CT Veterinarian Facing Animal Cruelty Charges Returns To Work

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Not too long ago, I wrote a very disturbing post about a Connecticut veterinarian charged with animal cruelty and third-degree larceny in connection with his “treatment” of a dog named Monster.

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

I’ve been away since then, and just returned to work today. While going through my google alerts, this morning,  I learned that the veterinarian in question has also returned to work while his case winds its way through the courts. And while I understand that everyone is innocent until proven guilty and everyone is entitled to due process, the thought of this man being allowed near another animal, much less being allowed to “treat” another animal disgusts me.

To recap, Dr. Dr. Amr Wasfi of Black Rock Animal Hospital in Bridgeport is accused of:

  • Lying about Monster’s condition
  • Performing unnecessary surgery
  • Failing to provide Monster with adequate food and water
  • Keeping Monster in the hospital for a prolonged period
  • Refusing to let Monster’s owner see the dog while Monster was at the hospital
  • Charging Monster’s owner for the unnecessary surgery

Wasfi is also accused of abusing a kitten that was in his care. According to someone who allegedly witnessed the incident, Wasfi “hit a kitten that was under anesthesia so hard that the kitten’s intestines popped out of an incision.” The same witness said Wasfi was “agitated” and that he “threw surgical tools around the room.”

The witness was reportedly fired from the animal hospital after confiding to another employee that she planned to report the matter.

The initial court appearance

Wasfi was arrested last month, but posted a $10,000 bond and was released. Then, on May 8, he reportedly entered no plea to the charges. During Wasfi’s appearance that day, Superior Court Judge William Holden also granted Wasfi’s lawyer’s request to continue the matter until June 7 so the attorney could have more to time to “examine the evidence.”

Since then, Bridgeport police have warned the public not to take their pets to Black Rock Animal Hospital.

“We just want the public to be aware that if they were considering bringing their animals here, just to understand some of the criminal charges we uncovered here,” Bridgeport Police Capt. Brian Fitzgerald told the media.

Scary details about Wasfi’s past emerge

Published reports have also provided some valuable — and frightening — insight into Wasfi’s past. Specifically, they show that this is not the first time he’s been in trouble. Apparently, he had his license revoked in 1996, when the Connecticut Board of Veterinary Medicine found him guilty of “unskillfulness toward an animal.” His license was reinstated in 2003 contingent upon the successful completion of a five-year probationary period.He reportedly completed his probation on April 30, 2008.

Fast-forward to this year when, as the press reports, Connecticut authorities spent months investigating Wasfi prior to his arrest. The investigation stemmed from numerous complaints “about pets whose conditions worsened instead of improving after being treated by the veterinarian.”

Now, maybe some of you don’t think it’s fair to rush to judgment. Maybe some of you don’t believe in convicting someone in the court of public opinion without knowing all of the facts. Maybe some of you actually believe in second chances. Sometimes, I do, too. But not in this case.


Alexandra Bogdanovic is a paralegal and the owner/founder of In Brief Legal Writing Services. She is also an award-winning author and journalist whose interests include animal welfare and animal law. All opinions expressed in this forum are her own. Any information pertaining to legal matters is intended solely for general audiences and should not be regarded as legal advice.

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Staggering Allegations Made Against CT Veterinarian

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In the United States of America, all new veterinarians take the following oath:

“Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.

I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics.

I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.”

But apparently some of them don’t take it seriously.

According to a recent news report, Dr. Amr Wasfi, a Bridgeport, Connecticut, veterinarian, was supposed to appear in court on Wednesday. He is facing animal cruelty and third-degree larceny charges based on his “treatment” of a dog named Monster.

The accusations are detailed in an arrest warrant and shared on an NBC affiliate’s website. As set forth in the warrant, Monster’s owner took him to the vet when he noticed Monster limping. That was on February 14, and the initial diagnosis was a sprained knee. Apparently, Wasfi prescribed some pain medicine and sent the dog home.

But when Monster hadn’t improved a week later, his owner brought him back to Black Rock Animal Hospital, where Wasfi again assessed the dog’s condition. This time, the diagnosis was a fractured pelvis. Monster’s owner learned that surgical intervention would be required, and Monster would have to stay at the hospital for five days (until March 7).

A stunning revelation

As NBC’s Connecticut affiliate reports, Monster’s owner told the authorities he contacted the vet that day, only to be told his dog couldn’t come home — yet. Instead, he was allegedly told, Monster had to “stay a few more days for monitoring.” Apparently, Monster’s repeated requests to see his dog after that were denied.  According to the warrant, he finally contacted Animal Control and retrieved Monster on March 25.

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

According to the warrant, Monster’s owner then discovered that his dog, who 63 pounds prior to his stay at Black Rock Animal Hospital, had lost 17 pounds.

Monster’s owner then took him to the Emergency Room at Central Hospital for Veterinary Medicine. That’s when he learned that Monster never had a fracture and he never needed operation, which included putting a screw in Monster’s pelvis. One of the veterinarians that treated Monster at Central Hospital For Veterinary Medicine also told police that Monster was being treated for “refeeding syndrome” and dehydration. Police then learned that the treatment is warranted when “an animal is without proper food or water for at least 10 days.”

To make matters even worse, Monster’s owner also told police Wasfi charged him more than $3,000 for Monster’s operation.

An emerging pattern?

As NBC Connecticut also reports, that wasn’t the only complaint lodged against Wasfi. A former Black Rock employee apparently reported that she “witnessed Wasfi hit a kitten that was under anesthesia so hard that the kittens intestines popped out of an incision.” As documented in the warrant, the same complainant  also said that Wasfi was “agitated” and threw surgical tools around the room.”

The warrant also indicates she confided in a co-worker and said she planned to file a complaint. She also told police she planned to resign the next day, but when she showed up for work the employee with whom she shared her concerns greeted her at the door, in gave her a box of her belongings, and informed her she had been fired.

At this point, Wasfi also faces an uncertain fate. In addition to the criminal charges he is currently facing, he will likely face disciplinary action by the Connecticut State Board of Veterinary Medicine.

Sec. 20-202(2) of Chapter 384 of the Connecticut General Statutes specifically states that the board can discipline a licensed veterinarian when there is proof that: “the holder of such license or certificate has become unfit or incompetent or has been guilty of cruelty, unskillfulness or negligence towards animals and birds.”

Sec. 20-202(3) of CGS Chapter 384 also authorizes the board to take disciplinary action based upon: “conviction of the violation of any of the provisions of this chapter by any court of criminal jurisdiction.”

However, the board cannot take any disciplinary action as long as the appeal of such a conviction is pending, or if the conviction is overturned on appeal.


Alexandra Bogdanovic is a paralegal and the owner/founder of In Brief Legal Writing Services. She is also an award-winning author and journalist whose interests include animal welfare and animal law. All opinions expressed in this forum are her own. Any information pertaining to legal matters is intended solely for general audiences and should not be regarded as legal advice.

Tragic Discovery Made In Virginia Beach Cat Hoarding Case

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This truly breaks my heart. There’s no other way to put it.

Last month, authorities that tried to execute a search warrant in connection with alleged cat hoarding at a woman’s Virginia Beach home made a horrific discovery. According to published reports, they found more than 100 dead cats in her freezer.

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

“Our hearts go out to the animals inside the home,” Meghan Conti, a Virginia Beach Animal Control official, told the media. “But they also go out to the resident. This isn’t just your everyday owner — this is someone who really has some concerning problems.”

Authorities, who were forced to wear masks to combat the overwhelming odor of cat urine, also found more than 20 living cats at the residence. However, there is no guarantee that they can be re-homed. Their fate is uncertain because the surviving felines seemed “wild and untamed,” leading Conti to believe that they may be feral.

Media accounts also indicate that this was not the owner’s first brush with the law. Four years ago, she was convicted of illegally entering an animal control office to release cats. The media did not provide any insight into her punishment — if any — in that case.

Based on published reports, it is also unknown if she will be prosecuted in connection with this case.

Virginia animal care and cruelty laws

However, Virginia Code Section 3.2-6503(A), which regulates the care of companion animals by their owners, stipulates that each owner must provide adequate food, water and clean shelter. Owners must also make sure that their pets get adequate exercise, sufficient care, treatment, and transportation; appropriate veterinary care; and sufficient space in the primary enclosure for the particular type of animal depending upon its age, size, species, and weight.

Under Virginia Code Section 3.2-6503(B), failure to comply with any or all of these provisions is a Class 4 misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum fine of $250. A second or subsequent violation for failing to provide adequate food, water, clean shelter or veterinary care is a Class 2 misdemeanor punishable upon conviction by up to six months in jail, a maximum fine of $1,000, or both. A second or subsequent violation for failing to ensure that their pet gets sufficient exercise; provide sufficient space in the primary enclosure; or to provide sufficient care, treatment and transportation is a Class 3 misdemeanor. As such, it is punishable upon conviction by a maximum fine of $500.

Furthermore, Virginia Code Section 3.2-6570(A), pertaining to animal cruelty stipulates in pertinent part that someone is guilty of the offense if: they deprived any animal of necessary food, drink, shelter or emergency veterinary treatment; or if they deliberately inflict “inhumane injury or pain not connected with bona fide scientific or medical experimentation” on any animal. The offense is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable upon conviction by up to one year in jail, a maximum fine of $2,500, or both.

It is easy to pass judgment and almost impossible to understand…

For most of us, it is easy to pass judgment based on shocking news accounts of animal hoarding. And it is almost impossible to understand why anyone engages in this activity.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), animal hoarding is generally defined as, “the compulsive need to collect and own animals for the sake of caring for them that results in accidental or unintentional neglect or abuse.”

The ADAA also notes that several factors contribute to animal hoarding. These typically include:

  • poor decision-making and organizational skills
  • intense emotions,
  • strong attachment to animals
  • the overwhelming desire to “save” animals

“All hoarding leads to a sad outcome, but the saddest of all is the animals who die in an environment of neglect, filth, and stressful overcrowding as innocent prisoners of well-intentioned but misguided love,” the ADAA says. “These animals are innocent victims, enduring tragic lives with people who are equally trapped.”

Statistics provided by the ADAA indicate that:

  • 3,500 animal hoarders come to the attention of authorities each year.
  • Hoarding affects at least 250,000 animals each year.
  • The vast majority of animal hoarders have diseased, dying, or dead animals on the premises.
  • Most animal hoarders who come to the attention of authorities are single, widowed, or divorced women (although community-sampling studies find an equal ratio of males to females).
  • Up to 40 percent of people who hoard things also hoard animals.
  • All hoarders relapse without treatment

Iowa Takes Significant Step Towards Animal Cruelty Crackdown

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Happy Monday, everyone. In the interest of starting the workweek on a positive note, I wanted to share some good news. So here goes…

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

Last week, Iowa legislators took an important step towards strengthening the state’s animal cruelty laws. Specifically, the House unanimously passed a bill calling for tougher sanctions for people convicted of abusing, neglecting, torturing or abandoning animals.

As it now stands the bill defines animal abuse as  failure to provide an animal with access to food, clean water, clean shelter, veterinary care and adequate grooming.

The punishment for a first offense would be two years in prison. A second offense would be a felony carrying a maximum punishment of five years in prison.

Animal torture is defined as the intentional infliction of harm that results in prolonged suffering or death. The maximum sentence upon conviction would also be five years in prison.

Finally, the punishment upon conviction for animal abandonment would be 30 days in jail; a year in jail if the animal is hurt; or two years if it seriously hurt.

The bill, which excludes some wild animals and farm animals is now headed to the state Senate.

Why is this so important?

For years, critics have regarded Iowa as one of the worst puppy mill states.  Today, Iowa reportedly has “thousands of dogs in more than 200 large-scale breeding operations.”

In fact, news about the passage of the bill came just two days after the Associated Press reported that he owner of a “northern Iowa dog breeding operation” had been charged with 17 counts of animal neglect.

The AP cites Worth County court records indicating that authorities allegedly found Samoyed dogs in “inhumane conditions” when officials  on Nov. 12 and on other occasions.

The records also indicated 17 dogs had “fur matted by feces, skin conditions leading to fur loss, painful wounds, intestinal parasites and other maladies.” Furthermore, they detailed the conditions in the kennels, where the dogs allegedly went without food and their only source of water were containers packed with ice.

According to the AP, the accused owner has “denied any wrongdoing and told officials she didn’t think the dogs needed additional care.”

On top of which, Iowa ranked 48th in a 2018 Animal Protection Laws Ranking Report issued by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF). Only Mississippi and Kentucky fared worse in the report, which was based on 19 aspects of animal protection.

Something to aim for

In the same report, Illinois, Oregon, Maine, Colorado and Massachusetts ranked as the top five states for animal protection. Remarkably, Illinois claimed the number one ranking for the 11th consecutive year. Oregon, Maine and Colorado also kept their top rankings.

“Every year, we see more states enacting broader legal protections for animals,” ALDF’s Executive Director Stephen Wells said. “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.”

 

There Is No Punishment Harsh Enough In Kitten Drowning Case

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As many of you know I was a police reporter for more than 20 years. In my career I covered everything from the aftermath of 9/11 in the New York City suburbs to homicides, courthouse shootings and airplane crashes. So I’ve seen a lot of nasty stuff. To this day, I can’t forget those things. I never will.

And to this day, nothing makes my blood boil more than an animal cruelty case. As far as I’m concerned, there is no punishment harsh enough for anyone who deliberately hurts or kills an animal. I mean think about it. If someone is sick and twisted enough to hurt or kill an animal, they probably won’t think twice about hurting or killing a human being.

Alleged kitten killer arrested

So if what I recently about Junsong Zhang, 21, of Queens, New York, is actually true, they should just lock him up and get rid of the key. Now.

According to published reports, Zhang killed two kittens on January 22, 2019. He allegedly did so by putting them in a cage, putting the cage in the bathtub, turning on the tap, and leaving for nearly an hour.

As Zhang reportedly told authorities, the animals were “lying in the water and not breathing.” So he allegedly put them in a plastic bag and took them to the Animal Medical Center in Manhattan.

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

In a criminal complaint cited by the New York Daily News, a forensic veterinarian said both kittens were “healthy, and that one kitten had torn nails on its right front paw, left front paw and right back paw.”

A postmortem assessment confirmed that the kittens had drowned. They were just seven months old.

New York City prosecutors told the media that Zhang intended to “cause extreme physical pain” to the animals. As a result, he was arrested earlier this month and charged with two counts of aggravated animal cruelty.

Zhang was reportedly “released under supervision” and ordered to surrender his passport pending future court appearances.

Possible punishment upon conviction

Under Section 353-a of New York’s Agriculture and Markets Law, someone is guilty of aggravated cruelty to animals when he or she, “intentionally kills or intentionally causes serious physical injury to a companion animal with aggravated cruelty.” In this context, aggravated cruelty is defined as conduct that: “(i) is intended to cause extreme physical pain;  or (ii) is done or carried out in an especially depraved or sadistic manner.”

Aggravated cruelty to animals is a felony in New York. The maximum punishment upon conviction is two years in prison.

And as far as I’m concerned, that’s just not good enough.

NY Farm Bureau Pledges More Support For Those Who Enforce Animal Cruelty Laws

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A few years ago, the New York Farm Bureau — a volunteer organization dedicated to serving and strengthening agriculture in the state — teamed up with the New York State Humane Association. Together, they convinced state legislators and the governor that a new law created a to help provide law enforcement training in existing animal cruelty laws would be worthwhile.

The law mandates that the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets work with the Municipal Police Training Council and the Division of Criminal Justice Services to:

  • develop training,
  • create materials and
  • provide information regarding animal cruelty statutes for New York’s police agencies, officers and district attorneys.

“Crimes against animals are a significant public safety, health and quality of life concern for communities across New York State” said Susan McDonough of the New York State Humane Association. “Improved access and understanding of the state’s cruelty statutes will enhance the efforts of officers and ensure better outcomes for animals and people.”

Unfortunately,  nothing has transpired due to a lack of funding in the state budget since then. The New York Farm Bureau now says that is not acceptable.

A top priority

Back in January, the organization issued its list of legislative priorities for 2019. Among other things, the organization pledged to support training for authorities and prosecutors that investigate animal cruelty laws included in the current statute in Agriculture and Markets Law.

“Farmers take animal care seriously and believe law enforcement could be better equipped to deal with abuse cases by receiving adequate training on Agriculture and Markets Law,” said Jeff Williams, New York Farm Bureau’s Director of Public Policy.

It makes sense. These laws are complicated.

New York’s animal cruelty laws

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

To begin with, look how the state defines animal cruelty. In Article 26, Section 353 of the Agriculture and Markets law, it is classified as activity in which someone:

  • overdrives, overloads, tortures or cruelly beats or unjustifiably injures, maims, mutilates or kills any animal, whether wild or tame, and whether belonging to himself or to another; or
  • deprives any animal of necessary sustenance, food or drink, or neglects or refuses to furnish it such sustenance or drink; or
  • causes, procures or permits any animal to be overdriven, overloaded, tortured, cruelly beaten, or unjustifiably injured, maimed, mutilated or killed, or to be deprived of necessary food or drink; or
  • wilfully sets on foot, instigates, engages in, or in any way furthers any act of cruelty to any animal, or any act tending to produce such cruelty.

Then there are the laws pertaining to aggravated animal cruelty, and related offenses set forth in Section 353-b through Section 353-f.

Additional resources

Of course, authorities and lawyers aren’t completely without guidance when it comes to this topic. Here are just a few of the available resources.

The New York City Bar Association’s Committee on Legal Issues Pertaining to Animals makes comprehensive information available online. This information is specifically tailored for prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges.

The New York State Humane Association also makes How to Investigate Animal Cruelty in NY State – A Manual of Procedures available online. This guide covers numerous topics of interest and use to authorities including:

  • how to receive and investigate a complaint,
  • all NYS laws pertinent to animals – along with explanations,
  • pertinent case law
  • basic animal care standards

It also includes:

  • appendices including forms that can be used in cruelty investigations,
  • pamphlets on various animal care topics,
  • relevant articles

The bottom line is that knowledge is power — especially when it comes to fighting animal cruelty.

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.

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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.

 

Connecticut gets it right with animal advocacy law

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

I don’t care if people are leaving Connecticut in droves. I love it here.

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

I mean honestly, what’s not to love? I’ve got Long Island Sound as a summertime playground. The greatest city in the world is just a short train ride away. If I want to go to the world’s coolest flea markets, they’re just a short car ride away. The possibilities are endless…

Having said all of that, I can’t honestly say I’m always proud of living here. The state economy is a disaster. State leadership under Gov. Dannel Malloy is a joke. The cost of living is obscene. The traffic is a nightmare. The infrastructure is crumbling.

Without going into too much detail, locally things aren’t much better.

Giving credit where it’s due

But I’ve got to give Connecticut lawmakers credit for one thing… and only one thing. They definitely got it right when they came up with a bill that allows advocates with an interest and/or expertise in animal law to provide courtroom assistance in animal cruelty and neglect cases. I also applaud for Malloy for having the courage to sign it into law.

As those of you who follow this blog faithfully know, I’ve been following developments and blogging about this particular law for some time. But because it is the first of its kind in the United States, “Desmond’s Law” is now attracting national attention.

Here’s where you can learn more:

Silencing the critics

Of course there are more than a few people who don’t like or don’t care about animals. And they probably don’t think this is a good idea. I am sure they think that, at a time when criminal courts are already overburdened, humans should come first.

Well’s here’s what I have to say about that. There is clear evidence that people who are prone to hurting animals are also prone towards engaging in violence against people. So anything that can be done to stop people from hurting animals, and ensuring that they’re punished to the fullest extent of the law when they do is fine with me.

Just saying…