A chihuahua named Conchita has made the news today. With the recent death of Miami millionaire Gail Posner, Conchita, along with two other dogs, have inherited the millionaire’s $8.3 million estate and a $3 million trust fund. In addition, a housekeeper and her daughter receive $6 million from Ms. Posner’s will and the privilege to live at her estate rent-free, provided that they provide the dogs “the same degree of care” they received while Gail Posner was alive. Ms. Posner also designated in her will that once the dogs are deceased, the estate will be sold and all of its assets donated to animal shelters, suicide-prevention organizations, and cancer research charities. Ms. Posner also requested that “her pet turtles” receive care from the housekeepers, though they don’t receive a trust fund (which is fascinating because they’re likely to live longer than the dogs).
The $3 million trust fund is pretty steep for anyone not living lavishly. But apparently the dogs are, and the deceased millionaire insisted while she was alive that Conchita’s most prized possession was a Cartier necklace, even though Conchita didn’t want to wear the necklace. While alive, it was evident that Ms. Posner imposed her personality and dysfunctions on Conchita, April Maria, and Lucia.
This is not the first time that a millionaire has made the news for something like this. Back in 2007, another millionaire
in New York City left her estate and $12 million to a companion white maltese named Trouble, though the judge ruled that Trouble receive only $2 million. Ms. Helmsley’s love for and attachment to Trouble was evident in her original will, as she indicated that her estate be donated to dog advocacy organizations following the death of Trouble. In actuality, only $1 million of her $5 million estate was donated to general animal charities while the remaining went to medical centers.
While the issue of nonhuman animals inheriting is legitimate and profound enough to shake the status quo of animals as property (well, at least dogs and so-called “pets”), its coverage in the media shows the extravagance of rich, unhappy people and how they involve their companions. With all this media coverage, one who cares about animal liberation has to wonder: is this the beginning in the United States for changing the status of nonhuman animals (primarily domesticated animals) as property? Is this as close as we can get right now in the legal system of bringing voice to animals, even if their voices aren’t accurately represented at all? I certainly hope not.