{Legal Issue} Restraining Dogs in Cars

I am going to NY this weekend and currently suffering from some yucky cold that I can’t kick, so when my hubby called and woke me up at almost 10 o’clock last night to tell me he had lost his cars keys I was less than thrilled, to say the least.  He was at an NBA game downtown and needed me to bring him the spare set.  I decided that if I had to drag my butt out of bed, I might as well bring the dogs along and make it an adventure.  So I folded down the seats, rolled the windows down (but not too far because Buddy has been known to jump out so he can go introduce himself to strangers) and off we went.

Getting downtown was no problem, nor was finding Rich….but getting back?  For whatever reason I took the wrong exit and we ended up going waaay out of the way.  And then a police officer pulled up behind me…and stayed there.  I suffer from the delusion that      I’m always going to get caught when there is a police officer around.  For what?  Who knows.  But my mind was racing.  Was he running my plates?  Was he looking at my “My Pit Bull is Family” bumper sticker and getting ready to pull me over and shoot Maggie?  (I have read one too many sad storied about pit bulls being shot and yes, I’m a “worst-caser”, plus I was sick and tired!)  Could he see the dogs in the back and was getting ready to pull me over for that?  It seems like I remember hearing that they are going to start requiring dogs to be restrained, but I can’t quite remember….then the officer turned and I was safe.  But my mind kept going.  Had I in fact been breaking a law by having the three of them loose in the back of my SUV?  Turns out, Rich had already researched this and I completely forgot to read (and obviously post) what he had learned!  Let’s all find out together:

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There is currently a push for legislation in states to prohibit driving a car with a dog unrestrained in it. The push stems from a fear of dogs causing accidents by interfering with the driver’s use of the steering wheel or pedals, or distracting the driver or from the added damage that can occur when in an accident, that the dog can become a “missile” further injuring itself and/or the occupants of the car. I know in our household traveling with the dogs in the car has lead to more than one red light being run to avoid having to slam on the brakes and making them go flying.

There are seven states that restrict letting dogs or other animals ride in the back of a pick up truck or otherwise open air vehicles. Though many of these statutes can be complied with by putting the dog in a crate in the bed of the truck, or by cross tethering the animal to the truck.

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There are only a few states that currently have any law on the books that can be used to ticket someone that drives with an unrestrained dog inside the car. New Jersey is one such state and a fine of up to $1,000 for someone improperly transporting an animal.  At this time, Florida does not have a specific law on the books for this.

Other states prohibit driving with a pet in your lap. Hawaii has an explicit law prohibiting this conduct and Arizona, Maine and Connecticut can use their distracted driving laws to ticket drivers for this conduct.

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“What do you think? Tell mom! She loves to hear your input!”

What do you think? Is driving with a dog unrestrained in the passenger compartment of the car inherently dangerous, should there be a law against it, or would this just be more needless regulation? Don’t just tell us! In a previous post we linked to this Library of Congress website that allows you to contact your local state legislator. Write them and tell them what you think about potential legislation and then share your thoughts here with us.

{Legal Issue} Pet Care After Your Death

Eeeek.  Now there’s an unpleasant thought.  Oh, you hadn’t ever thought about it before?  Well buck up cowboy because you know what?  Shit happens.  Car accidents, heart attacks, plane crashes.  People die every day that weren’t planning on it.  And guess what, if you aren’t prepared, it could very well be your beloved pet that ends up sitting in a cold shelter, alone, confused, and in mourning.

IMG_1678 About a year ago a woman contacted one of the rescues that I volunteer with and asked for help finding a home for her dog.  Her mother had passed away and no one in the family  wanted the dog.  It had already been living in boarding at a vet’s office for almost a month before she contacted us.  I got in touch with her and told her we would begin working immediately to find a foster home.  She called me later that day and told me the dog had passed away.  They suspected heart failure.  I believe it was a broken heart.  And this happens every. single. day. because people assume surely someone will care for their pet if they pass away unexpectedly, rather than taking the time to put a plan in place.  Here’s Rich with some advice on how best to prepare for the worst:

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Today’s legal topic is one that I actually came across in law school; and not in a specialized animal law class, nor in my pro bono work with the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, but actually in a class that many law students take in Florida: Gratuitous Transfers aka Wills, Trusts, & Estates. Today we’re talking about a bit morose, but necessary topic: providing for your pets in the event you die or become incapacitated before they do.

Many of us have friends that we know would take care of our animals for us if something untimely were to happen. While this may work in the short term, depending on the needs of your pet, it can become quite a hardship for someone to take on over the long term. Additionally, in the case of death a pet may become the subject of a property dispute among your friend and a family member that has always loved the dog, or worse one that may think that it can be sold for a profit.

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A way to get around the possible property dispute is to include your dog in the property left by your will. Doing this ensures that there is a record of your wishes as to who is to take care of your dog at your passing. In the case of incapacity, a living will can include the same provisions and direct who is to take care of your dog. In the case of a will, there still exists the problem that just because you leave your dog with someone doesn’t ensure that they will continue to have the funds to take care of the dog for the life of the pet. Property from a will is distributed all at once, and what’s more is that it can take a long time, a year or more, before the probate process is completed.

The most complete way to make sure that your pet is taken care of is to establish a pet trust. Traditionally pet trusts used to fail because the pet was set up as the beneficiary. Courts would not enforce the trust because the beneficiary, the pet, could not sue the trustee in case that the trust was not being administered in the way that it is meant to be. However now all states in the US recognize pet trusts. Now, instead of making your pet the beneficiary, the creator of the trust designates the new keeper of the pet as the beneficiary of the trust. The next step is to make sure that you have a trust instrument drafted that details all of the care that your pet will need, and provides for other care and maintenance as the pet may require. The trust instrument can even instruct which vet the pet is to be taken to for the rest of its life.

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Now in addition to naming the caretaker of the pet, i.e. the beneficiary of the trust, you will also have to name someone to administer the trust, this is the trustee. The trustee is charged with making sure that the letter and spirit of the trust instrument is followed, and that the beneficiary is taking care of your pet the way that you would want. The trustee disburses funds for the upkeep of the pet as they become due. This can be a personal friend, associate, or you can use a trust company to administer the trust. The last thing that you need to do is fund the trust. This can be done by depositing the money to fund the trust in an account with a bank or trust company just for this purpose, you can direct that funds be taken out of another account in your will at probate to fund the trust, or you can even name the trust as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy.

One last thing to consider is what you want done with the balance of the trust fund at the time when your pet passes on. You can designate that the balance go anywhere, so you can leave it for the caretaker of the trust as a “thank you” for caring for your pet after you are no longer able to, or you can pass it to another person just like a gift under your will, or you can designate that it pass along to a charity of your choice.

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   In addition to everything Rich just proposed, there is something I would like to add: sit down and write out all of your dogs routines, favorite treats, allergies, quirks, and anything else that can’t be solved with just having money set aside.  I actually stumbled across a book that you could buy and fill in with every single detail imaginable about your pet so that if you did pass away untimely, the book could be given to the designated caregiver.  For the life of me I can’t remember the name of it or find it now but I will keep searching and share it if I do.  But think about it: no one knows your pet like you do and if you were to pass away he will already be a mess so the least you can do is make sure the future caregiver has all the tools necessary to make the transition as smooth as possible.  I know this was a rather long and morose post today, but I think it is so important, and not something to be ignored because it is unpleasant.  Now, go kiss your pet put a smile back on your face!

A Word From Maggie:

Hey there everybodies!  Moo here.  Has you heard the news?  I got ‘dopted!

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I have a little confession to make though.  I already knew I was with my forever family, it just took foster momma a little longer to figure it out (she’s slow like that, ya know?)  Oh, and that’s another thing!  I can finally stop calling her “foster” mom now.  She insisted that I say that before, and I was like, “Ok lady, but you know you is my mom.”  Sometimes you just gotta let them have their way.

IMG_3277 Mom has been really slacking on the bloggy lately and I knows you all have missed hearing bouts me so I thought I should tell you a little about my new house.  Really, the only important thing to know is that it has the biggest, most wonderful yard ever!  It is so awesome, we can run and run and run and…well you probably see where I’m going with this.  And we hasn’t had to wear our leashes at all!  So cool.  The picture below is of me and my most favorite thing about the yard: the big chewy tree.

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Yup, I gets to tear of the pieces and chew on them!  I know, I really do have a pretty cool momma, huh?  While I has been doing important things, like chewing, and running, and sunbathing, mom has been doing what she calls “improvements” around the house.  I don’t see what there is to improve though, the yard is already awesome.  Despite that, she has been spending a lot of time with these roller thingies putting stuff on the walls.  Looks about the same to me, but she says the color (what’s color?) is more her style.  Whatever lady.  And she has been doing this other project that keeps making dad go somewhere called “Home Depot”.  (What’s a de-pot anyways?)

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The “before” picture. Fingers crossed I am able to channel my inner “Martha” and turn the guest bath into something a little more snazzy!

I sure hope she knows what she’s doing.  I guess she has pretty good taste though, she did pick me after all.  Well, I guess that should just about catch you all up on everything you missed.  Oh!  I almost forgot.  Mom says we get to go to the beach this week!  Since the beach is pretty much The Greatest Place Ever, I’m pretty excited.  I’ll make sure she gets some pictures so you can all admire my pretty face.  Ok, bye for now friends!

It’s OFFICIAL!

Maggie has been ADOPTED:

FUR 006 edit-(ZF-1860-91697-1-001)Our more astute readers probably picked  up on my oooh-sooo subtle clues that the family was in fact mine: the experience with pitties, the willingness to continue working on obedience training, the two dogs, and as of two days ago when we moved into our new house, the big backyard.

FUR 007-(ZF-1860-91697-1-002)To be completely honest, I never ever wanted a third dog.  My two are so easy and wonderful that I wanted the third-dog-slot to be permanently reserved for foster dogs.  And if I was going to pick a third dog, it most certainly would not be a little 40 lb. one.  But what Maggie lacks in size, she certainly makes up for in personality.

FUR 035-(ZF-1860-91697-1-007) With us moving from Tallahassee to Jacksonville, and no other foster home available, Maggie would have been placed in boarding until she was either adopted or another foster home became available.  My long term readers know that Maggie went almost an entire year before the first person expressed interest in adopting her–and they weren’t even approved.  How could I, in good conscience, allow her to be sent to a boarding facility for what likely would be a very long time, when she had a perfectly good home already, right here with us?  After all, my responsibility as a foster mom is first and foremost to do what is best for my foster dog; my personal wants are secondary.  Don’t misunderstand me, we all love Maggie dearly and she really is part of our family, I am just a little sad because with this adoption I think my fostering efforts will be halted, at least for now.

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So, we made the decision that Maggie would stay with us forever.  We moved the day we got back from the honeymoon from a little apartment into a home that is nearly triple the size and, to all of our relief, a nice big fenced in back yard.  I’d say Maggie is a true rags to riches story.  She is home, permanently.

Big, BIG News!

I am super excited to announce that we may have finally found the perfect family to adopt Maggie Moo!  I can’t believe, after just over a year in my home, she may finally be getting her permanent, furever family!

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They have already filled out and turned in their application for her.  I have to admit, they sound perfect.  Stellar vet records, experience with “bully” breeds, a willingness to continue working on Maggie’s obedience training, a large fenced in yard, AND they have two dogs already so Maggie would still get to be in a “pack” which I know is so important for her and she loves so much.  Sounds like the perfect match for our girl, huh?

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You might remember how tough it was for me last time I thought there was a family interested in Maggie, if not, read about it here (warning, I’ve been told it was a wee bit of a tear jerker.)  After going through the whole sadness thing, I really did get myself excited, and then was hugely let down after doing the meet-n-greet with the prospective family.  Well, I have to say, I don’t feel any of that fear or apprehension this time around.  Instead, I am just excited for Maggie–after all her happiness really is my number one concern and I think this family can offer her all the happiness in the world.

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So, tomorrow is the wedding and then we leave bright and early Sunday morning for the honeymoon.  We’ve decided to go ahead and board Maggie as planned because, let’s be honest, there is no way I would enjoy myself on the honeymoon if I was stressing about how Maggie is doing.  We get back on Friday night and the movers arrive early Saturday to take us to Jacksonville so we’ve told the family they need to have a firm decision made before Saturday.  No wishy-washy, unsure, waiting-days-to-tell-us-their-decision allowed here!

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For the Love of Dog

If you’ve been following my blog for long you might remember the The Butterfly Effect post from back in December.  I talked about how one person’s actions can touch so, so many people.  Today was the last day at my job of the past five years.  Aside from Buddy, this job was the most consistent thing in my life since I was about 16, and I spent the day thinking about what a “butterfly effect” the job has had on my life.

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  Sure, I have learned a whole heck of a lot about real estate and managing large properties, but it’s the people that this job has allowed me to meet that has made the biggest impact on my life.  I met Rich, my very soon-to-be husband, through this job.  Of almost equal importance, I met my friend Kayla, “The Catalyst.”  In addition to being a great person and hilarious friend, she is the one that told me about Last Hope Rescue, which I started fostering through, and then became a board member of.

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Kayla on the far left and Mariah on the far right.

Through Last Hope Rescue, I have met countless (seriously, I don’t even want to try to list them for fear that I would forget someone) people that, without a doubt, are some of the best people I have ever been lucky enough to know and call friends.  These are the types of people you read stories about and go, “Whoa, I’d like to be friends with them!”  Yea, I get to actually call them my friends.  They have bigger hearts, and more giving souls, than anyone I have ever met in a church.  The president, Angela, has taught me more than I would like to know about running a rescue all while becoming a great friend.  And I can honestly say that I have learned something from each and every person I have met through Last Hope Rescue.

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Ohhhhh, Mariah.

Through work I also met two other girls that have become a couple of my very best friends.  Mariah started working here and after quickly realizing that her love of animals (and scary movies/books and health food) rivaled even mine, I started pestering her to foster.  It took some convincing but after she committed, she never looked back, and her home has seen a lot of dogs pass through it on their way from hell (aka the shelter) to their forever homes.  We all joke that she is the “magical foster” because she has a knack for getting dogs not only adopted quickly but, more importantly, into perfect homes.  I also pestered her to start a blog, which if you haven’t already, you should totally check out here.  (Apparently sentimental was the theme of the day…)  I don’t really believe in soul mates, but if I did, Mariah would probably be mine.  I love her dearly and know that we will always stay close regardless of the miles between us.

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Me, Mariah, and Chelsea “modeling” for the Pin Ups For Pound Pups calendar.

And then there is my friend Chelsea.  She is a resident of one of the properties that I managed and when she moved in she listed her dog as a “Doberman” mix.  I ran out the door after her and told her to change the breed “because those are considered dangerous.”  (There’s that damn BSL!  Don’t even get me started on this–it’s probably the thing I disliked the most about my job.)  We started chatting and I told her about Last Hope Rescue.  Not long after that she started volunteering at the Wakulla County Animal Control after seeing repeated posts from Last Hope on FB begging for help for them.  Then we got together and started a FB page just for WCAC.  You might remember posts like this, or this, or this where I shared stories about some amazing successes.  Chelsea is probably the most impressive person I have ever met.  It’s hard to find words to describe her but let’s just say her inner beauty is even greater than her outer, which is really hard to fathom because she should probably be modeling rather than going to Law School (yea, brains and beauty–it’s just not fair!)  Her dream job is going to take her away from Florida but it’s ok because just like Mariah I love her dearly and know we will always stay close, no matter the miles between us.

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This is what animal rescue looks like: Friends, tied together for the love of dog.

Each of these girls have gone on to get other people involved and it really has been a butterfly effect in our little community.  We may not be changing the whole world, but for one dog at a time, we are changing their world.  Every single one of them (again, waaay too many to list) have touched my heart and changed me in some way forever.  I will take them with me everywhere I go.  And I know this isn’t the end because we will all continue working together to save lives.  Now it’s time for me to tackle a new city.

All Dogs Go To Heaven.

And there sure are going to be some awesome ones waiting there to greet me.  Just yesterday my friend at Tails of a Foster Mom shared this quote:

“If there is a heaven, it’s certain our animals are to be there. Their lives become so interwoven with our own, it would take more than an archangel to detangle them.” -Pam Brown

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I am quiet in my faith, not one to get into loud arguments, or nit-pick at interpretations from verses in the Bible, but one thing I stand firm on is my belief that God loves all of his creations equally.  Be it a human, a dog or cat, or a little snail crossing the side walk: God created them, and in my eyes, He loves them.  If you know me well enough, you know that this is why I always choose to root for the underdog.  The “ugly” dog that is missing an eye.  The boy in the lunch room that talks funny and no one will sit next to.  These are the people and creatures I have always sought out and done my best to befriend.  Because, who am I to say that they aren’t beautiful or deserving of love?  God chose to create them that way for a reason.  I may not understand it, but who am I to deny that He placed them here?

I struggle with understanding how God can allow any of His creatures, human and non human alike, to be treated in some of the terrible ways we all know exist.  And why does it always seem to be the most innocent among us that are abused the worst?  Little children that are molested, our elders that are neglected in nursing homes, or dogs like Holly that are starved and denied even basic medical care by the very ones that are supposed to be caring for them.  I will probably never understand how He lets this happen, but what gives me solace in all of these injustices, is the fact that I know, deep in my gut, with all the fibers of my being, that one day they will be happy in Heaven.

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And when the time comes for me to join them, I have a lot to look forward to.  I’m quite certain that Maddie, the sweet Lab my parents had when I was born, and undoubtedly the reason I am an animal lover today, will be the first to greet me, ready for a game of fetch.  I will never get the image of finding her dead in our pool out of my head, but I know that when she greets me, it will be with a big grin and sloppy kiss, no evidence of her violent end in sight, just happiness.  

And Corky, the first dog I ever really rescued, will come racing up behind her on her short, goofy Basset/Beagle legs.  I found Corky when I was in kindergarten and thanks to her I had my first experience with sh!tty dog owners.  You see, after Corky was impregnated by their giant Bull Mastiff, they decided they didn’t want her anyone.  I told my mom this after taking her on a walk around the neighborhood and meeting her former owners.  Like any good mother would do, mine didn’t believe my story, and marched me right over to their house to find out if I was in fact telling the truth.  Turns out, I was, and they just really didn’t care what happened to her.  She was my best friend and moved all the way from Florida to Nebraska with me.  When she comes to greet me in Heaven, it will be with all the exuberance she had in her younger years.

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And then Sara will come over, after stopping to sniff all the other dogs’ butts along the way, to give me all the kisses I can handle.  I got Sara when I was 13 after hearing through a family friend that her owners decided they “didn’t feel like dealing with her anymore.”  My second experience with just how heartless people can be.  Sara came from a champion bloodline (she was a Brittany Spaniel) and despite the fact that she won Best in Show numerous times, was about as dumb as a door nail.  She was goofy, and weird, and usually not all there, but I loved her nonetheless.  When I was 16 Sarah went downhill fast and my parents told me since she was my dog, it was my decision what to do with her.  I called the vet, loaded her in my car, and took her to be put down.  I felt, and still firmly believe, it was the humane thing to do.  She had lived a good, long life, and I owed it to her to die with a little dignity left.  My dad still talks about watching me pull into the driveway after doing that all by myself and how he had never felt so equally heartbroken but proud at the same time.  Sara too will be restored to her former glory and will surely provide me with an eternity of entertainment.

And these are just a few of the dogs that I know will meet me, right at the gate.  I believe all of the abused, neglected, unwanted, and otherwise wronged creations of God will be right there, with big grins on their faces, because finally they are free.  Scars, both physical and emotional, will disappear and they will be restored to the condition God intended them to be in: happy, safe, and loved, just like they should have been from their first moment on Earth til their last.  And if your beliefs says otherwise, I respect that, but I hope you’re wrong 🙂  Because really, who would want to spend eternity without our beloved family members?

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Rest In Peace sweet Holly.  When the time is right, we will meet again. Until then, look for Maddie, Corky, Sara and all the other dogs I’ve sent to Heaven.  You’ll be fast friends.