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…

Alexandra Bogdanovic
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.”


Addressing The Controversial Decision Not To Have Pets Vaccinated

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It’s something every pet parent has experienced at the veterinarian’s office. A dog in the lobby cowers at the end of its leash — shivering with its tail tucked between its legs — and stubbornly refuses to walk into the exam room. A cat in a carrier yowls to make its feelings known, and anyone brave enough to take a closer look is most likely confronted by the sight of a decidedly unhappy feline, complete with bristled fur, a lashing tail and bared teeth.

No, it’s not a secret that most of our pets hate going to the vet, especially if they need shots. Luckily for some, their human caretakers don’t seem to think vaccinations are necessary. But is that really a good thing? Well, it depends on who you ask.

To vaccinate or not: that is the question

Personally, I must confess that I wasn’t aware there was a controversy about pet vaccinations until I read about it on I mean, it never occurred to me not to have Eli’s shots done. And now that I am thinking about it, I have mixed feelings.

In Brief Legal Writing Services Mascot, Eli.
Eli The Cat. Photo By Alexandra Bogdanovic

On one hand, my life would be so much easier if I didn’t have to take him to the vet for shots. He is an indoor cat, so I could easily justify the decision not to. On the other hand, the thought of him getting some horrible disease — like rabies — is enough to make me glad I’m following the rules.

Even though Eli is an indoor cat,  his penchant for eating the mice he catches puts him at risk for picking up all sorts of nasty bugs — and passing them on to me. His penchant for biting when he’s feeling threatened, scared or mad, is also plenty of incentive to make sure his shots are up to date.

My dog doesn’t need any shots, thank you

But I digress. The point, according to the article is that so-called “anti-vaxxers” are refusing to have their dogs vaccinated based on  misguided fears. Specifically, their opposition seems largely based on the belief that  vaccines are “unnecessary, dangerous and that they can cause a form of (canine) autism, along with other diseases.”

While it says evidence about opposition to pet vaccinations in the United States seems mostly anecdotal and highly localized, TIME reports that “anti-vax activists” in some states are pushing for the loosening of mandatory pet vaccination laws. TIME also reports that some states, including Connecticut, have entertained measures that would do so. So far, those measures have not garnered the support needed to become law.

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, there is more concrete information about growing reluctance to have pets vaccinated. As cited by TIME, the PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report for 2018 indicates that:

  • One quarter of owners report that their dog wasn’t vaccinated when it was young.
  • The total number of young dogs that weren’t vaccinated is approximately 2.2. million.
  • The number of owners who say they didn’t have their young dogs vaccinated “has levelled [sic] off after a significant increase last year.”
  • Twenty-three percent of dogs “have not received regular boosters.”

Furthermore, 20 percent of owners said initial vaccinations are unnecessary; 19 percent cited cost; and 11 percent said they “haven’t thought about it.”  Dog owners gave similar reasons for not ensuring that their pets get annual shots. Fourteen percent stated that their vet “hasn’t recommended annual vaccinations,” and 13 percent said they disagree with the practice.

My cats don’t need any shots, either

Low vaccination rates in the U.K. are not unique to dogs, however. According to the same report:

  • Thirty-five percent of owners said cats never had an initial course of vaccines when they were young.
  • Forty-one percent of cats haven’t gotten annual shots.

The top reasons owners gave for failing to ensure that their cats were vaccinated as youngsters were cost, that they find it unnecessary, and that the cat has no contact with other animals. Owners also gave those reasons for failing to have their cats get annual shots. Sixteen percent of owners also said their cats didn’t get annual shots because the cats are too stressed out by vet visits.

“Clearly, more education is needed to impress the importance of regular vaccinations to prevent
potentially fatal diseases in cats. Equally, ways of reducing cat stress in veterinary clinics could also be a way of encouraging more cat owners to take their pet in for vaccinations,” the report states.

The bottom line

The bottom line is that our pets count on us to keep them safe and keep them healthy. As far as I’m concerned, making sure they get their shots is a crucial part of that. But that’s just my opinion. What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

New York Following Cali’s Lead On Pet Store Law

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If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That’s the approach two New York legislators are taking as they push for the passage of a new law regulating how people can acquire pets.

According to recent media reports,  the state lawmakers, who represent different New York City boroughs, co-sponsored the legislation that would prevent pet stores from selling small animals and companion animals obtained from “large commercial breeders.”

Instead, the pet stores will be required to source and sell animals from licensed rescue shelters or humane societies. The law would also allow the humane society or shelter to keep any animal not sold/adopted through the shops.

The proposed measure failed to gain any support last year. However, proponents are optimistic that will now change with the power shift in the state legislature.

Jumping on the bandwagon

This idea isn’t unique to New York. Not too long ago, I wrote about a similar measure currently being considered in Connecticut.

dog parade, puttin on the dog, 2018
An Adopt-A-Dog volunteer with a dog available for adoption. Puttin’ On The Dog, 2018. Photo by A. Bogdanovic

Like the proposed legislation in New York, the Connecticut measure failed to gain any support in the past. Although a fire at a Danbury, Connecticut pet store prompted renewed interest in the issue, it also sparked concern.

“We’ve been sending home between 60 to 80 puppies a month, and we’ve been doing it for 25 years. Most of the people who come to us are looking for pure-bred dogs, which many local rescues don’t offer,” Sean Silverman, the owner of Puppy Love in Danbury told the media.

“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.”

Because some state lawmakers have express reservations as well, there is no guarantee the measure will pass.

California law enactment sets precedence

Earlier this year, California became the first state with this type of law.

Inked by Governor Jerry Brown in October 2017, the new law (which included provisions giving businesses time to adjust) takes aim at so-called “puppy mills” and “kitten factories.” While it does not prohibit people from buying small- and companion animals directly from breeders,  it does mandate that pet stores throughout the state sell only dogs, cats and rabbits sourced from shelters and rescues.

“By offering puppies, kittens, and rabbits for adoption from nearby shelters, pet stores can save the lives of animals in search of a home, save the breeding animals trapped in puppy mills, and relieve pressure on county budgets and local tax payers,” a fact sheet said.

Among other things, SEC. 2. Section 122354.5(c) of California’s Health and Safety Code now mandates that pet stores keep detailed records of the animals made available to the public. Specifically, pet shop owners must “post, in a conspicuous location on the cage or enclosure of each animal, a sign listing the name of the public animal control agency or shelter, society for the prevention of cruelty to animals shelter, humane society shelter, or nonprofit from which each dog, cat, or rabbit was obtained.” Pet shop owners must also make this information available to  public animal control agencies or shelters upon request.

As stipulated in SEC. 2.Section 122354.5(e) of the state Health and Safety Code,  pet store owners that don’t comply with the new law faces a civil penalty (fine) of five hundred dollars ($500) for each animal “offered for sale in violation of this section.”

In conclusion

Clearly, these laws — like any others — have their share of pros and cons. Proponents hope they’ll put an end to puppy mills and kitten factories, while easing the burden on animal shelters and rescue groups. Opponents are concerned about over regulation.

The bottom line is that only time will tell whether the type of legislation passed in California will become law elsewhere.

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.

Harassing service animals could soon be illegal in Connecticut

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Pestering or harassing service animals could soon be illegal in Connecticut.

According to published reports, people who rely on service animals to help them engage in the daily activities most of us take for granted have pushed for the legislation now being considered by Connecticut lawmakers.

Back off!

Unfortunately, Bristol resident Christine Elkins recently shared with some Connecticut legislators and the media, many people just don’t respect boundaries when it comes to interacting with service animals and their handlers. Requests to refrain from approaching or petting the animals usually go unheeded, she says. Some people are ignorant… and others are rude, Elkins adds.

For Elkins, it is no laughing matter. As the Associated Press reports, she has “balance and mobility problems.” In her case, the potential ramifications of a fall caused by someone distracting her service dog are frightening.

The current Connecticut law

Current Connecticut law only prohibits other dog owners from allowing their dogs to interact with service animals. Section 22-364b, Control of dogs in proximity to guide dogs, stipulates:

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

“The owner or keeper of a dog shall restrain and control such dog on a leash when such dog is not on the property of its owner or keeper and is in proximity to a blind, deaf or mobility impaired person accompanied by his guide dog, provided the guide dog is in the direct custody of such blind, deaf or mobility impaired person, is wearing a harness or an orange-colored leash and collar which makes it readily-identifiable as a guide dog and is licensed in accordance with section 22-345.”

A violation of section 22-364b is an infraction. However, the law also stipulates that an owner whose failure to control their dog results in an attack on and injury to the guide dog is liable for “any damage done to such guide dog…”  Specifically, the owner is liable for:

  • Vet bills (for treatment and “rehabilitation)
  • The cost of a new guide dog, if necessary
  • “Reasonable” attorney’s fees

Under the proposed law, any person who deliberately interferes with a service animal would be guilty of a Class C misdemeanor. The maximum punishment would be three months in prison.

Bill does not prohibit ‘friendly’ interactions

In response to concerns raised by some of their colleagues, Connecticut lawmakers recently changed language in the bill to reflect that it is “only targeting any person who “intentionally interferes” with the service animal’s duties.”

The bill is currently pending review by the House of Representatives.

For information about existing laws in other states, click here.

Suburban New York puppy mill law is a no-brainer

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What I’m about to say is hard to believe — but it’s true. Every once in a while, local, state (and even federal) lawmakers actually do something that makes sense.

In this case, lawmakers in the New York City suburbs — Westchester County, to be exact — are weighing the pros and cons of a so-called “puppy mill” law.

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

You can read all about it here. For now I will just highlight the key points.

As it currently stands, the new law would:

  • Change current rules that “regulate animal facilities.”
  • Create tougher regulations pertaining to health standards for breeders and pet stores that sell puppies.
  • Ban any transactions involving puppies that were “raised in unhealthy and unsafe conditions.”

County Legislator Jim Maisano, a Republican driving the new legislation, sums it up this way:

“What we really want to do is impact the flow of puppy-mill dogs into Westchester. We want to stop it. So we’re raising the standards the Health Department will enforce to make sure (that), when dogs come into a pet dealer in Westchester County, that they’re not coming from the puppy mills.”

According to published reports, many communities in the county are already taking matters into their own hands. As a result, Mamaroneck, , New Rochelle, Mount Pleasant, Harrison, Yorktown, Rye Brook and Port Chester all have so-called “puppy mill” laws on the books.

Of course, there’s always another side of the story. So those who oppose the county’s efforts say the law currently being considered may have unintended consequences. Specifically, one pet shop owner says passage of the law as it now stands would harm his business by limiting where he can get dogs for his breeding program.

Animal advocates don’t buy that argument, however.

“Westchester is already on the map for making a statement against puppy-mill atrocities and, as a county, we can make that statement even larger,” said Dina Goren, who represents the Coalition for Legislative Action for Animals in the county. “We have the legal right and obligation to protect animals in our own community. Banning the sale of commercially bred dogs and cats in pet stores altogether would do just that.”

I agree.

Legal view on pets is actually changing…slowly

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Historically, the law has taken a pragmatic view of animals. Legally they’re not viewed as pets or companions or family members. Legally, animals are property. That’s all. Nothing more, nothing less.

This archaic philosophy — for lack of a better word — is still reflected in Connecticut law. As the Connecticut Humane Society notes, the state’s legal definition of animals includes “all brute creatures and birds.” Under CGS §53-247(a), criminal activity includes “overdriving, overloading, overworking, torturing, depriving of substance, mutilating, cruelly beating or killing, or unjustifiably injuring any animal.”

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

Judging by the language quoted above, the law can be traced to a time when most animals were literally “beasts of burden.” Fortunately a lot has changed since then. And the law is finally changing, too.

I’ve often blogged about one of the most significant developments — a law that permits the appointment of special advocates for animals in some cases. The law took effect here earlier this month.

As New London, CT, attorney Kean Zimmerman recently told The Connecticut Law Tribune, the passage of “Desmond’s Law” is a significant step in the right direction. But it’s just the beginning.

“Connecticut laws have not made the leap to consider pets more than property, but slowly judges and legislators are seemingly beginning to acknowledge the many intrinsic values pets have. This is especially true when it comes to a dissolution in which the ‘property’ cannot be divided,” Zimmerman said.

Meanwhile, divorce lawyers find themselves in search of creative solutions in cases where the parties don’t agree on what to do with the family pet(s).

“I’ve had parties agree that the family dog would go back and forth with the kids. I’ve had parties agree on financial contributions for the care of a pet,” New Haven attorney Renee Bauer told the Tribune.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund also offers tips for divorcing couples at odds over the family pet.

“Since animals are considered property in the eyes of the law, it may be helpful to offer proof that you were the one who adopted the animal, or if the animal was purchased, that you were the one who purchased the animal,” the organization recommends.

The person didn’t adopt or purchase the animal may still be able to show that he or she should continue to care for the animal, according to the ALDF. Relevant proof may include:

  • Receipts for veterinary care, licensing records.
  • Receipts for grooming, dog training classes, food, and other items purchased for the companion animal.

“If your neighbors saw that you were always the one who walked your dog or took him/her to the park, they may be useful witnesses who can confirm your consistent interaction with the animal and therefore be helpful to your case.”

In CT, repeat offenders in animal cruelty cases now face tougher punishment

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A Connecticut law now on the books provides for tougher penalties in some animal cruelty cases. Specifically, the law that took effect Oct. 1 ups the maximum punishment for repeat offenders.

Until recently, anyone convicted of malicious and intentional animal cruelty more than once was guilty of Class D felony. That meant the offender could be sentenced to no more than five years in prison. Now a “subsequent offense” is designated as a Class C felony, with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

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

Putting it in “plain English” that means anyone found guilty of “maliciously or intentionally maiming, mutilating, torturing, wounding, or killing an animal” in separate cases no longer gets a slap on the wrist. However, someone convicted for the first time is still guilty of a Class D felony.

Penalties for animal neglect remain the same. If convicted, anyone who deprives an animal or animals of adequate “care, food and water” faces up to one year in prison, a $1,000 fine or both. Anyone found guilty of such activity more than once faces up to five years in prison.

There are exceptions to every rule. In Connecticut, people in certain professions, or who engage in certain activities, cannot be prosecuted under the state’s “malicious and intentional animal cruelty” law — as long as they are following “acceptable practices.” For example, veterinarians, people working in abattoirs, and farmers or ranchers are exempt. Researchers and hunters acting within legal parameters are also exempt.

Whether the exemptions are “fair” or “right” is a matter of opinion and can be debated at another time. Whether the laws pertaining to neglect should be changed is also a matter of opinion and a subject for future debate. The same can be said about whether the new law goes far enough.

All anyone can say for certain is that animal abuse and neglect is an American epidemic that must be addressed. Recently compiled statistics show that:

  • The media reports on roughly 1,900 animal abuse cases each year.
  • Most animal abuse cases involve dogs, and of the cases involving dogs, the majority involve pit bulls.
  • Neglect and abandonment are the most common forms of abuse.
  • Hoarding makes up 13 percent of animal cruelty cases.
  • Fighting makes up 9 percent of animal cruelty cases.

As someone who has personally witnessed the effects of animal cruelty as a pet owner (Eli was definitely abused before I adopted him) and as someone who volunteers at a local shelter, I have very strong feelings about the topic. As far as I am concerned there’s simply no punishment harsh enough for anyone who hurts an animal. None.

Don’t let the bed bugs bite — it’s illegal!

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It’s official. Connecticut has a bed bug law. Or an anti-bed bug law. Or a bed bug extermination law. Or something like that.

On October 1, the new law, officially known as An Act Concerning The Rights And Responsibilities Of Landlords And Tenants Regarding The Treatment Of Bed Bug Infestations, took effect.

It sounds self-explanatory, right? Well in one sense, it is. But then again, nothing is really simple when lawmakers/politicians get involved. I mean in all honesty, it shouldn’t take half a page just to summarize a law.

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

But in this case, it does. Go figure.

Luckily, it won’t take me nearly that long to get to the point. So here’s the deal:

If you own certain types of rental units specified by law, there are certain things you are now legally obligated to do in the event of a potential or actual bed bug infestation. Some are fairly obvious. For example, you must give your tenants advance notice when you are going to inspect the premises or have it treated. You must also pay for the inspection and any necessary treatment. You must get help for any tenants that are physically unable to “comply with preparation for inspection or treatment procedures.”

As an owner of an applicable rental property in Connecticut, you are prohibited from renting it if you “know or reasonably suspect it is infested.” You must also advise current tenants about infestations, and provide requested information about recent bed bug inspections to prospective tenants.

As the landlord, how you decide to get rid of the bed bugs is up to you. You can do it yourself or you can hire a “pest elimination specialist” do it for you.

Under the new law, tenants have certain responsibilities as well. These include:

  • Advising the landlord about potential or actual bed bug infestations
  • Providing access to the dwelling
  • Assuming any costs of preparing the dwelling for inspection/treatment
  • Following instructions regarding the elimination or control of the infestation; or paying “additional costs arising from noncompliance”
  • Not removing infested material from the premises without permission

The act also lists “remedies”  for landlords and tenants who don’t play by the rules. These include but are not restricted to a $250 fine for “non-compliant landlords” and potential eviction for uncooperative tenants.

Some Interesting Facts About Bed Bugs

Interestingly, as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) notes, bed bugs do not carry disease or pose “serious medical threat” to most people. And contrary to popular belief, their presence is not necessarily indicative of an unclean environment — although they do like to hide in clutter.

From what I understand, they also like to travel and can be found throughout the world.

Unfortunately they love to bite us while we sleep — prompting our desire to eradicate them from our lives. Aside from that, they seem to be annoying but relatively harmless creatures.

And now that we know what to do about them, I have another suggestion for my state legislators. How about a law governing the elimination of stink bugs?

Just saying…

It’s the law: CT animal advocacy measure among those now in effect

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Some time ago, I blogged about Connecticut legislation drafted to permit lawyers and would-be lawyers to “represent” animals in certain cases.

Since my first post, Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed the bill into law. I am now happy to report that he Act Concerning Support For Cats and Dogs that are Treated Cruelly officially took effect Oct. 1.

To refresh your memory, the law allows attorneys specializing in animal cruelty and neglect cases — and law school students with an interest in the subject — to “advocate for the interests of justice in certain proceedings involving animals.” There are three circumstances in which this can happen:

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
  • In animal cruelty or animal fighting cases
  • In “court proceedings stemming from an animal control officer’s seizure of a cruelly treated or neglected animal”
  • In “criminal cases involving the welfare or custody of cats or dogs.”

Qualified advocates (selected from lists kept by the Department of Agriculture) can now attend hearings, act as observers and provide relevant information to the judge or “fact finder.” In certain circumstances, they can also issue recommendations.

In accordance with the new law, any party involved in the case can request a special advocate’s services. The court can also appoint a special advocate.

The law is also summarized here.

New rules pertaining to human trafficking, bed bugs, child support, protection for victims of domestic violence, abuse in nursing homes, and medicinal use of marijuana also took effect Oct. 1.

Now that makes for a lot of blog fodder. So stay tuned…