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Tag: arguments

Your dog, too, might be “worthless”

monyaks

It’s bad enough that Barking Hound Village — an upscale day care and boarding facility with locations around Atlanta — is defending itself in Georgia’s Supreme Court by arguing, in part, that a dog that died after being in its care was “worthless.”

What’s even scarier, and more hypocritical, are the organizations that are agreeing with that.

When the case went before the state’s highest court yesterday among the documentation the judges had to consider was a friend of the court brief, filed by the American Kennel Club, the Cat Fanciers’ Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association — all agreeing pets are mere “property” and that courts should award no more than “market value” in cases involving their deaths.

Yes, Barking Hound Village, at least on its website, professes to love your dog — and clearly has no problem charging you $60 a night for said dog to stay in its “presidential suite.”

And yes, veterinarians have no problem with you spending tens of thousands of dollars on your sick dog.

And, for sure, the American Kennel Club is only too happy to see the price of dogs go up, up, up — at least the provably purebred ones whose owners have registered them with the organization.

But your average, paperless pet, in the view of all those “pet-loving” organizations, is worth nothing — at least according to the friend of the court brief.

lolaThe case centers around a dachshund mix named Lola, who was 8 years old when she died of renal failure after her stay at the kennel.

Lola’s owners allege Lola was given medication she wasn’t supposed to receive, and it ultimately led to her death.

Barking Hound Village denies that it is responsible for Lola’s death. And even if it were, its lawyer argue, Lola’s owners should not recover anything more than the dog’s market value — in Lola’s case, since she was adopted from a rescue, exactly zero dollars.

“Their position is that a dog is like a toaster — when you break it, you throw it away and get a new one,” Elizabeth Monyak told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “A dog is indeed property under the law, but it’s a different kind of property.”

She and husband Bob Monyak spent $67,000 on veterinary expenses, including regular dialysis treatments for Lola.

Neither are strangers to the courtroom. She works for the state attorney general’s office. He’s also a lawyer, specializing in defending medical malpractice and product liability lawsuits. He argued Lola’s case before the justices on Tuesday.

Both sides have their supporters.

In the brief filed by the AVMA and AKC, the groups argued that considering a pet’s emotional value will lead to exorbitant amounts being awarded to pet owners in wrongful death lawsuits. And that, they all but threaten, would lead to bad things.

“Concerns over expanded liability may cause some services, such as free clinics for spaying and neutering, to close,” the groups said. “Shelters, rescues and other services may no longer afford to take in dogs and other pets … Fewer people will get pets, leaving more pets abandoned in shelters to die.”

The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a brief in support of the Monyaks. It cited industry studies showing U.S. pet owners spent $58 billion on their animals in 2014, including $4.8 billion on pet grooming and boarding.

“It is hypocritical for these businesses, including (Barking Hound Village), to exploit the value of the human-companion bond, while simultaneously arguing that the same should be unrecoverable when that bond is wrongfully — and even intentionally — severed,” the ALDF said.

The Monyaks boarded Lola and their other dog, Callie, at Barking Hound Village in 2012. At that time, Callie had been prescribed Rimadyl, an anti-inflammatory for arthritis. The Monyaks contend the kennel incorrectly gave the Rimadyl to Lola.

They further allege that Barking Hound Village knew that a medication error had occurred during Lola’s stay, and the kennel covered it up by destroying evidence and withholding critical information.

They seek to recover expenses for Lola’s veterinary treatment as well as for the value Lola had to their family.

Barking Hound Village denies any wrongdoing. It says both dogs were fine when they left the kennel. And attorneys for the kennel said this in court filings:

“The purchase price of the dachshund was zero dollars, the rescue dog never generated revenue and nothing occurred during the Monyaks’ ownership of the dog that would have increased her market value. The mixed-breed dachshund had no special training or unique characteristics other than that of ‘family dog.'”

We hope the Georgia Supreme Court uses the case of Lola to send a message to those who see dogs as mere “property.”

And we’d love to see an answer to this question, from the kennel, from the AVMA and from the AKC:

If our dogs are so “worthless,” how do you explain the fact that you are getting so rich off of them?

(Photos: Top photo by Branden Camp, from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution; photo of Lola provided by Monyak family)

John Oliver dogs the Supreme Court

Not since they started playing poker — at least on canvas — have dogs been presented as ridiculously and imaginatively as they are in this bit of cable television comedy.

Generally, dogs who are depicted as talking, or otherwise behaving as humans, fail to rise to the level of art, or even comedy, in my view. On top of never being too funny, the humanizing of dogs makes me wince. They’re perfect as they are; why drag them down to our species’ level?

But, in light of the point it makes, we’ll cut John Oliver some slack. Noting that cameras aren’t allowed in the U.S. Supreme Court, and that those courtroom artist renderings don’t make for riveting drama, Oliver suggested on his HBO show “Last Week Tonight” that dogs be used to act out the audio — the audio, unlike the video, being public.

“Cameras aren’t allowed in the Supreme Court, so most coverage of our most important cases looks like garbage. We fixed that problem with real animals and fake paws. Feel free to take our footage.”

In addition to what was aired on the show, he provided some stock dog video so that viewers can create their own dog-ified Supreme Court re-enactments. You can find that footage on YouTube. You can find some viewer submissions through #realanimalsfakepaws.

Oliver suggested broadcast news organizations use the animal footage with actual Supreme Court audio, instead of the boring still illustrations that they currently depend on. Doing so, he says, might get Americans more interested in what’s transpiring in the highest court in the land.

The sketch features dogs as the nine justices. That’s a bulldog as Antonin Scalia and a glasses-wearing Chihuahua providing the voice of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. There’s also a duck as an assistant, and a chicken as a stenographer. The sketch uses audio from an actual Supreme Court session (dealing with Holt vs. Hobbs, a case that questions whether prisons can force Muslim prisoners to trim their beards).

It’s unlikely the comedic barb will lead to any change in the stuffy and camera-shy court’s refusal to allow its proceedings to be televised. And if anybody took the issue to court, guess where it would eventually end up?

Even if the Supreme Court did go fully public, and became a TV show, I suspect it would only take one or two viewings of SCOTUS Live — or whatever it would be called — to turn most viewers off. In truth, most of us don’t want to watch the Supreme Court on TV, we just want to have that right.

More likely, after watching the dry and dusty judges making dry and dusty arguments, we’d all be saying, “Bring back the doggie version!”

Should dogfight videos be protected speech?

Should the sale of videos depicting dogfighting and other animal cruelty be protected by the First Amendment?

That’s the question the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on today in the case of Robert J. Stevens, author and producer of several films about pit bulls and dogfighting.

Stevens, 69, says he had nothing to do with the dogfights themselves. He only made and sold tapes showing them — tapes he says had educational and historical value. He was convicted and sentenced to 37 months under a 1999 federal law that bans selling “depictions of animal cruelty.”

The law was struck down last year when a federal appeals court overturned Stevens conviction on First Amendment grounds.

The  case has divided animal rights groups and free-speech advocates, according to the New York Times.

At issue is whether the court should designate a category of expression as so vile that it deserves no protection under the First Amendment. The last time the court did that was in 1982, with child pornography.

The law was enacted in 1999 in response to the sale of  “crush videos,”  which showed small animals being stomped on by women.

The law applies to recordings of “conduct in which a living animal is intentionally maimed, mutilated, tortured, wounded or killed.” It exempts materials with “serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical or artistic value.”

News organizations, including The New York Times, filed a brief supporting Stevens, arguing that the 1999 law “imperils the media’s ability to report on issues related to animals.”

In a brief supporting the government, the Humane Society of the United States said that “gruesome depictions of animal mutilation targeted” by the law “simply do not merit the dignity of full First Amendment protection.”

The American Humane Association also supports the federal government’s position. “This is a case about animal cruelty, plain and simple,” said American Humane President and CEO Marie Belew Wheatley. “… While many parties may argue the technicalities and interpretations of the law, the real focus should be that it is immoral, it is inhumane and it should be illegal to exploit, torture and kill animals for someone’s twisted sense of ‘entertainment’ and someone else’s profit.”

“While acts of animal cruelty have long been outlawed,” the brief for Stevens said, “there have never been any laws against speech depicting the killing or wounding of animals from the time of the First Amendment’s adoption through the intervening two centuries.” The brief also notes that Stevens’ sentence was 14 months longer than that of Michael Vick.

Violating the dog limit, she finds loophole

Margaret Bucher, the Wheeling, Illinois woman who was instructed to get rid of one of her five dogs because she was over the local dog limit, has wheedled her way out of the requirement.

A Cook County Circuit Court judge ruled Monday that she can keep her fifth dog, the suburban Chicago Daily Herald reports.

We first told you about Bucher back in early April, when she appeared before the village board, trying to get an exemption from the rule by bringing a letter of support from her mail carrier, and a letter ”written” by her dogs: “Please let us stay in our home. We are house dogs and live in a clean home. We have to depend on our owner to fight for us. She loves us very, very much.”

The emotional plea fell flat, so Bucher found a technicality.

Bucher was issued two citations, after the meeting, for violating the village’s four-pets-only rule and for not registering all of her dogs. She was facing daily fines of between $50 and $500.

Appearing in court for that, and representing herself, Bucher argued the village ordinance did not specify four pets per household, but instead four pets per person. In that case, she said, since she lives with her 43-year-old daughter, they should be able to keep all five dogs – a Pomeranian, two Maltese, a Shih Tzu, and a Maltese/shih tzu mix — or, for that matter, as many as eight.

After 35 minutes of hearing arguments from both sides, the judge sided with Bucher and advised village officials to rewrite the ordinance if it wants to limit households to four pets.

Bucher, 63, broke out into tears at the ruling. “I just screamed and I just ran and hugged everybody I could find to hug.”

Village officials, meanwhile are considering an appeal, or a rewrite. They’re also considering lowering the limit on pets to three per home in multifamily residential complexes, meaning it would impose a different standard on those who dwell in apartments, condominiums or townhouses.

A relieved Bucher was on her way Monday afternoon to to register her fifth dog, Gizmo, in her daughter’s name. “Gizzy is going to be so excited,” Bucher said. “We’re going to order a pizza. My dogs love cheese pizza.”