Netflix’s “Tiger King” Documentary Overlooks Animal Welfare Issues in Favor of EntertainmentMay 1, 2020
New Law Passed to Address Emotional Support Animals in HousingAugust 26, 2020
by Matthew Dietz, Chair
Florida Bar Journal, Vol. 94, No. 3 May/June 2020 Pg 52
The Animal Law Section (ALS) is proud to continue its role in the forefront of promoting animal law issues, outreach to the Florida legal profession and the public, and building a lifestyle brand of incorporating animals as a part of attorney wellness. As stated by the Program Evaluation Committee in ALS’ first evaluation as a new section: “[T]he Animal Law Section has done an exemplary job during its beginning years and especially commended their efforts on excellent contributions to The Florida Bar Journal, highly rated continuing legal education seminars, unique marketing ideas, and creative events such as the Puppy Pit and Goat Yoga during The Florida Bar’s Annual Convention.”
We are continuing to build momentum as Bar members become more familiar with our mission and platforms. One of our basic missions is to ensure that our membership is kept aware of the latest updates in federal and state laws that affect animals in the state of Florida. Members of the ALS have been active in advocating for the implementation of such laws and educating the public for the necessity of such laws. This past year, the Florida Legislature passed conservation efforts that prohibit the import, export, and sale of shark fins (HB 401/SB 680); protected our bears from hunters during the closed seasons (HB 327/SB 688); and added green iguanas and Argentine black and white tegus to Florida’s list of prohibited species (HB 1415/SB 906). For domesticated animals, the Florida Legislature passed laws authorizing protection of pets in an domestic violence injunction (HB 241/SB 1082); ensured safety in shelters for pets during an emergency (HB 705/SB 752); and attempted to clarify requirements for emotional support animals in housing (HB 209/SB 1084). Finally, Florida Rep. Ted Deutch introduced and shepherded a federal animal cruelty law (HR 724) through the U.S. Congress that makes it a federal crime to produce and distribute animal crush videos.
Bills that did not pass this session, that we are hoping will be re-introduced include prohibitions for pet leasing (SB 186), banning the brutal practice of declawing cats (SB 48), requiring reporting for animal cruelty (HB 621/SB 1044) designating shelter animals as the official state pet (HB 1277/SB 240), providing emergency transport for police canines (HB 507/ SB 240), and requiring research facilities to offer up animals for adoption (HB 181).
As part of our mission to educate the membership on substantive areas of animal law, ALS has submitted for articles to The Florida Bar Journal and had numerous CLEs to bring awareness to the many opportunities within the field of animal law. Animal law includes virtually every substantive area of law: including but not limited to, estate planning, family law, environmental law, disability law including service animals, criminal law, entertainment law, and real property law. Animal law is everywhere and continues to grow in popularity.
During this past year, ALS has submitted articles to The Florida Bar Journal on the end of Greyhound racing in Florida by Ralph DeMeo, how mediation is the best bet when your stud is a dud by Jeffrey Marcus and Bruce Blitman, reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Act by John Powell, and how pets should receive special consideration in marital dissolution and domestic violence proceedings by Margherita Downey and Sherry Andrews.
ALS’ main publication is its Paw Review newsletter and blog. The section will be publishing its next Paw Review newsletter in March, which will be distributed at meetings and circulated electronically on social media and to section members.
ALS has also produced a series of four webinars through the year, including issues on “The Hairy & Scary World of Animal Law Ethical Issues,” “If the Stud’s a Dud and Other Horse Tales: Mediation of Equine Law Disputes May Be Your Best Bet,” ” Can You Trust Your Pet? Estate Planning for Pets…and their People,” and “What Fits the Bill — Emotional Support Animals.” ALS held the first cat café-style CLE at the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando, where we taught on issues in animal law while the attendees were able to play with and hold six-week-old kittens.
Each year at the annual Bar convention, the ALS holds a continuing education program highlighting many important areas of Florida law and how it affects our state’s animals. This year will be no exception. This year’s CLE will be “Don’t Be Cruel to a Heart That’s True — Preventing Child and Animal Abuse,” which will address the role of animals in dependency, domestic violence, and dissolution proceedings. Last year’s Goat Yoga and Puppy Pit were big successes. Almost all the dogs were adopted. We will repeat last year’s success with another Puppy Pit, and this year we will have Goat Yoga on the hotel grounds.
The Puppy Pit and Goat Yoga has been a very popular event and has been shared across the country on social media. In addition to helping adopt animals, the ALS has also used the Puppy Pit and Goat Yoga to promote the Bar’s health and wellness initiative by describing the mental and physical benefits associated with having a companion animal. In the same vein, ALS has announced that it will be sponsoring “Justice’s Best Friend Day” on June 12, which will celebrate the contributions of animals in the justice system in Florida.
Our unique marketing ideas contribute to the image of the Animal Law Section to promote a lifestyle brand of animals and animal law to promote wellness. To benefit our members and the general membership of The Florida Bar, we have developed a line of branded products, including t-shirts, socks, hot sauce, and decals. Our membership is over 500 persons, our social media outreach is many more. ALS has over 2,800 followers on Facebook, and the total reach of our posts routinely exceed 8,000 views. ALS Twitter account currently has 1,395 followers, with an average of 50,000 tweet impressions per month. While our social media presence is considerable, we plan on updating our website in conjunction with other sections and begin actively merchandizing our products and information resources once available.
As part of our outreach, ALS members frequently speak to and sponsor activities for animal law student groups at Florida law schools, law enforcement, and the judiciary. The section’s CLE programs for the judiciary have been well-received and we continue to receive requests for additional programs. ALS members have also enjoyed a number of field trips to rescue organizations around the state including the Big Cat Rescue in Tampa (www.bigcatrescue.org); Kindred Spirits Sanctuary in Citra (www.kssfl.org), and Save the Chimps in Ft. Pierce (www.savethechimp.org).
A current focus of outreach are law students that are interested in animal law. ALS supports each of the Florida law schools SALDF chapters and expects that the incredibly active SALDF students at FAMU, Stetson, and FSU will become leaders of ALS, and The Florida Bar. The ALS sponsors an annual writing competition and the 2019-2020 Eighth Annual Animal Law Writing Competition is now open. The winner will be featured in our newsletter and will receive a $1,000 honorarium. Furthermore, the ALS offers free memberships to students.
The Animal Law Section and its partner Pets Ad Litem have provided over 1,500 stuffed Rikki dog dolls to Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare for distribution to children in its animal therapy program. The Rikki dolls resemble Rikki, a golden retriever therapy dog, who was the unofficial mascot for the Animal Law Section and was featured on the cover of The Florida Bar News.
The communications committee continues to support submissions to The Florida Bar Journal, as well as our popular newsletter, the Paw Review. The ALS is actively finalizing submissions for a Florida animal law treatise (the first of its kind) to be released before the end of the year.
As chair, I truly appreciate my board — the apostles of animal law, the hucksters of our unique merchandising ideas, and comrades in arms for our unconventional events. We have all made ourselves available to speak at many events, participate in outreach, and to fly the ALS banner.
We appreciate all members of the ALS and their efforts to continually grow and support our efforts. None of what we do would be possible without the generous support of time and effort of our executive council, committee chairs, Board of Governors liaison, F. Scott Westheimer, members, and our Florida Bar program administrator, Ricky Libbert.