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...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Seeking a Presidential Pardon? Try Praising the Right to Bear Arms

Ok, not exactly animal law, but this WSJ article caught my eye:

Five Forgiven by Bush Share a Trait: They Really Missed Their Weapons

By Amir Efrati
The Wall Street Journal
November 28, 2008

A decade ago, Leslie Collier, a 50-year-old corn and soybean farmer in Charleston, Mo., pleaded guilty to poisoning bald eagles. He says the worst thing about his criminal record was that it meant he was barred by law from owning a gun.

So, after George W. Bush, a strong defender of the Second Amendment, took office, Mr. Collier wrote to the president seeking a pardon, saying he wanted to go hunting with his kids. He explained that he accidentally killed the eagles while trying to poison coyotes that were attacking wild turkeys and deer on property he farms.

Read more here...

AVMA... still tepid on even basic animal welfare issues

The American Veterinary Medical Association came out with a revised policy position last week - it now goes so far as to "encourage" the elimination of ear cropping and tail docking in breed standards for dogs. Oooh. Aaah. Another hundred years or so and they may actually come out with a position that actually takes the interests of the animal into consideration...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Turkeys for Thanksgiving -- as friends, not feast

The Los Angeles Times
By Carla Hall
November 27, 2008

At Karen Dawn's Thanksgiving feast, there will be yams and stuffing with cranberries and a dessert of pumpkin-pecan pie, all set out on a table for eight.

And there will be turkeys, two of them actually -- Emily and Bruce (or possibly Brucilla -- it's a little unclear). The two 20-pounders will have most of the privileges of Dawn's other sentient guests -- a Pacific Palisades patio, a view of the ocean and vegetarian nibbles.

At Dawn's vegan holiday dinner, guests will ooh and aah over live birds. The only turkey plunked down on her table will be Wild Turkey bourbon.

"It goes beautifully with the hot apple cider," Dawn says brightly.

Read the rest of the article here....

Personal note: The last time I saw Karen was at an AR conference going on ten years ago. Thinking back on it now, who would have ever imagined that turkey-less Thanksgivings would become so mainstream less than a decade later. (Btw, way to go, Karen - great feature!) I imagine there's a lot more of us doing veggie and vegan holiday meals than even we realize.

If you haven't tried pardoning a turkey yet yourself, please consider it for next year. Contrary to the cliff-notes version of popular opinion, Thanksgiving isn't all about the turkey. It's also about the stuffing, the cranberries and the gravy (and honestly, once you pile all that stuff on your fork, you can't really even tell if there's turkey underneath). Seriously, mostly it's about the tradition of it all - and taking a few hours out of the whole year to give thanks for something. I'm not going to try to beat anyone over the head with how turkeys are produced for the holiday; there's plenty of other websites for that. But I will leave you with this thought: whatever you may have to be thankful for, wouldn't it be nice to add one more item to the list - a small act of kindness that is easy to swallow for the diner but means the world to the dinner.

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Old Florida law faces new debate

In Florida, as in many other states, it remains legal for a landowner to shoot wandering dogs that are said to be "worrying" the livestock. But if the dogs' owner and friend are running into the field, leash in hand and screaming "no no no" as the rancher is about to shoot, is still ok to pull the trigger?

The rancher says yes. Animal law attorney Jennifer Dietz and the owner's new civil suit say no. Read more in this Pet Pulse article by Victoria Lim.

UPDATE from Jennifer Dietz: She writes "Notably, Comins is not a rancher, not an owner of cattle, and not the owner of the land where the shootings took place. He was merely a passer-by who happened to have two high caliber guns in his car."

Monday, November 24, 2008

International animal rights round up...

Just a few items that caught my eye this morning from around the globe:

Animal rights group slams Cambodia monkey trade:
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - An animal rights group says Cambodia is flouting international conventions by allowing the cruel capture of monkeys for research in the United States and China.

Ottawa landowners association takes aim at animal rights group:
At a staged event for news media, the Canadian group accused the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) of ruining the life of one Manitoulin Island farmer in a two-year legal saga that saw him convicted on four charges of failing to provide suitable and adequate care for his horses.

Animal rights movement starting to stir in Egypt:
CAIRO // The haunting sound of barking dogs and screeching cats followed by gunshots throughout the night is a constant reminder of the struggle undertaken by animal rights activists in the country.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sarah Palin... what a turkey

After posting about Pres. Bush (see below), it is only natural to want to follow up with Sarah Palin's media fiasco yesterday. Just moments after the Alaskan governor "pardoned" a Thanksgiving turkey, she gave a lengthy TV interview while other birds were slaughtered just feet behind her. Yeesh.

While we're on the subject of videos at a turkey slaughterhouse....

PETA released undercover videotapes earlier this week that were taken at the nation’s premier poultry-breeding facility, Aviagen Turkey, in West Virginia. According to a New York Times piece by Donald G. McNeil, Jr. the video "show[s] turkeys being stomped to death and punched by workers.... The scenes show stomach-turning brutality. Workers are seen smashing birds into loading cages like basketballs, stomping heads and breaking necks, apparently for fun, even pretending to rape one." PETA is asking local prosecutors to pursue criminal charges.

One last swipe at the environment before he goes...

Ok, I missed this the other day, but apparently President Bush was leaning on the U.S. Interior Department to rush out a set out of rules that would weaken endangered species regulations. The idea was to release them by Friday (yesterday) in order to put them in place before President-Elect Obama can reverse them easily. Why am I not surprised?

Read more in this Associated Press/USA Today article.

And if anyone knows how this actually turned out, please post a comment thanks!

Stiff, new anti-cruelty law in Ontario

Called the "strongest animal protection law in Canada," the Provincial Animal Welfare Act will allow the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) to inspect places where animals are kept, other than houses, without a warrant.... The act hasn't been changed since 1919 and now states that people who abuse animals could face up to two years in jail, fines up to $60,000 and a potential lifetime ban on animal ownership.

Read more in this Midland Free Press story by Sara Ross.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Calling all Indiana animal law attorneys!

The Indiana State Bar Association is considering forming an animal law section. If you are at all interested, now is the time to speak up. Contact Maryann Williams at for more info.

And a shout-out to the Univ. of Tenn. Law School too!

UT has just established a new SALDF chapter, according to the student newspaper, the Daily Beacon. Congrats and good luck!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Business as usual at Chicago City Hall

I was at press conference this morning, to publicize one courageous Alderwoman's efforts to pass an ordinance banning elephant cruelty. You might think this would be a non-issue in Chicago. (After all, where would you put an elephant in a city of 3 million people?) However, there ARE elephants in the windy city. Every year, Ringling Bros. Circus plays at the United Center (think Bulls and Hawks).

The ordinance - which seeks to prohibit the use of chains - has already been watered down to remove the prohibition on bullhooks. But in a city that just had to have its foie gras, if you ask me, even this milquetoast proposal is unlikely to go anywhere.

Why, you might ask. Why? Seriously? Well, ok, for the handful of readers who actually live under a rock and just come up to surf the internet... this is Chicago politics we're talking about. All those stories, that reputation Chicago has for corruption? That kinda reputation doesn't happen by itself. No no no. It's real. (I've seen it at work, actually, but that was in relation to a proposed condo development in my neighborhood, not a relevant post for this blog.) Here, a number of key aldermen (aka: city council members) have apparently been getting donations from Ringling Bros. And now - surprise, surprise - they are opposed to the ordinance! Who would've thunk?

Read more in this recent Chicago Sun-Times article by Fran Spielman. Oh, and if you happen to have a spare $40,000, I know a bunch of elephants who could use the change to outspend the animals currently peddling their influence at City Hall.

Dogfighting in Chicago: 'An absence of shame'

The Englewood basement was cramped, chaotic. Fifty people -- parents, kids, a pregnant woman -- huddled around a bloody 10-foot-by-10-foot ring, cheering two pit bulls trained to kill.

Barbaric to most, this medieval blood sport remains a routine source of shameless entertainment in large swaths of the city.

Read more in this follow-up feature to the recent Chicago dogfighting bust here...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Meanwhile in Minnesota...

The H.S.U.S., which was instrumental in yesterday's big Chicago dog fight bust (see post below), is also upping the ante for animal fighting in another midwestern state. In Minnesota, tips that lead to convictions may receive as much as a $5,000 reward, up from $2,500. Read more in Mara Gottfried's article in the Twin Cities' Pioneer Press.

3 charged, dozens arrested in Chicago dog fight

CHICAGO - Three men face felony charges after police interrupted a dog fight on Chicago's South Side.

Cook County Sheriff's Police arrested more than 50 people in the incident, which involved two pit bulls. Police say one of the dogs was so badly injured, it could barely stand.

Read more here...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Spokane County lawsuit seeks pet rights


SPOKANE, Wash. -- A federal lawsuit is challenging the constitutionality of animal control laws in Spokane, including provisions allowing for the immediate euthanasia of cats.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday by Adam Karp, a Bellingham animal law attorney, who represents Spokane pet owner Patty Schoendorf.

Way to go, Adam! Read more about the suit in this Seattle Post-Intelligencer article.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What's a dog's life worth?

Maybe some people don't think it's worth as much as a person's life. Other people do.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ohio mayor can't fill board to hear pit-bull appeals

As I'm on my daily search for newsy items to blog about, there's generally at least one - if not multiple - stories about local towns and counties all across the U.S. enacting some new "dangerous dog" law. For example, just within the past week, stories ran about such ordinances in small towns in coastal Maryland and Massachusetts.

But here's a twist. One small city near Columbus, Ohio has a new law requiring owners to appear before an appeals board if they want to fight a determination of viciousness - but apparently the mayor can't find anyone to serve on the board. Read more in Elizabeth Gibson's article in today's Columbus Dispatch.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

European Commission calls for greater ban on primate testing

The proposal, announced this past week, would "ban laboratory tests on mankind's closest relatives -- chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos and orangutans -- in a clampdown on animal testing by the drugs industry and other researchers."

Sounds like a terrific step forward, yes. Although as advocacy groups noted, great apes haven't been used in EU research in six years so perhaps this is more of a token gesture than any real progress. Moreover, monkeys and other animals would not be covered by the ban. The plan also calls for tighter welfare standards, although it was not entirely clear (at least to me), whether any improvements applied only to primates or to all animals used in research. Overwhelmingly, most animal testing is done on rats and mice.

As you can imagine, the announcement generated media attention all over the world, especially in Europe. Here's a sampling of the stories from Reuters (via, Financial Times, The Telegraph, The Hindu News Update Service, and China News. Predictably, the announcement is also generating passionate debate both for and against the ban (as well as - also predictably - animal testing in general).

Two Oregon men dead, no winners

"If this were a movie," said Geordie Duckler, a Portland attorney specializing in animal law, "people would say it is too strange to be true. But this is not terribly unusual. Animal disputes engender a huge amount of animosity."

Read about how a dispute over a cat left the cat bloody and two men dead in this Oregonian article by Lori Tobias.

Meanwhile in Kentucky...

The first case under that state's new, stiffer animal cruelty law will go to court next week. According to KRC-TV Local News 12, "Russell Swigart was indicted yesterday for burglary and two counts of torture of a cat... a new offense." Read more here...

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Pet owners face code of practice

A shout-out to blog reader Bruce Korol for the heads-up on this BBC News article about Britain's 2006 Animal Welfare Act. Writes the BBC:

Cat and dog owners are to be told to provide "entertainment" and "mental stimulation" for their pets under new government advice.

The code of practice also includes advice on diet and providing "somewhere suitable to go to the toilet".

It says owners should watch for signs of stress and advises on introducing cats to dogs without the fur flying.

Owners will not be fined for breaking the rules but failure to comply may be used in animal cruelty prosecutions.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said it wanted to remind pet owners of their responsibilities under the 2006 Animal Welfare Act.

Read more about the 26-page document on cat welfare here...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Prop 2 passes in California!

Read all about it in this LA Times article by Carla Hall!

Unfortunately, California's Prop 8, banning gay marriage, also passed. Read more in this Wall Street Journal article here.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Open message to Barack Obama

Ok, I'm a Democrat (no surprise there) so I was really happy when Obama was declared the winner in the presidential election just over an hour ago. Props to John McCain for what was probably the most gracious - and genuine - concession speech as has ever been given.

Congratulations to Barack Obama! May his presidency live up to the promise of hope and change that his campaign envisioned. And in case any of his aides or staff happens across this blog post, here's an open message to the next administration:

As you look across this vast nation of ours - all of the different demographics of race, ethnity, gender, sexual orientation, age, religious beliefs and more - please find the compassion in your hearts and perceptive-thinking in your minds to consider, protect and improve the lots of the most vulnerable members of our society: animals.

And President-Elect Obama - you know that puppy you mentioned in your victory speech that you promised your kids would be moving to the White House with you? Please adopt from a shelter. Good luck and God bless!


Thank you.

Horse forfeiture case goes up on appeal in Michigan

A Jackson County prosecutor says the Michigan Court of Appeals has set January 13th as the hearing date in the hotly-contested Henderson horse farm case. Read more in this Jackson Citizen Patriot article by Steven Hepker.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Former pop star charged with animal cruelty

Dale Bozzio, lead singer of the 80's band Missing Persons, has been charged with three counts of animal cruelty and may face another nine charges. Read more in the Associated Press blurb from Vermont's Fox News 44.

Friday, October 31, 2008

University of Quebec in Montreal to host Canada's first International Animal Law Conference

The title of the conference will be: "The animal, within the sphere of humans’ needs." It is set for May 21-22, 2009 and is being organized by the International Research Group in Animal Law (GRIDA).

According to conference facilitator Martine LaChance: This international event deals with a wide range of topics or research issues related to the legal condition or welfare of animals. Although it is mainly a scientific activity of legal nature, the aim of the conference is to welcome researchers from other disciplines - such as biology, ecology, philosophy and sociology -, all concerned with the use and exploitation of animals by human beings, sources of animal sufferings they wish to avoid or, at the very least, minimise.

GRIDA is calling for papers for this inaugural event. If you are interested, please contact for details!

Here's an interesting tidbit...

According to The Animal Legal Report:

An association founded by animal welfare and animal-rights activists is gearing up to compete directly with the veterinary profession's largest membership body, the American Veterinary Medical Association. It's called the Humane Society Veterinary Association. It will offer alternative programs to the AVMA's business insurance programs. HSUS President Wayne Pacelle predicts many veterinarians will flock to HSVA because its philosophy mirrors their own welfare thinking, as long as they're not saddled with a need to buy AVMA insurance plans.
Source: Brakke Consulting, Inc. 10/24/2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Washington state judge refuses to allow prosecution in scalded monkey case

By Jennifer Sullivan
Seattle Times staff reporter

EVERETT — An Everett District Court judge this morning ruled against an animal-rights advocate who sought to file a citizen's complaint against three former employees of an Everett animal-testing lab who allegedly sent a monkey through a cage washer, scalding the animal to death.

Read the rest of the article here.

Shame on Judge Roger Fisher.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

No qualified immunity for police in 7th Circuit dog shooting case

Great case was just handed down from the 7th Circuit! Here's the blurb and link from today's Illinois State Bar Association's "ISBA E-Clips":

Viilo v. Eyre, No. 08-1627 (10/27/08). Appeal, E.D. Wisc. Appeal dismissed.
Ct. of Appeals lacked jurisdiction to consider defendants-police officers' appeal of Dist. Ct.'s denial of their motion for summary judgment alleging qualified immunity in plaintiff's sec. 1983 action alleging 4th Amendment violation arising out of defendants' shooting of plaintiff's pet dog during search of plaintiff's home. Record contained factual dispute as to whether said shooting was necessary, and defendants otherwise had notice that unnecessary killing of pet dog could constitute "seizure" within meaning of 4th Amendment.

Commentary from me: Yippee! (Ok, not the most scholarly of commentary, I admit...) Seriously, I am very encouraged by the 4th amendment decisions that have been coming down, pretty much unanimously around the country for about a decade now, that the shooting of a companion animal does constitute a seizure within the meaning of the 4th amendment and police can't hide behind the shield of qualified immunity to defend their (at best) insensitive and thoughtless actions. The city of San Jose and Santa Clara County ultimately paid more than a million dollars in the infamous Hell's Angels case and another California city paid more than $500,000 in Fuller v. Vines (see Viilo for cites). Other cases have resulted in a few 6, and a number of 5, figure awards or settlements.

Hopefully, if enough of these suits really start to pull in big numbers then perhaps THAT will persuade municipalities and police departments not to rely on what I like to call the "Kujo defense." ("Your honor, I know the dog was 15 years old, toothless and blind, but he was charging straight toward me, growling and baring his fangs...") I realize not all police officers are rogue cops (please, no angry emails). But some are. I see this in my practice all too frequently. At least several times a year someone comes in with a story of how they and their dog were minding their own business, in their own home, when the cops bust in for some (usually misplaced) reason and shoot the family dog just because it was there and they figured they could get away with it.

If anyone reading this blog happens to know who represented Viilo, please ask them to call me. I would love to stay posted on what happens as the case heads back down to trial court.

POSTSCRIPT: Thanks to one of Megan Senatori's animal law students for letting her know about my blog post. Congrats to Megan and best wishes for the trial!

Humane groceries: Can you trust labels like 'cage free'?

Animal advocates have known for years that labels like "cage free" or "free range" may not necessarily mean what the label would lead the average consumer to believe. The mainstream media is noticing too. To wit: today's article by Dan Fritz in the Christian Science Monitor.

Cat Food Recall

Mars Petcare US is issuing a voluntary recall of a limited number of bags of Special Kitty Gourmet cat food sold in Wal-Mart due to potential Salmonella poisoning.

The affected states are:Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, and West Virginia.

Here's the whole press release.

While the Menu Foods case probably leaps to mind, keep in mind here that Salmonella (although still dangerous of course) is a far cry from the contaminants in the Chinese-manufactured products. Hopefully, this recall comes in time to keep any animals from getting sick or dying.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Champion of the underdog

By Jane Mundy
The Lawyers Weekly
October 31, 2008

Ottawa lawyer Terry Green has overcome more obstacles than most: He became blind as an adolescent when he developed Stickler syndrome, a connective tissue disorder that causes detached retinas.

He has been an advocate ever since.

Click here to read more about how adversity became a natural segue to advocacy for Canadian animal lawyer Terry Green.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The straight poop: NYC gets serious about dog doo

Ok, this story ran a few days ago, but I thought it would make good Sunday reading...

This past week, New York City more than doubled its fine to dog owners who don't clean up after their animals: from $100 to $250. It's the first time the fine has gone up since the infamous "pooper scooper law" took effect thirty years ago. Read more in this NY Daily News article by Richard Schapiro.

While $250 may be a stiff enough penalty to persuade folks in most other cities to pack a plastic bag for walks, this is New York City we're talking about. Call me a skeptic (after all, I am a native New Yorker), but I'm not so sure it's gonna work.

If the City REALLY wants to get serious about tracking down offending poopsters and their owners, it oughta consider "Poo Prints", a new program apparently being offered by a Tennessee DNA laboratory. The basic idea is that everyone in a neighborhood, town or [insert geographic region here...] would be required to get their dog's DNA on file in the lab's registry. Then, any stray poop found on a street can be sent to the lab, analyzed and matched to an owner. Voila!

Really, could I make this up? I'm not even gonna try to take credit for finding this one. Thanks to Doug Powell of Kansas State's AnimalNet for unearthing this gem. (Doug, I have no idea how you find these things, but keep 'em coming!)

Of course, being a former journalist, I felt compelled to do a little more digging on this important news story. And unbelievably, according to likewise hard-hitting piece of journalism in the Holeycheese weblog, (photo courtesy of same), a city in Israel began a test program for poop identification last month. (How did I miss that?!)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Iowa: Firing and Lawsuit in Pig Abuse

Published: October 24, 2008

A company said it fired the manager of a hog farming operation where workers were videotaped abusing pigs, and six were charged this week with crimes. Read (a little) more in this quick NY Times update.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Animal rights activist criticizes UW research

By: Estephany Escobar
The Daily Cardinal
October 23, 2008

Members of the Primate Freedom Project held an educational session on animal rights for students, faculty and community members at the UW-Madison Law School Wednesday.

Rick Bogle, founder of PFP and member of the board of the Alliance for Animals, was the keynote speaker for the event. Lynn Pauly, director of the Alliance for Animals introduced Bogle as an active participant in research and protests against animal testing.

Read more about this conference - which gives a shout-out to Wisconsin animal law colleague Leslie Hamilton - by clicking here.

Pet Rescue loses license

By Christy Gutowski
Chicago Daily Herald
October 23, 2008

After years of complaints, state officials for the first time have suspended the license of a controversial Bloomingdale animal shelter as its director faces criminal charges.

Pet Rescue lost its license Oct. 16 after the Illinois Department of Agriculture cited it for a fourth violation. The shelter must wait one year before applying for a new license.

Read more about this case - which also gives a shout-out to fellow animal law attorney Cherie Travis, who's been working with the former shelter volunteers to provide evidence to prosecutors - by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Feeling Pawsome

So far, everything I've heard about last week's animal law conference at Lewis & Clark is that it was a great success. Don't believe me? (Yes, perhaps I am a little biased...) Here's a review by Mariah Summers from a local paper, the Willamette Week.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Michael Vick to enter plea to state dog fighting charges in Virginia
October 21, 2008

SURRY, Va. (AP) -- Former NFL quarterback Michael Vick plans to plead guilty to state dogfighting charges in a move that could qualify him for an early release from federal prison.

Surry County Circuit Court administrator Sally Neblett says a hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 30 on a motion from Vick's lawyers to permit him to enter his plea via video conference from the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas, where he is serving a 23-month term on federal dogfighting charges.

Read the rest of the article here...

Monday, October 20, 2008

States crack down on mills in the name of puppy love

The Carnivore’s Dilemma

The New York Times Sunday Book Review published another review yesterday about the latest book taking a hard look at the beef industry. Doesn't come to the vegan (or even vegetarian) conclusion that most people reading this blog might hope for... but I think it's worthy of pointing out because it shows a growing willingness for the mainstream press to write about - and mainstream readers to contemplate - food production and choices in ways that were reserved for the butt of jokes and snide comments barely a decade ago. As other blog posts have suggested, I personally think that's progress. Slow perhaps, but progress nonetheless.

Anyway, click here if you would like to read Michael Shae's review.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

New animal law firm opens in Oregon!

Ok, not sure if this story wasn't found by Google for a few days or if it's really been a few days since I've run a Google search...

but as the 16th Annual Animal Law Conference comes to a close in Portland, Oregon today, it seems especially appropriate to say congrats and good luck to Laura Ireland Moore, as she embarks on the next chapter in her life: forming a new private practice focusing on animal law.

I first met Laura in about 1999 when we were both in law school. I had submitted an article written for an advanced crim law seminar about making better use of forfeiture laws to prevent animal cruelty to the 1st annual writing competition at Lewis &Clark law school's new Animal Law Journal. When a L&C envelope came back in the mail a few months later, it was pretty thin. I was already steeling myself for the worst - "at least I tried... a lot of people get rejected..." as I opened the envelope. Much to my surprise, not only did the journal accept the article - I actually won the $500 first prize. (That was a lot of money back then and, unfortunately, still seems to be a lot of money most months...) I met Laura, via phone, during editing for that journal. The student editor originally assigned to the article had the unfortunate penchant of editing mistakes into my writing. I called Laura, who was editor-in-chief, if memory serves. She resolved the issues timely and professionally. As time passed, I came to realize that's just her M.O..

Upon graduating, Laura became the first executive director of the National Center for Animal Law (now the Center for Animal Law Studies) after persuading the powers-that-be at the law school to turn her vision into reality. During her tenure, the Center offered classes with regionally and nationally-known animal law attorneys, clinics with actual cases for students to tackle, as well as annual moot court competitions and conferences that offered not only great learning opportunities but became the hottest social events in the animal law community.

This past Fall, Laura turned her attention to building a private practice. She is joined by a law school friend, Holly Gibbons. The pair have acquired the practice of former Waldport mayor and animal law attorney, Scott Beckstead. Scott practiced in Waldport for 14 years; he made national headlines about six years ago for the jury verdict he got on behalf of a family whose dogs were poisoned by a neighbor. The $135,000 award is the highest ever in an animal law case.

Scott now runs an HSUS horse sanctuary in Oakland, Oregon. Anyone who knows Scott knows that, while he is a sharp attorney, he just loves horses way more than practicing law. It's a dream job for him. Meanwhile, a collaboration with ALDF has brought fresh ideas to the re-tooled Center for Animal Law Studies. And another passionate animal law advocate, longtime ALDF attorney Pam Frasch, has taken over the reigns (pun intended) at CALS.

Lots of changes and very exciting! Best wishes to everyone!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Animal-rights activists acquitted after charged with being too close to seal hunt

The Canadian Press

TORONTO — Five animal-rights activists charged with getting too close to seal hunters off Canada's east coast were found not guilty Friday after a judge ruled it's "extremely difficult" to determine whether the group breached a 10-metre buffer zone.

Click here for the rest of the story....

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Retired surgeon ups the ante on solving the pet overpopulation crisis

A retired surgeon and inventor is apparently going to offer a $75M prize to whoever can find a safe, reliable, one-time, non-surgical means of sterilizing cats and dogs.

Again, not precisely animal law. But if it's true, this could go a long way toward alleviating welfare problems for companion animals. Read more in the USA Today story by Sharon L. Peters here...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Chimps: Not Human, But Are They People?

Here's a shout-out to "Wired" for a great feature yesterday on the debate over whether to extend the status of "personhood" to chimpanzees.

As Brandon Keim writes: "It's a controversial position. If being a person requires being human, then chimpanzees, our closest primate relative, are still only 98 percent complete. But if personhood is defined more broadly, chimpanzees may well qualify. They have self-awareness, feelings and high-level cognitive powers. Hardly a month seems to pass without researchers finding evidence of behavior thought to belong solely to humans." Click for the rest of the feature.

Keim also referenced Hiasl, the West-African-born-then-captured-but-rescued-from-research chimp. Hiasl, who was taken from Sierra Leone in 1982, faced a bleak outlook when, at age 26, his shelter ran out of money and he was going to be sent to pharmaceutical research. Hiasl's plight made global headlines last year when an activist tried to persuade the Austrian courts to declare him a "person" so she could be appointed his guardian. When her bid failed, she took her case to the European Court of Human Rights. As near as I can figure out, it is still pending. (If I'm wrong, please let me know.)

Why enforceable pet trusts are important...

Here's a story out of Alabama demonstrating what happens when states either don't permit enforceable pet trusts (which Alabama does, actually: Ala. Code 1975 Sect.19-3B-408), or animal owners don't take advantage of them.

Fortunately, it looks like there will be a happy ending for these 32 cats. Thanks to ISBA animal law committee colleague and venerated Illinois estate planning attorney Lin Hanson for the heads-up on this article from today's Opelika-Auburn News.

Companion animals and emotional damages

Efforts to win the right to recover non-economic, or emotional, damages for injury or death to a companion animal is sort of like the Holy Grail for many animal law attorneys in private practice. As the Computer Desktop Encyclopedia defines it, "[a] very desired object or outcome that borders on a sacred quest."

Anyone who's ever enjoyed a friendship with a cat or a dog or a horse (or any other animal they've befriended for that matter) will tell you, intuitively, losing a companion animal is not like losing any other item. Not even a "valuable" item like a car or a home. But the legal system has turned a blind eye to that value since the beginning of recorded legal history - if not the entire history of human civilization. Persuading courts to see that value - and mind you I'm just talking about genuinely recognizing the value of animals to their owners, not acknowledging the value of an animal's life to itself or (heaven forbid...) taking animals out of property status - is one of the great challenges facing animal law today.

As I've blogged before, the hard-fought expansion of other rights is worth studying: civil rights, women's rights and, most recently, gay/lesbian rights. For example, in 1999 the Vermont supreme court became the first in the country to rule that same-sex partners have the right to the benefits of marriage, even if not the title. Slowly but surely other states began jumping on board, and even going a step farther. Massachusetts legalized such unions in May 2004. California's supreme court did likewise this past June, and it has already surpassed the Bay State in the number of gay couples wed. Connecticut became the 3rd state to recognize same-sex unions when its state supreme court overturned the ban this past Friday.

Now, Vermont once again may lead the nation on another social issue. A case is presently pending before the Vermont Supreme Court on the issue of whether individuals can recover non-economic damages for the death of their companion animals. Robert and Susan Goodby filed suit after their two cats died due to toxic medication. The Vermont Supreme Court heard the Goodby case on Sept 25th and a decision is expected within the next few months. Click here if you would like to listen to the oral arguments (scroll down to 2:00 p.m.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Judge OKs $24M for cats, dogs sickened by pet food

Associated Press
By Geoff Mulvihill

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — A federal judge Tuesday approved a $24 million settlement for owners of dogs and cats who were sickened or died after eating pet food contaminated with an industrial chemical.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Noel Hillman clears the way for U.S. pet owners with claims to start receiving checks next year. A Canadian judge has scheduled a hearing for Nov. 3 to determine whether the settlement can also apply in that nation.

Read the rest of the article here...

(For an explanation of why I am not particularly impressed with this settlement, despite its dollar value, see the Tuesday, August 26, 2008 entry.)

Humane farming and fashion

A charming tale from UK's Times Online Wednesday about one wool designer that's not out to fleece anyone, including her sheep.

Read Lisa Armstrong's article about "Knitwear that looks good and feels good" (in more ways than one!) by clicking here.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Elephants and text-messaging

Ok, not exactly sure this is animal law... but here's one novel effort to use 21st century technology to ease a longstanding conservation problem:

Kenya is the first country to try elephant texting as a way to protect both a growing human population and the wild animals that now have less room to roam. Click to read more about this AP/CBS News story here.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Animal Cruelty round-up

When I heard something on the radio yesterday about 55 malnourished horses found on a ranch in California, I thought it would (sadly) make a good blog entry. When I ran a Google search for more information, I (yet more sadly) got a slew of results for cruelty cases pending around the country.

Sad, yes. But on the other hand, it is good to see that the legal system is paying an increasing amount of attention to a very longstanding problem.

So... if you have the stomach for it, here's what's going on around the U.S.:

Beverly Hills, California: Trial dates were set Friday for a former Beverly Hills mayor charged with animal cruelty involving 184 dogs and cats seized at her Rialto rescue shelter three years ago.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: A North Side man is accused of feeding meatballs laced with glass and nails to his neighbor's dogs because he was upset with their constant barking.

Huntington, West Virginia: The owner of a residence where five dogs were rescued and three other animals were found dead appeared before a judge Thursday regarding health code citations. Cruelty charges are also pending.

Near Tallahassee, Florida: A Thomas County man was charged with animal cruelty Wednesday after officials found four badly deprived pit bulls chained in his yard.

Montgomery County, Maryland: A man was charged Wednesday with nine counts of animal cruelty after a dead horse and several neglected horses were found on his property.

Ventura County, California: Three family members were arrested Wednesday on charges of felony animal cruelty after humane investigators found 55 malnourished horses on their ranch.

Friday, October 10, 2008

PA enacts sweeping puppy mill and kennel reforms!

Governor Rendell signed HB 2525 into law! Yeah! (Read more here.)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Maybe this time will be the charm...

The H.S.U.S. filed suit today against United Egg Producers, the nation's largest egg industry trade association, and two major egg producers. The suit alleges that the defendants mislead consumers with false advertising that its certification program is an "animal welfare" program, when in reality, the suit contends, the birds are kept in some rather deplorable conditions.

Kinda reminiscent of the old ALDF v. Provimi Veal case. (Can't find a good, general google link for it, but it's 626 F. Supp. 278 (Mass. 1986) if you really want to look it up.) Hopefully though, more than two decades later, the mindset of this country - and its judiciary - have changed enough to be more receptive to this sort of claim.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Court clears cull by suffocation

Here's an unfortunate ruling from Scotland, courtesy of Doug Powell at Kansas State University's Animal Network, an international agricultural food safety listserv. This is the link to the original story, although I cut-and-pasted the article in its entirety since I was having some problems getting the link to work at first:
08 October 2008

The High Court yesterday upheld the legality of new rules allowing chickens to be killed in their thousands by slow suffocation in the event of a widespread bird flu outbreak. A judge ruled that the government was entitled to use "ventilation shutdown" as a last resort.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Why are you reading this blog?

Most authors don't tell their readers to stop reading their work. But if you haven't read much (or anything) about the stock market today... please... take whatever time you would spend reading this blog (or more) and read up on that instead. The Dow dropped below 10,000 for the first time in about four years - and even CNBC's "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer is openly warning some investors to get out of the stock market. Thank you.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

"Well, that one you should win easily"

That's according to my mom, during our weekly Sunday evening conversation tonight, in reference to a suit I filed recently. I had sent her a link to a little blurb that first ran in the Chicago Sun-Times a couple of weeks ago about Zamboni, the dog who was paralyzed (and ultimately put down due to increasing complications) after he apparently slipped on construction debris that landed in his backyard from the construction site next door.

Thanks, Mom. I'll have to let the judge know...

Lawsuit filed over dog poop

Yes, you read that right. Thanks to Springfield, Illinois colleague Ted Harvatin for pointing this one out. It may not be the NY Times Sunday Magazine, but you can't beat this State Journal-Register article for enjoyable weekend reading. Cheers!

Friday, October 03, 2008

C'mon Arkansas...

One of the remaining minority of U.S. states where animal cruelty is still only a misdemeanor may change. Several attempts to upgrade animal cruelty to felony status have failed in Arkansas over the past few years. In what appears to be a creative compromise effort for the next legislative session, the new bill would create the category of "aggravated animal cruelty", which would be a felony, for more severe cases. It would also upgrade the misdemeanor penalties for other cases.

Perhaps most notably, the proposed measure also would make cockfighting a felony. Last I checked, only about three states did not have laws on the books prohibiting cockfighting (although I vaguely recollect at least one state enacting a ban fairly recently).

Read more in this article by Andy Davis of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

CORRECTION: Thanks to blog reader Tracy H. for pointing out that the ban on cockfighting has finally reached all fifty states, although it is not yet a felony across the board. Read more on the last state to ban the bloodsport, Louisiana, in this August Times-Picayune article by Ed Anderson.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Animal law flavor of the day: pet custody

Boy, when the media becomes fascinated with a topic, it just gets played all over the place. I can't even count how many "pet custody" stories I've seen in the last few months (or calls I've gotten from reporters who only want to know if I'm handling one of those cases at the moment). Not that it's a bad thing, of course, to shine the spotlight on this topic. I wish I could the spread the spotlight to some other animal law-related topics, but better something than nothing!

Anyway, click here for CNN's latest feature by Hannah Seligson on pet custody battles, and a shout-out to two Washington state animal law practitioners interviewed for the story, Adam Karp and Lorrie (Elizabeth) Elliott!

Massachusetts on the verge of upgrading penalties for dog fighting

If you want to engage in dog fighting, right now Massachusetts is a good place to do it. It ranks among the lowest in the country in meaningful penalties for conviction of that misdemeanor.

But there's a bill on Gov. Patrick's desk that could change that. H.B. 1527 would upgrade the crime to felony status. Two professors at the Massachusetts School of Law offered this guest column in yesterday's Daily News Tribune on why the Governor should sign the measure.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Why animal advocates should oppose California's Proposition 8

California's Proposition 8 - in case you've been living under a rock these past few months - would eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry. It's a ballot initiative coming up in this November's election for California voters, and it would reverse a fairly recent ruling by the California Supreme Court holding that the state's constitution protects the rights of same-sex couples to marry. It's been generating passionate debate both pro and con, and money has apparently been pouring in for months to support the ban and turn back the clock.

What does that have to do with animal law, you ask?

Well, I was watching the Ellen DeGeneres interview on Jay Leno last night... when at one point the interview took a momentarily thoughtful turn. DeGeneres quipped that she couldn't understand how her and Portia (de Rossi, actress and DeGeneres' longtime domestic partner-recently-turned-spouse) sitting on the couch watching "Dancing with the Stars" could really be a threat to anyone. She suggested - paraphrasing here - that instead of sending in money to support hate, anyone with funds to contribute to a cause should consider sending financial aid to support the recent Hurricane victims. (Which I thought was a good point, in and of itself.)

But DeGeneres made me think about something else too.

It's just as important for animal advocates to take a position on Prop 8 as it is on the also-pending welfare measure, Prop 2 (which I will get to in a moment). Animal advocates historically have been a fairly liberal group of folks so I am probably preaching to the choir here. But in case you are inclined to vote against protecting gay marriage in California (or even simply support that position but live elsewhere in the U.S. or the world), please take a moment to consider this: social movements do not exist in a vacuum.

There is strength in numbers. To put it plainly - because I have a meeting in about an hour and don't have time to think of a more politically correct way to say this - if animal advocates show empathy and interest in gay issues now then hopefully, once gay rights are better protected, that segment of society can feel a little more settled and turn its resources to helping the remaining less-protected segments of society.

Consider as well that no matter how much you may personally feel that the sheer volume of animal suffering really ought to be a number 1 priority for the planet (and yes, I agree with you personally), the reality is that most people - straight, gay or otherwise... - don't share that view of the universe. Most people are people-centric. And it is simply unlikely that this planet will truly see a change in how animals are treated until it irons out all of its "people mistreatment" problems.

If you vote in California, please vote NO on Prop 8.

Now let's talk about California's Proposition 2. Prop 2 is another ballot initiative scheduled for the November 4, 2008 elections in that state. If passed, it would ban three types of confinement farming: veal crates for baby calves, battery cages for hens and gestation crates for pregnant pigs. Again, in case you've been living under a rock, the concern is that current farming standards allow animals to be confined so tightly that their cages do not even permit them to freely turn around, lie down, stand up or even fully stretch their limbs. As with Prop 8, Prop 2 is generating a lot of fierce debate. Those in favor argue, briefly, that reducing at least some suffering now is better than waiting to eliminate all suffering at a future point. Those opposed argue that it will be costly to implement, raise costs for consumers and could result in greater reliance on imported foods that might pose a greater health risk.

Oddly though, some of the strongest opposition to Prop 2 comes from within the animal rights community. The hard-core perspective fears that palliative measures will only placate people into feeling better about animal suffering and thus dampen and delay any impetus to really address the problem. This viewpoint was thoughtfully (as always) articulated by well-known animal rights professor Gary Francione last spring. In one of his blog posts he relates a story about going to a local market where a meat vendor sells organically-raised, locally-slaughtered animals. One shopper remarked she felt better about buying meat there and the vendor apparently described the animals as "dear friends". Francione expresses the oft-repeated concern that Prop 2 and other so-called "happy meat" efforts are leading the country backward in the effort to address animal suffering.

While anecdotally I can certainly see how those sorts of random comments might lead to those fears, I don't believe that reality bears those fears out. The fact is, this country has been improving - albeitly slowly - its animal welfare laws since Henry Bergh started championing the cause during the 1800's. The U.S. has also become increasingly more receptive to discussing the idea of granting at least some basic rights to animals in just the past few decades alone. (In fact, other countries are even farther along that path than the U.S., although that topic could fill multiple other blog posts alone.) If the hard-core view were accurate, there would have been no progress beyond the first, early animal welfare laws. And that's just not how history unfolded.

I, for one, do believe that it is better to reduce at least some suffering now. I don't believe it will delay further reductions; in fact, I tend to think it heightens awareness and actually leads to further progress. (Although admittedly, I don't have statistics handy to back up that belief either.)

So if you vote in California, please vote NO on Prop 8 and YES on Prop 2.

If you've made it this far down in the post, thanks for reading my rant all the way through. And I really do have to get back to work now.

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 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 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

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.