Monday, February 22, 2010

More Updates on Dogs and the Law

Two items of interest crossed my desk this morning. The first, thanks to a friend in Germany, concerns Switzerland and a vote they are about to take.
I didn't know, so I expect many of you may not either, that Switzerland is a true direct democracy. Citizens can collect signatures to bring an initiative to a full vote of the populace. Some Swiss have done just that, collecting over 100,000 signatures to bring a vote on requiring domestic animals to be represented by a lawyer in court. In cases of alleged abuse, a Swixx canton (similar to our states) would have to appoint a special attorney to represent the animal's side of the matter. Supporters say the current laws aren't strong enough to secure convictions against those suspected of animal cruelty, so having a court-appoint attorney to act on behalf of the animals is necessary.
The second is closer to home. In California, the majority leader of the state Senate, Dean Florez, has proposed that animal abusers be placed on the same level as sex offenders by listing them in an online registry, complete with home addresses and places of employment. A person would have to be convicted of a felony involving animal cruelty to make the list, but would then have to register with police and provide the state informaiton as well as a current photograph.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund, promoting the registry, says that there is a proven link between those who abuse animals and those who perform other forms of violence. An out-of-state attorney notes that such a list could be valuable in tracking people who run puppy mills, animal fighting rings, or who are just hoarders, as such people often just pick up and move if authorities get too close.
Mr. Florez recently helped establish an Animal Protection Caucus, and thinks he has the votes to more the measure forward. He comes from the farming-friendly Central Valley, and thinks that will also help his cause.

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