The bill that provides for an advocate in criminal cases in New Jersey, concerning the welfare of care of animals has been reintroduced as A 4533 with additional language which renders it even more problematic for animal owners than before.

A preamble was added as Section 1, stating

  1. The Legislature finds and declares that animals are sentient beings capable of experiencing pain, stress, and fear. It is the policy of New Jersey that, in order to protect animals from experiencing pain, stress, or fear at human hands, animals are to be treated humanely. For that reason, animals shall be considered the victims of animal cruelty crimes and shall be treated as such in a court of law. (Emphasis added).

If this bill passes, the state should expect to see cases filed on behalf of animals as animal cruelty victims who are legal persons at least with respect to their rights under the animal cruelty law, the argument Plaintiff and Appellant have used in Justice v. Vercher, No. A169933 (Washington Co. Cir. July 8, 2019).

In an Amicus Brief filed by law professors in Justice v. Vercher, No. A169933 (Washington Co. Cir. July 18, 2019), they state that “[t]he Oregon Supreme Court [which] has construed Oregon anti-cruelty laws as defining animals (not their owners), as victims of crime.”  (Animal Law Professors Amicus Curiae Brief, p. 8).  The Oregon statute cited describes animals as sentient being capable of experiencing pain, stress and fear.  Id., at pp. 6-7 (citing ORG 167.305).

The amendments to proposed A 4533 expressly include both statements-that animals are sentient beings and that animals shall be considered the victims of animal cruelty crimes, in an apparent attempt to create a stronger argument that in such cases, they would be considered legal persons.  As Professor Richard Cupp stated, discussing concerns about the elevation of animals to persons,

[i]f courts adopted this radical animal legal personhood theory, it could lead to personhood arguments ostensibly on behalf of hundreds of millions or perhaps even billions of other animals as potential plaintiffs, and could allow animal rights activists to flood the courts with a huge volume of lawsuits asserting to represent the new legal persons. Further, if animal legal personhood were accepted in this context, litigation would doubtless quickly spread to lawsuits challenging biomedical research on such ‘persons,’ any commercial use of such ‘persons,’ and pet ownership of such ‘persons.’  Justice v. Vercher, No. A169933 (Washington Co. Cir Nov. 12, 2019) (Professor Richard L. Cupp Jr Amicus Brief at p. 6.).

In addition to these real concerns about the results of the potential consequences of the adoption of A 4533, adding an additional advocate for animals in cases of animal cruelty is not needed in New Jersey.    County prosecutors, and municipal prosecutors if assigned, are already charged with that duty.

An animal cruelty prosecutor shall:

  1. promote the interests of, and protect and care for, animals within the county L.2017, c. 331, § 31, eff. Aug. 1, 2018, NJSA 4:22-14.7 (a)

Each county prosecutor shall:

(1) designate any municipal or county prosecutor as the animal cruelty prosecutor of the county, and may designate any assistant animal cruelty prosecutor as needed, who shall investigate, prosecute, and take other legal action as appropriate for violations of any provision of article 2 of chapter 22 of Title 4 of the Revised Statutes, and who may serve in such capacity on a part-time basis if the responsibilities of the position allow.  L.2017, c. 331, § 28, eff. May 1, 2018.

This bill will not benefit animals since the protection of their rights not to be treated cruelly is already invested in prosecutors.  This will only benefit advocates who want to advance the rights of animals as persons.

On July 15, 2020, the United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, filed its decision, holding that “dives made by aquarium staff members to feed animals housed at aquarium and to clean the facility’s tanks qualified as “scientific diving” within [the] meaning of [the] exemption,” and reversing OSHA’s order finding the opposite which was affirmed by an Administrative Law Judge.  Houston Aquarium, Inc. v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, 965 F. 3d 433 (5th Cir. 2020).

The Court reviewed the relevant exemption as a matter of first impression.   It agreed with Houston Aquarium, that the dives in question met the regulatory definition of scientific diving.  OSHA’s safety requirements for diving employers includes standards for Commercial Diving Operations (CDO).  The CDO

‘applies to diving and related support operations conducted in connection with all types of work and employments, including general industry, construction, ship repairing, shipbuilding, shipbreaking and longshoring.’  29 C.F.R. § 1910.401(a)(2).

But there is an exemption to the CDO standards for “any diving operation … [d]efined as scientific
diving and which is under the direction and control of a diving program’ that includes a diving safety manual with minimum safety procedures and a controlling diving safety board.”

Scientific diving is diving performed solely as a necessary part of a scientific, research, or educational activity by employees whose sole purpose for diving is to perform scientific research tasks.  Scientific diving does not include performing any tasks usually associated with commercial diving such as: Placing or removing heavy objects underwater; inspection of pipelines and similar objects; construction; demolition; cutting or welding; or the use of explosives.

OSHA, affirmed by an Administrative Law Judge focused only on the first part of the definition of “scientific diving” and found that the aquarium’s dives and found that the feeding and cleaning dives performed by aquaria staff did not fall within the exemption.

The Court, reviewing the facts about the dives in question in light of the entire definition of “scientific diving” found,

the activities performed during the feeding and cleaning dives fall within the plain text of the exemption. During feeding and cleaning dives, divers perform tasks such as scrubbing the exhibit windows free of algae, siphoning the gravel at the bottom of exhibits, and feeding the animals. Divers testified that one focus of cleaning dives is removing aiptasia, a genus of sea anemone that reproduces quickly and can ‘overrun’ the exhibits if not handled correctly. They also testified that if an animal needs to be captured or observed more closely, this would be done during a feeding or cleaning dive. The Aquarium’s expert witness Smith testified that during all Aquarium dives, including feeding and cleaning dives, the divers ‘are required to make observations of animal health, animal behaviors, the type of food they’re eating, the type of algae that grows on the windows, [and] the condition of the exhibitory,’ all of which Smith classified as the collection of data.

This is good news for aquaria, while not binding in other circuits, especially since OSHA has prohibited certain activities in other aquaria-related settings.

 

USDA published proposed Rule 85 FR 18471 on April 2, 2020 that would,

amend the animal disease regulations to provide for a National List of Reportable Animal Diseases, along with reporting responsibilities for animal health professionals that encounter or suspect cases of communicable animal diseases and disease agents. These proposed changes are necessary to streamline State and Federal cooperative animal disease detection, response, and control efforts. This action would consolidate and enhance current disease reporting mechanisms, and would complement and supplement existing animal disease tracking and reporting at the State level.

USDA received 50 comments from individuals and the following organizations and agencies:

American Veterinary Medical Association*, The National Pork Producers Council, The American Association of Swine Veterinarians, The Swine Health Information Center, American Academy of Veterinary and Comparative Toxicology, American Association of Zoo Veterinarians*, American Board of Veterinary Toxicologists, Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, American Sheep Industry Association, California Department of Food & Agriculture, National Assembly of State Animal Health Officials*, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Northeast Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, Inc., New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Wyoming Livestock Board, and North America Independent Reference Laboratories.

While these commenters all acknowledged the importance of accurate and “immediate” notification to effectuate adequate and timely response, but concerns about APHIS’ proposed rule include:

  1. Mandatory reporting requirements by individuals and entities that are not veterinarians, and therefore, according to some commenters not adequately trained to diagnose animal diseases. For example, the rule would require a laboratory to report a “confirmed case” based merely on a test result.  The North America Independent Reference Laboratories commented that veterinarian should be responsible for diagnosis/reporting under a veterinary client-patient relationship.  Specifically, this commenter noted that “an accurate diagnosis of disease cannot be made without a physical exam of the animal(s), evaluation of health/exposure history, vaccination status of the animal(s), non-infective environmental exposure vs. actual infection/disease, etc.”
  2. Providing a definition of “immediate reporting,” for example, as “within twelve (12) hours of a suspected FAD or knowledge of diagnostic testing results.”
  3. How would USDA protect the confidentiality of information reported?
  4. How the federal rule would impact existing state laws mandating reporting to the state?

The issues of greatest concern include the expansion of mandatory reporting requirements from accredited veterinarians, to the proposed list of animal health professionals with the training that would be required.  This expansion devalues the importance and role veterinarians play in protecting their patients, clients and the public from infectious diseases.

Also, because such reporting would likely result in false positive results, the consequences of such reporting would unnecessarily and negatively impact livestock producers and markets that would be prohibited from exporting animals and products from impacted states or the region or country as a whole.

Finally, even if the rule were to include confidentiality provisions, courts would ultimately determine whether the information can be protected when challenged by anyone making a request through the Freedom of Information Act.  USDA has had significant experience defending its actions in response to such legal challenges.

USDA has reopened the comment period, but it is now set to close August 21, 2020.

 

 

*I am either currently or was previously a member of these associations.

A4504, a new bill introduced in the NJ Assembly, would establish the “Stray Animal Study Commission,” to:

(1) identify and study stray animal and animal control issues in the State, including issues surrounding stray and feral cats colloquially referred to as “community cats” and “cat colonies,” and any funding shortfalls with regard to the issues identified; (2) study, explore, and develop solutions to (a) stray animal or animal control problems identified, and (b) problems in municipalities concerning feral cats, community cats, or cat colonies; and (3) provide recommendations for legal action, legislation, and possible funding sources address stray animal or animal control problems in the State, including, but not limited to, those associated with feral cats, community cats, or cat colonies.

While feral cats remain a concern generally, with the ongoing concerns about COVID-19 and the economy, it does not seem to be an opportune time to redirect the NJ Department of Health’s resources to such a study.

Additionally, the proposed 11-member commission fails to include interested, knowledgeable stakeholders, such as feline and avian veterinarians and environmental and wildlife organizations. These additional members o can be identified from the organizations listed in the NJDOH’s publication “Free-Roaming and Feral Cats,” including: American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), American Bird Conservancy, American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Association of Avian Veterinarians and New Jersey Audubon Society.”

Proposed members currently only include: the Commissioner of Health, the Commissioner of Community Affairs, and the Executive Director of the State Commission of Investigation, or their designees, who shall serve ex officio; a representative of the Humane Society of the United States, a representative of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a representative of the New Jersey Animal Control Officers Association, and a representative of a county prosecutor’s office, and four directors or chief operating officers of animal shelters or pounds in the State.

The management of feral cat populations is highly controversial and concerns the health and welfare of feral cats, wild birds, the environmental impact and public health concerns.

Millions of free-roaming abandoned and feral cats exist in the United States. Most of these cats will suffer premature mortality from disease, starvation, weather extremes, or trauma, or euthanasia. Free-roaming and abandoned and feral cats are non-native predators and cause considerable wildlife destruction and ecosystem disruption, including the deaths of hundreds of birds, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. They also pose a threat to public health. Zoonotic concerns include viral (e.g., rabies), bacterial (e.g., Yersinia pestis [plague], Fancisella tularensis, Campylobacter spp., Bartonella spp.), fungal . . . and parasitic diseases.
More information is available on AVMA and AAFP’s websites.

When the time is right to form this commission, necessary and additional members should be added, as described herein, .

The California Veterinary Medical Board has proposed amending the California Code of Regulations to clarify the process for veterinarians to compound drugs in a veterinary office for the treatment of an animal patient.  As reported in the “Initial Statement of Reasons,”

[t]he regulatory proposal is intended to provide guidance and an enforcement mechanism for inspectors to determine whether veterinarians and RVTs [registered veterinary technicians] are compounding drugs in accordance with their scope of practice, experience, and premises.  The rulemaking is necessary to provide veterinarians with guidance on the proper procedures for storing, handling, and preparing compounded drugs.

The Board’s regulations require the establishment of a valid veterinary client patient relationship before administering, dispensing or prescribing a drug, including a compounded drug.

The proposed regulations include a definition of “Compounding” which

means any of the following activities performed in a registered veterinary premises by a licensed veterinarian that has established the veterinarian-client-patient relationship for the animal patient(s) or a registered veterinary technician under the direct or indirect supervision of that veterinarian:

(1) Altering the dosage form or delivery system of a drug.

(2) Altering the strength of a drug.

(3) Combining components or active ingredients.

(4) Preparing a compounded drug preparation from chemicals.

The regulations would permit use of bulk substances for compounding but would require the direct supervision of a RVT if they were preparing the compounded medication from bulk substances.  Medications would not be considered compounded if they were reconstituted “pursuant to a manufacturer’s direction(s) for oral, rectal, topical, or injectable administration” or were simply split, crushed or a capsule was opened or flavorings were added to increase palatability.

The regulations require veterinarians to list an expiration date on a label of any dispensed compounded drug and to “ensure the safety and efficacy of a compounded drug preparation.”  It is unclear how safety and efficacy will be determined, keeping in mind that since the 1962, Congress amended the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act requiring that drug manufacturers must demonstrate to FDA that a drug is effective and safe before its approval and marketing.  While FDA has stated in Guidance #256, it “does not intend to take enforcement action for violations of the FD&C Act” when veterinarians compound medications for animal patients in compliance with its guidance, it also states that “[a]nimal drugs that are not FDA-approved, conditionally approved, or indexed are considered ‘unsafe’ and, therefore ‘adulterated’ under sections 512(a)(1) and 501(a)(5) of the FD&C Act.”  See Guidance #256, at n. 6.

California would also require veterinarians to conduct appropriate staff training and record keeping for the preparation, use and storage of compounded medications including, for example:  written policies and procedures manuals; formula documents for each compounded medication; the strength of the compounded formula; and a quality assurance program.

Veterinarians, pharmacists, registered veterinary technicians and other stakeholders should comment as described in the Notice of Regulatory Action about any concerns they may have about the proposed regulations and its potential impact no later than August 31, 2020.

Notable regulatory amendments and COVID-19-related inspection guidelines, described below, will impact Animal Welfare Act (AWA) licensees and registrants

New rules, finalized in May, 2020, amended the long-standing licensing renewal procedures and added additional requirements for veterinary care and canine husbandry requirements.  As reported by USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the rule affects “nearly 6,000, persons who breed, sell, or exhibit animals for commercial purposes” and, in part, to USDA registrants.

The rule dismantles the annual renewal process for licensees following the initial approval of a license after the applicant proves they are in compliance with the Animal Welfare Act and related regulations.  Now, instead of an annual renewal thereafter, with regular unannounced inspections, licensees will have to prove they are in compliance every three years in order to obtain a three-year license.

A new license must be obtained upon change of ownership, location, activities, or [types or numbers of] animals.

For additional information about the amendments to the licensing requirements, see USDA’s Tech Note, “Questions and Answers: Three-Year Animal Welfare Act (AWA) License.

Also new, and applicable to licensees and registrants, dogs must have continuous access to potable water 24/7/365 days a year (with some minor, veterinary or IACUC-approved exceptions).  Specific watering systems are not required, but water must be present in bowls, receptacles or lixit faucets, with no visible contamination.

While veterinary care has always been required, such care and oversight are now more prescribed.  As described in Tech Note, “Questions and Answers: Access to Potable Water for Dogs and Cats,” facilities that breed or house dogs, requirements include:

For facilities with dogs, written formal arrangements must be made and signed by the Attending Veterinarian that includes the following; regularly scheduled annual visits, complete physical annual exams of each dog by the Attending Veterinarian, a schedule for vaccinations for contagious and/or deadly diseases of dogs (including rabies, parvovirus and distemper), a schedule for sampling and treatment of parasites and other pests (including fleas, worms, coccidia, giardia, and heartworm), and preventative care and treatment for healthy hair coats, nails, eyes, ears, skin, and teeth. Lastly, the written program of veterinary care must address the requirements for adequate veterinary care for every dealer and exhibitor in § 2.40 of this subchapter and every research facility in § 2.33 of this subchapter. A signed copy of the written program of veterinary care should be kept at the licensed or registered facility.

All licensees and registrants subject to AWA-related USDA inspections should review the “Standard Operating Procedures for Resuming Facility Inspections During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” issued on July 20, 2020.

 

For anyone concerned about protecting the privacy of their facility, be prepared to provide the inspector with “a clean and safe space (i.e., recently sanitized, able to maintain 6ft distance from others)” where the inspector can review hard-copy records and upon completion of the inspection report, return those records.

The alternatives described in the SOP in which records are provided to the inspector through online access or thumb drives that are viewed on the inspector’s laptop, should be carefully considered in light of the potential for those documents to be requested through open public records laws.

Inspections will be conducted using a tiered approach starting with facilities subject to high frequency inspections and new license applicants.

If an inspection cannot be conducted or completed because of COVID-19 related concerns, the report is supposed to record such concerns.  It is not clear how that information will be construed by activists opposed to the ownership and use of animals in those facilities.

Naturally, the health and safety of people and animals at the facility and of the inspectors is of paramount importance.

As previously reported,  the federal Health Dog Importation Act (“the Act”), introduced and sponsored by the three veterinarians in Congress Reps. Abraham, Yoho and Schrader, (Rep. Abraham is also a physician), targets and attempts to minimize threats to human and animal health from the over 1 million dogs imported into the US annually without adequate health screening.  The Act, according to a report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, published July 17, 2020, has been heralded by the National Animal Interest Alliance, American Veterinary Medical Association and American Kennel Club as a necessary step to protect against the spread of infectious diseases and parasites.  These organizations and others, including the American Pet Products Association, American Sheep Industry Association, Animal Health Institute, National Assembly of State Animal Health Officials, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, North American Veterinary Community, Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council and World Pet Association, recently signed a letter of support for the bill, stating,

[f]or the vast majority of imported dogs, rabies vaccination documentation is the only prerequisite for entering the country. Despite this, in the past five years, we have seen several cases of rabid dogs coming from Egypt, necessitating the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) to suspend all canine imports from Egypt. Furthermore, imported dogs can also carry – and have been documented carrying – other infectious diseases and parasites (e.g. canine influenza, leptospirosis, melioidosis, onchocercosis and screwworm) that pose a severe threat to other companion animals and livestock.

Mary Kennedy Withrow, a member of the state Dog Law Advisory Board, reportedly admitted that there is a risk to the importation of dogs to the Northeast, and that the Advisory Board is considering adopting importation requirements.

It has been well-established that the number of dogs for sale or adoption in the Northeast and other areas of the US have dramatically decreased as a result of successful voluntary spay-neuter programs and misguided bans on sales of professionally -bred dogs.  This led to the influx of dogs from other states and countries through transfers from shelter to shelter or rescue organizations, as well as the importation of dogs bred in other countries for sale in the US.

While the Healthy Dog Importation Act would not provide needed regulation over dogs in interstate commerce through shelter and rescue channels, it would regulate dogs imported from other countries, to prevent spread of infectious diseases and pests.

Care provided to chimpanzees at Project Chimps, a sanctuary for chimpanzees located in Georgia, has come under fire by “[m]ore than 20 former staffers and volunteers,” as reported by Rachel Fobar in Animal Wildlife Watch on July 8, 2020.   “Wildlife watch is an investigative reporting project between National Geographic Society and National Geographic Partners.”

In 2015, NIH announced that it would retire the 50 NIH-owned chimpanzees that were then available for research, send them to sanctuaries and would also phase out its funding for the remaining research chimpanzees that it supports.

At the time, and since then, those involved with and responsible for the care of chimpanzees at universities and primate facilities expressed concern that the care these chimps would receive in sanctuaries would not meet the same standards of excellence in the facilities where staff had extensive training and expertise in their care, as previously reported.

As Dr. Cindy Buckmaster, Chair of Americans for Medical Progress described in 2016,  some chimps who had been moved from their long-term care facilities to new sanctuaries suffered and some died after such a move.  For example, Gimp, a 45 year old disabled chimp, tragically died after he was introduced and attacked by new cohorts at a sanctuary he had been relocated to.  He had previously been housed at the retirement facility “Chimpanzee Breeding and Rehabilitation Resource in Bastrop, Texas—later known as the Keeling Center and now officially coined the National Center for Chimpanzee Care (NCCC)” for 35 of his 45 years.  Gimp was described as a sweet, vulnerable chimp who would not hurt a sole.

If the reports about Project Chimps are true, then such unintended consequences resulting from the forced relocation of chimps to such sanctuaries may be repeated.  Project Chimps, reportedly funded in part by the Humane Society of the United States, has been cited by USDA inspectors for (1) storing “containers of materials toxic to the chimps including bleach and other disinfectants” on an open shelf in the chimp housing areas (described as a repeat citation during a routine inspection on April 25, 2019; (2) on July 26, 2017 there were 2 non-compliant items listed on the inspection report, one for failure to maintain feed as required and without required labeling; and another because “[t]he enrichment plan currently incorporated into the Chimpanzee Care Manual is not complete.  It does not address the current social housing structure and the special considerations for chimps that may exhibit signs of psychological distress, juveniles and individually housed;” and (3) on May 11, 2017 USDA was not able to inspect the facility because reportedly, “[a] responsible adult was not available to accompany APHIS Officials during the inspection process at 11:50 am” on that day.

Project Chimps filed a lawsuit against two former employees, Crystal Alba and Lindsay Vanderhoogt, first in state court on June 1, 2020 and later in federal court on July 13, 2020.  In the latter lawsuit, which appears to be the active case, the following counts are alleged against one or both defendants:  Breach of Contract, Defamation and Libel, Misappropriation under the Defend Secrets Act, Misappropriation under the Georgia Trade Secrets Act, Conversion, Tortious Interference with Business Relations, Violation of the Georgia Computer Systems Protection Act, Violation of the Stored Communication Act and Civil Conspiracy.  Project Chimp alleges that the chimps medical records are amongst the documents it claims are its trade secrets.

No answer or substantive response has been filed by defendants in response to the Complaint.  It remains to be seen whether whistleblower status and first amendment defenses will be raised.  The parties have entered into settlement discussions, according to the Animal Wildlife Watch article.

 

Animal studies have and will continue to serve an essential role in medical development and public and animal health. This stays true for the current global efforts to find treatments and vaccines to combat the COVID-19 pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Animal studies are not only critical for understanding pathogenesis of COVID-19, but also required to evaluate the safety and efficacy of a drug or vaccine at preventing COVID-19. The importance of animal studies is exemplified by several works recently reported.

One of the most important ways scientists develop and test new therapies for COVID-19 is through experiments with animal models, such as mice. However, SARS-CoV-2 cannot infect mice because of the difference between the human ACE2 receptor and the mouse version. Consequently, researchers have had to genetically engineer mice by adding a human ACE2 gene to mice. In a study published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe on May 26, 2020, the researchers created a new mouse model using a CRISPR/Cas9-based technology that can be used for modeling SARS-CoV-2 infection (Cell Host & Microbe, May 2020). Compared to other genetically engineered mice, this mouse model is genetically more stable, having an expression pattern of human ACE2 receptor better matching that of humans.

In addition to the mouse model, scientists have studied the effects of COVID-19 on other animal models, including macaques and baboons. In a study conducted by the Texas Biomedical Research Institute, the researchers found that macaques rapidly developed clinical signs of viral infection and inflammation but recovered within a two-week period (see Rivard Report). The researchers believe that studying the macaques’ rapid immunological response could be helpful in developing a treatment for patients with COVID-19.

Another important use of animals comes in the development of selective antibodies that can neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The recent development of “nanobody” therapeutics derived from llamas and camels serves as an exciting new advancement in medical research. Nanobodies are a novel class of very small antibody-like molecules. As a result of their small size and simplicity, they can be manufactured at low cost, have high stability, low immunogenicity, and can be of very high affinity. These factors make nanobodies excellent candidates for therapeutics and diagnostics. It is currently an active research direction to engineer llama nanobodies capable of neutralizing the SARS and MERS viruses to generate nanobodies for neutralizing the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Because animal studies play an essential role in the development of treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, regulators, along with many researchers and biomedical ethicists, argue that animal studies should not be bypassed, despite the urgency of finding a solution to block the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic. One concern of skipping animal studies is the risk of vaccine enhancement associated with coronavirus vaccines, as expressed by Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID): “There are diseases in which you vaccinate someone . . . you actually enhance the infection. You get a good feel for that in animal models . . . . The worst possible thing you can do is vaccinate somebody to prevent the infection and actually make them worse.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7ii9WTDb9E).

The significance of the retention of animal studies is also identified in a report recently published by global regulators. “For all SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates it is necessary to obtain data in animals and to characterize the immune response induced by a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate.” (See Global regulatory workshop on COVID-19 vaccine development).

Fox Rothschild is endeaving to help our clients as they drive the research and discovery to further understand the SARS-CoV-2 virus and to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. We have a team of experienced attorneys dedicated to assisting our clients in securing their intellectual properties in COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics (https://www.foxrothschild.com/intellectual-property/). Additional information about coronavirus resources for businesses, including veterinary practices can be found at: https://www.foxrothschild.com/coronavirus-resources/.

Joe Chen is a  summer associate at Fox Rothschild LLP

The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus (“COVID-19”) has sparked an interest in people all over the world to make sure their affairs are in order in case of sudden death or incapacitation. Many pet owners consider their pets as part of their families, so it naturally follows that they would also want to ensure their pets will be cared for even when they no longer can provide that care. Creation of a pet trust will allow pet owners to ensure their precious loved ones are cared for even if they cannot be the ones to care for them.

What is a Pet Trust?

A pet trust is a legal arrangement providing for the care and maintenance of a pet (or pets) in the event of the owner’s death or incapacitation. Pet trusts allow individuals, usually the pet owners, to name a pet guardian and to allocate funds in his/her estate be left to provide for the continued care of the pet in the event the original owner is unable to[1].

How Can I Create a Pet Trust?

An owner can create a testamentary pet trust in his will by designating portions of his estate to be used for the benefit of his pet.  In certain states, the courts have discretion to change terms and enforceability. For example in New York, the court can lower the allotted amount if the “amount substantially exceeds the amount required for the intended use[2].” However, the court cannot override the expressed intent of the testator, and the court may look to evidence outside of the will to evidence the testator’s intent[3]

Best Practices

The testator should elect a pet guardian to care for the pet. This person can be the same as the trustee, or someone else who is familiar with the pet’s routine. In New York, the court can appoint a trustee if no trustee is designated or the trustee is unwilling to serve.

Selecting two different people to act as the trustee and as the pet guardian will help prevent misappropriation of the trust property and ensure the terms of the pet trust are being adhered to. It will be hard to ensure the pet is adequately being taken care of if only one person is both the trustee and pet guardian[4].

Famous Examples

 In 2019, BBC reported that Karl Lagerfeld left €153 million out of his €200 million estate to his cat, Choupette. His estate has still not settled, but Choupette is currently living with her nanny in Paris[5].

In 2008, the Huffington Post reported Oprah Winfrey set up a $30 million pet trust for her four beloved dogs[6]. The animal law experts here at Fox Rothschild are ready and willing to review and update the trust should Ms. Winfrey desire.

Conclusion

 You do not have to be a rich celebrity to ensure your pet will be taken care of until his/her last breath. Contact your animal law attorney today to make sure your companion will always be cared for in the manner you wish.

Candice Iheme is a Summer Associate in the Princeton, New Jersey office.

[1] The Perfect Pet Trust: Saving Your Dog From the Unexpected, 9 Alb. Gov’t L. Rev. 107, 110

[2] N.Y. Est. Powers & Trusts Law § 7-8.1 (McKinney)

[3] In re Copland, 44 Misc. 3d 485, 489, 988 N.Y.S.2d 458, 461 (Sur. 2014)

[4] For example, what if the trustee decides that properly caring for the testator’s pet means it needs to be taken on 50-mile car rides in a Ferrari every day?  If the pet guardian and trustee are the same person, there will be no one who is checking in to make sure the allocated funds are not being misappropriated.

[5] https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-47305450

[6] https://www.huffpost.com/entry/oprah-reportedly-leaving-_n_64477