Archive for the ‘Pets’ Category

Biggest Legal Stories of the Year… Beyond SO SUE ME, JACKASS!

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Well, seems our response to Worried Jewish Mother’s question has yet to be posted on the Forward’s website (and now we’re a bit worried we may have pissed off some Jews with our response…).  So in lieu of linking to our answer today, instead we’ll share Amy’s thoughts on the biggest legal stories of the annus horribilis that was 2009.

Here’s our girl on My Fox Philly (and though some might argue the point about the Madoff case, since it technically unraveled in Dec ’08, we think you’ll still have to agree that Amy’s hair looks particularly nice in this clip.):

You Dirty Rat!

Monday, December 7th, 2009
Even I know better than to watch this show

Even I know better than to watch this show

No, not talking about a man named Tiger. Today we discuss other morally questionable animal acts, specifically the killing, cooking and eating of rats on the rodent infested reality show, I’m a “Celebrity”… Get Me Outta Here.

Apparently two contestants, aka “celebrities,” Chef Gino D’Acampo and Stuart Manning (?), an actor, “were charged with animal cruelty for acts in connection to the program,” according to the AP. “The killing of a rat for a performance is not acceptable. The concern is this was done purely for the cameras,” David O’Shannessy from the New South Wales RSPCA told the British Broadcasting Corp. (Ed: would it have been okay had it been purely for the taste of rat meat?)

Now I understand that the idea of killing an animal just for kicks is called hunting bad, but where is the line?

Why isn’t hunting considered cruelty to animals you ask? Good question! It’s one we pose in the book… And just to remind you why So Sue Me, Jackass! will be an excellent Christmas gift for both the conservatives and liberals on your list, here’s the Q & A:

Q: Why aren’t hunters arrested for “cruelty to animals”? Killing for sport seems pretty-pretty-pretty cruel to me. . . .

A: Well, my dear liberal sister, though you may find it heartless, like it or not, game hunting is legal in every state. Still, each state has its own specific laws to regulate it: laws that concern the hunting seasons, permits, and weapon usage. For instance, in the state of Maine, you must be at least ten years old before you can shoot dinner. And every state does ban animal cruelty, which is defined as “the crime of inflicting physical pain, suffering or death on an animal, usually a tame one, beyond necessity for normal discipline. It can include neglect that is so monstrous (withholding food and water) that the animal has suffered, died or been put in imminent danger of death.” Currently forty-four states consider certain forms of animal abuse a felony. (Ask former Atlanta Falcon and felonious dog-fighter, Michael Vick, about that one.) Some states go even further, with enhanced penalties for someone who harms an animal that’s a companion (pet).

In one awful case, during a raging domestic brawl a father pulled his kid’s goldfish out of its bowl then stomped on it in front of the child. That’s right, nothing says “I’m your father and deserve respect” like stepping on your kid’s goldfish. Fortunately Bad Dad was later arrested for a host of domestic charges, including cruelty to animals. The defendant tried to argue that he shouldn’t get the enhanced penalty for abusing an animal companion since a goldfish isn’t a pet. But the judge ruled that you can’t limit “animal companions” to dogs and cats; rather, domesticated animals (and apparently putting a fish in a glass bowl counts as “domestication”) like gerbils, hamsters, hermit crabs, and other creatures can be considered animal companions.

Spanking the Monkey

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

organmonkeySeeing-eye and other service dogs have long been exempted from regulations that prevent dogs in certain places like restaurants and offices. But these days a lot of people appear to be pushing the legal limits of the definition of “service” dogs. Restaurants, apartment houses, and other businesses may now be legally required to allow dogs who help not only those with physical disabilities, but also provide “emotional” support. Not only is the definition of “support” expanding, but so, apparently, is the definition of “support animal”–from what has usually been considered a dog to other types of animals including trained primates. Gone are the days of the organ grinder’s accordion and companion monkey’s tiny cymbals, an apparently politically incorrect stereotype offensive to the Primate-Americans among us, replaced by the primates who have been trained to provide emotional and in some cases–like the diabetic woman who trained her primate to retrieve her insulin and needles–even medical support.

But the expansion of the all animal/all the time policy seems to have hit a wall as decided by two recent cases involving a monkey on one side and a judge who thought he was the one being made a monkey of. Seems that as relatively loosey-goosey (no disrespect meant to the Avian-Americans among us) as the term “support animal” may be, legally a doctor must certify that a patient is keeping the pet for health reasons. Once you get your doctor’s note, the New York Courts have ruled that emotional support is a valid reason to keep a pet even if the building has a no-pet policy. But when a Missouri woman tried to argue that her Bonnet Macaque monkey is trained to assist her with her agoraphobia and anxiety, the Judge ruled against her ‘right’ to take the monkey to Wal-Mart or to a cafeteria. The Judge found that the while the monkey, who is trained to fetch the remote control or her toothbrush, may have some pretty cool party tricks in his arsenal there is no correlation between his abilities and the owner’s disability. An animal that “simply provides comfort” according to the Judge, is the equivalent of a household pet and does not qualify as a service animal. Even if he can play a mean set of cymbals.

To Protect and Serve

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009
Nearest fire hydrant, please?

Nearest fire hydrant, please?

Amy contributed a guest post to the wonderful animal blog,

As a non-pet owner (but as someone who has always coveted a dog… except when I see people bending over and scooping poop…), I had no idea about all the rules and regulations involved in pet ownership. Turns out, there’s a lot more to it than just dressing Fido in a costume and sticking him in your handbag for all to admire.

We devote a chapter to Pet law in the book, but here’s Amy’s take on Service animals:

Here Fido! And Here! And Here!
Your Growing Legal Rights to Bring a Support Animal

While seeing eye and other service dogs have long been exempted from regulations that prevent dogs in certain places like restaurants and offices, people are now pushing the legal limits of the definition of “service” dogs.  Restaurants, apartment houses, and other businesses may now be legally required to allow dogs who help not only those with physical disabilities, but also those who claim they require dogs for “emotional” support.

The Department of Transportation has stated that support animals must be allowed on planes—even animals that aid people with emotional problems like depression or anxiety.  And New York Courts have ruled that emotional support is a valid reason to keep a pet even if the building has a no-pet policy.  As a result, pet owners whose doctors have advised them to keep a pet for emotionally therapeutic reasons are becoming emboldened to push for the right to take their animals where previously prohibited, and restaurants, hotels, and other accommodations are seeing an increase in the number of owners who bring in their animals.  Every dog lover claims that their pet brings emotional support; while the definition of ‘support’ animal is still hazy, for the most part a doctor must have certified that a patient is keeping the pet for health reasons—but you can expect to see more of Fido in public in the future.

It’s On, Bitches!

Monday, August 24th, 2009
Does this coat make my face look smooshed?

Does this coat make my face look smashed in?

Pictured at left, Dexter the Pug. No doubt you’re wondering why Dexter looks so doggone miserable. Is it because his owners, in some misguided attempt to fill the void in their lives, dressed him in an unflattering costume and made him pose for a photo op? Possibly.  But  another reason for this grim pug’s mug is likely because his whimsical parents, Eric Dare and Doreen Houseman, are fighting again.

That’s right, Dexter, is the sad product of a broken home. And Dare, a South Jersey cop, and former fiancée Houseman, a customer-service manager, have been battling for custody of the pug ever since their 13 year relationship busted up. Incredibly, they’ve spent a combined $40,000 battling for who gets to keep this ugly little pooch.

Now it had been the law in virtually all jurisdictions that marital property–from dollars to dust mops to doggies–got divided in divorce.  Unlike children, who maintain a relationship with their parents through custody and visitation, in divorce, pets were treated like throw rugs, an asset that goes to one spouse or the other.  And as with a throw rug, the court did not impose visitation.

But thanks to the legal wranglings in Dexter’s case, the New Jersey appeals court just decided that some property, like pets, have “special subjective” and “sentimental value.” And though Dare had originally been given possession of Dexter, the court suggested this sentimental value should have been considered in the initial decision.

So at 40K in, the lawyers for both Dare and Houseman have been sent back to come up with a solution for how to divide Dexter’s time. This court stopped short of awarding a visitation schedule-but other courts may eventually follow suit.

What does this mean for you? Well, ultimately it’s a good reminder to pet owners and parents that if a dog fight’s brewing, it’s best to come to an amicable agreement before going to court lest skyrocketing costs force all of you to start eating a steady diet of dog food.