Hundreds of turtles and birds rescued from Long Island home

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.
Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

For the second time in less than a month, authorities confiscated hundreds of animals from a Tri State Area home. But this time the house was on Long Island. And this time the animals weren’t dogs. This time, the animals reportedly rescued from horrid conditions were turtles and birds.

As reported by WABC-TV in New York, the Nassau County SPCA seized the animals after personnel from its law enforcement division executed a search warrant at the Bellmore home yesterday.

On a steamy hot New York morning, authorities found some of the animals didn’t have enough water and others were malnourished. They were also deprived of fresh air and lived in dirty water, according to an account provided by an agency spokesman.

One of the animals — an alligator snapping turtle found living in the basement — belongs to a species capable of hurting people.

“That turtle could take your hand off,” Nassau County SPCA spokesman Gary Rogers told Eyewitness News.

You can learn all about alligator snapping turtles on nationalgeographic.com. But here are a few basics:

  • You won’t find a bigger freshwater species in North America.
  • They like to live in rivers, lakes and canals in the southeastern part of the United States.
  • They can live for 50 to 100 years.
  • An adult male’s shell can be more than 2 feet long.
  • An adult male can weigh more than 170 pounds.
  • Females are much smaller.
  • They can stay under water for a long time.
  • They have no natural predators other than us.

Now perhaps you see why they don’t make great pets. And personally I really wouldn’t want to keep one in my basement. Would you?

Never mind. That was a rhetorical question. But if you do want one, there are a few things to consider before taking the plunge. You can read about them on rightpet.com.

At the end of the day, what kind of pet you get is up to you. All I ask is the following:

  1. that you do not further the exotic pet trade
  2. that you do your research before you get any sort of pet
  3. that you engage in responsible pet ownership

If you do all of that, you probably won’t end up on the evening news.

New Ohio law makes animal cruelty a felony

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

A first time conviction for animal cruelty in Ohio could soon result in harsher penalties.

According to published reports, state lawmakers recently passed HB60, which is also known as Goddard’s Law. The bill — which clarifies and strengthens the state’s existing animal cruelty statutes — becomes law once Gov. John Kasich signs it.

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

As it now stands, Ohio law prohibits anyone from “knowingly torture, torment, needlessly mutilate or maim, cruelly beat, poison, needlessly kill, or commit an act of cruelty against a companion animal.” That remains unchanged. However, the new language in the version of HB60 passed by the House is even more explicit about what constitutes “serious physical harm,”  and the penalties upon conviction.

It stipulates that “no person shall knowingly cause serious physical harm to a companion animal” by doing any or all of the following:

  • Withholding adequate food and water (directly resulting in the companion animal’s illness or death)
  • Causing the companion animal to be and remain in pain for a prolonged or sustained period
  • Engaging in any activity that could kill the companion animal
  • Engaging in any activity that the companion animal’s partial or permanent and total disability
  • Engaging in any activity that causes prolonged suffering

Anyone convicted of doing any or all of the above faces a fifth-degree felony charge and faces six months to a year in prison upon conviction.

Why Is This Such A Big Deal?

In most states, someone found guilty of animal cruelty for the first time only faces a misdemeanor charge. This usually means that he or she can be sentenced to up to a year in jail, fined or both. In some states there are harsher penalties the next time you’re convicted and for each time after that.

But in most cases the offender just gets a proverbial “slap on the wrist.” And given the correlation between violence targeting animals and violence towards people, I think that’s an absolute joke.

What do you think? Leave a comment below and let me know.

 

Random acts of violence as seen through my cat’s eyes

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

I have never laid a hand on my cat in anger. And I never will. But someone once did. That much is for sure.

I adopted Eli from the Fauquier SPCA when he was two. I’ve had him for eight years. So how can I be so sure that someone harmed him when he was little?

In order to understand, you must first understand the family dynamics at play, and my relationship with Eli. Basically, he’s my best friend. He’s my therapy cat. I’m his “number one person.” He counts on me for everything. Food, shelter, and most importantly, a clean litter box. He trusts me and he loves me. When I’m home, he’s never too far away. He sleeps on my bed at night and on any old t-shirt or pair of sweats that still has a trace of my scent during the day.

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

When I lived in Virginia, it was just the two of us. That’s when we really established that wonderful bond. But when I moved back home, Eli had to get used to living with my mom, too. It took a little while for the two of them to get to know each other and establish their own boundaries. Now they get along famously. My mother is officially Eli’s “number two person.”

Having said all of that, it’s been fairly easy to figure out that poor old Eli was either abused or lived in a really dysfunctional environment before I got him. I’ve watched him over the years.  Here’s what I’ve discovered. He is very sensitive. He runs from anything he thinks he can be hit with — even a relatively harmless toy, like shredded cloth tied to the end of a stick. He is very skittish around some people — especially kids and men. He doesn’t like it when someone approaches him too quickly and he hates loud voices.

In fact, angry voices are definitely a trigger. It doesn’t matter if the anger is directed towards him or towards another person. Either way, it makes him really upset. How do I know? For one thing, he meows. And this is a cat who never says anything unless he’s cranky. If he can’t get his point across that way, he resorts to stronger tactics. He uses his teeth. Yes, he bites.

That’s exactly what he did the other day. I was expressing my opinion about the outcome of a soccer game. And because I wasn’t pleased with the result, I was not exactly speaking softly. The next thing I knew, Eli — who I jokingly refer to as a pit bull in a cat costume — was sinking his teeth into my foot. Repeatedly. And since I didn’t have any shoes or socks on, it hurt. A lot.

I told him, in no uncertain terms, that I wasn’t happy about his behavior. Undaunted, he bit me some more. He even tried to jump onto the bed to get at my hands and arms. I rebuked him again — this time using a sterner voice to let him know he had been a very, very, very bad boy. After a few minutes I walked away and thought about what happened.

“You know,” I told my mother, who was in the room and witnessed the whole episode, “I think he was trying to protect you. I think he thought I was mad at you and that I was going to hurt you. ”

In Brief Legal Writing Services owner Alexandra Bogdanovic's cat, Eli.
Eli under the Christmas Tree. Christmas 2013.

If that was indeed the case, it begs a different question. We all know that abuse directed at our pets takes a huge toll on them. But what happens when they witness humans harming one another? How big a toll does it take on our companion animals when they see us physically or verbally harming each other?

I am sure someone has done some sort of research on this. I’m sure their findings are available in a report somewhere. But to be honest, I haven’t found any information about this issue anywhere online.

The Peacemaker

All of that being stated, I do know how it affected one cat. That was Tiger. She was my first cat — the cat I grew up with. And she was a peacemaker.

Anytime there was a family argument — and trust me, we had plenty — my tiny, Siamese-tabby cross got right in the middle of it. She would literally stand between the warring parties and cry until she got our attention. Once she had it she would end the debate by giving us the dirtiest look. It’s almost is if she were saying, What is wrong with you? Knock it off. Stupid people!

If that’s actually what she was saying, she was right.

 

 

 

Advancing animal advocacy

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

A new rule currently pending review by the Connecticut General Assembly’s Joint Judiciary Committee calls for additional advocacy for neglected and abused animals.

Speaking up for those who can’t

As proposed, Connecticut House Bill 5344 would allow “a separate advocate” to be appointed “to represent the interests of the animal” or “the interests of justice” in certain cases.

The person selected from a list of qualified volunteers kept by the Commissioner of Agriculture would:

  • Monitor the case
  • Obtain information that would assist the judge or fact finder through consultations with relevant individuals
  • Review relevant records
  • Attend hearings
  • Issue relevant recommendations

Passion and professionalism

The selection of an advocate selected in a case specified under the new rule could be made by the court itself or at the behest of a lawyer or party involved in the case. The advocates would either be attorneys “with knowledge of animal issues and the legal system” or law students from schools that “have students or anticipate having students with an interest in animal issues and the legal system.”

Participating students would be bound by specific guidelines pertaining to legal interns set forth in the Connecticut Practice Book. The “book”  includes the Rules of Professional Conduct, Rules for the Superior Court and Code of Judicial Conduct for Connecticut lawyers.

Personal perspective

Well, here’s another “no-brainer.”

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

As evidenced by numerous articles on the subject, animal law is a growing discipline requiring a specific skill set. Allowing a separate advocate with the necessary knowledge and/or passion for and interest in the work to do the “heavy lifting” in  cases involving “the welfare or custody of an animal” benefits everyone involved. For one thing, it takes the burden off lawyers who aren’t as well-versed in this particular area. More importantly, it ensures that the person making the final decision has all of the information he or she needs in order to do so.

But most importantly of all, it ensures that there is a “voice” for those who can’t speak for themselves.

 

 

 

Something old, or something new?

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

A Connecticut lawmaker’s efforts to strengthen existing animal cruelty laws raises an interesting question — and one that may not be unique to his state. Should there be tougher penalties for offenses committed under the current laws, or should the state’s animal cruelty statute be completely rewritten?

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

In a recent New Britain Herald article, State Rep. Gary Bryan explained why he’s backing legislation that failed to gain enough support to make it to the governor’s desk last year.  If it is enacted, anyone convicted of deliberately “maiming, torturing or mutilating animals” will face harsher punishments than they do now.

But one skeptic quoted in the story says  more can — and should be done.  In fact, the man in charge of New Britain’s animal control claims that the current rules are outdated and confusing. That makes successful prosecution of animal cruelty cases more difficult, Sgt. Paul Keller tells the New Britain Herald.

The solution? Keller suggests scrapping everything and rewriting the state’s animal cruelty statute with an emphasis on clarity and simplicity.

The thought of doing that might make some legislators run screaming from the room. I mean, why make things easier? Why make things better?

But all joking aside, I think they should do whatever it takes to ensure that anyone who intentionally injures an animal in any way is successfully prosecuted and punished to the fullest extent of the law.

If that means working their butts off to make sure the bill Byron’s backing makes it to the governor’s desk this year, so be it. If that means making partial revisions to the existing statute, then so be it. And if that means rewriting the entire statute, well, so be it.

What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know.

 

 

Cruel and unusual punishment

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

As a cops and courts reporter for more than 20 years, I covered more than my share of heartbreaking stories…

There was the aftermath of 9/11 in the New York City suburbs and the accidental drowning death of a small autistic boy. There were homicides, car crashes that claimed young lives and the “war stories” about battered young veterans coming home from Afghanistan or Iraq.

But for some reason the stories that bugged me most — the ones that I remember to this day — are those that involved animal cruelty, abuse or neglect.

As someone who loves animals and as a responsible pet owner, I couldn’t — and still can’t understand why anyone would deliberately hurt or even neglect an innocent dog, cat, horse… or any other creature for that matter. But you don’t need to love, or even like animals in order to find this behavior reprehensible. All you’ve got to be is a compassionate human being.

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

As someone who loves animals and as a compassionate person, I found a recent account about the confiscation of dozens of animals in Connecticut to be especially disturbing. According to a wtnh.com report, a complaint alerted authorities that something was amiss at the East Hampton complex back in September. Subsequent attempts to ensure the animals — including more than 30 horses — received adequate care on site reportedly yielded mixed results.

“The horses, along with two dogs, several rabbits and more than 80 chickens, were removed from the Fairy Tail Equine facility after an investigation that determined the animals were malnourished, not receiving proper veterinary care and kept in unhealthy conditions,” the Connecticut Department of Agriculture reported February 3. 

 Connecticut officials also said that the horses, which were confiscated pursuant to  a search-and-seizure warrant signed by a Superior Court judge, were transported to the department’s Second Chance large animal rehabilitation facility in Niantic. The smaller animals that were also seized have since been sent to nearby animal shelters.

 An investigation is ongoing and it is unclear whether the owners will face criminal charges.

In some cases, criminal charges aren’t warranted. Some people are simply financially or emotionally incapable of providing adequate care for their animals. Some are just irresponsible. In such cases, a simple ban on future ownership is all that’s needed.

 

Having said that, studies show in many cases that people who are capable of harming animals also show little regard for human life. As long as that is so, it’s essential that animal cruelty cases continue to be taken seriously and that offenders are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

 

 

Initiative spotlights convicted animal abusers

If a state task force has its way, it could soon be easier to monitor convicted animal abusers in Connecticut.

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

Back in October, the co-chairman of the Task Force for the Humane Treatment of Animals classified an initiative calling for the creation of “an animal abuse offender tracking system” as “one of the major proposals for legislation” in 2016.

Existing laws providing for the implementation and management of so-called registries will likely serve as the basis for the proposal, which should be finalized this month and submitted to Connecticut lawmakers when they convene in February.

According to a 2014 report prepared by Connecticut’s Office Of Legislative Research such regulations are already on the books in New York, Tennessee, Rhode Island, Texas and Massachusetts. The report also cites a “model animal abuser registry law” published by The Animal Legal Defense Fund in 2010.

The ALDF’s model law defines an “animal abuser” as a person over eighteen
years of age who has been convicted of a felony violation of [any animal protection
statute] of this state or of the comparable statutes of another state. It mandates when and where an offender must register; the circumstances under which re-registration is required; the personal information the offender must supply; the information the offender must submit pertaining to the incident(s) that resulted in conviction; and the submission of photographs, fingerprints and other identifying characteristics to the law enforcement agency in charge of the registry. It also governs how long an offender must remain on the registry.