As the Animal Law Section closes out its third year, it has increasingly focused its attention on its role as educator of attorneys and the public. These themes converged at the 1997 annual meeting, where a panel of professional news people—from print, radio and television—met with Section members and others to discuss "Perspectives on Animals and the Press." The reporters showed they were interested in news about people and animals and were happy to share suggestions on how lawyers can help get their points across. The attorneys, in turn, described the range of organizations that put animals in the news and how to evaluate them.
Another developing area is the recognition of public officials and others who have acted to support of animals. The Section has prepared "letters of support" to send to prosecutors and law enforcement officers who have taken steps to benefit animals or to prosecute those who abuse them. The first letter went to the prosecutors in Oakland County who decided to bring charges under MCL 750.50b; MSA 28.245b against a county resident who attempted to euthanize his dog, "Clementine," with a shotgun (People v. Charles Edgar Woodworth). A formal "Certificate of Appreciation" is being prepared, to recognize lawyers, law enforcement personnel, government officials, judges, referees and members of the public who have assisted animals in some way.
One of the major accomplishments of this year was the publication of the first issue of the Section newsletter, which will now be produced twice a year. The first issue featured Judge Kaye Tertzag's opinion in the "Brandi" case (Murray v. Bill Wells Kennels), permitting emotional distress damages for the death of a pet.
A long-term project, developing a handbook of local animal-related ordinances, has now been completed. Interest in it has already been expressed by local animal control officers. The committee that produced the handbook has also developed model animal-control ordinances to be made available to cities, townships and other units of local government.
Another project is just getting off the ground. A subgroup of members who are prosecuting attorneys across the state has formed, with the plan of implementing an anti-cruelty program that has been used successfully in other jurisdictions. Volunteer lawyers in the community are designated as "special prosecutors" in their county and bring, or proceed with, cases under the anti-cruelty statutes.
The section continues to monitor Michigan legislation affecting animals. Bills the section endorsed, governing "exotic" pets and wolf hybrids, were passed by the House and the section has been following their progress in the Senate. A proposed bill, to permit the creation of honorary trusts for companion animals, will be of interest as well.
The Section also acts as a source for information interchange and assistance among its members. At various times, members have lent their expertise to each in areas as varied as keeping of pet pigs and the control of Canada geese. A database of news articles, briefs and other materials is being assembled and the Section will soon be building its link to the State Bar of Michigan home page on the Internet.
The 1998 Annual Meeting will be held Friday, September 19, 1998, in conjunction with the State Bar of Michigan Annual Meeting.