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Ask Our Lawyer - January 2004

ABATE LEGAL SERVICES GOES TO THE DOGS

Q: We just received a letter from the animal control authorities stating that our dog Lupy has been declared a dangerous animal and was subject to seizure and destruction by the animal control authorities. The city recently passed an ordinance barring ownership of wolf or wolf-hybrids within city limits. They say that the records indicate that Lupy is part wolf. We have owned Lupy for several years and he has never bitten or exhibited anything other than love and affection. Lupy is our only companion and we are both disabled, so you can imagine what Lupy means to us. Can we save Lupy, and will ABATE Legal Services help us?

A: Yes and yes. ABATE Legal Services now has it's first canine client. We understand that you received a notice just before Thanksgiving that your dog, Lupy, who has been your loving and faithful companion for several years, has been declared a dangerous animal by the City Council, subject to seizure and destruction by the animal control authorities.

What was the dog's crime? Had he bitten or mauled someone? Did he act aggressively toward people? No. The dog's crime was that a clerk (she reminds me of Nurse Ratched, from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest fame, or Miss Gulch, from the Wizard of Oz) noted on a record that the dog appeared to be a wolf-hybrid. That was her story and she was sticking to it. (We admit that the dog is all black, but so is my Labrador retriever, who would lick you from head to toe and hasn't barked in seven years!) The Animal Control Office, refused to listen to any explanation of a mistake and insisted that Lupy was a wolf-hybrid, despite the fact that the a vet, was willing to swear that Lupy was not a wolf or wolf-hybrid, and that, somehow an error had been made in the City's records. The City Council had recently outlawed the keeping of wolf and wolf-hybrids as pets, and Lupy was ordered out of town or destroyed. Because "Ms. Gulch" had a 3 X 5 card in her file that erroneously characterized Lupy as a wolf-shepard-Ms. Gulch was going to get that dog, come hell or high water.

The city fathers, in passing this ordinance, forgot a very important individual right, the right to due process. Because of the hue and cry created by this case, ABATE Legal prepared an amendment to the ordinance that is under consideration that would allow owners and the animal's veterinarian to submit an affidavit swearing that the dog is not a hazard to the public. So in response to our ABATE members' question, it will be a cold day in doggy hell or pigs will fly before we will stand by and let Lupy be destroyed by Miss Gulch. Stay tuned for more information on this one.

TRAFFIC LEGAL ADVICE [THIS IS FOR YOU, AL CLARK]:

Question one: When I am riding my motorcycle, every time I get pulled over by a State Trooper, they always ask, why were you speeding? Do you have a good response?
a: Next time you are riding your motorcycle, and get pulled over by a State cop and he asks you why you were speeding-just tell him that your wife just ran off with a State cop and you thought it was him bringing her back.


BIKERS AND STOP LIGHTS - AHEAD OF THE GAME

Several months ago, this column dealt with the problems motorcyclists face at red lights that are controlled by magnetic sensors in the road. We found that it was difficult for modern bikes to cause the lights to cycle. Bikers are left with less-than-optimum solutions: either wait for a car to pull up with you, wait for the timing cycle to complete so you get a green light, or turn around and find a different intersection.

In a recent column in the Indianapolis Star, the same question was posed to the traffic columnist. He advised that he thought that a police officer would "understand" if you ran the light after waiting for a long time. I'm afraid that police officers might not be as understanding as the Star seems to think, and a ticket is not worth the time you spend waiting or finding an alternate route. Maybe you can send the Indianapolis Star Columnist the bill for the ticket, and maybe he can take the points.

ABATE Legal Survey

Now for the survey questions we promised in last month's column. You can respond by either fax (317/686-2200) or email (rodtaylor@abatelegal.com).

Situation number one: Assume that a motorist is proceeding west at 30 mph (the speed limit) with the sun in his eyes. He fails to see the stop sign, runs through the intersection, killing a biker instantly.
Question one: Should the motorist be charged with a crime? _______ yes _______ no.
Question two: Should the motorist spend time in jail? ________ yes ________no.

Situation number two: Assume that a motorist is proceeding west at 45 mph (speeding) with the sun in his eyes. He fails to see the stop sign, runs through the intersection, killing a biker instantly.
Question one: Should the motorist be charged with a crime? _______ yes _______ no.
Question two: Should the motorist spend time in jail? ________ yes ________no.

Situation number three: Assume that a motorist is proceeding west at 30 mph (the speed limit) with the sun in his eyes, and is distracted (talking on a cell phone, eating a burger, loading a CD changer, reading, etc.). He fails to see the stop sign, runs through the intersection, killing a biker instantly.
Question one: Should the motorist be charged with a crime? _______ yes _______ no.
Question two: Should the motorist spend time in jail? ________ yes ________no.

As we think about these questions, I am put in mind of the recent trial in South Dakota involving Representative Janklow. As you know, he was convicted on manslaughter in the death of a motorcyclist. The prosecutor proved that Janklow had a history of speeding through the intersection, and that he was speeding at the time of the crash. How different is that from a situation where the motorist was eating, or talking on a cell phone, or any other situation that exhibits a careless disregard for other humans? In my mind, it's no different. Let me know what you think. We will share the results of the survey and comments we receive in our future column.

Ride safe and free,
Rod Taylor
ABATE Legal Services

If you have any questions you would like to ask the lawyer, please submit them to: ASK OUR LAWYER, P.O. Box 2850, Indianapolis, Indiana 46206_2850, or email rodtaylor@abatelegal.com.

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