Total Pageviews

Thursday, June 23, 2016

"Paws" and Think Before You Leave Buddy In the Car

As I am constantly pulling objects out of my puppy’s mouth, it’s a safe bet to say that I think about dogs a lot lately.  And sadly, I’ve seen quite a few reports of people leaving animals (including K-9 officers) in their cars, causing the animal’s death from the being trapped in a suffocatingly hot car.  We all know that leaving your child in a hot car brings criminal charges quickly, and steep ones at that (as it should).  Laws are in place to govern when the unthinkable happens to children as a result of being left behind, and lawmakers in Michigan are trying to better protect animals too.


Proposed Michigan Senate Bill No. 930(2)(H), introduced May 3, 2016, provides that “An owner, possessor, or person having the charge or custody of an animal shall not….leave or confine an animal in an unattended motor vehicle under conditions that endanger the health or well-being of the animal, including, but not limited to, heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, lack of food or water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death of the animal.”


Under the proposed legislation, if a person violates the law, he or she would be guilty of a misdemeanor, which carries a 45 day imprisonment term or a fine of not more than $350.00, or both; the second offense is a misdemeanor punishable by 90 days in the slammer or a fine up to $500.00, or both.  If the animal suffers “serious physical harm,” the violator is guilty of a misdemeanor, imprisonment of up to one year, a fine up to $1,000.00, or both.  Last, if the animal dies as a result, the proposed law would make that crime a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine up to $5,000.00, or both.


If this bill makes its way to the Governor’s desk, it will provide prosecutors with stronger consequences for those violating the law than what are presently in place.  It will call out this specific behavior as a crime, hopefully giving pet owners pause (or “paws”) when they take Buddy or Muffin out for a Sunday ride and decide to stop at the local hardware store on the way.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

A "Pawsitively" Great New Law

For all the negative things that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has been in the news for lately, I found a pleasant surprise in my newsfeed the other day.  He recently signed into law additional protection for pets that are at risk of abuse and/or neglect.

On May 19, 2016, House Bill 4478 expanded the personal protection order (PPO) laws to include “animal[s] in which the petitioner has an ownership interest.”  The recognition that animals are often used as a means to threaten or injure the abused partner in a domestic violence relationship is a huge step in encouraging the abused partner to end the relationship.
Many abuse victims stay in the unhealthy partnership due to threats and fear that their children will be taken away.  However, people also remain in the relationship due to the same threats and fears, but as it relates to their beloved pets. Often times it is difficult for the person to escape with her pet because shelters and family members won’t or can’t accommodate the dog or cat.  Similar to how children are used as weapons against one parent in court actions and domestic violence relationships, so are pets.

The abuser tells the victim that if she leaves, she can’t take the dog, or the cat will be killed if she walks out the door.  Not willing to risk harm to the pet, the victim complies and stays in the relationship.
With the new law taking immediate effect, courts now have the authority to add pets to a PPO, prohibiting someone from doing any of the below acts, “with the intent to cause the petitioner mental distress or to exert control over the petitioner with respect to an animal in which the petitioner has an ownership interest”:  “[i]njuring, killing, torturing, neglecting, or threatening to injure, kill, torture, or neglect the animal….[r]emoving the animal from the petitioner’s possession….[r]etaining or obtaining possession of the animal.”

Michigan is the 30th state to afford this protection to pets.  According to the ASPCA, the overwhelming majority of women at domestic violence shelters – 71% - have experienced their abusive partner threatening or actually injuring (including killing) a pet.
However, while this law is a great step in encouraging victims to leave an abusive relationship, the reality is that many shelters still will not accept pets.  Hopefully by affording pets greater protection under the law, shelters will be able to obtain funding or set up a foster program to care for the animals of abuse victims until safe, permanent housing can be acquired.