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The Defense of Animal Related Crimes

If you need advice or representation on a criminal matter involving animals, I am glad to help you. Whether the concerns are modest – as with a few questions about an officer's persistent visits to your home or kennel – or are serious – as with having charges filed against you by a city, county, or state alleging your abuse or neglect of an animal – I easily have the knowledge and experience to assist you. I can readily protect you at every stage, from initial investigations through to an appeal of a jury verdict, against the numerous problems and burdens which the criminal justice system imposes on the accused. I know all of the statutory, common law, evidentiary, procedural, and constitutional rights with which the defendant is cloaked in animal-related prosecutions, and I am prepared to vigorously defend each of those rights as necessary to help you obtain a just result. State or federal court, misdemeanor or felony charge, plea or trial, seizure or arrest, please consider my 27 years of expertise in this specialty field as a powerful ally on your side of the fight when problems arise.

A. Navigating through an animal-related criminal case

It has appeared to many for a long time now that our legal procedures seem crafted more to bewilder and confuse than to actually aid and resolve. What one would think should be a fairly straight path between being accused of a crime to determining if the accusation is valid, is not straight in any manner. More and more obstacles arise every year, small burdens and large curves thrown in the way by laws, by judges, by prosecutors, by veterinarians, by other animal owners, and often even by those whom supposedly are meant to be helping clear the way, by lawyers themselves.

Certainly, those poor souls who may get immersed in the swirling waters of an actual animal-related criminal charge can find themselves besieged on all sides by troubles, the known and the unknown. Sometimes they are in the form of myriad little annoyances such as threatened fines, impending deadlines, and public opprobrium. Other times they may arrive as one single large stone wall that appears absolutely insurmountable, a massively unmanageable risk of going to jail or losing one's pet, for instance.

Animal-related criminal charges may sometimes lead one into a courtroom, and, even though it really should not be, a county courthouse can be one of the most discomforting places on earth – a frantic place inhabited by folk who are cold strangers to you but warmly familiar with each other, conversing in low and solemn voices while tossing off important sounding phrases to other strangers and to the room at large about some of the most private matters in another person's life. Unhappily, a defendant may often feel in a courtroom that if they were to blink for even a moment something critical may have passed where the moment is then forever lost, the opportunity has floated away, the ruling has been made, or what should not have been done has been done and can never be undone, regardless of justice or of need.

The real assistance of someone who can pay close attention and navigate that path, carefully tread those waters with their eyes wide open, act sharply and not be unnerved by panic, can be the type of assistance which is absolutely invaluable in such a strange world. For twenty seven years I have traveled the roads lain down in a hodgepodge of different courtrooms with countless clients, all of whom started as strangers and the vast majority of whom have ended up as friends, and I have had a chance to work out in great detail, over those decades, what I personally feel are the most realistic and intelligent ways to walk such lines for those whom I help.

As the attorney, I have found that I am not just the one who gladly shoulders the numerous procedural obligations for my clients – knowing the right papers to use, the right words to speak, and the right tricks, traps, and deadlines to anticipate and overcome – but I have found that I am also a close and familiar guide for them as well, helping them to more easily understand and accept the twists and turns of their own particular personal legal path. I cannot promise that anyone's case will always be fruitful or cathartic or a joyful experience, but I can promise that, in defending my clients, every last rule and avenue for relief will be not just competently but effectively steered toward, and that for that effort the light at the end of every case I handle will have been a valuable light to have reached.

I have extensive experience in all types of animal-related criminal cases involving dogs, cats, horses, cattle, livestock, exotics, and wild animals. I always promptly and thoroughly investigate each case to assess legal and factual defenses available to exploit, and possess a comprehensive understanding of the various details of state and federal laws on animal-related issues of all types. Having handled tens of thousands of cases over 27 years as a trial lawyer, I am sensitive to the fact that those affected with serious charges are often burdened financially as well as physically and emotionally, and I will often provide free initial consultations to potential clients to determine what might best be done about a specific case. Should you have been investigated, arrested, cited or charged with an animal-related crime, please give me a call or send me an e-mail to discuss your rights and possible solutions for your problems.

B. Morality and animal criminal cases

The distinction between legal and moral obligations, the constitutional scholar Ronald Dworkin once wrote, "are not puzzles for the cupboard, to be taken down on rainy days for fun. They are sources of continuing embarrassment, and they nag at our attention." For criminal defense lawyers, contemplating those obligations is not a pastime reserved for gray-haired appellate panels and stuffy judicial conferences; it is a daily challenge levied against them and their clients at the starkest levels of human interaction.

An animal-related criminal case is no place for those with fainthearted dispositions toward duty or drama. People on both sides of the equation – the accused and the public – do more than just bristle at accusations of animal neglect and abuse. Every manner of human relationship can be affected: being accused of harming an animal may create conflicts between spouses, roommates, neighbors, colleagues, and families. Once a charge is leveled at a person for not taking care of their dog, or starving their cat, or mistreating their livestock, a variety of interpersonal dramas can unfold since such accusations, as opposed to ones of theft or fraud, can carry with them a high moral taint.

The legal compulsion and moral compulsion to do right by others, to others, to one's own pet, and to one's own community, collide with each case. Defense of animal-related crimes is an arena in which interpreting the phrase "to cause annoyance" does exactly that. Owners, who become alarmed, will bark. Statutes, with teeth, can bite. A bracing bit of municipal animal control code or state statute, sensibly applied, can do more to get a citizen off the rhetorical sidewalk and into the judicial street than all the town hall meetings and internet chat rooms in the world combined. In the same moment that a shaky alliance, formed on a sleepless night to quell a disturbance, may evaporate, a shaky resolve to "do something" about the treatment of a dog may solidify.

Animal-related criminal cases immerse participants in the roiling skirmish between dog-lovers and dog-haters, between cat people and cat-catchers. It is the judge or jury who, confronted with what to do about a set of bad or good facts, may best learn to sit, stay, perhaps roll over or beg, or, occasionally, bare their moral or judicial teeth.
Somewhere between chastising one for their disdain and commending another for their restraint, the testimonial exchanges in animal-related criminal cases demand the most careful listening an attorney may ever engage in, so as to not miss the muted interplay between a legal right regarding an animal, and a moral right regarding another's property, or livelihood, or psyche. The cases are not "puzzles for the cupboard," but are basic reminders of duties owed, legal and moral, to all animals, non-human and human alike.

C. Animal rights as impacting animal-related criminal cases

I believe in promoting the legal rights of animal owners, and I like creatively applying legal rules to the unique puzzles that animal ownership creates. I don't believe in the rights of animals, and don't like the reasoning often asserted in support of fashioning rules that would grant rights to animals. Animal rights activism is a relatively easy path these days, as long as there is no need to justify beliefs at a jurisprudential level. Little restrains the casual activist from proclaiming a hatred for abuse and a corresponding allegiance to easing animal suffering. Trouble brews, on the other hand, for any more thoughtful animal rights advocate who is pressed to actually define principles by which workable laws might be guided, and to justify, using equal parts science, law, and logic, the boundaries of their movement's formal position on animals and on rights. The movement, as it may be currently understood, is susceptible to strong criticism and not the criticism of those politically opposed or those in informal social disagreement. It is vulnerable on two fronts on which it presumes to found itself, from law and from science, and its weakness stems from terms that are ill-conceived and ill-pursued given both the way legal rules work as a practical matter and given the current level of our scientific knowledge about animals.

To have a right means also to be responsible for one's actions. An entity incapable of accepting responsibility, as with a child for instance, can be accorded protection, but not a right. A right requires the entity to make its own decisions, while a protection requires us to make decisions for another. Humans, as with animal owners for instance, make those decisions because we can distinguish between right and wrong in a moral sense, and the idea of duty then flows from that distinction. The animal rights movement, in contrast, earnestly believes that rights are disconnected from duties – but only for animals other than humans. Humans are apparently required to fulfill duties to respect the rights of animals to life, to freedom from human-induced pain, and to confinement, but animals are not required to have similar or reciprocal duties.

Animal rights advocates tend to heavily romanticize both wildlife and life in the wild. They rail against acknowledging that evolution by natural selection has permeated "the wild" with, and shaped it by, abusive, cruel, and unblinkingly predatory and destructive activities. Animals must live through a constant bevy of unavoidably vicious experiences: microscopic predators erode them; macroscopic predators eat them; parasites weaken them; vegetation restricts them; substrates degrade them; other animals pirate their resources; toxins invade them; hunger shadows them; their abiotic physical environment strains them; their biotic organic environment burdens them; and conspecifics, kin, and potential mates exploit them. The natural world is, by the necessity of how evolutionary processes work, a world in which competition for resources makes life unrelentingly harsh, brooks no permanent relief from pain and decay, terminates early, and is a world in which the careless and intentional acts of other living things in trying to keep their own bodies alive are regularly the cause of each trouble encountered.

Rights advocates discount the reduction of the natural horrors which captivity, farming, and ranching has effected on animals, preferring to trumpet the benefits that freedom has brought to humans and then apply the syllogism that those benefits are readily translatable to animals. In doing so, they mistake what life is like for an animal who is 'truly free', and threaten to truthfully expose animals to higher levels of pain and suffering than they currently experience in captivity, on farms, on ranches, and in homes.

The animal welfare movement's laudable goals include, patently enough, protecting the welfare of all animals. The movement's methods to reach those goals include promulgating legislation that penalizes the neglectful, the abusive, and the downright malicious. At the moment that in doing so, legislation favorable to the welfare movement then misapprehends the police power of the state and the protection of the citizenry, however, and compounds problems by offending the biological understanding of 'what an animal is', the methods begin to outstrip and disserve the goals. Ownership laws serve both nature and 'animal welfare' better, including in appreciating the anthropological origins of our complex animal-environmental interactions and in protecting the welfare of humans.

D. Exploiting animals as objects in criminal cases

The fact that simple usefulness has fueled men's practices of capturing and exploiting other animals is a historical fact. It is of interest predominantly to the records of mankind's social history. I am opposed to proposals that we refrain from owning or exploiting animals as objects. I am aware of the overt and subtle environment pressures on humans to engage in such activities, and a legal moratorium on ownership seems to me in some ways to have about the same chances of success as the attempted prohibition of alcohol had in our country's past and for roughly the same reason. A large-scale view of present and future behavior in light of the evolution of past human behaviors by natural selection pressures, suggests that legislating absolute restraints against using objects found in nature only raises the actual value of violating those restraints over the long run. Any law compelling humans to not treat animals as objects or properties at all is a law which, if it is enacted at all, I believe would create many, many more problems for both humans and animals than either may languish under at present.

I have no qualms at all that certain conditions, perhaps even quite severe restrictions, are often imposed upon the legal relations between animals and their owners. Any historian will tell you that humans have had a long record of using the law to successfully limit the scope of others' exploitation, especially if there's some financial or political gain to be had in making compliance a certainty. For that reason I see great promise in the futures of both humans and nonhuman animals were the former to simply legislate a more rigid and formal mode of exploiting the latter than is currently in place. Now, I suppose that makes me a member of the camp which always likes to see the damage created by historical prejudices repaired, not by the dismantling of the old laws created in their name, but simply by the construction of even more laws on top of the old ones. I can say without shame, therefore, that I think we should treat many types of animals, especially captive animals, as our properties.

As a realist, I am keenly interested in promoting the state of animal welfare from within a working system of legal and moral precepts, rather than from without, and I am much more confident of the progress of such a venture to boot. I would begin to do so, moreover, by asking why it is we have not – during our lengthy and detailed practices of acquiring, trading, and disposing of captive animals – paused to question this premise: that all captives must be treated equal to other personal properties under the law. That is, given that pets are our properties, does it follow that they are just any old properties, a non-defined entry in some general category of possessions, or does something about their nature make them special properties in the eyes of the law? As Claude Bernard, the father of experimental biology, grasped over a century ago, great advances in the human condition often occur when it is the premises themselves, rather than the conclusions derived from those premises, which are confronted in the arena of human and animal welfare. The premises of property equality from which our legal treatment of pets is derived is mistaken, and it must be abandoned.

Criminal Defense

  • Animal abuse
  • Animal neglect
  • Animal abandonment or fighting
  • Illegal import/export and trafficking
  • Wildlife violations
  • Animal dealing or hoarding
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Bites and Attacks

  • Injuries from dogs
  • Injuries from other domestic animals
  • Injuries from exotics
  • Ongoing animal nuisances
  • Confinement and trespass issues
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831 SW Hume St.
Portland, Oregon 97219
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Animal Law Practice, 831 SW Hume St., Portland, OR 97219 | 503-546-8052 | | 5/15/2024 | Page Keywords: animal law attorney Portland OR |