by Thomas M. Boven, Chairperson
"This (ANIMAL CRUELTY) is not a harmless venting of emotion in a healthy individual; this is a warning sign that this individual . . . needs some sort of intervention"
–Alan Brantley, FBI Supervisory Agent—in an interview with Randall Lockwood, Ph.D, and Ann Church of the Humane Society of the United States, 1996.
During 2001-2002, the members of the Animal Law Section have been able to participate in active discussions and well-presented symposium sessions dealing with not only issues related to causes and prosecution of animal cruelty matters, but also issues concerning estate planning for animals, the emerging law of the personhood of animals, legislative and case law developments, education of young people concerning animal issues, and a myriad of related animal concerns which are controversial and often enlightening.
All of these matters lead to and result in the reason that there is an Animal Law Section. Over the past two years, I have had the privilege (and not necessarily the pleasure) of chairing a section which has no real history, but definitely has a future.
Last year my report commented on the curriculum that is being developed by many law schools and special emphasis consortiums related to animal law and welfare and rights of animals. The emphasis is continuing and being further refined as one of the "cutting edge" emerging law areas. If you have an interest in participating in a Bar section which actually encourages its members to be involved in a meaningful way with legislative, criminal, and civil jurisprudence, scholarly research, and topical issues relating to animals, then the Animal Law Section needs you.
Where else would you be able to receive scholarly information, useful in a changing legal world, from persons focusing on animal issues, such as Professor David S. Favre of MSU-DCL and Professors Alan Dershowitz and Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School. These scholars have volunteered their time to speak at animal law symposiums. Professor Favre and his staff and students helped organize and present the first Animal Law Section Symposium on March 15, 2002. He spoke on the emerging concepts of equitable self-ownership of animals, which fit in with: programs on estate planning for animals presented by Lauren M. Underwood, attorney, from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and a program on prosecuting animal cruelty cases presented by David J. Wallace, attorney with the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan. Also presenting materials were Animal Law Section Council chair-elect Beatrice M. Friedlander, concerning legislative matters, and past-chair Barbara Goldman, concerning past and pending case law matters.
Professors Dershowitz and Tribe will participate in a symposium on the "Evolving Legal Status of Chimpanzees on September 30, 2002." Why is this important and relevant? Chimpanzees, which we all thought to be interesting, and in their own way, entertaining, actually serve as models for many human attributes. In fact, over 99% of their genetic makeup matches human genetic makeup. Why should a creature, which is a primate, not be afforded many of the "rights" humans have? Or, perhaps the question can be phrased, "What are the politics of obtaining rights?" That is the point, is it not? Basic shelter, food, living conditions, absence of cruel and abusive environments, and recognition of standing to enforce these basic needs. All of this, when combined with accountability, seems to create possible legal situations that will someday need to be explained to clients and the general public in a meaningful and understandable context. This is another reason for being a member of the Animal Law Section.
The Animal Law Section has an ever-increasing membership, and the council holds meetings four times during the year, including the annual business meeting in Lansing, a meeting in December at the University of Michigan Law School, a meeting at MSU-DCL following the symposium, and a meeting in Grand Haven, as part of the council retreat. The retreat provided an opportunity for a two-day informal gathering to exchange ideas and views that will advance the purposes of the section. The council made the decision to make a co-recipient presentation of the Brandi award to two judges from Kent County. The award and recognition will be presented at the Annual Meeting in Grand Rapids on Thursday, September 26, 2002. The Brandi award is presented by the section to law professionals who make outstanding contributions to animal law; District Judge Steven R. Servaas and Circuit Judge H. David Soet each will be recognized for their thoughtful handling of the Kruithoff and Collins cases, respectively. The Brandi award remembers a little dog, Brandi, who was abused by the negligence of a supposedly qualified caregiver who really should not have been entrusted with the care of an animal.
The Sadie award, which is presented in memory of a dog killed by abusive youth, is intended to recognize non-legal professional activities of persons who make outstanding contributions to the betterment of animals. The entire Animal Abuse Investigative Unit of the Michigan Humane Society, which has been featured on Animal Planet television for their efforts to investigate and report dog fighting criminal activity, will be the co-recipients of the Sadie award.
The council was served well by council member Deb Ness as the newsletter co-editor with section member Sharon Smith. Also, this summer, section member Lisa Ward of Lansing will chair the effort to establish a legislative liaison luncheon, to be held at the State Bar building with legislative assistants interested in animal law issues.
Section member Harold Yale Lederman, working with chair-elect Bee Friedlander, developed and submitted questions of intent to all gubernatorial candidates. The answers to those questions will be published in our Fall 2002 newsletter so all section members are aware of the position candidates for governor have on animal issues. A sample question, based upon the result in the case of Koester v. VCA Animal Hospital, 244 Mich App 173, lv. den ___, Mich ___; 631 NW2D 339 (2001), was whether a gubernatorial candidate would favor legislation declaring domesticated pets to be in a different category than personal property and in a category similar
to children, for damage claims for negligence causing injury to the pet. The answers to these questions should be of interest to section members. A great deal of time went into developing the inquiries and we appreciate the effort.
In conclusion, we have appreciated the efforts of all the persons on the council and the volunteers from the section in helping to develop the purposes of the section. If more members assist in the activities of the section, more members will benefit. As the section continues to grow in size and stature, the importance of having the opportunity to be knowledgeable in animal law will be more apparent in our society.
For those who are interested, please look on the website at the materials of the Animal Consciousness Foundation at www.animals.org. You may not agree with some of the content; however, this site is informative as to the direction that many in our society are headed with respect to animal issues. Those who choose to be critical should also be prepared to be constructive and intelligent in their approach to animal issues. All who care are welcome to be members of the Animal Law Section.