Animal Cruelty

By: Clark, Campbell, Lancaster & Munson, P.A.

Q: It appears animal cruelty is on the rise. What laws are in place to protect these animals?

A: For years, compassion for animals and anger toward abuse have been triggered by circus elephant acts, killer whales in confinement, and greyhound races. But, partly because the law allows these exhibitions, only recently have we heard of changes, such as Ringling Brothers voluntarily retiring its elephants. The Florida legislature continues to expand protections for animals, including this month by taking a look at bills to protect greyhounds and horses involved in racing, with some lobbying groups trying to make greyhound racing unprofitable.

An extensive set of animal cruelty laws exist, primarily protecting livestock, dogs, and cats from the more horrifying stories we have heard recently, like animals being tied to railroad tracks or hung to death. A “zombie cat” allegedly buried alive was taken into possession by an animal welfare organization. While individuals could be accused of theft for taking another’s pet away regardless of suspected abuse, Florida allows certain organizations (in addition to law enforcement) to have an agent appointed for that purpose. When an animal is seized, a court hearing follows to determine whether the animal will be returned.

With limited exceptions, animal cruelty includes allowing any “unnecessary or unjustifiable pain or suffering”. Tormenting, starving, and mutilating all fall within this term and are at least a first degree misdemeanor (up to $5,000 fine / 1 year imprisonment) and as much as a third degree felony (up to $10,000 fine / 5 years imprisonment) for repeated, intentional acts, acts that result in death, or being any part of dog fighting (breeding, training, owning, promoting, betting, attending, or otherwise). Additional specific offenses prohibited by law include keeping a dog confined without exercise, abandoning in a public place, lassoing of horses for entertainment or sport, engaging in simulated bullfight exhibitions, allowing others to be exposed to a known contagious animal, and artificially coloring an animal under 12 weeks of age.

Contact animal control or other local law enforcement if you suspect animal cruelty is occurring in your neck of the woods.

 

The April 9th edition of “The Law” will celebrate National Public Health Week and address the dichotomy between science and the law on the issue of GMOs.

Questions can be submitted online to thelaw@clarkcampbell-law.com.]

Adding Durability to Your Estate Plan

By: Kevin R. Albaum
Clark, Campbell, Lancaster & Munson, P.A.

Q: How do I delegate authority in the event I become incapacitated?

A: A Power of Attorney is a legal document allowing a person (the “principal”) to delegate authority to an “agent” to act on the principal’s behalf. The document can be very specific and “limited” to allow the agent to complete a specific act such as selling the principal’s car, or it can be “general” to allow the agent to take most legal actions that the principal could also do on her own. Some such powers include creating trusts, making gifts of assets, selling property, accessing bank accounts, or signing contracts and other legal documents.

Generally, a Power of Attorney loses effectiveness when the principal becomes legally incapacitated unless the document specifically indicates otherwise, in which case the document becomes “durable”. A Durable Power of Attorney affords a principal planned protection should a health-related emergency or other unfortunate event causing temporary or permanent loss of capacity occur. Durable Powers of Attorney allow the agent to pay the principal’s monthly bills and make healthcare decisions during the incapacity.

Powers of Attorney drafted in Florida on or after October 1, 2011 are immediately effective from the date of execution. As a best practice, the principal should advise the agent of the Power of Attorney but not provide a copy of the document until the principal would like the agent to use it. The principal could let a family member or attorney hold the document or know of the document’s secure location and instruct the family member or attorney not to give the document to the agent until a certain time or event.

With boilerplate forms at your fingertips on the internet, you may be tempted to go at this venture without an attorney. However, legal help is wise to ensure the Power of Attorney document meets your specific circumstances and ensure that you have adequate protections in place, including protection from abuse of the powers by the agent.

The March 26th edition of “The Law” will address animal cruelty in the recent news and the legislature.

[Kevin Albaum is an estate planning and elder law associate attorney with the law firm Clark, Campbell, Lancaster & Munson, P.A. Questions can be submitted online to thelaw@clarkcampbell-law.com.]