Kray discusses law and regulations with Animal Law Association

Published: April 13th, 2009

Category: News

Attorney Fred M. Kray opened his mailbox in Miami in June last year to find a surprise waiting for him – a ticket for his dog not being registered.

His dog had died in January.

He wrote a letter to animal control explaining this, but Kray still had to go to court for it. When he got there with his dog’s ashes in tow, the bailiff told him he would still probably lose.

The animal control officer cited his computer as to why Kray needed a registration.

“I asked him, ‘Does a dead dog need a tag?’ He said, ‘Well that depends on…’ I said, ‘I’m not asking you what it depends on. If there is a dead dog right there right now, does it need a tag?’ And he is fuming because no one has ever talked to him like that.”

Kray showed the judge the dog’s ashes dated January and the ticket dated June.

‘The judge looks at the guy and goes, ‘I think he’s got you there.’”

Kray, an animal law attorney, spoke to the Animal Law Association Wednesday about his field. While Kray handled that case as a citizen and not as a lawyer, he has taken numerous other animal law cases.

He got his start after taking a veterinary malpractice case and a case against a pet store that was selling defective puppies.

In the pet store case, his client bought a puppy from a pet store and then found out that it had a very serious heart condition.

When the client tried to get the cost of treatment from the pet store, the store refused and offered to return the puppy only.

In discovery for the ensuing lawsuit, Kray found many of the certificates of good health required by law had a veterinarian’s stamp instead of an actual signature.

“So what they’re doing is they’re essentially taking the dogs and stamping [the certificates] and not putting anything on there in order to sell them as healthy,” Kray said.

Kray even got the veterinarian to admit that he could not possibly examine all of the puppies.

“What we’re really hoping is that if there’s something wrong with them, that they’ll bring them back and we’ll find it then,” the veterinarian told him in the deposition. Kray believes the only way the puppy mill problem will be fixed is if someone exposes it.

Although there are restrictions on puppy mills, they’re poorly enforced, Kray said, adding that the Department of Agriculture has never shut one down.

“The regulations that they have to pass to be in business are so minimal,” Kray said.

“They never have to take the dogs out for exercise if the cage is a certain size. If they have two dogs in there, they figure they’ll play so they’ll get some exercise. It’s awful.”

In the veterinary malpractice case, Kray explained that the law in Florida limits recovery to the fair market value of the animal unless there is gross negligence on the veterinarian’s part. The veterinarian spent a lot of money defending the case, even hiring an expert from Auburn University.

“Why are they spending this money? The answer is they’re sending a message to every lawyer who wants to file for malpractice,” Kray said. “‘If you’re going to file, we’re going to defend it, and you’re going to spend more money than it’s worth, so don’t bother. And it works, because unless you have a really, really egregious case of veterinary malpractice, it’s not worth it.”

This is just part of the reason animal law is a tough field to exclusively make a living in, Kray said. He recommended making it a just a part of a practice.

“Is animal law a profitable field in itself? The answer is not really,” Kray said. “There are probably a handful of lawyers in the United States that can practice solely animal law and make money at it.”