Category: Animal Welfare


Veterinary Malpractice

Veterinarians in Colorado are regulated by the State Board of Veterinary Medicine. Prior to seeking remedies in a Colorado court, the Board has the authority to hear the matter and render a decision. Among other issues, the Board may hear matters related to incompetence, negligence, or other malpractice in the practice of veterinary medicine. The Board will likely conduct an investigation and may hold a hearing which could end in disciplinary action, suspension, or revocation of a veterinarian’s license to practice. Note that the statute of limitations on actions brought against veterinarians in Colorado is two years from the time the action accrues.

Typically, what must be proved in a malpractice or related action is that the veterinarian was under a duty of care toward the animal, that the level of care was below the standard normally acceptable by other professionals in that same field, that the substandard care was the reason for the injury, and as a result, the injury to the animal resulted in damage to you, the caretaker.

Pets & Housing Issues

A variety of issues relating to pet ownership arise in the context of a residential lease or community living. No-pet policies may interfere with your right to care for and live with your companion animal. Depending on your particular situation, you may be able to keep your pet despite a no-pet policy or lease provision. On occasion, no-pet provisions may violate public policy or even state or federal law. Did your landlord say you could have a companion animal despite the contrary lease provision? Did the landlord know you had a pet but didn’t do anything about it until now? Is caring for your pet necessary for your mental or physical health? Were you able to have pets when you moved in and now there is a prohibition on having pets upon renewal of your lease? If any of these issues apply to you, there may be a legal remedy which will allow you to keep your home and your best friend.

Pet Trusts

A pet trust is a device you can set up and utilize to ensure the care of one or more specific pet animals in the event of your disability, death or an extended absence. This way, you know your animals will be in good hands even if you can’t be there to take care of your best friend yourself.

The trust has to name a caretaker to take responsibility of your pet and must also name a trustee to manage the trust fund. The trustee, per your specific instructions, can check in periodically with the caretaker to verify your wishes are being carried out. We can help you decide what sort of arrangements will be best for your animal companions.

Pet Custody

When a romantic relationship comes to an end, two people may be left struggling with the decision of who will get to keep the animal they have both loved and cared for over time. Just as people argue about custody and responsibility of children, people argue over custody of their pets. If a former couple cannot come to a written agreement about visitation or custody, a primary consideration in a court case will be the animal’s best interests.

Companion Animals & Domestic Violence

The maltreatment of animals, usually companion animals, may occur in homes where there is domestic violence, yet there is limited information about the prevalence of such maltreatment. Victims of domestic violence report that animal abuse incidents coincided with acts of violence against family members over 50% of the time, according to Carlisle-Frank & Flanagan, 2006. Various forms of animal abuse occur and have included punching, hitting, choking, drowning, shooting, stabbing and throwing against walls or down stairs.

An act of violence against a family pet or, even threatening an act of violence, is a form of domestic violence and is a violation of Colorado’s criminal code. While the criminal code expressly includes protection of an animal when threats of violence or violent acts toward the animal are used as a method of coercion, control, punishment, intimidation, or revenge, the civil statute is a bit different. The definition of civil protection order can include any provision to protect the victim from imminent danger to life or health.

“About a hundred miles down the interstate; he opened the car door and ordered my daughter Christine to kick our dog Dusty out. When she refused, he told her he would do to Dusty what he did to Rocko, only he would do it right this time, and she could watch while he tortured and killed Dusty and dump her off the side of the road, too. Then he said he would come home and kill me and Christine would be left alone with him.” Christine, whom he later raped, was 8 years old.

- Millikin, Marsha (1999). First-person account: Life and death inside the cycles of violence. In Ascione and Arkow (Eds.), Child abuse, domestic violence and animal abuse: Linking  the circles of compassion for prevention and intervention. (pp.
177-188). West Lafayette: Purdue University Press.

Animal Welfare

Animal law encompasses all traditional legal practice areas including torts, contracts, criminal law, trusts & estates, family, and property law to name but a few. Although many disputes may involve an animal, a case will involve animal welfare specifically if for example, increased protection for the animal is a component of the case or, if challenging the property status of the animal is sought. Although the roots of animal welfare law are ancient, this type of practice area is still a relatively new subject in today’s court houses. However, this developing area is growing at a rapid pace and becoming more widespread every day perhaps, in part, due to media coverage of animal cruelty incidents or generous gifts made to benefit animal causes. Increasingly, law schools offer animal law courses and legal practitioners are venturing into this field of practice possibly due to the exciting challenge it presents or out of sensitivity toward animals and their plight.

The question is not, “Can they reason?” nor, “Can they talk?” but rather, “Can they suffer?”  ~Jeremy Bentham