April 2006

I want to take this opportunity to let readers of The Equiery know about a new initiative by the Maryland State Bar Association, the professional organization of lawyers licensed to practice in Maryland. In October 2005, MSBA’s president named 14 attorneys (including the author) to an organizing committee for the purpose of forming an Animal Law Committee. Under the MSBA’s procedures, the Animal Law Committee is currently a special project of the Maryland Bar Association, to serve as a focus for attorneys interested in the law as it impacts animals and the people involved with them in our society. However, if at least 100 attorneys submit expressions of interest, the temporary committee can become a permanent section of the Bar Association (we currently have approximately 80).

A permanent section would be in a position to powerfully educate members of the bar (including judges) and lay people on legal issues as they pertain to animals, and influence the drafting of quality legislation to address animal- related issues such as honorary trusts for the benefit of animals after their owners’ demise, appropriate measures of damages as pertains to animal injuries, and many other areas. Members anticipate that such a committee/section will be a great service to Maryland citizens who own or are involved with animals.

This is not an animal rights group or a political organization, but rather a forum for attorneys of all viewpoints whose practices may involve animal-related issues. Among the attorneys who attended the first organizing meeting were those concerned with: protecting researchers and livestock farmers from over-reaching animal rights legislation; litigating dog bite and loose dog cases (like those often brought to legal representatives when someone goes to report a dog bite); representing animal rights organizations; strengthening animal cruelty laws and ensuring better prosecution of animal cruelty violations; supporting the Maryland horse racing industry; procuring greater off-leash freedom for dogs; educating the public and the judiciary about the links between animal cruelty and domestic violence; ensuring the rights of fox chasers; amending estate and trust laws to allow animal owners to provide for their animals after death; reforming veterinary malpractice laws; et al. As you can see, there are diverse issues that come under the rubric of “animal law.”

As chair of the recruiting subcommittee, I want to encourage the many attorneys who are horse people and loyal Equiery readers to consider joining the Animal Law Committee, even if your practice area doesn’t necessarily focus on animal-related issues. If you are interested or would like to learn more, please submit an expression of interest to Committee Chairman Alan Nemeth at MDAnimal- Law@aol.com, or contact Kate Masterton at
410-339-7111 or kmasterton@verizon.net.
– Kathleen J. Masterton

Editor’s note: Since this letter was posted, the Animal Law Committee was instrumental in the passage of Maryland SB 235, a bill allowing people to establish trusts for the benefit of animals in the event of an owner’s death. At
press time, the bill was in the hands of the House Judiciary Committee.