Experienced Attorney Handling Animal Law Contract Issues
In simple terms, for a contract to be binding, there must be consideration, such as an offer and acceptance, and a meeting of the minds with regard to essential or material terms. Beyond these fundamentals of contract formation, there are a variety of requirements, including that all signors must be of suitable age and capacity, and that the terms of the contract are for a lawful purpose.
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Although individuals typically think of contracts as being in writing, some contracts are verbal and represent enforceable warranties, although verbal agreements are subject to a dollar limit according to an old legal doctrine called the Statute of Frauds. Another aspect of contract law that individuals may be unaware of can arise from certain types of communications outside of contracts.
Contract disputes are common in animal law. For example, when renting or buying a condominium or townhouse, there may be a contractual clause excluding companion animals and pets and there can be issues as to whether a pet should be grandfathered in. In these residential contracts, all animals may not be treated equally. Some condominiums or townhome associations limit how many pets you can have, or the size of the pet, whereas others may apply to only particular animals, such as dogs and cats. Barbara can help you investigate if there are any loopholes or potential winning strategies.
Examples of animal law contracts include between:
- Breeder and purchaser
- Co-owners of a dog or cat show animal
- Co-owners of a racehorse
- Rescue group and adoptive family
- Foster group and foster family
- Pet owner and doggie day care center
- Animal owner and pet hotel or boarding facility
- Veterinarian and pet owner
- Groomer and pet owner
- Dog walker and dog owner
- Pet therapy animal owner and hospital, nursing home or school
- Companion animal owner and trainer or behaviorist
- Horse owner and licensee
If you have a need for this type of contract, Barbara can help you draft and revise it or propose addendums. Her firm serves clients statewide, including in Anoka County, Hennepin County and Ramsey County.
Animal Contract Drafting
When drafting a contract, it is important to clearly communicate both party’s rights and obligations with regard to an animal. People who lack contractual expertise may put conflicting or contradictory terms in a contract. This often happens when individuals cut and paste from forms they find. Barbara Gislason can help identify the resulting defects in an animal law contract and help individuals and entities draft or improve both contractual provisions and the contract as a whole. She also recommends annual reviews of contracts as laws continuously change. Let Barbara help you.
Pet Contract Analysis and Review
Although to an untrained eye, all contract boilerplate language may look the same, to the practiced eye of an animal lawyer, there may be language that further exposes a party to liability, affects ownership rights, or conflicts with public policy obligations. Clarity of expression and up-to-date terminology in contracts involving dogs, cats, horses, and other pets and companion animals is important as vague, poorly drafted, or outdated language may lead to a greater risk of litigation should a conflict arise.
Barbara can help you determine if your contract contains all the necessary elements and help you identify who should sign the contract. She can also help you identify if other communications have had the effect of modifying your contractual duties. She will help you understand what behaviors may result in a breach of contract or need for modification, or cause another to come after you. The more you tell her about your business and the types of transactions you have, the more she can help you. The best contracts are tailored to your individual needs.
Because of the extensive changes and developments in animal law every year, it is wise to meet with a skilled animal lawyer with contractual expertise on an annual basis to make sure your contracts are performing well. As the mother of animal law in both the Minnesota State Bar Association and the American Bar Association, Barbara has unique legal expertise to assist you.
Divorce Pet Custody Contracts and Pet Ownership Rights
Barbara Gislason wrote a book for the American Bar Association called Pet Law and Pet Custody: Establishing a Worthy and Equitable Jurisprudence for the Evolving Family. In this book, Barbara researched over 100 pet law cases and argues that in making a pet custody or ownership determination, the court should, in addition to analyzing traditional contractual and property law principles, take into account both the best interests of humans and animals alike.
Although animals do not yet have rights in the legal system, a growing number of judges throughout the country consider their own companion animals to be family members. Some judges are willing to consider arguments that animals are in a continuum between property and family members. Barbara is familiar with the intricacies of the many arguments and can help you increase the odds that your companion animal will have a future where both the animal’s physical and emotional needs will be considered as a factor.
An emerging area for contract drafting deals with pet custody agreements in prenuptial or antenuptial agreements in the dissolution of marriage context. There may also be partnership and co-habitation agreements that are pertinent, some specific to LGBTQ litigants. There can be confusion about who has ownership and possession rights, as the old concept of who purchased the dog or cat is not outcome determinative in all situations.
Even if the subject of a pet or companion animal was addressed in a prenuptial or antenuptial agreement, in nationally emerging marriage contractual laws, or in partnership or co-habitation agreements, Barbara can help you determine if certain provisions might be effectively challenged. Sometimes provisions are not enforceable when they are vague, if there was lack of full disclosure at the time of contract formation, or if provisions are contrary to public policy. For example, pet ownership provisions in a prenuptial agreement may not be enforceable when an individual has been criminally convicted of an animal cruelty violation, notwithstanding an animal property claim.
Barbara also wants prospective clients to be aware that in the family court context, some judges are more flexible in what types of contract provisions they will enforce. For example, some judges would permit co-ownership or visitation rights negotiated in a mediation context, whereas others are unwilling to enforce contractual provisions that do not achieve a final property disposition.
It is advisable to talk to Barbara Gislason about all contracts you have, and to inform her of any unique situation or problem you anticipate. Owners may be unaware of what liability they are assuming or transferring in a contract. Professional tailoring and modification of an old contract by amendment or addendum may increase the likelihood of enforceability and reduce the risk of litigation. Barbara has long-term animal law expertise and has taught contract law college classes. She has experience in contract drafting in pet custody cases. Let her help you.