Nearly every state now provides for companion animal trusts, also known as pet trusts. We think of pet trusts as being used to care for an animal that outlives its owner. A recent case from the federal court in Connecticut, Mittasch v. Reviczky, however, raises the question of whether an inter vivos pet trust can be used as a way to circumvent breed-specific laws or evade so-called ‘disposal orders’ calling for the animal’s euthanization. And the case addresses the more basic question of whether inter vivos pet trusts are even valid trusts, at least under New York law.
A ‘disposal order’ was issued for Stella Blue, a Rottweiler that “nipped” a police officer during a confrontation at the dog owner’s home. Eight months after Stella Blue was seized, the owner created an animal trust under New York law, the property of which consisted of $100 to be used for the care of Stella Blue and another of the owner’s Rottweilers. Ten days later, the trustee of the trust sued claiming that the Connecticut statute under which the dogs were seized was “overbroad, vague, and facially and as applied unconstitutional” because it permitted the dogs to be “arbitrarily, capriciously, illegally, and unconstitutionally deprived from the Trust.” How’d the trustee fare? (more…)