Trusts for pets show law softening on animals’ legal status

November 8, 2009- Source: The Durango Herald

Kate Burke, Associate Attorney in the US recently published an article – Trusts for pets show law softening on animals’ legal status. What happens to your pet if you die? Can you leave money and directions for care? The problem stems from the fact that the law views animals as objects, as property. Traditional rules of wills and trusts do not allow gifts of property to other property. The rule against perpetuity may also be infringed as the life of the animal is unmeasureable. The answer – legislation that authorizes the establishment of trusts for the care of pets. Over half the states have passed this legislation. Leona Helmsley’s $12 million gift to her dog was modified by the court to $2 million based on the total size of her estate and the standard of living for her dog. This case motivated the realization of pet trust statutes. It also provided a willingness to allow damages for the emotional injuries when pets are stolen, killed, or improperly treated. Our pets are now seen as something beyond mere objects or property. The law is growing in this area to provide legal status for our pets.

Source: The Midnight Sun (Whitehorse, Yukon)

Trevor, a Rottweiler-German Shepherd cross found himself on death row. The City of Whitehorse under its Animal Control Bylaw that deals with dangerous dogs under s. 84-116 attempted to have Trevor euthanized. A concerned citizen brought an injunction before the Yukon Supreme Court before Justice Ron Veale to stop the euthanization.  The City had declared Trevor a dangerous dog after evidence of multiple incidents of biting and were about to put him down. Trevor had bitten several people after being adopted through the Yukon Humane Society that runs the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter for the City. The Society gave evidence that Trevor had not exhibited any biting tendencies while under their control. Justice Veale in his wisdom asked that an assessment be done. The report from a Vancouver vet indicated that Trevor was dangerous but that he should be quarantined. The report failed to indicate whether Trevor could be rehabilitated. After further evidence on Trevor’s ability to be rehabilitated Justice Veale allowed Trevor to live but only under a strict management plan by a new owner. Note: Shortly afterwards Trevor was found unmuzzled. Investigation pending.