suffering neglect and cruelty.

In Animal Food Bank we fight to highlight their importance as living beings in order to bring real change to the treatment of animals. 

Originally Published: Jan 15, 2021
Updated: Jan 09, 2023

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