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COVID-19: Saving Pets with Special Contracts and Addendums

As a result of the coronavirus crisis, rescues, shelters, animal control facilities, dog wardens, and humane societies have an increased need for volunteer foster homes, who are a lifeline to alleviate overcrowding and economic hardships, as employees and volunteers are unable to come in and care for pets as they normally do.

Complicating matters is that in some situations, routine spay/neuter surgeries have been deemed “non-essential” in order to preserve supplies, such as PPE and oxygen, and to promote staff safety by encouraging social distancing.

Some rescue and shelter operations do not release pets into foster homes until they are spayed or neutered. Most do not release pets into permanent adoptive homes until they are spayed or neutered. Given the lack of available spay/neuter surgeries, a strong foster home, foster-to-adopt, or adoption contract with special spay/neuter provisions can be used to ensure that rescue and shelter operations are able to continue to place pets into foster and adoptive homes while still safeguarding their mission of reducing pet overpopulation. Such agreements give the shelter or rescue the ability to enforce the delayed spay/neuter and reclaim the pet (and/or its unintended offspring) if necessary.

The following sample language is a volunteer foster home agreement addendum. This is a supplement to a foster home contract and is only as strong as the foster home contract is itself. This addendum is not formatted to be used on its own and may not be legally enforceable on its own.  An effective and enforceable foster home contract will include additional critical provisions pertaining to the foster program, such as jurisdiction for enforcement and reimbursement for expenses such as food, transport, and medical care.

This sample addendum is provided for informational use only and should be reviewed by legal counsel in conjunction with the organization’s foster home contract. Rescues and shelters may also consider foster-to-adopt or adoption contracts with special addendums related to spay/neuter and COVID-19.

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Animal Care Exemption Letter during Coronavirus

Image result for dog with letter

Some animal shelter, rescue, and humane society employees and volunteers have reported that they are uncomfortable traveling during Ohio’s Stay at Home COVID-19 order, effective March 24th, because they fear being pulled over by law enforcement without documentation about their activities.

While most law enforcement agencies do not seem to be aggressively questioning citizens, a letter explaining that animal care activities are exempt may help quell these fears.

Here is a sample which you may wish to review with your own legal counsel:

To Whom It May Concern:

Please be advised that _____________ is a current employee/volunteer at ABC ANIMAL RESCUE (the Rescue) located at ___________________.  The Rescue is committed to taking responsible action to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus, including compliance with all orders from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH.)

The Rescue is aware of the “Director’s Stay at Home Order” issued by ODH requiring all persons to stay at home unless they are engaged in an “essential work or activity.”  Paragraph 12(c) of that order specifically exempts “businesses that provide food, shelter, and other necessities of life for animals, including animal shelters, rescues, kennels, and adoption facilities.”  Furthermore, Paragraph 7 of the order permits travel for the purpose of providing “veterinary care and all healthcare services provided to animals.”  Finally, Paragraph 5(e) permits travel in order to provide care for and the transportation of pets. 

The Rescue is an organization described in Paragraph 12(c) and is therefore exempt for the activities described above.  The person named above is authorized by the Rescue to travel for the purpose of providing these essential services.

Please call _______________ if you have questions or concerns.

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Skinny Little Buddies President convicted of animal cruelty

State v. Vicki Cornell, a case we helped prosecute for the Williams County Humane Society, co-counseling with the Bryan City Prosecutor’s Office.

Cornell was found guilty of 24 counts of companion animal cruelty relating to 48 dogs kept on her residential property in Edon, Ohio.  All were allegations of severe neglect.  Some animals were extremely thin and/or lacked adequate water.  Most suffered from a variety of causes, including being forced to breathe air with high concentrations of urine and fecal ammonia, mange, wounds, ear and eye infections, fleas or flea allergies, keeping dogs in conditions where dog fights occurred, and others.  Much of the suffering was directly related to severe filth.  Cornell was the President of a nonprofit organization called Skinny Little Buddies Animal Rescue, which operated out of her home.

Cornell was sentenced to 25 days in jail for each count, all of which run consecutively, for a total of 600 days.  Jail time will be imposed if she fails to complete 5 years probation.  All animals were forfeited to the Humane Society except for four personal pets.

Cornell is prohibited from owning, possessing, caring for, or living at a residence with more than 4 animals indefinitely.  During probation, Defendant must obtain a mental health evaluation and follow up with treatment; all animals must be kept in a humane, lawful and sanitary manner, and she is subject to random inspections by the Humane Society.

Defendant was fined $100 on each count for a total of $2,400.  The Humane Society waived restitution, given the fact that there is very little likelihood that they could ever collect.

Congratulations the Williams County Humane Society, Williams County Dog Warden, and the Williams County Sheriff’s Department.  Hats off to Prosecutor Rhonda Fisher and her staff who devoted endless hours seeing this through to a successful conclusion over nearly a week of trial and hearings.

Cornell was found guilty of 24 counts of companion animal cruelty relating to 48 dogs kept on her residential property in Edon, Ohio.  All were allegations of severe neglect.  Some animals were extremely thin and/or lacked adequate water.  Most suffered from a variety of causes, including being forced to breathe air with high concentrations of urine and fecal ammonia, mange, wounds, ear and eye infections, fleas or flea allergies, keeping dogs in conditions where dog fights occurred, and others.  Much of the suffering was directly related to severe filth.  Cornell was the President of a nonprofit organization called Skinny Little Buddies Animal Rescue, which operated out of her home.

Cornell was sentenced to 25 days in jail for each count, all of which run consecutively, for a total of 600 days.  Jail time will be imposed if she fails to complete 5 years probation.  All animals were forfeited to the Humane Society except for four personal pets.

Cornell is prohibited from owning, possessing, caring for, or living at a residence with more than 4 animals indefinitely.  During probation, Defendant must obtain a mental health evaluation and follow up with treatment; all animals must be kept in a humane, lawful and sanitary manner, and she is subject to random inspections by the Humane Society.

Defendant was fined $100 on each count for a total of $2,400.  The Humane Society waived restitution, given the fact that there is very little likelihood that they could ever collect.

Congratulations to the Williams County Humane Society, Williams County Dog Warden, and the Williams County Sheriff’s Department.  Hats off to Prosecutor Rhonda Fisher and her staff who devoted endless hours seeing this through to a successful conclusion over nearly a week of trial and hearings.IMG_1863

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