114 North Alfred Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314




Most people understand that describing shelters as “no kill” or “high kill” is counterproductive and divisive. Less obvious is the fact that the terms “open admission” shelter and “limited access” shelter suffer the same plight. Just like “no kill” organizations pounded their chests while wagging their fingers at “high kill” shelters, “open admission” shelters can fall into the trap of pounding their chests while wagging their fingers at “limited access” shelters. This is just as counterproductive and divisive, and misses the point.

In Virginia, there are two clearly delineated types of animal shelters – public shelters and private shelters. The delineation comes from the distinct purposes of each. Every jurisdiction must have a public shelter, which is charged with many purposes, from housing stray dogs until reclaimed by their owners, to sheltering animals seized due to cruelty or neglect. Private shelters exist to support public shelters, with the explicit purpose of finding permanent adoptive homes for animals in their care. Because of this clear legal delineation, I choose to use the terms “public” shelter and “private” shelter when describing shelters.

[Read more…]

5 Dog Bite Defenses Within Virginia’s Legislation

Dog DefensesIt’s estimated that there are roughly 80 million companion dogs in the United States.  That is over 80 million canine and feline family members and friends who share the couch with their owner, snag a bite of holiday dinner from under the table, and take walks in their bustling neighborhood.

Along with pet ownership comes responsibility.  Every year, some statistics estimate that 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs and 800,000 people are sent to receive medical treatment. The media and society tend to blame the dog for the attack.  However, there are often very valid reasons why a dog bites.  If a plaintiff sues you in civil court for money damages, or if the Commonwealth tries to have your dog declared dangerous, you and your dog may have options and defenses. [Read more…]

“Certificate of Excellence” from Living and Learning with Animals Professional Course

LLACOE2014_400 BADGEAs an animal law attorney and dog trainer, I am always trying to learn as much as I can about animal interaction with humans.

I recently completed Dr. Susan Friedman’s 2014 Living and Learning with Animals course. The course, for veterinary and animal professionals, explored the fundamental principles and procedures of teaching and learning.

Dr. Friedman provided a foundation for a comprehensive and coherent understanding of animal behavior analysis—focusing particularly on captive and companion animals.

While most of my work extends to dogs and cats, the principles discussed by the Utah State University research assistant professor are applicable to all animal species.

I’m very excited to announce that I received a “Certificate of Excellence” for the course. [Read more…]

Go Into a Pet Custody Battle Fully Armed

dog playing tug-of-warDetermining who gets custody over a family pet can be one of the most heart-wrenching experiences (besides child custody) during a separation or divorce.

Most of us consider our companion animals to be family members.   However, the law sees animals as property, which means that you need to prove that you and your family pet should stay together.

Working with an animal law lawyer will help give you the best chance of keeping your companion animal.

As an animal law lawyer, creating a strategy to keep the beloved animal with a client relies on a couple different things. Be prepared go into a pet custody battle fully armed with evidence that you deserve to be the primary caregiver of your furry companion. [Read more…]

Adopt a Pet at the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria

puppyBringing a new four-legged friend home for the first time is a special moment for the entire family. You bond with the animal, showing him or her around the house, the yard, and neighborhood. This is where they will spend their days, enjoying the company of your family while growing close to each member.

Adopting a pet is one of the most generous things you can do for an animal. The Animal Welfare League of Alexandria, Virginia, located on Eisenhower Avenue, is a great place to find a new furry companion, with cats, dogs, and other small animals looking for a home.

Before you head over to the shelter, there are a few adoption tips recommended by the Animal Welfare League: [Read more…]

Next Steps For Newtown Victim’s Animal Sanctuary

dog and birdTwo years after the tragic Sandy Hook Shooting, a young victim’s dream of an animal sanctuary is finally coming true with the help of her parents and the state.

Six-year-old Catherine Violet Hubbard was one of the twenty kindergartners killed in December 2012 at Sandy Hook. Before her death, Catherine had a love for animals that was deep in her soul. She even had an imaginary shelter and her own business card, according to ABC News.

Governer Dannel P. Malloy has signed legislation instructing the transfer of 34 acres of a former psychiatric facility to the Catherine Violet Hubbard Foundation, Inc., created by the Hubbards. The facility will become an animal sanctuary, hopefully up and running by 2016. [Read more…]

Is Increasing Minimum Wage Hurting Small Business Owners? Franchise Owners?

Pet Store | Heidi MeinzerAs a small business owner in Alexandria, Virginia, I understand the challenges many face when running their own company. If you are a small business owner, one such challenge you likely deal with on a regular basis is the question each employee is always asking—vocally or not.

“Shouldn’t I be paid more?”

A recent move by the city of Seattle has small business owners everywhere—particularly franchise owners—deeply concerned. The Emerald City raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour. [Read more…]

Virginia Legislative Update for 2014

 dog holding a wooden gavel in mouth 2014 LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

Virginia’s 2014 Legislative Session ended up being quite dynamic, with a number of legislative victories. These changes will go into effect tomorrow – July 1, 2014.

Legislative Victories

SB 228 (Bailey’s Law): This law requires pet stores to post information about the source of their dogs, including the breeders’ name, city, state and USDA license number. Additionally, SB 228 gives consumers a new remedy – for veterinary bills to care for a sick dog or cat purchased at a pet store, instead of being forced to return the animal to the pet store, or to absorb those costs if the purchaser kept the animal.

SB 42 (Fox Penning): This long-anticipated law phases out existing fox pens and prohibit new pens from opening.

HB 972 (Protective Orders): HB 972 authorizes courts to grant possession of a companion animal to protective order petitioners.

SB 177 (Service Animals): This law expands the definition of “service dog” to be more in line with the federal definition, by including dogs trained to assist those with physical, sensory, intellectual, developmental, or mental disability, or mental illness. [Read more…]

Reminder: VDACS Charitable Organization Form 102 Due May 15!

post it notes piled on top of each otherTo all Virginia nonprofits, this is a reminder that May 15 is the deadline to renew your Form 102 with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs.

Organizations that wish to solicit charitable funds in Virginia must register with VDACS.  If you’ve already registered, you still need to renew your registration each year by May 15.

Don’t forget to include an updated list of officers and directors, a copy of your 990, and any amendments to your bylaws or articles of organization.  VDACS has a handy checklist for any other documents you might also need to include.

You can get a copy of Form 102 on VDACS’ website.

Be Careful What You Ask For: The Dire Consequences of Backyard Chickens

Dog watching chickenArlington County has been considering allowing backyard hens for a while now. It is commendable to find a way to obtain eggs in a way that doesn’t support big farms and the egg industry. However, backyard chickens in an urban community have the potential for very drastic – even deadly – consequences.

Surprisingly, Arlington County’s current zoning ordinance does not prohibit chickens, but Section 12.7.1 of the zoning ordinance does require poultry to be kept in a building, structure or yard located at least 100 feet from a street or lot line. Considering Arlington’s urban nature and small lots, this set back requirement prohibits the vast majority of residents from having chickens. [Read more…]