Wildlife & Prop 109 in Arizona

Posted by on Oct 28, 2010 in Animals & the Law | 0 comments

Election Day is coming, and here in Arizona there’s a proposition up for vote which warrants a “cruelty-free” post.  Proposition 109 is the Arizona Hunting & Fishing Amendment.  The proposal would give a constitutional protection to the right to hunt in Arizona.  Naturally, I’m not at all pro-hunting; but even for those who might think hunting has its place in American culture, there’s something wholly un-American about this proposed legislation.  So if you have some friends who might be leaning towards supporting this measure, here’s the full scoop.

By making hunting, fishing, and harvesting wildlife a constitutional right, the State Legislature would have exclusive authority to enact laws regulating these activities. I’ve already blogged about the potential pitfalls of our regulatory system, in which regulators wind up essentially regulating themselves (see my entry about the egg industry).  In this case, powerful lobby groups would become even more powerful, because the individual citizen basically gets ousted under the new scheme.  If Prop 109 passes, the citizens of Arizona will have literally voted away their own rights to make decisions down the line via ballot initiatives.  Among other things, Prop 109 will allow the government to establish hunting and fishing as a means of “managing” wildlife populations; the proposition itself also will become a means of  “managing” citizen involvement in decision-making about our own environment.  Whoa!

On Tuesday, November 2nd, Arizonans will be asked to cast their vote for wildlife…  and for their own right to have a say in future decisions about wildlife and environmental concerns.  Let’s all make sure to show up at the polls on Tuesday.   And, just as important, explain to friends and family in the upcoming days — especially those who may not be as persuaded by the awe-inspiring glance of a coyote or mountain lion — why they should do the same.  NO on Prop 109!

I’ll be participating this evening in a phone banking event, where a group of us will be calling Arizona voters about this proposition.  So if you’re in Arizona and a member of The Humane Society of the United States, you may be hearing from me later tonight 😉

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Greyhounds and GREY2K USA

Posted by on Oct 25, 2010 in Animals & the Law | 1 comment

greyhound GREY2K

with Beamer and Dash

This weekend, we held a fundraiser at our home for GREY2K USA, a national, non-profit organization that is dedicated to ending the abuses that are part-and-parcel of the greyhound racing industry.  Commercial racetracks are closing one at a time.   However, even one active greyhound track is one track too many.  Here in Arizona, the Phoenix track closed at the end of 2009.  That leaves Tucson’s track as the only one left in Arizona, and I’m hoping that I will see its doors close sometime very soon.

Why is greyhound racing so terrible?  At the track facilities, the dogs are kept in cages that are barely large enough for them to stand up and turn around in, and they’re confined there around the clock; thousands of dogs are injured while racing and never receive proper veterinary care; female dogs are injected with steroids to control their cycles; other abuses abound.  News stories are horrifying.

The good news is that GREY2K is making a difference.  Thanks to its founder, Christine Dorchak, an amazing network of humane-minded citizens has been created; countless individuals are coming together to lend their voices to these beautiful dogs.  In November 2008, GREY2K USA became the first group to successfully close down dog tracks through the citizens initiatives process.  The result: greyhound racing was banned in Massachusetts.  Since then, other states have followed — most recently, Rhode Island and New Hampshire in 2010.  In thirty-eight states, greyhound racing is now illegal.

In just seven of the states that have yet to pass a prohibitory statute, dog racing is not only legal, but also active: Arizona, Texas, Arkansas, Iowa, Alabama, West Virginia, and Florida.

Commercial dog racing, as an industry, is not profitable.  In fact, many dog track promoters seek subsidies, tax breaks, and expanded gambling rights from the government, which translates into using our taxpayer dollars.  On Sunday, State Representative Nancy Young Wright mingled in our home with our other guests, including Christine Dorchak.  Rep. Wright is just one of the many politicians who realizes that the greyhounds need our help, and they need the kind of help that comes from citizens and legislators working together.

If you’re in one of the states where dog racing is still happening, I urge you to become more familiar with the local situation, check out the GREY2K USA web site, and find out how you can help make a difference.  You also can make a difference, wherever you’re living, if you’re thinking about adding a new nonhuman member to your family: adopt a rescued greyhound.  As tracks close, these dogs — who have been through so much — need loving homes.  The two greyhounds I met this weekend, Beamer and Dash, reminded me of a line from a Louise Gluck poem that I read recently: “How beautiful the blossoms are — emblems of the resilience of life.”

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Animal Law Conference at Lewis & Clark

Posted by on Oct 18, 2010 in Animals & the Law | 0 comments

Animal Law Conference, Lewis and ClarkThis past weekend, I was in Portland, Oregon for The Animal Law Conference at Lewis & Clark.  The college is home to the first Animal Law Center in the United States and hosts this conference each fall, and this was my second visit to Portland specifically for this event. There’s so much to love about the experience, not the least of which is my chance to enjoy a taste of Autumn; Portland is a gorgeous city, especially during this time of year.  It’s also great to see my animal-law colleagues from all over the country, to hear what everyone’s working on.  And then there’s the purely social side to to it — good friends having a chance to chat over drinks and some vegan delectables.

The conference program offers us an opportunity to take pause mid-semester and focus on a range of animal-law topics.  Wondering what we talk about all weekend long?  This year, the theme was “Animals in Crisis.”  Some of the hot topics:

  • Animals in the Wake of the Gulf Oil Spill
  • Veterinarians Identifying Animal Abuse
  • Animals Effecting Climate Change & Climate Change
  • The Suffering of Primates in Captivity
  • Regulation, Enforcement & Definition of Humane Labeling
  • Survival of Wild & Domesticated Animals in Natural & Man-Made Disasters
  • Equine Victims of the Recession: Economic Hardships Resulting in Horse Abandonment & Neglect
  • Using Environmental Laws to Crack Down on Animal Agriculture
  • Hospice Patients and Their Companion Animals

The conference is a wonderful reminder of — to use my friend Kim’s phrase — why I do what I do.  For any of you out there thinking about a career in the law, I encourage you to consider joining a team of people who I continue to find among the most interesting and inspiring people I know.  And the clients… well, look into the eyes of just one animal: whether he’s a dog, a cat, a horse, a chicken, an elephant, or a dolphin, that moment of connection will be an even greater reward than you could possibly imagine.  For those of you who are already attorneys looking for a new direction, or simply some pro bono opportunities, I urge you to contact The Animal Legal Defense Fund.  Whether your expertise is torts, contracts, criminal law, or tax, ALDF will find a way to put your expertise to work!

Hoping I’ll see some of you next year in Portland!

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Companion Animals Week! Protection in Domestic Violence Cases

Posted by on Oct 8, 2010 in Animals & the Law | 0 comments

Both scholarly studies and actual reports make a strong case for a correlation between animal abuse and domestic violence.  Out of approximately 627,400 incidents of nonfatal intimate partner victimizations reported by the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics (2006), it was estimated that up to 71% of them included the abuse or death of family companion animals.

Currently, there are 17 states that have enacted legislation to include provisions for companion animals in protection orders in domestic violence situations.  The laws in these states allow for the care, treatment, and custody of companion animals.

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • Nevada
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • Tennessee
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • West Virginia

In domestic violence situations, abuse to companion animals often becomes a means of inflicting emotional distress on the partner; violence to a companion animal frequently is committed in the presence of the partner (and children). Furthermore, an abuser will use threats to harm or kill a companion animal as a means of control, to the extent that the partner will be unwilling to leave the abusive environment or report abuse that is going on. Beyond these reasons, of course, is the recognition that our companion animals are family members, too — and they should be protected from injury. 

It’s essential that victimized families know the protection of the law extends to a companion animal’s safety.  If we want to encourage victims to leave abusive conditions, and if we want to spare children from witnessing abuse and suffering abuse themselves, we have to give victims of domestic violence the kind of assurance that can only come from the law, in the form of a written protection order.  Without the inclusion of a companion animal in its scope of protection, for anyone who has a companion animal in the family, a protection order clearly falls short of its intended purpose: to ensure the safety of all the victims and to encourage those in violent situations to leave.

It’s my hope that more states will join those that already have extended this kind of protection – and this fundamental kindness – to victims of domestic violence.  If your state isn’t listed above, please consider contacting your local representatives to let them know this is an issue you care about… a simple step to initiate much needed change.

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