Practice area gets boost from legislation, case law and the power of the Internet
Mary Pat Gallagher
New Jersey Law Journal
November 30, 2007
When trusts and estates lawyer Elenora Benz meets with clients who want her to draw up a will, she asks not only about assets and heirs but also about pets and how they are to be provided for.
A New Jersey law enacted in 2001 lets pet owners set up lifetime or testamentary trusts for care of domestic animals. It even allows a court to appoint a trustee if needed and to make orders and determinations to carry out the intent of the creator and the purpose of the act.
BILLS IN THE HOPPER
Animal-rights bills pending in New Jersey would:
* Require courts to issue protective orders against animal abusers (A-4026);
* Permit tenants to keep pets provided they are spayed or neutered and properly cared for and controlled (A-2645);
* Revamp the animal cruelty laws, upgrading offenses, hiking minimum fines and adding new offenses for hoarding, euthanizing improperly, failing to provide minimum care, committing animal cruelty in the presence of a child and "cruel commercial exploitation"
* Create a civil action for disability or death to a domestic companion animal resulting from violation of animal cruelty laws, with "pecuniary damages," such as burial costs and veterinary fees
* Provide pet food safety standards (A-4171); and
* Allow a civil action for injury or death due to tainted pet food, with up to $15,000 in loss of companionship damages (A-4217).
The Assembly has approved bills to allow a civil action against the owner of a pet that hurts or kills another's pet (A-3192) and to forbid traditional animal-testing methods if there is a federally recommended alternative (A-909).
The Senate has approved a new offense for injuring an animal while committing or fleeing a crime (S-161).