Saturday, April 30, 2011

LA neutering ordinance intact

But seriously, folks...

A California appellate court upheld an LA ordinance this week that requires owners to spay or neuter their companion animals unless they meet one of six exemptions. Citing "several issues related to the overpopulation problem including public health and safety concerns, inhumane treatment of animals, mass euthanasia of dogs/cats at local shelters, and rising costs for animal control", the court rejected arguments that the requirement violated owners' constitutional rights.

If anyone is familiar with the group that filed this suit, please feel free to chime in here. I couldn't really figure out what they were trying to accomplish. They argued, for example, that there was an exemption for people who intended to breed their dogs, but none for those who didn't want to breed their dogs yet still wanted to keep them intact. (Huh?) They also argued that they didn't want to apply for a breeder's permit and thus be viewed as a "breeder" because it has negative connotations. (Seems pretty whiny...) And there were a lot of other head-scratching arguments, such as contending that forced sterilization is a taking. (Really? Even if you don't want to breed the animal? How can one take away something that someone else was never going to have anyway? If a tree falls in the forest... well, you get the idea...)

Maybe I'm missing something here - and I am rarely on the side of animal control, so perhaps I Linkam missing something - but the decision seems pretty good to me. In fact, if I had written the ordinance, I'm not sure there would have even been as many as six exemptions... but I digress.

At any rate, you can read the opinion here at Concerned Dog Owners of California, et al. v. City of Los Angeles, et al.

Giving bullies a helping hand...

Again... not exactly animal law... but definitely worth writing about...

The Supreme Court sided with Big Business this week in a very, very big way. It ruled in favor of AT&T in a decision that basically bans class actions and requires arbitration of individual consumer complaints in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion. You can read more about the case in the ABA Journal.

Why is this important, you may ask? Because for all of the snarky things people may think (and say!) about plaintiff attorneys (not totally unwarranted either, if you ask me, and I am a plaintiff attorney), the fact remains that the class action was one of the giant leaps forward toward justice in the U.S. legal system last century.

As a practical matter, it used to be that if you had a dispute with a business, unless you were out a substantial sum of money, there was really not much you can do about it. Sure, you could write a nasty letter to the Better Business Bureau (or nowadays, a bad review on Yelp). But you were unlikely to really impact the company's revenue stream and were even less likely to get your money back.

The class action changed that. It allowed people to aggregate claims as small as even a dollar - because if a big business screws a million people out of even a dollar (or in this case, $30.22), well, that starts to add up - and get their voice heard in court. It allowed the spectre of being held responsible over a corporation's head; and sometimes even that is enough to persuade a business of the merits of doing the right thing.

But, as with many other things, the liberal pendulum of the 60s and 70s started to swing back as the decades rolled on. Over the past couple of decades, businesses have started to look for ways to get out of that sort of accountability and the current conservative make-up of the high court is the perfect place to hide.

Contracts - written by big business and offered to consumers on a take-it-or-leave-it basis - which require arbitration of disputes on an individual level are now de rigueur in just about everything from opening a bank account to getting cell phone service. You know that fine print no one wants to read? Amongst the many things it says in there (none of which run to your benefit, btw) is a clause stating that no matter how unhappy you are with their service or product, you agree to give up your day in court. Not only do you have to take your dispute to arbitration (where cases are typically heard by arbitrators with defense backgrounds), but you will likely have to pay for at least half the cost of doing so. This is typically a few thousand dollars. So if you feel [insert name of behemoth here] owes you $10, or $100, or even $1000, but it's going to cost you $2000 to do anything about it, most people make the financially rational decision to let it go - which is exactly what AT&T and every other arb-lovin' corporation is banking on. The Supreme Court basically just handed every bully on the block a club.

So this week's arb decision doesn't deal with non-human animals directly. Nonetheless, it does seem to be a bad sign when the nation's highest court doesn't feel the need to recognize the interests of individual (ie: vulnerable) humans.

Monday, April 25, 2011

'Cruel and immoral': Animal rights activists call on Google to ban dogfighting phone app

Animal rights activists including NFL star Michael Vick have called on Google to ban an Android app which allows players to train virtual pit bulls for dog fights.

Dog Wars, a free game for mobile phones, is marketed under the tag line 'raise your dog to beat the best', and lets players buy virtual shock collars and steroids.

Read more in UK's Daily Mail...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

More on China's "burgeoning animal-rights activism"...

A Newsweek editorial offered a thoughtful look at last week's spontaneous rescue of several hundred dogs in Beijing. As Isaac Stone Fish observes:
This burgeoning animal-rights activism, aided by the ease of Weibo communication, coexists not only with the braised dog stew found on menus across China but also with China's "take many prisoners" attitude toward human-rights activists. Over the past few months, dozens of outspoken lawyers, artists, and underground church pastors have been harassed, detained, or arrested; some activists say it's the most stifling environment since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. These arrests rarely make it into China's muzzled media. The dog saving, however, has been a very big story.

Read the rest here....

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Anyone know how to say "Way to go!" in Mandarin?

A very brave animal lover spontaneously arranged a blockade in Beijing late last week that ended up saving nearly 600 dogs from becoming dinner in a remote region elsewhere in China.

MSNBC has the story...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Belated Congrats...

... to the Indiana Bar's new Animal Law Section! Good luck!

San Francisco considering animal abuser registry

The Bay City is considering local legislation that would allow officials to track animal abusers. It is modeled after a law passed last year in Suffolk County, on the eastern end of Long Island, New York; that law was patterned after the sex offender database that came out of Megan's Law.

Read more about the San Fran proposal in Wednesday's SF Examiner and Thursday's

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Et Tu Minnesota? Another Law Proposes Making Factory Farm Photography Illegal

Minnesota is now apparently the latest state looking to keep the public from seeing exactly how most of its meat gets onto the plate. Check out this article from Discovery's for more...Link

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Rise of Animal Law

Will growing interest in how the legal system deals with animals ultimately lead to changes for researchers?

Read the rest at Science Magazine... and many thanks to blog reader Bruce for the heads-up on this thoughtful article!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

"Animal Attraction"

Venerated weekend TV magazine, CBS Sunday Morning, broadcast another of its animal issues this morning. Mostly (predictably) mass-appeal fluff, but enjoyable nonetheless to have on in the background at least while perusing your favorite Sunday newspaper. In case you missed it, here's a link to CBS Sunday Morning...

Friday, April 08, 2011

Taking steps to strengthen animal welfare laws...

A couple of items here:

The grisly killing of some 100 sled dogs in British Columbia this past winter prompted some 50,000 activists to petition the local government to step up its act - and it looks like that may just happen. explains...

Meanwhile, some rescue groups in Connecticut are hopeful that pending legislation that would make it easier to take animals being held at an animal control for veterinary care is making its way through the legislature. Read more in the Connecticut Post...

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Recent round-up

Apologies for my absence lately... Here's a few items catching my eye from this past week:

Hudson Valley Community College, c'mon down! You're the next contestant on "The Animal Law Course is Right!" Ok, ok. Maybe not exactly. But last week, this update New York school announced it is the only community college in the country that has gotten a grant from the game-show-host-turned-animal-law-philanthropist. Read more in the Times-Union.

A nice little piece in Bella Dog Magazine this past week about the growing awareness of - and still woefully inadequate remedies for - veterinary malpractice in this country. Doesn't really say anything new (ok, at least not if you also happen to be animal law attorney), but for any readers who are fortunate enough to have no idea what a heartbreaking problem this can be, it's still an eye-opener.

And last but not least... legislation that would finally upgrade aggravated animal cruelty to a felony in Mississippi (only 46 other states have done this already...) is on its way to Governor Haley Barbour. Local station WJTV has the story. Of course, not sure if anyone should expect too much. This is the same state that apparently doesn't even have an attempt murder law for people on the books... and at least according to Greenwich Time (no, no idea why this was running in a Connecticut paper), a recent effort to fix that legal loophole just got shot down (yes, bad pun intended) this past week as well.