Animal law roundup

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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

At a time when most Americans view companion animals as family members, authorities are cracking down on people engaged in any unscrupulous activities that are harmful to dogs and cats.

Just recently, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced sanctions against a former Westchester County pet shop owner. Schneiderman’s office has been investigating the man, Richard Doyle, for more than a year and determined that he “sold animals that had serious medical issues, despite claims of being healthy.”

As a result, Doyle can no longer sell pets in New York state. Furthermore, he must surrender all licenses associated with the sales of animals and pay $20,000 in fines. According to media accounts, customers that bought sick animals from Doyle will get most of the money.

“Disturbing cases like these reaffirm my commitment to encouraging those in search of a new pet to adopt from a local shelter, rather than purchasing an animal. This gives an animal in need a home, and gives the consumer the peace of mind that they are receiving a healthy pet,” Schneiderman said.

The Connecticut connection

In an unrelated case, Doyle pleaded guilty to five counts of animal cruelty in Connecticut. The charges reportedly stemmed from arrests at his pet store in Danbury, where he was accused of “of illegally performing surgery on and failing to provide proper care for ill animals.”

As a result, he is also banned from having “any affiliation” with pet stores or animal rescue shelters there for three years.

More than 70 dogs confiscated from NJ pet store

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, the SPCA confiscated more than 70 dogs from an East Hanover pet store where the owner “allegedly failed to provide records and veterinary care for the dogs.”

The owner, identified as Vincent LoSacco in published reports, is now in trouble with the town health department in addition to being investigated by the state attorney general’s office.

In addition to the East Hanover shop, authorities have reportedly closed two of LoSacco’s pet stores in New Jersey and one in New York.

As reports, one of the New Jersey locations closed after LoSacco was charged with 267 counts of animal cruelty late last February. The other “had also been the target of investigations and complaints.”

Raccoons now at the center of New Jersey court battle

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When I was little, one of my favorite books was Rascal by Sterling North. In it, North recounts his boyhood experiences — including his unique friendship with a raccoon called Rascal. North’s relationship with Rascal begins when Rascal is just a little cub — and they have more than their share of interesting adventures. But Rascal is never really tame — and North soon realizes the folly of keeping his “pet.”

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

Before he turns Rascal loose, however, North also realizes that hunting and trapping — activities he has always enjoyed — put Rascal and animals like him — at risk.

He says: “How could anyone mutilate the sensitive questing hands of an animal like Rascal… I burned my fur catalogues in the furnace and hung my traps in the loft in the barn, never to use them again. Men had stopped killing other men in France that day; ad on that day I signed a permanent peace treaty with the animals and the birds. It is perhaps the only peace treaty that was ever kept.”

Today, almost 100 years after North reached that conclusion, a debate about racoon trapping is still raging — in New Jersey, of all places.

According to published reports, animal rights advocates say the use of certain traps recently approved by a state agency is inhumane. The state disagrees and the matter is reportedly heading to the New Jersey Supreme Court.

As it now stands, all New Jersey trappers must abide by the following rules:

  • A trapping license is required and a Trapper Education
    course must be passed.
  • All traps set or used must bear a legible tag of
    durable material with the name and address of
    the person setting, using and maintaining the
    traps. Trap tags with Fish and Wildlife-issued
    trap identification number or the trapper’s Conservation
    Identification Number (CID#) may be
    used in lieu of name and address to mark each trap.
  • All traps must be checked and tended at least
    once every 24 hours, preferably in the morning.
  • No trap shall be permitted to remain set on any
    property at the close of the trapping season.
  • It is illegal to possess or use steel-jawed leghold
    traps anywhere in New Jersey.

The rules that now apply specifically to the use of “foothold traps” for raccoon trapping are as follows:

  • All triggering and restraining mechanisms shall
    be enclosed by a housing.
    • The triggering and restraining mechanism is accessible
    only by a single opening when the trap is set.
    • The access opening does not exceed 2 inches in
    diameter or when measured diagonally.
    • The triggering mechanism can be activated only
    by a pulling force.
    • The trap has a swivel-mounted anchoring system.

Whether or not the rules pertaining to foothold traps will remain in effect remains to be seen.  So all I can say about the matter for now is, stay tuned…

In NY and NJ, a bomb by any other name is still a bomb

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BOMB (noun) — “an explosive device fused to detonate under specified conditions” Merriam-Webster.

BOMB (verb used with object) — “to explode by means of a bomb or explosive”

BOMB (verb used without object) — “to explode a bomb or bombs

If the circumstances weren’t so serious, the mainstream media’s reaction to the weekend bombing that injured 29 people in New York City would have been laughable. Instead it was just sad.

Rather than focusing on the matter at hand, the media obsessed over:

  • Donald Trump’s use of the word “bomb” in connection with the incident.
  • Whether he used the term prematurely.
  • If and when Hillary Clinton used the same term.
  • Whether the use of the term was appropriate, no matter who said it or when.

Well, here’s a newsflash (sarcasm fully intended): When something goes “boom” and then disintegrates into a billion pieces that fly through the air damaging property and hurting lots of people in the process, it is pretty safe to say it was a bomb.

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

Of course I suppose one could also argue that by definition an explosion also goes “boom.” However an explosion can be triggered by almost anything. A gas main leak, faulty wiring or even a bomb.

As a former police reporter, I understand why the media initially referred to the incident as an explosion and hesitated to call it something else. I also understand why the media was legally obligated to use words such as “alleged” and “apparent” in the immediate aftermath of the incident.

But I digress. Once all the talk about the use of the word “bomb” got old, the media-fueled speculation turned to whether or not the bombings in Chelsea and Seaside Park, New Jersey, were terrorist acts, whether they were linked, who was responsible and so forth.

Meanwhile, local, state and federal law enforcement officials — who are routinely castigated by the mainstream media — were doing their jobs. A comprehensive investigation, including analysis of evidence found within a few blocks of the Chelsea bomb blast — resulted in the arrest of a New Jersey man on Monday morning.

Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, the suspect in the bombings, is now facing multiple charges stemming from the gun battle that transpired before police took him into custody.

Score one for the good guys…

New Jersey dog hoarding case will blow your mind

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It is simply mind-boggling. There’s just no other way to put it.

Last week, authorities in Monmouth County, New Jersey, reportedly rescued 276 dogs from one home. According to multiple media accounts, some of the dogs had never been outside, some were trapped in walls and some were literally having puppies.

“When the Monmouth County SPCA Law Enforcement Division realized that we were facing an historical hoarding event, we knew that we would need to call on all our partners in animal welfare, law enforcement and emergency responders,” the agency’s police chief and executive director Ross Licitra said.

Personnel from at least five separate animal rescue, animal welfare and law enforcement agencies rallied to the cause. But even with such a massive response, it took workers 15 hours to free all of the animals.

Help Wanted

The Monmouth SPCA is now turning to the community for help, and there are several ways you can do so.

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

Even if you don’t live in New Jersey, you can donate to help cover the costs of caring for these dogs. You can find a link to a special donation page and additional information about where to send your payment here.

The agency is also welcoming inquires about fostering some of the dogs.

“Dogs in our care, especially in cases like this, have a much easier time adjusting to their new surroundings in a home environment rather than in a shelter,” the organization says.

If you live nearby and are interested in providing a temporary home for one of these dogs, you can send an email to:

Finally, you can help by donating items on the shelter’s wish list. This list includes:

  • blankets
  • towels
  • sheets
  • small/medium dog crates
  • dog toys
  • Science Diet dog food
  • Purina One wet puppy food

For more information about where you can drop off your donations, click here.

Finally, the Monmouth County SPCA stresses that the dogs are not yet available for adoption and it will take at least one to two weeks to determine which, if any, will be.

“The dogs we currently have need to be medically cleared, spayed/neutered, and assessed behaviorally before they will be ready to meet potential adopters,” the agency says.

In the meantime, those of you who do live in or near Monmouth County are encouraged to meet some of the SPCA’s shelter animals currently available for adoption.

It’s Sad But True

According to the ASPCA, animal hoarding occurs when someone “is housing more animals than he or she can adequately care for.” Specifically, it is defined by “an inability to provide even minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation, shelter and veterinary care—often resulting in animal starvation, illness and death.”

While extreme hoarding cases make national headlines and grab our attention, the ASPCA says there as many as 900 to 2,000 new animal hoarding cases in the United States every year. Collectively, these incidents may involve as many as 250,000 animals of varying species.

For more information about animal hoarding, including warning signs and what to do if you suspect someone you know may be overwhelmed, click here.

And please remember that no one can save all of the companion animals in need of homes in the United States. But together we can make a big difference for a few.

No easy answers

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Recently publicized incidents involving New Jersey and Connecticut animal shelters raise important questions for everyone concerned about the plight of unwanted dogs and cats in America.

As reported on, the Montclair, NJ, case highlights the controversy and confusion surrounding the use of the term “no-kill” in association with animal centers, shelters, and so forth. Taken on its face value, the term implies that no animal admitted to the facility will be euthanized for any reason. But as experts in the field quickly point out, that’s not necessarily the case. While policies likely vary, some, like those in place at the shelter in question, do permit euthanasia under extenuating circumstances.

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Eli reading.

Meanwhile, the director of one Connecticut shelter is wrestling with an entirely different issue. For years, many northern shelters, adoption and rescue groups have been “saving” unwanted dogs and cats from southern states where – for numerous reasons – their fate is uncertain. According to published reports, the Branford shelter director is wondering if that’s still a good idea. Her argument is that there are plenty of pets in need of good homes in Connecticut as it is, and that their needs should  be prioritized.

I’m not about to weigh in on either one of these debates. All I know is that any way you look at it, there is no easy answer.