Thursday, November 13, 2008

Court Rules for Navy, against Marine Life

From, Nov. 12, 2008:

The Supreme Court, dividing 6-3, upheld the Navy’s power to use sonar in military training exercises, even though environmentalists claim that the technology threatens marine life in the training zone off the Pacific Coast. Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., wrote for the majority; there were two full dissents and one partial dissent. The decision, the Court’s first ruling of the Term, came in the case of Winter (Navy Secretary) v. National Resources Defense Council, et al. (07-1239).

The Court partially overturned a federal judge’s order against the use of the active sonar at least until the Navy took additional measures to mitigate the threat to whales, dolphins and other marine mammals. Those added measures would have required the Navy to stop or reduce its sonar exercises when the threat to mammals was deemed imminent. The ruling set aside the District Court injunction to the extent challenged by the Navy. There were six clear votes for that outcome. Justice Stephen G. Breyer, while agreeing that the conditions should not have been imposed, voted alone to keep intact the two that the Navy had challenged until further review by the Navy of the impact on marine life. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined by Justice David H. Souter, dissented in full. Justice John Paul Stevens supported the result — wiping out the two conditions — but did not join the Chief Justice’s majority opinion, which was joined specifically by four others.

Roberts wrote that “the Navy’s need to conduct realistic training with active sonar to respond to the threat posed by enemy submarines plainly outweighs” the environmental concerns raised by advocacy groups. “We do not discount the importance of [the challengers’] ecological, scientific, and recreational interest in marine mammals,” the opinion remarked.

It added: “Of course, military interests do not always trump other considerations, and we have not held that they do. In this case, however, the proper determination of where the public interest lies does not strike us as a close question.”

The Court had heard argument in the case on Oct. 8, and moved comparatively rapidly to prepare the opinions because the specific round of sonar exercises the Navy is conducting are to be finished by January, at the latest. The Court’s ruling did not decide the underlying legal issue: whether the Navy was obliged to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement. However, the Navy is in the process of doing so, anyway.

Friday, November 7, 2008

First Pup?

Now that the elections are over, the time has come for one lucky dog to make the move into the White House.

US President-elect Barack Obama is still working on the make-up of his cabinet. A far more important decision - for his daughters at least - will be choosing the puppy that accompanies the new First Family to the White House.

Mr Obama made the promise of a new pet to Malia, 10 and Sasha, seven, in an election victory speech broadcast to millions around the world, suggesting it is one campaign pledge that will be kept.

As for what kind of dog that will be, that seems still up in the air...

Michelle Obama has been quoted as saying she would like a rescue dog - which would certainly be a story of canine rags to riches.

Reports suggest that because daughter Malia has allergies, the Obamas may be considering a "hypoallergenic" breed that sheds less hair.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The election results are in!

A good day across the board for animal advocates. The big news is of course Prop 2 in California, passing by an overwhelming margin.

The California ballot initiative on farm animal housing has passed by a fairly large margin with 63% for to 37% against as of 5:30 a.m. Central with 87% of the vote in.

The initiative, listed as Proposition 2, or "Prop 2," closes down the California egg industry -- affecting 95% of the state's egg production and forcing California consumers to buy eggs from other states and from Mexico. Prop 2 will become effective in 2015.

Passage represents a huge victory for Prop 2's supporters, the main two of which are the animal rights groups Farm Sanctuary and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the latter of which supports vegetarianism. It is largely expected that Farm Sanctuary and HSUS will employ momentum from their victory to carry the measure to other states that have ballot initiatives and directly to state assemblies in those states that do not.

Also some good news out of Massachusetts, where the bid to ban dog racing passed on its second try on the ballot.

Massachusetts voters yesterday embraced a ballot question to end greyhound racing in the state, rejecting track owners' arguments that the ban would cost jobs at a time of economic hardship in favor of protecting dogs from harm.

The contentious ballot question passed amid emotional ad campaigns by both sides. Proponents used images of sad-eyed greyhounds that they say are caged inhumanely and raced to injury, while opponents put the spotlight on the employees who would be out of work if the ballot passed. A similar ballot question was narrowly defeated in 2000.

The ban, which takes effect in 2010, passed by a vote of about 56 percent to 44 percent, with more than two-thirds of the precincts reporting.

Plus this new guy became President-elect, but I'm sure you all knew that...


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Vote Yes on Prop 2!

California voters, please vote YES on Prop 2! Check out the PRO arguments at:

Monday, October 6, 2008

Pet Custody Battles

An article on CNN:
Five years ago, Sara Vreed got embroiled in soap-opera-style custody arrangements with her ex-boyfriend -- and they don't even have children. What was at stake were the living arrangements for their 5-year-old canine, a Shetland sheepdog named Ivo.

Divorce left Jennifer Keene and her husband with one dog each and she later adopted Buffy.

"After we broke up, my ex got Ivo on the weekends," says Vreed, 31, an associate at an architecture firm in Portland, Oregon. "But it was really taxing on (the dog), and he started having a lot of behavior problems."

The courts have yet to institutionalize the standard of "the best interest of the dog," as they have for children, but it's the benchmark experts like Jennifer Keene, a dog trainer and the author of "We Can't Stay Together for the Dogs: Doing What's Best For Your Dog When Your Relationship Breaks Up," advocate when it comes to working out new pack arrangements.

So, if you miss out on custody, can you at least get visitation rights? How's this affect the pack hierarchy?

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New Yorker Article on Pet Trusts

eona Helmsley’s will left millions to her dog, Trouble.

Rich Bitch

The legal battle over trust funds for pets.

by Jeffrey Toobin September 29, 2008

The life of Leona Helmsley presents an object lesson in the truism that money does not buy happiness. Born in 1920, she overcame a hardscrabble youth in Brooklyn to become a successful condominium broker in Manhattan, eventually alighting, in the nineteen-sixties, at a firm owned by Harry B. Helmsley, one of the city’s biggest real-estate developers. The two married in 1972, and Leona became the public face of their empire, the self-styled “queen” of the Helmsley chain of hotels. In a series of ads that ran in the Times Magazine and elsewhere, Helmsley’s visage became a symbol of the celebration of wealth in the nineteen-eighties. She wouldn’t settle for skimpy towels, the ads proclaimed—“Why should you?”

In private, as it turned out, the grinning monarch wasn’t just demanding but despotic. Throughout her life, Leona left a trail of ruin—embittered relatives, fired employees, and, fatefully, unpaid taxes. Knowing that the Helmsleys had used company funds to renovate their sprawling mansion, Dunnellen Hall, in Greenwich, Connecticut, disgruntled associates leaked the records to the Post. Among the charges billed to the company were a million-dollar dance floor installed above a swimming pool; a forty-five-thousand-dollar silver clock; and a two-hundred-and-ten-thousand-dollar mahogany card table. In 1988, the U.S. Attorney’s office charged the couple with income-tax evasion, among other crimes. (Harry Helmsley avoided trial because of ill health; he died in 1997, at the age of eighty-seven.) At the trial, a housekeeper famously testified that Leona had told her, “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes,” and the public warmed itself on a tabloid bonfire built under the Queen of Mean. Leona was convicted of multiple counts and served eighteen months in federal prison. In time, following her release, she became largely a recluse, and she died at Dunnellen Hall on August 20, 2007.

After her husband died, Leona Helmsley got a dog named Trouble, a Maltese bitch. In her will, which she signed two years before her death, Helmsley put aside twelve million dollars in a trust to care for Trouble. Further, she directed that, when Trouble died, the dog was to be “buried next to my remains in the Helmsley Mausoleum,” at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, in Westchester County. Helmsley made only a handful of relatively small individual bequests in the will, and left the bulk of her remaining estate to the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. Based on the figures in court files, that trust may turn out to be worth nearly eight billion dollars, which would make it one of the top ten or so foundations in the United States. (Leona’s estate was so large because Harry left his fortune to her.) According to a “mission statement,” which Helmsley signed on March 1, 2004, the trust was to make expenditures for “purposes related to the provision of care for dogs.” The size of the bequests, to Trouble and to dogs generally, has generated widespread astonishment.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Lawyers want Ontario law banning pit bulls neutered

An appeal to Ontario's pit bull ban is being heard in court on Sept. 15th and 16th.
In late March, the provincial government claimed victory after the controversial law survived a constitutional challenge. But a judge did change the law in two ways by ruling the ban on "pit bull terriers" fails to refer to a specific type or breed of dog.

Under this law, pit bulls are defined as American pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American Staffordshire bull terrier or any dog that looks similar. Owners need to have their dogs neutered, leashed, and muzzled in public or they face a maximum penalty of 6 months in jail and a $10,000 fine.

Probably a misguided law to begin with, disregarding the vague definition, since the demeanor of any dog (pit bull or not) depends on the training it receives, not its particular breed. Pit bulls I know tend to be the sweetest, most friendly dogs out there. A law like this will only increase the stigma already attached to owning one of these great dogs.

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