Monday, December 29, 2008

Prince Edward could face RSPCA probe

The U.K. Daily Mail
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

Economic hard times hitting companion animals even harder

In Southeast Georgia, like the rest of the country, animals are showing up at shelters in increasing rates as owners feel forced to give them up. Read more in this Florida Times-Union article by Theresa Stepzinski.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

PETA strikes out (virtually) against Sarah Palin... and how about Rod Blagojevich while you're at it?

Again, not exactly animal law, but hey, the holidays are always a good time to take a break and have some fun...

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

Merry Christmas!

As well as a Happy (belated) Hannukah and Happy Kwanzaa too!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Scientist: Stem cells could end animal testing

By Matthew Knight

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

Thank you, Ben Stein... and Joe Biden

Very thoughtful commentary this morning from CBS Sunday Morning's Ben Stein.

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.

Alaska lauded for tougher animal cruelty laws

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

Poll: 67% of pet owners say they 'talk'

Sorry for not posting more this past week... anywho...

A nice little feature in USA Today a few days ago about an AP poll that echoes a sentiment that most people who live with cats or dogs have believed for a long time...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Chickens earning their keep in Chicago backyards

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

Flavor of the day... again

Ok, even I'm starting to get a little tired of all the "pet custody" articles... although I still admit every little bit of publicity helps to raise public awareness, at least among the shrinking numbers of folks who would have to live under a rock to not have heard about this by now.

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

Obama’s ‘Secretary of Food’?

One New York Times columnist is calling on Barack Obama to make good on his campaign promises of reform by renaming the Department of Agriculture. Noting, among other things, that "[s]ociety is becoming concerned not only with little boys who abuse cats but also with tycoons whose business model is abusing farm animals", he urges the President-Elect to change the name of the Ag Dept to reflect the fact that (hopefully) it won't just be a tool of the factory-farm lobby anymore.

Read more in Nicholas D. Kristof's opinion piece.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It's 'Rat Chick' to the rescue

Boy, and I thought I spent a fair amount of my time trying to explain to people what animal law is and why the issue is important. Read this!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

More on the emotional lives of animals...

According to an article by Eliza Strickland in yesterday's Discover Magazine:

"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

Sunday Round-up

A couple of nice opinion pieces this past week...

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

Texas: animal law a growing field

Despite the overly cutesy title (a common problem) "Lawyers turn career into pet project", is a nice article by Mary Flood in the Houston Chronicle about the growing number of attorneys practicing animal law in that state. You might not think of a traditionally conservative, still proudly wild-west place like Texas to be a bastion of progressive thought in any area... but I can personally attest to the fact that animal law is thriving in the Lone Star state. I was fortunate enough to be invited to last year's annual Animal Law Institute by the animal law section of the Texas Bar and the South Texas College of Law. They put on a terrific program; if you have a chance to check out a future program, I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Religion and animals...

No breaking news on the animal law front today. Just a nice little article showing how religious beliefs can co-exist peaceably with AR beliefs (not a word about dominion or stewardship...) such as veganism, as well as other worthwhile concerns such as environmentalism...