Pit Bulls As Police Dogs — Now That’s Cool!

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Time for another confession. I love pit bulls. I think they are so cool. I’d definitely get one (or more) if I could. But unfortunately, I am allergic to dogs, I live in a small house, and the pet I do have is definitely an only child. So I’ll just have to “settle” for a pit bull in a cat costume.

I’ll also take any chance I can get to advocate for these wonderful dogs, which are all too frequently exploited, vilified and discarded by irresponsible and ignorant people. And I’m not the only one.

Recently I came across an article about a program that trains rescued pit bulls as police dogs. No, I am not kidding. Along with German Shepherd Dogs and Belgian Malinois, Bloodhounds, Dutch Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers and similar breeds, some American law enforcement agencies are using pit bulls as police dogs.

As a former cops and courts reporter, and as someone who volunteered at a local animal shelter for several years, I think that is pretty (bleeping) awesome. In fact, I think it’s so awesome, I’ve probably written about it before. But if I did, it was more than a year ago… so I’m going to write about it again.

Animal Farm Foundation + Sector K9 = Success

The story that caught my attention was about Sector K9’s latest graduating class, starring Pepper, Hype, and Maverick. All three are pit bulls, all of them were pulled from animal shelters around the country, and each of them now has a second chance at life.

K-9 Demonstration at Puttin’ On The Dog, 2018. Photo by A. Bogdanovic

Grant funding from the New York-based Animal Farm Foundation allows Sector K9 to train rescued pit bulls as police dogs. But not only that. The  Midlothian, Texas organization trains their handlers, too. Once they’ve completed the program, some of the canine and human partners hit the streets in search of drugs and guns. Others head “back to school,” where they help provide a secure learning environment for kids. All of them are expected to participate in community out reach, and act as ambassadors for the breed.

“Participating in our Police Detection Dog Donation Program is more than conducting a sniff of a vehicle or a building. It’s about educating school kids and sharing your K9 with the community at events,” Sector K9 says. “We carefully select departments and handlers who share these values.”

Saving money, saving lives

According to the Animal Foundation, law enforcement agencies often spend a small fortune (more than $20,000) to acquire one purebred, purpose-bred dog capable of doing the same jobs as a Sector K9 graduate.

On the other hand, Animal Farm Foundation’s grant allows authorities to acquire K9s at no cost. Just as importantly, it improves the quality of life in the communities they serve while giving the dogs opportunities to do meaningful work.

So far, brief bios for more than 30 detection dogs and their partners are featured on the Animal Foundation’s website.

There’s also plenty of praise for the dogs from the people who know them best.

“The best thing about having K9 Wilson is that he did not just benefit one community. He has brought several communities together because other agencies have contacted us to do searches for them as well, thus creating a partnership between our communities,” says Officer Lucky Huff of the Quinton Police Department in Oklahoma.

At a time when law enforcement is often maligned by politicians and the press, having a pit bull as a partner can actually help kids overcome their distrust of the police, another officer says.
“[The program] benefits the community a great deal by impacting young kids and bringing them closer to the police department as a whole with the help of K9 Athena’s presence. Hopefully, after they meet Athena, they walk away with a better outlook on police officers,” says Office Jody Bullard, who is assigned to the Dallas Independent School District.

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

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

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.

CT Regulation Of Gig Economy Pet Businesses Stirs Debate

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GIG ECONOMY(noun): A way of working that is based on people having temporary jobs or doing separate pieces of work, each paid separately, rather than working for an employer…

Of course, this definition is from the dictionary. And as such, it is accurate. But it is also rather generic and somewhat outdated. Since I’m an active participant in the 21st century version, I prefer to think of the gig economy as: a system in which Internet platforms and/or apps are created to: a) offer certain services, and b) facilitate hiring of independent contractors to provide them.

If that sounds too convoluted, here are some examples. First, there are platforms that specifically cater to “creatives” and other skilled professionals, such as Upwork and Freelancer. And then there’s:

  • Uber
  • Lyft
  • Instacart
  • DoorDash
  • TaskRabbit

The list goes on, and on….

Don’t forget Rover and Wag

There are even apps that cater to those of us who have — and those of us who enjoy working with — companion animals. Take Rover, for example. This website/app lets people sign up as pet sitters. If they are approved (following an application process that includes a basic background check),  they are paired with pet owners in need of boarding, house sitting, dog walking, “doggy daycare,” and home visits.

Great Dane wins Best Lap Dog contest at Puttin' on the Dog.
Best Lap Dog winner. Puttin’ on the Dog. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

Specifically, pet owners can use Rover to find sitters in their area and arrange for the services they need.

Another website/app called Wag also caters to people interested in becoming dog walkers and dog sitters/boarders. Like its counterpart, Wag claims that it puts applicants through comprehensive screening process before they are approved. Once they are, they are paired with pet owners in need of specific services.

In Connecticut, the law struggles to keep up

As the gig economy keeps on booming, legislators across the country are struggling to keep up. In Connecticut, for example, lawmakers have come up with two approaches for addressing regulatory concerns associated with Internet/app-based pet care services.

Introduced by state Senator Catherine Osten, proposed S.B. No. 250 is also known as “An Act Concerning the Regulation of Commercial Kennels.”  If approved, it would change the language in existing laws so a commercial kennel would be legally classified as “a place maintained for boarding or grooming five or more cats or dogs.”  That way, anyone who cares for four or fewer animals belonging to other people  in their own homes would not be defined and regulated as commercial kennels.

Osten said she proposed the legislation as a way to protect thousands of people in Connecticut that work as gig economy pet sitters from being regulated in the same way as traditional commercial kennels.

Then there’s proposed H.B. No. 5399 or “Ann Act Concerning the Definition of Kennel for the Purposes of Commercial Kennel Regulation,” which was introduced by state Rep. Kim Rose. It also calls for changes to existing language so that a kennel is defined as “a facility rather than to a pack or collection of dogs.” Doing so would “clarify the statutory provisions for  commercial kennel registration and regulation by the Department of Agriculture.”

“We’re not trying to tell these internet businesses ‘you can’t do business in Connecticut,’” Rose told the Hartford Courant. “All we’re asking them to do is the right thing: become licensed and inspected so we can make sure you’re taking good, healthy care of our pets.”

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Helping California’s Homeless Humans And Their Pets

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Pets are family, the human animal bond is not diminished whether living on the streets or living in a home. — Front Street Animal Shelter Manager Gina Knepp

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

In the interest of full disclosure and at considerable risk of alienating some of you, there’s something I must confess. I am an East Coast girl, born and bred (sort of). So I love New York… and by New York, I mean New York City. I also hate California. Passionately.

Yes, I’ve been there. In fact I’ve been there several times. And as far as I’m concerned, its only redeeming feature is (some of) its residential architecture. Apart from that, the less said the better…

Bill addresses Golden State homelessness

Putting my personal feelings aside, I was intrigued when I recently came across an article about proposed legislation that takes an interesting approach to addressing homelessness in California.

As reported on time.com, state Sen. Robert Hertzberg introduced the bill that would allow shelters throughout the Golden State more inviting to the homeless by accommodating their pets, too.

The details are also available on Hertzberg’s website, where he explains that only six out of 46 shelters serving the Los Angeles area allow homeless people to bring their pets. Hertzberg hopes his measure will help to change that by allocating $5,000,000 in grants to homeless shelters that provide shelter, food, and basic veterinary services to the pets of people experiencing homelessness.

“The act of opening up shelters to pets may seem simple, but it will have a huge impact on the goal of reducing the number of individuals who are sleeping on the streets,” Hertzberg said. “Providing these resources for shelters is just one small way we can make a dent in this incredible issue facing our state, while also improving the lives of our most vulnerable.”

California: a state in crisis

Last year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development once again issued its Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress. In it, the agency’s Office Of Community Planning And Development shared data detailing the extent of homelessness throughout the country.

In this context, the agency also revealed the true scope of California’s homeless crisis in 2018. Specifically, it indicated that there approximately 130,000 homeless people could be found there on any given night. Perhaps even more alarmingly, the report noted that 69 percent of people experiencing homelessness in the Golden State were found in “unsheltered locations.”

Given that, Stephanie Klasky-Gamer, president and CEO of LA Family Housing said Hertzberg’s proposal makes sense.

“As a service provider, we often find that people experiencing homelessness will refuse Bridge Housing if it means leaving their support animal behind,” she said. “Allowing support animals onsite eliminates that barrier, allowing us to keep the unit together, and move more people off of the streets.”

Front Street Animal Shelter — bridging the gap

Given the debate over whether homeless people should even be allowed or encouraged to have pets, there’s no guarantee that Hertzberg’s colleagues will support the measure. And there’s no guarantee that the governor will ink it if they do.

So for now, some people are taking the matter into their own hands. Take the situation in Sacramento, where there is a lack of consistency regarding pet policies at the county’s shelters. In the capital, Front Street Animal Shelter has intervened and uses its own funds to  provide “everything from kenneling and microchipping to food and leash donations for the pets of individuals in shelters.”

As far as Front Street Animal Shelter Manager Gina Knepp is concerned, if the shelter can do its part, state lawmakers follow suit.

“It is imperative that funding be included for the animal component if we are ever to solve the homeless crisis,” she said. “Pets are family, the human animal bond is not diminished whether living on the streets or living in a home. Failure to appropriately give consideration to this aspect of the crisis would be a travesty. The positive impact on the lives of pet owners experiencing homelessness would exponentially rise should we do what is most humane and humanitarian for both ends of the leash.”

What do you think? Is this a good idea? Why or why not? Let’s talk about it. Leave your thoughts in the comments below, or cast your vote here.

Puppy Love: Finding The Perfect Pooch On New Pet App

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Once upon a time, people in search of the perfect pet simply went to the local pound or animal shelter. Then the Internet came along, making it easier for people to expand their search. Now there are apps.

Maybe you’ve heard of BarkBuddy or PawsLikeMe. But have you heard about GetPet? It’s the latest app created to match people with companion animals in need of forever homes.

The backstory

Since its debut last month, GetPet sure has gotten a lot of ink. The Associated Press did a story and several publications followed suit. So why all the hype?

Well for one thing the app was created in Lithuania, a world away from the 21st century hotbed of technological innovation otherwise known as Silicon Valley. But as far as I’m concerned that’s actually really cool, since it helps address a serious need in that country. Specifically, it encourages people to adopt shelter dogs in the capital, Vilnius.

As the Associated Press reports, the gang of animal lovers that created the app did so after they were taking a computer class and happened to see a stray dog through the window.

So far, GetPet has been a huge hit with users and the founder of a local shelter which houses more than 100 dogs. Since GetPet launched, more people are calling and coming in to ask about adoption, Ilona Reklaityte told the AP.

One GetPet user who visited the shelter and planned to adopt a dog from there also told the AP that GetPet creates a win-win situation for the shelter dogs and the people interested in adopting them.

How it works

The other reason GetPet has gotten so much hype is because of the comparisons to the dating app, Tinder.

According to one of its creators, GetPet users can view shelter dogs available for adoption on the app, and then use GetPet to then schedule appointments to meet them in person.

“It is like Tinder, but with dogs,” co-creator Vaidas Gecevicius, told the AP. “You can arrange a meeting with the dog — a date.”

To view photos available dogs, GetPet users simply swipe to the right on their mobile device. When one catches their interest, they can then scroll down to get more information. By swiping to the left, they can view more photos.

At the moment, only dogs are featured on GetPet. But that won’t always be the case. According to the AP, future plans call for the addition of other animals in need of new homes.

And as far as I’m concerned, it’s all good.

Pets And Pills (For Humans) Don’t Mix

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As anyone who has a feisty cat or dog knows all too well, it’s almost impossible to get them to take their medicine. They struggle, they squirm, they scratch, they bite. And just when you think they’ve finally swallowed the pill, you find it on the floor.

But then there’s the matter of what happens when our pets accidentally take our medicine.

Accidental poisoning poses real threat to pets

Nap time! Hurricane Harvey kittens take a break at the 30th annual Puttin’ on the Dog festival. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

In a recent column in The Oakland Press, veterinarian “accidental pet poisonings are on the rise, and some of the most common are from human medication.”

Specifically, Dr. says some of the common medications we take to treat minor ailments pose a real threat to companion animals. Examples include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs such as Advil, Aleve and Motrin.

When accidentally swallowed by our pets, these drugs can cause serious ailments ranging from  stomach and intestinal ulcers to kidney failure, says.

Tylenol poses an even bigger danger for cats, which are “especially sensitive to acetaminophen” she adds.

“One regular-strength tablet can damage red blood cells, leaving the blood unable to carry oxygen,”  explains. “Many cats die from acetaminophen ingestion. In dogs at high doses, it can cause liver damage and also damage red blood cells.”

Certain medications used to treat depression in people can also be harmful for pets. As notes, pets that ingest too much  Effexor, Cymbalta and Lexapro can experience “serious neurological problems, such as sedation, tremors, incoordination and seizures.” On the other hand, some  other antidepressants may have the opposite effect, leading to elevated heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature.

“Keep in mind, too, that it seems pets enjoy the taste of Effexor and often will eat the whole pill,” warns.

Finally, she says, medications used in the treatment of human ADHD can also act as stimulants in pets, raising heart rates and creating anxiety.

How to reduce the risk of accidental ingestion

The good news is that there are simple things all “pet parents” can do to prevent or reduce the risk of accidental ingestion. The first is to keep your medicine where Fido or FiFi can’t reach it. The second is to consult your veterinarian before giving your pet any medication not specifically prescribed for that pet.

also recommends taking the following precautions:

  • Never store loose pills in a plastic bag, because pets can chew through them.
  • Reduce the chances of your pills getting mixed up with your pet’s medicine by keeping them separate.
  • If you keep your medication in your purse, make sure to store the purse out of reach because curious pets in search of treats may mistakenly eat the contents.

“Remember, pets metabolize medication differently from humans, so if you have any questions regarding a medication your pet may have ingested, call your vet,” says.

In other words, better safe than sorry…

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.

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.

On Pet Parents Fur Babies And The Joys Of Cleaning Cat Puke

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Just for the record, Eli is not my “son.” He is not my “fur baby,” and I am not his “mother.” No, Virginia, I am not a “pet parent.”

That is not to say I don’t love him. Of course I do. That I love him enough to take a bullet for him is well documented in this forum. That I would also beat the living hell out of anyone who even thought about harming one fur on his incredibly adorable little head should also go without saying.

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

That’s because Eli is a cat. Sure, he is my constant companion, my best friend and my therapist, all wrapped up into one really cute bundle of fur. And yes, he is definitely part of the family. As such, he counts on me and my mother (his people) to provide food, water, a clean litter box, medical care (although he hates the vet), shelter and protection, among other things.

I can’t speak for my mother, but personally I am happy to oblige.

The joys of cleaning up cat puke

Sometimes. No. Make that most of the time. To be brutally honest, there is one aspect of being Eli’s No. 1 person that I really don’t enjoy. I mean, I know he needs one, but I really don’t appreciate that he appointed me sanitation chief. In this capacity, I am not only responsible for cleaning out and changing the litter in his boxes, but I am also solely responsible for cleaning up after him whenever he pukes.

This usually happens when he’s been out on the deck, bingeing on the grass in the containers we leave out for him. And since we have a lot of hardwood floors in our house, there are times when the clean up is relatively easy. And then there are times — like Monday morning — when, for some strange reason, he decides not to puke on a hard surface.

On Monday morning, I came up to my loft/home office to find that my dear, sweet, lovable, adorable cat, whom I love more than life, had puked all over one end of an extremely expensive futon. Needless to say, I was not happy about it.

At least kids learn to clean up after themselves

After spending at least half an hour gathering supplies, cleaning and scrubbing, I finally got rid of the mess. And I found myself thinking that maybe — just maybe — there are some similarities between taking care of a cat and taking care of a child.

“I challenge anyone to tell me that taking care of a cat isn’t like taking care of a little kid,” I told my mother. “I seem to spend a lot of time cleaning up poop and vomit.”

“Yes, she said. But at least children evolve. Animals stay fairly constant.”

She’s got a point. I mean, Eli is brilliant. But unless he suddenly, miraculously sprouts opposable thumbs, learns to walk on his hind legs and gains even more self-awareness, he won’t be cleaning up after himself anytime soon.

But that’s OK. I love him anyway.

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.