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Aug 29 2017

Conn. Appoints Lawyers for Dogs and Cats – Sorry, Its a Bad Idea in My Book

Last year, Connecticut enacted “Desmond’s Law” a law that made it the first state to allow judges to appoint lawyers and law students as advocates for dogs and cats in cases of cruelty, abuse and neglect. Similar roles have been established in courts at the county level, and Rhode Island enacted a law in 2012 allowing veterinarians to serve as advocates, but this is to my knowledge the first State-wide law appoint lawyers or law students to serve as advocates for animals. The Connecticut law was named for and motivated by the case of “Desmond,” a dog that the authorities said was beaten, starved and eventually strangled and thrown in a dump by his owner. The case mobilized animal activists, who were incensed after Desmond’s owner was placed in an accelerated rehabilitation program in 2013.This just proves my theory that laws named after people (or now pets) are rarely a good idea. Folks end up getting legislation passed to right one particularly heinous wrong but then that law is applied to much lesser examples of the same type of charge.

This place is going to the dogs

Who could argue with animals having someone to advocate for their rights in court- after all we have such positions for children and for the mentally disabled. The answer is Me, I can argue with it because I disagree with it, especially as it is applied in Connecticut. I have already written a blog article saying that comfort dogs for witnesses is a bad idea, so why not keep up the anti-dog rant. It’s not that I am anti-dog its that I am against anti-dog-activists pushing the criminal justice system for harsher penalties for crimes when they are not properly trained to to weigh in on such matters. Connecticut has left this important task to a hodgepodge of volunteers, many of them from an organization called “Desmond’s Army,” including a horse farm manager, a retired I.T. worker and a teacher who considers showing up to court hearings her summer job. The group was founded by Christine Kiernan, who helped organize Desmond’s Army after the case. According to the NY Times article on this issue, in one week, Ms. Kiernan “crisscrossed the state to attend three different court dates, always in the group’s signature purple shirt with a photograph of Desmond.” What training do these folks have to assess what led to the treatment the dog received; whether the defendant has mental health issues; whether the dog was seriously ill before the defendant was arrested;or whether the defendant could afford veterinary care. Or where the offense charged fits in with the overall criminal justice system.

The folks administering this program are not objective – they are activists, with an agenda. Again from the Times: “Supporters say that many of these crimes go unprosecuted or result in punishments they contend are too lenient, such as rehabilitation programs that can end with charges being expunged. ‘What I really, really wanted to do was get at those numbers of convictions,’ said Representative Diana Urban, a Democratic state lawmaker who sponsored the legislation. Guardian ad litems for children and the disabled are not part of the criminal justice system. They are only appointed in custody or probate cases to make sure the rights of the young or mentally incompetent are protected. The prosecutor is the person the system relies upon to give the court the victim’s perspective. Adding a voice for a pet sounds like a nice idea, but if that person is only there to consistently advocate for harsh sentences for the accused, then it is unfair and unwise. A person charged with a scandalous crime like animal abuse is already facing an uphill battle the minute they walk into court. Added pressure from “Desmond’s Army” now armed with court authority tips the scales of justice too much against the accused. Moreover, they often advocate for taking the dog away from the accused, leading to opposition to the law, including from groups such as the American Kennel Club, which opposed the statute because, as the club said in a statement, “individual owners could lose these ownership rights over their animals by having to give up those rights to third parties.”

If the court system seems too lenient against animal abusers, then meet with the local prosecutor and make your position known. Write your legislator for tougher sentence guidelines. You want to appoint a trained veterinarian to assess the status of the abused dog to see whether it can be treated, rehabilitated or needs to be euthanized – as was done by the Federal court in the Michael Vick case – of course. But having a second advocate in the courtroom arguing against the defendant is a burden that should not be placed on someone accused of a crime.

Follow me on twitter @oscarmichelen Animal activists can send hate mail to oscarmichelen@gmail.com

6 comments

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  1. Gloria Wolk

    I agree with you completely–and I am such an intense dog lover that I would not live without one, sometimes two. Another issue I have with this is the need for more public defenders–and better pay and resources so that they can effectively do their jobs.

    Every time there’s a new law named for a victim, it’s a sure bet someone saw political gain for sponsoring it, and other lawmakers saw political gain for supporting it. No real consideration for “unintended consequences” (aka collateral damage).

    So now these so-called activists have something to do to keep them busy–instead of volunteering at shelters or fostering rescue dogs.

  2. Fred Fingers IV

    “It’s not that I am anti-dog its that I am against anti-dog-activists pushing the criminal justice system for harsher penalties for crimes when they are not properly trained to to weigh in on such matters.”

    Not properly trained to weigh in on “such matters.” Referring back to what ? Penalties ? No training necessary. The crimes ? Not sure what training you think required.

    This leave it to the better trained is a slippery slope. You graduated from New York Law School so many in the profession of law would not consider you properly trained in legal matters.

    Not everyone can have “the best words” like POTUS.

  3. Fred Fingers IV

    Gloria, your point is both condescending and ridiculous. They’re “so-called” activists. Why ? Because you don’t like their activity ? (Like a so-called Judge when ruling against POTUS). You decide working in a shelter or volunteering is worthwhile but advocating for harsher penalties that’s “so-called activism”. Let’s all call Gloria next time before we get involved with anything so she can rate it’s worthiness.

    Go back a few decades and DUI even with a related death wasn’t that serious a matter. MADD a group of “so-called activists” (Gloria ?) that were “pushing the criminal justice system for harsher penalties for crimes when they are not properly trained to to weigh in on such matters.” (Oscar ?) changed that around. Many would agree for the better.

  4. Gloria Wolk

    Mr. Anonymous (aka Fred Fingers IV): Your reasoning is ridiculous. How can you compare MADD with people who would divert scarce resources to provide legal help for dogs and cats? MADD was organized to combat drunk driving, with the aim of reducing deaths and crippling consequences. How does legal help for dogs and cats make a difference–when there are laws against animal abuse, and they can be enforced by police? Sure, there are laws against drunk driving but it took MADD to educate the public and pressure police depts not to allow people with political connections and/or deep pockets to evade the consequences of their acts.

  5. Fred Fingers IV

    I got already, Gloria. You are the taste master of what causes are worthwhile.

    The laws relating to animal abuse are inadequate and are rarely enforced or punished. Good for these people to start applying pressure where it might matter. If it’s bothering Oscar’s highly developed New York Law School training on what is appropriate in this area then I’m sure it’s going in the right direction.

    Replace MADD in the last sentence of your ludicrous screed with these particular “activists” and replace the specific category of people you think were evading justice for DUI with people generally and it’s exsctly the same thing? The only thing that differs is the particular issue (DUI v. Animal abuse) and that is purely a matter of taste.

  6. Fred Fingers IV

    Excuse the typos. Dictated but not read,as they say. 😂

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