Last year, countless ASPCA supporters like you stood up for animals by taking action on legislative and regulatory issues in your home states and before Congress. Whether you wrote letters to your legislators to express concern about a pending bill, signed up for text messages to keep abreast of important legislative alerts, or simply spread the word about our efforts to friends and family, we appreciate your dedication to making our world a better place for all living beings. Please scroll down to see a sampling of the legislative victories the ASPCA and our awe-inspiring Advocacy Brigade won for both companion and farm animals in 2011.
In the year 2011…
• ASPCA Advocacy Brigade membership cracked 2 million! You read that right—the number of advocates we’ve got speaking up for animals is roughly equal to the population of Houston, Texas.
• We sent those Brigade members nearly 90 targeted city, state and federal Advocacy Alerts on a wide range of animal issues, including (but not limited to) puppy mills, equine issues, humane livestock farming, and government funding for the enforcement of animal protection laws.
• Those Advocacy Alerts resulted in hundreds of thousands of personalized emails and countless phone calls to legislators and other decision-makers on behalf of animals. That’s what we call using your voice!
In addition to fighting for the passage of animal-friendly bills, we often must mobilize in opposition to bills that are bad for animals. Some of these bills are downright dangerous for people, too. For example, in 2011, four state legislatures considered bills that sought to protect factory farms (and, by logical extension, puppy mills) by criminalizing certain commonly used investigative and evidence-gathering techniques, such as taking a picture of a farm without the farm owner’s written permission. These anti-whistleblower bills are purely the products of the powerful agribusiness industry, which is desperate to keep its more disturbing (and sometimes, illegal) practices out of public view. While Florida, Iowa, New York and Minnesota all failed to pass their “ag-gag” bills last year, these bills continue to be a threat in 2012—and legislatures in other states are now jumping on this trend. Rather than prevent animal cruelty, ag-gag laws would simply ensure that the public never learns about it. The ASPCA remains vigilant in our opposition to these bills, and we hope we can count on you to join us.
The future also brings new challenges related to horse slaughter. In November 2011, Congress lifted a five-year-old ban on using federal money to fund horsemeat inspections. This decision means it is once again possible for horse slaughterhouses to operate in the U.S. We must continue to call on Congress to pass the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (H.R. 2966/S. 1176), pending federal legislation that would prohibit all activities related to the slaughter of horses for human consumption, including the transport of American horses to Mexico and Canada for slaughter. Animal advocates, please stay alert and help us prevent the scourge of horse slaughter for human consumption from returning to our nation—and raise your voices to demand that the export of American horses for that purpose be brought to an end as well.
2011’s Greatest Hits (some of our favorite new laws)
Mandatory Sterilization of Adopted Pets (SB 550)
Effective Date: 7.27.11
Arkansas now requires pets adopted through a pound, shelter, humane organization, or animal rescue group to be sterilized before the adoption is complete. More than 30 states mandate spaying or neutering of cats and dogs prior to adoption from shelters or other organizations, which helps combat pet overpopulation.
Animal Neglect Penalties & Roadside Pet Sales Ban (SB 917)
Effective Date: 1.01.12
Signed into law in June, SB 917 prohibits the sale of animals at public outdoor venues such as roadsides and parking lots and increases penalties for animal neglect. The penalty for animal neglect is now the same as the penalty for animal cruelty (up to one year in jail per act).
Humane Care of Animals in Public Shelters (HB 6303)
Effective Date: 10.01.11
Passed unanimously in both the Connecticut House and Senate, this new law encourages public shelters to provide animals with better care by working with nonprofit rescue organizations and requires the state Department of Agriculture to investigate complaints against animal control officers regarding poor animal care. In addition, the law requires that a description or photo of shelter animals be posted online and offers civil immunity to veterinarians who discount their fees for treating shelter animals.
Sexual Abuse of Animals (SB 344/HB 125)
Effective Date: 10.01.11
In 2011, a new Florida law defined sexual “conduct” and “contact” with animals and prohibited such acts. Furthermore, a person may not “knowingly organize, promote, conduct, advertise, aid, abet, participate in as an observer, or perform any service in the furtherance of an act involving any sexual conduct or sexual contact with an animal for a commercial or recreational purpose.” Florida joins the more than 30 states that have specific laws against this form of animal abuse.
Puppy Mill Licensing (SB 839)
Effective Date: 10.01.11
A new state law requires Maryland’s commercial dog breeders to be licensed by the county in which they operate and requires counties to report basic information about these commercial breeders to the State annually. Lack of documentation related to these facilities has hindered the ability of sympathetic Maryland legislators to advance measures to protect puppy mill dogs. Enactment of this law is a significant step toward ending this information drought.
Animal Fight Attendance (A.4407/S.3237)
Effective Date: 9.03.11
This new law strengthens preexisting state laws against animal fighting and makes attending a dog- or cockfight in New York a misdemeanor offense. Prior to passage of this law, attending an animal fight in New York was merely a violation penalized by a small fine and did not result in a criminal record.
New York City
Excessive/Cruel Tethering (Intro 425)
Effective Date: 5.01.11
It is now illegal in New York City to tether an animal for more than three hours in a 12-hour period. Also prohibited is the usage of certain inhumane restraints for tethering, such as heavy steel chains and choke or pinch collars. First-time violators will receive a summons or, if the animal is injured, a fine of up to $250. Repeat offenders face fines of up to $500 and three months in jail.
Commercial Dog and Cat Breeders Act (HB 1451)
Effective Date: 9.01.11
The Texas Commercial Dog and Cat Breeders Act will help ensure that large-scale dog and cat breeders in the state comply with humane standards. The Act covers all breeders who keep 11 or more breeding female dogs or cats and sell the offspring as pets. For the first time, commercial breeders in Texas must obtain a license and be inspected by the state’s Department of Licensing and Administrative Procedures.
Bad Bills Defeated!
Repeal State Prohibition on Breed-Specific Laws—DEFEATED (HB 1080)
A state law called the Illinois Animal Control Act wisely prohibits cities and counties from enacting ordinances or regulations that target or ban specific breeds of dogs. In 2011, the ASPCA helped prevent the passage of legislation to amend this law to give communities the power to regulate dogs based simply on their breed. There is no evidence that breed-specific laws reduce dog bites or increase public safety, while there is significant evidence that well-enforced, breed-neutral laws do.
Creation of State Livestock and Poultry Advisory Board—DEFEATED (SB 254/HB 676)
Two farm industry-backed 2011 bills that would have placed all control over Maryland livestock with a new advisory board were defeated in committee. The proposed Livestock and Poultry Care Advisory Board would not have been required to accept input by citizens, animal control experts or even the Maryland General Assembly when deciding how animals should be treated.
Eliminate 7-Day Hold at Animal Shelters—DEFEATED (S.2923)
The ASPCA asked for and received the governor’s conditional veto of bill language that would have eliminated the state’s current mandatory seven-day hold on all animals entering shelters. If the bill had been enacted as written, an animal could legally have been euthanized immediately upon entering a shelter due to any "age, health, or behavior" reason.
Eliminate Animal Welfare Section—DEFEATED (FY2012 Budget)
North Carolina Agriculture Department officials proposed eliminating the agency’s Animal Welfare Section, which enforces laws meant to protect pets, dogs in puppy mills, homeless animals and animals in shelters. Following public outcry, the North Carolina House of Representatives not only restored these critical animal welfare funds, it also added three additional inspector positions!
Permit the Killing of Feral Animals—DEFEATED (HB 210)
A disturbing state bill that would have allowed anyone in unincorporated areas to kill feral animals—or animals they thought were feral—passed the Utah House but died in the Senate.
Adapted from: http://www.aspca.org/Home/Fight-Animal-Cruelty/Advocacy-Center/2011-legislative-year-in-review
One of the areas in animal welfare (especially pet dogs and cats) that has been difficult to deal with has been whether or not the cat or dog had any value other than what it originally cost. A recent court case in Texas has addressed this:
Decision on pet's value is appealed
By Anna M. Tinsley
FORT WORTH -- A landmark local court decision last year allowing people for the first time to seek "sentimental value" damages for the loss of their pets has been appealed to the state's highest court.
A petition was filed last week asking the Texas Supreme Court to review this ruling, which has drawn praise from pet owners and concern from veterinarians, kennels and dog sitters statewide who fear this opens the door for pet owners to sue them for sentimental value rather than market value if something happens to their dog.
"This sweeping change in animal law gives pet owners the potential for a greater damages recovery for the loss of their pets than is available for the loss of a relative or close human friend," according to the appeal filed by Fort Worth attorney John Cayce, a retired 2nd Court of Appeals chief justice. "Although dogs are beloved companions, they should not be placed into this intimate familial category as a matter of public policy.
"While the Court may be understandably sympathetic to the plaintiffs' loss of pet companionship, it should defer to the Texas Legislature to create a remedy for it."
At the heart of this case is the death of Avery, an 8-year-old Labrador mix who belonged to Jeremy and Katherine Medlen and their children.
Two years ago, spooked by a late-night thunderstorm, Avery escaped from his family's Fort Worth back yard and was picked up by city animal control. The Medlens found him at the shelter the next day, but through a series of slip-ups and errors -- from not having enough cash on hand to take him home that day to having to wait until the vet could install a microchip in Avery's ear -- their dog was added to the euthanasia list and put to sleep. There had been a "hold for owner" tag on his cage.
The Medlens took their case to court, saying they hoped to prevent something like this from happening to anyone else's pet.
In a groundbreaking court ruling in November, the 2nd Court of Appeals in Fort Worth ruled that a pet's value is greater than its price tag. The court overruled a 120-year-old case in which the Texas Supreme Court ruled that pet owners could recover only the market value of their pets.
"Dogs are unconditionally devoted to their owners," according to the ruling. "We interpret timeworn Supreme Court law ... to acknowledge that the special value of 'man's best friend' should be protected."
Randy Turner, the Fort Worth attorney who is representing the Medlen family in this case, said he's disappointed that the case is being appealed.
"For the first time in Texas history there is a legal incentive for kennels, groomers, veterinarians and anyone else who cares for animals to take good care of them," he said. "It will be interesting to see whether this 'negative precedent' out of the Fort Worth Court of Appeals that is currently binding on 12 counties in North Texas gets overturned, or if it is affirmed and becomes binding law on all Texas courts."
He said he has heard that the legal bills for this appeal are being paid by special interest groups, such as veterinary medical associations, who hope to see the ruling overturned.
Cayce, who represents Carla Strickland, the former shelter worker named in the case, said that it would be inappropriate to comment on the case beyond what was filed in court and that, "like any other attorney-client communication, our fee arrangement with her is confidential."
Elizabeth Choate, director of government relations and general counsel for the Texas Veterinary Medical Association, based in Austin, said she couldn't comment on the pending litigation or fee arrangement. But she said the case concerns a lot of people, such as veterinarians, kennel workers, even dog sitters.
"We certainly sympathize with the plaintiffs in this case and understand how the family" would seek justice, Choate said. "But it's easy to see how this case could impact a lot of people" and how "unintended consequences" could create problems for those in the animal business in Texas.
"We obviously don't agree with this ruling," she said.
OK, so if dogs and cats now have achieved a "sentimental" value, can we take this a step farther and ask if they also have souls? That's what is being considered by a New York court:
Lawsuit looks to prove dogs have souls
Seeking payment for $8,000 in vet bills, the court claim cites pup's pain and suffering
Do puppies have souls? That’s what an unusual lawsuit is asking a New York judge to decide.
In her civil suit, dog owner Elena Zakharova contends that pets — considered “property” under state law — are much more than that: living creatures that feel love and pain.
Zakharova says the upper East Side pet store that sold her a pooch with bum knees and trick hips should be liable for the pup’s pain and suffering, as if it were a person.
She also wants compensation for her astronomical vet bills: $4,000 so far, with another $4,000 on the horizon — a total of about $1,000 a pound for the fuzzy year-old Brussels Griffon she named Umka.
“Pets must be recognized as living souls, not inanimate property,” said Zakharova’s lawyer, Susan Chana Lask.
“Umka feels love and pain like any human being whose pain and suffering would be recognized in a court.”
Amid the proliferation of shady puppy mills that churn out “purebred” dogs with congenital heart and joint problems, New York State has a “Puppy Lemon Law” that lets buyers return a sick animal in 14 days.
But Lask says it took months for Umka’s problems to surface. The 2-month-old puppy, Zakharova bought last February for $1,650, didn’t start limping and whimpering until July. Despite extensive and painful surgery, the dog will never walk or run properly.
“Umka suffers a disorder causing her pain, her legs hurt, she cries when she is in pain, she drags herself with her front paws, she cannot run like other puppies,” the suit reads.
“She should not have been sired by dogs with genetic disorders,” it says.
If the judge won’t recognize Umka’s suffering, Lask said she will argue the dog should be subject to the Uniform Commercial Code that gives a buyer four years to return a “defective product.”
The store Umka came from, Raising Rover in Carnegie Hill, says it is under new management.
“I know nothing about the sale. The prior owner has all the records. We are very careful about where we get our puppies,” said owner Ben Logan, declining to provide any information about the prior owner.
The Humane Society said Raising Rover is one of 11 swanky “pet boutiques” revealed by a 2011 undercover investigation to be buying animals from Midwestern puppy mills with horrific records of animal cruelty.
Lask said the ultimate goal of the lawsuit is to increase the penalties on pet stores so they stop selling animals from unhealthy breeders.
Not only are pets getting some special attention from the courts, but also some pet owners are attracting attention...of the negative kind
Special Court Puts Pet Owners on a Leash
San Antonio Seeks to Crack Down on Bites, Strays; City Official Says Too Many Believe 'a Dog Deserves to Run Free'
By NATHAN KOPPEL
SAN ANTONIO—Every Friday morning, a small courtroom in this Texas city becomes a kennel of jurisprudence dealing with dog bites, strays, and mistreatment of animals.
Municipal Court Judge Daniel Guerrero carefully considers alleged crimes involving canines of all sort—Labradors, Chihuahuas, Shih Tzus—and even the occasional cat, whose owners must appear in court to defend charges that carry fines ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
San Antonio's animal court may be unique in the U.S., legal experts say. City officials decided it was needed to crack down on recurring civic problems that weren't getting requisite attention on regular courts' dockets, such as dog bites, stray pets and residents who fail to register and vaccinate their animals.
The 10-month-old court is part of a larger trend in which cities are forming specialized tribunals to deal with distinct populations, such as drug addicts or the mentally ill. The goal is to allow judges to develop a deeper understanding of certain kinds of offenses, and better fashion appropriate punishments for those who commit them.
Joe Angelo, the interim director of San Antonio's Animal Care Services department, said the court is part of a larger effort to change the climate in the city of 1.3 million, where more than 3,000 residents annually are bitten by dogs and more than 150,000 stray dogs roam city streets on any given day.
It sends a clear message, he said: "Irresponsible pet ownership will not be tolerated."
But critics, including many San Antonio pet owners, say the city is often prosecuting picayune offenses. The city has collected more than $250,000 in fines against pet owners since the court was formed. Officials said they didn't have comparable data from previous years readily available.
"Why are they wasting taxpayer money on this nonsense?" said Ramal Shaw, 32 years old, who faces charges that his Chihuahua, Phillie, bit his 6-year-old son, who had complained to his school nurse. It was only a scratch, said Mr. Shaw, adding that his son was just trying to "play hooky" from class.
Mr. Shaw and his fiancée were able to persuade the prosecutor to knock $50 off the $269 fine, but planned to keep pushing to have the rest forgiven. "That's still too much," said Mr. Shaw, noting that he has been out of work for more than a year. Although his fiancée is employed, "we're living paycheck to paycheck," he says.
Karla Posada was recently in court representing her sister, who faced about $4,000 in fines for allegedly failing to contain, license and vaccinate her four Shih Tzus, after two of the dogs escaped from a garage and were reported by a neighbor.
Ms. Posada was able to delay her sister's case so that they could line up a lawyer. "It's not fair," she said. "These dogs have shelter and are loved."
Animal cases in San Antonio used to be farmed out at random to the city's municipal court judges, who often didn't give the cases enough attention or hand down sufficiently stiff punishments, according to city officials.
Some defense lawyers say the animal court is a symptom of a larger problem.
"We have moved towards an over-criminalization model, where everything is punishable by jails or fines," said Lisa Wayne, the president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. San Antonio, she said, would be better off "educating people about their animals rather than punishing them."
But David LaBahn, the president of the Washington, D.C.-based Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, said San Antonio should be commended. "To get courts to take these cases seriously can be a real challenge," said Mr. LaBahn, who previously prosecuted animal-cruelty cases in California.
Vincent Medley, the assistant director of San Antonio's animal-services department, says residents' attitudes need to change. Too many pet owners in the city, he said, believe "a dog deserves to run free; he should be able to go out and see his girlfriend—and his other girlfriend."
Adapted from: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204059804577229452902586074.html?mod=dist_smartbrief
Then, there are the divorce attorneys who have had to deal with the division of marital property and custody issues
Divorce lawyers see increase in pet custody cases
LOS ANGELES — They still fight like cats and dogs in divorce court. But more and more they are fighting about cats and dogs.
Custody cases involving pets are on the rise across the country.
In a 2006 survey by the 1,600-member American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, a quarter of respondents said pet custody cases had increased noticeably since 2001. The academy is due for another survey, but there is no doubt such cases have grown steadily since then, said Ken Altshuler of Portland, Maine, a divorce attorney and AAML president.
If there is a child involved in a divorce, many judges will keep the pet with the child, attorneys said.
“But what do you do when the pet is the child?” Altshuler asked.
Pet custody cases have grown as much as 15 percent in his office over the last five years, said attorney David Pisarra of Santa Monica.
Pets are considered property in every U.S. state. For years, they have been divvied up like furniture during divorce proceedings. But times are changing.
“Judges are viewing them more akin to children than dining room sets. They are recognizing that people have an emotional attachment to their animals,” Altshuler said.
Reaching a pet custody agreement without a lot of help from attorneys and judges will save money, Raso said. Divorces can cost $1,000 and be resolved quickly or cost millions and take years.
In years past, pets could not be protected in domestic violence restraining orders in any state. But because abusers can use pets to threaten victims, maybe even kill the animals, the laws have changed in states like Maine, New York, California and Illinois. Other states are looking into changes. And there will be changes in other laws too, Altshuler predicted.
He believes there will one day be statutes for pets, much like there are for children, giving judges guidelines to rule by.
Adapted from: http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2012/mar/03/divorce-lawyers-see-increase-in-pet-custody-cases/
The last of the pet legal issues we'll deal with this week is that of wills and trusts:
In Pets We Trust
Kathleen McCabe weeps when she recalls the death of Alexis Jarose. Not only did McCabe lose her best friend, but she couldn't save Jarose's dog, Schweppes, a wirehaired fox terrier. "I would have willingly taken him, but when Alexis died, her caregiver immediately put the dog to sleep. There was nothing I could do, because Lex had revised her will leaving out any mention of Schweppes," she recalled.
A similar fate won't befall McCabe's beloved terrier, Spencer. Since McCabe first crafted a will with her husband, Stephen, 40 years ago, provisions have always been made for their pets.
Animals who outlive their owners face uncertain fates. Under the best circumstances, a family member or friend cares for your pet for the rest of its life. If not, your pet goes to a shelter, is euthanized, or is simply let out the front door. The Humane Society of the United States estimates six to eight million dogs and cats enter shelters annually. Only half are adopted.
Should an accident befall payroll specialist Millicent Reed, 50, or her husband Jimmy, her sister-in-law Patricia would get first right of refusal to their seven cats. Another sister-in-law is next in line. Reed said a plan is essential. Six years ago, her aunt was in an auto accident and later died.
"We knew my aunt's cat, Pepper, was alone, but it took us a week to fly to my aunt's home," she said. By then Pepper was out of food and scrounging through the garbage cans. Now Reed always leaves her pets enough accessible food and water to last at least a week should something catastrophic occur.
Thinking of leaving a chunk of change to Fido or Fluffy? Think again. "In our current legal system, an animal can't own property. Some human has to be in charge. A will is a transfer of assets. Once it's done, there's no ongoing supervision," explained Mary Randolph, a non-practicing lawyer and the author of "Every Dog's Legal Guide" (2007).
Randolph suggests a pet trust. This legal document—recognized in 39 states and the District of Columbia—outlines the continued care and maintenance of domestic animals and names new caregivers or directs trustees to find new homes for pets. "A trustee has a legal duty of carrying out your wishes," she said.
While owners may simply include their pets as provisions in their wills, Michael Markarian of the Humane Society believes a trust is a better option in case of disability. He said, "Wills may take weeks to be executed and could be contested, but a living trust can be written to immediately take effect."
Creating one does take time. Select a pet-friendly lawyer or estate planner and expect to pay from $500 to $1,000 for their services. Be sure to consider your pet's financial future. Some owners make outright gifts of cash for their animals' care.
Hilary Lane of Louisville, Colo., has set aside $5,000 to offset costs for the person who ends up with her dogs, Luna and Frisbee. Likewise Carol Brown, 72, an antiques dealer in Walpole, N.H., has money set aside for the care of her three Norwich terriers and two horses, should any outlive her. "I didn't want to place a financial burden on their caregivers," she said.
Some animal lovers don't advertise the fact that money is part of the deal. One pet owner who wishes to remain anonymous reveals that upon her death, there are 10 people listed as potential trustees to take care of her male cat. What the new caregiver won't know at first is that the estate is instructed to award the person $10,000 if the feline is still with him or her after six months. "I want someone to take him out of the kindness of their heart and be rewarded if they keep him and fall in love with him like I did," she explains.
Others leave money to be distributed over time—monthly, annually, or as reimbursement for expenses.
Want even more security for your pet? Name someone other than the caregiver as trustee to dole out the cash. This reduces the risk of someone taking the money, but selling or destroying your pet.
That's Dane Madsen's plan. After his divorce, the 50-year-old corporate strategist from Henderson, Nev., created a living trust for his three rottweilers. "Should my ex-wife be unable to care for any of my pets, two trustees have explicit instructions to use their best judgment to find homes for my pets. The dogs should be kept together, and the new caregiver will receive $150 per month, plus money for veterinary bills and other expenses," he said. "In the event an animal falls ill, the caregiver and vet jointly decide their end-of-life management."
More of a do-it-yourselfer? For $89, Peace of Mind Pet Trust (POMPT) will e-mail you simple forms for creating a trust according to the laws of the state in which you live. The brainchild of an Illinois lawyer, Peter Canalia, the kit includes checklists, tips for funding your trust, and paperwork to create a durable power of attorney. Pet trusts can stipulate all the details an owner finds important, from the kind of food the pet eats to its medical needs and walking schedules. The Humane Society also offers a free fact sheet on estate-planning. The sheet includes advice on both wills and trusts.
Bottom line: Just as you would if you were picking a guardian for a child, talk to potential caregivers for your pets. Find someone you trust. After all, what you really want is someone who will love your pet.
Adapted from: http://www.aarp.org/relationships/pets/info-04-2009/in_pets_we_trust.1.html
Hopefully, all pet owners are becoming more aware that there are many legal issues that may or may not affect them and/or their beloved pets. This was a broad overview of general legal issues related to pets and pet owners. More specific examples of these concerns will be discussed soon.
The Ohio State Buckeyes men's basketball played their final game of the regular season today at Michigan State. The Spartans have certainly been the class of the Big 10 Conference late in the season. However, after struggling for the first 2/3 of the game, the Buckeyes came through strongly in the last 10 minutes of the game to win the game and forge a 3-way tie for the regular season Big 10 title along with Michigan State and Michigan. This big win for the Buckeyes helps to restore their momentum going into the conference tournament and the NCAA Big Dance. Way to go, Buckeyes!!!
“There's only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that's your own."
Aldous Huxley, British writer
“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men.” Herman Melville, American author, Moby Dick...therefore...
"May you always have Love to Share, Health to Spare, And Friends who Care.....even if they are a little hairy at times." traditional Irish toast
~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~