Sunday, April 8, 2012


Several weeks ago, Helpful Buckeye began this series of articles on some of the legal issues in today's news related to pets and pet owners.  A lot of you sent e-mails after that issue relating similar incidents that had either happened to you or around you.  As you might expect, there is not a shortage of stories depicting the various legal problems surrounding pets and their welfare.  This week's sampling goes a little deeper into some of the specific areas of interest.

Hawaii May Ban Sale of Unsterilized Dogs, Cats

The Hawaii Senate is considering two separate bills that would each ban the sale of unsterilized dogs and cats and require pet sellers to microchip all dogs and cats prior to sale.

The key difference between Senate Bill 2504 and Senate Bill 2198 is that SB 2504 would make each violation of the legislation’s provisions a petty misdemeanor and SB 2198 would subject pet sellers violating the legislation with a fine of up to $1,000 for each date of violation.  Both bills have been assigned to the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee, with SB 2504 set to be heard by the committee on Feb. 7, 2012, at 9 a.m.

The bills prohibit any pet sellers, defined as any individual or entity that sells cats or dogs, from selling (or giving away) an unsterilized dog or unsterilized cat. The bills exempt animal shelters and rescue groups from the definition of pet seller.

In addition, pet sellers must ensure any dog or cat it sells or gives away is microchipped and that the microchip registration information is provided to the new pet owner at time of transfer.

Pet sellers would also be required at that time to provide the new pet owner with additional information about the pet, including breeders name and contact and USDA license information; the animal’s date of birth and the date the seller obtained the animal; and veterinary information, including all inoculations and worming treatments administered, any other medications or treatments provided the animal, certification from a veterinarian that the animal was spayed or neutered, and a statement disclosing any known diseases, illnesses or congenital or hereditary conditions that could adversely affect the animal or attesting that the animal was free of any such diseases, illnesses or conditions.

Each bill would require pet sellers to retain a copy of this information for at least two years after the transaction.

Each bill would go into effect upon its approval.

Pet dealers in Hawaii also face pending dog warranty legislation.

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Rhode Island Considers Debarking Ban

The Rhode Island Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee will consider a bill on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012, that would ban debarking procedures for nonmedical reasons.
Senate Bill 2193 would impose a fine on any person who surgically debarks or silences a dog or cat unless a veterinarian licensed in Rhode Island has filed a written certification with the applicable animal control officer stating that the surgery is “medically necessary to treat or relieve an illness, disease, or injury, or correct a congenital abnormality that is causing or will cause the dog or cat medical harm or pain.” The maximum fine would be $1,000. A person convicted of violating the law could also be barred from owning or possessing any animals, or living on the same property with someone who owns or possesses animals, for a period of time deemed appropriate by the court. The person could also be required to take humane education, pet ownership and dog training classes as ordered by the court.

The bill would also require a person or business selling a dog or cat that has been debarked to provide the purchaser with a copy of the aforementioned veterinarian certificate.

Both the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Kennel Club support debarking procedures as a final alternative to behavior modifications. The AKC urged dog breeders and owners to contact members of the committee and urge them to vote against the measure.

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Bill would license pet groomers

Vargas legislation would put veterinary board in charge...
SD groomers OK with license, but say regulations go too far

David Martin was stunned to find his beloved terrier-mix Lucy limping and bloodied when he retrieved her from the groomers after what he thought was just a routine bath and cut.

Martin’s eventual two-year ordeal, which included an emergency room visit to a veterinarian and reimbursement negotiations with the groomer, has now spawned state legislation to require groomers to obtain a license and comply with a long list of standards governing everything from training to record-keeping to keeping the animals confined while at a salon.

Currently groomers only need a business license.  “We need basic safety for our pets,” said Sen. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, who is carrying what he calls “Lucy’s Law.”  His Senate Bill 969 has run into opposition from some San Diego groomers, who favor standards but question the measure’s reach.

Among their concerns: putting the California Veterinary Medical Board in charge, being forced to cage animals that are generally calmer when they are not confined and sending the fees to the state instead of keeping revenues for local needs.

“I’m not saying there shouldn’t be any regulations,” said Eileen Hecker, owner of Hot Dogity Dos in San Diego and a six-year-veteran groomer. “There should be a grooming board.”  Lindsey Davis, who runs Spawtlight Dog Salon also in San Diego, echoes those concerns.  “I’m all for licenses. There are, as there are in any field, some people who probably shouldn’t be in the field,” said Davis, who has groomed pets for a decade.

Nine-year-old Lucy survived her injuries, although she still walks with a limp and is not as active, said Martin, who lives in Palm Springs and drives a tour bus.  “It tears me up to just talk about it,” he said in a telephone interview Monday.  Martin said he found himself wondering about other pets and what he could do to turn the experience into something positive. So he connected with longtime animal welfare advocates Jacque Mercier and Martin Berman, who split their time between Palm Springs and Encinitas. Together they crafted the legislation and offered it to Vargas.

“Anybody can buy a pair of clippers and call themselves a groomer,” said Mercier.  Through their network of friends and contacts the couple learned of a number of bad experiences. “Terrible things,” Mercier said.

The California Veterinary Medical Board discussed the legislation recently, but took no position given its complexity and a number of unanswered questions.  “The concept is a good concept, but logistically it would not be possible for the board to support it in its current form,” executive officer Susan Geranen said.

For example, annual inspection costs could “would be pretty huge.” Also it would take time to develop and validate licensing exam criteria, she said.  “More discussion needs to be out there,” Geranen said.

A committee hearing has not been scheduled.

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Pit bulls may lose ‘vicious’ label due to bill

 Senate OK’s bill that will not immediately label any dog as ‘vicious.’

COLUMBUS — Pit bulls would no longer be the only dogs that could immediately be classified as vicious under new legislation passed by the Ohio Senate this week.

The bill, passed Tuesday, also would eliminate problems that for decades have hampered animal control efforts involving other dog breeds, according to Mark Kumpf, director of Montgomery County Animal Resource Center.

“It basically levels the playing field for all breeds of dog,” Kumpf said Wednesday. “Other than the one dog, we’ve had our hands tied.”

The Senate voted 27-5 to rewrite the state’s vicious dog law, passed in 1987 and weakened by a 2004 Ohio Supreme Court ruling.  The Supreme Court found the law failed to provide due process — the right to a court hearing — for other dog owners, discouraging animal control officers from issuing citation for first infractions.

Unless it was a pit bull mix, “your dog had one free bite,” Kumpf said.  Kumpf was part of a group involved in rewriting the bill introduced last January — for the second time — by Rep. Barbara Sears, R-Monclova Twp.

Next the bill is headed back to the House of Representatives for final changes.

If signed by the governor, the law would allow animal control officers to designate any dog as “nuisance,” “dangerous” or “ vicious,” regardless of breed. Violators could be fined or face felony sanctions.  Regardless of breed, the vicious dog classification would apply to dogs that, without provocation, badly injure or kill a person. Such dogs are often seized and euthanized.

For now, Ohio remains the only state which only classifies pit bulls as vicious, a distinction that has divided victims of pit-bull bites and those who love the mixed breed.  The existing law also discourages some pit bull owners from licensing their pets or picking them up from the pound, Kumpf said.  Under the new law, their owners would no longer need liability insurance.

Sen. Jim Hughes, R-Columbus, said pit bulls were involved in bad-bites cases and used by drug dealers.  “Unfortunately, pit bulls in this county have had a lot of bad cases with children and drugs,” Hughes said. “Drug dealers use these dogs to go after police.”

Last month in Dayton, a pit bull mauled two people, including its owner, sending both to the hospital. It was the latest in a series of bad-bite cases involving pit bulls reported in the area.

A 2011 Dayton Daily News examination of dog bites in Montgomery County found pit bulls led all breeds in the number of reported dog bites since January 2009. But boxers, German shepherds and Labradors collectively had more bites reported. All told, 83 percent of the reported bites did not involve pit bulls.

“The majority of the pit bulls we deal with are not aggressive animals,” said Eric Hancock, a dog warden in Warren County.

The law will have no effect on communities, including Xenia, Hamilton and Cincinnati, that place special restrictions on pit bull mixes. Dayton prohibits ownership of any dangerous or vicious animal.

Amendments suggested by Gov. John Kasich’s office have already been added, Kumpf said.  “It’s probably got several weeks before it sees the governor’s desk,” he said.

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NY OK's burying human ashes in pet cemeteries

HARTSDALE, N.Y. — Life is good again — and death is looking better — for animal lovers in New York who want to be buried with their Persians, Pomeranians or potbellied pigs.

The state Division of Cemeteries has issued regulations that once again permit pet owners to have their ashes interred with their beloved animals in pet cemeteries.

"My wish has been granted and I will be able to be with my furry family forever," said Rhona Levy of the Bronx, who has planned for years to have her ashes buried with her dog and four cats at the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in the New York City suburbs.

"This was one of the best moments of my life," she added.

Under the new rules, approved Thursday in Albany, the interment of human ashes at pet cemeteries is permitted under certain conditions.  The pet cemetery must not advertise that it takes human ashes, and may not charge a fee for doing so. The cemetery also must tell customers who ask about human interment that they would be giving up some protections, such as mandatory record-keeping and restrictions on removal.

The 115-year-old Hartsdale cemetery has been adding human ashes to pet plots since 1925, and an estimated 700 people have joined the 70,000 animals there. But on Feb. 8, the cemetery division ordered a halt to the practice. Three days earlier, Hartsdale, 20 miles north of Manhattan, had been featured in an Associated Press story about the increase in human burials in pet cemeteries around the country.

The ban was issued statewide in April. The state said then that only not-for-profit corporations can take in human remains, even if cremated, and charging a fee violated not-for-profit law.

The state's declaration angered some animal lovers, especially those who had prearranged their burials at pet cemeteries. "Suddenly I'm not at peace anymore," Levy said at the time.

Hartsdale asked the state for permission to at least accommodate those who had prepaid.

Taylor York, an attorney and law professor at Keuka College in Penn Yan, went further. She undertook to persuade the Cemetery Division that since pet cemeteries are private, they're not covered by nonprofit corporation law.

York's uncle, Thomas Ryan, had died in April. He had arranged — and prepaid — to join his wife and their two dogs, B.J. I and B.J. II, at Hartsdale. But the state ruling prevented that, and Ryan's ashes remained in a wooden box at the home of his sister, York's mother.

The Cemetery Division's new ruling means Ryan can finally be buried, and York said a ceremony is scheduled for Friday.

"This new compromise gets my mother what she wants and my uncle what he intended," she said. "It's a Christmas gift of a kind, but this was agonizing and it's a real shame that the state leaped before they looked."

Just as the Hartsdale cemetery was the first to be told it couldn't accommodate humans, it's the first to get permission to resume the practice. The state and the cemetery signed a "Memorandum of Understanding" that permits the immediate burial of human ashes at Hartsdale. The cemetery resumed human interments Friday.

Ed Martin Jr., president and director of the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery, said Monday he has no qualms about the restrictions. He said the cemetery dropped the $235 fee it used to charge to open an animal's grave for its owner's ashes.

"It's not that it was a big moneymaker. It was a courtesy more than anything else," he said.

York said she took some satisfaction that during the meeting last week, Cemetery Board Chairman Dan Shapiro acknowledged using private property as a cemetery himself.

"I spread my uncle's ashes under a peach tree in my backyard," Shapiro said.

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We'll end this second part of the topic on legal issues right here.  Stay tuned in about 3-4 weeks for the conclusion that will include some episodes in which pets got into trouble through no fault of their own.
The LA Dodgers opened the 2012 season with a 4-game series in San Diego, against a Padres team that has always given the Dodgers fits...probably due to the inferiority complex the Padres have with their big brothers from Los Angeles.  A Major League team is happy to split any road series but we won 3 of the 4 games to get the season off to a great start.  I think our players are just glad to get the mess of our previous owner's divorce behind they can go play ball without being asked about the ownership problem everywhere they go.


"The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time."   Abraham Lincoln

Even though Abe uttered those words 5 years BEFORE the first baseball game was even played, I'm sure he must have had the regular baseball season in mind.  The baseball season has often been described as a marathon rather than a sprint, considering there are 162 games spread out over 6 months...and, taking those games "one day at a time" is the only way to truly enjoy baseball.

Let's close this issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats with my annual offering of John Fogerty singing his "ode to baseball":

Turn up the volume on your speakers and listen to John tell you about Helpful Buckeye as a boy, dreaming of playing centerfield for the Brooklyn Dodgers...with his "beat up glove, homemade bat, and a brand new pair of shoes" as he "hits the ball and touches them all"...a moment in the sun.

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~

1 comment:

  1. Really learned a lot from your informative blog. More power to you! Thanks:-)