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Archive for the ‘Dogs and the Law’ Category

Stray Dogs and Cats in Cairo, Egypt

December 9th, 2010 1 comment

One of About 5M Stray Animals in Egypt

If you visit Cairo, Egypt, you cannot help but notice the large numbers of stray dogs and cats all around the city.  According to the Egyptian Gazette, there are approximately 5 million stray animals living on the streets of Egypt. 

Stray Dog Looks for Food in Cairo

Sad looking stray dogs slink around the tourist destinations looking starved and thirsty.  Entire litters of kittens skitter through the centuries-old Khan al-Khalili market hoping to catch a discarded crumb to eat.  Packs of dogs roam along the Nile, scrounging through trash. 

Cruel Eradication Procedures for Stray Animals in Cairo

Many of these stray animals face miserable lives that include not only deprivation, but outright torture.  And every year, numerous stray dogs and cats are shot by Cairo authorities as part of a seasonal stray animal eradication program.  According to the Society for the Protection of Animal Rights in Egypt (S.P.A.R.E.):

Recently, Egyptian authorities responded to citizens’ complaints by shooting a pack of stray dogs who were left to die slowly or left to live with broken bones and permanent paralysis.  Common killing methods of the public include drowning, starving and torturing strays for either entertainment or eradication.  Glass filled meat is also fed to dogs which causes them to suffer extreme pain as the food is being digested.

Animal Cruelty Laws Are Lacking

Stray Cat Surviving in Khan al-Khalili Market, Cairo

Animals in Egypt are not afforded much protection in the law.  Article 357 of the Egyptian Penal Code criminalizes the willful killing or harming “without purport” of a domesticated animal and provides for up to six months in jail or a fine of up to 200 LE (approximately $35 US). 

Article 355 provides for a harsher punishment for the willful killing of livestock to include a sentence of penal servitude.  According to S.P.A.R.E., Article 355 was adopted in 1937 to prevent Egyptian farmers from killing each other’s animals out of revenge.  Article 357 was added in 1982 to include some protection for non-wild animals not mentioned in Article 355.

Unfortunately, the way the laws are drafted, and considering the sheer numbers of strays roaming the streets of Cairo, a person killing or harming an animal could likely claim they were simply trying to get rid of one more stray.  In fact, as the Egyptian Gazette reports, Dr. Sayyed Hegazi, a “veterinary expert,” recently advocated mixing poison into the garbage that stray dogs and cats eat.

Fortunately, groups such as S.P.A.R.E., the Egyptial Society of Animal Friends, and other Egyptian Federation for Animal Welfare organizations are working to rescue and shelter animals, advocate for stronger animal abuse laws educate the Egyptian public about animal welfare.

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How Do Pet Microchips Work?

December 7th, 2010 No comments

A Microchip May Save Your Dog's Life

A microchip is a tiny electronic chip encased in a glass cylinder that is about the same size as a grain of rice.  It is injected under the skin of an animal with a hypodermic needle.  The pet microchip is activated by a scanner.  When the scanner passes over the area into which the microchip has been implanted, the radio waves put out by the scanner activate the microchip.  The microchip transmits a unique identification number to the scanner and the number is displayed on a screen.

What Information Does the Dog Microchip Carry?

Most pet microchips currently in use contain only an identification number.  Your pet’s medical record is not contained on the microchip; however, some pet microchip registration databases will allow you to store medical information in the database for a quick reference.  So, for example, if your pet has special medical needs, that information can be made immediately available to the rescuing shelter.

It is important to note that pet microchips are not “tracking” devices.  They are not GPS-enabled to pinpoint where your dog is located when he is lost.

How Will a Microchip Help Me Get My Lost Dog Back?

When a lost dog is found and turned over to a shelter or a veterinary clinic, the shelter or clinic will scan the dog for a microchip.  If a microchip is located, and if the microchip regristry database has the owner’s correct and up-to-date information, the owner can quickly be found and reunited with the lost pet.

It is the pet owner’s responsibility to register the microchip with the chip’s manufacturer.  The owner’s information will be maintained in the manufacturer’s database so that the owner can be contacted in case the pet is lost.  The owner must also update the manufacturer with any changes in contact information, such as new phone numbers or addresses. 

Additionally, the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that pet owners ask their veterinarian to scan the microchip as part of the pet’s yearly checkup to make sure that the microchip is still in place and working as it should.

Are Pet Microchips Required by Law?

There are no state or federal laws in the United States that require a pet to be microchipped.  In fact, at this time, there are no single national standards for pet microchips or microchip scanners.  Some other countries, however, do require or will soon require that pets be implanted with the ISO standard 134.2 kHz microchip.  If you are planning to relocate or travel to another country with your pet, you will need to do some research to learn about the destination country’s pet microchip requirements.

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Animal Cruelty Charges May Arise From Failing to Provide Appropriate Veterinary Treatment for a Sick Animal

March 26th, 2010 2 comments

Could One Face Criminal Animal Cruelty Charges for Denying Medical Treatment to a Sick Dog?

Animal Cruelty Charges Arise from Refusing to Obtain Veteriary Care

In a recent case, a man in Tampa, Florida was arrested and charged with animal cruelty for allowing his two dogs to suffer life-threatening injury and disease and then refusing to obtain appropriate medical treatment for them. 

One of the dogs was struck by a car and injured, but the man failed to seek veterinary care for its wounds even after being advised by a doctor that the dog needed treatment.  The other dog was suffering from a potentially fatal uterine disease; however, the man refused to get care and treatment for her, resulting in the dog growing emaciated. 

The dogs were reported as being abandoned.  Following an investigation, the man, Peyman Boroujeni, was charged with two counts of third-degree cruelty to animals under Florida law.

Florida’s Felony Animal Cruelty Law

The crime with which Boroujeni was charged is third-degree felony cruelty to animals under section 828.12(2), Florida Statutues.  The statute provides:

A person who intentionally commits an act to any animal which results in the cruel death, or excessive or repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering, or causes the same to be done, is guilty of a felony of the third degree.

Florida courts have emphasized that felony animal cruelty requires an intent to commit the act that results in the cruel death or excessive or repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering.  The crime does not require an intent to cause the death or suffering, only the intent to commit the act that results in the death or unnecessary suffering of the animal. 

Accordingly, in order to convict a defendant of third-degree cruelty to animals in Florida, it is not necessary to prove that the man intended for the dogs to suffer.  The prosecution must merely prove that he intended to do the act (refusing to get medical treatment) that resulted in their unnecessary suffering.

Mere negligent behavior that results in the death or unnecessary suffering of an animal amounts to a first degree misdemeanor under section 828.12(1), Florida Statutes.

Third-degree cruelty to animals is punishable in Florida by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Disclaimer:  This article is in no way intended as legal advice.  For help with specific legal issues surrounding Florida’s animal cruelty laws, or the laws in your jurisdiction, please contact an attorney in your local area.

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Categories: Animal Cruelty Law

Who Gets Custody of the Dog When the Owners Divorce?

December 4th, 2009 39 comments

Divorce Laws in the U.S Treat Family Pets as Personal Property

Divorce Laws in the U.S Treat Family Pets as Personal Property

Doggie Custody, Visitation and Support?

As more and more people tend to view companion animals as members of the family, questions often arise about what might happen to a beloved family pet if its owners get divorced.

The fact is that even though many pet owners choose to personify their pets, and many people view their pets almost as children, the law in virtually all U.S. states views animals as mere personal property to be treated as such in the event of a divorce.

This means that divorce courts will typically not make decisions concerning ongoing obligations of pet custody, visitation and support as they do with children.  And, with very few exceptions, divorce courts will not make property distribution decisions concerning family pets with considerations of the “best interest” of the animal in mind.

Why Do Divorce Laws Treat Pets as Personal Property?

With so many people treating their pets as members of the family these days, why are divorce courts reluctant to treat the family dog as anything more than a piece of property when the pet’s “parents” divorce?  The Florida case of Ronald and Kathryn Bennett provides a good lesson.

In that case, the couple agreed to virtually all the issues involved in their divorce.  The only thing they could not agree on was who should get Roddy, the dog.  The trial court decided that Mr. Bennett should have possession of Roddy, and awarded Mrs. Bennett visitation with Roddy every other weekend and every other Christmas.

And then the real trouble began.

Custody Battle Over the Family Pet?

Custody Battle Over the Family Pet?

Mr. Bennett filed a motion for rehearing in the trial court claiming that Roddy was a premarital asset (that is, that Mr. Bennett owned Roddy prior to marrying Mrs. Bennett).  Mrs. Bennett filed, among other things, a motion for contempt of court asking that the court transfer custody of Roddy to her because Mr. Bennett was refusing to comply with the visitation schedule.

After hearing arguments, the trial court decided to change the visitation schedule to enable Mrs. Bennett to have Roddy every other month.

Pets Are Not Children, and the Courts Are Busy Enough Enforcing Child Custody Matters

The Bennett case ultimately made its way to Florida’s First District Court of Appeal.  That court reiterated that, in spite of the fact that many people consider pets to be members of the family, under Florida law, animals are personal property and there is no basis in the law for granting custody or visitation for personal property.

Acknowledging that some states have recognized a “special status” for family pets in divorce proceedings, the court said:

Determinations as to custody and visitation lead to continuing enforcement and supervision problems (as evidenced by the proceedings in the instant case).  Our courts are overwhelmed with the supervision of custody, visitation, and support matters related to the protection of our children.  We cannot undertake the same responsibility as to animals.

And with that, the appeals court sent the case back to the trial court to make a decision about Roddy consistent with Roddy’s status as personal property.

Divorce Settlement Agreements

Of course, divorcing couples may always reach their own agreements concerning how they will deal with the family pet.  A couple getting a divorce may seek the advice of divorce lawyers to draw up formal settlement agreements that specifically address issues of pet custody, visitation and support.

Whether and to what extent a court would step in to enforce those provisions in the event of future disagreements will depend upon whether the courts in the particular state view pets strictly as personal property.

Sources:  Bennett v. Bennett, 655 So. 2d 109 (Fla. 1st DCA 1995); T. Christopher Wharton, Fighting Like Cats and Dogs: The Rising Number of Custody Battles Over the Family Pet, 10 J.L. Fam. Stud. 433 (2008).

Additional Resources:  Filing for Divorce in Florida; Contested Divorce in Florida; How to Hire an Attorney

Disclaimer: This article is in no way intended as legal advice. For answers to questions related to specific legal issues, one should contact an attorney in one’s local area.

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Categories: Dogs and the Law