Sundayâ€™s Boston Globe article, â€œLawyer for the Dogâ€¦â€ underscores what pet lovers already know: animal rights are on the rise. The article opens with a veterinarian and animal behavior specialist explaining how she makes recommendations during pet custody disputes. (The new Illinois law featured on Itchmo earlier this week, HB 9, also mentions â€œcustodyâ€ of animals.)
Comparing this Sept. 9, 2007 article with a Sept. 3, 2006 New York Times article, â€œNew Breed of Lawyer Gives Every Dog His Day in Courtâ€ can highlight how quickly the field seems to be moving in a pet-positive direction.
As both articles note, few schools taught animal law 10 years ago. The number increased to 70 by 2006, and today â€œnearly half of the 190 accredited law schools in the United States offer animal law courses.â€
In 2004, the American Bar Association formed an animal law committee, according to the New York Times. The Globe says such committees are now active in 13 state bar associations.
Pet trust funds can be created in 39 states and the District of Columbia. A few years ago, only 16 states offered this option, as reported in this 2002 USA Today article.
In the 2006 New York Times article, an Oregon man was awarded $56,400 in damages after a neighbor was convicted of intentionally running over the manâ€™s dog.
This case was mentioned more recently in DVM Newsmagazine, a publication for veterinarians, in its May 2007 article, â€œEmotional Damages: Will Pet Food Lawsuits Fuel a Fight?â€
Continuing our examination of the New York Times and Globe articles, we find a common voice: Adrian Hochstadt, assistant director of state legislative and regulatory affairs for the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Then â€“ â€œThe minute we start with skyrocketing awards, it would lead to higher malpractice insurance rates and higher fees. The only people who would benefit would be a few owners who hit that jackpot and a few attorneys.â€
Now â€“ â€œYou have this strange phenomenon where weâ€™re placing pets above certain people.â€
Let me acknowledge here that malpractice is a broad, complex subject, beyond the scope of this entry. I have noticed materials offered by Itchmo readers and others; perhaps we can explore such resources, ideas and opinions in the future.
The Globe closed its article by quoting animal lawyer Jonathan Rankin:
â€œIf corporations can be persons in the eyes of the law, if ships can be persons in the eyes of the law, then the law should be able to figure out something for animals.â€