Sunday, September 04, 2005

Justice for companion animals

An opinion piece in today's Albany Democrat-Herald (Or.) is full of recommendations on how to reform a "tangle of laws that are well-intended but mired in a grim reality that seldom results in justice for pet owners." The starting point is somewhat technical for an op-ed piece--what is the difference between intent requirements among cruelty offenses? What separates an act done "cruelly" from one done "maliciously"? Adverbs can be a problem in both excusing painful acts (when the statute only covers "unjustifiable" acts) and in providing a grounds for challenge that a statute is unconstitutionally vague.

The editorial's solution to the cruelty problem: greater funding, mandatory spay/neuter, greater licensing of breeders and trappers. It also proposes a greater role for people who keep companion animals:

Finally, grieving pet owners should be given the chance to address those convicted of animal cruelty, in court. Amanda Rhoads, who adopted Fiona [a companion cat killed by a neighbor with a bow and arrow] as a kitten, should have the chance to tell her cat's killer what it's like to lose her pet to someone else's cruel act.

Oregon law appears to broadly allow the victim or next of kin to participate in the sentencing phase of a trial. Would that statute allow someone who kept a companion animal to make a statement during sentencing? A Tennessee court recently allowed a victim statement submitted by a local humane society in a case against kennel proprietors. State v. Johnson, No. W2001-01272-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. 2002). It seems natural that animal victims of cruelty should be allowed to have their human companions testify on their behalf.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Wagman fights alleged hoarders in NC

From, a profile of Bruce Wagman, animal lawyer and co-author of the Animal Law casebook He says doing animal law was "the only epiphany I've ever had."

Wagman recently won an injunction against breeders in North Carolina who allegedly kept their animals in horrific conditions. The action was brought under a North Carolina law which grants a civil remedy to anyone, including non-owners. As one recent article noted, the civil remedies provision has been chipped away at since it was codified, but remains a unique tool for animal advocates. If you have Lexis or Westlaw, see William A. Reppy, Jr., Citizen Standing to Enforce Anti-Cruelty Laws by Obtaining Injunctions: The North Carolina Experience, 11 Animal L. 39 (2005). Otherwise check out this abstract.

Proposed legislation to spay/neuter "vicious" breeds

From the Pasadena Star News, a measure allowing localities to require spaying and neutering of certain breeds of dogs is gaining steam. Here's the text of the bill. Many think that breed bans, so called "canine profiling," are ineffective in stopping or reducing animal bites. One good feature of the proposed law is that jurisdictions who do regulate by breed must submit reports to the state on dog bites, which could be used to measure the effectiveness of the measure.

Dawnwatch also has a persuasive argument that this sort of law advances the interests of animals more than Denver's outright ban of pitballs:
As California kills hundreds of thousand of dogs every year in shelters, most true animal advocates would be thrilled to see compulsory spay/neuter of all breeds as long as there are any dogs dying for lack of homes. Why not start with those breeds deemed dangerous, that tend to attract those who enjoy organizing dog fights for sport? I write that as the adoptive mother of a sweet little red-nose pitbull, who is, of course, spayed. But thousands of her relatives die every year in California shelters and countless others die in organized dog fights. A ban on breeding them would be wonderful. And it is no doubt the compromise needed that will prevent a misguided over-reaching law like that in Denver, which takes loving dogs out of loving homes.

Airline safety for companion animals

Federal law requires airlines to report the loss, injury, or death of a companion animal in transit to the Secretary of Transportation and for the Secretary to publish the information. 49 U.S.C. 41721. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (registration req'd or opt out) that fewer incidents are being reported than expected but notes some ways to improve the law and its administration:

The incident reports are posted online each month, but [DOT spokesperson] Mosley said only airlines that have a reportable incident are required to file each month. Consumers also will have to scan through old reports to get a feel for which airlines have the most incidents because the government will not record cumulative totals...

Animal groups point out ... that the reports only cover pets being transported, not all animals carried by airlines. They said the reports should cover all animals, including ones bound for labs, farms or other uses.

The Animal Welfare Act authorizes the Department of Ag to regulate transportation of some animals to dealers, exhibitors, and labs, but the AWA has a history of being under-enforced. (The Twenty Eight Hour Law apparently excludes airlines.) Here's the DOT list of reports.

Cruelty charges filed against egg producer

"The first time a district attorney has charged an egg-producing corporation with cruelty to animals": the Humane Society of the United States reports that a Missouri prosecutor is charging MOARK, an egg processor and distributor, with misdemeanor cruelty. A passerby videotaped live chickens being put into a dumpster. The article does a good job of explaining the minimal legal protection afforded laying hens in the U.S.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Woman Awarded $45,000 for Cat Killed by Neighbor's Dog

A Seattle judge awarded more than $45,000 to a woman whose cat was killed by a neighbor's dog. Below is the story that ran in the Seattle Times:
Woman awarded $45,000 for cat killed by neighbor's dog
Monday, May 9, 2005

SEATTLE, Washington (AP) -- A woman who sued a neighbor after his dog mauled her cat to death has been awarded more than $45,000.

Retired teacher Paula Roemer's 12-year-old cat, Yofi, was attacked in her back yard in February 2004 by a chow belonging to her neighbor, Wallace Gray. The dog had repeatedly escaped in the past, according to the lawsuit.

Roemer, 71, said the death of the black and white cat left her with sleep disturbances, panic attacks and depression, causing her to begin smoking heavily. The amount awarded included $30,000 for the pet's special value and $15,000 for emotional distress.

Her lawyer, Adam P. Karp, announced the verdict by Judge Barbara L. Linde on Sunday and said the value accorded to the cat tied a record. In the previous case, a jury in California last year ordered a veterinarian to pay a dog owner $30,000 for the dog's "unique" value, plus $9,000 for veterinary bills.

Gray, who served three weeks in jail and three months under house arrest for an animal control violation, said an acquaintance was taking care of his dog at the time of the attack.

"This is absolutely crazy," Gray said. "I'm sorry she lost her cat, but I had no control over it."

Roemer said she doubted she would see any of the money but plans to donate anything she does collect to an animal protection group.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Pet Owner Can Sue for Sentimental Value

An appellate court in Illinois has held that the owner of a pet cat that was killed may sue for what the cat was worth to her, including damages such as sentimental value. Below is the cover story regarding the case that appeared in the ABA Journal Ereport on March 25, 2005.

Animals Are Being Seen as More Than Property, Ruling Says

Mary Ann Anzalone testified that since her cat Blackie was mauled to death, she has cried constantly, lost sleep, suffered headaches, gained weight and endured recurring nightmares. But no matter how deep a person’s suffering over the loss of a pet, most courts allow the aggrieved owner to recover monetary damages only for an animal’s property value.

However, in an unusual ruling, the Illinois Appellate Court this month said Anzalone may be able to claim compensation for the sentimental value of her cat.

A rottweiler killed Blackie in June 2002 at the Kragness Animal Hospital in Chicago after the dog pushed through a door left ajar and into the exercise room occupied by the cat.

A Cook County Circuit Court dismissed Anzalone’s suit for $100,000 on the ground that she failed to specify her damages. A three-judge appellate panel reversed, saying Anzalone should be able to argue for damages based on Blackie’s value to her rather than the pet’s fair market value. Anzalone v. Kragness, No. 1-04-1647 (March 7).

"I think it’s a very good decision, which basically says that animals are not property," says Ledy VanKavage, senior director of legislative services with the ASPCA in Illinois. "The animal-human bond is evolving, and this decision is a reflection of society’s changing attitudes."

Under common law, animals are considered an item of personal property, and pet owners may recover damages only for an animal’s fair market value. This view of pets as property prevails in most jurisdictions, the court said, although legal scholars specializing in animal issues consider it outdated.

But computing damages this way does not account for instances when a pet has no fair market value. The court cited a 1987 Illinois ruling, Jankoski v. Preiser Animal Hospital, 510 N.E.2d 1084, that allows damages to be based on the value of the pet to the owner, including an element of sentimental value. Jankoski did not allow an independent cause of action for loss of companionship, however.

The ASPCA says allowing sentimental value damages in a negligence suit by a pet owner is an important step in defining animals as more than property. Illinois enacted a statute, the Humane Care for Animals Act, which provides, at least in theory, for civil damages for emotional distress. But VanKavage notes the law was written only to account for "damages for injury or death of pets subjected to intentional acts of aggravated cruelty or torture."

The law did not address negligent injury. "In fact, the ruling here was broader than the legislation," VanKavage says.

It’s not clear how much money Anzalone may be awarded. The appeals court said her claim for $100,000 is excessive, but said the lower court should not have dismissed her claim because of that.

Veterinarian Craig Kragness declined to comment, and his lawyer, Edward Rampson, did not return calls requesting comment. Anzalone’s attorney, Amy Breyer, is out of the country and could not be reached.

©2005 ABA Journal

Monday, March 07, 2005

Welcome to the Animal Law Blog!

This is, as far as I can tell, the first blog dedicated to the discussion of the evolving area of animal law. It is my hope that this will become a forum for practitioners and scholars to exchange legal updates, theories and thoughtful commentary on statutory and common law relating to all manner of non-human animals. If you would like to participate, or have a suggestion for improving this site, please let me know!