Thursday, October 18, 2007

But Ellen Degeneres Signed a Contract! So What?

Apologists for Mutts and Moms are fond of pointing out that Ellen Degeneres signed a contract with Mutts and Moms that prohibited Ellen from placing Iggy (the dog that Ellen adopted) with a new home. Of course, Ellen never signed that contract, but since her partner Portia de Rossi did, I'm willing to ignore that particular fine brush stroke and discuss the big picture. In other words, assuming, arguendo, that Ellen Degeneres had signed that contract, so what? (Click here for a copy of the contract in PDF format.)

When I was in law school, one of the things that we discussed in my first year civil procedure class was the various ways that a defendant could respond to a complaint. The "so what?" defense is properly referred to as a demurrer. To wit, assuming, arguendo, that Ellen and/or Portia breached the contract that they entered into with Mutts and Moms, did that give Mutts and Moms the legal right to seize the dog Iggy the way that they did?

Let's take it one step further. To wit, assuming, arguendo, that Mutts and Moms had the legal right to seize Iggy the way that they did, were they morally justified in doing so? This is the crux of the matter, and this is why dog lovers everywhere are howling for their blood, some figuratively and some quite literally. To wit, Ellen had found a loving home for Iggy, but that home wasn't good enough for the sanctimonious control freaks at Mutts and Moms.

Contrary to what most laypersons seem to think, contracts are seldom as straightforward as they seem. To wit, at the core of all contracts is an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Simply put, you can't be held legally to the terms of an unconscionable contract. In theory at least, courts are supposed to void such contracts rather than enforce them or fashion some sort of compromise that is fair and just. As I stated in a previous blog post, should it come to legal action, I think Mutts and Moms will be hard-pressed to justify their actions.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Laura Sweet said...

In this case, the contract is written to secure the best interest of the dog. And although Ellen may be funny, kind and a talented actress, she is not at all equipped to place dogs in homes. No matter how 'nice' they may be.

This controversy is fueled by people who have no idea what it's like to place dogs in proper care and all that is considered in doing so.

Despite your cavalier attitude toward contracts as a result of your own law school training, you must know that they all simply can't be ignored or we'd have a million dogs begin given back and forth to people at whim. And that's not good for the dog. For any dog.

1:32 PM, October 18, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a dog owner and believer that a dog (and even one as great as the one my wife and I adopted) is every bit a part of our family as any of our relatives are, it's still law that "pets" are property and cannot be given any sort of legal standing. And so, by extension, the "contract written to secure the best interest of the dog" would be uninforceable in most courts because the dog has no legal standing - "property" can be traded, sold, or given away at will...

Additionally, since there has been no offer of proof of abuse to the dog, the police had no jurisdiction to intervene on behalf of Mutts and Moms, etc. to remove the dog from the hairdresser's family, etc.

The "drama" surrounding this situation is incredibly volcanic in that it brings out the seemingly well-intentioned (if somewhat misguided) zealots who think they're doing great work by taking away an animal from one home without allowing those people to prove they would be acceptable pet owners, while at the same time ignoring the very real issue of the hundreds of abandoned and abused animals who die in shelters without ever having the chance to have a home at all.

And that's just sad.

8:06 PM, October 18, 2007  

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