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Education and legislation keys to protecting pets

To keep you informed on pet-related laws being considered or enacted across the US, we have provided a few summaries. This edition of Pet Legal Briefs discusses new pet legislation concerning cost-of-animal-care laws and abuse education for animal practitioners.

New Hampshire: Cost-of-animal-care Law Faces Constitutional Opposition

A bill sponsored by Republican Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley of New Hampshire, is designed as a cost-of-animal-care law, which seeks to address the enormous financial burden on NH taxpayers and nonprofit humane organizations to care for animals legally seized in animal cruelty cases. SB 569-N is intended to tighten regulations on commercial dog breeders, while increasing felony penalties for extreme cruelty. This proposal has the full support of Gov. Sununu, who recently endorsed the bill. Opponents say the bill's language requires those accused of animal abuse or cruelty to post non-refundable monthly bonds of $2,000. This may be in violation of the Fourth Amendment due process rights of the accused, and possibly Fourteenth Amendment rights, because there is no language in the proposed bill to punish those who make false accusations.

Oklahoma: Veterinarians Can Provide Early Detection Of Animal Abuse

A manual titled Reporting Animal Cruelty: The Role of the Veterinarian, a collaboration between Animal Folks of Minnesota and the Kirkpatrick Foundation, is enjoying wider distribution. Used by veterinarians in Minnesota, this invaluable guidebook (PDF) has recently been updated for use in Oklahoma, and was distributed to district attorneys, vets, vet techs, and students at the Oklahoma State University’s Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Program. It covers virtually every situation where a veterinary practice might discover abuse, neglect, or other crimes against animals. The idea stems from the concept of doctors as caretakers of vulnerable human populations, and extends that role into the realm of animal health care. Vets are already licensed medical professionals who are duty-bound by state laws to report crimes, so the manual provides them the means by which they can protect the animals' rights, their own practice, and their rights as practitioners.

Illinois: IL Tops ALDF’s Animal Protections List For 10th Year

For the tenth consecutive year, Illinois ranked first on the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s US Animal Protection Laws survey. Illinoisans are among the most active and vocal in their support for animal rights, and its legislators are responding in very positive ways. The ALDF’s full report can be viewed here (PDF).

California: Honoring Individuals That Champion Animal Rights

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) honored ten individuals who have dedicated their efforts to ensure that animals “have their day in court.” The list includes members of law enforcement, judges, prosecutors, veterinary care specialists, and legislators. This trend of recognition that animals are sentient beings, as well as adopted and beloved members of our families is a very encouraging and positive sign. In fact, nearly every important law school is now teaching animal law classes. Because of the efforts of people like these and many others who care about animal rights, our animal companions are gaining legal protection in more jurisdictions across the US.

David Chambers is a retired paralegal living in Chicago with his partner, Stephanie, and two fluffy cats, Jasper and Joy

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