Latest in legal animal news.
Police officers in Melbourne, Australia, who investigate dog attacks on people or other pets now use DNA kits to identify the culprits. They gather fur, saliva, or excrement with swabs and place it in evidence bags for possible use in prosecution. "We have to make sure that if we have to do something like put an animal down or prosecute, we're sure [of the canine's identity]," says police representative Janet Cribbes.
Divorcing parents have needed lawyers to help them fight for child custody. Now veterinarians are more frequently getting involved in pet custody battles. The Boston Globe recently interviewed Dr. Amy Marder, who specializes in animal behavior in Lexington, Mass. Dr. Marder has evaluated couples and their pets to make recommendations, based on the pet's future well-being, about who will make the better owner and whom the pet is closest to. She watches how the pet behaves around the couple, asks questions about the family's history, and evaluates the pet's behavior and health. Sessions last for at least 90 minutes.
A new California law lets victims of domestic violence name their pets in restraining orders against their abusers. California Sen. Sheila Kuehl introduced the bill in February 2007. Up to 40 percent of domestic violence victims don't leave abusers because they worry about their pets, Kuehl says. The ASPCA's Jill Buckley is enthusiastic about the bill. "It sends a clear message that animals are important in cases of domestic violence and valued members of a family that require protection from the courts," she says.