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Animal Law: What Is It All About?

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Many people wonder exactly what Animal Law encompasses. No, it doesn’t just have to do with attorneys as sharks! Animal Law affects the rights and welfare of animals in our community and its issues can span many different legal areas.

People argue over ownership of animals, which involves property rights law contained in Replevin statutes and occasionally some Family Law statutes.

Animal abuse is dealt with under the Florida Criminal Statutes which includes, but is not limited to, dog fighting, confinement, lack of shelter, physical abuse, and issues related to proper care.

Cases sometimes concern animals harming people. For example, a dog bite can lead to an action for negligence under Tort Law for damages. This category also covers the dangerous dog and animal statutes, which typically are implemented by Animal Control. These statutes dictate that owners take the proper precautions with their animals to ensure that their animals do not bite a person or another animal. Such actions can have serious ramifications for pets, sometimes resulting in the death of the offending animal.

Dana Laganella and Jack Hanna
Dana Laganella and Jack Hanna

Another category involves people other than the pet’s owner harming animals, typically in the context of Veterinary Malpractice and defective products.

The area of Estate Planning enables pet owners to include their animals in their estate plans, whether it is a specific distribution in their Wills or the creation of a Pet Trust to care for their needs.

Other areas of Animal Law include First Amendment Freedom of Speech rights regarding abuses that take place against animals, contractual disputes over animals, and discrimination for pet owners with disabilities against homeowners associations and condominiums.

My personal goal in practicing Animal law is to help protect our animals and to be the voice for them in our Courts. Animals play a large role in our lives and we need to be sure that there are laws in place to protect them. Over the course of several months, I will be submitting articles about the different categories of animal law and the way the statutes affect us as well as our animals.

Dana Laganella, Esq.

Animal Law: Pet Trusts

Click Here to Play our July 2011 Pet Trusts Webcast!

Message From a Pet Whose Owner Did Not Make Plans

This morning I woke up feeling great. Ran to the door and found my best friend waiting for me. We went for our usual morning walk. My friend does most of the talking, but I am happy just to be listening. My best friend’s words are always soothing and comforting. After our walk, we went back home and had breakfast together. I got kissed on my nose and my best friend went off to work. Now comes my boring time. I walk around the house making sure everything is safe and secure, then I just lay on the couch or the bed or the easy chair waiting for my best friend to come home.

Pet Trusts

Today is different. Night has fallen. My friend normally is home by now. It is getting late. I’m starting to worry. I hope she gets home soon. I’m starting to get hungry. You know I don’t care if I get to eat or not. I don’t complain. Please come home. I miss you. I am so tired now. Why is it getting light out again? This is so strange. I need to get on the bed. I can smell my friend was here. This is where I feel safe. Wait! I hear someone at the door-it must be her. No, it is someone I don’t know. Who are you? Why are you coming in here? Are you going to hurt me? Rob my friend’s home? What am I supposed to do? I know. I will act mean. I will growl, bark, defend my friend’s home the best that I can. They have just put a leash on me. They are trying to talk calmly to me, but I don’t trust them. I will still act mean. I just heard them say my friend's name and something about a fatal heart attack. Now I am in a small cement barred area. This is not the food I normally eat. These are not the smells I normally smell. I am so scared. I still need to act mean. I know my friend must be trying to find me. I have been here for about a week now. I hear people talking about me being aggressive. Wait. They are opening my door. They are putting that leash on me again. My friend must be here. Now I am in the exam room. Oh I see the needle again. My friend always told me the needles will help keep me healthy. I felt the pinch-this needle is different. Something is happening. I feel very sleepy…where is my friend?

Reprinted from Companion, Winter 2004, at 3 by permission of Amy Shever, Director of 2nd Chance 4 Pets

Who will take care of your Pet when you are unable to?

Planning is Essential

Pet Trusts

Have you considered what would happen to your pet in the event of your disability or death? Do you have a plan in place?

  1. To notify certain people so that your pet's care will be uninterrupted
  2. To notify the caretakers that are pre-selected by you to provide care
  3. To provide a source of funds for your pet's care
  4. To inform future caretakers of your pets likes and dislikes, routines, care instructions & wishes regarding burial or cremation

Why Plan?

  1. Despite a pet’s short life expectancy, the pet may out live you. This is especially true now that medical intervention results in longer life expectancies for pets than in the past.
  2. Proper planning can provide for a care plan not only in the event of death but also incapacity.
  3. You can provide for a temporary emergency caregiver in the event that something unexpected happens to you – providing them with keys to your home, feeding and care instructions, the name of your veterinarian, and information about permanent care instructions.
  4. There is no assurance that if you leave money to someone outright to care for your pet that they will do what they promised to do.
  5. Providing an orderly plan for your pet is the responsible and loving thing to do.

What is a Pet Trust?

If you are no longer able to provide for the care of your pet, the goal of a PET TRUST is to ensure that there are funds available and a caretaking system in place to care for your pet. A PET TRUST is a legal document you can create so that your pets may be cared for as you yourself have cared for them.

With a Pet Trust, you may:

Pet Trusts

Trusts are better than Outright Gifts to a Caretaker

Assets in a trust are NOT subject to the caregivers creditors, marital disputes or bankruptcy. If you leave an outright gift of money to a person in your will in exchange for the care of your pet, the money will go to that person’s heirs or beneficiaries at his or her death and will not be available to care for the pet. If you haven’t already, consult with an Estate Planning Attorney about providing for your Pet.

Without planning, you are leaving too much up to chance.

The goal of a Pet Trust is to ensure that there are people who will care for your pet, resources available for such care and clear instructions regarding how your pets should be cared for.

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