Minn. Town's New Mayor, Duke the Dog, Is All Bark, No Bite - Legal Grounds
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Minn. Town's New Mayor, Duke the Dog, Is All Bark, No Bite

The small Minnesota town of Cormorant has elected its first mayor. He's technically only 7 years old, and that's not even the weird part: He's also a dog.

Duke the Great Pyrenees, who's 49 in dog years, defeated his human opponent, local store-owner Richard Sherbrook, in something of a landslide -- if you could really call it that; Cormorant only has 12 residents, reports Fargo, North Dakota's WDAY-TV.

So of course this canine mayor "begs" the question: Is it even legal to elect an animal?

Mayor's Salary: A Year's Supply of Kibble

Under the law, animals aren't recognized as legal persons, let alone citizens, so they generally can't hold public office. However, the office of mayor in Cormorant is purely honorary, and as such is open to more or less anyone -- or anything.

Citizens of Cormorant each paid $1 to vote in the ceremonial election, and in lieu of a salary, Duke will receive a one-year's supply of kibble donated by a local pet-food store.

Do Animals Have Any Legal Rights?

Besides not being able to hold office, animals are generally treated more like property than people for purposes of legal proceedings. But in some circumstances, they may be afforded almost quasi-human rights. In Oregon, for example, a 2012 ruling found that animals can be considered individual victims of abuse crimes.

And although animals can't own property, almost every state has passed laws allowing pet owners to set up testamentary trusts for the benefit of their animals. These so-called pet trusts are included in an individual's estate plan and allow pet owners to leave funds and instructions for their pet's care after their death. In addition, pet owners in New York can now legally be buried with their pets, following passage of legislation allowing for cremated pet remains to be buried in human cemeteries.

An animal rights group tried to push the envelope even further last year by filing a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a chimpanzee. Although the petition was denied, who knows? Today, a dog mayor. Tomorrow, a chimp petitioner?

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