Archive | September, 2010

Spring Linen Drive

At the end of the 2010 spring semester, the Harvard chapter of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) organized a linen drive to benefit the Animal Rescue League of Boston, an organization dedicated to rescuing homeless animals from cruelty and neglect.

SALDF members set up five donation boxes around the law school campus and dormitories, in which the law school community placed donations of towels, sheets and blankets. The Animal Rescue League desperately needs these items to line the cages of the animals they shelter. Altogether, the linen drive resulted in a large donation consisting of about 5 suitcases worth of linens. When SALDF officers arrived at the Animal Rescue League (where the receptionist was comforting a week-old abandoned kitten) the shelters’ staff members were extremely grateful for the donation, and also expressed relief, as the shelter had been experiencing a severe shortage of linens. While each student who dropped off unwanted linens at the end of the school year probably did not miss the items much, these old sheets and towels will provide much-needed warmth and comfort to neglected animals in the Boston area in the coming months.

SALDF plans to organize a similar drive at the conclusion of the upcoming academic year.

More information about the Animal Rescue League can be found at:
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U.S. v. Stevens

On April 20, 2010, the United States Supreme Court handed down its decision in U.S. v. Stevens and struck down a federal ban on videos that show graphic violence against animals. You can read the text of the full opinion here, and you can read an ALDF staff attorney’s view of the ruling here. ALDF submitted an amicus brief in this case.

In response to the Supreme Court’s decision, new federal legislation has been introduced by Representative Elton Gallegly (R-CA) that will prohibit the sale, or offering for sale, of animal crush videos in interstate or foreign commerce. You can contact your representatives through ALDF’s website to encourage them to support HR 5092.

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MA Pet Trusts Legislation


On June 15, 2010, the Massachusetts House passed the Pet Trusts bill. This bill would create a legally enforceable trust to provide financially for a companion animal after the person dies or becomes unable to care for their animal(s).

HLS SALDF was active in petitioning the Massachusetts House in favor of the bill’s passage.

What the bill does:

This bill would allow for legally enforceable trusts to provide for the care of one or more animals if the trust’s creator becomes incapacitated or dies.  It would do this by authorizing the creation of an enforceable trust that is established with the pet as the beneficiary, while specifying both a trustee for the trust and a caretaker for the pet.  With this legislation, pet owners can be ensured that their wishes and directions regarding their companion animals will be carried out.

Why the bill is needed and why Massachusetts’ current law is not sufficient – the growing trend in state laws permitting pet trusts:

As of August 2009, forty-two states and the District of Columbia have enacted pet trust statutes.  Nineteen of the states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Uniform Trust Code’s provisions for pet trusts.   Georgia currently has pending legislature that is expected to pass in July 2010.

Massachusetts is one of only eight remaining states that continues to have no form of pet trust legislation.  In Massachusetts, a person can currently only assign the assets of a trust to the caretaker of the pet, and hope that the caretaker uses the assets for the care and maintenance of the pet as intended.  Such a trust is not enforceable by law.  The alternative means of providing for a pet through a will is also problematic for the same reason and for the delay of providing access to the funds that can accompany the probate process, leaving the pet at risk for lack of care.

Why the bill is important to Massachusetts constituents and for public policy reasons:

More and more people view their pets as family members and are concerned about the welfare of these animals if the animals should outlive them. The increase in veterinary advances now available to companion animals and the advent of pet health insurance for owners to minimize costs has added to the overall health and lifespan of people’s pets.  Pets are living longer and are an integral part of their families’ lives.   It has been estimated that between 12 and 27% of pet owners include their pets in estate planning.  The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that over 68.7 million households care for a companion animal.  In Massachusetts, it is estimated that 33.3% of households live with a cat or dog (MSPCA Dorr Research).

Not infrequently, municipal shelters and animal rescue organizations find that the incapacity or death of an owner results in abandonment, surrender or the inability to care for the pet.

This bill would allow pet owners to provide financial resources for the care of their animals in the event of incapacity or death, which benefits the owners as well as the pets.  Additionally, the burden placed on municipal shelters and rescue organizations would be eased as pet owners would have a viable, enforceable alternative plan for the care of their animals.

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Free National ALDF Membership for Recent Graduates

ALDF offers one-year complimentary attorney membership to new law graduates. To see membership benefits or download the application, please visit the national organization’s website:

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Welcome! We are very excited about this upcoming year. There are a ton of events planned.

This year, we plan to bring in speakers on animal rights and welfare, lend support to various animal organizations through fundraising and volunteering, organize animal-issue-related field trips (including a Whale Watch in the fall, co-sponsored by the Environmental Law Society!), and, of course, provide opportunities for the animal lovers at HLS to come together over great food. Additionally, each year Harvard Law School hosts both the national Animal Advocacy Moot Court and Closing Argument Competitions in the spring semester.

In addition, we have monthly veggie/vegan restaurants outings, speakers and field trips. If you are interested in any of these or have an idea that would like to see materialized please send us an email!

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