Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : November 2006

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New MSBA Section Runs Wild

MSBA Section of
Animal Law

No. of Members

  June 17, 2006

Alan Nemeth
Megan Mechak
  Dorothy Haynes
    Joan Epstein


MICPEL Programs

Quicker than Lassie could rescue Timmy from imminent danger, the Maryland State Bar Association’s (MSBA) Animal Law Committee gained Section-status after having surpassed the required 100 members and received the approval of the MSBA Board of Governors in mid-March 2006. The Section was initiated in June at the MSBA Annual Meeting in Ocean City, Maryland – a mere seven months after first meeting.

Alan Nemeth, bellwether of the Animal Law movement within the MSBA and Chair of the Section, has been “pleasantly surprised” at the rate his Section picked up popularity, even though he knew that there was already interest in the legal community before the first meeting.

“It’s a growing area of the law,” says Nemeth, noting that the Section’s main purpose is to dispel the perceived notion that Animal Law is a “silly field” and solidify the “acceptance that animals are more than just animals – they are family members. They can touch every aspect of law.”

While still in a newborn-state, the Section has already proven to be effective in its group activities. Shortly after its initial meeting in mid-November, its Email List activity significantly increased, due primarily to curiosity. Animal Law was a facet of the law that intrigued many people due to its ambiguity; but while others researched the then-Committee and topic, Nemeth and his colleagues were making strides by working on legislation, particularly Maryland House Bill 11 (combating Animal Cruelty) and the Pet Trust Bill, which allows pets to become a beneficiaries of a trust fund in order to continue provided care once the owner passes away.

With the preliminary leg-work ostensibly over, the Section has begun work on the bare essentials, including developing a MICPEL-sponsored program, forming a newsletter and establishing a sub-committee focused on Pet Domestic Violence headed by Maricruz Bonfante. The next bullet on their agenda is to offer seminars at law schools and organize programs under the guidance of Chair-Elect Megan Mechak, whose introductory program “Not Just Dog Bite Cases Anymore: A Primer on Animal Law” at the Annual Meeting was a complete success.

“[The program gave] a general overview of where a non-Animal Law practitioner would run into Animal Law topics,” explains Mechak, citing how one of the 35 program attendants stood up at the conclusion and stated that it was the best program he had been to in 20 years.

One of the reasons for the program’s success might have been Mechak herself, who practices Labor and Employment law with Tydings & Rosenberg, LLP. She became interested in Animal Law because, “even though this is a new area of law, it’s an area where a lot of lawyers find issues.” She continued, “I didn’t realize, at first, that Animal Law factors into as many practices as it does. It is one of those areas [where], even if you are not involved in it regularly, you’ll run into it eventually.”

With the groundwork laid and future plans coming to fruition, Nemeth has seemingly remained unflappable in the challenge of forming this Section, but he reaffirms that this process is no walk in the park.

“The pressure is there,” admits Nemeth, “[but] it’s from me because I always want [the Section] to be a successful and long-lasting contributor to the State Bar.”

The Section’s ferocious rise to distinction proves that Nemeth’s bark is as strong as his bite.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: November 2006

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