Friday, February 10, 2006

Lawyer breaking new legal ground on animal issues

Tuesday, February 7, 2006 - 12:00 AM

ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Attorney Adam Karp, who specializes in animal law, considers the value of a dog's lost leg in a classroom at Seattle University.


Lawyer breaking new legal ground on animal issues

By Susan Gilmore
Seattle Times staff reporter

In a Seattle University law classroom, attorney Adam Karp plunks his feet on a bench, next to his chalkboard sketch of a three-legged dog.

His shoes are not leather. His tie, the one with a picture of a giraffe, isn't silk. He wears no wool. His belt is plastic.

And, he practices only animal law.

"It's more a way of life than a philosophy," said Karp, the only attorney in the state whose practice is limited to cases involving animals.

"It began when I became a vegan, when I was able to open my eyes to injustices in the way we treat animals. It's a serious problem here, and the law is a ripe tool for affecting change."

Karp, 32, a Bellingham resident, teaches animal law at Seattle University and the University of Washington and founded the animal-law section with the Washington State Bar Association.

He said becoming a vegan — not eating meat or wearing anything made from animals — opened his eyes to the way animals are treated. Practicing solely animal law was a way to marry his personal and professional views.

Last month he won a major decision from the state Court of Appeals that could affect how animals deemed to be vicious are treated in the courts.

In that case, the court overturned a death sentence imposed by King County for a mixed-breed dog because its owner wasn't given the right to subpoena witnesses and records. It could be precedent-setting in the way King County deals with dangerous dogs.

"What Adam does is a labor of love," said Peter Mansour, owner of Maxine, the dog involved in the court case.

"He feels very strongly about animal rights and the legal issues that revolve around them. You won't find anyone in the state, and I might venture to say the country, who understands legal issues surrounding animals' rights better than Adam. It's because it's a subject that's near and dear to his heart."

Service dog

In another case that goes to appeal in King County Superior Court this week, Karp represents a woman who suffers from panic attacks and has a service dog. She says she was thrown out of a Ballard convenience store because of the dog. Last year, a city hearing examiner issued a $21,000 judgment against the store owner, who is appealing.

"I called all over the place when I couldn't get any help with discrimination," said Joyce Fischer-Jones, who owns the chow/Labrador mix and had the encounter with the convenience-store owner. "But when I got hold of Adam he felt we had a case. He was there for me. He listened to me. I went through a lot of no's before I found Adam."

Last May, Karp won $45,480 in a case where a neighbor's dog mauled and killed a cat named Yofi. It was considered among the largest amounts nationwide stemming from lawsuits over the loss of pets.

The judge did wonders for breaking the barrier on valuing animals, Karp said.

"[The judge] acknowledged a value well beyond the purchase price for an individual feline who did not deserve to die."

Karp doesn't expect his client to ever see the money awarded, but calls it a "symbolic victory."

Many of Karp's cases involve custody issues, including the case of HeyZeus, a Husky. When the dog's owners split up, the issue of HeyZeus' ownership landed in court. Karp was involved in a settlement that led to joint custody.

Karp grew up around the country, moving with his father, an itinerant doctor. He graduated from high school in Spokane, then attended Gonzaga University and the University of Washington School of Law.

After law school, he received a master's degree in science and statistics and worked as a statistician for a law firm. His first animal case was in 2000 — a dispute over a purebred dog that was lost and then spayed.

Need for experts

Nationally, animal law is growing, said Joyce Tischler, founding director of the California-based Animal Legal Defense Fund in 1979. Today, she said, there are 67 animal-law classes being taught in the U.S., and 12 states including Washington have state animal-law sections.

She said there's a huge need for experts in animal law, "and they're not represented until someone with the guts and the wisdom of Adam Karp comes along."

According to her agency, 19 percent of the most egregious animal-cruelty cases in the nation in 2004 took place in the Pacific Northwest, and the numbers are growing.

Karp owns five cats, some of them fighting cancer. He doesn't have dogs because he doesn't want to add the stress to the household he shares with his wife.

"More and more, I take cases where I think people shouldn't have pets," he said. "I see instances of negligent and reckless control of animals resulting in preventable injury, death and heartache."

To Mansour and his dog Maxine, Karp was a lifesaver.

"I would challenge anyone to find another individual who is more passionate about his/her work than Adam Karp," Mansour said. "I know that at times, it is draining for him, because he tends to get emotionally involved in his cases. But winning a case like Maxi's makes it all worthwhile for him."

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or sgilmore@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

6 comments:

Avian Mooch, or a Really Angry Cow said...

I do have one problem with the article, but that's more with the beliefs of the article-writer themselves. It's this:

In that case, the court overturned a death sentence imposed by King County for a mixed-breed dog because its owner wasn't given the right to subpoena witnesses and records.

A dog, as many animal-rights activists will tirelessly assert, is not an it. They are a him or a her. Perhaps, someday, we will begin to communicate with dogs in the way we communicate with humans, and we will find out that they too have transgenderism, so we will have to use ze for them.

While this may seem like nitpicking, it's an overall huge thing. Humans will never recognise other animals as worthy of respect, life, and bodily integrity until they stop seeing the animals as things and start seeing them as people (as stemming from personalities) like themselves.

It annoys me when PeTA spokesmen do this too. It especially annoys me when other, less "hip" (read: sexist) animal activists do this.

I suppose it has to do with working in the system, in a small way. These guys work with the law to get nonhumans recognised as worthy of rights. I work with the person/thing dichotomy in order to get humans to realise that they are, because animals are certainly not sexless, genderless, and thoughtless things.

jeff said...

Dear Daily Herald,

I am writing you to tell my story of our 8 month old puppy, Zoey.

Zoey, a shitzu - poo has recently undergone a major ordeal half of which could have been avoided.

On March 17th my wife woke to go to the bathroom. As she stepped out of bed there was a horrible screech, she had stepped on Zoey's hind area. We helped her calm down but knew something was wrong. Zoey, went to sleep and so did we knowing we would be visiting the Vet first thing in the morning.

On Saturday morning it was obvious Zoey was in pain and could not walk so we went to CARE Animal Hospital in Arlington Heights. Dr. Peter Haase D.V.M. said she had fractured her pelvic bone and would need surgery right away.

I do not know who to feel worse for...the dog or my wife, she was UN-consolable. I did not go to the Vet. on Saturday morning, I needed to get my 7 year old son to class. When I returned and walked into the house I really thought by the look on my wife's face they had to put Zoey down. After she settled down I realized Zoey would be O.K. but needs emergency surgery.

The surgery was to take place first thing Sunday morning so we were very anxious to get the results. When we called the hospital they sounded confused and had to find out what was going on. Finally they said the doctor would not be in until the evening, thanks for leaving us hanging and guess it wasn't that big of emergency after all.

The surgery did take place Sunday night and after waiting until nearly 10:00 pm we got the call from Dr. Haase. Dr. Haase said "everything went very well" and "oh by the way we started the surgery on the wrong side of your dog, it was a mistake by a technician and the x-ray".

At first we were just thrilled Zoey was going to be O.K.. The part about starting the surgery on the wrong side really did not sink in. I recall telling my wife what the Dr. said and she to was sort of like whatever. Zoey needed to stay at the hospital for another day or two to recoup.

On Monday after my son got out of school we all went to the Vet to see Zoey for the first time. I wish I had not brought my son because it was a little scary for him and he loves that little dog so much. But OH MY!! it was scary for even my wife and I. It is also the first time we saw what the DR. meant by starting on the wrong side. But even then it was not until we got her home on Tuesday that we really realized how difficult it was on the dog. She could not lay down comfortably because either way she rested she would put pressure on the incision.

Our 18 year old son was the one who seemed more upset over the malpractice than anyone else. After talking with friends and family they too thought we should be compensated for this huge mistake. I deliberated contacting the Dr. for awhile than decided to give them a call.

We were told we needed to pay $2,200 the day Zoey was released, we did. We are not a wealthy family by any means and this hit us pretty hard. When I tried to call Care they never returned calls, all we were asking for was a good faith reimbursment for any of the cost. I did leave messages and finally Dr. Haase called me and he had consulted with the owner Dr. David Aul D.V.M. but they refused to help out.

I did not expect a full refund or anything close I just felt they owed it to Zoey and my wife. I am more angry now than I was then but do not have any idea what I can do. I called a lawyer in Chicago who specialize in animal malpractice but she wants $200 just for a phone consultation. I guess I could go through small claims court but hardly have the time or money. Dogs are considered as only property and it is very difficult to get a court ruling in a families favor. I have also since learned that Zoey being just a puppy that surgery may not have even been neccesary, her young bones could heal very quickly but she could develop arthritis later in life, this was not an option at CARE. They had our Zoey and that's better than money in bank.

Zoey is doing much better however she favors her hind right leg more and this is the side that was good! Dr. Haase told me that he did not cut into muscle on the right side but I can not understand why she has a more difficult time with what should be her good leg.

I do not expect the Daily Herald to work any miracles for us but it was theraputic just writing this. If there are others having difficulties with Care Animal Hospital I would like to know there stories.

I have attached a few pictures of Zoey.

Thanks kindly for your time,

Jeff DeWitt
847-541-9729
Buffalo Grove, Il

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Kid lover said...

I was one of those people that cpuld not stand to hear "pets" referred to as "kids". That however, is not the case now.

I had cancer 10 years ago which made it impossible for me to ever have children.

Harley, my oldest "kid", came into my life four years ago. A purebred German Shepard that walked straight into my heart the minute I held him.

My second "kid" Cheyenne came two years later. My little girl. She too is a purebred German Shepard.

We lived as a family together until last year. The relationship ended. I was told immediately, that the "dogs" were his and that is that.

I moved out. I waited until things cooled down and then asked for visitation. Amazingly he agreed. This was acceptable for a while, partly because we were still trying to work things out between us.

Recently, I it final that the relationship was over. My ex didn't like this and became very cruel.

He even told me that he would have them put down before I would be allowed to have them.

Whenever there is a serious expense for our "kids" or he wants something, then I get a phone call asking "If Momma wants the kids, the kids want to see Momma!" and "would I like to have them for the day?"

It's later that I am told of the expense needed. (Usually a medical bill)Of course I pay for it all, their my kids!

Now, he won't answer the phone or return messages when I call for visitation.

His sister, who I am very good friends with, has been told that "Chicks" won't understand and I would be better off not coming around.

He pretends to care for them but to me he is only using them as pawns, just like human children are used in Court.

I say AMEN, good job, keep it up! Fight for our furry kids as well! I for one am inquiring about my situation and I am elated that there are Lawyers that actually care about their clients!