Friday, July 31, 2009

A whole lotta animal law goin' on!

I was able to make it to the animal law cmte's meeting during the ABA annual meeting this morning (after all, it is in Chicago this year). It was great to see some old friends and meet email colleagues face-to-face for the first time.

What was especially great was to hear how well the committee is doing - in particular, how well the ALC projects are being received. To wit: the new book Litigating Animal Law Disputes: A Complete Guide for Lawyers has apparently already sold 474 copies! And the committee's podcast(s) has been downloaded more than four THOUSAND times! (Actually not sure if it is one or more than one podcast, as I myself am podcast- (well, let's be honest) technologically-challenged.)

The committee has an even newer book out as well: A Lawyer's Guide to Dangerous Dog Issues. I don't think there is a link to this book yet, but I imagine you can still order it through the link above, which takes you to the committee's publications page. Here's a little from the press release:

As communities and governments struggle to address public safety issues in the wake of dog attacks, they often consider legislation to define which dogs are “dangerous” based solely on their breed. In this topical and timely book, the ABA Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section’s Animal Law Committee faces the issues head-on in this public and contentious debate, examining all sides of the issue and possible solutions. Is breed discrimination immoral, unjust, and ineffective? What other solutions are there, if any? How can society address the growing perception that some breeds of dogs are, by definition, dangerous?

Edited by Joan Schaffner, a nationally-respected expert on animal law and associate professor of law at George Washington University Law School, and director and a co-founder of the GW Animal Law Program, the book covers the major aspects of “dangerous dog” cases. Contributing authors, who have been active in the TIPS Animal Law Committee and are national experts on animal law, include Ledy Van Kavage of Best Friends Animal Society; Michelle Welch, assistant attorney general, State of Virginia; David Furlow, Houston; Marcy LaHart, West Palm Beach, Fla.; Prof. Bernard Rollin, Colorado State University; and Prof. Larry Cunningham, St. John’s University School of Law, New York.

While we're on the topic of dangerous dogs, noted animal law attorney and personal friend Adam Karp and the Washington State Bar Association is hosting the (first-ever, to the best of my knowledge) Dog Bite Institute on September 23, 2009 at the Seattle Convention Center. It's a full-day - 8.25 CLE credits - "on numerous topics to cover practically everything dog-bite related."

Speakers include John Muenster, Ted Buck, Franklin Shoichet, Robert Goldsmith, Kimberly Gordon, and the Hon. Judge Ann Harper.

If all goes well, Adam hopes to make this an annual or bi-annual event and possibly expand beyond Washington law and/or other substantive topic areas.

Whew! Back to work...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Medical treatment for pets: How much money is too much?

Los Angeles Times
July 25, 2009

As writer Emily Green notes, "[a]s pets live longer, illnesses get pricey. Deciding when to stop is painful." Read the rest of her column here...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Lawsuit ‘Sets The Bar For Future Settlements’

Cattle Network
July 23, 2009

A Missouri couple have been awarded $1.1 million in a lawsuit settlement because of the stench from a nearby hog farm. The lawsuit, which was finalized last week in Cedar County Circuit Court, was filed by Ed and Ruth McEowen against Doug Mullings, who owned the hog barns; the Missouri Farmers Association, which supplied the hogs; North View Swine Co.; Tri-County Swine; and an insurer, the Missouri Farm Bureau.

Read more here...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Should you buy pet insurance?

Some commentary from MSN Money contributor Liz Pulliam Weston on the pros and cons of purchasing pet insurance. Not exactly animal law either, but I thought it might be of interest to readers.

As someone who's had pet insurance policies, I myself find them to be of limited use. The wellness plans are fine for office visits, but just as with "people" policies, my own experience was that the carrier would find every possible reason to either exclude the stuff you really need up front or find some reason to deny as much of the claim as possible on the back end.

I'd be interested to know if anyone out there has had a really positive experience with their pet insurance...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Denver Zoo among those waiting for outcome of Ringling elephant trial

As the Denver Zoo readies to pull the trigger on a $50 million exhibit that will house between eight and 12 elephants later this year, a legal battle over elephant handling, including the use of bullhooks, is lumbering toward a conclusion.

Lawyers for animal-welfare activists recently clashed with Feld Entertainment Inc., the parent company of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, over a novel application of the Endangered Species Act involving captive Asian elephants, which are protected under the act. The six-week trial in federal district court in Washington, D.C., ended in March.

The decision, expected later this summer, could foreshadow the end of the show — at least the “free contact” show — for the elephants in America’s zoos.

Read more in this Longmont Times-Call piece by Eric Barendsen.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Update on Stu the dog (not good....)

In their first meeting since the Court of Appeals ruled the death sentence against the long-incarcerated dog Stu could stand, the Board of Animal Services Commissioners on Monday proposed changing L.A.'s Municipal Code to allow the Board to overrule the General Manager's verdict of death against dogs the Animal Services department has determined to be dangerous, even after the appeals process has been exhausted, if new evidence becomes available.

Board Vice President Kathy Riordan pushed for strong action from the Board, both in a last-ditch attempt to ensure that ten year-old Stu would not be killed in the wake of the Appeals Court decision, which would allow L.A. Animal Services to euthanize the dog as early as July 23rd, and to help avoid similar situations from occurring again.

Read the rest of this story here...

Watching Whales Watching Us

Really terrific NY Times article by writer Charles Siebert from earlier this month on whales. A long read but well worth it!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pet Airways opens for business today

A new airline is starting up service today: Pet Airways. It's market niche comes in response to something most people traveling with companion animals have longed for for years: your companion gets to ride in the main cabin, rather than cargo.

As most people reading this blog are undoubtedly aware, most airlines have policies that allow animals under a certain size/weight limit to ride in small carriers under the seat. It can be a frustrating experience, even for owners of small cats and dogs, to try to book a ride for their companion, as the carriers generally will only allow a few animals per flight. Even if you are lucky enough to get one of those slots, your status on the plane seems to be only a notch or so above suspected terrorist as far as most of the other passengers and flight crew are concerned.

Of course, it's even worse for people whose animals are relegated to the cargo hold, where notoriously the temperatures and even air pressure have not always been sufficiently maintained to support life. As most people reading this blog are again undoubtedly aware, thousands of animals were dying every year as a result of inadequate air travel conditions. These deaths eventually led to the passage of the Safe Travel for Animals Act, 49 U.S.C. 41721 in 2000. This was an improvement, but still a less-than-satisfactory solution for many.

So enter Pet Airways. This is certainly an intriguing business proposition, although it is not without its caveats either. Perhaps most importantly, cabin service is ONLY for non-humans. In other words, you still can't ride with your companion. (And no, they're not letting people ride in the cargo hold.) You just book the ticket, and the cabin crew takes care of Fluffy during the flight. Now that wouldn't be so bad, but without any restrictions on size, etc., this means that your little Pipsqueak will be riding on the same flight with Bruiser and Jaws. Ostensibly, the airline has precautions to keep Simba from eating Tweety for lunch on the cross-country flights, but well, you have to wonder... ? Hmm.

I certainly wish them well. At the very least, it will hopefully prompt the major airlines to take another look at their policies - and cabin space - and better serve this market niche as well.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Quote of the Day: "In the end, asexual reproduction appears to be an evolutionary dead-end."

If you had any doubts about the benefits of having a healthy sex life... check out this latest press release from researchers at North Carolina State and Duke Universities. Seems that even plants do better when they're getting some!

Thanks to Doug Powell at Kansas State for this little gem!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

New book by Gary Francione

I don't have any independent confirmation of this, but apparently Gary Francione, noted professor and attorney, and one of true, original pioneers of the animal rights movement, has a new book coming out. He apparently made the announcement on twitter (which I don't do so please confirm this for yourself if you are interested).

Francione's uncompromising, abolitionist approach has been generating both a loyal following and passionate controversy within the animal rights, welfare and legal fields for several decades now. Regardless of where you may fall in the spectrum of views, the one thing I would bet on is that this book will become the next must-read for anyone who cares about these issues.

If a five year old can figure it out...

So I was eating lunch yesterday with my boyfriend and 5-yr-old, when he jokingly asked her "So what do you think of the whole Sarah Palin issue?" She looked at him and responded - not surprisingly - "what's that?" He was about to say don't worry about it, but I had a little more faith.

I said "Do you remember when Barack Obama was running for president last year?" (Nod yes.) "Do you remember the other person who ran against him?" (Nod yes. [Hopefully, she really does remember. We talked about it at the time.]) "Well," I continue, "the person who was running for vice-president next to John McCain was Sarah Palin. When they lost, he went back to his job in the Senate, which is still an important job, and she went back to her important job as Governor of Alaska. But just a few days ago, she said she was quitting."

Now here's the part where I turn into one of those proud parents. Without missing a beat, my kid looks at me and asks "Why would she do that?"

"Well," I again continue, "no one is exactly sure, but most people think she wants to practice running for president for next time."

"But..." (and you could see the wheels turning...) "why would anyone vote for her for the most important job if she doesn't finish this job?"


How blinded by ambition must Sarah Palin be not to see what even a 5-yr-old understands?

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Fifth Annual Vegetarian Food Festival

I was in Portland, Maine yesterday and noticed a poster on the wall of a little restaurant...

If you happen to be in the area next weekend, maybe check out the Maine Animal Coalition's Fifth Annual Vegetarian Food Festival. [I realize this too is not exactly animal law, but I was here to defend my veterinary expert's deposition when I saw the poster so half-credit, ok? ;) ]

Sunday, July 05, 2009

The tale of Stu the dog

I defend a fair number of dangerous dog cases every year. Generally, they are stacked so badly against animal owners that it really would be faster just to write these local and state laws to say "The government wins. Case over." It's a nightmare even for me, and I'm just the attorney. I can't even begin to imagine how scary it must be for my clients.

Now here we have the story of Stu, who has apparently been holed up at the LA animal shelter since roughly when the White Sox won the World Series. (For you non-Sox fans, that's Fall 2005, or 9/15/2005 if you want to cheat and look at the photo.)

I have not independently confirmed the facts of this story (and yes, it did seem a little odd that a local writer in Chicago would be covering this pending case in Los Angeles). But if you can confirm it's true, and you live in the L.A. area, you may want to contact the local prosecutor and ask why s/he apparently has no other cases to prosecute. Write a letter to the mayor, reminding him you vote. And if all else fails, go to the court hearing later this month. Let the hearing officer know (politely of course, without being disruptive), that the public really is watching.

Things could be worse

Yeah, yeah, the gorilla is in a zoo. I know, I know...

But she's sitting in natural grass and is enjoying a popsicle the size of her head. I live in a condo without any natural grass and no one ever hands me dessert the size of my head. I'm just saying.

Anyway, check out the little editorial in today's L.A. Unleashed for some more pictures...