Good news for Tennessee pet owners

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Once upon a time, there were limited options for the anguished owners of lost or missing pets. They could make posters, pin them on utility poles around town and hope. In a best-case scenario, the owner and their pet would be reunited after a Good Samaritan who had seen the poster found the cat or dog wandering in the neighborhood; or the stray ended up on someone’s doorstep and they called the number on its tag.

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

Luckily, advances in technology have changed all of that. Today many pets are microchipped, so it is easier to identify the animal and its owner. The Internet and social media platforms allow owners to notify huge numbers of people about their missing dog or cat. On the flip side, these tools also allow people who have found missing or lost pets to try to find their rightful owners.

Of course there are also all sorts of apps that have been specifically designed to ensure that lost dogs and cats are safely returned to their owners.

And now the Tennessee Department of Health has come up with another solution…

Web-based resource uses info from rabies tags

According to information on a Tennessee TV station’s website, the state health department has created a new tool that lets someone who has found a dog or cat locate its owner by using the information on the animal’s rabies tag.

“Those who find stray pets wearing TDH rabies tags can now use this tool on the TDH website to search for and identify the veterinarians who vaccinated the animals, who can then help with information to find the owners,” NewsChannel9 reports.

The only downside to this is that the health department isn’t the only agency that issues rabies tags. So even if a stray dog or cat has one, it could very well be from another agency.  In fact, that’s likely to be the case in Tennessee municipalities that have independent  licensing protocols.

If someone finds an animal with a rabies tag that’s issued by an agency other than the health department, however, they should call the phone number provided. That way, the issuing agency can help reunite the dog or cat with its family.

Beat the odds

According to the ASPCA, approximately 710,00 stray dogs and cats that end up in shelters are reunited with their owners. Of those, most are dogs (620,000). The agency estimates that only 90,000 stray cats in shelters are returned to their rightful owners.

American Humane Association estimates cited on indicate that millions of American dogs and cats are lost or stolen each year. Furthermore, “one in three pets will become lost at some point in their life.”

What can’t be quantified or qualified is the heartache pet owners experience when their dog or cat disappears… or the joy when they’re reunited.

A religious counseling law? What’s next?

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“This is yet another case in which I have a unique perspective.”

OK. I have a question. What on earth is going on in Tennessee? Seriously.

I just reread an article about the so-called “religious counseling bill” recently inked by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. In fact I’ve read it a few times. It still doesn’t make any sense.

Oh, wait a second. Let me clarify. The story is fine. It’s Senate Bill 1556/House Bill 1840 — or more accurately, the new law, that blows my mind.

Under the new rule: “No counselor or therapist providing counseling or therapy services shall be required to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with the sincerely held principles of the counselor or therapist; provided, that the counselor or therapist coordinates a referral of the client to another counselor or therapist who will provide the counseling or therapy.”

Making A Mountain Out Of A Molehill

Really? Is this necessary?

Proponents say it is. According to the Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACT) the state mandates that “all licensed professional counselors comply with the code of ethics issued by the American Counseling Association (ACA).” As it now stands, the code bars such counselors from referring a client based on the counselor’s “personally held values.” To make matters worse, FACT says, counselors can be disciplined if they don’t play by the rules.

“This is an important bill to safeguard a counselor or therapist’s religious beliefs and moral convictions,” FACT maintains. “It protects the right of conscience of the counselor but also allows the clients to receive treatment from someone who is better suited to treat them.”

On the other hand, those against the new law says it encourages discrimination against the LGBT community.

Chris O’Rear, the president of the Tennessee Association of Pastoral Therapists, expressed his own concern about it in a story in The Christian Times. “I’m not supportive of the bill as it is, but I don’t understand the need for it either. I don’t know what to degree this is actually a problem or whether certain people just want it to be a problem.”

In a statement issued after he signed the bill, Haslam admitted that he also had some concerns. Two of the most significant are addressed in the bill, he added.

“There are two key provisions of this legislation that addressed concerns I had about clients not receiving care. First, the bill clearly states that it ‘shall not apply to a counselor or therapist when an individual seeking or undergoing counseling is in imminent danger of harming themselves or others,” he said. “Secondly, the bill requires that any counselor or therapist who feels they cannot serve a client due to the counselor’s sincerely held principles must coordinate a referral of the client to another counselor or therapist who will provide the counseling or therapy.”

Speaking From Personal Experience

This is yet another case in which I have a unique perspective.

Book Cover

Years ago, it was Adam’s therapist, not Adam himself, who told me he self-identified as a woman. At the time, I resented the fact that my husband lacked the intestinal fortitude to tell me himself. I hated the fact that I had to hear the truth from a stranger. To be brutally honest about it, it was horrible.

But it’s not all about me. Looking back, I am happy that Adam had help and support during an incredibly difficult time. I am glad he could turn to a qualified professional. I shudder to think about what might have happened if he never found her. I also hate to think about what could have happened if he received sub-par treatment or bad advice from someone who felt “forced” to take his case.

Luckily our story had a (somewhat) happy ending. Sadly, that’s not always true.

Skunks as pets? What cute little stinkers

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This has got to be my favorite topic to date. I mean, I’ve heard about people keeping all sorts of interesting pets — pigs, snakes, ferrets, birds, gerbils, rabbits and even rats. But skunks? I’ve never met anyone who has a pet skunk. Or even anyone who wants one for that matter.

Apparently it isn’t all that unusual though. The website lists seventeen states where ownership of “captive-bred pet skunks is allowed.” If a change reportedly being considered by Tennessee lawmakers actually occurs,  the Volunteer State could soon join that list.

According to one news account, the proposed legislation calls for relaxation of existing rules that currently forbid “importation, possession, or transfer of live skunks so that skunk ownership and propagation may be regulated by the wildlife resources commission under its rules for Class II wildlife.”

So far the idea has garnered a mixed reaction and that’s understandable. There are pros and cons to all pet ownership, even for those of us that only have dogs or cats.

In Brief Legal Writing Services owner Alexandra Bogdanovic's cat, Eli.
In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot Eli under the Christmas Tree. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

The bottom line is that if you’re thinking of getting something more unusual than the average house cat or dog, you’d better know what you’re in for. If you’re serious about getting a skunk, you can find plenty of information on the Internet.  At, you can find advice about skunk behavior, health,  and more. Among other things, there is information about whether or not pet skunks should be spayed or neutered, finding a vet who can treat them, and the proper vaccinations for pet skunks and how to make sure the new addition to your family isn’t a real little stinker.

As far as I know, you can’t have a pet skunk in Connecticut. But that’s fine with me. I’ve got my hands full with Eli.