An animal welfare bill that was just introduced in Maine would better protect animals by giving them a voice in court, according to advocates of the measure. As CBS 13 News in Portland reports, the bill would let law students or volunteer lawyers work on animal abuse cases at no cost to the state.
It’s officially titled “An Act to Provide for Court Appointed Advocates for Justice in Animal Cruelty Cases,” but it's nicknamed “Franky’s Law” after a pug mix that was abducted, tortured, and killed last summer. Two men have been charged with that crime.
A public hearing on the bill took place this morning at the State House, and from there it will move to a committee work session. Jessica Rubin, an assistant clinical professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law, wrote in public testimony that the bill is modeled after a similar law in Connecticut. Desmond’s Law was passed in 2016, making Connecticut the first state to let court-appointed lawyers and law students intervene in animal cruelty cases.
Rubin said the law has not only provided justice to animals, but has also served as a positive learning experience for law students. “Students have enjoyed serving as advocates for two reasons—the work is gratifying and it provides them with in-court experience and training,” Rubin wrote in a letter supporting Franky’s Law. “Advocates typically collect information about a case by interviewing veterinarians and law enforcement personnel, conduct legal research, and then present recommendations to the courts regarding appropriate handling of the case.”
Desmond’s Law gets its namesake from a dog that was beaten and strangled by its owner, who entered a rehabilitation program instead of serving jail time. Advocates say the law ushered in stiffer penalties for those who commit such crimes, according to the New Haven Register.
“Since Desmond’s Law, we have seen a significant increase in jail time or probation with suspended sentences,” said Robin Cannamela, president of a volunteer animal welfare organization called Desmond’s Army.
Officials in New Jersey and New York are reportedly interested in similar legislation.
At 2 years old, New Jersey native Darius Brown was diagnosed with delays in comprehension, speech, and fine motor skills. At 12, he’s already founded a company, spoken to a national news corporation, and sewn hundreds of bow ties.
Brown's company, Beaux and Paws, donates the bow ties he creates to shelters to help animals get adopted, Todayreports. The hope is that since dogs and cats sporting bow ties are so unbelievably adorable, people won’t be able to resist taking them home. It combines two of Darius’s passions, fashion and animals, and the idea was years in the making.
When Brown's sister, Dazhai Brown-Shearz, was creating girls’ hair ribbons in cosmetology school, she and their mother Joy Brown decided to involve then-8-year-old Darius in the process, thinking it might help him exercise his fine motor skills and also have a positive impact on other tasks he struggled with, like tying his shoes.
It worked, and it also ignited an enthusiasm for style and design that extended beyond hair ribbons: Brown began sewing festive, vibrant bow ties for himself, which he told Today he wears “literally everywhere.” People started stopping Brown on the street, asking where they could purchase them. Then, when the pre-teen learned about how shelters couldn’t accommodate all the animals displaced by hurricanes Harvey and Irma, he had an idea for how to increase adoptions. Brown sent batches of bow ties to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), and has since expanded his shipments to shelters all over the country.
With more than 47,000 Instagram followers and a personal letter of commendation from former President Barack Obama, Beaux and Paws has grown exponentially since its inception, and Darius no longer needs to pay for supplies out of pocket; his GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $11,000. Brown is planning to put some of that money toward a summer trip that will take him to five different states, so that he can deliver his bow ties to shelters and assist with adoption events personally.
“We’re definitely very proud of Darius,” his mom told Today. “He’s overcome a lot and he’s still on his journey of overcoming a lot of things. He just keeps going for what he believes in.”
Anyone who was raised on Looney Tunes cartoons might be surprised to find out that roadrunners aren’t long-necked or purple-crested—but roadrunners and coyotes do occasionally engage in chases. Here are a few fast facts about these unusual desert birds.
1. Roadrunners are members of the cuckoo family.
Found in deserts, grasslands, and forests, the greater roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) cruises through the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico. Its slightly smaller relative, the lesser roadrunner (Geococcyx velox), is generally found further south. Both birds belong to the cuckoo family, Cuculidae, which also includes anis and malkohas. All the members of the family have zygodactyl feet, with two forward-facing and two backward-facing toes. The arrangement gives roadrunners X-shaped footprints.
2. Roadrunners are fast—but coyotes are faster.
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According to The Real Roadrunner by Martha Anne Maxon, scientists have clocked the speedy birds running at 15 to 20 miles per hour. Coyotes can run twice as fast as even the fastest roadrunners, but luckily for the birds, coyotes would just as well dine on small rodents, plants, and lizards instead of birds.
3. Flying isn’t the roadrunner’s forte.
Most of the time, roadrunners get around on foot, but taking flight is an option too. Roadrunners will sometimes glide down to Earth from tree branches or canyon rims, but they’re limited to short-distance powered flights because their wings are weak and their muscular legs weigh them down. To get airborne, they usually need a running start.
4. Lizards, seeds, and hummingbirds are on the roadrunner’s menu.
Opportunistic and omnivorous, roadrunners will eat seeds, cactus fruit, snails, snakes, lizards, insects, arachnids, and rodents. Smaller birds are fair game, too. Roadrunners will sometimes lurk around birdfeeders and, with a great leap, snatch songbirds in midair. Wildlife photographer Roy Dunn recently filmed a roadrunner capturing a hummingbird at his backyard feeder.
5. Roadrunners can out-maneuver striking rattlesnakes.
Roadrunners have no fear of venomous rattlesnakes—in fact, they find them delicious. But hunting one takes patience. When the two beasts face off, the roadrunner will fan its wings, which makes the bird look bigger and more threatening. As the snake strikes, the roadrunner nimbly leaps out of the way. This happens over and over until the bird, having learned the snake’s routine, grabs it by the back of the head in mid-strike. Then the roadrunner bashes the snake against the ground until it’s subdued or dead. Since they don’t have talons and their beaks aren’t equipped to rip through flesh, roadrunners swallow snakes whole.
6. Puebloan peoples believe roadrunners ward off dangerous spirits.
Roadrunners are viewed as protective entities among Puebloan peoples in the southwest U.S. Members of these tribes scratched X-shaped symbols designed to look like the birds’ tracks into the earth around dead bodies. The Xs were believed to secure them from evil spirits: malevolent beings would get confused because they couldn’t tell which way the roadrunner who left the “footprints” had been headed. Likewise, roadrunner feathers were placed over cradles to protect the babies inside.
7. Roadrunners do not say “beep! beep!”
Male roadrunners emit cooing noises while courting females and defending territories. Both sexes also use barks and growls to communicate—and for unknown reasons, roadrunners like to produce a long series of clicks by snapping their beaks. The clicks might be a message about one’s territory or a signal to broadcast one’s location to others.
8. Greater roadrunners team up to defend their territories.
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Considered monogamous, greater roadrunners sometimes pair for life. To help maintain the relationship, males periodically dance for their partners. They’ll also offer food and materials that can be used during nest construction. Both parents take turns incubating their eggs, which are laid in clutches of two to six, and they share chick-raising duties later on. Defending the home turf is another task they perform together. A single pair of roadrunners may occupy a huge territory encompassing up to 250 acres.
9. Roadrunners can conserve energy by lowering their body temperatures.
Roadrunners don’t migrate. On cold nights, the birds reduce their own body temperatures by as much as 15°F, which allows them to burn less energy. To help warm themselves back up, the birds like to sunbathe in the early morning [PDF]. They even raise their feathers to expose their skin directly to the sun’s warming rays.
10. The roadrunner is the state bird of New Mexico.
The greater roadrunner was formally chosen to be the Land of Enchantment’s state bird on March 16, 1949. Since then, the anti-littering organization Keep New Mexico Beautiful, Inc. has adopted an anthropomorphic roadrunner named Dusty as its mascot.