Obiter Dicta

The Birds and the Beast

Illustration by Francisco Caceres

It’s getting so a monkey can’t even rest in peace anymore, a rooster gets condemned for announcing the break of day and finders-keepers is no longer a binding proclamation. When animals and the law intersect, it does more than give paws fur thought; it flies in the face of convention and claws at the scales of justice.

While one might think of animal law as having mostly to do with anti-cruelty statutes, leash laws and guide dogs for the blind, here you’ll find a menagerie of tails about the legal ramifications of humans worming their way into the lives—and afterlives—of their pets.

Let’s begin in Boca Raton, Fla., where two women squawked in court over ownership of an African gray parrot. It seems Tequila (perhaps it’s best not to speculate as to why that name was bestowed) winged it three years ago from the home of Angela Coli­cheski. He was found by Sarita Lytell, who christened him Lucky.

The two met by accident in Janu­ary and soon realized their dilemma. In April, Palm Beach County Judge James Martz ordered Tequila/Lucky into court, where the judge likened him to an automobile that, even if lost, remains the property of the first owner. T/L was returned to Coli­cheski—albeit with a few extra miles.

And on the subject of squawking, we move on to Miami Beach, where it was reported that a rooster known as Mr. Clucky had fallen out of favor with lo­cals who—apparently unwilling to let birds be birds—wanted to preclude the possibility of his crack-of-dawn vocalizations.

The city issued Mr. C’s owner, Mark Buckley, a citation for keeping a farm animal within city limits and gave him a deadline for bidding Mr. Clucky a-cock-a-doodle-dieu.

On the bird’s website (yes, you read that right) Buckley insists his feathered friend is not a nuisance and asks for support at the hearing, scheduled for July 29.

In yet a third case along the perpetually sunbaked, southernmost stretch of the I-95 corridor, a squirrel monkey—15 years departed—can finally settle in and ride out eternity in peace.

Mighty, a spider monkey who left the earthly plane in 1994, was in­terred at Columbia Pet Memorial Gardens in Melbourne, Fla. His owners, Janet and Raymond Steiner of Satellite Beach, had signed a contract guaranteeing “100 years of perpetual care” of the grave site.

Over the years, the Steiners re­portedly observed overgrown vegetation, missing grave markers, fire damage and a “For Sale” sign at the cemetery. In July 2008 they had Mighty’s remains exhumed and transferred to another resting place.

According to press reports, Connie Lassiter—the cemetery’s owner—insisted the site was properly maintained. In June, Brevard County Judge William T. McCluan disagreed and ordered Lassiter to pay the Steiners almost $500.

That’s a steep tariff, but hey, if you guarantee a monkey a hundred years of RIP, you’d better be prepared to pay if it turns out he’s less than content in the hereafter.

After all, even a dog—or parrot or rooster or monkey—has its day. Have you hugged your pet today?

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