Archive | September 20, 2010

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

H. 1467:  AN ACT RELATIVE TO TRUSTS FOR THE CARE OF ANIMALS

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:

http://www.aldf.org/article.php?id=1161.

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