Further Eroding Parents Rights in Michigan

Our Republican-dominated legislature here in Michigan passed, and our Democratic Governor signed, a ridiculous law which forces parents who do not want their children to receive visits from their grandparents to defend such decisions in court.

The law is a bit complex. If two fit parents sign an affidavit opposing grandparent visitation, then a judge is required to abide by that decision — but parents shouldn’t have to go through such a silly process, and what if the parent is a single mother or father, or there is a divorce and the non-custodial and custodial parents disagree about grandparent visitation?

Then it all goes to court where the threshhold is pretty low. Basically the grandparents have to demonstrate the child would suffer mental, physical or emotional harm if deprived of regular visits with their grandchildren. Unless the parents can counter that the visits would not be in the best interests of the child, the court can order visitation against the wishes of the custodial parent.

Now my wife and I have very good relationships with my children’s grandparents, but I can imagine a lot of situations where this wouldn’t obtain. One of my grandmothers was a real piece of work whom I wouldn’t let anywhere near my kids. On the other thand, I’m not sure I could put together a case that it wasn’t in the best interests of the child to see such an individual.

Consider the following case — suppose one of my daughter’s grandparents was a vile racist, and my wife and I both agreed that we’d prefer he not have contact with my daughter. Under Michigan law, we could do that today, but we’d have to go both sign an affidavit and get lawyers involved. We can still do it, but its going to cost us.

Imagine a slightly different scenario. We have almost no contact with the grandparent, until he resurfaces after my wife dies an untimely death. In this scenario, I have to go to court and a judge has to weigh the emotional needs of the child to know her grandfather compared to my desire not to have this person associated with my child.

Under the law, this would be pretty straightforward — I’d win every time. But he can refile very two years, and I have to keep hiring attorneys and dealing with this crap on a regular basis.

And what if the example isn’t so straightforward. What if, for example, I convert to a religion that doesn’t believe in contact with people who are not members of my faith? What if I become a right wing religious nut and I no longer want my child to have contact with one of my parent who happens to be a homosexual?

The point is not that any of these reasons are very good or very bad, but that courts should not be making these decisions at all.

A judge ruled unconstitutional Michigan’s previous grandparents visitation law in 2003. Hopefully they’ll do the same thing to this one.


ENROLLED SENATE BILL No. 727. Michigan Legislature, January 3, 2005.

Highlights of the past week’s action at the Capitol. Associated Press, January 8, 2005.

State Senate approves grandparent visitation law. Associated Press, December 8, 2004.

Can Bush Win Michigan?

If you’d asked me a few months ago, I’d have said that Bush’s chances of winning Michigan were about the same as the Detroit Lion’s winning three straight road games this season. Ooops.

National Review notes that Kerry is going to be campaigning here on Sunday or Monday. National Review quotes a Bush campaign volunteer as saying internal polls show Bush ahead in Michigan, which they pretty much were guaranteed to say regardless, but Kerry making a last minute stop here is a bit odd given that it should be a shoo-in for Kerry.

Or to put it another way, if Kerry can’t win Michigan he has little chance of capturing the presidency. This is a state that has lost thousands of manufacturing jobs, is heavily union and has a substantial urban minority population. If Kerry can’t win in this state, he’s going to have a horrible election night.

Kerry’s probably coming here late to try to boost turnout. Bottom line — if he can get heavy turnout in Wayne County (Detroit), Kerry’s going to win. If people think he’s faltering or don’t find him that compelling and don’t turn out, he’s going to lose.

And unlike the 2000 election, there isn’t any major contentious statewide ballot issue to drive voter turnout (in 2000 there was hotly disputed school choice proposal). This year the only major statewide ballots are related to gambling and gay marriage, neither of which has caused anywhere near the level of controversy that the school choice measure did.

Ringling Bros. Vandalized; PETA's Requests Investigation of Circus After Death of Horse

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus’ appearance in Grand Rapids, Michigan in early October was marked by the unfortunate death of a horse and vandalism of the arena the circus appeared at as well as of circus property.

A 14-year-old palomino gelding died after it was charged by a stallion while the horses were being unloaded from a train. According to the Grand Rapids Press, an autopsy showed that the palomino suffered a ruptured vena cava blood vessel from the stallion’s charge.

That didn’t stop People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals from asking Kent County Animal Control to investigate the death and the circus further for possible animal welfare violations. The agency declined to pursue such an investigation. Sarah Houwerzyl, kennel supervisor for the Kent County Health Department animal shelter, told the Grand Rapid Press,

We can do one [an investigation] if we feel it’s necessary, but I don’t see any reason for it in this situation. It seems to be a very unusual thing and, by and large, circuses take good care of their animals because they know they’re intensely scrutinized and they know the stakes in it.

The Grand Rapids Press noted that Houwerzyl did perform a routine inspection of the animals and found no problems.

After the circus finished its run, Grand Rapids Police officials called in the FBI to investigate acts of vandalism directed at the circus and the Van Andel Arena where the circus performed. According to the Grand Rapids Press, a glass door and two parking booths at the arena were damaged and graffiti was painted on the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The Michigan Independent Media Center site contained a message purportedly from those who committed the vandalism which read,

Insane Asylum
Animals in their Cages
Sleep, Eat, Pace, Eat, Sleep

For a real circus
you look at the audience
Insane Asylum”

In Grand Rapids, MI Saturday October 2nd, a group of concerned humanimals acted instinctively, but not without premeditation, to expose the oppression of once wild beings who are now caged, starved, taunted, rode, beaten and otherwise forced into obedience by the slaveholders that are the circus and its trainers.

The tired old tactics of humanitarian pacifism has lost its bite, that is why we chose property destruction, because it hurts. You can’t argue naturalness, respect and compassion to those whose heart is a wallet and the depth of their conscience is synonymous with the depth of their bank accounts. Bite deep, lock your jaw and they might feel entrapped.

We backed up toilets with sponge, superglued locks, etched circus truck windows, and smashed windows in Van Andel, and painted circus traincars. All agents in animal imprisonment and torture are appropriate targets and Van Andel is no exception. Maybe they will think twice before hosting a violent circus of slaves.


GRPD and FBI investigating circus vandalism case. Wood TV 8, October 2004.

Animal control officials see no abuse in circus horse’s death. Nate Reens and Sue Merrell, The Grand Rapids Press, October 2, 2004.

Jackson County, MI, Commission Votes to Continue Sales of Pound Animals for Research Purposes

The Jackson County Commission in Michigan earned the wrath of animal rights activists when it voted in late August to continue its practice of selling unclaimed pound animals to class B dealers as well as directly to the University of Michigan and Michigan State University for research purposes.

Commissioners Jim Videto had moved to have the county’s Animal Control Manager draft a policy to ban the sale of animals to class B dealers or directly to research institutions. According to the minutes of the meeting,

Moved by Videto supported by Lacinski to Move to Direct the Animal Control Manager to Draft a Policy to Prohibit Sales of Live Animals to Class B Dealers. Brittain asked how many people in the audience were from Leoni 1,2,3, & 4. Brittain stated that he never received one call from his constituents against the sale of animals, but he did receive 3 calls from people in support of the sale of animals to class B dealers. Mahoney supports MSU and feels there is a distinction between legitimate research, not experimentation. Elwell is in favor of selling animals, but it should be restricted. Day stated that he was here 14 years ago facing this same issue and voted against banning selling animals for research. If it werenÂ’t for the pig valve in his heart, he probably wouldnÂ’t be here now. Wilson thanked the audience for their participation in this emotional issue. He voiced concern that by stopping the sale we may be putting someoneÂ’s life in jeopardy. ItÂ’s up to the Board to separate facts from emotions. Wilson will be supporting ElwellÂ’s alternate motion. Lacinski supports VidetoÂ’s motion to prohibit the selling of live animals to class B dealers. Berkemeier said that he appreciated everyone being here tonight, but that there are many people involved with animals that have no objection to the sale of animals for research. The Board hears from people everywhere, not just here. He tried to review all of the information and found that 40%-80% of the animals at the shelter are either taken there by the owner, or abandon. Berkemeier will be supporting ElwellÂ’s alternate motion and believes in tracking the animals that are being sold to hospitals and medical facilities.

The commission then voted on the measure which failed 9-3. Supporters of the policy of selling unclaimed animals to class B dealers or research facilities then proposed that the Director of Animal Control draft a policy dealing with the sale of live animals which would continue to allow such sales but require class B dealers to document to whom the animals are eventually sold,

Moved by Elwell supported by Wilson to Direct the Director of Animal Control, with the assistance of the County Administrator, to develop a policy and agreement that deals with the sale of live animals.

Agreement shall be signed by Hodgins Kennels, or any other class “B” dealer that we sell live animals to. Said agreement shall specifically list who they can sell live animals to that came from Jackson County Animal Control. The list of such facilities may be added to (or limited), only by approval of County Agencies.

Said agreement shall contain the requirement that monthly reports be provided to the Jackson County Animal Control that clearly details which specific animals are going where, and it be in a manner that allows further tracking after the research facility is done with the animal. Jackson County Animal Control shall specify the format for said report.

All tags on dogs when they come in to Jackson County Animal Control hall remain with the dog at all times, including when a dog passes from the class ”B” dealer to an approved facility. The above noted report shall also note what tags are on the dogs.

Jackson County Animal Control shall maintain said records in a manner that is easily tracked. Copies of the records shall be available under FOIA, with a report submitted to County Agencies six months after implementation of this plan.

Commissioners shall be allowed unannounced visits to class “B” dealers Jackson County sells animals to. Such visits shall be allowed during the week, during daytime hours.

Adoptions of animals are encouraged, as are transfers to facilities such as the Cascade Humane Society.

Direct sales of live animals to specific research facilities such as Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, and other such facilities as designated in this policy, shall be continued, where it is desired by the facilities and by Jackson County.

This motion passed 11-1. Commissioner Robert Lacinski, who voted for the ban, was the lone commissioner who voted against drafting a new policy dealing with the sale of live animals.

According to the Jackson Citizen-Patriot, although is legal for animal shelters to sell animals to research facilities in Michigan, 75 other Michigan counties ban the practice. Jackson County has been allowed the selling of animals to research facilities for the last 35 years.


County does not ban sale of strays. Brian Wheeler, The Jackson Citizen Patriot, August 25, 2004.

Archaic Michigan Commissioners Vote to Sell Strays for Vivisection. Press Release, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, August 2004.

Michigan Senate Committee Fails to Vote on Lowering Hunting Age to 12

For awhile in September, it looked like the Michigan Senate’s Committee on Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs was finally going to get around to voting one way or another on a bill that passed the House in December 2003 that would lower the minimum hunting age from 14 to 12. Instead the bill was suddenly dropped off the committee’s schedule and it is once again in limbo.

The bill is almost certainly the victim of election year politics. Even in a state such as Michigan where hunting is very popular and even Democrats outside of Wayne County have to run on pro-gun positions if they want to get elected, lowering the hunting age to 12 might be an issue that many simply didn’t want to raise just a couple months before upcoming elections.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources, for example, had indicated for most of the year that it supported the bill. When it was passed in the House in December 2003, then-DNR director K.L. Cool said of the bill,

We commend Rep. Tabor for this effort to increase youth participation in deer hunting. This bill provides increased hunting opportunities, helping to ensure the future of Michigan’s hunting heritage without jeopardizing our state’s outstanding hunting safety record or overwhelming our statewide network of volunteer hunting safety instructors.</p

The DNR suddenly changed its mind when the bill looked like it might actually make it to a committee vote in the Senate.

Humane Society of the United States president Wayne Pacelle opposes the bill, telling the Associated Press in September,

You have to be 16 to drive and 21 to drink. It just seems inconsistent and inappropriate to have 12-year-olds handling firearms and shooting animals for recreation.

The bill would require children who hunt to pass safety classes and be accompanied by an adult. The full text of the bill can be read here.


Youngsters may get OK to hunt. David Eggert, Associated Press, September 14, 2004.

2 Michigan issues on hunting making news
. Steve Pollick, Toledo Blade, September 19, 2004.

Tabor critical of DNR decision. Press Release, Michigan Bear Hunters Association, September 17, 2004.

Hunting Age Limit Stalls in Legislature. Associated Press, September 2004.

Michigan Opens Dove Hunting Season

Michigan opened its first mourning dove hunting season in September after the state National Resources Commission decided to move forward with a limited hunt this year.

The hunt follows a compromise bill signed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm which allows the hunt but requires the NRC to initially hold a limited hunt and study the effects on the mourning dove population.

The initial hunt his year was limited to just six counties. The mourning dove hunt will remain only in limited areas for at least three years, when the NRC will evaluate the effects of the hunt and then determine whether a wider hunt is good wildlife management policy.

The decision made Michigan the 41st state to allow hunting of mourning doves. The full text of House Bill 5029 which repealed the ban can be read here.


Mourning dove likely to become fair game. Michael Kan and Amy Kwolek, The Michigan Daily. September 9, 2004.