Pet Legal

Paw Law

posted October 13th, 2014 by
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Paw Law

Dani Weaver / President, Paw Law

This year, Oklahoma legislators will consider two new proposals that will greatly impact animal welfare in our state. House Bills 2553 and 2764 were introduced to our representatives earlier in the year and are currently up for vote. It is imperative that we contact our legislators and voice our support for these two measures.

Oklahoma HB 2553 would mandate an animal abuse registry in Oklahoma, requiring any person over the age of 18 who has been convicted of a felony animal cruelty violation, specifically §1680-1700 of Title 21 of the Oklahoma Statutes, to register with the sheriff of the county in which he or she lives. Registration would be required each year for 15 years and would include those individuals who have been convicted of similar crimes in other states who move to Oklahoma.

During that 15-year period of registration, the animal abuser cannot have any animal in his or her care, custody, control or management.This registry would be maintained by each county sheriff and would be public knowledge.

Suffolk County, New York, was the first community to pass an animal abuse registry in 2010, and since then, many have followed in their footsteps. A registry would help Oklahoma prevent animal abuse as well as other crimes which are closely related to animal abuse.

According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, animal abusers are five times more likely to commit violent crimes against people and four times more likely to commit property crimes than those who do not have a history of animal abuse. In addition, the recidivism rate in animal abuse is extremely high, and in some types of abuse, like animal hoarding, it is nearly 100 percent.

Implementing an animal abuse registry would give our law enforcement officers and animal welfare advocates a way to keep these abusers away from animals that may become future victims and may help to reduce other potential crimes in our communities.

SB1729 would prohibit the use of carbon monoxide gas chambers for animal euthanasia. This bill applies to any dog, cat or other animal kept for pleasure rather than utility, in any household, animal shelter or agency.

The language of the bill allows for euthanasia by any method approved by the Animal Industries Services Division of the State Department of Agriculture other than curariform derivative drugs and carbon monoxide chambers.

It specifies measures that must be taken to ensure that euthanasia of the animal is humane and physically safe for the personnel responsible for euthanizing. Some counties in Oklahoma still use carbon monoxide gas chambers, and this law would prohibit that practice across the state.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, all inhaled methods of euthanasia have the potential to negatively affect the animal. This is because the onset of unconsciousness is not immediate. There is concern among professionals that too many variables are involved with delivering carbon monoxide euthanasia to ensure that the animal does not experience pain and suffering.

Often the animal does not lose consciousness for 45 to 60 seconds, and research suggests that many are in distress during this time. In addition, standard procedures used for administration of gas are not uniformly effective for kittens and puppies, older animals or those that have physical impairments. More detailed information on this process can be found in the 2013 Edition of the AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals.

While it is disheartening for us to be forced to choose a method of euthanasia, until we get animal population under control, there is no alternative. For now, the most compassionate choice available is to make sure that the method and process of euthanizing animals is done in    the most humane way possible to prevent any suffering  or distress that the animal may experience in those last moments.

As Oklahomans, we have a responsibility to live up to our reputation as kind, caring people, and we can do that by speaking out for those who have no voice. Please contact your legislatures and show support for these measures. Go to www.oklegislature.gov to find your legislators and their contact information.

Paw Law at the University of Tulsa

posted November 16th, 2013 by
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by Anna Holton – Dean

While animals don’t have a voice in their own welfare, it’s reassuring to know that somewhere there are people who care and are willing to speak up on their behalf—-people with the education and authority to make a difference in existing and future laws. That “somewhere” is right here in Tulsa.

Meet the students of Paw Law, a University of Tulsa College of Law organization which advocates for animals of every kind.

“We are an on-campus organization aimed at improving the livelihood for animals in the Tulsa area through grassroots initiatives in community service,” Lauren Sanchez, a second year law student who serves as secretary for Paw Law, says. “We are dedicated to providing a forum for education, advocacy aimed at protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system, and raising the profile of the field of animal law.”

Paw Law members advocate for local animals in a myriad of hands-on ways, volunteering at Tulsa Animal Welfare and other shelters, taking part in adoption events like Woofstock, delivering pet food to owners who do not have access or resources to feed their own pets, and by participating in many other projects. Sanchez says the group hopes to expand its activities by partnering with other likeminded organizations that need assistance and volunteers.

By participating in already established local animal-related events and launching new ones of their own, group members hope to encourage others to get involved, bringing awareness to the needs of local animals.

“We are looking forward to planning several events this year,” Kayla Dewitt, vicepresident of Paw Law and first year law student, says. “We hope to have more students participating at animal shelters, Meals on Wheels for pets, and at adoption drives. We are working on planning a pet chipping drive also.”

President Danielle Weaver, a second year law student, says her love of animals is what brought about her desire to help animals in need, advancing and educating others about animal rights.

“I believe the biggest obstacle we face in animal welfare is changing the way our society values animals,” Weaver says. “Education is fundamental to change behaviors that have been accepted in the past.

“Many people are unaware of the suffering that most animals face in laboratories and factory farms in the United States. One of the main goals of our group is to educate others in the hopes that once knowledge of inhumane practices is brought to light, people will demand change.”

Humane, quality care is especially concerning to the members of Paw Law as there are no current standards. “An animal owner is simply required to provide food, water and shelter,” Weaver says.

“There is no standard for what that actually means, so many people get away with letting their animals live in terrible conditions with dirty water and very little food.

“The penalties for breaking the law need to be strengthened. Often, those who are caught breaking the law are not prosecuted or only get probation, which allows the abuse and neglect to continue.

“I think people assume that the police and courts will make sure that those who are responsible for breaking animal laws are held accountable, but that is not always the case.”

The aforementioned farmed animals’ welfare is equally concerning. “Chickens, pigs, cows, etc., have no protection,” Weaver says. “These animals are no different than the ones we call ‘our pets,’ yet the majority of the public is unaware of the extreme abuse and hardship these animals suffer in factory farms across the nation.

“The horrific conditions these animals face are concealed from the public with the end result being a nice, neat package of meat in the supermarket. This problem is so big that everyone who cares about animal welfare, the environment and the nation’s health, in general, should educate themselves about the process of factory farming and find a way that they can make a change. Any effort helps!”

And the members of Paw Law are leading by example, not just in word but in deed.

“I volunteered at Woofstock,” DeWitt says. “It was so wonderful to see members of the Tulsa community supporting the pet community and even more wonderful to see so many families interested in adopting their pets.

“One of the events that I would really like to see a big turnout for is the chipping drive we are planning. I have never worried about chipping because my dog never leaves my side and doesn’t get spooked over things like storms and fireworks, and my cat is an inside cat.

“However, when the Moore tornadoes hit, and I saw so many animals displaced by the destruction, I began to worry more about the safety of my pet— especially after seeing the story on the news about one of the pets who had been claimed by a displaced family, being accidentally euthanized.”

DeWitt would also like to see Paw Law make a difference in raising donations for local shelters.

“This summer, I took a few bags of donations in to a local business to be taken to the animal shelters that were housing the pets displaced by tornadoes,” she says.

“I was impressed with how much they already had, and I would love to see more of that participation from the community year-round. It doesn’t take much [money] to donate. I have seen shelters ask for bowls, towels and cleaners, which can all be found at the Dollar Tree if you are wanting to keep costs down.”

Paw Law currently has 15 members, but the group plans to grow throughout the semester and coming years. Sanchez says they are dedicated to impacting the local animal community by raising awareness, money, and providing emotional support and love needed to find these unwanted pets loving, forever homes.

However, they will take on an even bigger task for animal welfare when they leave the classroom and begin their careers.

Weaver plans to focus on estate planning but will additionally practice animal law. Sanchez also can envision herself being a legal advocate and charging those guilty with animal abuse and neglect.

“Our passion for justice is what led us to law school,” Sanchez says. “And our love for animals is what brought us all together. Together, our Paw Law organization activities are not only aimed to impact in the short-term projects we take part of, but hopefully change the long-term aims of animal rights through ratifying local laws to raise the standards of care for our furry community.

“Paw law advocates for animals of every kind, and I believe our members are fully dedicated to improving the lives of others so that we can provide animals and people alike the love and passion we feel for our own animal companions.”

The future lawyers of Paw Law are clearly committed to making a difference for all animals, through every avenue at their disposal. As Paw Law Treasurer Kevin Lewis, a second year law student, points out, lawyers are often the subject of many one-liners—less than desirable. Yet this group is the antithesis of that stereotype.

“Despite all the familiar lawyer jokes,” he says, “lawyers play a unique role of protecting those that cannot speak or defend themselves in our society. The 2012 Humane Society’s ‘Humane State Rankings’ placed Oklahoma 30th in its laws protecting animals. By speaking for them, I’m convinced that TU Paw Law can make a significant contribution in raising the awareness of these issues to other law students and the greater community.”

Why Do You Advocate for Animals?

“Since I was little, I have always had a special connection with pets. I was and still am a huge fan of Jack Hanna, and I wanted to grow up to be exactly like him. The work that he does for animals and with animals is inspiring, and I want to do whatever I can to strengthen and support the animal community.” -Kayla DeWitt

“Some of my best friends have had four legs and could only tell me how happy they were to see me by their slobbery licks. Although I often envy the cushy lives my pets have known, their experience is not shared by others like them. My motivation for joining Paw Law is to honor the love my friends have shown me by my commitment to fighting animal cruelty and neglect of those less fortunate than them.” – Kevin Lewis

“I have always had a special place in my heart for animals. Throughout the years, that has developed into a desire to help animals and do what I can to advance animal rights and educate others on animal rights issues.” – Danielle Weaver

Lawyer Lloyd

posted March 9th, 2013 by
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by Lloyd Benedict

Dear Lawyer Lloyd:

My dog recently had puppies. She had a total of four puppies and I found homes for two of them. I have found no takers for the littlest one and another female. My friend told me to call the Humane Society and the SPCA. I called, but they told me they currently did not have room to take them.

Another friend said I could take them to the pound, and they for sure would be adopted because they are cute and pure bred. I really do not want to take them to the shelter if there is a chance they would not get adopted and be put down instead. What do you think I should do? Thank you, Tulsa Puppies Need a Home

Dear Puppies: Thank you for your email and question. My simple answer to your question is keep looking for someone to responsibly adopt them, meaning the new owners will license and have them spayed as required by law, so as to break the cycle of legal non-compliance if that was the case with the mother of those puppies.

Hopefully, you are aware that Tulsa has a law that requires your dogs (and cats) to be spayed or neutered by the time they reach 6 months old. Failing to abide by that law could cost you a hefty fine of up to $200. You should also be aware that Tulsa has been experiencing a serious pet overpopulation problem for quite some time, and it’s getting worse.

There are many reasons for Tulsa’s pet overpopulation, but one of the primary reasons is pet owners’ noncompliance with our mandatory spay/neuter law and Tulsa’s lack of enforcement for such law.

To demonstrate how serious Tulsa’s pet overpopulation really is, one need not look further than the numbers according to the 2010 census there are approximately 164,000 households that make up Tulsa’s population of 390,000 people.

According to the Humane Society’s U.S. website, it is estimated that 39 percent own dogs, with the average dog owner owning 1.69 dogs. Regarding cats, their study states that 33 percent of households own at least one, with the average cat owner owning 2.2 cats.

Interestingly, their study states that of the dogs owned 78 percent are spayed or neutered and 88 percent for the cats. Personally, I think Tulsa’s spay/neuter rate is considerably less than the national average but have no data to support my assertion.

Now let’s do the math for Tulsa. For dogs, there are 164,000 households of which 39 percent own 1.69 dogs. So, 63,960 households, times 1.69 dogs equal 108,092 dogs. Now calculate the national average spay/neuter factor, and you see that there are 23,781 un-spayed or un-neutered dogs in Tulsa that are at risk for unwanted reproduction on any given day.

Using the same equation for cats, we arrive at a figure of 15,375 un-spayed or un-neutered cats in Tulsa for a combined total of 39,156 dogs and cats. in other words, that’s 14,000 dog-owning households and 6,495 cat-owning households, totaling 20,495 Tulsa households breaking the law.

To compound this problem further, one must also consider the reproduction factors of Tulsa’s estimated 39,156 un-spayed and un-neutered pets. According to the ASPCA’s website, the average number of litters a fertile cat can produce in one year is three, with an average of four to six kittens per litter. In seven years, one female cat and her offspring can theoretically produce 420,000 cats.

The average number of litters a fertile dog can produce in one year is two, having an average litter of four to six. In six years, one female dog and her offspring can theoretically produce 67,000 dogs. So, theoretically speaking, if we applied that reproduction equation to Tulsa’s un-spayed and un-neutered pets, then it doesn‘t take a genius with an Excel spreadsheet to figure out that Tulsa‘s pet overpopulation problem is completely out of control.

Although the solution to this problem may be complex and multi-faceted, a part of the solution may be easier than we realize. Simply put, stricter enforcement of Tulsa’s spay/neuter law would substantially reduce the pet overpopulation numbers. If we use the above figures, we can see that just enforcing 10 percent (roughly 2,000) more households to be spay/neuter compliant would result in considerably thousands less unwanted and unnecessary litters.

This begs the question, how can the city of Tulsa do a better job at enforcing its own mandatory spay/neuter law? in my opinion, the city of Tulsa’s solution to this matter thus far has been more reactive than proactive. That is, the city appears to mainly rely upon its animal Welfare Department (TAW) to deal with our pet overpopulation issue.

In 2012, almost 11,864 animals were logged in through TAW with only 36 percent of those animals being redeemed, adopted or rescued. This means the remaining 7,472 animals were euthanized. It is quite clear that Tulsa’s citizens and animal rescuers cannot adopt enough dogs and cats from TAW to solve the problem alone under Tulsa’s reactive approach.

Instead, the city of Tulsa needs to address this matter in a proactive approach. For example, there are many cities in the U.S. that have implemented cost-effective and result-driven enforcement policies of their spay/neuter laws that have seen significant reductions in pet overpopulation numbers

Tulsa should study those cities and adopt the successful policies. Tulsa also needs better public education and communication in this area to promote the low cost spay/neuter programs throughout our city that offer low cost services for low income households.

But most effective of all, nothing says “get compliant” more than getting slapped with a $200 ticket if you do not become compliant within 30 days after receiving the citation. after all, the more fines collected the more money that can be applied to spay/ neuter enforcement efforts.

Editor’s Note:

If you live in the City of Tulsa and would like for the City to enforce its existing spay/neuter laws, you can sign an online petition at: http://mytulsalive.biz/onlineSignup/spayneuter/Petition

Lawyer Lloyd

posted January 14th, 2013 by
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 by Lloyd Benedict

Dear Lawyer Lloyd:

My question is not really one that would normally be asked of you; but I wanted to send you a question that is fun and test your animal law knowledge at the same time. Over the years, I have heard Oklahoma has some pretty stupid animal laws.

I have a list of some of the funniest ones, but they sound so silly that I am not even sure if they are real or made up laws. Can you myth bust these to see if they are really true laws in Oklahoma?

• It is illegal to make ugly faces at a dog.

• It is illegal to hunt whales in Oklahoma.

• It is illegal to wrestle bears.

• It is illegal to trip horses.

• It is illegal to carry fish in a fishbowl on a bus.

• It is illegal to intoxicate a fish.

Thanks for your articles; I am your biggest fan.

Tara Gardner, Tulsa

Dear Tara,

Thank you for your question and your loyal following. I agree; your question is fun and very challenging. I, too, have heard some of the laws you are talking about and wondered myself if there is any truth to them.

As with many Oklahoma laws, folks tend to hear them in three different ways. That is, there are the actual laws, and then there are what people think they mean (loose interpretation); then there are myths. In researching your question, I found them to fall in all three categories:

1. It is illegal to make ugly faces at a dog. Verdict: It is a loose interpretation. Oklahoma has a law (Title 21 § 649.4) that basically states it is unlawful to torment a service dog, so I can see how that the making an ugly face might fall into that category.

2. It is illegal to hunt whales in Oklahoma. Verdict: It is a myth. I had heard of this supposed law since I was a kid. The word “whale” is nowhere to be found in Oklahoma Statutes. It is possible it may be some type of an ordinance in a small town somewhere in Oklahoma. It is also possible this could have been a law that has long since been taken off the record.

3. It is illegal to wrestle bears and illegal to trip horses. Verdict: It is an actual law. Oklahoma Statute Title 21 § 1700 prohibits both of these acts and carries a heft penalty of up to jail for one year, or by a fine of not more than $2,000, or by both.

4. It is illegal to carry fish in a fishbowl on a bus. Verdict: It is a myth. However, I am certain this is probably a policy with Public Transportation programs. What is also interesting about this supposed law is that many folks claim their State has that same law, so this reinforces my belief that this is just an Internet hoax.

5. It is illegal to intoxicate a fish. Verdict: It is a myth. It possibly may fall under our animal cruelty laws, but most likely another hoax. However, I can see how that law may have started. It would be like an officer approaching a drunken fisherman and saying, “Sir it is illegal to be intoxicated while fishing,” and Bubba would say back, “But Offficer, II diddddn’t get that little fffffishy drunk…” and that’s how these things start.

Lawyer Lloyd

Lawyer Lloyd

posted September 16th, 2012 by
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by Lloyd Benedict

Dear Lawyer Lloyd,

Q: Yesterday, I took my 3-yearold dog to a vet for an eye infection. The vet told me that my dog had to be neutered and have a rabies vaccination and be licensed, and that I was breaking the law if I did not have that done then. I reluctantly agreed and ended up paying a vet bill of $265 when it would have only been around $65 for the eye infection appointment. What can I do about this? Should I report the vet? Are my constitutional rights being violated here because my dog is my property, and how can anyone tell me how to handle my property?

Sincerely,

T-Party Tammy

Tulsa

 

Dear T-Party,

A: Really? Good grief; what planet are you from? There is no need to research what our Founding Fathers wrote with their quill pens concerning pet laws, as Tulsa has been kind enough to easily explain everything in their Ordinances. As such, you should take careful note that it is unlawful in Tulsa to own any dog or cat over 4 months old, unless such dog or cat has a current vaccination against rabies and is licensed. A license for one year, which requires a one-year rabies vaccination, is $3.

Alternatively, Tulsa allows you to obtain a three-year license for $9 ($3 per year) as long as your pet receives a three-year rabies vaccination. A violation of this Ordinance could cost you a $75 fine per each unlicensed dog or cat and another $75 fine for each that is unvaccinated.

You should also take note that Tulsa law requires every pet owner to attach a current license tag, for the animal, to collars or harnesses worn by his or her dogs or cats unless the dog or cat is permanently and uniquely identified with a microchip implant or tattoo. Violators of this offense can be fined $200.

Furthermore, it is unlawful to harbor, keep or possess a dog or cat over the age of 6 months, which has not been spayed or neutered unless the owner has secured a hobbyist exemption permit. In the event an owner of a dog or cat over the age of 6 months is unable to produce a current license or license tag for his dog or cat, a rebuttable presumption is created that the dog or cat has not been spayed or neutered. Every person violating this law shall be guilty of an offense and, upon conviction, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding $200, excluding costs, fees and assessments.

The way I see it, that vet saved you from receiving a fine of $475, not to mention the cost you would have incurred if your dog was impounded. If I were you, I would call that vet and thank him for doing the right thing, and stop using your warped sense of politics to dodge your lawful obligations and responsibilities as a pet owner.

Respectfully,

Lloyd K. Benedict

Lawyer Lloyd

posted July 15th, 2012 by
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by Lloyd Benedict

Dear Lawyer Lloyd,

I am the owner of a well-behaved Chow named “Sandy.” She is 5 years old, and I have owned her since she was a puppy. She has never shown any aggressive be­havior and is just a big softy. In fact, my husband and I have a running joke that if a burglar ever breaks into our house, all Sandy could do is lick him to death. Any­way, we just bought a new house a year or so ago, and our meter is in our back yard where the meter reader cannot see it just by looking over the fence.

 

Since we moved in, the meter reader has had to come into our yard. Sandy hap­pened to be in the yard during a reading, and the meter reader must have spooked her because she chased him out of the yard. Apparently, the meter guy hurt himself getting out of our yard. Now, a year later, it is my un­derstanding that the meter guy filed for workers’ compensation benefits and that the utility company’s insurance is de­manding that we now reimburse them for $15,000 of benefits they paid him. They sent a letter stating that we should contact our homeowner’s insurance to inform them of what is going on. We then contacted our agent and were told by the claim department that all injuries caused by our dog are not covered on our policy.

 

I am so mad that we were never told this when we bought our insurance pol­icy. I am also very upset with the utility company because when we had the utili­ties transferred we informed PSO that we had a “dog out,” so they were well aware that Sandy may occasionally be out back. They could have easily knocked on our door and asked me to put Sandy inside. Now we are facing bankruptcy for some­thing that could have been easily avoid­ed. What can we do?

 

Sincerely,

Sandy’s Bankrupt Parents

 

Dear Bankrupt:

I hear this story all too often, and I can assure you it is not uncommon for many insurance companies to exclude these situations. To make matters worse, in Oklahoma you are strictly liable for anything your pets do that cause bodily harm to a person or damage their property.

 

However, there are a few excep­tions to being strictly responsible. For instance, if your pet harms someone who is unlawfully on your property, then you owe no duty to the trespasser. Also, if your pet was provoked, then you may not be held responsible for any injuries caused. Unfortunately, a meter reader has a lawful right to be on your property at any time; therefore, you would not be able to argue that he was in any way trespassing.

 

Also, the fact that you had advised the utility company that you had a “dog out” may not be strong enough to support that you gave proper no­tice that there is a risk to them if they enter your property without asking you to secure your dog. That is to say, that although Oklahoma recognizes the “assumption of the risk” defense—in a nutshell, this means proving the plaintiff knew of a dangerous condition and voluntarily exposed himself or herself to it—to success­fully use it, you must prove:

1. The meter reader knew of the riskand appreciated the degree of danger

2. That he had the opportunity toavoid the risk

3. That he acted voluntarily

4. That his action was the direct cause of his injury

However, in your description of the facts, it does not appear that Sandy has any history of being vicious, nor does it sound like the utility company has any knowledge of Sandy being vicious. The fact Sandy is a certain breed is simply not enough to automatically qualify her as a vicious dog even if you disclosed her breed to them.

 

As far as a workers’ compensation in­surance company demanding to be reim­bursed, that is perfectly within their legal rights. Oklahoma law allows the workers’ compensation insurer the right to “subro­gate” (or substitute) the injured worker’s right to sue you to recover whatever they pay, should the meter reader decide not to pursue the lawsuit himself.

 

All said, there is still a puzzling question that may be answered by learning more about the meter reader’s exact version, and not the workers’ compensation in­surer’s version, especially as it pertains to information about whether he provoked Sandy. For example, if Sandy has no his­tory of aggressive behavior, it is possible that the meter reader overreacted when he saw Sandy, presuming she was an ag­gressive Chow. You may need to learn more about how experienced the reader is, and what exactly happened. After all, if the meter reader felt so strongly that Sandy caused his injuries, then why didn’t he contact you first about his injuries in­stead a making a workers’ compensation claim? In any event, you need to consult with a lawyer and discuss the matter in detail before you throw in the towel.

Lloyd

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