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Animal Law

Animal Law

Animal Law

The Floyd Law Firm PC is here to help you if you need legal assistance regarding an animal or animals.

The practice of animal law entails any of the legal issues that involve animals and it is the statutory and case law wherein the nature of animals – legally, socially, or biologically – is a major factor. This facet of law includes all animals such as: companion animals, animals used in research, animals raised as food, animals used in an educational setting, animals used by humans for entertainment, and wild animals whether in nature or a wildlife preserve.

Laws within the practice of animal law include city or town ordinances, state laws, federal laws and regulations, and international treaties, or cases in which the provisions or results have an impact on an animal or animals. It entails the actual laws, legal precedents, and regulations that affect any animal’s care and use – how they can and cannot be treated.

Animal Law includes:

  • Cruelty to Animals
  • City, County, and State Ordinances and Laws
  • Legal Consulting Related to Animals
  • Custody of Animals in Divorces
  • Pet and Companion Animal Trusts and Emergency Planning
  • Service Animals and the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • The Fair Housing Act
  • Wildlife and Habitat Conservation Issues
  • Enforcement of Federal Animal Protection Laws
  • Forcing Animals to Fight
  • Animal Protesters and Free Speech
  • Animals Used as Entertainment, Sport, or Racing
  • Animals Used as Food
  • Animals Used in Scientific Research
  • Constitutional Issues
  • Veterinary Malpractice
  • Constitutional Issues
  • Wrongful Death or Injury of an Animal by a Private or Public Entity
  • Consumer Fraud and Deception in the Sale or Trade Animals
  • Contracts for the Sale, Use, Lease, or Trade of Animals
  • Dangerous Dog Hearings and Violations of Local Laws and Ordinances
  • Dog Bites
  • Equine Law and Horse Care
  • Hunting and Trapping of Animals
  • Intellectual Property Regarding Animals
  • Animals as part of International Trade
  • Ownership Disputes When Animals are considered as Property

Many types of animals are considered to be property under the law, which limits their protections. While Americans overwhelmingly view companion animals (pets) as family members – all animals are living, feeling beings that are entitled to legal protections.

Unfortunately, animals considered to be property are lacking many fundamental legal protections. Some laws treat animals as if they are nothing more than objects, such as equipment or furniture.

Animals do deserve a legal status that aligns with the living beings that they are. They also have the capacity to communicate with one another, to feel pain, to experience joy, to feel fear and sorrow, as well as to experience contentment and happiness.

The Floyd Law Firm PC advocates, litigates, and educates others in order to achieve legal progress under the law.

Animals Treated as Property, or Legal Things

Animals are often deprived of meaningful legal rights. If a dog is beaten to death, and prosecutors elect not to bring forth any charges, the dog or his or her family is unable to file a suit on their own behalf.

Animals are not provided with that many legal protections largely because current laws consider them to be property, or legally viewed as “things” rather than “legal persons”. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws that make felony provisions for the intentional killing of a cat or dog, but not for most other types of animals.

Animals As “Legal Persons” Similar to a Corporation

The terms “legal person” or “legal personhood” are basically designations used for practical matters. Ships and corporations are now sometimes defined as “legal persons” in order to be granted certain legal rights and obligations. This means that these types of entities can sue or be sued under the law.

Subsequently, recognizing a pet cat as a “legal person” would not give him or her the right to vote, any more so than a corporation has the right to vote as an individual. But, the designation may give the cat the right to not be painfully experimented upon, and could provide the right for him or her to have a court appointed guardian to help protect his or her own legal rights.

The legal system does recognize that animals are different, and they are treated in various ways, although still often classified as mere property. But unlike other types of property, animals are protected by certain anti-cruelty laws. Animals being recognized as “legal victims” of crime has been a recent positive development in their legal protection. Each separate animal can be treated as a separate victim in instances of acts of cruelty perpetrated upon them – each one counting toward a separate criminal charge against the accused. One court also upheld the right of law enforcement officers to seize an animal without a warrant who is in apparent need of veterinary attention.

Animals can also be the beneficiaries of legally enforceable trusts, and many states also include companion animals in domestic violence protection orders. Some states allow courts to consider the best interests of an animal in the context of divorce proceedings and custody determination. Companion animals are viewed as family members, as they should be.

Unfortunately, most animals do not benefit from legal protections. Many farmed animals, wildlife, and animals used in laboratory experiments are lacking many basic legal rights that companion animals have.

Federal Animal Protection Laws

In the United States, laws regarding animal protection can be enacted and enforced at every level of government. While most animal protection legislation occurs at the state level, there are several federal animal protection laws – and some cities and counties pass their own ordinances to protect animals.

The Endangered Species Act

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was enacted in 1973 to protect mammals, birds, fish, and even plants that have been listed as a threatened species – or an endangered species – within the United States and other areas. Outlining the procedures that federal agencies are to follow regarding listed species, the act also provides for the criminal and civil penalties for violations. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service administers the law.

The Animal Welfare Act

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) was signed into law in 1966 as the primary federal animal protection law. It mainly involves animals used in laboratories or kept in zoos. The act also concerns commercially bred and sold animals – like in puppy mills. The AWA directs the Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to set the minimum standards regarding the “handling, care, treatment, and transportation” of animals. The act serves to prohibit cockfighting and dog fighting as well – as long as the activity crosses state lines in some way.

The 28 Hour Law

Enacted in 1873, the 28 Hour Law requires that vehicles transporting certain animals for slaughter stop each 28 hours to give the animals water, food, and exercise. This law does not apply to vehicles that contain access to food or water inside for the animals being transported. There are many other exceptions as well, making the law not as humane as it should be. Those that raise the most-farmed animals in the United States, chickens and turkeys, are considered exempt from this law by the federal government.

The Humane Slaughter Act, or the Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act

This law was first passed in 1958 and was amended in 1978. The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act requires that animals be stunned into unconsciousness before slaughter in an effort to minimize their pain. However, chickens, turkeys, and other birds are not protected by this law, although they feel pain just like any other animals. The enforcement of this law is too often found to be inconsistent in it’s application as per the reports made by many government inspectors.

State And Local Animal Protection Laws

The majority of animal protection laws are enacted and enforced at the state level. State animal protection laws are primarily concerned with companion animals, although some state wildlife protection laws do exist. All 50 states now have felony animal cruelty laws, and each state determines what constitutes cruelty, and the penalties for committing the cruelty. Farmed animals and animals used in laboratories are often excluded from state animal protection laws, as is much of wildlife.

Companion Animals

“Companion animals” is the category of animals that is mainly limited to cats and dogs. The term can now sometimes describe pet horses, small pigs, various birds, and a few other animals. Animals considered to be companions typically receive a higher level of protection under state laws.

There are state laws that explain the frequency in which pets are to be vaccinated against rabies. States often apply some regulations regarding the commercial breeding of companion animals, and other laws regulate how long an animal shelter must keep stray animals in their care before they can be set for adoption, or be euthanized.

The state of California was the first state to pass a statewide “retail pet sale ban”, and Maryland became the second. Per this law, stores or retail pet stores may only sell puppies, dogs, kittens, cats, or rabbits that come from area rescues and animal shelters – not from breeders. These bans help animals in over-crowded shelters and rescues to get homes, and lessens the ongoing problem of the over-breeding of animals – many of which also would end up getting dropped off to shelters.

Local Hot Car and Anti-Tethering Laws

Many states have laws that criminalize the act of leaving an animal in a vehicle in very hot or very cold weather. Some of these laws also protect the “good Samaritans” who may act to rescue animals left in a car in extreme temperatures, holding the rescuer immune from criminal or civil liability. Anti-tethering laws that work to limit the amount of time that a pet can be chained or tied outside, mainly in harsh weather, are also increasing in popularity. Laws protecting pets in domestic violence situations have also been expanding.

Wildlife Laws

Most states have wildlife protection laws, and laws regarding the seasons and methods in which the sanctioned approval to kill wildlife via fishing and hunting is governed. There do exist cases where someone has been successfully prosecuted for committing cruel acts against farmed animals or wildlife, and this type of legal action could also be extended to cases of cruelty to some marine animals.

Some states also regulate the use of wild animals in performances at entertainment events such as rodeos and circuses. Illinois and New York passed the nation’s first statewide bans on the use of elephants as entertainment in 2017. This is hopefully the beginning of a growing trend as we are learning more about animals and the many threatened species on the planet.

Farmed Animals

Farmed animals are routinely ignored by state animal protection laws, but several states have initiated measures to limit some intensive confinement farming practices. These methods entail confining animals in cages, boxes, or restraints in order that the animals are unable to move or stand up.

Local laws regarding animals are very important. Not only do they protect the animals of the area, they can also help to set precedents for more expansive protections to come. New animal protection measures often begin at the city or county level, and when the public continues to demand it, it becomes an issue to be discussed by the state legislators voted in to represent the people.

Additional Resources

Animal Law Attorneys serving Surfside Beach, Myrtle Beach and throughout South Carolina

At The Floyd Law Firm PC, we are committed to helping those who have had a companion animal injured due to someone’s negligence, or cases in which cruelty has occurred, or many other events related to animals. We know the challenges that people face in such situations and we understand – our firm can address your specific problem with empathy and professionalism.

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