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Animal Law Committees, and current issues in New York
Apr12

Animal Law Committees, and current issues in New York

One of the ways law students and practicing attorneys can stay current on the issues and contribute to the local animal law community is by joining an animal law committee or animal law section of the state or local bar association. It’s also a wonderful way of connecting with other like-minded individuals. While in Tucson, I served as student representative on the Executive Council of the State Bar of Arizona Animal Law Section. During that time, the section organized everything from social happy hours to animal law-focused CLEs and presentations at the annual State Bar convention. When it came time to organize my family’s return to Manhattan, I joined the New York City Bar Association as a recent law school graduate, specifically to connect with its Committee on Animal Law. I’ve already marked April 25th on my calendar: there will be a presentation and discussion at the House of the Association on 44th Street entitled “Sunset for Elephants and Rhinos in the Wild? Illegal Trafficking, Inadequate Enforcement, and Lack of Political Will.” This program is free of charge, open to all members and the general public. In addition, anyone interested in Animal Law can join the Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section, which includes animal law topics. To get a further glimpse into the kinds of issues such a committee tackles — and a look at what is currently happening in New York — here’s an excerpt from the March issue of the NYC Bar newsletter: Consolidated Animal Crimes Bill The Committee on Animal Law expressed support for A.775/S.1776 (the Consolidated Animal Crimes Bill), which would relocate many of the criminal provisions currently found in the Agriculture and Markets Law to a new Title Q in the Penal Law. The bill also re-defines statutory terms, creates new statutory terms, re-titles animal crimes offenses, reclassifies existing animal crimes, delineates sentencing provisions, and introduces various new animal crimes offenses and creates a hierarchy of offenses for charging, plea-bargaining, and sentencing purposes. The Committee believes such a change would clarify, modernize, and restructure the animal crimes law of New York State and promote greater enforcement and consistent interpretation of animal crimes. Humane Education In a joint report the Committees on Animal Law, Children and the Law, and Education and the Law expressed support for A.2484, which would require the Commissioner of Education to notify every school district of the existing requirement that elementary schools provide instruction in the humane treatment of animals, their importance in the environment, and the importance of spaying and neutering programs. The amendment also authorizes the Commissioner to appropriate grants to teachers for training, workshops, videos, and other...

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Breed Discriminatory Laws
Dec17

Breed Discriminatory Laws

Over the years, different breeds — Dobermans, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Mastiffs, Dalmatians, Chow Chows, and “pit bulls” (American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers) — have been victims of bad press and the resulting fear it generates among a misguided public. “Breed specific” legislation (BSL) refers to any laws that regulate or ban certain breeds, with authorities justifying these laws as necessary for public safety, as a means of reducing the number of dog-biting incidences. State Laws: Breed Specific & Victims in Dogfighting Cases Currently, thirteen states have “dangerous dog” laws that discriminate against particular breeds, most notably pit bull type dogs that are seized in dogfighting cases: Colorado, Delaware, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. In these states, dogs confiscated in dogfighting cases immediately are labeled as dangerous and therefore euthanized. When I was volunteering at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in September, I spent time with one of the former Michael Vick dogs, a well-mannered and affectionate little lady named Layla. She is living proof that not all victims of dogfighting are beyond rehabilitation. (For the dogs of the Vick case, the Court must approve each dog as “adoptable” before (s)he is adopted out.) Local Laws: Breed Bans & Confiscation Cities and municipalities sometimes discriminate through the establishment of breed bans that prohibit ownership of certain breeds. Homeowner associations and landlords also often single out specific breeds as unacceptable. And, before former President George W. Bush left office, the Pentagon issued a memorandum prohibiting pit bulls, German Shepherds, Dobermans, and Rottweilers in military housing. Bans typically give local authorities and law enforcement the power to seize any dogs of the targeted breeds, even if they are living peacefully in a private home, even if the dogs have no history of aggression. In response to the confiscation of one’s dog, an owner has a right under 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983 to claim that he has been deprived of the constitutional right to due process. In litigation, the state will bear the burden of proof to show that the dog is, in fact, a member of the targeted breed and that (s)he is “dangerous.” Key cases related to discriminatory laws/bans and liabilities: Sak v. the City of Aurelia (Iowa): James Sak moved to Aurelia with his family, including his service dog Snickers, who was a pit bull. The city council ordered retired police officer Sak to exile Snickers. Eventually, the city settled this case and Sak got to keep Snickers — but with restrictions. 832 F.Supp.2d 1026 (2011). Carter v. Metro North (New York): Dog bite case...

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Animals in Entertainment: The Zoo
Jun21

Animals in Entertainment: The Zoo

Zoo facilities range from dilapidated roadside zoos and small “petting zoos” to lavish landscapes that attempt to replicate a species’ natural habitat. Public opinion about zoos ranges just as widely. While many are opposed to zoos, others view zoos as a public good, as educational institutions, and also as vehicles for studying and breeding endangered species. However, even in the best managed zoos, there are going to be issues arising out of the sale of animals, their confinement and transport, and eventually how the animals will spend their later years once they are no longer suitable for exhibit. First, an overview of the applicable laws: International Law The Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) is an international treaty among 175 member countries that provides for the regulation of endangered species through the use of a permit system. Species are listed in one of three appendices, depending on how endangered they are, and each appendix has its own restrictions. A few aspects of CITES weaken its protective force for zoo animals. First, there are its essential limitations as a treaty: participation as a member of CITES is completely voluntary for any nation; and, even if a nation agrees to the treaty, the means by which a nation enforces the treaty is entirely up to it. That is, CITES members agree on the desired end, but the means and any implementation plan is never specified. Second, any animal of a species, if born in captivity — even if he is a member of a species classified as most endangered — receives significantly less protection than members of that species still in the wild. Third, all animals that have been housed in zoos prior to 1973, the year that CITES went into effect, are exempt from its protections. Federal Law The Animal Welfare Act The AWA, regulated and enforced by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) through its Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS), provides minimum standards of care and treatment for animals that are bred for commercial sale, used in research, transported commercially, or exhibited to the public. These standards include guidelines about food, water, housing, and veterinary care. A serious deficiency in this law, however, is its language that prohibits “unnecessary” suffering, without further defining what that threshold might be. In other words, it is left to the industry to deem what is necessary and what is not. In the context of zoos, it is important to note that the AWA only applies to warm-blooded animals; any cold-blooded animals are excluded from the legal protections of care and welfare provided by the Act. Also,...

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Animals in Entertainment: The Circus
May23

Animals in Entertainment: The Circus

“Circus animals are being forced to perform unnatural tricks, are housed in cramped cages, subjected to fear, hunger, and pain, not to mention the undignified way of life they have to live, with no respite… Though not homo sapiens, they are also beings entitled to dignified existence and humane treatment sans cruelty and torture.” — K. Madhavan v. The District Collector, 2008, Madras High Court – India The use of animals in circuses presents a few different issues. First, one looks at the treatment of the animals and the conditions they are subjected to as they perform: an environment of noisy crowds and flashing lights is a far cry from an animal’s natural habitat. Second, there is the treatment of the animals that results in their performance bag of tricks — namely, the training methods. Third, there are the issues of housing and transport, as a circus makes its way from city to city. Federal Law There are two major federal laws that apply to the use of animals in circuses: The Animal Welfare Act The AWA, regulated and enforced by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), provides minimum standards of care and treatment for animals that are bred for commercial sale, used in research, transported commercially, or exhibited to the public. These standards include guidelines about food, water, housing, and veterinary care. (Primates, such as chimpanzees, are given an additional protection in the provision that requires an enriched environment for their psychological well-being.) However, a serious deficiency in this law is its language that prohibits “unnecessary” suffering, without further defining what that threshold might be. In other words, it is left to the industry to deem what is necessary and what is not. Furthermore, the AWA does not include a citizen suit provision, which means an individual is prevented from bringing a private action against a corporation that she alleges is violating the Act. The Endangered Species Act The ESA, under the supervision of the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, has the purpose of protecting endangered and threatened species and of ensuring the conservation of their habitat. Unlike the AWA, the Endangered Species Act includes a citizen suit provision. In the context of circuses, a citizen may file a lawsuit if the behavior at issue involves animals that are listed as either “endangered” or “threatened” under the appendices of the ESA. Under the ESA, it is “unlawful… to… take any [endangered species] within the United States.” Among the ten different ways a person can illegally “take” an animal according to the Act, one may “harm” an animal, which includes a significant habitat modification or degradation, and...

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Student Animal Legal Defense Fund at University of Arizona Law
Apr12

Student Animal Legal Defense Fund at University of Arizona Law

In the summer of 2009, just before starting at the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona, I contacted the Animal Legal Defense Fund to find out how I might get involved and help generate interest on campus. The ALDF staff connected me with a third-year law student and, together, we took the necessary first steps towards organizing a student chapter. By my 3L year, we had successfully petitioned and worked with the faculty to have an Animal Law class offered in the fall semester. We’ve come a long way! Over the past three years, I have been so inspired by my classmates, watching them get excited and more involved in animal-related efforts ranging from those focused on farmed animals to companion animals. In addition to successfully petitioning for the Animal Law class, here are some of the highlights from my time on campus: Guest speakers such as Mike Duffey (Animal Cruelty Task Force of Southern Arizona); Cheryl Leahy (Compassion Over Killing); Tucson attorney Nikia Gray, discussing her efforts on behalf of elephants at Reid Park Zoo; Phil Brown (Animals & Home Owners’ Associations); and John R. Becker (Pet Estate Planning) Visits to Ironwood Pig Sanctuary & Equine Voices Rescue & Sanctuary Pet toy drives for Hope Animal Shelter, Tucson’s only no-kill shelter Presentations by students about their own animal-related papers/notes Film screenings: Got the facts on Milk? and Mine) Tabling in the main lobby with Animal Law materials (and free vegan cupcakes!) Happy hours & potlucks with members of the State Bar of Arizona’s Animal Law Section Sending two students this year to the National Animal Law Competition Students attending the annual Animal Law Conference at Lewis & Clark K-9 unit demonstration of explosive detection by University of Arizona’s Police Department Cereal buffets with nondairy alternatives (great fundraisers!) Today is the last meeting of the school year. I’m just a few papers and an exam away from graduation day; and today the 3L students will officially pass the torch to those students who will continue to make the SALDF chapter and Animal Law issues a part of the law school community. A special thank you to those who have served on the board of our student chapter, taking leadership positions to get the chapter going and growing. From Day One, the student chapter has been a team effort. And, as the 3Ls leave school to follow our individual paths, I am most grateful to know that my SALDF friends and I will always have this connection with each other. Finally, thank you to our faculty sponsor, Shaun Esposito, and all the faculty who have been so supportive of...

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Puppy Mills: Laws To Protect Pups and Purchasers
Mar21

Puppy Mills: Laws To Protect Pups and Purchasers

If someone were to describe a situation where a hundred dogs were found living in all-wire cages that offered little or no shelter from extremes in weather, where the dogs themselves were suffering from overgrown nails, ear and eye infections, severely matted hair, and untreated wounds, I would expect us all to have a similar reaction: surely, this was a situation of neglect that amounted to animal cruelty; such cruelty would be a violation of any state cruelty statute. Perhaps some of us would question whether this was a case of animal hoarding, which, though also constituting neglect and cruelty, adds a factor of human mental illness to consider when deciding what is justice. However, many times a scenario such as the one I’ve described is the reality known as a “puppy mill,” a large breeding facility where the market for purebred companion animals has turned dogs into crops, and where breeders that look into those lovable puppy eyes see only dollar signs. And the only thing worse than being a puppy at a mill is being one of the dogs who are kept solely for breeding purposes. While puppies are sold into (we hope) loving homes, mamas will spend their whole lives in cages, kept pregnant for as long as their bodies will keep producing. When they are spent, they will be sick, exhausted, and euthanized. So why aren’t these breeders prosecuted for cruelty? Here’s a look at the federal and state laws in place, where they fall short, as well as some recent legislative efforts to come to the aid of those suffering. Federal Law The Animal Welfare Act, under the supervision of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), is the major federal law that is supposed to protect animals used for commercial purposes. The minimum threshold standards address basic needs of food, water, shelter, and veterinary care. Unfortunately, animals sold by retail pet store owners are explicitly exempt. The original thinking behind the exemption was that, because people would be going into pet stores, they would be able to see the conditions; therefore, additional regulation wouldn’t be necessary – the retailers would self-regulate in their own interest. However, with the rise of internet sales, the public doesn’t have the same access it once did. A wonderful-looking web site does not mean things are looking so wonderful behind the fences. And getting onto the premises to inspect these places is nearly impossible. The Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act This piece of legislation currently is under review by the United States House (H.R. 835) and Senate (S. 707). The law would help to close...

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