Kasich inks new Good Samaritan bill

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Last week I urged you not to leave your pets — or your kids alone in the car this summer.

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

But I didn’t tell you what you should do if you see an unsupervised child or animal in a hot car.

To be honest, there are a couple of reasons for that. First, and most importantly, I don’t want anything I write to be construed as legal advice. For one thing, I am not a lawyer so I am not qualified to dispense it.  As a paralegal I can’t dispense it. And aside from all that, we live in an extremely litigious society and I would really rather not get sued.

If I could tell you what to do, here’s what I’d say. “It depends.”

It’s The Law… In Ohio

In Ohio, citizens will soon be able to take immediate action in order to “rescue” an unsupervised child or animal from a hot car. Specifically, the new law that reportedly takes effect later this summer allows a civilian to break into a vehicle in order to free a companion animal or child without fear of reprisal — but only in very specific and very limited circumstances.

The language in Ohio SB215 regarding the removal of a child and the removal of an animal is similar. So for brevity’s sake I’ll share the information regarding  pets.

The new law recently inked by Ohio Gov. John Kasich stipulates that a vehicle owner can not sue someone who breaks into their car to remove an animal for damages if the person who does so:

  • has checked to see if the door is locked before forcing his or her way into the vehicle
  • has reason to believe the animal is in grave and immediate danger
  • has made a legitimate effort to alert authorities before breaking into the car or alerts them as soon as possible afterwards
  • has made a legitimate effort to inform the vehicle owner of what has transpired in writing after forcing his or her way into the car
  • has stayed with the animal in a “safe location” until authorities arrived
  • and has not used unnecessary force to break into the vehicle

Anyone who uses excessive force or tries to aid the animal in a manner not specified by the law automatically loses the protection otherwise afforded by it.

You can read more here.

Other State Laws

As of last year, laws in other states, such as Arizona and California allow certain authorities to use “reasonable” force to remove or rescue animals from motor vehicles. Similar provisions were in place in the following states in 2015:

  • Delaware
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Vermont
  • Washington

The New York law also prevents qualified individuals from being sued. In Tennessee, anyone who acts within the scope of the law is also protected.

For more information on the applicable laws in your state, visit your state legislature’s website.

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CT law would protect daily fantasy sports players

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

Not too long ago, it seemed sports fans in the Tri-State Area couldn’t watch a game or tune in to their favorite radio talk shows without being barraged by ads urging them to participate in daily fantasy sports contests.

But, as so often happens when any activity attracts an immense following, government officials began to take notice. Much debate ensued about the legitimacy of the contests — and whether winning them requires luck or skill. A whole bunch of proverbial poop really hit the fan back in November, when New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said participation in the contests is tantamount to illegal gambling in the state.

While Schneiderman’s stance — aimed at preventing the companies that run the contests from doing business with state residents — set the stage for a legal showdown, lawmakers in a neighboring state are considering a different approach.   Specifically, a  bill currently making its way through Connecticut’s legislative process would “protect consumers who play daily fantasy sports contests from unfair or deceptive acts or practices.”

Not a chance

Among other things, the bill  includes definitions of a “daily fantasy sports contest,” and a “contest of chance.” It also charges the Commissioner of Consumer Protection with adopting rules that:

  • Stipulate that daily fantasy sports contests are not “contests of chance”
  • Set the minimum age for participants at 21
  • Include measures to protect consumer deposits
  • Ensure “truthful advertising” regarding the activity
  • Guarantee “the integrity of all daily fantasy sports contests offered in this state”
  • Include safeguards for “problem gamblers”

Listen up

At a public hearing of the General Law Committee held earlier this month, several speakers voiced concerns and suggested changes to the initial language.

One of them, Chris Grimm, testified on behalf of two well-known fantasy sports companies and the Fantasy Sports Trade Association. He began by pointing out that more than 50 million Americans have played fantasy sports for more than three decades, making the activity “our new national past time [sic].”

Whether they play in the traditional season-long format or the newer daily or weekly format, participants put their skills to the test, Grimm stressed.

“It is not enough to know the most popular teams and their most recognizable stars,” Grimm said. “Fantasy players need to understand scoring systems, the particular strengths of different players, the type of offensive schemes  that they play in and the quality of their matchups [sic].”

Sarah Koch, the assistant director of government affairs at Draft Kings, also spoke in favor of the bill, but suggested some changes including:

  • Writing certain protections into the law itself
  • Insertion of language that “ensures fantasy sports competitions are based solely on statistics and not on outcome or finishing position” to avoid inadvertently “opening the door to sports betting”
  • Removing the word “daily” from the definition of fantasy sports in the bill to “provide legal clarity for all fantasy sports encompassed by the definition”
  • Clarification of the legal status of fantasy contests by inserting language indicating it does not “constitute gambling under the applicable penal code”
  • Dropping the age restriction from 21 to 18

Tamara Petro, the executive director of the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling, also addressed the committee.

“This bill largely represents preparedness for a substantial expansion if CT [sic] legalizes daily fantasy sports, which is a very lucrative, multi-billion dollar business,” she said. “We propose that the new era of gambling in CT [sic] necessitates a sustainable framework for Responsible Gambling [sic] and consumer protections, and that the State [sic] has a responsibility to provide this while looking to expanded gambling for revenue.”

Something old, or something new?

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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.

 

 

Utter nonsense or common sense?

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“I have never met an animal I didn’t like. On the other hand, there are plenty of people I hate.” – Me.

Anyone who has read these posts should know a few things about me by now. First, I love animals. Second, I have definite opinions about the law and related issues. Third, I am not shy about sharing them.

I mean come on, in the last couple of weeks, I’ve expressed my displeasure with the United States Supreme Court and the New York City police commissioner (among others).

So it may come as a surprise that I’m blogging about something that I actually agree with. Specifically, I am applauding Alaskan lawmakers who are trying to break with legal tradition by viewing pets as something other than personal property.

According to a recent KTUU report, state legislators are pondering a proposed rule that allows for the “protection” of pets when their caretakers are getting divorced or are embroiled in domestic violence.  If enacted, the law would:

  • Change the existing regulations so owners of animals confiscated due to neglect or cruelty would have to pay their cost of care through “bond or other security.”
  • Revise current  domestic violence measures to let courts include animals, and their temporary care, when issuing protective orders.
  • Tweak the divorce and marriage dissolution statutes now on the books so animals’ “well-being” is taken into account in court decisions regarding ownership or joint ownership.

“Pets are often considered part of a family and the courts should be able to consider their well-being,” said Rep. Liz Vazquez, who co-sponsored the bill. “This legislation will make it more difficult for a pet to be used by an abuser to keep a victim from reporting that abuse.”

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

Now from what I’ve read, some Alaskans — who are understandably more pragmatic about animals than those of us who live elsewhere — question the wisdom of this legislation. Apparently they believe other issues deserve a higher priority.

While I fully endorse the proposal, I also understand why some might question it. In particular, I understand why some might mock the idea that courts should be allowed to consider an animal’s “well-being.” Those most likely to do so are the types of people who question the extent of animal intelligence, scoff at the suggestion that the average dog or cat has any self-awareness and shudder at the application of human emotions to our pets.

Personally, I don’t know what goes on in the space between my cat’s ears. But here’s what I know for sure: Eli is smart, sensitive and loyal, among other things. To me he is much more than personal property. He is my best friend. And if anything, I “belong” to him.

 

 

 

 

 

New year, new laws

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“The AKC was proud to support this important legislation.” – American Kennel Club

A brand new year always brings changes – some of which are good and some of which we can almost certainly do without. Among them are new laws, some of which affect all of us and some that affect only those of us who live in, visit or travel through certain areas.

In any case, the new rules always get their share of ink and generate plenty of conversation. And that makes for copious blog fodder. Have no fear, I’m hardly about to discuss, or even list, every single law that took effect January 1. In this post, I’ll focus on just one – an act changing the New York State social services law regarding victims of domestic violence and their pets.

Black and white photograph of New York Police Department barriers taken by Alexandra Bogdanovic
NYPD barriers. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

The authorized amendment allows those in need of refuge to bring their service or therapy animals to emergency shelters. You can view the full text of the bill  backed by the American Kennel Club that was ultimately signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo here.

On its website, the AKC said it made sense to support the legislation.

“Victims of domestic violence are in a vulnerable and frightening situation, and the practical assistance and comfort that a service/therapy animal provides can be essential,” the organization said. Furthermore, the AKC said that knowing they won’t have to leave their animals behind makes it easier for victims of domestic violence to leave dangerous situations.

For more information about the AKC’s support for the new law and related issues, click here.