A “pugmatic” solution? Family dog seized for unpaid bills in Germany

Helena Villela Sette Câmara

On December 2018, police officer Michaela Jordan bought a pug on eBay for 750 euros, or what is roughly about 850 US dollars. Although the buying and selling of animals on the platform is itself highly contested by animal rights activists, when Ms. Jordan sued the seller for fraudulent advertisement, the story behind the transaction prompted an even wider outrage and international repercussion.

As it turns out, Ms. Jordan bought Edda from the city of Ahlen, in northwestern Germany. The animal had been seized by the city for unpaid bills, including the town’s dog tax of about 90 US dollars per year. Deeming Edda, a purebred pug, as the family’s most valuable possession, the debt collector confiscated the dog and sold it online so the money would go towards the family’s outstanding debt, making what a city spokesperson considered a “pragmatic solution within the scope of his discretion.” Ahlen officials insist that the seizure was legal under German foreclosure laws, but since then, have had to reassure the 57,000 people members of the community that seizing family pets is not a common solution and that owners who pay their dogs taxes should not be apprehensive after the incident. Continue reading

Higher Learning? : Animal Dissections in Classrooms Across America

Keisha Sapphire Holgate

In many ways, dissection of animals in schools has evolved tremendously, yet in other ways it has remained exactly the same as it was 100 years ago. Each year, an estimated 10-12 million animals are used for dissection in classrooms across America. Currently, in 18 states and counting, students in Kindergarten through the 12th grade have laws and policies that legally give them a choice about whether or not to participate in classroom activities harming animals. In New York state, New York Consolidated Law Article 17 § 809(4) allows a student to object on moral or religious grounds to participate, or even witness, an animal dissection without penalization of a failing grade in school. The law requires this objection to be in writing by the student’s parent or legal guardian. The NY state law ensures that an alternative is provided for the abstaining student to allow the Continue reading

Who Gets the Kitty?

Erika Kissh

cats

For couples in the United States, the idea of growing one’s family can mean more than just having children, in many instances it can also mean the adoption of “fur-children.” According to the Insurance Information Institute in 2017/2018 there was a reported 85 million families that owned pets in the United States. While that number is heart-warming to think of, if one were to couple it with the fact that roughly 40% of marriages end in divorce, it begs the question “who gets the kitty?”

Pet custody has become a prevalent issue in recent years with the dissolution of marriages across the United States, however, Courts are divided on how best to answer the question of “who gets the kitty?” Some Courts have taken the approach that animals are property, and as such they should be treated like any other household item. While others have taken the approach of viewing the animal more like a child, or “fur-child”, and as such, they take the best interest of the pet/family into consideration when determining custody.

In the past, many Courts viewed pets as property, where the division of the pet was comparable to who would get the television, in more recent year some Courts, with the help of state legislation, have turned to view pets as more sentient creatures rather than objects. This makes sense when you consider that on average pets are often viewed as “members of the family”, and are given toys, beds, celebrate birthdays, and in some instances even provided for with the creation of trusts specifically designed for their care. However, Courts who are forced to handle matters dealing with the custody of an animal, whether viewing animals as property or otherwise, are handed hard tasks. Unlike child custody cases, animals can’t speak or advocate for themselves, as such Judges are forced to make a lot of determinations based on the testimony of the owners and individuals who have interacted with the family in the past. Combining Courts that view animals as property and Judges tasked with such hard decisions, it is no wonder why some Courts have determined that couples are to sell their beloved animals and split the proceeds of the sale. Such determinations are in stark contrast with other court proceedings for pet custody that take years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to determine.

As a way to try and combat some of these issues, some states, such as Alaska and California, have taken pet interests to heart and have created pet custody legislation. As such, the best interest standard is now to be applied to one’s “fur-children” as it would be applied to actual children. With Courts now being able to take into consideration such factors as who feeds, grooms and cares for the pet, as well as the animals overall well-being.  Such legislation is extremely beneficial for animals because, rather than being seen as property and given to one’s “rightful owner” or being sold and having the owners split the proceeds, animals are now being given to the individual who cares for the animal and will best provide for the animal in the future.

With the creation of such legislation as that of Alaska and California, the avoidance of lengthy (and costly) court proceeding and may not be possible, due to the factors the Courts may now consider when deciding custody of the animal, much like a custody battle for a child the facts are not always black and white. While this may make the determination process more burdensome for the Courts, the outcome of those proceedings will be more beneficial to the animals than they would be if they were to be viewed as property. While this is great news from animals in Alaska and California, don’t break out the catnip and champagne quite yet! This is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of pro-animal legislation. Until more states come on board with creating legislation to protect animals from falling victim to nasty custody battle, and more people create prenuptial agreements that state how the custody of their pet will happen should their marriage end, the Courts will continue to handle pet custody cases, and grapple with how best to answer the question of “who gets the kitty?”

 

A Win For Free Speech Is Not A Win For Animals

Calli Norman

On January 9th, 2019 the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa held the State’s ag-gag law unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds. Iowa’s “Agricultural Production Facility Fraud”prohibits obtaining access to agricultural facilities under “false pretenses”. This includes making false statements or misrepresentations in employment agreements with agricultural facilities. The law was fueled by the agricultural industry’s concern for its security and reputation. According to The Associated Press, “no undercover investigations had taken place in Iowa since the law was approved”.

Animal activists, such as the Animal Legal Defense Fund, view this ruling as a “win for free speech and animal protection”. The State has since filed an appeal, seeking to protect the existing privacy and property rights. I think both parties miss the mark. How does this ruling actually further animal interests? To what extent is a judgment that protects lying a victory?

There are four Federal statutes that protect animal interests: the Animal Welfare Act, the Continue reading

Law 700: Animals used for Sacrifice in Bolivia and Religious Freedom

Alexandra Bueno

When walking down a mountain clearing in the streets of La Paz, Bolivia, one might find Kallawayas( medicine men) ,  curanderos (local healers or shamans), fortunetellers, and sorcerers crowding the cobblestone streets of an old quarter known for generations as the Witches’ Market. This witch market is known for selling traditional clothing’s, handbags, hats, jewelry, herbs, sacrificial animals and dried llamas for the use of witch craft and offerings to the Pachamama (Mother Earth).

By far the most sold product available at this market are the dried llama fetuses, which come in many shapes and sizes. Llama fetuses are buried in the foundations of new constructions or businesses as an offering to the goddess Pachamama. These sacrifices are thought to protect workers from accidents and bring good luck and flow of money to businesses. The fetuses are mostly used by the poor, wealthier Bolivians are expected to sacrifice a live llama to the Pachamama. Live sacrifices have long been a part of the indigenous Andean Culture, according to ancient traditions, sacrifices were Continue reading

Florida Man: Did A Rogue Zoo Veterinarian Commit Malpractice?

Robert Gordon

Since the 15th century, rogue has been used to reference shady or dishonest people. Today, however, folks like Dr. Ray Ball,  lead veterinarian at ZooTampa in Tampa, Florida, use the term endearingly. That is why, in his self-published book released seven months prior to an ongoing federal investigation into veterinarian malpractice at the zoo, he repeatedly describes himself as a “rogue veterinarian.” The book describes a number of stories from Dr. Ball’s twenty-six-year career, including some that at the very least raise questions about his judgment. For instance, there was one time where he and a co-worker stopped at a Hardees drive-thru with a sedated alligator strapped to the back of his truck.

But the real story is not Dr. Ball’s ill-advised retelling of tales from years prior. Today, Dr. Ball makes headlines because at least seven people have filed 45 complaints with federal authorities for alleged veterinarian malpractice resulting in the deaths of manatees and a giraffe. The allegations became public in late October when the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife sent a letter to ZooTampa inquiring about Dr. Ball’s treatment methods. Notably, the attention prompted an almost immediate response from Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL) and Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) who then penned a letter to the Secretary of the Department of Interior requesting a full investigation. There were four specific aspects to Dr. Ball’s treatment that raised red flags Continue reading

How the 2018 Midterm Election Resulted in Animal Law Victories

Caitlin Ens

The U.S. 2018 midterm election did more than just change the majority party in the House of Representatives. Some local voters brought about significant changes in their state’s animal welfare laws. In California and Florida, two animal rights amendments were passed that, respectively, prohibit dog racing and establish minimum space requirements for calves raised for veal, breeding pigs, and egg-laying hens. These laws create standards for other states to follow in future elections.

Florida passed Amendment 13 and became the 41st state to ban commercial dog racing. Amendment 13 states that by the end of 2020, commercial dog racing will be completely outlawed. In states that still allow dog racing, thousands of greyhounds are bred annually to
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