Page last updated at 03:31 GMT, Thursday, 3 July 2008 04:31 UK

US tycoon's '$8bn to dog welfare'

Late New York billionaire Leona Helmsley with her dog Trouble
Leona Helmsley left $12m to her pet dog, Trouble

The late US real estate tycoon Leona Helmsley reportedly wanted her estimated $8bn fortune spent on dogs.

She left instructions that her estate go towards dog welfare, according to the New York Times, and animal welfare groups are elated.

The newspaper said that while her wishes were not part of her will courts do consider expressions of intent.

Mrs Helmsley, who died last August aged 87, was dubbed the "Queen of Mean" during a trial in 1989 for tax evasion.

She left a $12m (6m) inheritance to her pet dog, Trouble, explicitly leaving out two of her grandchildren.

But in April a Manhattan judge reduced the trust fund for the nine-year-old Maltese to $2m and the grandchildren received $6m each.

Charities said the money could be used to rescue dogs from disaster zones and to tackle dog fighting, rabies in China and India as well as the canine over-population problem.

Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society, said US charitable foundations, like that established by Mrs Helmsley, were legally required to spend 5% of their assets per year.

On an $8bn estate, that would be $400m - three times the Humane Society's annual budget, he told AP news agency.

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