Does your cat need a lawyer?
Eric A. says after his cat suffered serious complications during routine surgery, he and his husband called a lawyer. “We want justice,” says Eric.
Ann S. says after her kitten was injured in a neighbor’s house, she called a lawyer. “It felt good to call so someone could do this for me,” she says.
Paula K.. says after her cat jumped out the window of a veterinary clinic, she called a lawyer. “I didn’t know how to hear my voice,” she says.
Steven W. says after his ex sought custody of the cats, he called a lawyer. “My colleague said, ‘I really think you’re going to need a pet attorney,” says Steven.
A pet advocate? Yup. We have found that the number of lawyers who specialize in helping four-legged family members is growing, as is animal law.
Attorney Jeremy Cohen, who founded Boston Dog Lawyers with the slogan “It’s Time to Bark Back”, may soon have to consider adding a catchy cat slogan to his marquee. “I’d say probably 20% of our calls are now cat owners,” says Jeremy. “I’ve found that judges certainly take the cases seriously.”
Eric, Ann, Paula and Steven hired Jeremy to represent them in their ongoing litigation.
Eric says his 6-year-old cat got into cardiac arrest during a teeth cleaning, but the vet resuscitated her with CPR. “It was crazy,” says Eric. He picked up his cat and ran her to the emergency room. She was put on a ventilator but was in terrible condition. He and his husband made the decision to let her go. You are now suing for misconduct.
“We’re devastated,” says Eric.
Ann says a neighbor invited her kitten to play and when she picked him up, his leg was broken. “He had to have an operation,” says Ann. “It was so annoying.”
She asks the neighbor to pay the $ 5,000 bill. “They refused to take responsibility,” says Ann. “If it were me, I would feel responsible. Similarly, if I loan you my car and you get into an accident, you or your insurance company will pay for the damage. “
Paula says her terrible ordeal began as a nail cut at the vet. “My cat was frightened and ran around the clinic, climbing the walls to find a way out,” says Paula. “Unfortunately he found his way out of an open window. He went through the screen. “
She took action. “I screamed like I never screamed. I ran out of the office! “But her cat was gone. Paula never stopped looking. After five months, someone finally found her cat. He was seriously ill, recovered, but now has ongoing health problems.
Paula wants the veterinary clinic to pay his medical bills. “It breaks my heart, we have to do this,” she says.
Your cat may need a custody and cat nups attorney
Steven says he was able to show that he was the best pet parent and had all the records to prove it. He won his custody battle. “The cats are my children. I love her, ”he says. “I’m lucky enough to have the money to pay for a pet attorney.”
Animal advocates say custody of cats is one of the most common calls they receive. “People are emotionally invested,” says Jeremy. “You think you are the best owner and will not rest until the animal is in your arms again.”
To avoid disputes, some couples write “Pet Nups”. The agreements include custody, visits and financial assistance in the event that they break up.
“The law and legal system are increasingly reflecting what many of us already know that cats and other pets are members of our family,” said Cristina Stella, attorney with the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “When partners argue over who should take custody of a cat during a separation or divorce, the courts can consider which partner is better at keeping the cat’s overall wellbeing than just who paid for them or their expenses.”
Growth of animal rights
Experts say the expansion of animal rights is a reflection of people’s devotion to their pets. The owners pay new types of lawyers trained on difficult cases.
“The growth has been exponential, especially over the past decade,” says Professor Kathy Hessler, director of the Animal Law Clinic at Lewis and Clark Law School. “In 2008 we were the only animal program in law school, and now there are maybe a dozen in the US.”
Animal-related lawsuits are now popping up in courtrooms across the country. Attorney Thompson Page, co-founder of the Center for Animal Litigation, says that every time an attorney wins a case, it helps set precedents and advance animal law. “There is a growing awareness of the value of these animals in the law, but the law needs to catch up to the point where pet owners and animals are recognized with rights and protection,” he says.
Some states will appoint cat attorneys
Some states recognize animal rights. For example, Connecticut passed groundbreaking laws in 2016 that allow courts to appoint attorneys as pro bono advocates for animals, usually cats and dogs, in cases of abuse.
It is known as “Desmond’s Law,” named after a dog, Desmond, who was brutally killed by its owner. Many Connecticut voters felt that the judge in the case did not correctly assess the gravity of the crime because no one was in court to stand up for the victim. The state legislature agreed. Abused animals now have a voice in legal proceedings.
Attorney Ken Bernhard has served as an attorney on four cases of cruelty. After each defendant was found guilty, Ken assisted the court in determining the appropriate sentence. “Abuse in any form should be discouraged, criminalized and punished,” he says. “People who commit atrocities are criminals. Your victims deserve to be heard, even those who cannot speak for themselves. “
While cases typically don’t make the headlines, when cats hurt people, their owners can be held responsible.
“Cat bites are different from dog bites in several key ways, but occasionally require a lawyer to solve problems,” says lawyer David Reischer.
In one of David’s cases, the house cat scratched its eye while the child was visiting. Neither the cat’s owners nor the child’s parents saw exactly what happened.
“There was no particular damage, disfigurement, or permanent eye loss for the baby,” says David. “There were substantial medical bills, and the parents’ contributory negligence in caring for the baby and the cat owner in monitoring the cat were all relevant factors. The case was settled for the cost of medical bills. “
Less cat capers?
Lawyers say cats seem to have fewer problems than dogs. Communities typically have fewer regulations about cats. You won’t hear about cat leash laws, dangerous cat hearings, or illegal cats.
“If cats pull a caper, they’re better off on the run,” says Jeremy. “Maybe it’s because a cat is great at running away and hiding quickly, and because dogs are more visible.”
Featured image: g_lutsenko | Getty Images
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