November 4, 2010
Last month, Suffolk County became a leader in animal abuse protection. Suffolk County legislators passed a law calling for the nation’s first animal abuse registry. The law requires those convicted of abusing animals to register their name, address, and a photograph with the registry. Sensitive to the concerns about the cost of maintaining such a registry, the legislation also required that each offender must pay an annual fee of $50 for the five years they are required to register with the database. Additionally, the database will not be run by Suffolk County, but by the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. If a convicted abuser fails to register, they will face either jail time or a significant fine of $1,000.
MEGAN’S LAW FOR ABUSEDANIMALS
The registration of convicted criminals is nothing new. Megan’s Laws, designed to assure the authorities and public of the whereabouts of convicted sex offenders, have been in effect for years. The animal abuse registry is designed to have a similar effect. The list of abusers will be open to the public, so that pet owners and neighbors may know who, within their community, is potentially a threat to their companion animals.
The motivation for the law’s passage is really two fold. First, Suffolk County has been home to a number of horrid animal abuse cases within the past year. Most notably, a Selden woman who tortured, killed and buried kittens, cats, and dogs in her backyard made national headlines as her heinous acts were finally halted after her children reported her to the authorities. The second motivation for the bill’s passage, was articulated best by the registry’s champion, Suffolk County legislator Jon Cooper. Cooper told reporters, “[w]e know there is a very strong correlation between animal abuse and domestic violence… Almost every serial killer starts out by torturing animals.” Cooper observations have long been known to those working within the field of animal abuse and domestic violence.
A New Jersey study found that 88% of families with children that had experienced physical abuse, also recorded incidents of animal abuse within the home. Also, it is estimated that 88% of pets living in households with domestic abuse are either abused or killed. The link between animal abuse and serial killers is also very real. Studies have showcased that the vast majority of convicted serial murders have had a history of animal abuse. This list includes people such as the Son of Sam killer David Berkowitz, Jeffrey Dahmer, and the Boston Strangler Albert DeSalvo.
The idea for the registry was nothing new. In fact, the registry has been or is currently being considered in a number of states and counties, including California, Minnesota and New York State. The registry is the brainchild of Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), an organization dedicated to protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system. ALDF’s hope is that, as with the proliferation of Megan’s Law a decade ago, Suffolk County’s passage of the animal abuse registry will translate into the passage of similar laws throughout the nation.
ABOUT OUR LAW OFFICE
As readers know, our office has a significant bankruptcy practice (more bankruptcy information is available there). I addition to the issues Mr. Schlissel addressed yesterday, below are some more frequently asked questions and Mr. Schlissel’s answers. For help with Bankruptcy, or any other matter, you can always contact our office.
Q: How does filing for bankruptcy affect others, like creditors, family members, and co-signors
A: It depends on the type of bankruptcy. If it’s a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, which is very often called a “straight bankruptcy,” the purpose of that is to eliminate your debts completely. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, all of your assets are basically liquidated, except for exempt assets, and distributed to your creditor. Now, if you don’t have any assets, such as a house, chapter 7 is usually the way to go and at the end of the bankruptcy, you have no debts at all.
The problem is that if you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and you have a co-debtor, only you are discharged from the debt. At the end of the bankruptcy, the co-debtor still owes the debt. Whatever portion you didn’t pay, or if you didn’t pay anyportion of it, the co-debtor or guarantor owes the balance of he debt. In those situations where there’s husbands and wives or co-debtors, it is very often recommend that they both file for bankruptcy.
In a Chapter 13, you’re entering into a “plan” where you pay a percentage of the amount owed. If it’s a secured creditor which has a lien on your car, or a bank that has a mortgage on your house, very often you’re paying 100% of what is owed to them. If the debt is owed to credit card companies, some plans have you paying as little as 10-15% of what you owe.
In a Chapter 13, there is a stay, or injunction, preventing any creditor from taking legal action against a co-debtor or guarantor. But that is only a temporary form of relief. It doesn’t release the co-debtor for the amount of the debt that is not paid under the Chapter 13 plan.
The law is complicated, even more so than a lot of other areas of law that consumers have to deal with. Not only that, but not all attorneys do bankruptcy work. In fact, most of them do not do bankruptcy. Very few attorneys get involved in dealing with federal proceedings such as bankruptcy.
Q: How long does the bankruptcy process usually take?
A: Chapter 7, from start to finish, will usually take between three and six months. But a Chapter 13 proceeding can take anywhere from three to five years.
Q: What sorts of things do you usually do to help your clients rebuild their credit after bankruptcy?
A: After filing for bankruptcy, most good attorneys talk with their clients about how they can rebuild their credit. If done correctly, you can rebuild your credit within six months to a year after filing for bankruptcy.
When an individual falls behind on their financial obligations, all sorts of negative credit information is placed on their credit report. Filing for bankruptcy can help most people in the long run as they can develop good credit becxause if you fall behind on your mortgage, credit card payments or car payments, your credit score goes way down.
After you file for bankruptcy and you’re discharged, you don’t have any debt. If you enter into an agreement for a secured credit card or something else of that nature, you can rebuild your credit score. People whose bankruptcies I have handled have credit scores of 750 because they have no debt. they are now debt-free and the have been able to reestablish credit and show that they’re making payments to their creditors on a timely basis.
Any good bankruptcy attorney should want to have a long term relationship with his clients and should discuss rebuilding the person’s credit. It’s something we always do for our clients. We feel that it’s part of the process of educating them on how to rebuild their credit after the bankruptcy is complete.
Contact us anytime for bankruptcy help.
Picture courtesy of hrbor.org.
Our office is committed to ensuring that our present and future matrimonial and family law clientsare fully apprised of the ramifications of their decisions. Mitchell H. Rubinstein, of the Adjunct Law Profs Blog, reported on a recent case in New York’s highest court, which was decided at the end of April, Fuentes v. Board of Education.
In that case, a couple was divorced and the divorce decree gave full custody to one parent and there was no provisions in either the decree or the custody order creating any system for shared educational decision making. The issue was whether, nonetheless, the non-custodial parent retained not only the ability to stay involved in the children’s education, but also the right to make decisions regarding to the children’s education.
In this case, the parties child, “M.F.,” was blind and required special education. Mr. Fuentes, the non-custodial parent, felt that M.F.’s services were inadequate. The Committe on Special Education disagreed and the Impartial Hearing office denied his request for an appeal, holding that he lacked standing to appeal because he was the non-custodial parent and had no right to make educational decisions for his child.
The Court emphasized that its desire was to see to it that couple’s work out questions of educational decision making at the time of divorce, rather than leaving the issue to result in possible litigation. In that vein, it would be advisable to fully discuss all major eventualities before one’s divorce is complete so that such ambiguities may be avoided.
Picture courtesy of askpang.