With the start of this new year, state legislatures and the 112th Congress will open their legislative sessions and I am eagerly awaiting to see what animal protection laws will be enacted.
Each year, animals receive better protection under the laws of the United States. All states, except for 4 (Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota), now have felony laws against animal cruelty; 17 states (Arizona, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia) plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico now have laws to include pets in domestic violence protection orders; laws to prevent puppy mills, animal hoarding, and to protect pets from abandonment in the financial crisis continue to appear. This year, I will continue my advocacy to pass legislation to ban pound seizure and gas chamber euthanasia in Michigan. Until the day arrives where all people are kind to animals, we will need to continue creating and refining laws to protect animals from harm.
In a recent article in the LA Times, a Maryland couple has filed a lawsuit against police who shot and severely injured their dog. The dog survived, but the family is suing for reckless endangerment and emotional distress. The article discusses how people’s relationships to their pets, and the law, are evolving to no longer view pets as just property, but as sentient beings that are part of the family. The article discusses the expanding law of pet custody disputes, pet wills/trusts, veterinary malpractice lawsuits, and the overall growing area of law to protect animals.
As an attorney, it is exciting to watch the field of animal law grow and to see that animals are now beginning to receive the recognition and protection of the laws created for them. But what do you think? Do you think U.S. laws have gone too far to protect animals, or have we not gone far enough? Please post your comments!