A Call for Help…and an AnswerPosted on May 27, 2004
ALDF receives hundreds of phone calls a year from
people across the country seeking help with animal issues. Prosecutors,
investigators, attorneys, human guardians — they call every day looking
for ALDF’s unique brand of legal expertise.
That’s exactly what Lt. Randy Covey, animal abuse investigator for
the Oregon Humane Society (OHS), was looking for when he called our
Anti-Cruelty Division in Portland recently. The Humane Society had
found itself — and more than 120 neglected birds — in a tight spot.
The birds (most of them exotic macaws, parrots and lovebirds) had been
languishing in the home of a woman who’d been involuntarily committed
to a mental institution for an indefinite period of time. OHS seized
them, but quickly found itself overwhelmed by the expense, space and
time needed to care for so many sensitive animals with special needs.
Yet it couldn’t place the birds in new, loving homes because of a
tricky legal Catch-22.
Under Oregon state law, the birds couldn’t be forfeited to OHS
unless the owner was charged or convicted of criminally neglecting
them. Because the woman was deemed mentally unstable and
institutionalized by the courts, she wasn’t legally capable of
committing such a crime. So how to help these animals find new homes?
After ALDF attorney Dana Campbell heard the story, she whipped
into action, researching legal strategies. She quickly hit upon a
unique solution: Ask the judge to give legal custody of the birds to
OHS with the power to do what was in their best interest. And the judge
did just that, issuing a protective order on behalf of the animals. OHS
was granted full legal responsibility for the birds, and most of them
have since been handed over to new, caring, capable companions.
If the birds in this case had been children, this is exactly how the
law would’ve worked in the first place. But because they were animals,
they were left in limbo — until we could think up a way to get them
out. Fortunately, the judge was willing to take the birds’ best
interests into consideration. That sets a precedent attorneys can use
to help animals in the future…and that’s what ALDF is all about.
"We really appreciate Dana’s open-mindedness, expertise and
willingness to pursue something that had never, to our knowledge, been
done before. She was able to draw in new resources to assist us and
make this a good resolution," says Lt. Covey. "It would’ve been a much
more difficult situation without her."