Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A fight to save urban youth from dogfighting

If you have time, check out the really encouraging feature article by Sharon L. Peters in USA Today on one effort by the Humane Society of the United States to stop animal abuse by reforming the abusers.

Monday, September 29, 2008

If a tree falls in the forest...

We've all heard that old line: "If a tree falls in the forest but nobody can hear it, does it still make a sound?"

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

NYC cat cruelty trial ends in hung jury

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.

Animal law comes to Tampa Bay, Florida

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

Horse slaughter debates continues

Why is this still an issue, you wonder? Didn't the U.S. close the last of the three remaining horse slaughter plants last year in Illinois? Yes, but the closure of the Cavel plant in Illinois and the two plants in Texas - although a huge step forward for this country - somewhat predictably just pushed the practice further into Canada and Mexico, where it is still legal and there are even fewer protections against cruelty.

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

No verdict yet in Joseph Petcka cat killing trial

By the Associated Press
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

Fighting over Fido: Pet custody battles on the rise

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.

Lawsuit: Construction firm killed my beloved dog

Thanks to the Chicago Sun-Times for deciding to run a little article about the latest suit I filed. (Title above was theirs, not mine.) Odd though, because usually the local reporters call me before they write anything. Helloooo out there. If you have any questions, please feel free to call...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sentencing in San Francisco dog mauling case

San Francisco Gate
Bob Egelko, SF Chronicle Staff Writer

Monday, September 22, 2008

SAN 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...

Morality Bites

Kudos to reporter Monica Eng of the Chicago Tribune for this extremely thoughtful, frank Sunday feature on her decision to try to really understand what it means to eat meat.

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

Yeah Adam Karp!

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! :) ]

The South and animal law

As I was combing through Google news this morning, I also noticed this recent article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution about a new veterinary malpractice claim filed in Atlanta's Fulton County Superior Court. There was nothing in the article that would suggest the lawsuit was particularly new or different substantively than any other vet mal case.

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

HR 6202: the federal Farm Animal Anti-Cruelty Act

What is it? Read more in this update from the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

Why is it needed? See next post...

If you purchase Hormel products...

...You may or may not want to know what your purchasing dollar supports.

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...

Cat cruelty trial continues in N.Y.C.

The criminal trial of minor leaguer-turned-actor Joseph Petchka continues. Petchka reportedly testified today that Norman the cat attacked and lunged at him, that Petchka screamed for Norman to get off and that Petchka -who weighs over 200 pounds - only kicked Kujo, er, Norman - who weighed in at about 7-1/2 pounds - in self defense.

(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.

More on meat consumption and the environment

Here's a follow-up on how food production impacts the environment. According to the "Meatless Monday" website, which describes itself as a national health campaign in conjunction with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: if every American replaced one chicken meal per week with a vegetarian one, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than a half-million cars off U.S. roads. Read the read of the article here.

Thanks to blog reader "BJC" for the link!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fighting climate change by reducing meat consumption

The average household can do more to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions if it cuts its meat consumption in half than if it cuts car use in half, according to a U.N. expert and winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Dr. Rajendra Pachauri is also challenging food manufacturers to use less meat in packaged products, and meat raised according to higher animal welfare standards when it is used, to also help combat climate change.

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.

Threat of global warming justifies breaking the law

In an unrelated but conveniently timed criminal news item...

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.

Central Illinois animal shelter accused of neglect

The director of the Bloomingdale Animal Shelter is facing 16 counts of cruelty and neglect. The shelter describes itself as a no-kill facility. A number of volunteers there, however, have complained to prosecutors about conditions at the shelter. Among those pressuring the local state's attorney office to investigate and prosecute the shelter is colleague and DePaul law school's Associate Director of the Center for Animal Law, Cherie Travis.

Read more about the case in this Chicago Tribune article by Art Barnum.

Kudos to one New York City District Attorney's Office

Unlike the Kit Carson County D.A.'s office (see Sept. 13th post below), one NYC prosecutor is taking animal cruelty seriously. Former Mets minor leaguer-turned-actor, Joseph Petchka, is on trial for allegedly killing his ex-girlfriend's cat, Norman, in a fit of jealous rage after complaining she loved the cat more than him.

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.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Gustav Pets Return Home

All of the efforts made after Hurricane Katrina to address problems with evacuating and reuniting people with their companion animals appear to be paying off. Check out this encouraging update in last Friday's ASPCA newsletter.

Monday, September 15, 2008

$7 Million text message settlement!

Ok, this has absolutely nothing to do with animal law, but I definitely wanted to give a shout out to a colleague, Jay Edelson, who just obtained a huge, honkin' settlement in a class action suit targeting unwanted text messaging spam.


For anyone who's ever wanted to reach through their phone and choke the telemarketer spamming them, this one's for you! Read more about the settlement here....

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Book Review

Ok, I haven't read this (yet), but it looks pretty good so I figured I'd pass along this link now to a review by Elana Kirsh in The Jerusalem Post for a new book examining the intersection between animal rights and religion:

For the Love of Animals
By Kathryn Shevelow
Henry Holt
368 pages; $27.50

Though religion is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of animal protection, Judaism definitely gets a better rap than Christianity in this flowing narrative of the rise of the animal rights movement in 18th century England. In many of the stories that American writer Kathryn Shevelow uses to paint the picture of the often frustrating tale of the fight for non-human animal rights, she points out that scriptural references came more often from the Torah than from the New Testament, which tends to see animals as existing to fulfill human needs than as fellow beings.

While far from religion-based, For the Love of Animals: The Rise of the Animal Protection Movement brings up serious moral and ethical questions that traditionally society has looked to religion to solve, especially in this era and region. How do animals experience pain? Do they suffer? Are they equal to humans? Do animals have immortal souls (obviously working on the assumption that humans do)? And, most importantly, are animals entitled to rights, and, if so, which rights? Leading on from this, the central theme of the book essentially focuses around the question of whether or not animals should be protected by the law.

Read the rest of the review here...

Shame on one District Attorney's Office in Colorado

In a criminal matter that could have resulted in more than 120 years in prison if convicted on all counts, a man accused of aggravated animal cruelty in starving 41 dogs to death is apparently going to be getting a plea from the Kit Carson County D.A.'s office that won't result in any jail time at all.

Read more here....

Shame shame shame on the D.A.'s office for not taking this matter seriously.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Republican ticket could take a lesson...

If Senator McCain really wants to campaign on the promise of change, here's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to both distance himself from Bush administration policies (and who doesn't want to distance himself from Bush policies, these days?) and embrace wildlife/environmentalism: follow the lead of one very unusual crime-fighter.

Seems that a black bear in Utah has taken the law into his own paws and raided a marijuana-growing operation hidden in the woods on Bear Mountain. Now THAT'S animal law! Read the rest of the story from this Brigham Young article...

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Another class action lawsuit against pet food manufacturers

This entry comes courtesy of a reader (thank you, Lynette... whoever and wherever you are...)

There's another lawsuit apparently pending against some major pet food manufacturers. It's not about tainted food, but alleges that the claims these manufacturers make about the healthfulness of their products are false and misleading. Not that this comes as news to the small universe of people who are painfully aware of what goes into a lot of pet food (as well as commercial livestock feed), such as diseased animals. But I imagine it does come as a rather unpleasant shock to the overwhelming majority of the public at large. You can read more about the case here, on the plaintiff attorneys' website.

I must admit I'm not familiar with this suit, although if any of the attorneys involved (yes, even the defense attorneys), would like to add a comment here, or call me, I'd be happy to hear from you.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Illinois passes good samaritan law for animals

Just before the Labor Day holiday, the Illinois governor signed an act into law amending the state's anti-cruelty statute. Here's the synopsis:

Amends the Humane Care for Animals Act. Provides that any person, including a veterinarian, who in good faith provides emergency care or treatment without fee to an injured animal or an animal separated from its owner due to an emergency or a disaster is not liable for civil damages as a result of his or her acts or omissions in providing or arranging further care or treatment, except for willful or wanton misconduct. Provides that the statute of limitations is 2 years for a violation of the Act (instead of cruelty to animals). Effective immediately.

Here's the link if you want to check out more details on HB5076...

Sunday, September 07, 2008

More of the same from the insurance industry...

I was reading through the September edition of the AAA magazine (not sure if it's available online to everyone or only members, but I suppose if you are really burning with curiosity you could check AAALiving.com) and came across a small item on page 39 entitled "Pet Coverage". To most consumers, I imagine that the information in the story will come as good news: AAA will pay up to $500, either for vet bills or to replace your animal if it dies, in a motor vehicle accident that is covered under the policy at issue. Other than the fact that anyone who has a companion animal will bristle at the notion that their companion can be replaced for $500, seems like AAA is recognizing that animals have value, right?

Don't be so sure. Fact is, most car insurance policies have a $500 limit for property damage anyway. I personally don't have AAA auto insurance (just the standard roadside assistance plan - which I've periodically needed and has worked, btw) so I haven't read their policy, but I imagine that's what's in there. So it's really just a matter of marketing spin, not anything new or improved from the evil-as-ever insurance empire.

The AAA article also reminded me of something I saw in the August (?) issue of Sports Illustrated. A horse jockey who used his whip to poke a horse in the eye was ordered to pay for the horse's vet bills and undergo an anger management class. My boyfriend asked me if I wanted to blog about that, but I decided against it at the time. I'm glad someone held the jockey responsible (if memory serves, it was a horseracing association, rather than the local authorities), but the penalties imposed did not go at all beyond what the law already provides for anyway.

Again, sorta reminiscent of the tainted pet food settlement that I've lamented about several times already. $24M seems like a lot, but does not actually include any payments beyond what the law minimally requires already.

Oh well. Change comes slowly.

Friday, September 05, 2008

The windy city gets fish-friendly...

Ok, so this doesn't exactly make up for Mayor Daley's heavy-handed (and imho) ill-considered repeal earlier this year of the foie gras ban...

but one eco-conscious advocacy group has created a rather unique sanctuary for fish who live in the chop of the busy Chicago River: a fish hotel.

Read more from the local CBS affiliate here...

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Animal rights: Another reason not to vote for Sarah Palin

As if most Democrats actually need another reason not to vote for the Republican ticket...

In addition to being in favor of defacing the planet with ANWAR drilling... supporting the war in Iraq... making numerous factual errors in her nomination acceptance speech, such as stating that Barack Obama has never authored a piece of legislation... publicly touting an abstinence-only policy for other parents' unwed teens but has a pregnant 17-yr-old daughter herself... well, I could go on but you get the idea...

Check this out:

The Alaska governor not only favors - but is herself a participant - in the "sport" of aerial wolf gunning. What is aerial wolf gunning, civilized people may ask?

Read this recent Slate article to find out...

Chicago man accused of throwing kitten off second-floor porch

Aggravated animal cruelty charge is filed

A Logan Square man was charged with aggravated animal cruelty Tuesday after he flung a 2-month old calico kitten from a second-story porch because he said it had scratched him, authorities said.

Read the rest of the article here...

Monday, September 01, 2008

Louisiana animals fare better with Gustav... despite their owners

Thankfully, Hurricane Gustav did not pack as crippling a punch against coastal Louisiana, and especially New Orleans, as Katrina did three years ago. Nonetheless, it was heartening to see that many of the changes in both law and policy that had been prompted by Katrina were apparently working.

For example, federal and state laws now mandate that officials must provide a means for owners to evacuate their companions. And owners did in fact have the option of evacuating their companions this time. But, as USA TODAY reports, a lot of people still did not do so...