Animal

Oregon Lawsuit Argues Animals Have the Right to Sue Their Abusers

The Animal Legal Defense Fund, a legal advocacy organization for animals, has filed a negligence suit in Oregon on behalf of a horse named Justice according to a press release from the organization. Justice was allegedly denied adequate food and shelter for months, leaving him “debilitated and emaciated,” suffering from lice, a prolapsed penis from frostbite and a bacterial skin infection known as rain rot when he was rescued in March 2017.
 
The complaint contends that Oregon Legislature has declared that animals “are sentient beings capable of experiencing pain, stress and fear,” and as such, are beneficiaries of Oregon welfare laws and are victims when the laws are violated. Justice’s abuser pled guilty to criminal animal neglect in 2017, agreeing to pay restitution only for the cost of Justice’s care prior to July 2017, however, the lawsuit seeks damages for Justice’s care since this date and going forward. Any funds awarded to Justice through the lawsuit would be placed in a legal trust established to pay for his care.
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3 Charged in Connection to Raid of Bellevue PetSmart

Criminal charges have been filed against three people involved in the recent raid of the Bellevue PetSmart The Tennessean reports. Two men and a woman, employees of the store on Sawyer Brown Road in Bellevue, were cited by Metro Animal Care and Control for cruelty to animals, a misdemeanor for a first offense.
 
The charges stem from a raid of the store on March 29, where Metro police and the Metro Nashville Public Health Department uncovered and confiscated several sick and injured animals. Authorities were tipped off by members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), who received undercover videos of injured animals from an employee of the store. A court date has not yet been set in this case.
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Next Week: Animal Law Forum 2018

The 2018 Animal Law Forum is just a short week away! This year’s forum will be held in beautiful Montgomery Bell State Park, which offers an array of activities such as biking, boating, fishing, golfing and hiking. Don’t miss this opportunity to fulfill necessary CLE obligations while networking with colleagues in the scenic spring backdrop. Here’s the key info:
 
• When: Friday, May 11, Registration begins at 8:30 a.m., CDT
• Where: Montgomery Bell State Park, 1000 Hotel Avenue, Burns, TN 37029
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Bellevue PetSmart Raided, Animals Confiscated After Video and Photos Surface

Authorities raided a Bellevue PetSmart last week after a video and photos surfaced showing sick and injured animals allegedly not being cared for properly reports The Tennessean. The Metro Nashville Public Health Department with assistance from Metro police carried out the sweep, which took place in the morning hours at One Bellevue Place after a search warrant was issued earlier that day. Health Department spokesman Brian Todd said Metro Animal Care and Control received a video and photos showing inadequate care for animals at the business. "We confiscated any injured or sick animals and have requested veterinary records as well as their policies on animal care," Todd said. "Based on that, we will work with Metro police and the (Davidson County) District Attorney's Office to determine whether charges will be filed."
 
According to a statement from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the incidents were documented by a store employee and reported to PETA, who in turn provided law enforcement with the photos and videos of managers "repeatedly refusing to provide sick, injured and dying animals with veterinary care in order to keep costs down so that they would receive bonuses." 
 
“We are always committed to putting the needs of the pets in our care first," a statement from Petsmart said. "We empower our store associates to do what’s right for all pets, which includes instruction to have any sick animal immediately seen by a veterinarian if needed. There is no adverse effect on a store team that takes every step possible to care for pets. ... Additionally, we are investigating the validity of the video, given some of the footage is several years old.” So far no arrests have been made.
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Ban on Slaughtering Horses for Meat Renewed in Congress

A ban on slaughtering horses for meat has been renewed after a group of bipartisan animal lovers in Congress included it in a massive spending bill that President Trump signed last week reports USA Today. Supporters of the legislation point to a 2012 poll conducted by Lake Research Partners on behalf of the ASPCA animal rights group that showed 80 percent of Americans opposed to the slaughter of U.S. horses for human consumption.
 
“The slaughter of horses for human consumption is a barbaric practice that must end,” said Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Florida, co-chair of the Animal Protection Caucus, a bipartisan group of more than 100 members of Congress. 
 
A temporary ban on horse slaughter was set to expire last week until the Animal Protection Caucus convinced congressional leaders to insert it at the last-minute onto page 129 of a sweeping 2,232-page, $1.3 trillion spending bill that Congress passed late last week. The House Rules Committee had earlier refused to allow a separate vote on the provision. “Our American values support the protection of these animals; our federal policies should continue to reflect that,” the caucus wrote in a December letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, and House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J.
 
The Humane Society of the United States, which has endorsed the bill, estimates that more than 100,000 horses are bought at auctions by people who transport them to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico. "Slaughter is a brutal and terrifying end for horses, and it is not humane," the society says in a statement on its website. "Horses are shipped for more than 24 hours at a time without food, water or rest in crowded trucks. They are often seriously injured or killed in transit."
 
The American Veterinary Medical Association, however, does not support the ban, citing concerns over what will happen to unwanted horses if they cannot be sold for meat. "Removing slaughter as a humane option will leave many horses with nowhere to go and no one to care for them," the association says on its website. "There will likely be an acute rise in abuse, neglect, and abandonment with corresponding negative impacts on horse welfare."
 
The renewed ban on horse slaughter in the U.S. will continue at least until Oct. 1, when the just-passed funding bill expires.
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Noteworthy Legislation Affecting Animal Law

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday will consider SB2556, which allows a tenant to be criminally convicted if the tenant pretends to have a disability-related need for an assistance animal to obtain an exception from a lease policy that prohibits pets, allowing the landlord to hold the tenant in breach of the rental agreement. The Senate Commerce and Labor Committee-passed amendment can be viewed here. The amendment as passed in the House, HB2439, can be viewed here.
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Chicken Plant Rejected by Kansas Town Finds New Home in Gibson County

A chicken plant originally planned and rejected by a Kansas town has found a new home in Gibson County, reports The Tennessean. Tyson Foods, the world's largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef and pork, has announced that the plant will be located at the Gibson County Industrial Site with close proximity to rail and Interstate 40. As part of the deal, Tyson has been awarded $18 million in incentives through the state's FastTrack grants that will go toward additional infrastructure, and the county has offered a tax abatement deal estimated to total $16 million over the next 20 years. 
 
Gibson County Economic Development Director Kingsley Brock says he and other local officials were aware of the Kansas pushback and vetted Arkansas-based Tyson accordingly. "I knew we had something good. It was just a matter of time," said Brock. "It turned out we were at the right place at the right time." Tyson said it was drawn to the available workforce in Gibson County, proximity to grain and available infrastructure. Jobs will have wages ranging from $13 to $20 an hour, plus benefits. Many management and administrative jobs also will be offered. 
 
One of the biggest complaints about the Tyson project in Kansas was the infrastructure needed to accommodate both the plant and an expected to be an influx of new residents taking jobs there. Roads would need upgrades to support the heavy trucks, the sewer system would need to be extended and schools could be overwhelmed, residents said. The county had planned to issue $500 million in industrial bond revenue to support the facility, along with $7 million for utilities and another $1 million for sewer lines. Residents also objected to the perceived secrecy surrounding the project prior to the announcement and raised concerns about smells associated with chicken farms, possible exposure to ammonia and the potential for water pollution. The debate came to a head at a crowded town hall meeting in September, drawing about 2,000 people, according to media reports.
 
Other concerns raised involve reports of the company releasing more than 20 million pounds of toxic chemicals into U.S. waterways in 2014, more than any other agricultural company, according to a 2016 report from Environment America Research & Policy Center. Tyson spokesman Worth Sparkman disputed the report as inaccurate and misleading. Water from plants is returned to streams after it is treated by government-regulated systems and most farmers raising animals are required to follow nutrient management plans, he said. Tyson was also among chicken companies sued in 2005 for polluting the Illinois River with chicken waste. In 2015, the company settled a case in Missouri for chemical releases that killed more than 100,000 fish in a Missouri creek. 
 
Regarding water concerns, Gibson County Mayor Tom Witherspoon says he has full confidence in the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) to regulate the chicken plant and contributing farms. But, under new legislation signed into law in February, chicken farmers raising poultry for Tyson will no longer be required to obtain TDEC permits. TDEC spokeswoman Kim Schofinski said the state can still enforce against water quality violations, mostly identified through complaint investigations or TDEC's routine sampling. "Our investigative process, as well as routine water quality monitoring, can potentially identify a link between an impact and a specific activity or source," she said in an emailed statement.
 
Having watched what unfolded in Kansas, Witherspoon said local officials sought to engage the community and involve them in the process early on. They held meetings with area farmers and talked with community leaders about the Tyson prospect ahead of the announcement, made in November, and the project has been well-received by farmers and the business community. Any pushback Witherspoon said he has received has been from a handful of residents who fear the jobs will attract an influx of immigrants to the area, a concern he brushes off. "Anybody who wants to come to Gibson County, get here legally, get up and go to work every day, pay their bills, provide for their families and obey our laws and keep their yard picked up, they are welcome," he said.
 
Tyson currently maintains a plant in Obion County, employing 1,000 people in Obion County's Union City and is adding 300 more jobs as part of an $84 million expansion “They have been a blessing to Obion County and surrounding counties with their employment," Obion County Mayor Benny McGuire said.  “The company's presence has sustained Obion County’s tax base, paying for schools and roads.” In Gibson County, officials are optimistic the plant will trigger new business creation and help them lure more companies to the area and to the industrial site, once Tyson is established.
 
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Proposed Legislation Targeting Animal Abuse

Since the inception of the state's Animal Abuser Registration Act in 2015, Tennessee continues the mission to address prevailing concerns in defense of animals. Lawmakers have further taken aim at animal abuse, with several bills addressing areas of importance to advocates. Here is some noteworthy legislation to keep an eye on this year.
 
HB1713/SB1698 Expands the requirement that sellers of dogs and cats be licensed to include sellers who sell to individuals and not just sellers who sell at flea markets, who sell for resale, or who sell for research purposes; establishes application and renewal fees of $125 for sellers of dogs and cats who sell to individuals. Amends TCA Title 44, Chapter 17, Part 1.
 
HB1909/SB1689 Applies the criminal offense of animal cruelty to the restraint of a dog with a chain, cord, tether, cable, or similar device while a disaster is imminent or occurring. Amends TCA Title 39 and Title 44, Chapter 17.
 
HB0265/SB0282 Requires registration with the department to operate as a commercial dog breeder; creates inspection requirements for commercial dog breeders; creates Class A misdemeanor offense for a person to knowingly operate as a commercial dog breeder without being registered. Amends TCA Title 62.
 
HB0635/SB0624 Increases from 90 to 100 days the length of time that a licensed dog and cat dealer must wait before applying for reinstatement of the dealer's license following suspension. Amends TCA Title 39, Chapter 14, Part 2; Title 40, Chapter 39, Part 1; Title 44; Title 47, Chapter 18; Title 56 and Title 63, Chapter 12.
 
HB1581/SB1704 Expands the list of animals recognized as state pets to include any animal adopted from an animal shelter or rescue facility instead of only dogs and cats so adopted. Amends TCA Title 4, Chapter 1, Part 3.
 
HB2288/SB2154 Changes licensing classification from veterinary technician to veterinary nurse. Amends TCA Title 38, Chapter 1; Title 44, Chapter 17 and Title 63, Chapter 12.
 
Click here for up-to-date progress on each.
 
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Considering Pet Trusts

Estate planning is a complex, nuanced process, so great care must be taken in dealing with the many critical decisions involved. An often-overlooked aspect of this process is considering care for a pet in the event of the grantor’s disability or death. As animals almost completely rely on a caretaker for their basic needs, this is a truly important designation. 
 
Pet ownership helps aging humans maintain an active lifestyle and overcome feelings of loneliness and depression. Including a pet trust in one’s estate plan allows persons at every stage of life to enjoy the benefits of pet ownership while overcoming the concern many caring pet owners express, “but what if something happens to me?  Who will care for my pet then?” A pet trust can answer these questions and help assure quality care for the lifespan of the pet.
 
Animals with especially long lifespans, such as horses (average lifespan of 30 years), birds (15-60 years, depending on species), tortoises (40-100 years, depending on species), and certain other reptiles (tuataras – a type of lizard native to New Zealand –  can live more than 100 years), can benefit from having an estate plan in place that includes care of these animals.
 
When constructing a pet trust, it is important to provide funding for the long-term care of the pet. It can be wise to designate a trustee to oversee the trust funds designated for the care of the pet and a different person to serve as caretaker of the animal. In this way, sufficient checks and balances may be put in place so that adequate care of the animal is assured and the possibility of malfeasance is minimized.
 
A pet trust may be an appropriate estate planning device in any number of situations, from elderly folks with one lap pet to large animal owners who want to provide long-term care. By keeping these arrangements in mind, we can better serve our clients and the animals that depend on them.
 
Esther L. Roberts is an East Tennessee Delegate of the executive council and served as inaugural chair for the Tennessee Bar Association's Animal Law Section. Roberts is the CEO of Global IP, a law firm specializing in intellectual property and IP mediation and founder of Tennessee Pet Trusts. She holds degrees from Lipscomb University and the University of Tennessee College of Law. Roberts can be contacted at 865-607-9780 or esther@globalipam.com

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