Connecticut Pet Store Fire Sparks Controversial Puppy Mill Bill

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A recent fire at a Danbury, Connecticut, pet store has apparently prompted a handful of state lawmakers to revisit proposed legislation targeting puppy mills.

According to published reports, the so-called “Puppy Mill Bill” would  “address shutting down so-called puppy mills and kitten factories, which are large-scale commercial facilities that breed animals and sell them to many local puppy stores in Connecticut and New York.”

The media also notes that the way the bill is written and designed is similar to a new California law that just went into effect. Like its west coast counterpart, the Connecticut bill seeks to prevent pet stores from selling dogs, cats and rabbits unless they are sourced from animal shelters or rescue groups. If passed, however, the Connecticut bill would not affect  local breeders who sell the animals directly to the public.

There was too much excitement at Puttin' on the Dog for these little kittens!
We’re pooped! Hurricane Harvey kittens at Puttin’ on the Dog, 2017. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

Critics push back

Even so, not everyone is happy about the proposed legislation. In an ensuing interview, the owner of Puppy Love, the pet store where the fire occurred, said the law would  be “a huge mistake.”

Specifically, Sean Silverman, who sources the animals he sells from “reputable breeders” with “complete guarantees,” says the law could put him out of business.

“Most of the people who come to us are looking for pure-bred dogs, which many local rescues don’t offer,” Silverman said. “If stores like ours are unable to provide the type of puppies that people want, then some 15 to 20 thousand people here in Connecticut will go on the internet, get a dog with zero regulations, and have it shipped, but will not get any guarantees, it’s just putting these people in a bad situations.”

Silverman also said that his business complies with all applicable state regulations.

“I pay about $7,000 a month in vet bills back to customers whose dog or cat may have had issues within 20 days of the purchase,” he explained. “Stores like ours do this because it’s the law. I have a five-year congenital warranty as well, something that would not be offered by a shelter or home breeder.”

Businesses like his are already “heavily regulated,” Silverman concluded. Given that, he said, it is clear that a bill targeting them “would be a huge mistake.”

State Representative Representative Richard Smith from New Fairfield also told the media that he has some concerns about the broad language in the proposed legislation and cannot support it in its current form.

Seeking support

On the other hand Representative Steven Harding has no problem supporting the measure.

““As a dog owner myself, I am happy to support initiatives that help to ensure that pets are treated safely and humanely,” he told the media.

Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan, from Connecticut’s 2nd Assembly District, which includes  Bethel, Danbury, Newtown, and Redding, is currently leading a bipartisan delegation of seven legislators backing the proposed legislation. Of the seven on the committee, five are co-sponsoring the bill with him.

Although Allie-Brennan is now seeking more support from colleagues who have these type of pet stores in their districts, only time will tell whether the legislation finally gets the backing it needs.

What do you think? Should Connecticut approve this bill? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Estate Planning With Your Pets In Mind

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Good morning, everyone! Happy Monday! Are you ready for some thought-provoking questions to start your week? Well, ready or not, here they are.

What will happen to your pet(s) if something happens to you? Who will take care of them? Where will they live? Will they end up in a familiar place with people they know? Or will they end up in a shelter, where they will be left to an uncertain fate? Have you thought about it? Do you have a plan?

You don’t? Why not? Make one. Put it in writing. Share it with your friends and family. Talk to your lawyer about it. Seriously. It’s important!

Runner-up in one of the contests at the 30th annual Puttin' on the Dog festival.
Second place? What do you mean I got second place? The indignity of it all. Puttin’ on the Dog, Greenwich CT. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

Estate planning

Proper estate planning is a proactive rather than a reactive process. As such, it allows you  to  prepare for unanticipated events, instead of simply reacting to them. Specifically, it allows you to create a strategy that can be shared with your family and used in the event of a serious, catastrophic or fatal injury or illness. In other words, this is a way to ensure your wishes — including those about the care of your pet(s) — are documented and followed if/when you are no longer capable of expressing them.

The last will and testament

When most people think about estate planning, making a will is the first thing that comes to mind. This is because a valid will is a legal document required for the settlement of your affairs and distribution of your estate. Or, to put it in plain English, it is a legal document in which you specify who gets what after you die, and designate someone (called an executor) to make sure your wishes are carried out accordingly.

According to The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), you should keep a few of things in mind if you’re considering including provisions pertaining to the care of your pet(s) in your will. Specifically, you should be aware that:

  1. Your will only takes effect upon your death.
  2. It takes time to sort everything out (determine if the will is valid and so on).
  3. Other complications could arise, especially if someone decides to contest (challenge) the will.

“Even determining the rightful new owner of your pet can get delayed. In other words, it may take a long time before your instructions regarding your pet’s long-term care can be carried out,” the HSUS says. “This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should not include a provision in your will that provides for your pet. It just means that you should explore creating additional documents that compensate for the will’s limitations.”

Setting up a trust

A trust is another type of legal tool used in the estate planning process. It allows you to allocate funds for a specific purpose, such as the care of your pet, if something happens to you. It also allows you to choose someone to manage the trust.

According to the HSUS, the benefits of using a trust in addition to a will are:

  1. It ensures your pet’s immediate needs are met.
  2. It can be used while you are sill alive (in the event of illness/injury).
  3. You can decide when it goes into effect.
  4. It allows for the exclusion of some funds from probate.

“There are many types of wills and trusts,” the HSUS points out. “Determining which is best for you and your pet depends on your situation and needs.”

The organization also stresses the importance of getting proper legal advice from “an attorney who both understands your desire to provide for your pet and can help you create a will and/or trust that best provides for him.”

Because there may be different rules depending on where you live, the HSUS recommends that you and your lawyer verify that the trust established  for the benefit of your pet(s) is valid and enforceable in your state.

Power of attorney

Finally, a third type of legal document, called a power of attorney, allows someone else someone else to handle some or all of your affairs for you while you are alive. As such, they can be written to take effect upon your physical or mental incapacity and remain in effect after you become incapacitated.

They are simpler than trusts and may include provisions  allowing the person authorized to handle your affairs  “to take care of your pets, expend money to do so, and even to place your pets with permanent caregivers if appropriate.”

Short-term solutions

Of course, the strategies used in estate planning are generally devised to address future events. An HSUS fact sheet, called “Providing for Your Pet’s Future Without You,” details not only the issues we have already discussed, but other ways to ensure your pets are taken care of in an emergency.

Its recommendations include but are not limited to:

  • Identifying at least two responsible friends or relatives who agree to serve as temporary caregivers if you have an emergency. Giving them with keys to your home; feeding and care instructions; the name of your veterinarian; and information about the permanent care provisions you have made for your pet.

• Ensuring that your neighbors, friends, and relatives know how many pets you have and the names and contact numbers of the individuals who have agreed to serve as emergency caregivers. Emergency caregivers should also know how to contact each other.

• Carrying a wallet “alert card” that lists the names and phone numbers of your emergency pet caregivers.

• Posting removable “in case of emergency” notices on your doors or windows specifying how many and what types of pets you have. Doing so will let first responders know that you have pets so they can act accordingly.

• Posting a removable notice with relevant information to the inside of your front and back doors.

The HSUS fact sheet also addresses related concerns, such as the importance of making formal arrangements for your pet’s care if something happens to you; keeping in contact with the designated caregivers; entrusting your pet’s care to a specific organization; and more.

You can find the details here.

It is sad, but it is not necessarily inevitable

As a volunteer at a local animal shelter, I became aware of several cases in which dogs were surrendered because their owners could no longer care for them. In a few of those cases, I believe we had an agreement that the dog would be returned to us in such circumstances. In other cases, the animals were simply surrendered by family members who were unable to care for them and had nowhere else to turn.

In any case, it was always sad. But it does not have to be inevitable.


Disclaimer: The preceding article is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be considered as legal advice. For legal advice, including questions and concerns about estate planning; animal law; and providing for your pets in the event of illness, injury or death, consult a qualified attorney in your area.

End Dogfighting In Connecticut Now

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Anyone who knows me at all knows I have a temper. Anyone who knows me at all also knows that I have absolutely, positively, no tolerance whatsoever for criminal activity targeting children, the elderly, or animals.

So imagine how I felt when I read a January 21 article on ctpost.com detailing the prevalence of dogfighting in Connecticut. Let’s just say I wasn’t very happy. In fact, it made my blood boil.

As far as I’m concerned, there is no place for this vicious, cruel, and barbaric activity at all — much less in the 21st century. The time to end it is now.

The harsh reality of dogfighting in Connecticut

Jessica Rubin, a state animal advocate and UConn law professor quoted in the article,  has researched dogfighting charges in Connecticut. While doing so, she  found that 110 people were charged with “dogfighting related offenses” here between 2007 and 2017.

Among other things, Rubin told ctppost.com that  there were no charges in some years and multiple charges in others. She also noted that the activity seems to be most prevalent in areas with the greatest population densities.

“The issues include extreme cruelty, criminal behavior, gambling, giving dogs unauthorized medicines and violence,” Rubin said. “Children are exposed to the offenses and it compounds the dogfighting.”

One of the many dogs available for adoption at a local shelter a few years ago.

Meanwhile, dogs that are lucky enough to survive and escape their ordeal, “usually end up in shelters around the state in hopes that law-abiding dog lovers will adopt them and end their nightmare with care and love.”

And then there are those who aren’t so fortunate.

“When they’re no longer profitable to dog fighters — or if they don’t show enough ‘fighting spirit’— they’re typically killed in atrocious ways, including by being used as ‘bait dogs,’ drowned, electrocuted, beaten or hanged,” Martin Mersereau, vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, told ctpost.com. “There are no winners in this sickening blood sport, only abject criminals who represent the very worst of human nature,” Mersereau added.

Freedom’s story

Two years ago, someone found a badly wounded dog — later named Freedom by rescuers —  “wandering on Brushy Plains Road in Branford covered in scars and injuries.”

His story is also chronicled in the ctpost.com article.

According to the account, officials at the Branford Animal Shelter concluded the wounds were the result of dogfighting. They also determined that  Freedom whose teeth were filed down so he couldn’t inflict damage on other dogs,  was probably used as a “bait” dog. As such, it would have been his “job” to  trigger attacks by combatants.

“Based on the wounds, this dog definitely took the brunt of whatever has been going on,” shelter director Laura Burban then told the New Haven Register. “What we can see is that it looks like his feet were tied together and he was used as the bait dog for other dogs to attack him,” she said.

Freedom is not alone…

Currently, dogfighting is not only illegal throughout the United States, but it is also a felony  in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Even so, Freedom’s story is not unique.

According to American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) statistics cited in the ctpost.com story, there are tens of thousands of dog fight organizers across the country that force hundreds of thousands of dogs to brutally train and fight for sport.

Over the last eight years, the organization says, it has assisted with 200 dogfighting cases in 24 states and has helped rescue and investigate nearly 5,000 victims of dogfighting.

Last year alone, the ASPCA says it directly rescued more than 400 animals from dogfighting rings across 12 states.

“Through our extensive work with law enforcement agencies nationwide, we know that organized dogfighting is taking place in every type of community across the country, causing unimaginable pain and suffering for the animals involved,” Stacy Wolf, senior vice president of ASPCA’s Anti-Cruelty Group told ctpost.com.

And that is unacceptable.

The Efficacy Of U.S. Pet Protection Laws

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As most of you know, I am passionate about two aspects of the law. One is animal law and the other is criminal law. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’ve done a lot of posts on both topics in this forum.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

Specifically, I have written about the steps that state lawmakers across the United States have taken to protect companion animals and punish the people who abuse, hoard and neglect them. I must admit, there have been a lot of positive developments since I created this website and started posting here in 2015.

But of course, that’s just my opinion. Let’s see what the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) has to say about the implementation and efficacy of animal protection laws across the United States as of 2018.

How the states were judged

Last month, the ALDF released its annual Animal Protection Laws Rankings Report , which includes “the best and worst US states and territories when it comes to animal protection.”

Along with the results, American Veterinarian.com published an article explaining how the states were judged. As reported on that website, the ALDF’s criteria included “19 aspects of animal protection, including 5 new categories: the definition of ‘animal,’ courtroom animal advocate programs, laws that allow individuals to rescue dogs from hot parked cars, civil nuisances abatement, and breed-specific legislation.”

Based on its assessment, the ALDF determined that the U.S. as a whole is making progress — but there is still room for improvement.

“Every year, we see more states enacting broader legal protections for animals,” ALDF’s Executive Director Stephen Wells told American Veterinarian.com. “We have a long way to go until animals are fully protected under the legal system as they deserve, especially in the lowest-ranked states.…But as this year’s Ranking Report shows, step by step we as a nation are improving how the law treats animals.”

How the states ranked

Starting with the good news, the top states were:

  1. Illinois
  2. Oregon
  3. Maine
  4. Colorado
  5. Massachusetts

“With the creation of laws banning the sexual assault of animals, Louisiana (7) and Massachusetts (5) were among the most improved states in 2018. Besides Massachusetts, each of the 5 best states has remained consistent with the previous years,” the American Veterinarian.com article notes.

On the other hand, these were the states that ranked near or at the bottom of the list:

46. New Mexico
47. Wyoming
48. Iowa
49. Mississippi
50. Kentucky

Of particular concern is the lack of progress in Kentucky, which was ranked last for the second consecutive year. Specifically, the ALDF’s 2018 report found that, despite its allowance for increased penalties for repeat abusers and/or animal hoarders, Kentucky has not made any significant changes in the following areas:

  • Adequate definitions or standards of basic care
  • Restriction of animal ownership after a conviction
  • Mandatory forfeiture of animals upon conviction

One of the most obvious deficiencies in Kentucky’s animal safety regulations is its lack in felony penalties for animal cruelty (including neglect, sexual assault, or abandonment). Furthermore, Kentucky is still the only state that precludes veterinarians from reporting suspected animal cruelty, abuse, or fighting.

To make matters worse, there are no statutory provisions for post-conviction restitution or forfeiture, except in cases involving horses. In other words, owners who have harmed their pet don’t have to surrender it — so they really aren’t being held fully accountable for their actions.

Why do we need animal protection laws?

Of course, there are plenty of people who don’t like animals — and to them all of this is pointless. In most cases, they argue that people are more important, and lawmakers should concentrate on addressing “more important issues” like healthcare, gun violence and climate change.

Personally, I have a different perspective — one gained during 21 years covering cops and courts in three states. You see, I have written about my share of violent crime. And I know for a fact that the types of people who commit these acts have no qualms about harming animals to begin with.

So, yes animal protection laws do matter. In fact they matter a lot.

Federal Lawmakers Seek Animal Cruelty Ban

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“a bipartisan pair of congressional lawmakers from Florida is trying to close a gaping loophole in federal law.”

If there’s one thing I won’t discuss in this forum, it’s politics. For one thing, I hate politics. For another, it’s too risky to discuss politics in the context of work — and since this is my business website — well, the less said, the better.

Having said that, of course there are exceptions to every rule. And the only exception I’ll make to the one I just mentioned is that I’ll continue to write about local, state and federal legislation when our duly elected representatives actually do something constructive. Believe it or not, that actually happens every once in a while.

A case in point

Take a recent New York Times article about federal efforts to crack down on animal abusers by creating a new bill called the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act. In it, the author, Niraj Chokshi explains that a “a bipartisan pair of congressional lawmakers from Florida is trying to close a gaping loophole in federal law.”

As it now stands, anyone who documents (records) themselves abusing an animal can be charged under federal law. However, they will not face federal charges for the actual commission of the abuse.

If the new legislation passes, however, offenders convicted of “intentionally crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, impaling or otherwise seriously harming an animal” would face federal felony charges, fines and up to seven years in prison. Within this context it is important to note that he bill “includes exceptions for, among other things, hunting, killing animals for food, scientific research, euthanizing animals, husbandry and veterinary care.”

The back story

In addition to providing a detailed explanation of the proposed legislation, Chokshi also explains why it was created.

As Chokshi tells it, the Humane Society of the United States became aware of and started looking into “crush videos,” approximately 20 years ago. In these videos, “animals are tortured or killed, often under a woman’s foot, in the service of a sexual fetish.” Objects or insects are sometimes used instead of animals in some cases, Chokshi adds.

Eli, the In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot.
In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot Eli catching up on the latest news. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

At any rate, the Humane Society contacted authorities after buying this type of video from someone in California, only to find that there were no adequate remedies under existing laws. Meanwhile, the documentation of animal abuse was increasing because of the Internet.

In search of answers, the then-county district attorney approached former Representative Elton Gallegly. He  in turn introduced a bill banning the production or sale of such videos. With little opposition, it was signed into law in late 1999.

“In 2010, however, the Supreme Court ruled that law unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds,” Chokshi reports.

In response, Gallegly created a new version of the bill, the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act, which became the law that the recently introduced bipartisan legislation is designed to supplement.

Is this really necessary?

Currently, there are felony provisions in animal cruelty laws in all 50 states. So while the creation of a federal animal cruelty law may seem unnecessary, proponents say it’s an important step in the right direction.

First, as Sara Amundson, the president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, the legislative and political arm of the Humane Society told the Times, it would address cases in which abused animals are taken across state lines. Secondly, it would help in cases where there are limited resources.

“It’s oftentimes the scenario where states don’t have the resources or they don’t have the knowledge in a situation to be able to carry these animal cruelty cases to prosecution,” Amundson said.

Finally, proponents hope it will serve as an effective deterrent because it is a known fact that animal abuse can often be a precursor to the commission of violent acts against people.

What do you think? Is this a good idea? Is it necessary? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

 

On Pit Bull ‘Attacks,’ Naughty Cats and Other Topics

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The longer I live, the more I hate people.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

OK, that’s not entirely accurate. Let’s just say the longer I live, the less tolerance I have for human stupidity. And considering I that I never had much tolerance for that in the first place, that’s saying a lot.

So you’re probably wondering what triggered this little rant. Well, a few things to be honest. The first is a news story about a pit bull that recently “attacked” someone on a New York City subway. I put the word “attacked” in quotation marks because I wasn’t there so I don’t know exactly what happened. From what I can gather from the news accounts (which I would never rely upon to draw a conclusion) the owner claims the dog was provoked. Others dispute that. Authorities say the dog is a known menace.

Based on limited information, all I know is this: Something triggered that animal. Perhaps (and I stress perhaps) the person who got bitten did deliberately or inadvertently provoke the dog. Or perhaps the dog was simply stressed by being in a crowded, claustrophobic, noisy environment. Perhaps it was scared, or overstimulated by being in that subway car. I mean, let’s be honest. Riding the New York City subway is stressful for a human. Imagine how overwhelming it must be for any animal.

No, I am not making excuses. Frankly, I think the whole entire situation is inexcusable. I don’t care if it really is a “service animal” (which is another topic for another blog). That dog should never have been put in that situation. Ever. Period. End. Of. Story.

Allowing that to happen  was clearly a recipe for disaster. It was irresponsible. And it was sad. It was sad because that owner should have known better — and if he didn’t he never should have been allowed to have the dog in the first place. It was sad because human stupidity may very well cost that dog its life.

Bad cat, or stupid people?

But that’s not all that’s bugging me. I’m also annoyed about a recent Facebook conversation with one of my cousins. To sum it up, she made a post about the action she planned to take against a neighbor’s cat that had used her garden as its personal latrine. I believe she mentioned the use of a  “super-soaker”  at least once.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand why she’s upset — especially since she has young children and there is clearly a double-standard regarding dogs and cats in her community. However, the point I made when I joined the discussion is that the cat is just being a cat. I seriously doubt that it has any malicious intent. That being stated, I as I also told my cousin, the owners are being irresponsible idiots by letting the cat run around unsupervised. In other words, don’t blame the animal. Blame the people.

As pet owners or pet “parents,” we are responsible for our animals. As long as they are in our lives, we are responsible for all aspects their health and well-being. We’re responsible for keeping them out of trouble… and like it or not, we’re responsible for their behavior. After all, we’re the ones with the consciences, and ability to reason. Allegedly.

California’s anti-puppy mill legislation goes to governor

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It all boils down to supply and demand. By passing A.B. 485, California lawmakers have demanded that puppy mills and similar operations no longer supply pet shops with companion animals.

Specifically the  legislation currently awaiting Gov. Gerry Brown’s signature takes aim at the unscrupulous breeders by ensuring that the pet stores can only acquire dogs, cats and rabbits from animal rescue groups, shelters and similar organizations.

A dog available for adoption at Adopt-a-Dog. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

As reported by Newsweek, “The purpose of the bill is to encourage pet stores to move into the rescue business and to reduce the number of animals killed at shelters due to lack of space.”

According to the ASPCA:

  • Approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.3 million are dogs and 3.2 million are cats.
  • Each year, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized (670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats).
  • Approximately 3.2 million shelter animals are adopted each year (1.6 million dogs and 1.6 million cats).

Data provided by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) indicates that most people who have cats got them from shelters, friends or family, while most people who have dogs got them from breeders or shelters.

Many pet stores are already providing another option for people seeking companion animals. As Newsweek reported, “Some pet stores, including PetCo and Petfood Express, have already moved away from selling cats, dogs, and rabbits bred for profit and instead donate space to rescues and host adoption events.” According to its website, PetSmart is also on board.

“At PetSmart, we never sell dogs or cats. Together with PetSmart Charities, we help save over 1,300 pets every day through adoption,” the company says. In all, PetSmart claims it has saved more than 7.6 million animals through its adoption program.

Of course, there are always two sides to every story. And apparently, the AKC is not a fan of A.B. 485.

“AB 485’s proponents misleadingly claim that the bill will promote the purchasing of purebred dogs from local breeders. That claim, however, fails to shed light on the fact that many local anti-breeding laws and breeding restrictions, also supported by these groups, have already eliminated hobby breeding and now make obtaining a specific type of dog bred by a local breeder increasingly difficult,” the AKC says.

However, A.B. 485 does not ban Californians from getting purebred pets if they so choose. It simply bans them from doing so through pet stores. If the bill becomes law, they would still be able to get companion animals by contacting private breeders directly.

What do you think? Is this a good idea? Or will it do more harm than good? Let me know by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below.

Why I would never abandon my cat in a natural disaster

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It’s absolutely heartbreaking. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, social media sites have been saturated with news and photos about the dogs, cats, horses and other animals left to fend for themselves when their owners fled.

There have been harrowing tales of heroic rescues from rising flood waters. But there have also been heartwarming tales about all of the animal welfare groups working to reunite these animals with their families, or trying to find new homes for the pets that have been displaced.

Eli the cat.
In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot, Eli the cat.

As an animal lover and pet owner, I have mixed feelings about all of this. On the one hand, it makes me furious. From a purely emotional standpoint, I find myself wondering how anyone could abandon their pet in such horrible circumstances. As a reporter who has covered my share of natural disasters and the aftermath — I know a little bit of pre-planning could save a lot of heartache in the long run.

On the other hand, I find myself trying not to rush to judgment. After all, an argument could be made that no one really knows how they would react when confronted by a storm the magnitude of Harvey or Irma. It is easy to be an armchair quarterback from the warmth and safety of your house.

All of that being said, I didn’t leave Eli during Superstorm Sandy. And I would never leave my cat to fend for himself in a storm. Ever.

My reason for this is simple. As a person, I have the ability to make certain choices; ride out a big storm at home or seek shelter elsewhere, listen to the official weather advisories or ignore them, plan in advance, or take my chances. So to a certain extent, I have some control over what happens to me — even in the worst of circumstances. Eli doesn’t have that luxury. He is entirely dependent on me to take care of him and keep him safe. No matter what. He is my responsibility.

Yes, I’ve said it before and I will say it again. I will keep saying it until people not only listen, but act accordingly. As pet owners, we are responsible for what happens to our dogs, cats, horses, snakes,  gerbils, ferrets, birds… Our companions are not disposable. They are living, breathing beings with specific physical and emotional needs.

Can they adapt? Of Course. Can they survive without us? Yes. Should we put them in a position where they’re forced to do so? Absolutely, positively not.

That being stated, I’m keeping an eye on Tropical Storm Jose. And from what I’ve seen, if you live anywhere in the northeast, I suggest you do the same.

Paws up, don’t shoot!

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These days, much is made about fatal or near-fatal encounters between police officers and civilians — and rightly so. However, there are other stories that don’t get as much publicity. These are the stories about the lethal or near-lethal encounters between police officers and “dangerous” dogs.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

Most — but not all — of these encounters tend to occur when the officer is on or approaching someone’s property.  Sadly, these stories usually end badly — for the dogs.

For example, as reported by Red Alert Politics, a Minnesota police officer recently shot two family pets, both of which are also emotional support animals.  The officer allegedly shot one of the dogs, a Staffordshire terrier, in the face, causing serious injuries.

“Jennifer LeMay, the dogs’ owner, released security footage of the shooting. The video shows an officer climbing over a seven-foot tall fence and entering the yard housing two Staffordshire terriers,” according to media accounts.

“The officer backpedaled and drew his gun as Circo ran towards him. The dog stopped about five feet in front of the man, then, wagging his tail, slowly approached the officer.  The officer shot the first dog in the face, which fell and fled, and then shot multiple times at the second dog, Rocko, which briefly ran into the camera footage.”

Police claim the dog “charged” at the officer, prompting the use of force.

LeMay emphatically refutes that claim, however.

“He was wagging his tail,” LeMay said about Ciroc. “My dog wasn’t even moving, lunging toward him or anything.”

“My dogs were doing their job on my property,” she continued. “We have a right to be safe in our yard.”

In a Facebook post following the incident, the Minneapolis police chief called for an investigation and said the department “will be implementing updated mandatory training specifically for officers identifying effective tools and tactical strategies with police and dog encounters.”

Meanwhile, the LeMay family is faced with thousands in veterinary bills stemming from the injuries to both dogs. LeMay is reportedly pursuing legal recourse.

But there is hope. Another article tells another story. In this case, the officer did the right thing.

According to the account, “Oklahoma police officer Storm Barrett responded to a call about two angry pit bulls who were running wild in a busy area of El Reno. Luckily, the former dog handler knew exactly what to do. Instead of trying to use force, Officer Barrett got up onto the hood of his cruiser. He pulled a bystander onto the car with him.”
Concerned that the dogs could harm children at a nearby school, Barrett distracted them until backup arrived.
“Both dogs were captured ten minutes later and returned to their owner – who was given a citation for allowing the dogs to get loose,” the report states.

Making a case for the dogs in Connecticut

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Judging by an article I just found, the old saying about the wheels of justice turning slowly doesn’t just apply to people. It applies to animals as well.

In Connecticut, it specifically applies to “dangerous” dogs that are  “accused” of committing certain “crimes.” And as far as I am concerned, that’s just not right.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

You see these dogs — which are often acting on instinct, or training rather than malice — face the ultimate penalty for their alleged actions. Yes, there is a “dog death penalty here.”

Don’t get me wrong. There are some cases in which such a policy is definitely warranted — and many where it isn’t. But that’s not the point.

The point of this particular post is to address a different but related matter; namely the amount of time the state can or should keep a “dangerous” dog in “custody” before it is euthanized.

Currently,  Connecticut “has no standards for determining when an animal should be euthanized, leaving it to the discretion of local animal control officers,” according to attorneys for a Connecticut dog owner whose Rottweilers have been living on what the media calls “a canine death row” for five years.

According to published reports, Kato and Kleo’s owner says they got out of their yard and bit a neighbor “only after they were attacked.” The state then ordered them to be put down.

Lawyers for plaintiffs in a recent federal class action lawsuit are now arguing that the lack of standards in such circumstances is a violation of dog owners’ rights. Specifically, they say it is “a violation of due process and an unreasonable seizure of property.”

I’m not a lawyer — but I happen to agree.

What do you think? Share your opinion in the comments section below.