Monday, December 29, 2008
By Luke Salkeld
Dec, 29, 2008
Prince Edward could face an RSPCA investigation after he was accused of setting a 'sickening example' for lashing out at two gun dogs with a large wooden stick.
Click here for the rest of the article...
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Saturday, December 27, 2008
PETA strikes out (virtually) against Sarah Palin... and how about Rod Blagojevich while you're at it?
Apparently someone from Sarah Palin's office got their feathers all in a bunch the other day over a new video game on PETA's website. The game allows users to throw virtual snowballs at, among others, the moose-killing, turkey-ignoring Governor. The caller reportedly threatened PETA with a lawsuit if it didn't take the game down. (Which, of course, is fighting words and means that PETA will never take the game down ever, until the end of time.) When pressed later, Palin's office denied both making the call or even caring about the game.
Read more in this recent Los Angeles Times "L.A. Unleashed" editorial... or skip straight to the game!
And PETA, while you're at it, if you can come up with something to throw (virtually, of course...) and embattled Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, as an Chicago resident myself, I would appreciate it.
In what was touted as his first major interview since being arrested on corruption charges, Blago chatted yesterday with a local Chicago reporter. If you ask me, Andy Shaw didn't really get much out of the Gub'nr about his dealings, or that local U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald wants to get him a room at the Joliet Crossbar Hilton, or that the Illinois legislature wants to impeach him even sooner. But the one thing that Blago did reveal was that he too has jumped on the political puppy bandwagon and gotten his kids a dog for Christmas.
Message to Governor Blagojevich:
Dude! What were you thinking?!?! You are waaaaaay past the point where getting your kids a puppy is going to help your public image. Moreover, you are in no position right now to do anything to add to your workload. Seriously. Don't even buy a plant. I mean, think about it, who's going to watch Skittles after the government staff is gone and the wife and kids come to visit you in the pokey next year?
So PETA, I'd like to suggest a virtual game if your web staff has the time. Never mind the video snowballs (or shoes, for that matter, although the idea is sorta amusing...). How about throwing poop? You can certainly award points for gamers who can nail Blagojevich for trying to get the Trib editorial staff fired basically for disagreeing with him or trying to sell Obama's senate seat. But I think anyone who uses a dog as a canine shield against all the crap going on in his life right now definitely deserves to have some thrown right back at him.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
LONDON, England (CNN) -- As well as their potential for creating effective therapies for debilitating diseases, embryonic stem cells could open the door to improved pharmaceutical drug testing, according to a leading British stem cell researcher.
Speaking at a recent meeting of the British Pharmacological Society in Brighton, UK, Christine Mummery described how using embryonic stem cells to create human heart cells could be a viable and scientifically exciting alternative to animal testing.
Click here for the rest of the article...
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Noting that the shrinking economy is prompting most Americans to reduce spending, thus shrinking the economy even further... he urged those among us who still "have two nickels to rub together" to do so. Buy goods and services this holiday season, he reasoned, because the money spent doesn't just go back to Wall Street, but into the wallets of everyday Americans who will, hopefully, pump that money back into the economy in turn. (A very sage observation, imho.) Just as importantly, Stein noted, now is the time to give to those most in need... shelters, for example. AND - what particularly caught my ear - he included in each plea for shelters - animal shelters as well.
Just a short while later on This Week with George Stephanopoulos...
citing the overwhelming problems with the economy that have to be addressed immediately, vice-president-elect Joe Biden declined to say whether the new administration will take up gay and lesbian issues on any particular timetable (C'mon guys, there's always time to do the right thing). He did, however, state unequivocally that the new vice-presidential puppy will be a "pound dog". He dismissed George's suggestion that this decision was influenced by current mores on political correctness, noting that this will be the latest in a string of "pound" cats and dogs for the Biden household, and emphasized that they wanted their current animals to have "companionship."
Thank you both.
By Tim Mowry
Published Sunday, December 21, 2008
FAIRBANKS — Alaska is no longer in the dog house when it comes to animal abuse.
That’s according to a report issued Friday by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, a national animal rights law organization based in California that works to toughen animal cruelty laws throughout the country.
Read more here...
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
From the strange but apparently true file...
It seems that more and more Chicagoans are raising their own chickens nowadays. They enjoy the eggs and... according to a Chicago Tribune article by Sara Olkon... the companionship. Thankfully, local law at least prohibits slaughter. (This much I can vouch for; that's only for residents out on the streets.) No word yet on raising sheep for wool...
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Just a week after The UK Guardian ran a big feature on the topic (scroll below), competitor The Sunday Times (not surprisingly - and acknowledgments to everyone else whose articles pre-dated The Guardian's piece) is offering an article by Roger Waite entitled "Forget the kids – now custody battles are switching to Fido" .
Nothing really new in the article (under you're a rock dweller...), although I was intrigued by his closing observation: "In America, disputes are often resolved through “calling contests”, in which the animal is placed between the feuding couple and custody is given to whoever the dog runs to first."
Maybe that's how the colonies resolved such disputes, but dude, really. If anyone out there can actually point to a case caption with an appellate decision - or even a written trial order - verifying that this is how a modern-day U.S. judge actually decided a "pet custody" issue, please let me know.
Coincidentally, a colleague recently told me he had a divorce client many years back (he's 82 now) who he advised to stuff his pockets with dog treats at the hearing for just that reason. The result? The judge awarded the dog to the wife anyway. Unless she stuffed her pockets with raw meat, the husband's shenanigans - while amusing - did not get him anything other than perhaps a bigger dry-cleaning bill.
I would hope that judges who are progressive enough to look at companion animals as more than just part of the property settlement are also sophisticated enough to decide the issue based upon more than just who the dog runs to first at the hearing.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Read more in Nicholas D. Kristof's opinion piece.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
"Dogs have a sense of fairness, and get jealous and upset when several dogs perform a trick but only one is rewarded, a new study has found....
....While some owners may say that they’ve known about the deep emotional lives of their dogs for ages, the new experiments mark the first time a complicated emotion like jealousy has been observed in dogs in a controlled laboratory setting. “We are learning that dogs, horses, and perhaps many other species are far more emotionally complex than we ever realized,” [says] Paul Morris, a psychologist at the University of Portsmouth who studies animal emotions…. “They can suffer simple forms of many emotions we once thought only primates could experience” [Times Online].
Sunday, December 07, 2008
There was one in the Harvard Crimson talking about the progress of animal law both at law schools and as a field. As the article correctly notes, Harvard was one of the first law schools to offer such a course in the not-too-distant past. Today, it is increasingly de rigeur, with more than half of the nation's law schools offering this topic. The article does an admirable recap; especially useful for the other 99% of the population that doesn't follow these issues as closely as I (and likely you) do. The only disappointing thing, perhaps, is that as cutting edge as the school was nearly a decade ago when it first offered the class, this article didn't add anything new to the discussion.
Meanwhile, across the pond... a lifestyle piece in UK's The Guardian lamented the increasing number of "custody battles" involving companion animals. I found it encouraging. Not that I'm advocating for bitter and contested divorces, mind you. It's just good to see all of these notions (such as acknowledging that pet ownership is really more akin to custody) are really taking hold globally.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Thursday, November 27, 2008
By Carla Hall
November 27, 2008
At Karen Dawn's Thanksgiving feast, there will be yams and stuffing with cranberries and a dessert of pumpkin-pecan pie, all set out on a table for eight.
And there will be turkeys, two of them actually -- Emily and Bruce (or possibly Brucilla -- it's a little unclear). The two 20-pounders will have most of the privileges of Dawn's other sentient guests -- a Pacific Palisades patio, a view of the ocean and vegetarian nibbles.
At Dawn's vegan holiday dinner, guests will ooh and aah over live birds. The only turkey plunked down on her table will be Wild Turkey bourbon.
"It goes beautifully with the hot apple cider," Dawn says brightly.
Read the rest of the article here....
Personal note: The last time I saw Karen was at an AR conference going on ten years ago. Thinking back on it now, who would have ever imagined that turkey-less Thanksgivings would become so mainstream less than a decade later. (Btw, way to go, Karen - great feature!) I imagine there's a lot more of us doing veggie and vegan holiday meals than even we realize.
If you haven't tried pardoning a turkey yet yourself, please consider it for next year. Contrary to the cliff-notes version of popular opinion, Thanksgiving isn't all about the turkey. It's also about the stuffing, the cranberries and the gravy (and honestly, once you pile all that stuff on your fork, you can't really even tell if there's turkey underneath). Seriously, mostly it's about the tradition of it all - and taking a few hours out of the whole year to give thanks for something. I'm not going to try to beat anyone over the head with how turkeys are produced for the holiday; there's plenty of other websites for that. But I will leave you with this thought: whatever you may have to be thankful for, wouldn't it be nice to add one more item to the list - a small act of kindness that is easy to swallow for the diner but means the world to the dinner.
Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
The rancher says yes. Animal law attorney Jennifer Dietz and the owner's new civil suit say no. Read more in this Pet Pulse article by Victoria Lim.
UPDATE from Jennifer Dietz: She writes "Notably, Comins is not a rancher, not an owner of cattle, and not the owner of the land where the shootings took place. He was merely a passer-by who happened to have two high caliber guns in his car."
Monday, November 24, 2008
Animal rights group slams Cambodia monkey trade:
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - An animal rights group says Cambodia is flouting international conventions by allowing the cruel capture of monkeys for research in the United States and China.
Ottawa landowners association takes aim at animal rights group:
At a staged event for news media, the Canadian group accused the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) of ruining the life of one Manitoulin Island farmer in a two-year legal saga that saw him convicted on four charges of failing to provide suitable and adequate care for his horses.
Animal rights movement starting to stir in Egypt:
CAIRO // The haunting sound of barking dogs and screeching cats followed by gunshots throughout the night is a constant reminder of the struggle undertaken by animal rights activists in the country.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
While we're on the subject of videos at a turkey slaughterhouse....
PETA released undercover videotapes earlier this week that were taken at the nation’s premier poultry-breeding facility, Aviagen Turkey, in West Virginia. According to a New York Times piece by Donald G. McNeil, Jr. the video "show[s] turkeys being stomped to death and punched by workers.... The scenes show stomach-turning brutality. Workers are seen smashing birds into loading cages like basketballs, stomping heads and breaking necks, apparently for fun, even pretending to rape one." PETA is asking local prosecutors to pursue criminal charges.
Read more in this Associated Press/USA Today article.
And if anyone knows how this actually turned out, please post a comment thanks!
Called the "strongest animal protection law in Canada," the Provincial Animal Welfare Act will allow the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) to inspect places where animals are kept, other than houses, without a warrant.... The act hasn't been changed since 1919 and now states that people who abuse animals could face up to two years in jail, fines up to $60,000 and a potential lifetime ban on animal ownership.
Read more in this Midland Free Press story by Sara Ross.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
The ordinance - which seeks to prohibit the use of chains - has already been watered down to remove the prohibition on bullhooks. But in a city that just had to have its foie gras, if you ask me, even this milquetoast proposal is unlikely to go anywhere.
Why, you might ask. Why? Seriously? Well, ok, for the handful of readers who actually live under a rock and just come up to surf the internet... this is Chicago politics we're talking about. All those stories, that reputation Chicago has for corruption? That kinda reputation doesn't happen by itself. No no no. It's real. (I've seen it at work, actually, but that was in relation to a proposed condo development in my neighborhood, not a relevant post for this blog.) Here, a number of key aldermen (aka: city council members) have apparently been getting donations from Ringling Bros. And now - surprise, surprise - they are opposed to the ordinance! Who would've thunk?
Read more in this recent Chicago Sun-Times article by Fran Spielman. Oh, and if you happen to have a spare $40,000, I know a bunch of elephants who could use the change to outspend the animals currently peddling their influence at City Hall.
- By Rex W. Huppke |Tribune reporter
- 2:05 PM CST, November 18, 2008
Barbaric to most, this medieval blood sport remains a routine source of shameless entertainment in large swaths of the city.
Read more in this follow-up feature to the recent Chicago dogfighting bust here...
Monday, November 17, 2008
- Chicago Tribune
- 8:30 PM CST, November 16, 2008
Cook County Sheriff's Police arrested more than 50 people in the incident, which involved two pit bulls. Police say one of the dogs was so badly injured, it could barely stand.
Read more here...
Friday, November 14, 2008
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
SPOKANE, Wash. -- A federal lawsuit is challenging the constitutionality of animal control laws in Spokane, including provisions allowing for the immediate euthanasia of cats.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday by Adam Karp, a Bellingham animal law attorney, who represents Spokane pet owner Patty Schoendorf.
Way to go, Adam! Read more about the suit in this Seattle Post-Intelligencer article.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
But here's a twist. One small city near Columbus, Ohio has a new law requiring owners to appear before an appeals board if they want to fight a determination of viciousness - but apparently the mayor can't find anyone to serve on the board. Read more in Elizabeth Gibson's article in today's Columbus Dispatch.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
The proposal, announced this past week, would "ban laboratory tests on mankind's closest relatives -- chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos and orangutans -- in a clampdown on animal testing by the drugs industry and other researchers."
Sounds like a terrific step forward, yes. Although as advocacy groups noted, great apes haven't been used in EU research in six years so perhaps this is more of a token gesture than any real progress. Moreover, monkeys and other animals would not be covered by the ban. The plan also calls for tighter welfare standards, although it was not entirely clear (at least to me), whether any improvements applied only to primates or to all animals used in research. Overwhelmingly, most animal testing is done on rats and mice.
As you can imagine, the announcement generated media attention all over the world, especially in Europe. Here's a sampling of the stories from Reuters (via STV.tv), Financial Times, The Telegraph, The Hindu News Update Service, and China News. Predictably, the announcement is also generating passionate debate both for and against the ban (as well as - also predictably - animal testing in general).
Read about how a dispute over a cat left the cat bloody and two men dead in this Oregonian article by Lori Tobias.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Cat and dog owners are to be told to provide "entertainment" and "mental stimulation" for their pets under new government advice.
The code of practice also includes advice on diet and providing "somewhere suitable to go to the toilet".
It says owners should watch for signs of stress and advises on introducing cats to dogs without the fur flying.
Owners will not be fined for breaking the rules but failure to comply may be used in animal cruelty prosecutions.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said it wanted to remind pet owners of their responsibilities under the 2006 Animal Welfare Act.
Read more about the 26-page document on cat welfare here...
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Ok, I'm a Democrat (no surprise there) so I was really happy when Obama was declared the winner in the presidential election just over an hour ago. Props to John McCain for what was probably the most gracious - and genuine - concession speech as has ever been given.
Congratulations to Barack Obama! May his presidency live up to the promise of hope and change that his campaign envisioned. And in case any of his aides or staff happens across this blog post, here's an open message to the next administration:
As you look across this vast nation of ours - all of the different demographics of race, ethnity, gender, sexual orientation, age, religious beliefs and more - please find the compassion in your hearts and perceptive-thinking in your minds to consider, protect and improve the lots of the most vulnerable members of our society: animals.
And President-Elect Obama - you know that puppy you mentioned in your victory speech that you promised your kids would be moving to the White House with you? Please adopt from a shelter. Good luck and God bless!
Saturday, November 01, 2008
Friday, October 31, 2008
According to conference facilitator Martine LaChance: This international event deals with a wide range of topics or research issues related to the legal condition or welfare of animals. Although it is mainly a scientific activity of legal nature, the aim of the conference is to welcome researchers from other disciplines - such as biology, ecology, philosophy and sociology -, all concerned with the use and exploitation of animals by human beings, sources of animal sufferings they wish to avoid or, at the very least, minimise.
GRIDA is calling for papers for this inaugural event. If you are interested, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details!
An association founded by animal welfare and animal-rights activists is gearing up to compete directly with the veterinary profession's largest membership body, the American Veterinary Medical Association. It's called the Humane Society Veterinary Association. It will offer alternative programs to the AVMA's business insurance programs. HSUS President Wayne Pacelle predicts many veterinarians will flock to HSVA because its philosophy mirrors their own welfare thinking, as long as they're not saddled with a need to buy AVMA insurance plans.
Source: Brakke Consulting, Inc. 10/24/2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Seattle Times staff reporter
EVERETT — An Everett District Court judge this morning ruled against an animal-rights advocate who sought to file a citizen's complaint against three former employees of an Everett animal-testing lab who allegedly sent a monkey through a cage washer, scalding the animal to death.
Read the rest of the article here.
Shame on Judge Roger Fisher.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Viilo v. Eyre, No. 08-1627 (10/27/08). Appeal, E.D. Wisc. Appeal dismissed.
Ct. of Appeals lacked jurisdiction to consider defendants-police officers' appeal of Dist. Ct.'s denial of their motion for summary judgment alleging qualified immunity in plaintiff's sec. 1983 action alleging 4th Amendment violation arising out of defendants' shooting of plaintiff's pet dog during search of plaintiff's home. Record contained factual dispute as to whether said shooting was necessary, and defendants otherwise had notice that unnecessary killing of pet dog could constitute "seizure" within meaning of 4th Amendment.
Commentary from me: Yippee! (Ok, not the most scholarly of commentary, I admit...) Seriously, I am very encouraged by the 4th amendment decisions that have been coming down, pretty much unanimously around the country for about a decade now, that the shooting of a companion animal does constitute a seizure within the meaning of the 4th amendment and police can't hide behind the shield of qualified immunity to defend their (at best) insensitive and thoughtless actions. The city of San Jose and Santa Clara County ultimately paid more than a million dollars in the infamous Hell's Angels case and another California city paid more than $500,000 in Fuller v. Vines (see Viilo for cites). Other cases have resulted in a few 6, and a number of 5, figure awards or settlements.
Hopefully, if enough of these suits really start to pull in big numbers then perhaps THAT will persuade municipalities and police departments not to rely on what I like to call the "Kujo defense." ("Your honor, I know the dog was 15 years old, toothless and blind, but he was charging straight toward me, growling and baring his fangs...") I realize not all police officers are rogue cops (please, no angry emails). But some are. I see this in my practice all too frequently. At least several times a year someone comes in with a story of how they and their dog were minding their own business, in their own home, when the cops bust in for some (usually misplaced) reason and shoot the family dog just because it was there and they figured they could get away with it.
If anyone reading this blog happens to know who represented Viilo, please ask them to call me. I would love to stay posted on what happens as the case heads back down to trial court.
POSTSCRIPT: Thanks to one of Megan Senatori's animal law students for letting her know about my blog post. Congrats to Megan and best wishes for the trial!
The affected states are:Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, and West Virginia.
Here's the whole press release.
While the Menu Foods case probably leaps to mind, keep in mind here that Salmonella (although still dangerous of course) is a far cry from the contaminants in the Chinese-manufactured products. Hopefully, this recall comes in time to keep any animals from getting sick or dying.
Monday, October 27, 2008
By Jane Mundy
The Lawyers Weekly
October 31, 2008
Ottawa lawyer Terry Green has overcome more obstacles than most: He became blind as an adolescent when he developed Stickler syndrome, a connective tissue disorder that causes detached retinas.
He has been an advocate ever since.
Click here to read more about how adversity became a natural segue to advocacy for Canadian animal lawyer Terry Green.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
This past week, New York City more than doubled its fine to dog owners who don't clean up after their animals: from $100 to $250. It's the first time the fine has gone up since the infamous "pooper scooper law" took effect thirty years ago. Read more in this NY Daily News article by Richard Schapiro.
While $250 may be a stiff enough penalty to persuade folks in most other cities to pack a plastic bag for walks, this is New York City we're talking about. Call me a skeptic (after all, I am a native New Yorker), but I'm not so sure it's gonna work.
If the City REALLY wants to get serious about tracking down offending poopsters and their owners, it oughta consider "Poo Prints", a new program apparently being offered by a Tennessee DNA laboratory. The basic idea is that everyone in a neighborhood, town or [insert geographic region here...] would be required to get their dog's DNA on file in the lab's registry. Then, any stray poop found on a street can be sent to the lab, analyzed and matched to an owner. Voila!
Really, could I make this up? I'm not even gonna try to take credit for finding this one. Thanks to Doug Powell of Kansas State's AnimalNet for unearthing this gem. (Doug, I have no idea how you find these things, but keep 'em coming!)
Of course, being a former journalist, I felt compelled to do a little more digging on this important news story. And unbelievably, according to likewise hard-hitting piece of journalism in the Holeycheese weblog, (photo courtesy of same), a city in Israel began a test program for poop identification last month. (How did I miss that?!)
Friday, October 24, 2008
Thursday, October 23, 2008
The Daily Cardinal
October 23, 2008
Members of the Primate Freedom Project held an educational session on animal rights for students, faculty and community members at the UW-Madison Law School Wednesday.
Rick Bogle, founder of PFP and member of the board of the Alliance for Animals, was the keynote speaker for the event. Lynn Pauly, director of the Alliance for Animals introduced Bogle as an active participant in research and protests against animal testing.
Read more about this conference - which gives a shout-out to Wisconsin animal law colleague Leslie Hamilton - by clicking here.
Chicago Daily Herald
October 23, 2008
After years of complaints, state officials for the first time have suspended the license of a controversial Bloomingdale animal shelter as its director faces criminal charges.
Pet Rescue lost its license Oct. 16 after the Illinois Department of Agriculture cited it for a fourth violation. The shelter must wait one year before applying for a new license.
Read more about this case - which also gives a shout-out to fellow animal law attorney Cherie Travis, who's been working with the former shelter volunteers to provide evidence to prosecutors - by clicking here.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
October 21, 2008
SURRY, Va. (AP) -- Former NFL quarterback Michael Vick plans to plead guilty to state dogfighting charges in a move that could qualify him for an early release from federal prison.
Surry County Circuit Court administrator Sally Neblett says a hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 30 on a motion from Vick's lawyers to permit him to enter his plea via video conference from the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas, where he is serving a 23-month term on federal dogfighting charges.
Read the rest of the article here...
Monday, October 20, 2008
- Kinda like the meat industry book review described in the previous post, stories about the crack down on puppy mills seem to be everywhere nowadays as the issue is finally creeping to the forefront of the American conscience. There's nothing much new in this Trib article if you've been following the Pa. bill and other state law changes lately; but it's good to see the issue getting attention. Read more in the Associated Press article that ran in today's Chicago Tribune.
Anyway, click here if you would like to read Michael Shae's review.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
but as the 16th Annual Animal Law Conference comes to a close in Portland, Oregon today, it seems especially appropriate to say congrats and good luck to Laura Ireland Moore, as she embarks on the next chapter in her life: forming a new private practice focusing on animal law.
I first met Laura in about 1999 when we were both in law school. I had submitted an article written for an advanced crim law seminar about making better use of forfeiture laws to prevent animal cruelty to the 1st annual writing competition at Lewis &Clark law school's new Animal Law Journal. When a L&C envelope came back in the mail a few months later, it was pretty thin. I was already steeling myself for the worst - "at least I tried... a lot of people get rejected..." as I opened the envelope. Much to my surprise, not only did the journal accept the article - I actually won the $500 first prize. (That was a lot of money back then and, unfortunately, still seems to be a lot of money most months...) I met Laura, via phone, during editing for that journal. The student editor originally assigned to the article had the unfortunate penchant of editing mistakes into my writing. I called Laura, who was editor-in-chief, if memory serves. She resolved the issues timely and professionally. As time passed, I came to realize that's just her M.O..
Upon graduating, Laura became the first executive director of the National Center for Animal Law (now the Center for Animal Law Studies) after persuading the powers-that-be at the law school to turn her vision into reality. During her tenure, the Center offered classes with regionally and nationally-known animal law attorneys, clinics with actual cases for students to tackle, as well as annual moot court competitions and conferences that offered not only great learning opportunities but became the hottest social events in the animal law community.
This past Fall, Laura turned her attention to building a private practice. She is joined by a law school friend, Holly Gibbons. The pair have acquired the practice of former Waldport mayor and animal law attorney, Scott Beckstead. Scott practiced in Waldport for 14 years; he made national headlines about six years ago for the jury verdict he got on behalf of a family whose dogs were poisoned by a neighbor. The $135,000 award is the highest ever in an animal law case.
Scott now runs an HSUS horse sanctuary in Oakland, Oregon. Anyone who knows Scott knows that, while he is a sharp attorney, he just loves horses way more than practicing law. It's a dream job for him. Meanwhile, a collaboration with ALDF has brought fresh ideas to the re-tooled Center for Animal Law Studies. And another passionate animal law advocate, longtime ALDF attorney Pam Frasch, has taken over the reigns (pun intended) at CALS.
Lots of changes and very exciting! Best wishes to everyone!
Friday, October 17, 2008
The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Five animal-rights activists charged with getting too close to seal hunters off Canada's east coast were found not guilty Friday after a judge ruled it's "extremely difficult" to determine whether the group breached a 10-metre buffer zone.
Click here for the rest of the story....
Thursday, October 16, 2008
A retired surgeon and inventor is apparently going to offer a $75M prize to whoever can find a safe, reliable, one-time, non-surgical means of sterilizing cats and dogs.
Again, not precisely animal law. But if it's true, this could go a long way toward alleviating welfare problems for companion animals. Read more in the USA Today story by Sharon L. Peters here...
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Here's a shout-out to "Wired" for a great feature yesterday on the debate over whether to extend the status of "personhood" to chimpanzees.
As Brandon Keim writes: "It's a controversial position. If being a person requires being human, then chimpanzees, our closest primate relative, are still only 98 percent complete. But if personhood is defined more broadly, chimpanzees may well qualify. They have self-awareness, feelings and high-level cognitive powers. Hardly a month seems to pass without researchers finding evidence of behavior thought to belong solely to humans." Click for the rest of the wired.com feature.
Keim also referenced Hiasl, the West-African-born-then-captured-but-rescued-from-research chimp. Hiasl, who was taken from Sierra Leone in 1982, faced a bleak outlook when, at age 26, his shelter ran out of money and he was going to be sent to pharmaceutical research. Hiasl's plight made global headlines last year when an activist tried to persuade the Austrian courts to declare him a "person" so she could be appointed his guardian. When her bid failed, she took her case to the European Court of Human Rights. As near as I can figure out, it is still pending. (If I'm wrong, please let me know.)
Here's a story out of Alabama demonstrating what happens when states either don't permit enforceable pet trusts (which Alabama does, actually: Ala. Code 1975 Sect.19-3B-408), or animal owners don't take advantage of them.
Fortunately, it looks like there will be a happy ending for these 32 cats. Thanks to ISBA animal law committee colleague and venerated Illinois estate planning attorney Lin Hanson for the heads-up on this article from today's Opelika-Auburn News.
Anyone who's ever enjoyed a friendship with a cat or a dog or a horse (or any other animal they've befriended for that matter) will tell you, intuitively, losing a companion animal is not like losing any other item. Not even a "valuable" item like a car or a home. But the legal system has turned a blind eye to that value since the beginning of recorded legal history - if not the entire history of human civilization. Persuading courts to see that value - and mind you I'm just talking about genuinely recognizing the value of animals to their owners, not acknowledging the value of an animal's life to itself or (heaven forbid...) taking animals out of property status - is one of the great challenges facing animal law today.
As I've blogged before, the hard-fought expansion of other rights is worth studying: civil rights, women's rights and, most recently, gay/lesbian rights. For example, in 1999 the Vermont supreme court became the first in the country to rule that same-sex partners have the right to the benefits of marriage, even if not the title. Slowly but surely other states began jumping on board, and even going a step farther. Massachusetts legalized such unions in May 2004. California's supreme court did likewise this past June, and it has already surpassed the Bay State in the number of gay couples wed. Connecticut became the 3rd state to recognize same-sex unions when its state supreme court overturned the ban this past Friday.
Now, Vermont once again may lead the nation on another social issue. A case is presently pending before the Vermont Supreme Court on the issue of whether individuals can recover non-economic damages for the death of their companion animals. Robert and Susan Goodby filed suit after their two cats died due to toxic medication. The Vermont Supreme Court heard the Goodby case on Sept 25th and a decision is expected within the next few months. Click here if you would like to listen to the oral arguments (scroll down to 2:00 p.m.)
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
By Geoff Mulvihill
CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — A federal judge Tuesday approved a $24 million settlement for owners of dogs and cats who were sickened or died after eating pet food contaminated with an industrial chemical.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Noel Hillman clears the way for U.S. pet owners with claims to start receiving checks next year. A Canadian judge has scheduled a hearing for Nov. 3 to determine whether the settlement can also apply in that nation.
Read the rest of the article here...
(For an explanation of why I am not particularly impressed with this settlement, despite its dollar value, see the Tuesday, August 26, 2008 entry.)
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Kenya is the first country to try elephant texting as a way to protect both a growing human population and the wild animals that now have less room to roam. Click to read more about this AP/CBS News story here.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Sad, yes. But on the other hand, it is good to see that the legal system is paying an increasing amount of attention to a very longstanding problem.
So... if you have the stomach for it, here's what's going on around the U.S.:
Beverly Hills, California: Trial dates were set Friday for a former Beverly Hills mayor charged with animal cruelty involving 184 dogs and cats seized at her Rialto rescue shelter three years ago.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: A North Side man is accused of feeding meatballs laced with glass and nails to his neighbor's dogs because he was upset with their constant barking.
Huntington, West Virginia: The owner of a residence where five dogs were rescued and three other animals were found dead appeared before a judge Thursday regarding health code citations. Cruelty charges are also pending.
Near Tallahassee, Florida: A Thomas County man was charged with animal cruelty Wednesday after officials found four badly deprived pit bulls chained in his yard.
Montgomery County, Maryland: A man was charged Wednesday with nine counts of animal cruelty after a dead horse and several neglected horses were found on his property.
Ventura County, California: Three family members were arrested Wednesday on charges of felony animal cruelty after humane investigators found 55 malnourished horses on their ranch.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Kinda reminiscent of the old ALDF v. Provimi Veal case. (Can't find a good, general google link for it, but it's 626 F. Supp. 278 (Mass. 1986) if you really want to look it up.) Hopefully though, more than two decades later, the mindset of this country - and its judiciary - have changed enough to be more receptive to this sort of claim.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
08 October 2008
The High Court yesterday upheld the legality of new rules allowing chickens to be killed in their thousands by slow suffocation in the event of a widespread bird flu outbreak. A judge ruled that the government was entitled to use "ventilation shutdown" as a last resort.
Monday, October 06, 2008
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Thanks, Mom. I'll have to let the judge know...
Friday, October 03, 2008
Perhaps most notably, the proposed measure also would make cockfighting a felony. Last I checked, only about three states did not have laws on the books prohibiting cockfighting (although I vaguely recollect at least one state enacting a ban fairly recently).
Read more in this article by Andy Davis of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
CORRECTION: Thanks to blog reader Tracy H. for pointing out that the ban on cockfighting has finally reached all fifty states, although it is not yet a felony across the board. Read more on the last state to ban the bloodsport, Louisiana, in this August Times-Picayune article by Ed Anderson.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
Boy, when the media becomes fascinated with a topic, it just gets played all over the place. I can't even count how many "pet custody" stories I've seen in the last few months (or calls I've gotten from reporters who only want to know if I'm handling one of those cases at the moment). Not that it's a bad thing, of course, to shine the spotlight on this topic. I wish I could the spread the spotlight to some other animal law-related topics, but better something than nothing!
Anyway, click here for CNN's latest feature by Hannah Seligson on pet custody battles, and a shout-out to two Washington state animal law practitioners interviewed for the story, Adam Karp and Lorrie (Elizabeth) Elliott!
But there's a bill on Gov. Patrick's desk that could change that. H.B. 1527 would upgrade the crime to felony status. Two professors at the Massachusetts School of Law offered this guest column in yesterday's Daily News Tribune on why the Governor should sign the measure.
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
What does that have to do with animal law, you ask?
Well, I was watching the Ellen DeGeneres interview on Jay Leno last night... when at one point the interview took a momentarily thoughtful turn. DeGeneres quipped that she couldn't understand how her and Portia (de Rossi, actress and DeGeneres' longtime domestic partner-recently-turned-spouse) sitting on the couch watching "Dancing with the Stars" could really be a threat to anyone. She suggested - paraphrasing here - that instead of sending in money to support hate, anyone with funds to contribute to a cause should consider sending financial aid to support the recent Hurricane victims. (Which I thought was a good point, in and of itself.)
But DeGeneres made me think about something else too.
It's just as important for animal advocates to take a position on Prop 8 as it is on the also-pending welfare measure, Prop 2 (which I will get to in a moment). Animal advocates historically have been a fairly liberal group of folks so I am probably preaching to the choir here. But in case you are inclined to vote against protecting gay marriage in California (or even simply support that position but live elsewhere in the U.S. or the world), please take a moment to consider this: social movements do not exist in a vacuum.
There is strength in numbers. To put it plainly - because I have a meeting in about an hour and don't have time to think of a more politically correct way to say this - if animal advocates show empathy and interest in gay issues now then hopefully, once gay rights are better protected, that segment of society can feel a little more settled and turn its resources to helping the remaining less-protected segments of society.
Consider as well that no matter how much you may personally feel that the sheer volume of animal suffering really ought to be a number 1 priority for the planet (and yes, I agree with you personally), the reality is that most people - straight, gay or otherwise... - don't share that view of the universe. Most people are people-centric. And it is simply unlikely that this planet will truly see a change in how animals are treated until it irons out all of its "people mistreatment" problems.
If you vote in California, please vote NO on Prop 8.
Now let's talk about California's Proposition 2. Prop 2 is another ballot initiative scheduled for the November 4, 2008 elections in that state. If passed, it would ban three types of confinement farming: veal crates for baby calves, battery cages for hens and gestation crates for pregnant pigs. Again, in case you've been living under a rock, the concern is that current farming standards allow animals to be confined so tightly that their cages do not even permit them to freely turn around, lie down, stand up or even fully stretch their limbs. As with Prop 8, Prop 2 is generating a lot of fierce debate. Those in favor argue, briefly, that reducing at least some suffering now is better than waiting to eliminate all suffering at a future point. Those opposed argue that it will be costly to implement, raise costs for consumers and could result in greater reliance on imported foods that might pose a greater health risk.
Oddly though, some of the strongest opposition to Prop 2 comes from within the animal rights community. The hard-core perspective fears that palliative measures will only placate people into feeling better about animal suffering and thus dampen and delay any impetus to really address the problem. This viewpoint was thoughtfully (as always) articulated by well-known animal rights professor Gary Francione last spring. In one of his blog posts he relates a story about going to a local market where a meat vendor sells organically-raised, locally-slaughtered animals. One shopper remarked she felt better about buying meat there and the vendor apparently described the animals as "dear friends". Francione expresses the oft-repeated concern that Prop 2 and other so-called "happy meat" efforts are leading the country backward in the effort to address animal suffering.
While anecdotally I can certainly see how those sorts of random comments might lead to those fears, I don't believe that reality bears those fears out. The fact is, this country has been improving - albeitly slowly - its animal welfare laws since Henry Bergh started championing the cause during the 1800's. The U.S. has also become increasingly more receptive to discussing the idea of granting at least some basic rights to animals in just the past few decades alone. (In fact, other countries are even farther along that path than the U.S., although that topic could fill multiple other blog posts alone.) If the hard-core view were accurate, there would have been no progress beyond the first, early animal welfare laws. And that's just not how history unfolded.
I, for one, do believe that it is better to reduce at least some suffering now. I don't believe it will delay further reductions; in fact, I tend to think it heightens awareness and actually leads to further progress. (Although admittedly, I don't have statistics handy to back up that belief either.)
So if you vote in California, please vote NO on Prop 8 and YES on Prop 2.
If you've made it this far down in the post, thanks for reading my rant all the way through. And I really do have to get back to work now.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
Might be sort of amusing to think about, but I doubt anyone seriously believes that just because no one hears the tree fall, the noise doesn't happen. Even a 2-year-old comes to realize that just because mommy or daddy leaves the room it doesn't mean they cease to exist.
Unfortunately, and inexplicably really, until recently Oregon law required proof that an animal suffered "substantial pain" in order to convict an abuser on animal cruelty charges. We'll never know how many instances of cruelty went unprosecuted due to this subjective, and by its very definition pretty much insurmountable, standard.
Today's Oregonian offers a very thoughtful opinion piece by one of the nation's leading animal law attorneys, Pamela Frasch. Pam is the Executive Director of the Center for Animal Law Studies at Northwestern Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon. As Pam writes, the sad story of one abused elephant, Rose-Tu, offers proof that just because animals can't testify to their own pain doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Sadly, no justice for Norman the cat in the Joseph Petcka cruelty trial. After 5 days of deliberations, apparently one holdout blocked the jury from reaching the unanimous verdict necessary for a conviction. Read the AP article that appeared in Newsday here.
More and more attorneys are taking up animal law as a significant part of their practice, and it's really gratifying to see newspapers and other media across the country spotlight these practices. Here's a recent feature from Tampabay.com on one nearby New Port Richey practitioner, Dionne Blaesing.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
In response, federal lawmakers are considering the "Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act." The legislation "would make it a crime punishable by up to three years in prison to possess or transport horse meat for human consumption or horses intended to be slaughtered for human meals. "
Read more in this MSNBC article by senior news editor Mike Stuckey.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
5:02 PM EDT, September 24, 2008
A New York City jury has ended three days of deliberations without reaching a verdict on the fate of a former minor league baseball player accused of beating a girlfriend's cat to death in a jealous rage.
Read the rest of the article here...
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Check out this nice NBC feature by correspondent Jill Rappaport on the growing demand for the law to recognize pet "custody".
And a shout-out to colleague Gina Calogero who's got a great sound bite in the piece! Pictured at right is Dexter, the dog her client fought over when her ex-fiance broke off their relationship.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Bob Egelko, SF Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, September 22, 2008SAN FRANCISCO -- A judge denounced Marjorie Knoller today for indifference to the fate of a neighbor who was mauled to death by Knoller's dogs in a San Francisco apartment hallway and sentenced the former attorney to 15 years to life in prison for second-degree murder.
Read the rest of the article here...
I imagine the timing of the story was coincidental, although I can't help but note that it ran less than a week after writer David Foster Wallace died. Any vegetarian/vegan foodie will remember Wallace's equally frank, unapologetic observations about the Maine Lobster Festival for Gourmet Magazine a few years back. If you have time, check out ALDF's blog post remembering Wallace and "Consider the Lobster."
Sunday, September 21, 2008
A big shout-out to one of my very best favorite animal law attorneys and buddy, Adam Karp. A local Washington newspaper did a terrific feature story on him a couple of days ago, including a really great photo of Adam and one of his feline companions. Check out this Bellingham Herald article by Isabelle Dills!
[And props to technologically-challenged me for finally figuring out how to add images to this blog! :) ]
What struck me about it as blog-worthy though is that the suit was not only filed in Georgia, but was getting at least some media attention there. I lived in Atlanta for nearly five years, many moons ago. I speak from personal experience - and some readers may not be happy to see this although I doubt they would actually disagree - that the South, which historically has not been the most progressive part of this country, is still, in many respects, not the most progressive part of this country. And I speak from professional experience when I say that - with the notable exception of North Carolina (with longtime animal law Professor Bill Reppy at Duke, and now two animal law attorneys, Calley Gerber and my former intern extraordinaire, Joe Mustian) - animal law definitely falls into one of the categories where the South traditionally has not been very progressive. So I was pleased to read about this veterinary malpractice claim. Hopefully this is a harbinger of changing attitudes throughout that region of the U.S..
Friday, September 19, 2008
According to a recent AP article, PETA plans to ask law enforcement officials in Greene County, Iowa to prosecute not one - but EIGHTEEN people - caught on videotape abusing pigs on a farm about 60 miles outside of Des Moines. The farm is currently owned by MowMar, LLP of Fairmont, Minn. and is a supplier to Hormel.
According to the AP report:
At one point on the video, an employee shouts to an investigator, "Hurt 'em! There's nobody works for PETA out here. You know who PETA is?"
The undercover PETA investigator replies that he's heard of the group.
"I hate them. These (expletives) deserve to be hurt. Hurt, I say!," the employee yells as he hits a sow with a metal rod. "Hurt! Hurt! Hurt! Hurt! ... Take out your frustrations on 'em." He encourages the investigator to pretend that one of the pigs scared off a voluptuous and willing 17- or 18-year-old girl, and then beat the pig for it.
Disturbingly, even the behavior of accused cat killer Joseph Petchka (see post below) pales in comparison to the multiple instances of sadism chronicled here. Thanks again to colleague University of Illinois Ag Law Professor A. Bryan Endres for the link.
Historically, prosecutors have been extremely reluctant to prosecute any conduct that occurs on a farm, no matter how cruel by any commonsense understanding of the term. That is starting to change, due in no small part to the efforts of PETA. PETA frequently gets a bad rap in the public eye (due in no small part to its own choice to be as controversial as possible), but it does some really good and important work. For example, last year it obtained other undercover video that resulted in the world's largest pig producer agreeing to ban gestation crates (crates that are too small for pregnant sows to turn around in). Read more about that here.
Bruce F. if you happen to be reading this blog and want to go after any abusers here in Illinois, you know my contact info...
(Do you think anyone - even people who don't like cats - actually BELIEVES any of that?)
The trial has attracted worldwide attention, as evidenced by this update from Australia's Herald Sun.
Thanks to blog reader "BJC" for the link!
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Read more from this recent foodnavigator.com article by Jess Halliday. Thanks to my colleague, University of Illinois Ag Law Professor A. Bryan Endres for the heads-up on the article.
An English jury cleared six Greenpeace activists of criminal damage charges last week, finding that the threat of global warming is so great that they were justified in causing some $70,000 of damage to a local power station.
Read more in this article by Michael McCarthy of the Independent. Thanks to mentor Steven Wise for the heads-up on this unusual verdict.
Read more about the case in this Chicago Tribune article by Art Barnum.
Read about the trial in this AP article appearing on MSN.com.
I can't help but note a couple of things. One is that AP is reporting that the pair had only been dating six weeks at the time of Norman's death. What was this guy thinking? That his girlfriend would abandon all other relationships in her life for someone she had been dating for six weeks?
More importantly, the article also says that when Petchka alleged went into his drunken rage at about 3 a.m., ex-girlfriend Lisa Altobelli left the apartment to protect herself but apparently didn't think Norman was in danger. What was she thinking? Yes, technically, she shouldn't have to fear for Norman's safety, but then again, she shouldn't have had to fear for her own, either.
I certainly wish A.D.A. Leila Kermani good luck with this trial. I hope Petchka is convicted and sentenced to the fullest extent of the law. I hope this case sends a message to animal abusers to think twice about committing violent crime against the defenseless - and I hope that it also sends the message that if the N.Y.C. D.A.'s office goes after animal abusers like this it will go after perpetrators of human crimes hard too. But at the same time, there is also a message for victims here. Don't let yourself become a victim. Get out. And take everyone else with you.