Wednesday, November 30, 2011

More proof that cows think... of course, there's still no accounting for taste

As the colleague who forwarded this aptly explained, this has nothing to do with the practice of law.

But check out this quirky video of cows enjoying a serenade of sorts in their pasture! (Apologies for what appears to be advertising at the end of the video.) Thanks for sharing, Paul!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ringling Bros. Owner to Pay $270,000 in Animal-Welfare Case

The owner of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus paid a $270,000 civil penalty for alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.

The fine paid by Feld Entertainment Inc. is the biggest ever assessed against an animal exhibitor, the USDA said today in an e-mailed statement. Vienna, Virginia-based Feld said in a statement that it didn’t admit any wrongdoing or violations.

Read more in Bloomberg Newsweek...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Calling all Nevada residents

Seems it's time to start sending those calls and letters to your state lawmakers. Word this weekend is that a felony animal abuse law which went into effect about a month ago apparently has language in it that bars discussing the case with the public... effectively giving alleged animal abusers more privacy rights than alleged rapists and murderers.

Don't these folks have proof readers?

Read more in the Reno Gazette Journal...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

New law school program unleashes animal rights

Lewis & Clark Law School professor Pamela Frasch doesn’t think her views are radical, and maybe they aren’t, anymore.

It’s hard to pick up a newspaper these days without finding at least one story having to do with animal welfare. An exotic animal collector in Ohio lets loose lions and tigers, forcing police to hunt them down and kill them. Sea lions are shot and captured in order to save the salmon they eat. Animal rights protests at circuses, cat hoarders taken to jail, wolves both protected and hunted — signs are everywhere that the relationship between people and animals is shifting.

Read more in the Portland Tribune about the first law school to offer an advanced degree in animal law...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


I found out this afternoon that the husband of one of my dearest friends was killed in an auto crash in Birmingham, Alabama Tuesday. Apparently a pick-up truck crossed the median and hit their car head-on; Stan was driving and died despite wearing a seat belt. Angi was hospitalized, either injured or critically injured, depending upon which story you read. At least this International Business Times article lists what hospital she is in. I had left a bunch of emails and phone messages down to mutual friends and former colleagues in Atlanta earlier this afternoon but (probably due to the holiday) hadn't heard back from anyone yet.

Angi is just about the kindest soul you could meet (whip-smart too, with a keen sense of humor) and Stan was undoubtedly her soulmate. They didn't meet until mid-life and I was so happy for both of them that they found each other. They both were very family-oriented, were huge news junkies and loved to travel. Every year Angi would send a holiday card with a picture of the two of them - usually smiling ear-to-ear, like this picture - from some interesting place they visited and enjoyed... almost as much as they enjoyed just being with each other.

My heart is heavy. I - along with many others I'm sure - will call, send cards, make donations, and do any of a million other things that people try to do for each other when someone is grieving. We all know it all falls short - nothing is going to bring Stan back - but we do it just the same because there is nothing else to do. So if you would, please include Angi, Stan and their families in your prayers tonight too. Thanks.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Spar-bye bye!

Two more Minnesota grocery chains have pulled Sparboe eggs off their shelves. (Since when did taking a public position on animal cruelty get to be so trendy in the food biz? Eh, who cares... just enjoy the fallout...)

A shout-out goes to Doug Powell of Barfblog for finding this story (how does he find all this stuff?) and read more in the Minneapolis StarTribune...
Non Sequitur

And shout-out to blog reader Bruce for this moment of levity!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Target Joins McD's in Ditching Egg Supplier

Target has joined Oak Brook-based McDonald's in ditching a Midwestern egg supplier after undercover video showed employees abusing hens.

NBC Chicago has more...


Friday, November 18, 2011


Ok, it's not like I'm going to turn into a fan of McDonald's any time soon, but its reaction to a 20/20 investigation of one of its - now former - egg suppliers is at least encouraging.

For its part, ABC News not only interviews Mercy for Animals and uses the group's rather disturbing undercover footage of appalling caged hen conditions at Sparboe Farms in its report, but reporter Brian Ross referred to cruelty concerns as part and parcel of the problem, rather than as a footnote or not at all.

Meanwhile, McDonald's took swift action to end its business relationship with Sparboe and issued a statement which read in part:
"McDonald's expects all of our suppliers to meet our stringent requirements for delivering high quality food prepared in a humane and responsible manner."

Click here for a link to the video...Link..

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Medlen v. Strickland - A HUGE DAY FOR ANIMAL LAW!!!!!!!

Congratulations to animal law attorney Randy Turner, for getting Texas' 2nd Court of Appeals to overturn 120 years of (really bad!) precedent... and allowing a grief-stricken couple to recover for the sentimental value of their dog, wrongly euthanized by a local animal shelter.

WAY TO GO, RANDY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I don't usually cut-and-paste whole articles into this blog, but this decision is so important in this field that I don't want anyone to possibly miss it if the hyperlink breaks or your internet service is acting up or anything else. So here's a good article from a Texas legal journal in its entirety:

For the Love of Avery: Dog Owners Can Recover Sentimental-Value Damages for Loss of Pet

Fort Worth's 2nd Court of Appeals has ruled that value can be attached to the love of a dog, overruling a 120-year-old case in which the Texas Supreme Court held that plaintiffs can only recover for the market value of their pets. Randy Turner of Hurst represents the plaintiffs pro bono.

Texas Lawyer


In a decision sure to make canine lovers rejoice and veterinarians cringe, Fort Worth's 2nd Court of Appeals has ruled that value can be attached to the love of a dog, overruling a 120-year-old case in which the Texas Supreme Court held that plaintiffs can only recover for the market value of their pets.

On Nov. 3, the 2nd Court ruled in Kathryn and Jeremy Medlen v. Carla Strickland that dog owners can recover damages from a defendant based on the "sentimental value" related to the loss of their pet — a decision the defendant's lawyer argues could create new causes of action against vets.

According to the 2nd Court's opinion, the allegations in Medlen are as follows: In 2009, Kathryn and Jeremy Medlen's dog Avery escaped from their backyard and was picked up by animal control. Jeremy went to the animal shelter but did not have enough money to pay the fees. He was told he could return the next day, and a "hold for owner" tag was placed on Avery's cage, notifying the shelter employees that Avery was not to be euthanized.

Despite the "hold for owner" tag, Avery was put down the next day. When the Medlens returned to the shelter to pick up Avery, they learned what had happened.

The Medlens sued Carla Strickland, an employee at the shelter, alleging her negligence proximately caused Avery's death. They sued for "sentimental or intrinsic" damages because Avery had little or no market value and was irreplaceable.

Strickland objected to the Medlens' claims for damages on the ground that such damages are not recoverable for the death of a dog. The trial court dismissed the Medlens' suit for failure to state a claim for damages recognized by law — a ruling the Medlens appealed to the 2nd Court.

Unconditional Love

In its Nov. 3 decision, the 2nd Court took aim at the Texas Supreme Court's 1891 decision in Heiligmann v. Rose . Heiligmann involved a plaintiff who successfully sued a defendant after his dog was poisoned. In that case the high court ruled that a damage award for the loss of a canine may be determined by "either a market value, if the dog has any, or some special or pecuniary value to the owner, that may be ascertained by reference to usefulness and services of the dogs, and that they were of special value to the owner."

The 2nd Court pointed out that the Supreme Court has not addressed the value of a lost pet in the 120 years since it issued Heiligmann but has written several opinions in modern times that have "explicitly held that where personal property has little or no market value, and its main value is in sentiment, damages may be awarded based on this intrinsic or sentimental value."

"Because of the special position pets hold in their family, we see no reason why existing law should not be interpreted to allow recovery in the loss of a pet at least to the same extent as other personal property," wrote Justice Lee Gabriel in an opinion joined by justices Sue Walker and Bill Meier. [See the court's opinion in Medlen.]

"Dogs are unconditionally devoted to their owners. Today, we interpret timeworn supreme court law in light of subsequent supreme court law to acknowledge that the special value of 'man's best friend' should be protected," Gabriel wrote. "Because an owner may be awarded damages based on the sentimental value of lost personal property, and because dogs are personal property, the trial court erred in dismissing the Medlens' action against Strickland." The 2nd Court reversed the trial court and remanded the case.

Medlen is a huge victory for Randy Turner, a partner in Hurst's Turner & McKenzie and a dog lover who represents the Medlens pro bono. "I've said before I die or retire, I'm going to get this law changed," Turner says.

"I quote a study [in briefs] that says more than 50 percent of Americans would risk their lives to save their dog. And that's just a fact. And I'm one of those people," Turner says. "After Hurricane Katrina, people wouldn't leave because they wouldn't leave their dogs or cats. I defy you to find a piece of personal property that people value more than their pets. It can't be done."

The loss of Avery was especially hard on the Medlens, Turner says. They had raised the 80-pound brindle-coated dog since he was a puppy, he says. The dog was part of their family and even went on family vacations, Turner adds. Jeremy Medlen had his two children with him at the shelter when they learned Avery had been euthanized, Turner says.

"They are so devastated they have not gotten another dog. They are still grieving," Turner says of the Medlens.

Paul Boudloche, a partner in Fort Worth's Mason & Boudloche who represents Strickland, says he plans to file a motion with the 2nd Court seeking an en banc rehearing in Medlen .

"Our position is the law has been settled for 120 years not only by the Supreme Court but by the court of appeals. And the decision by the 2nd Court took us totally by surprise," Boudloche says.

"I think it's going to have a significant impact on the private sector, particularly veterinarians, kennel owners, even individuals who take care of their neighbors' pets. I mean, for example, on veterinarians, things which would be routine care for a pet, now they have to practice much more defensive medicine," Boudloche says. "[T]he value of a dog has changed in the eye of the law. So, if mistakes happen, the exposure for everybody is much greater."

Boudloche says the Texas Veterinary Medical Association already has contacted him about Medlen . Association spokeswoman Ashley Bustamante did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

Yet Boudloche says he and his client understand and sympathize with the emotional price of losing a dog.

"I fully understand," Boudloche says. "I'm a dog lover. I've had a number of dogs and I've grieved every time one of them passed away. And my client was devastated that she may have had something do with this dog's death."

Green rangers arm up to protect rhinos

A former soldier is using military skills honed in Iraq to train a rag-tag, under-funded and out-gunned band of African rangers to combat poachers in a country where illegal game trafficking comprises the third largest criminal industry in the world.

A shout-out to blog reader Bruce, who provided a heads-up to this news story by Al Jazeera in Zimbabwe...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

More proof that education does not necessarily lead to compassion

Lots of grumblings in the blogosphere that the Supreme Court seems poised to strike down California's ban prohibiting the slaughter of "downed" animals for food following yesterday's oral arguments.

The National Meat Association, of course, challenged the ban. Every downed cow that doesn't go into the food chain is lost profit.

California, in defense of its measure, is basically arguing that taking downed animals out of the food chain doesn't preempt federal law governing the slaughter of animals in any way because the state is simply removing certain animals from consideration as food animals.

The Justices did not seem to be buying that argument (although it is true that the tenor of any judge's questions is not necessarily indicative of how he or she is going to rule) according to a number of commentators, like The New York Times.

I'm not particularly surprised by the Court's pro-business tone.

Nor am I particularly surprised that there didn't seem to be much, if any, discussion about the value of recognizing at least some moral or ethical obligation to the most vulnerable and pathetic lives at the bottom of the food chain.

What I found most disappointing is that at least one member of the Court sees fit to trivialize death, none of the others took issue with him (at least publicly), and even the media isn't calling him out on it. As the NY Times reporter wrote:
Though much of the argument was a semantic tangle, there was at least one moment of clarity, when Justice Antonin Scalia reviewed the broader rules about which species may be slaughtered for food. “Lassie and Kitty are no good,” he said, “but Dobbin is all right.”

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

6th Circuit sides with homeowners in "breeding" case

In October 2008, undercover animal control officers in Louisville, Kentucky duped a couple of homeowners who were trying to sell puppies from their dogs' one and only litter into thinking that they were potential buyers... before busting in, seizing all of the animals and requiring the couple to alter and microchip all dogs... as well as pay a hefty fine... before being allowed to take the dogs home. All without ever actually charging them.

Louisville didn't see a problem with this. The lower court didn't see any constitutional issues. Yesterday however, the 6th Circuit said not so fast... read the opinion here...

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

No Justice for Jack

The headline on MSNBC rather understated the whole matter: "Jack the cat dies after getting lost at JFK". For those of you who haven't been following this story, Jack was a companion animal that - due to some rather lax handling - escaped from his cage after being checked in for an American Airlines flight at one of the world's busiest airports in late August. The search for Jack gained international momentum on Facebook, and thousands of people all over the world were delighted when Jack, rather bedraggled but in decent spirits, resurfaced two months later.

Jack suffered extensive, and apparently inoperable, injuries, however. Despite reportedly great efforts, his companion, Karen Pascoe, in consultation with an apparently extensive number of vets, made the decision to euthanize Jack on Sunday. My condolences go out to her.

Not that this wasn't the humane thing to do. I have mixed feelings about euthanasia myself. Never really had a problem with Dr. Jack Kevorkian; his patients all made a conscious, reflective, deliberative decision that their quality of life was so poor that they did not want to go on. With animals, it's tougher because they can't explicitly weigh in on whether they agree that their quality of life is so low that it is not worth enduring any more suffering to enjoy one more meal, one more sunset, one more pet on the head. It is agonizing to make that decision for someone - anyone - else. I know this from painful experience. I have no doubt that Karen thought long and hard about her decision and did the best she can do. No doubt also this whole incident will weigh heavily on her for many years to come.

What is much less clear is whether there is any meaningful lesson here for American (or the airline industry as a general matter). Changes to the Animal Welfare Act (must be some ten years ago now?) came in response to other pet travel horror stories and were supposed to help prevent needless tragedies like Jack's. Obviously, those changes fell short. Supposedly stiffer penalties apparently were not stiff enough to persuade American Airlines to make safe baggage handling enough of a priority to actually avoid blunders like Jack's.

If ever there were a poster cat symbolizing the need for - Republicans, cover your eyes - MORE REGULATION of the airline industry, it's Jack. And I'll go one step further. If ever there were a fact pattern to argue for the fundamental fairness of extending the tort of negligent infliction of emotional distress to non-human animals, this is it. (Illinois does not have a physical proximity or contemporaneous injury requirement; that's what I'm visualizing here.) Jack's story - despite the temporary black eye to AA - is basically nothing more than a heart-wrenching cost to be borne just about exclusively by Karen. Until the airline industry truly has to bear some of the cost of its actions, the only real question is: whose companion is next?

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Cruelest Show on Earth

Bullhooks. Whippings. Electric shocks. Three-day train rides without breaks.

Mother Jones' yearlong investigation rips the big top off how Ringling Bros. treats its elephants.

(Thanks to blog reader Bruce for the heads-up on this article!)