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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