Animal Law

Legal Blog Watch has a perfect Friday story up on its pages. Two men were arrested for riding animals while drunk. One guy was on a mule, the other was on a horse.

But when they got to the police station, the county attorney determined that the animals did not fall within the definition of “a device in, on or by which a person or property is, or may be, transported or drawn on a highway,” to trigger a DWI arrest. And so the men were released.

OF COURSE this happened in Texas…

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Legal outsourcing makes her happy.

* Demand for attorneys well-versed in animal law is on the rise as pet owners push for recognition of their pets as family members rather than ordinary property. Which reminds me of my dog Rascal. He ate his own crap, licked furniture, and once peed on a baby. And when he died, my parents looked at me and said, “It should have been you.” [Baltimore Sun]

* Yesterday in the life of Mikhail Khodorkovsky has American diplomats crying about a traveshamockery. [Bloomberg]

* Joe Miller may allow Lisa Murkowski to be certified as the winner of Alaska’s contested U.S. Senate seat, but Miller isn’t done scrapping and a’clawing. Shine on you crazy diamond. Shine on. [Washington Post]

* 200 massholes in the Massachusetts Legislature and only 52 of them are attorneys. [Boston Globe]

* Sotomayor, so hot right now. Sotomayor. [New York Times]

* Another article about legal outsourcing. Better bone up on your trivia, slumdogs. Ouch. That one barely makes sense. [Chicago Tribune]

* The Brits have beefed up their laws against companies bribing foreign officials. Reached for comment, Mr. Bean made a stupid face. [Wall Street Journal]

Animal abusers now must tell me and my dog where they are if they live in Suffolk County.

Suffolk County, my old ‘hood, just took a huge step forward in the cause for animal rights. The WSJ Law Blog reports:

New York’s Suffolk County legislature on Wednesday signed off on a measure that would publicly name anyone convicted of animal abuse by having them report to a registry for five years after their conviction.

“Most serial killers began as animal abusers,” Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Chief Roy Gross told the North Shore Sun. “It’s a known fact: people who hurt animals hurt people too.”

Good. Great. Parents don’t want their kids hanging out at the sex offender’s house next door, and they really shouldn’t want their kids hanging out with the neighbor who mistreats and harms defenseless animals as well. People who prey on weak animals will soon prey on weak people.

And here’s the follow up legislation, which should be a no-brainer….

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U Can't Touch This (dog).

Earlier this week, we reported on the Yale Law School library apparently allowing students to “check out” a stress-relieving dog named Monty, for 30-minute periods. This precious pet perk was not offered during my time at YLS (but we barely had a library for two years, due to extensive construction).

Alas, the commenter who noted that “Monty has been withdrawn” appears to be correct. The link to Monty’s catalog entry is dead.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s Booktryst blog explains why….

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Speaking of the Supreme Court, which Kash visited yesterday, the justices just struck down a 1999 law aimed at banning depictions of animal cruelty — especially so-called “crush videos,” in which women kill animals by stepping on them with fabulous footwear.

The vote was 8-1. The opinion was by Chief Justice Roberts; Justice Alito dissented. For more, see links below.

(Gavel bang: commenters.)

First Amendment left intact [SCOTUSblog]
Supreme Court Strikes Down Law Banning Animal Crush Videos, Cites First Amendment [ABA Journal]
High Court Shoots Down Animal-Cruelty Law [WSJ Law Blog]

If this tiger reminds you of your pet cat, you are an idiot.

There’s a Chris Rock joke about the Siegfried & Roy tiger attack: “That tiger didn’t go crazy, that tiger went tiger.” With that in mind, I bring you this latest decision from the Tenth Circuit, via the National Law Journal:

An insurance company does not have to pay a Kansas family $100,000 for an accident in which a Siberian tiger attacked and killed their daughter during her senior photo shoot, a federal appeals court ruled this week.

On Monday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that Safeco Insurance Company of America does not have to pay damages in a wrongful death suit because the homeowners policy bought by the tiger’s owners excluded coverage for business pursuits.

I’ll admit, it took me a second to appreciate what was going on here. As it turns out, the only actor that behaved reasonably in this situation was the tiger (and the Tenth Circuit)….

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Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner told the New Yorker he is like his cat, Dinah: "playful, but with a streak of cruelty."

It’s hard to find someone to love who also loves you. It’s a lot easier to find an animal with which to establish a loving relationship. Just make sure it’s not too loving.

Many lawyers are proud pet owners, bringing cats, dogs, small wolves, iguanas, and/or flying squirrels into their apartments and homes. Your ATL editors hold mixed feelings about the four-legged set. Elie and Kash are all in favor of bringing furry things into your bed, though he likes dogs and she likes cats. Meanwhile, Lat dissents.

This brings us to the question for today’s Above the Law roundtable:

What’s the best pet for lawyers?

Your ATL editors debate, after the jump.

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shamu killer whale.jpgYesterday, a killer whale demonstrated at a SeaWorld in Orlando why it has that name. The Shamu show turned horrific when a male orca named Tilikum killed veteran trainer Dawn Brancheau.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Brancheau was talking to the audience and petting Tilikum’s head, when he grabbed her by the arm and pulled her into the water. After some violent thrashing, the alleged killer whale drowned her.

The Sentinel reports that trainers did not ever get into the tank with Tilikum, because of his murderous past. He’s more like a serial killer whale:

In 1991, Tilikum and two female killer whales dragged trainer Keltie Byrne underwater, drowning her in front of spectators at Sealand of the Pacific, a defunct aquarium in Victoria, British Columbia.

Acquired by SeaWorld the next year to breed with female orcas, he was involved in a second incident in July 1999 when the naked body of a man who had apparently sneaked into SeaWorld after hours to swim with the whales was found draped dead across his back.

In fairness to Tilikum, he’s a majestic animal captured by humans and imprisoned for their amusement and curiosity. How many people would you kill to escape forced mating with a female orca?

An animal rights activist told the Sentinel that Tilikum is “a killer” and should have been set free years ago, and not been kept in contact with humans at SeaWorld.

It sounds like SeaWorld could be in dangerous legal waters…

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cow wants penis in mouth got milk.jpgHere’s an interesting question. How do we know that animals involved in bestiality don’t actually like it?
This question was recently on the mind of one New Jersey jurist. From the Philadelphia Daily News:

During a bizarre hearing [in Burlington County, NJ], a Superior Court judge dismissed animal-cruelty charges against a Moorestown police officer accused of sticking his penis into the mouths of five calves in rural Southampton in 2006, claiming a grand jury couldn’t infer whether the cows had been “tormented” or “puzzled” by the situation or even irritated that they’d been duped out of a meal.

“If the cow had the cognitive ability to form thought and speak, would it say, ‘Where’s the milk? I’m not getting any milk,’ ” Judge James J. Morley asked.

Got milk? Or milky discharge?

Children, Morley said, seemed “comforted” when given pacifiers, but there’s no way to know what bovine minds thought of Robert Melia Jr. substituting his member for a cow’s teat.

“They [children] enjoy the act of suckling,” the judge said. “Cows may be of a different disposition.”

In its weirdness, this is all very Ally McBeal-ish (although too explicit for that show).
So, how did the prosecutor feel about all of this?

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Orrick logo.JPGIf Michael Vick can learn to love animals, “be they a dog, or a cat, or … a reptile,” then surely the American courts can’t be far behind.
A couple of weeks ago, we brought you the story of a New Jersey appellate panel which declined to view the family pet as mere property in a divorce proceeding. Now a Virginia court is being asked to award damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress stemming from a pet-icide. The Wall Street Journal reports that there is some high profile pro-bono legal counsel taking up the cause of not treating animals as replaceable goods:

A lawsuit slated to go to trial next week down in Virginia could help redefine the theory — at least in that state — on what how a pet-owner should be compensated if a pet is wrongfully killed. In many states, tort law provides the owner simply gets the replacement value of a pet.
But the plaintiff in the Virginia case, represented pro bono by Orrick partner and former White House counsel Lanny Davis, feels the amount should be much higher in certain circumstances. Davis likened the case to that of a family heirloom, which has worth well beyond its street value.

Go Orrick. Family heirloom status is just the first step. It won’t be long now until I can bring my dog into the Duane Reade with the same disregard for other people’s shopping experience as parents enjoy now with their no spatial awareness/no vocal modulation street urchins.
Either that or we’ll soon see strollers tied up to stop signs up and down the east side of Manhattan.
After the jump, even the defendant in the civil suit agrees that family pets are worth more than their store bought value.

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