When Does Your Dog Need a Lawyer?

You might find this headline silly — after all, it’s only in the rare case your Peaches or Petey bites someone that you would have the need to seek legal advice for your furkid, right?

“Actually, estate planning is the most important thing I can think of,” says Nicole Jergovic, 2015 Top Dog Award winner for Animal Law Attorney.

Not your pet’s estate, of course. Yours.

“Because pets and animals can’t talk, they can’t call 9-1-1 when they need help. The thing people need to deal with is to make sure they have made some care plan for their pets in the event they die or become incapacitated,” she says.

But it’s not just an end-of-life issue.

“When people are in a crash and they’re hospitalized . . . if they have pets at home and no one’s coming for a few days, that could be very bad [for the pet],” Jergovic says. “Put something in your phone or wallet that says ‘I live at this address and I have two cats that need to be fed.’ ” she advises.

As for dog bites, Jergovic says it’s important to contact authorities to make an official report, not only in case charges are filed, but if you’re on the receiving end of an attack, there’s record of it (and the offending dog).

In either case, Jergovic says it might be a good idea to get legal advice.  “I certainly wouldn’t want to be a non-lawyer going up against a lawyer in any type of case,” she says.

Legal issues involving animals also deal with cruelty and neglect.

“A lot of times, people are nervous about what they should do,” Jergovic says. “If they’re witnessing abuse or neglect that’s taking place right now, they should call 9-1-1, because it’s a crime in progress.”

What if something is not happening at that moment but you have information about an animal in dire circumstances? Jergovic says in those situations you can call police non-emergency lines.

“And you don’t have to be right,” she points out. “If you think something’s suspicious and you want to do the right thing, the right thing is probably notifying somebody who can figure it out.”

Oregon is reportedly among the best states in the nation for animal welfare law enforcement.

“We have separate dog fighting statutes, and our animal abuse felony statutes now have teeth to them — so if you have a prior violent felony conviction and you abuse an animal at the felony level, you’re going to be facing a potential prison sentence.”

Who would’ve guessed . . . a Deputy District Attorney can also be called ‘dog’s best friend.’

NICOLE JERGOVIC- Deputy District Attorney, Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office • www.mcda.us

Michele Coppola is a veteran Portland radio personality and copywriter for Entercom Radio as well as the new Managing Editor for Spot Magazine. She shares a home and couch space with her three rescue pooches Lucy, Bailey, and Ginny--as well as Bryon, the stray man she married six years ago.