Sunday, October 31, 2010

Effort to strike parts of Washington State anti-cruelty law rejected

An envelope-pushing lawsuit aimed at declaring the parts of Washington's statute that exempted certain "routine" practices from criminalization was rejected by an appeals court last week on the grounds it was not justiciable. It was a valiant effort nonetheless, and maybe also contains some guidance for how to approach this issue in the future. Read more at Northwest Animal Rights Network v. State.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Who's zoomin' who?

Legal Zoom announced today that it's going to be selling pet trusts as part of its estate planning. Sigh...

Let's talk about this. While I suppose do-it-yourself pet trusts are arguably animal law and fit within the self-imposed parameters of this blog, this is really more about a larger issue.

To everyone out there who isn't a lawyer and is tempted to buy these forms to save some money: please, please PLEASE really think this through. Yes, hiring a lawyer can be expensive. But so is hiring a neurosurgeon. Yet how many people are up for do-it-yourself brain surgery? Just because drafting your own estate plan doesn't seem as obviously disaster-prone doesn't mean that there aren't some potentially really messy consequences out there. And in some respects, possibly even worse: with do-it-yourself surgery, at least you're only hurting yourself. Screw up a will or trust and you're automatically leaving a big mess for your loved ones because, by definition, you'll be dead by then.

The problem is not the forms themselves. They are pretty straightforward and yes, most people are perfectly competent to fill in their names, addresses, next of kin and so forth. The problem isn't even when any of those things change (assuming you remember to change your form, which, for some people, does become a problem). The problem is when any one of a million little other circumstances crop up that are not addressed by the generic mass-targeted language of the forms. Now try going to a lawyer. It's like the difference between hiring a contractor to build a solid house from the ground up or trying to get someone to shore up your 3-story, plate-glass dream home with a bird's eye view of the San Andreas fault. Not good. And it's not just the pet trusts. A reliable estate plan accounts for EVERY aspect of your life that you want to make sure is taken care of - whether it's an especially long-lived parrot or having peace of mind that the residuals from your best-selling commercial jingle will continue to fund your grandchild's special needs trust... when the original copyright ends 28 years after you wrote it... which ends up being a year after you die.

Look, I like saving money. Everyone does. There are some things, however, that are just not worth price-shopping. Buying contacts from 1-800-contacts is different than getting your eyes examined by a Caribbean-schooled doctor at eyeballs-r-us.

The attorney who Legal Zoom says drafted their forms apparently has a lot of experience doing pet trusts. That's great. If you want to use her services, call her office and make an appointment. If she's not licensed for your state, maybe she can make a referral. Yes, hiring a lawyer will cost more today. Yes, it may mean foregoing something else you would rather - or even, yes, need to - buy. But the few hundred or thousands it costs today will pale in comparison to the cost of a probate battle tomorrow.

My two cents.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Great anti-SLAPP ruling in Illinois!

In its first interpretation of the Illinois Citizen Participation Act, that state's high court has, in the words of one local legal reporter, "sided with the little guy." The case, which revolved around some uncomplimentary comments made by the president of a Chicago condo board about the building and its developers, upheld the board president's right to complain openly not only to the city council, but the press as well. The suit itself had nothing to do with animals, although anti-SLAPP legislation has historically been a valuable strategy for animal advocates. I imagine activists of all types in Illinois are celebrating this one. Read more in reporter Ameet Sachdev's Chicago Tribune article or what appears to be a press release from a group called The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Anti-intellectualism... or anti-crap?

Interesting commentary today by Tibor Machan following his speech at the University of Wisconsin Law School Federalist Society late last week. Prof. Machan spoke on a topic he has written about before: whether animals have natural rights. Not surprisingly, he came to the same conclusion he has come to before: no.

What was surprising, at least to Machan, was that animal rights advocates didn't come to hear him talk:
I am, after 40 years of teaching, still a bit naive about the nature of academic life so I was somewhat taken aback because my understanding had always been that it is at universities and colleges that debates and discussions about controversial issues are carried out, usually in an atmosphere of civility. Alas, I must not really be as aware about how universities and colleges work as I would like to be. The reality seems to be that in many such communities discussions aren’t all that welcome. Instead the attitude is combative: Let’s show those with whom we disagree that we are against them, solidly, that we have no respect for the idea of a philosophical debate on the topic but want to silence, boycott, or exclude those who don’t already fall in line with our position.

Naive and taken aback? Really? I've only been working about 25 years (yeesh...) and the one thing I can tell you that I - and all of my similar-aged colleagues - have long since learned is to expect the unexpected at work. You really never know what's coming next.

Beyond that, allow me to explain why your talk was not well-attended by animal advocates. They are not, as you muse, anti-intellectual. Your position, imho, is simply crap. And who wants to sit through what amounts to self-indulgent pseudo-intellectual masturbation? It's just two hours of your life you're not going to get back.

At this point in time, no one in his or her right mind would show up at a college campus to debate "whether" African-Americans... or Chinese... or women... or [insert any group other than white, Christian males]... should have rights. The debate has simply moved past that point. In animal advocacy circles, the debate has likewise moved beyond "whether" animals should have some basic rights. (And just to be clear here, no, I am not talking about the right to vote or drive a car... just the most basic of rights, such as the right to bodily integrity.) Sitting politely through a discussion on "whether" animals have a right not to be dissected is as vulgar and irritating as sitting politely through a discussion about "whether" female genital mutilation is an acceptable practice. The fact that a conversation occurs on a college campus does not necessarily mean it has academic merit and the fact that the speaker wishes to enjoy the delusion that such ideas are worthy of intellectual debate is not a sufficient reason for anyone else to waste their time.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Missouri's Prop B: bad for breeders or beagles?

With less than two weeks until elections, efforts are gearing up across the country on all sorts of ballot measures. California's Prop 19 leaps to mind (medical marijuana)... but I'll leave that to the pot bloggers (whoever they may be).

In the animal realm, debate over Missouri's ballot initiative to clamp down on breeders is really heating up. Proponents say the measure is needed to alleviate some of the massive suffering inflicted by puppy mills... while opponents (predictably, frequently, big-money animal interests) insist that limiting the number of breeding dogs will put "good" breeders out of business and could even subject breeding animals to worse conditions. Bloomberg Businessweek has more.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

So you want to go to law school?

If you haven't seen this video circulating around the internet this week, check it out on YouTube... OMG LOL!

Monday, October 18, 2010

More on the new animal abuser registry on Long Island

This first-ever-in-the-country registry continues to be in the news today (despite the fact that from a real news perspective, there doesn't seem to be anything new to the story - everyone is still waiting to see if Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy is going to sign the measure). Here's a follow-up story from a local newspaper and here's another from CBS News.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Animal abusers to get public shaming in NY county

FARMINGVILLE, N.Y. — A county on New York's Long Island is creating what is believed to be the nation's first public database of animal cruelty convicts.

Animal welfare activists are hoping the law passed this week in Suffolk County will inspire other governments nationwide. They compare their hopes to the proliferation of "Megan's Law" registries for sex offenders.

Read more in The Associated Press...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Relatively decent fine imposed for a Canadian animal cruelty case

A man in British Columbia has to pay $4,000 restitution, in addition to other conditions, after being found guilty of animal cruelty charges.

George Cimbala shot his neighbour's dog in the nose with a 12-gauge shotgun during an incident on his property two years ago.

Read more in the Penticton News...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Has anyone heard anything...

... about Ray Greek's trip to Scotland? Dr. Greek and Dr. Andre Menache spoke to the Scottish parliament about reducing/eliminating animal testing in that country on Friday. I haven't seen anything on the internet about any steps the Scottish parliament may be taking; if any readers out there know more, please write in!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Remember Joe the Plumber?

As if he wasn't enough of a national embarrassment in the 2008 presidential campaign... he's back. And now the is 15-minute-wanna-be is looking for a few extra seconds by deciding to become very vocal... against an upcoming measure on the Missouri ballot to crack down on puppy mills. Read more in The Kansas City Star.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Animal law attorneys in action

The New York State Bar Association's animal law committee has awarded first place in its third annual student writing competition to a Brooklyn Law School student. Read more in this bar press release...

Educating the bar about animal law has reached even a rather rural and conservative area of southern Illinois. Writer Mona Sandefur has more in the Benton Evening News.

And The Seattle News Weekly ran a huge article on Adam Karp's "Bear" Hendrickson veterinary malpractice case recently. Writer Nina Shapiro's feature is "Just One of Those Things"....

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Ohio board approves first set of farm animal welfare standards

The Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board today unanimously voted to create new euthanasia livestock care standards—the first such set of standards created in the state’s history. Read more about the standards at the Buckeye Ag Radio Network Blog.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Michael Vick's promotion... it ain't all bad?

The Philadelphia Eagles sparked a whole fresh round of apoplectic fits amongst many animal advocates last month when the NFL franchise announced it was promoting the infamous Michael Vick to starting quarterback.
However, Sports Illustrated Senior Editor Jim Gorant, who has been following Vick's case and the "Vick-tory" dogs for some three years now, argues that "Michael Vick's promotion with the Eagles could be a new day for dogs, dog lovers- and himself." Read more in the Oct. 4th issue of S.I..

Monday, October 04, 2010

World Animal Day and other things

Apologies for my absence this past week...

Anywho... it's always nice to see an increasing number of animal issues being taken seriously - even in some places that haven't been on the leading edge of rights/welfare movement:

For example, from the Guam News Watch: It's possibly one of the worst animal abuse cases on Guam in recent years and the case has thrown the island's animal cruelty laws into the spotlight.

Meanwhile elsewhere, activists took to the streets in support of better laws for animals on World Animal Day:

In the Hurriyet Daily News: Turkish animal rights activists are hopeful of a securing a change in the country’s laws that would criminalize the abuse of animals after collecting a record number of signatures for a petition campaign.

From The Windsor Star in Canada: Calling for the government to step to the plate for abused animals, local animal lovers celebrated World Animal Day Sunday with a waterfront walk.

And in The Himalayan Times: In order to ensure the rights of animals, animal right activists all over the world celebrated the 79th World Animal Day with different events on October 4. Similarly, institutions and individuals working for animal rights in Nepal also marked the day participating in a walkathon ‘Walk 4 Animals’ organised by Animal Nepal and other organisations.