I've written in the past about how important it is for animal cruelty prosecutors to "take the high road" and be scrupulously ethical.1 I stand by what I've said. But as I've studied and considered the issue further, it has occurred to me that an even more fundamental ethical issue presents itself with disturbing frequency - the failure of prosecutors to prosecute animal cruelty adequately or at all (usually citing overwork and/or the prioritization of human victim crimes). I conclude that it is not only a dereliction of duty for prosecutors not to aggressively prosecute animal cruelty cases, but that it is unethical as well.2
For what more noble service does the State offer than protection of the weak from the strong, the shelter of those politically disenfranchised from those in power, and the defense of the vulnerable against the tyranny of bullies? That's what prosecutors do, or at least what they should do. It seems to me that this is the most important justification for their existence. They are the valiant defenders of victims' rights no matter what the reason for the victim's vulnerability – be it poverty, race, gender, age, physical or mental weakness or, I suggest, species. Violence is violence. Abuse is abuse. It has been proven beyond all doubt that the violent crimes of domestic battery, child abuse, abuse of the elderly, hate crimes, and animal cruelty are inextricably intertwined at both practical and philosophical levels. The empirical data is compelling.
Animal cruelty presents a five-time risk of violent crime against humans.3 75% of all violent offenders have prior records of cruelty to animals.4 25% of all “aggressive inmates” have committed five or more acts of animal cruelty as children.5 In families investigated for child abuse, 60% revealed pet abuse.6 Childhood cruelty to animals is an important predictor of later antisocial and aggressive acts and that children showing these behaviors, without intervention, are at risk for enduring disorders in conduct and mental health.7 In three surveys in women’s shelters in Wisconsin and Utah an average of 74% of pet-owning women reported that a pet had been threatened, injured, or killed by their abuser.8 The 1995 Utah survey also found that children witnessed animal abuse in over 60% of the cases, and 32% of women reported that one or more of their children hurt or killed a pet.9
Let's take a basic description of "ethics:" “the discipline dealing with what is good and bad or right and wrong...” [Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, 1993].
In light of the irrefutable link between animal cruelty and human violence – especially domestic and child abuse – prosecuting acts of violence against animals addresses exactly the same issue as prosecuting abuses against humans. They are but two sides of the same coin. I predict that aggressive animal cruelty prosecutions will directly affect the number and frequency of related human violence crimes. If a prosecutor attends to his responsibility to prosecute animal abusers, I further predict that he or she will see a reduction in the number of offenses against humans. So by embracing animal cruelty cases as crimes deserving of aggressive prosecution, a State or District Attorney's caseload of violent crime will actually decrease over time.
When they fail to earnestly prosecute animal abuse crimes, prosecutors forfeit a golden opportunity to stem the extraordinary violence which permeates our society. It is a "bad" and "wrong" thing to do and, it is therefore, unethical. On the other hand, prosecuting animal cruelty cases is undeniably right.
- Ethical Considerations in the Prosecution of Animal Cruelty Cases, NDAA/NCPAA Vol. 2, No. 1, 2012
- The writer recently retired from a 15-year career as an assistant state attorney in Florida
- MSPCA & Northeastern University Study from 1975-1996)
- Hellman, D.S., & Blackman, N. (1966). Enuresis, fire setting, and cruelty to animals: A triad predictive of adult crime. American Journal of Psychiatry, 122, 1431-1435
- Kellert, S. R. & Felthous, A. R. (1985). Childhood cruelty toward animals among criminals and noncriminals. Human Relations, 38, 1113-1129
- DeViney, Dickert & Lockwood, 1983
- Becker & French, 2004; American Psychiatric Association, 1994
- Frank R. Ascione, 1995 and 1997
- Frank R. Ascione, 1995
The storyline of a science fiction film called Planet of the Apes involves a group of astronauts who crash land on a planet in the distant future. They become the prisoners of the planet’s dominant species: highly evolved apes, who use human beings as slaves. I didn’t much like that movie when it came out in 1968. What struck me was that the basic story was ass backwards and the real story has become one of the tragedies of science in the 20th century. For it is the human beings who kidnapped and enslaved the other apes (after all, humans are apes). Chimpanzees were torn from their families and native land, shipped to unnatural human-controlled facilities in far away countries, imprisoned for life in tiny metal cages and subjected to all manner of physical and psychological attack. That imprisonment and slavery continues in the U.S. as of this writing. It has not been the stuff of blockbuster Hollywood films or best-selling books. Largely, their plight and their suffering have gone unnoticed. As I write this, I know that some readers will assume that I am anti-science and anti-human. Nothing could be further from the truth. My angst is that researchers have assumed that there are no ethical implications involved in exploiting chimpanzees and other animals for any and all research experiments. And, the greater public has bought in. The ethical debate about the use of chimpanzees was lost long ago. No one is listening; they never were.
In 2011, the McClatchy Newspapers analyzed the medical records of chimpanzees in research labs and holding facilities in the U.S., finding a number of questionable deaths, signs of severe suffering and most of all, a terrible, depressing existence for those chimpanzees who are caught in the web of medical research and testing.
For example, those records tell the story of Lennie, a chimpanzee brought to the U.S. from Africa in 1962, who spent four decades as a “tool” of research. He was subjected to spinal taps, infected with HIV and hepatitis viruses, and forced to undergo countless blood draws and biopsies. Lennie spent much of his life living in isolation, which kills the spirit of social animals. In 2002, Lennie collapsed in his cage and died. And, the records tell of three chimpanzees who died from electrocution because of faulty wiring in the research facility. And, of the final days and hours of Rex, a 16 year old chimp who was dehydrated, vomiting frequently, unable to eat and in constant pain. He was found dead, with vomit in his mouth and windpipe.
Chimpanzees are not human, and for most of my brethren, that simplistic distinction resolves any ethical concern about their well-being. End of discussion. We use them; that’s the way it is; that’s the way it’s meant to be. This ignores the fact that chimpanzees are highly evolved and quite extraordinary beings. In the wild, they are members of complex societies and they live long lives. Yet, these highly intelligent beings are treated like pencils, pawns in a massive biomedical machine.
How I yearn for a deeper sense of compassion, a more encompassing embrace of our fellow creatures, and a move away from our tunnel-visioned, human centric focus. The intense suffering, both physical and psychological, that chimpanzees have endured at the hands of human beings is a terrible reminder of what happens when compassion is turned off. I hope that future generations look back in horror at the atrocities we have committed against chimpanzees. I pray that happens sooner, rather than later.
Interestingly, portents of change are cropping up. The European Union banned research on chimpanzees in 2010. Pharmaceutical giant, GlaxoSmithKline announced in 2008 that it would cease using chimpanzees, relying not on ethical arguments (of course), but, basing its decision on science: new techniques offer better, more reliable results. The United States and Gabon are the only nations still willing to conduct research on chimpanzees.
Yet even the U.S. is witnessing a chink in the old armor. In mid-December, 2011, the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine released the findings of a nine-month study commissioned by the National Institutes of Health. The study concluded that the use of chimpanzees is not necessary for most current biomedical research. It did not call for a complete ban on the use of chimpanzees, but noted a decreasing need for their use. Many people see this as the beginning of the end. My fingers are crossed; so are my toes. The scientists are discovering practical, scientific and financial reasons for ceasing medical research and testing on chimpanzees.
It is estimated that over 1,000 chimpanzees are still imprisoned in U.S. laboratories and facilities that take little heed of their needs or interests. None of these chimpanzees will ever return to the wild; they would be unable to survive. What is possible and should be pursued with all due haste, is a system of sanctuaries, so that these survivors can live out the remainder of their lives in peace and dignity.
If you agree that chimpanzees should be given the rights and protection they deserve, I urge you to support the Great Ape Protection and Cost savings Act, H.R. 1513/S. 810. Contact your legislators, as per ALDF’s action alert.
Ask your legislators to become a sponsor and support passage of this critically important bill that will phase out the use of all great apes in invasive medical research and release more than 500 “federally-owned” chimpanzees to sanctuaries.
And, please learn more about the plight of chimpanzees, both in the wild and in captivity, as well as what you can do to help them. Here are some valuable sources of information:
The Jane Goodall Institute
Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest
On a wall in my office is a framed poster of Jane Goodall holding a very young chimpanzee. They are both looking up at the sky and hooting, chimpanzee style. The look on Dr. Goodall’s face is one of deep affection and respect for the being she is privileged to be so near. But, it is the chimpanzee whose demeanor is most compelling. She is at peace, resting her hand on the shoulder of a human she can trust. I pray that the rest of us become worthy of such trust.
You know you’ve crossed into the Twilight Zone when celebrity chefs who promote the sale of foie gras, a “delicacy” consisting of the intentionally enlarged livers of force-fed ducks, claim to be victims. On Thursday Mark Pastore did just that, whining about being the victim of “violent rhetoric” coming from the people that want to ban the production and sale of foie gras as cruel, people like John Burton, chairman of the California Democratic Party. Anthony Bourdain also felt victimized, but added the suggestion that “every time a chef is threatened, someone should skin a panda.”
When Pastore and others act like the victims, while actively promoting the force-feeding of helpless animals to induce a painful and debilitating liver disease -- all so that the livers taste better -- you know you are entering some sort of alternative universe where nothing makes sense.
In that universe the people promoting the torture of animals to make them taste better are the real victims. In that universe the animals (hundreds of thousands force-fed and killed each year to make foie gras) and the people that wish to protect those animals are the bullies. In that universe the abuse of defenseless animals has nothing to do with violence; instead, anyone calling out the abusers for their indecency and inhumanity are the aggressors.
Wake up, Mark, and join the rest of us in reality.
You and your ilk are the aggressors, sick enough to mutilate an animal’s vital organs while the animal is still alive, just to improve its taste. You are no better than animal abusers in other parts of the world who beat dogs before killing them, because they believe it makes the dog meat taste better. And you are the only ones engaging in violence. California is moving forward to a less barbaric place where we won’t tolerate that, with or without you. If not being able to serve the product of a tortured animal makes you feel like a victim you might instead try to empathize with the animals whose abuse you’ve encouraged, the real victims. Justice will never be served for those animals – and for that you should be thankful.
We at the Animal Legal Defense Fund are committed to doing everything within our power to make sure that Tony finds his way to a reputable, accredited sanctuary where he can live out the rest of his life in an environment that caters to his needs rather than one that exploits him as a profitable spectacle.
To that end, our litigation team has been busy making sure that Louisiana’s big cat ban is defended and enforced. We are currently involved in three separate lawsuits concerning Tony, and with all the various developments, we thought it was time for a big picture overview on where things stand.
The first lawsuit is the one ALDF filed last April to have Michael Sandlin’s tiger permit revoked. In November, Judge Michael Caldwell ruled in our favor, holding that Mr. Sandlin was ineligible for a permit under the state regulations. Judge Caldwell ordered the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to revoke Sandlin’s permit and not issue any new permits. Mr. Sandlin and the Tiger Truck Stop have appealed that decision to the Louisiana Court of Appeal. We are currently waiting for the court to set a briefing schedule, which we expect in the coming months. It’s worth noting that the Department has complied with the court’s order and not issued a new permit to Mr. Sandlin, meaning that Mr. Sandlin and the Tiger Truck Stop continue to possess and exhibit Tony without the required permit.
In an attempt to remedy the Tiger Truck Stop’s open violation of the law, ALDF filed a second lawsuit to force the Department to enforce the state’s wildlife laws and turn Mr. Sandlin and the Tiger Truck Stop over to the District Attorney for prosecution. Unfortunately, earlier this month, Judge Caldwell held that enforcement decisions by an agency are discretionary duties that cannot be compelled by the judiciary, and that our plaintiffs lacked legal standing to bring the case. (Standing is a constant hurdle in animal law cases that limits who can bring a lawsuit. More information on standing is available here and here.) We are still considering our options on whether to appeal the decision. Supporters should understand that the decision in this second case does not undermine our victory in the first case. Judge Caldwell’s original ruling that Mr. Sandlin cannot have a tiger permit still stands, and it is still illegal for Mr. Sandlin to possess and exhibit Tony. This loss means only that we cannot force the Department to enforce the law. The Department has said publicly that it intends to enforce Louisiana law once litigation has concluded. Although that is not the timeline we hoped for (after all, Mr. Sandlin and the Tiger Truck Stop are violating the law at this very moment and the Department could seize Tony at any time), we expect the Department will eventually do the job entrusted to it by Louisiana’s citizens: enforce the law and protect wildlife.
The third lawsuit is one filed by Mr. Sandlin and the Tiger Truck Stop against the State of Louisiana, the Department, and Iberville Parish, seeking to invalidate the state ban on private possession of big cats. If successful, the case would not only allow Mr. Sandlin to keep Tony, it could also open the floodgates to captivity for countless other captive wild animals. Mr. Sandlin and the Tiger Truck Stop did not name ALDF as a party to the suit, but given the high stakes, we insisted on being part of the case. We filed what is called a petition to intervene, which asks the court to allow the intervener into the case with the same rights and opportunity to be heard as the named parties. Although Mr. Sandlin and the truck stop objected to our intervention, Judge Janice Clark held that ALDF had a right to intervene in the case and granted our petition. Interestingly, we are now on the same side as the Department, our adversary in the other two lawsuits. Although we wish they were more proactive in enforcing the ban, both ALDF and the Department want the Louisiana big cat ban upheld. The next step is for our litigation team to file exceptions to Mr. Sandlin’s case and an opposition to his request for an injunction against the big cat ban.
We are optimistic that we will prevail and the court will uphold Louisiana’s right to protect public safety and animal welfare by prohibiting private possession of majestic animals like Tony. Our hope is that once Mr. Sandlin’s case is over, the Department will act quickly to ensure Tony’s removal to a humane sanctuary.
If this sounds complicated and frustratingly slow, that’s because it is. In order to manage large case loads and protect the due process rights of litigants, the legal system may take a while to resolve contentious issues. We too are growing impatient with every extra day Tony spends in captivity at the truck stop, and we are doing everything we can to accelerate his release to a proper sanctuary.
Still have questions about the cases? Post them below and we will answer as best we can.
See the most recent updates on this case.
San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael A. Ramos and Senator Bill Emmerson, R-Hemet, recently addressed state legislators on SB 1145, which was introduced by Sen. Emmerson. The California bill seeks to increase the fines levied against participants and spectators of illegal cockfights, according to the district attorney's office.
The San Bernardino County Sun quoted a Ramos statement that read, "Right now, the penalties and fines for those who engage in cockfighting are not strong enough to discourage this type of behavior. The bottom line is we need to make it clear that animal cruelty will not be tolerated, and that those who take part in this so-called ‘sport,’ whether as a participant or spectator, will be held accountable for their actions.”
After a cockfighting bust in the city of Fontana in April, a city spokesman said community tips were vital in stemming these types of activities. The Sun article also mentioned that “Although prosecutors are concerned about animal abuse, they say highly profitable cockfighting rings also bring other types of criminal activity into communities, including gangs, drugs, guns, and prostitution.” Thus this bill is needed to help protect animals and communities in numerous ways.
Under current California law, the crime of cockfighting is only a misdemeanor and the fine for a participant and event organizer are $5,000. SB 1145 would double the fine to $10,000. In addition, the spectator fines would also increase from $1,000 to $5,000. These changes would come on the heels of a new law that became effective on January 1, 2012. That law is California Penal Code §598.1, and it allows for asset forfeiture in certain cases, meaning authorities now have the power to seize any property interest, whether tangible or intangible, that was acquired through cockfighting and/or dogfighting. That law is a definite step in the right direction. No one should be allowed to profit from such atrocities.
Unfortunately, Fontana Animal Services Officer Jamie Simmons was noted in the Sun report as saying that “despite changes in laws and tougher sentences for offenders, a slow economy has not had much impact on cockfighting locally.” That is indeed regrettable news. As such, we need to continue to do more to prevent and curtail this abuse.
I've long thought people misuse the term "hero." They use it to describe someone who has performed especially well, done a good job, or succeeded in accomplishing something. Most dictionary definitions seem to agree. I don't think that's what a hero is. To me, a hero is someone who risks personal harm or loss (physical, financial, societal) to do what he or she believes is right. It implicates at least the risk of sacrifice. For example, someone who saves a drowning child may or may not be a hero depending on whether or not he or she put herself in peril. Firefighters are heroes. People who defuse bombs are heroes.
Animal cruelty prosecutors and law enforcement officers are my heroes. They forsake the glamor and prestige of trying homicides and white collar crimes to defend voiceless and vulnerable non-human victims. This often comes with negative professional and financial consequences. Sometimes it even results in humiliation and ridicule. As a former prosecutor myself, how many times have I been asked, "Are you the doggy lawyer I've heard about?" How many times have judges summoned me into chambers to urge the settlement of my "Woof-Woof" case?
I recently had the honor of meeting a group of such heroes in Snellville, Georgia, when I spoke to members of various law enforcement agencies about animal cruelty and animal fighting investigations and prosecutions. These highly trained professionals were committed to the aggressive prosecutions of animal abusers despite negative peer pressure, a culture generally insensitive to animal rights, and some very unfortunate animal protection laws.* They blanched at the gory photographs I showed and proudly bragged about their personal animal rescue efforts. They included Lt. Tommy Taylor, the training officer for the Snellville, Ga., police department, his colleagues, and numerous representatives from the Gwinnett County, Ga., sheriff's office headed by Sheriff Butch Conway who, among other progressive accomplishments, offers a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any person involved in dog fighting. These are my heroes.
Undaunted by the obstacles they face and the sacrifices they choose to make for the work they believe in, the heroes I met persevere. I hope some day the work they do is recognized as the essential work it is. I hope some day they no longer have to suffer for their brave beliefs. I hope some day, when they no longer have to make personal sacrifices, they no longer fit my definition of "heroes" and are, instead, given the recognition and respect they deserve for doing the valuable work they do.
*In Georgia, for example, an "animal"... shall not include any fish nor shall such term include any pest that might be exterminated or removed from a business, residence, or other structure. (Ga 16-12-4(1)) Since any creature "might" be removed from a structure, it's arguable that Georgia protects nothing. Georgia also provides a plethora of affirmative defenses to animal cruelty. Nothing in the law prohibits one from "...defending his or her person or property, or the person or property of another, from injury or damage being caused by an animal"; or "injuring or killing an animal reasonably believed to constitute a threat for injury or damage to any property, livestock, or poultry." (Ga 16-12-4(f)) Conceivably, a reasonable belief your neighbor's Chihuahua might dig a hole in your lawn would justify his summary execution. Is it any wonder that Georgia ranks in the bottom tier of the ALDF 2011 U.S. Animal Protection Laws Rankings?
This summer Matthew Liebman and I are excited to be teaching an intensive course at Lewis & Clark Law School entitled Animal Law Litigation. It will literally cover the nuts and bolts of building strategic impact litigation. We will focus on both the theoretical and practical aspects of civil litigation in animal law cases, at both the federal and state level, and relate that to various cases ALDF is now litigating. We are especially excited to be doing it at Lewis & Clark, a truly progressive school that is forward-thinking enough to realize that the regulation of humans’ treatment of the nonhuman deserves special focus. While Matthew and I have been doing the work for a while, we expect to learn from the students, and hopefully we will all leave the course as better prepared animal law litigators. Hope to see you there!
The Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark, in collaboration with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, welcomes and encourages all perspectives. Its Summer Intensive Animal Law Program is open to visiting students in good standing at any ABA-approved law school. Please note, visiting students must supply a letter of good standing from their home institution prior to the first day of class. Courses are also open to attorneys and qualifying individuals with a bachelor's degree and may be taken as audit at a discounted rate. Legal assistants without a bachelor's degree are also eligible if they provide a letter from their employer confirming they work as legal assistants. For more information, please visit the Summer Intensive Animal Law Program webpages. Questions? Please contact CALS Assistant Director Laura Handzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503.768.6960.
Several months ago I read a story in the newspaper that stuck with me. It was about a man that shot and killed a 14-foot, 880-pound alligator in Texas. Apparently, the alligator was one of the biggest recorded in Texas since 1984. The article provided details on how the hunt came to be and the measures used to pull the enormous alligator out of the water that it rolled in to after being shot. Of course we see hunting stories like this quite frequently in the news so it wasn’t the subject of the article that stuck with me, but rather the profession of the man that killed the alligator. He was an attorney.
And that got me thinking about all the ALDF attorney members that have so selflessly donated their time and energy to help ALDF fight to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. They have spent hundreds of hours doing legal research, writing amicus briefs, and litigating cases. In their leisure time, instead of killing animals, they are helping their communities by volunteering at local humane societies, meeting with legislators and testifying at committee hearings involving animal issues, and taking action on local animal cruelty cases.
This attorney said the kill was the thrill of his hunting career and the newspaper included a picture of him standing proudly next to the lifeless body. Meanwhile, thousands of attorneys across the country go publicly unrecognized for the good work they do for animals. I wish our community honored attorneys for the size of their hearts, not for the size of their kills. So thank you ALDF attorney members – you are the greater catch.
Steer tailing and horse tripping are tortuous events that have been banned in California and at least eight other states, according to a recent report by the Star Tribune, a local Minnesota newspaper. But, unfortunately, both events are legal in Minnesota, and they have found their way into local culture, especially in rural Dakota County. And this is causing much consternation among local animal humane officials and activists.
The Star Tribune describes horse tripping as an activity where a rider ropes the front legs of a galloping horse and pulls him or her down. Steer tailing, also called coleo or tail spinning, involves dragging animals down by their tails. Apparently about a dozen Mexican-style rodeos were held in several Dakota County locations last summer, mostly in the township of Vermillion.
Now the Vermillion town board has filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction to stop the rodeos unless a horse show permit is obtained. The Star Tribune reported that the township's suit in Dakota County District Court “describes tail spinning as a sporting competition ‘with contestants on horseback riding alongside running cattle, and the contestants grabbing hold of and pulling on the cattle's tail while attempting to cause the cattle to fall to the ground and roll over.’” Sporting event? Does the town board really think that requiring the rodeos to obtain a horse show permit is going to change anything, or prevent any animal cruelty? What exactly do they seek to accomplish? It is obvious that the suit does not go far enough because the activities need to be prohibited, not “permitted.”
Keith Streff, senior humane officer for the Animal Humane Society, one of Minnesota's two animal welfare enforcement officers, has stated that “Tail spinning is likely to injure a steer… 400- to 600-pound animals toppled while running near full speed have a high degree of probability they will be injured ... they are not made to go down at that speed." Streff went on to say that if spinning consistently resulted in injury or death, that could be construed as criminally cruel, and that his office would look into that if a complaint were filed. But Streff also noted that it is very difficult to prove rodeo events are criminal unless there is proof that an animal has been killed or injured.
Raul Pliego, organizer of the Vermillion rodeos, said in his written response to the township suit that "spinning at his gatherings was a 'game [that] was played for fun and the entertainment of those in attendance and not for money or reward.'" That does not change the fact that animals are being severely injured at the events. Pliego's attorney has even characterized his client’s response to the suit as showing a pattern of “racist behavior by the neighbors that prevents [the Pliegos] from having family events and enjoying the use of their property."
It is time for the Minnesota State Legislature to step up and ban these rodeo activities. They are animal cruelty, plain and simple.
Living in Alaska, if you enjoy the outdoors it’s a wonderful fact of life that there are bears in almost every corner of the state. Having lived in Alaska for nine years, I was lucky to see bears in the wild many times. Having watched them in the wild and learned about their amazing intelligence, playfulness and zest for life, it breaks my heart to see bears in captivity.
On one outing a friend and I watched a mother bear lead her two young cubs to swim across a frigid glacial river. She plunged in with the two youngsters paddling close behind. But two-thirds of the way across one of the cubs, probably tired or chilly, hauled himself out on a rock. The mother and her other cub got across and started into the woods when she realized he was not there. She turned around quickly and saw him on the rock. He made pathetic little cries and dipped a paw in the water, clearly not wanting to get back in the freezing river. Finally, Mom had had enough and she bellowed at him. At that, he instantly jumped in and swam the rest of the way across. When he climbed out she laid her paw on his back and licked his face, reassuringly, and then led both cubs into the woods. It was such a touching display of tenderness and motherly love, the moment has stuck with me forever.
Last week I was forced to watch another bear, Ben, pace in his pathetic concrete and chain link enclosure in North Carolina. His sadness and mental and physical anguish is palpable. Here is a video of Ben in his cage:
After spending several hours observing Ben, bear expert Else Poulsen opined that Ben "is suffering greatly and intervention is critical at this time." She further explained, "Ben exhibits the typical aberrant behaviors of a sensory deprived bear in a substandard enclosure with substandard husbandry practices. His day consists of pacing, begging for bread from visitors, and sleeping—nothing else."
What’s more, Ben’s owners, Jambbas Ranch, have been repeatedly cited by the USDA for years for violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, including unsanitary conditions, hazardous enclosures, failure to provide adequate veterinary care, and failure to supply sufficient quantities of food and potable water. Yet the agency has continued to renew Jambbas' license.
ALDF and others have filed suit to force the USDA to revoke the license; it’s our hope that Ben will be able to live out his life at an excellent sanctuary where he can act more like a bear. Please help us free Ben by signing our petition to the USDA.
On April 3, 2012, Governor Otter signed S 1303 to create Idaho's first felony animal cruelty law. The new law makes Idaho the 48th state to establish a felony animal cruelty provision, leaving the Dakotas as the only states without such laws. While this new law is a step in the right direction, it leaves a lot of room for improvement.
Under the new law, an animal abuser could only be charged with a felony if he had two prior convictions within the last 15 years for animal cruelty involving “intentional and malicious infliction of pain, physical suffering, injury or death,” with each conviction counting as one violation, regardless of the number of counts. The maximum penalty is 12 months in jail or a $9,000 fine – a penalty more typical of misdemeanor violations.
The new law also adds felony provisions for organizing cockfights when drugs or gambling are involved, and on the second offense in some other cases.
Please take a moment to urge Governor Otter to support future strengthening of the animal cruelty law with provisions for felony convictions on the first offense and meaningful penalties for violators.
Michael A. Tabor of Branson, Missouri tied a 9-month-old colt to the back of a minivan and drove at speeds approaching 35 MPH. The reason? He wanted to halter break this poor young horse. Over the course of the ordeal, Mr. Tabor stopped the minivan no less than three times to check on the horse—each time finding the colt in dire straights, but Mr. Tabor just kept on driving. Somehow, the colt stayed on his feet, keeping his head down and attempting to resist the force of the vehicle. When Mr. Tabor’s “training session” ended, the colt was seriously injured and breathing heavily, soaked in sweat, and shaking violently—no doubt suffering from shock due to his many injuries. One can only image the extreme pain this young guy was enduring. The appellate court describes one of the colt’s injuries this way: “The colt's hind hooves and bone were worn away all the way into the joint, indicating that the colt had objected to being dragged behind the van and had braced its legs to resist.” Stated more directly: the defendant ground this poor animal’s rear hooves off. Due to the severity of his injuries, the onset of infection, and the colt’s uncontrollable pain, a veterinarian euthanized him.
It took the trial jury less than 50 minutes to convict Tabor of the Class D felony of animal abuse; Tabor was sentenced to seven years in prison. Tabor appealed and lost. One would think that should be the end of this tragic story, but of course it is not…
In true narcissistic form, Tabor, still unwilling to accept responsibility for his crime, filed a petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). PCR is a statutory civil remedy that allows a convicted offender who has exhausted his direct appeal to collaterally attack his conviction on a handful of technical grounds—in this case, Tabor complained that his trial attorney was constitutionally inadequate. Based on his “ineffective assistance of counsel” claim, Tabor’s hoped to secure a new trial and a second bite at the apple.
Here is where the story shifts from outrageously tragic to just plain outrageous. In his PCR petition, Tabor’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim was based on the fact that Tabor’s trial attorney had the audacity to rely on Tabor’s own statements that he (Tabor) had never previously abused a horse.
This is what happened: At trial, and in direct reliance on the veracity of his client’s denial of past abuse, Tabor’s trial attorney asked a state’s witness who also happened to be acquainted with Tabor if the witness had ever seen Tabor beat any other horses before. Much to the surprise of defense counsel (but certainly not to Mr. Tabor), the witness responded with a less than flattering answer of “yes” she had. Though the defense attorney tried to mitigate the damage, with the evidentiary door now wide open, when the prosecutor got the witness back for redirect examination, the jury learned of the defendant’s many prior acts of animal abuse (e.g., kicking a horse in the genitalia, leaving a horse tied to a tree for protracted periods of time, and cutting a horse’s penis with a pocket knife). Couple the aggravated nature of the charged conduct with these earlier acts of cruelty and it is certainly no surprise that the jury convicted Tabor in less than an hour’s time, but I digress.
Undaunted by his misrepresentations to counsel (or his lack of success on direct appeal), Mr. Tabor took no hesitation in throwing his trial attorney under the bus by filing this PCR case—the unmitigated and manifest arrogance of this guy! Tabor’s moral shortcomings notwithstanding, we are happy to report that Tabor lost his PCR case in both the trial court where Tabor’s PCR petition was originally litigated and in the Missouri’s Southern District Court of Appeals. In resoundingly rejecting Tabor’s specious claims, our only regret is that the judges forced to entertain such nonsense didn’t sanction Tabor for filing a frivolous case.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that “Every Friday morning, a small courtroom in this Texas city becomes a kennel of jurisprudence.” The city has indeed found a novel way of dealing with the animal-related cases that were on the rise. As the article noted, city officials decided “to crack down on recurring civic problems that weren't getting requisite attention on regular courts' dockets, such as dog bites, stray pets, and residents who fail to register and vaccinate their animals.” Animal cases in San Antonio previously were handled by the city's municipal court judges, but city officials complained that they were not receiving adequate attention nor were the judges meting out proper punishments under that approach.
The interim director of San Antonio's Animal Care Services department, Joe Angelo, said in the WSJ article that the goal of the court is to change the general atmosphere with regard to animals in the city of 1.3 million, “where more than 3,000 residents annually are bitten by dogs and more than 150,000 stray dogs roam city streets on any given day.” He asserts that by having a specially-dedicated court, it sends the message to the population that irresponsible pet ownership will not be tolerated. But not everyone is happy with the change. In fact, there have been grumblings by some animal guardians that the animal court is being used to pick on them for petty offenses just to generate revenue. The article mentions a few people who were haled into court to answer for charges ranging from a dog bite to failure to register their dogs, with fines ranging from $269 (dog bite) to about $4,000 for the registration offense. Since the court’s inception just over 10 months ago, the city has collected over $250,000 in fines against pet owners.
It is believed that court is part of a larger trend in which cities are forming specialized tribunals to deal with distinct populations, such as drug addicts or the mentally ill. The goal is to allow judges to develop a deeper understanding of certain kinds of offenses, and better fashion appropriate punishments for those who commit them.
I recently began volunteering at the local animal shelter as a dog walker/trainer. My friends and family have praised me with thoughtfulness and compliments of which I have completely denied. They attribute this denial to modesty, which makes me smile, as I am only volunteering for the most selfish of reasons. Qualities of selflessness and humility are not within my character. So I am writing this blog post seeking a redeeming clarity; I have an agenda.
I was extremely nervous for my first two hour shift at the shelter. I spent the first half hour walking around, trying to gain a familiarity with the dogs. Once calmer, I chose to walk with Quinton, an amazing boy. While outside with him, I couldn’t stop smiling. There is a certain feeling a dog gives you when they are calm and happy. It is love in the purest sense and I am so open to it. You see, about a year and a half ago, my Newfoundland was diagnosed with lymphoma. Without cause, reason, or blame for her cancer, I was absolutely devastated. She was simply the love of my life. It was only through her that I learned how to love and to genuinely care for someone other than myself. She opened my heart. After diagnosis, I treated her with a cancer-fighting diet which consumed hours of my day. I was so proud to be helping her. After five great and unexpected months, I gave my darling girl back to heaven. It was a strength I did not know I had. I awoke the next morning with nothing as significant to do; no girl to worry about or to take care of. I felt an emptiness within, a void that I did not know how to fill. I joined a yoga class, a zumba class, took up meditation, hiking, and countless other hobbies to keep busy, but I still felt so incomplete.
After a year had passed, I considered getting another dog but living conditions were not suitable. I then saw an ad for the local animal shelter. I drove there the next day, not knowing what to expect, but once there realized that I wanted to help, I wanted to contribute. I asked for a volunteer application, only because I felt it would be good for me to spend time there. I hesitated before faxing my application in, not knowing if I would have the time – but I figured it would all work out.
Upon that first day and after spending time with those first few dogs, I realized what was missing from my life. I was so happy to be there, so happy to be walking with the dogs, who in turned shared their happiness with me for walking them. The transference was amazing. On my second day, I met Maggie, a pit bull cross. I was a bit intimidated so I stood at her window watching her. I could see how pretty her face was. I loved her bright pink collar. In looking at her, my eyes slowly blinked while I was in thought. She was watching me and as I looked up, she was slowly blinking back to me. I felt a connection. I walked around and entered her room. She was so shy and so gentle. While on our walk, she looked up at me and her whole demeanor changed. She seemed as if she was smiling. She bounced a bit now when she walked. Within this past year, I have never felt such happiness. It filled that emptiness within. I walked with seven dogs that day, watching the transformation take place in each one and within myself. What those dogs did and do for me on a daily basis I just cannot describe. They give so much love and appreciation – if only I could be like that.
Today is much brighter, as I have found more happiness in life than I could have ever imagined. It’s just from taking the dogs at the shelter for a walk or two. It’s spending time doing something I love while being surrounded by people who love what they have chosen to do. It is a special place of warmth where love just doesn’t exist, it embraces and enables one to realize that a broken heart can mend for humans and animals. In rehabilitation one finds greater strength and courage through love. And this local animal shelter is such a place for this. So it is for these selfish reasons that I am a volunteer. I wish I was aligned to the greater good but this just isn’t the case. I’m just an everyday human being who found a great place for sharing what I love to do.
Around New Year’s Day, OR7, a lone gray wolf from a pack in Oregon, crossed into Northern California, making him the first such wolf in California in nearly 90 years. Just recently he wandered back over the state line into Oregon. But officials tracking the wolf consider it a possibility that OR7 will continue to roam both states. Fish and Game officials get daily downloads about the 2-year-old male wolf’s location via his radio collar, and OR7’s movement has become especially important now because California has been thrust into the debate about how to manage gray wolves.
According to a report from QUEST, environmentalists want to see an increased wolf population in the Golden State, while others do not consider OR7 a welcome visitor. OR7 spent most of his recent visit in Lassen County, and there wolf opposition is growing. This is in the face of several public hearings and meetings sponsored by Fish and Game officials to educate and alert the population about gray wolves. For example, when someone says they will shoot a wolf on site due to a perceived threat against livestock, a Fish and Game official warns them that the wolves are endangered and that if one is killed, it is a $100,000 fine or a year in jail, or both. But this is the classic exchange that has occurred since wolves were reintroduced in the West almost two decades ago. The QUEST report notes that “In states like Idaho and Montana, where wolf populations have rebounded, there’s been an all-out war. Ranchers and hunters say wolves kill too many livestock and elk. Environmentalists see the wolf as a key part of a healthy ecosystem.” Can a proper management plan be reached?
From the QUEST report:
Wolves are currently protected in California under the federal Endangered Species Act, but several environmental groups are petitioning the state to protect them under California law as well. That would require the Department of Fish and Game to figure out how many wolves belong in California and how they’ll recover. The federal government is also considering whether to specially protect California wolves. Populations in Idaho, Montana and parts of Oregon and Washington have already been taken off the endangered species list but the agency has recommended removing protection for wolves in some of the remaining parts of the lower 48 states. California wolves may still be protected, however. Fish and Wildlife is considering whether to specially protect wolves in parts of Oregon, Washington and California. If so, the agency would consider writing a recovery plan for what would be known as the Pacific Northwest population. That decision is due by September 30th.In January, the Los Angeles Times published an editorial that discussed the plight of the gray wolf and his arrival in California after a long absence. The editorial opined that “It's time for California — one of the most environmentally progressive states in the nation — to think about how it will handle the return of a predator it hasn't seen in the wild for close to 80 years.” It went on to discuss that antipathy to the wolves in other Western states led to a “disturbing” act of Congress in 2011 to override the Endangered Species Act and undermine the wolves' recovery by delisting them in Idaho and Montana, states that are more sparsely populated than California when more wolf run-ins are more likely to occur. “The two states promptly approved hunting of the wolves, which has already thinned the numbers of the Northern Rockies group by at least 150 (after it had reached 1,651 in 2010).” The Times proposed a possible solution to any livestock losses suffered by ranchers and farmers: a compensation fund. This could even be modeled after a similar fund in place in Oregon, while also “encouraging nonlethal ways of discouraging wolves from preying on livestock.”
Is it really too much to ask to allow the wolves to recover and replenish their population? To restore the ecosystem? The Times summed it up best by writing that “What we can realistically hope for is that the wolf will reach healthy, self-sustaining numbers, and resume a place in the life of this state.” That should be the hope of all.
It’s easy to see why legions of journalists and bloggers have gleefully jumped on the pink slime bandwagon, offering their commentary on the massive backlash--and backlash-against-the-backlash--regarding the unmasking of “boneless lean beef trimmings,” also known as “lean, finely textured beef,” but most popularly known by its now-infamous nickname, “pink slime.” While human hamburger Hoovers across the nation are gagging over their slime-filled school lunches and drive-thru dinners, cheeky copywriters are in throes of slime-induced ecstasy.
What editor could resist headlines like “Smearing Pink Slime,” or “Is it Time to Embrace Pink Slime?” Who doesn’t want to applaud the dozens of columnists who have independently begun referring to “Soylent Pink” (“You’ve gotta tell them!”). And it was only a matter of time before Jon Stewart proffered alternative monikers including “bovine velvet” and “mulched-up cow corpse.“
What’s the big fuss over pink slime, anyway? The occasional moments of national meat-related shock or fear that have occurred in the aftermath of factory farm exposés or massive food recalls have never had the staying power of the current pink slime outrage. I think Todd Dorman of Eastern Iowa’s Gazette hit the nauseating nail on the head when he suggested “…I think really what we have here is a simple branding issue. ‘Pink slime’ is trending negatively among many key demographic groups, including humans with money.”
Hence the beef industry’s attempts to quell the national gag-reflex over the cheap ground beef additive (made from the scraps of butchered cows that are then treated with ammonium hydroxide) by bringing in the big guns. In a highly publicized photo op at a Nebraska beef plant last week, the governors of Texas, Iowa, and Kansas posed with piles of the processed beef and eagerly polished off slime-filled patties with a relish rarely seen outside of the pathogen-possessed zombies of The Walking Dead.
But it’s hard to get consumers to so quickly stifle the sudden attitude shifts that can occur when, in a pink slime-style media firestorm, we are prompted to move our forks from our mouths, slo-mo style, look down at our plates, and ask the question that the corporate agriculture industry least wants us to ask: “What the hell are we eating?” I’m reminded of the endless hours of You Can’t Do that on Television re-runs I watched on Nickelodeon in the ‘80s—when those cute Canadian kids would get showered from above by a mysterious green slime whenever they uttered that magic mantra of ignorance, “I don’t know.” America has been slimed—and to the beef industry’s chagrin, we now want to know exactly what it is they’ve been feeding us.
Is it any wonder that corporate agriculture has been vigorously lobbying for the so-called “ag gag” laws that will criminalize the efforts of activists and whistleblowers who attempt to document and bring to light the myriad food safety violations and animal and environmental abuses that can be found behind closed doors at factory farms? After all, it was cameras shooting the 2008 documentary Food, Inc. that first introduced a subset of American consumers to pink slime, when as explained in The Atlantic, an “exec from Beef Products Inc. (BPI), which makes the pink product officially known as Lean Finely Trimmed Beef (LFTB) proudly welcomed cameras into his futuristic facility, and said that the product is in 70 percent of America's pre-made burger patties.”
The Atlantic article goes on to observe,
Given the recent bevy of state "ag gag" bills -- already signed in Iowa and Utah, and proposed in Illinois -- it appears that battle lines are being drawn over the control of information concerning meat processing. These bills would make it illegal to secretly record what goes on in meat processing plants. The forces of anti-slime could provide a boost of energy in opposing these measures.Slime to the rescue? Let’s hope. At the very moment when consumers are demanding more transparency from their food suppliers, corporate agriculture is attempting to draw an even darker screen over farming practices and food production with an army of ag gag-pushing lobbyists deployed to state houses across the nation. Join the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s efforts to stop them by signing our petition at ProtectYourFood.org. Just as soon as you’ve wiped that slime out of your eyes.
The Los Angeles Times recently reported that several federal wildlife investigators had “cracked an international smuggling ring that trafficked for years in sawed-off rhinoceros horns, which fetch stratospheric prices in Vietnam and China for their supposed cancer-curing powers.” More than 150 federal agents, along with other local enforcement officers, raided homes and businesses and made several arrests in a dozen states. The Times quoted U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe as saying that "By taking out this ring of rhino horn traffickers, we have shut down a major source of black market horn and dealt a serious blow to rhino horn smuggling both in the U.S. and globally."
According to the Times, soaring popularity around the globe has led to “a run on the rare horns from black and white rhinos,” and this in turn has “led to an onslaught of poaching in Africa, as well as the ransacking of European museums by organized crime syndicates.” In the United States, smugglers and traders routinely deal horn from auction houses, antique shops, and the trophies of hunters. The prices per pound for the horns can range from $20,000 to $25,000, making the horns more sought after in some countries than most drugs, including crack or heroin. This “lucrative enterprise” has even lured those who are responsible for protecting the rhinos, turning game wardens into "khaki-collared criminals who assist the poachers.” It is estimated that about 450 rhinos were poached in South Africa last year, which is almost four times as many as in 2009. The Times also noted that African herds have declined by 90% since the 1970s, with 20,000 white rhinos left, mostly in South Africa, and 5,000 black rhinos scattered across the continent. Rhino cousins in Asia are nearing extinction.
Despite the fact that the Chinese government has forbidden the use of rhino horn since 1993, and that the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species banned the sale of most rhino parts decades ago, the illicit trade continues. Even in the United States, where the international ban is enforced through the Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act, interstate commerce and international trade of horn still occurs. And the misconception that the horns are a cure for cancer still lingers, although it has long been debunked. The Times article states that Lixin Huang, the president of the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco, has “explicitly refuted the claims of a ‘cancer cure,’ which she says has no basis in the literature of traditional Chinese medicine.”
It is encouraging that federal officials are working diligently to capture the criminals that continue to decimate these animals for trophy, sport, profit, or myth. But, although the trade of horn is illegal and the rhinos are protected, more needs to be done. The arrests and seizures mentioned here are the results of an 18-month investigation of a trafficking ring that operated for “years.” How much damage was done during that time? It is known that a continued decline in the rhino population is at least one consequence. Protection of these animals must be a higher priority.
62: Hidden camera investigations showing animal abuse and health violations on factory farmsFood safety risks, animal abuse, and illegal working conditions are rampant on factory farms -- and the corporate agriculture lobby is attempting to pass so-called "ag gag" laws in several states -- laws which would make it illegal to photograph or videotape at agricultural facilities. They’ve already succeeded in Iowa and Utah…but the Animal Legal Defense Fund is working hard to combat these dangerous laws. Protect your food and farmed animals by donating today!
1,000,000: Pounds of beef recalled in a single incident of E. coli contamination in 2011
50: States where consumers are vulnerable to corporate greed trumping public safety
Ag gag bills were designed to place restraints on free speech and are intended to prevent consumers from ever seeing the animal abuse, contaminated crops, illegal working conditions, and risky food safety practices -- the sort that result in massive food safety recalls and all too frequently lead to outbreaks of food-borne illness -- that are common practice behind factory farm gates.
Documentation of abuses on factory farms has not only exposed horrendous instances of animal abuse, but also resulted in large-scale recalls of adulterated food products that threatened the safety of consumers. If ag gag laws prohibit such documentation, people who consume products from states like Iowa will be at an increased risk of getting sick from eating contaminated food products.
Support ALDF's hard-hitting legal work against dangerous ag gag laws. Your donation today will help ALDF fight the corporate agriculture lobby and call on legislators to protect the public's interest -- not corporate agriculture's appetite for deception.
On behalf of animals, workers, the environment, and the public, we vow to continue our fight against ag gag laws.
By now there is no serious dispute that producing foie gras, a delicacy only the uber-rich normally eat, equals animal cruelty. In order to produce foie gras, factory farm workers shove long pipes down the throats of ducks or geese multiple times each day to force-feed the animals unnaturally large quantities of grain and fat. The process causes the birds’ livers to become diseased with hepatic lipidosis and swell up to ten times the normal size. The birds are then slaughtered, and the diseased, engorged organ is sold as foie gras. So is there any serious debate that it is wrong and should be prohibited?
Yes, apparently so. Foie gras producers, distributors, and the chefs that profit from selling the product for roughly $50 a pound are now trying to repeal California’s ban on the production and sale of force-fed foie gras (note the law does not ban other types of foie gras), which is set to go into effect in July. They claim producing foie gras is ethical, and humane. Of course, cooking schools are not known for their rigorous ethics coursework – and it’s not clear that working in a kitchen adds much to one’s training in moral philosophy. One chef is quoted as arguing that: “We are talking about something that is hundreds of years old, that the Romans did, and we can do it ethically and humanely. Why should we stop doing it now? Why should we stop when the rest of the world is enjoying it?” It leaves one wondering what’s so great about Roman practices, how mutilating an animal’s liver through force-feeding becomes a humane practice, how this particular chef came to believe the rest of the world is eating foie gras, and why, if they were, that would make it ethical?
Of course, the fact that producers, distributors, and chefs make money by selling foie gras might influence their willingness to lie about it (as opposed to animal activists, who generally volunteer or make less than they would in the private sector). In 2009, the Better Business Bureau found that D'Artagnan, a foie gras distributor, was lying on its website when it said that foie gras is produced "under the strictest of animal care standards." The scientists producers pay to create phony studies showing how harmless it is to force-feed birds so that their livers expand 6-10 times their normal size will also object to the law. But then again we might expect that for the same reason. So why, if proponents of foie gras are so obviously biased, is there serious debate?
Dogfighters and animal hoarders try to avoid the law, but they usually don’t claim to be above it, or claim it should not apply to them. But the world of foie gras is different. It is a privilege to be able to afford food that costs $50 a pound, and to own a restaurant that sells it. One schooled in the “culinary arts” and who studies gastronomy is not the sort of rabble that shops at SaveMart and eats frozen TV dinners. And perhaps, they are not the sort of rabble who will let common-sense decency, the kind that supports animal cruelty laws, get in the way of their historic and momentous accomplishments, like cooking dinner. Whatever their reasons, Californians should reject any attempt to repeal the ban. Treating animals well, at least with some minimum amount of decency, says more about the quality of a person, and of the society in which they live, than one’s gastronomical tastes do. Maintaining a law prohibiting the production and sale of foie gras in California is evidence that we, as Californians, understand that.
Because dolphins, porpoises, and whales are so intelligent and should be regarded as "non-human persons," a group of scientists, ethicists, and animal welfare groups has proposed a bill of rights for them, advocating for greater protection under the law. The Daily Mail recently reported a “small group of experts in philosophy, conservation and dolphin behavior were canvassing support for a Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans” during a meeting of scientists in Canada. Citing that dolphins, porpoises, and their whale cousins are sufficiently intelligent and self-aware to the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual conference held in Vancouver, the coalition argued that the animals are justifiably entitled to the same ethical considerations given to humans, and the rights to life and liberty.
It is the hope that in recognizing cetaceans' rights, it would mean an end to whaling and the captivity of dolphins, porpoises, and whales, or their use in entertainment. This means that there would be no more dolphins in zoos or water parks, or whale shows at theme parks. Among some of the other requests under the Bill, whales would be protected by declaring whalers murderers, whale watching trips would be governed by regulations that would require the watchers to respect the privacy of the whales, and oil companies would also be legally bound to consider the impact of their activities on the sea animals belonging to the order cetacea.
At the very least this movement will bring some much-needed attention to the plight of these animals. Each of their populations is on the decline and much needs to be done to protect them for future generations.
For Seaquarium Owners, Exploiting an Endangered Whale Is Just Business as Usual
Most people don’t make their living by exploiting endangered species - but for Arthur and Andrew Hertz, it’s been a profitable arrangement. This father-son duo owns and operates the Miami Seaquarium, an aquatic theme park in Florida that features Lolita, an endangered orca who has been forced to live and perform there for the past forty years. Lolita was captured near Puget Sound when she was about four years old – and is estimated to have brought the Seaquarium tens of millions of dollars since then.
The Seaquarium operates below federal animal welfare guidelines, including a tank that is smaller than mandated by the USDA; another orca housed with Lolita died several years ago after slamming his head into a concrete structure in the middle of the tank.
Her welfare aside, a federal court in Washington State must now decide whether Lolita’s being a member of an endangered species might actually change the rest of her life. The Animal Legal Defense Fund, PETA, and a number of individual plaintiffs have sued the federal government to ensure that Lolita is protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)—when her pod was listed as endangered, captive members of the pod, like Lolita, were excluded from ESA protections with no explanation given by the National Marine Fisheries Services. Federal law prohibits the “take” or harming and harassing of endangered species—which likely includes what Seaquarium and its trainers do to Lolita in order to make her perform, as well as her current living conditions, which fall below federal regulations for housing orcas. Needless to say, Arthur and Andrew Hertz are concerned that the suit might cost them their star performer, and Seaquarium has intervened in the case in an attempt to have it thrown out of court.
Legal nuances aside, the moral question is simple: is it right for people like the Hertzs to exploit members of endangered species by keeping them in captivity, forcing them to perform, and charging the pubic to see the animals? The Endangered Species Act was designed to ensure that non-human species survive and thrive where they normally live, in part so that all Americans could view and enjoy those species in their natural habitat.
The Hertzs have become wealthy by charging people to see Lolita while keeping her in conditions that could not be further from her natural environs. If you wish to see her, you can pay the Hertzs the cost of admission. At first blush, the Hertzs, stout gentlemen all suits and smiles, don’t seem like your average wildlife poachers, stealing animals from their habitats and the public that wants them to remain there. But it’s not easy to explain the difference.
The court will soon decide what the future holds for Lolita. In the meantime, she continues to circle a barren tank comparable to a fishbowl, while Andrew and Arthur Hertz enjoy the good life she – and the Americans who must now pay a fee to see her – have provided.
If you'd like to urge the National Marine Fisheries Service to include captive members of Lolita's Southern Resident pod in Endangered Species Act protections, please sign ALDF's petition here.
ALDF’s Official Facebook Cause, Abuse an Animal, Go to Jail!, is almost one million members strong! We are just 5,000 members away from reaching this important milestone. Abuse an Animal, Go to Jail! highlights ALDF’s hard work on critical issues for justice for animals -- most recently, fighting against ag gag laws in Iowa and Utah with our cutting edge legislative campaign, ProtectYourFood.org.
Help us reach our goal by inviting your friends and family to join Abuse an Animal, Go to Jail! today.
If you’re not already a fan of ALDF’s Facebook page, please join us here: www.facebook.com/AnimalLegalDefenseFund.
This is for everyone who has deeply loved and lost a companion animal. This is not an exhaustive list by any means. It is just a collection of a few things I found helpful as I struggled with my own intense grief after losing my beloved German shepherd Alec in the summer of 2010. If you are bereaved, I hope you will find something here you can use. If you have ever lost a special animal friend, feel free to share your tips for what helped or comforted you in the comments section. I would love to read them! I can honestly say it felt like nothing helped during the first 6-8 months, but looking back some things were more healing than others. Maybe one day I will make an alternative list, “Destructive things you should not do after losing an animal friend!” But for now we’ll stick with the positive. In no particular order, here goes:
1. Run! Or kick box or cycle or climb or swim or dance – only do something physical. You may need to take a break from things you love because they won’t feel the same. Now is a great time to try something new. I used to love singing and dancing. Not for an audience, mind you! Just for fun, around the house, in the car (just the singing) …but I did it a lot. So much I didn’t even think about how many times a day I would burst into song and/or pop off some silly dance moves. But I noticed it when I stopped. I lost all desire to dance, to sing, to listen to music even (and I LOVE music). These things came back of course, but that’s just to say you may not feel the desire for your most loved activity while you are grieving. Or you may want to throw yourself into it. Everyone’s different, but the universal point here is exercising the body, even though you may not want to get out of bed, is very helpful for your mental and emotional state. I know it’s difficult to get started when you’re feeling depressed, but it’s almost impossible not to feel a little better after some physical activity.
For my part, I decided to train for a half marathon about nine months after Alec died. I was not much of a runner so this was a big deal for me. Sticking to a training schedule was a good counterpoint to the disorganizing effects of grief; it gave me something healthy to do when I felt lost and scattered. It kept my body tired and my mind focused on something constructive. The race also took place on the one-year anniversary of Alec’s death, so it gave me a positive goal for this significant day – I would run for him.
2. Hike. Or sit near a river, rest on a mountaintop, doze in a garden, stroll along the ocean, or take a walk in the park…only get outside and clear your head. I know hiking is physical, but for me it was qualitatively different from training for the half marathon. To me, hiking is quieter and more contemplative and the important point I am trying to stress here is to just be in nature as much as possible. I have always loved hiking, so I was no stranger to it, but it became my go-to “keep myself busy” activity after Alec died. I went whenever I could. But I had always had dogs with me before and it was a completely new experience to go hiking utterly alone (kind of scary too, just being honest! but I stuck to popular trails). My brain was so busy after Alec died. It would just chatter and chatter away. It would do this while I was hiking too but the farther I hiked eventually…it would just…stop. And my head would be quiet. During these times I would frequently have flashes of insight or comforting thoughts or other epiphanies. Sometimes it felt like I could talk to Alec in my head. I would have conversations with him, and while I am pretty sure it was just my mind talking back, what is this thing we call “mind” anyway? Either way, they were comforting thoughts that would eventually bust through the sad, mad, confused chatter and that’s all that mattered. For some reason I needed to be moving through the woods, by myself, for this to happen. I think sitting by a river or on a mountain or in a garden or a park would also be good for quieting your mind and letting the comforting epiphanies rush in. But I am not good at sitting still and I even think better when I’m in motion, so hiking was perfect for me. Plus after hiking 14 miles you are going to be tired enough to fall asleep, which is a bonus if you are having trouble with that.
3. Memento Mori. Remember your mortality. Death comes for us and everyone we love, and we don’t get to choose when. This not meant to be depressing but rather to remind you that death is a normal part of life and nobody is exempt. The positive spin on this is it should help us to remember to live and love to the fullest, to make the most of our days and nights while we have them. This means different things for everyone, but surely one thing we can all agree brings meaning to our lives is love, not only to be loved but also the incomparable joy that arises from loving another unconditionally – and showing them this every day through our actions.
Also, if you have been blaming yourself in some way for your loved one’s death, stop. You are only human and I’m sure you did the best you could.
4. Remember the good times. If losing your friend was traumatic for you – as it was for me – trust me, the disturbing images, whatever haunts you most, will eventually quiet down. This sounds cliché but while you may never stop missing their presence, and you may never be okay with the circumstances surrounding their death, I promise you will get to a place where you can laugh and smile again when you think of them. I honestly wasn’t sure I would, so if you have doubts about that I understand. In the early stages of grief it hurts even to think of the good times, at least it did for me. If you get comfort from these happy memories right away, you are probably more evolved than me. I admit I am an extreme case, which is why I am writing this…for the people who are really struggling. I have been there. It will get better.
5. Get out of Dodge. When Alec was here it was not easy for me to travel. He had special needs the last two years of his life (unrelated to the cancer that would kill him), and when he became sick I really couldn’t leave. After he died, I found myself in the strange position of having a lot of time and freedom on my hands. I was so used to caring for Alec and scheduling my life around him (happily, I always feel compelled to add, because I loved him beyond measure and was devoted to his well-being; I never thought of him as a burden), I didn’t know what to do with all this time. Right after he died, I hopped a plane back east and stayed with my best friend for two weeks that turned into a month because I couldn’t face going back. I realize not everyone can do that, but you may have options. I was single and it had just been me and Alec for a long time, so I didn’t have a family to stick around for. Alec was my family, and when he was gone I felt rootless. When I got back to Portland, I moved out of the apartment we shared. I just had to. But I was glad I spent that month in New Jersey, crying on my best friend’s couch.
I also have a friend in Germany I had always wanted to visit, and a few months later I booked the flight. This trip abroad was an important step in my healing process.
By the way I am talking about temporary travel – avoid big decisions like relocating or quitting your job while grieving. It’s just not the best time to make a major decision. Although I moved out of my apartment and don’t regret it, I stayed in the same city.
6. Love again. Adopt another animal. Some say the best way to honor the life and memory of a dear companion is to save the life of another. I can’t dispute that. Although I vowed I would never adopt again after Alec died, I started to realize how much I still had left to give another animal. And although I could not make a dent in the problem of pet overpopulation, I could make a very big difference in the life of one animal. It goes without saying Alec could never be replaced, but with no one to take care of there was a giant, gaping hole in my life. I am so glad I adopted my dear sweet Teagan, who was recently ALDF’s mascot for National Justice for Animals Week due to the abuse and neglect she suffered before being rescued. Teagan came to live with me almost exactly one year after Alec died. She has been with me nine months now and has done more for my healing process than anything on this list by far.
7. Talk, talk, talk. Or write, write, write. Just as you need a healthy physical outlet, you need an emotional outlet too. You need to get the thoughts out of your head. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes even close friends don’t know what to say around the bereaved and you may feel like people are avoiding you. What is common is that people will avoid bringing up your loved one, and if you do they may change the subject, trying to steer you away from painful thoughts and worried you will start crying, not realizing that it is healthy, normal and necessary for you talk about your loved one. It is part of the processing you need to do – processing what happened and that they are no longer here. Assimilating the loss doesn’t happen all at once. It happens in small steps. They mean well, so just try to clearly communicate your needs. Tell them that it really helps and you actually feel better after talking (even if you end up crying, which you probably will – but you also will feel better. Tears are necessary and healthy!).
You may want to visit a pet loss support group if you feel unsupported. Many veterinary specialty hospitals now hold ongoing free groups that meet a couple times a month or sometimes weekly, and you can take advantage of these to meet likeminded people who will understand some of what you are going through. It is immensely important you feel understood. There is nothing wrong with you for feeling this loss so deeply. He or she wasn’t “just an animal,” despite what some thoughtless people might say.
Writing is a good emotional outlet, too – anything that gets the thoughts and emotions out of your head for awhile. You may feel you have nothing to say but when you put pen to journal you might be surprised at what comes pouring out. Give it a try.
8. Read. It helped me so much when I thought I was going crazy to know that I was not alone, that other people had stood where I had stood and they had gotten through it (notice I did not say “over” it). I read pretty much every book on grief out there, and I have some favorites that were immensely helpful. I definitely took refuge, or looked for it anyway, in books, in shared experiences, as I tried to extract meaning from my own experience.
A few words about books on grief generally (i.e. grief over a person) versus those specifically about pet loss: If legitimizing your grief is an issue, then the latter may be especially helpful for you These books go a long way toward explaining why you may feel alone in your grief or as if no one understands, because bereavement over a companion animal is not considered as socially acceptable as grief over a human friend or family member. This is changing for sure, but depending on your work environment and the level of understanding among your family and friends, you may feel isolated, which will only exacerbate your grief. If on the other hand you have a supportive social network, as I was lucky enough to have – I can’t imagine a more supportive workplace than ALDF – or if your relationship with your companion animal was especially profound and deep, you may get more out of reading books about the loss of a child, best friend, or partner.
9. Create. I pretty much failed at creating any kind of artsy crafty memorial, I think in part due to my unwillingness to let him go, and also just my moving through my grief at a proverbial snail’s pace, examining every stone on the path, really taking my time, which has seemed to work for me. And partially due to me being perhaps the least crafty person on the planet. But I did do a collage and meditation activity that was extremely therapeutic for me. I also have a blog, which fits under the “writing” tip above, but it is also a memorial of sorts, and it really is a creative process for me as I also include photos, links to songs, passages from novels, etc. So it has become a memorial space in itself. And it just goes to show your memorial can be whatever you want it to be. The bottom line is it can be very therapeutic to work on a memorial to honor your friend, whether it is a slideshow, memory scrapbook, poem, or other kind of art. The emergency animal hospital in my city has Memorial Art Therapy Workshops where you can craft a bookmark, prayer candle, fused glass keepsake, paperweight, memory box, or picture frame in honor of your companion animal. I loved the idea of memorial art therapy, but when I finally tried one of these workshops I cried the whole time and then ran away (and that was my second attempt! The first time I sat in the parking lot crying and never made it inside). I was not ready. Plus I think it was not the right outlet or environment for me. But try some things out – you will find something that feels right for you and it will be as constructive as training for a marathon (or even just half of one).
10. Don’t expect to ever get over it. Now, you might “get over it”- and that’s fine. But some people experience such a profound connection with their animal friend that they will never, ever stop missing them. What you will do is learn to live with it. You will integrate the loss into your life, and you will find a way to make it meaningful. You will think of all the ways your unique relationship, and the pure unconditional love you felt for your dear companion, changed you for the better. And you will nurture these good parts. In doing this you will honor your friend for the rest of your days. And in doing this they will never really leave you because you are not the same person you used to be. They changed you and therefore are a real part of you – that part we call the “self” or identity. And they can continue to inspire you. Your love is beautiful and it is not gone just because their physical presence is. In fact you may find as you move through your grief process that your love for your departed friend grows even bigger, and you will realize though they are gone your love never will be. And you can fill their absence with more love. You will find a way. It’s okay if it takes time. Grief knows no schedule. It is a part of life just like love and death. So be gentle with yourself and take your time.
Finally, you are awesome for loving your animal companion that much. I wish everyone did. Thank you.
Do you know where your food comes from? Let's hope not from Iowa.
On March 2, Iowa governor Terry Branstad caved to the factory farming lobby and signed a law designed to keep the public in the dark about the cruelty that pervades modern animal agriculture.
The so-called "ag gag" law is aimed at animal advocates who go undercover at factory farms to expose the exploitation of animals at these facilities; however, the law also poses significant threats to public health and safety. Undercover investigations are often necessary to expose not only criminal animal cruelty, but dangerous food safety violations -- the sort that result in massive food safety recalls and all too frequently lead to outbreaks of food-borne illness.
That's why the Animal Legal Defense Fund is proposing a law designed to minimize the risk to citizens of contracting food-borne illnesses by prohibiting state or local governments from purchasing or distributing food products from any jurisdiction -- like Iowa -- that passes an ag gag law.
Protect your food and farmed animals with a donation to the Animal Legal Defense Fund. ALDF is working hard to prevent factory farmers from hiding the truth about what goes on behind closed doors -- to win justice for the animals already suffering in miserable conditions on factory farms and to protect the public from consuming unsafe food products.
ALDF's Protect Your Food Act will not only help protect your family and the residents of your state from increased risk of exposure to contaminated food…it will also serve as a legislative strike back against the corporate agriculture lobby in states that choose to keep consumers in the dark by passing ag gag laws.
Curb corporate agriculture's appetite for deception by donating today!
"If foxes and rabbits have rights, then is a fox guilty of murder for eating a rabbit?"
This counter-argument commonly creeps up in discussions about animal rights and poses many interesting questions: if foxes have a right not to be killed by humans then do they have a duty not to eat rabbits? Is the fox guilty of murder for doing so? Do human governments have to police the woods and put foxes on trial who are caught eating rabbits?
The basic support for this line of reasoning is exemplified by the legal maxim “there are no rights without responsibilities.” This maxim is reflected throughout the law – for example, we have the right to enter into contracts but the responsibility to adhere to those contracts; we have the right to drive a car but the responsibility to drive carefully; we have the right to be free from violence but the responsibility not to direct violence toward others. If a fox has the right to be free from violence, shouldn’t it have corresponding duties as well?
All crimes include two components: actus reus (a guilty act) and a mens rea (a guilty mind). Examples of actus reus include breaking and entering, causing death, or taking somebody else’s property. However, these acts must be coupled with a corresponding guilty mental state such as breaking and entering with the intent to commit a felony therein, causing death with reckless abandon for human life, or taking somebody else’s property with the intent to dispossess them of it.
Under the English common law, the defense of infancy provides that a child under the age of 7 is incapable of committing a crime. In other words, a child so young cannot be guilty of a crime because they do not appreciate the nature of right and wrong. This rule still exists in the United States though the age of infancy varies slightly from state to state.
The application to the case against the fox is obvious: if a child has rights but is incapable of possessing a criminally guilty mind then a fox may have rights too without corresponding criminal liability. Since by most accounts even the most intelligent nonhuman animals fall below the mental capacity of a 7-year-old child it would seem that animals are not liable for committing crimes even if we grant them some basic rights.
Even if we were to impose criminal liability on animals there are two additional reasons we would avoid such an absurd result as putting a fox on trial for eating a rabbit. First, the fox’s attorney would raise a defense that the fox’s action is excusable because it is necessary for the fox to stay alive. Although killing people is usually considered murder or manslaughter, there are defenses such as necessity (killing another to save many) and self-defense (killing another to protect oneself) that exculpate the killer. It’s unclear that either of those specific defenses would apply here, but it may be appropriate for the court to recognize a predator’s defense since the fox is primarily motivated by doing something good (i.e., survival instead of malice) and has no viable alternative.
The last reason why giving rights to foxes and rabbits would not lead to People v. Fox is because our courts would not have jurisdiction to hear the case in the first place. Jurisdiction means “power to decide” and is a legal concept that gives court the power to make enforceable legal judgments. One major requirement for a court to have jurisdiction in a particular case is that the government has some interest in the outcome. If a New Yorker assaults somebody in downtown Manhattan then New York courts have an interest in hearing the case since that state’s criminal laws, public order, and residents are affected. However, if a British person assaults another Brit in downtown London then the New York courts would have no jurisdiction to try the case because New York has no interest in the outcome.
The same principle of jurisdiction applies to foxes and rabbits. Even if a fox ate a rabbit on New York soil, that state’s interest in deciding the rights between wildlife is so small that jurisdiction to decide the matter would be non-existent or imprudent. Thus we avoid the absurdity presented by People v. Fox because the fox has not committed a crime and, even if it were otherwise, our courts would be an improper venue to decide a case between wildlife.
Last year, “Windchill's Law” was introduced in the Wisconsin Senate, but it fizzled as the legislative session ended. Named in honor of an abused colt, Northland’s NewsCenter reports that,
The colt, named Windchill, was found horribly malnourished while covered in icy snow in temperatures far below freezing. Unable to stand, Windchill died 20 days after authorities discovered the abused colt. The pair who was boarding Windchill was charged with animal negligence.“the law proposes that ‘great bodily harm’ be added to the animal cruelty provision that covers intentional mutilation, disfigurement or death of an animal. The law would also clarify the abandonment statute, add a new definition to water, expand the number of years that a violator is banned from owning an animal from 5 to 10 years, and allow the court to order a psychological assessment, anger management counseling or psychological counseling for violators who are found guilty and sentenced.”
In a continued effort to strengthen animal abuse laws, State Representative Nick Milroy (D-South Range), with the help of State Representative Keith Ripp (R-Lodi), is trying to revive the bill during the current legislative session. Representative Milroy hopes that with bipartisanship support, Windchill's Law will pass and Wisconsin’s animals will have the protection they so desperately deserve.
She is nameless. Only a yellow plastic tag piercing her ear identifies her as "5489." A dairy farm worker brutally hits her over the head with a metal pipe. Then again, and again. She lets out a heart wrenching scream and falls to the ground. He repeatedly kicks her in the head as she struggles to stand. She bellows in pain, but the abuse doesn't stop.
Tragically, this is the sad reality at some factory farms in the United States. Animals are abused, tortured, and neglected, and food safety precautions are disregarded, all in the name of profit -- and just last week, Iowa passed a law so no one will ever find out. Legislators in several other states are also trying to pass similar laws which will endanger the public by exposing them to dangerous diseases and bacteria, such as E. coli.
Promoted by the corporate agriculture lobby, so-called "ag gag" laws would make it illegal to photograph or videotape at agricultural facilities, and in some cases to possess or distribute such evidence. Their goal is insidious: to prevent consumers from ever seeing the animal abuse and food safety violations that are common practice behind factory farm gates.
That's why the Animal Legal Defense Fund is working hard to prevent factory farmers from hiding the truth. ALDF's Protect Your Food Act is a proposed law designed to minimize the risk to citizens of contracting food-borne illnesses by prohibiting state governments from purchasing or distributing food products from any jurisdiction that passes an ag gag law.
Protect your food and farmed animals by donating today. Ag gag laws are a real threat to the animals already suffering in miserable conditions on factory farms. ALDF's Protect Your Food Act will encourage jurisdictions to speak out on their behalf and provide millions of animals with real protections by posing a tough legislative challenge to ag gag laws.
Curb corporate agriculture's appetite for deception. Donate today.
The Clay County (Kentucky) Circuit Court entered an agreed order of judgment today resolving a lawsuit against the county to stop systematic abuses at the local animal shelter. Represented by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, plaintiff and lifelong Clay County resident Tori Smith alleged that the Clay County Animal Shelter failed to meet the minimum standards of care mandated by Kentucky’s Humane Shelter Law. Thanks to this legal victory, Clay County will now send its dogs and cats to the Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter in Rockholds, Kentucky for the provision of sheltering and animal control services that comply with the state’s required standards of care.
Two puppies at the Knox-Whitley shelter.
Photos courtesy of the Knox-Whitley shelter.
Homeless animals may still be kept at the Clay County shelter until they are transported to the Knox-Whitley shelter, but Clay County will now fully comply with all state standards at its facility.
ALDF credits the new Clay County government and the leadership of Judge Executive Joe Asher for working with ALDF to improve the lives of Clay County’s dogs and cats.
These improvements are a far cry from the deplorable conditions that existed when Ms. Smith filed her lawsuit against the county in 2010. These photos were taken at the Clay County shelter just before the lawsuit was filed:
Males and females were housed together and fed on the ground, not in bowls.
Celebrated actress Ashley Judd has joined the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s campaign to urge Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear to protect Kentucky’s homeless animals through tough enforcement of the state’s Humane Shelter Law. Join her in our fight to help all of Kentucky’s homeless animals by signing the online petition today!
Sick kittens with eye discharge.
On March 2, Iowa governor Terry Branstad caved to the factory farming industries and signed House File 589, an “ag gag” law designed to keep the public in the dark about the cruelty that pervades modern animal agriculture.
The Iowa law establishes the crime of “agricultural production facility fraud,” which includes obtaining access to a factory farm “by false pretenses” or knowingly making false statements on an employment application “with the intent to commit an act not authorized by the owner.”
The law is aimed at animal advocates who go undercover at factory farms to expose the exploitation of animals at these facilities, but as the Animal Legal Defense Fund has pointed out, these laws also pose significant threats to law enforcement, public health, farm workers’ rights, environmental regulation, and investigative journalism. Iowa’s first attempt at an ag gag bill failed due in large part to questions about its constitutionality, and legal scholars are already raising the same issues with the new law.
Learn more about what ALDF is doing to stop ag gag laws at ProtectYourFood.org.
There is a growing societal awareness about cruelty to and neglect of animals. It has long been recognized that there is a link between cruelty to animals and violence toward humans and that animal abuse is often one of the indicators of family violence. Early and aggressive intervention in animal cruelty cases has a positive and proactive impact on public safety and human welfare. Veterinary professionals are beginning to embrace their critical role in reporting animal cruelty.
In order to effectively prosecute those who harm animals there needs to be a collaborative effort among agencies and individuals. Animal cruelty cases are unique because none of the ‘victims’ are able to tell the authorities what happened. Therefore, there is a need for the expertise of a veterinarian or other animal health care professional in nearly every case. Veterinarians are perceived of as a care giving profession and members of the public expect them to be at the forefront of setting the highest standards for animal welfare.
Veterinarians can become involved in a case in a number of ways. Most commonly, an injured or deceased animal will be brought to the hospital, clinic, or shelter for evaluation and treatment. The animal or animals can be brought in by an animal control officer, a good Samaritan, an established client, a stranger, etc. On occasion, a veterinarian may actually respond to the crime scene. Regardless of how the veterinarian becomes involved it is critical for him or her to remain objective and to document his or her findings in an impartial and unbiased manner.
Most veterinarians have not had formal training in recognizing animal abuse as part of their primary education except through available continuing education or textbooks. There is an increasing trend in legislation regarding the veterinarian’s role in reporting animal cruelty. Most of the provisions in the United States are found in either the state’s Veterinary Practice Act or their animal cruelty statute. The laws address both the requirement to report and the civil and criminal immunity and protection given to the practitioner who does file a report. The Animal Legal Defense Fund maintains a current list of those states with some type of duty to report and those states that provide some type of immunity. Mandatory reporting and provisions for immunity need to become a part of every state’s statutes.
Culminating a great effort to bring breed specific legislation to an end in Ohio, on February 21st, Governor John Kasich officially signed HB 14 into law. Dogs will now to be regarded by their behavior instead of their appearance. WOIO.com reports that the new law effectively eliminates the prior 25-year-old Ohio law that automatically declared pit bulls to be vicious dogs. The new law will take effect in 90 days from the date of the governor’s signature.
“In addition to dropping any reference to a specific breed of dog from the law, the new law will redefine current designations of ‘vicious’ and ‘dangerous’ dog, create a third lesser category of ‘nuisance’ dog, create a process for dog owners to appeal law enforcement's labeling of their dogs, and place the burden to prove the classification by clear and convincing evidence on the dog warden.” The law also requires “the owner of a dangerous dog to obtain a dangerous dog registration certificate,” prohibits certain felons from owning dogs under certain conditions, and changes the penalties involving ownership of nuisance, dangerous, and vicious dogs.
It is the hope of all that the new law will “improve the ability of dog wardens and law enforcement officers to protect the public from all dangerous dogs, regardless of their breed, while ending the senseless punishment of good dog owners and good dogs for acts they have not committed,” according to the Cleveland Animal Protective League.
And it is about time that the law reflected actual animal behavior instead of hype and stereotype. How many good dogs were denied the opportunity to thrive with a loving family under the old law just because of who they were born to? Thankfully, dogs will now have a fresh start.
Food safety risks, animal abuse, and illegal working conditions are rampant on factory farms, and the corporate agriculture lobby is attempting to pass so-called "ag gag" laws—laws which would make it illegal to photograph or videotape at agricultural facilities, or to possess or distribute such evidence.
Their goal is insidious: to prevent consumers from ever seeing the animal abuse, contaminated crops, illegal working conditions, and risky food safety practices—the sort that result in massive food safety recalls and all too frequently lead to outbreaks of food-borne illness—that are common practice behind factory farm gates.
Ag gag legislation:
- hides animal abuse
- threatens public health and safety
- threatens enforcement of environmental laws
- harms farm workers and whistleblowers
- obstructs law enforcement
- undermines freedom of speech and freedom of the press
You can prevent the mega-corporations that control most of our food production from passing laws that make citizen investigations a crime. Tell your state legislators to support ALDF's Protect Your Food Act and prevent factory farmers from hiding what goes on behind closed doors.
An estimated 50,000 chickens were found starving on a Stanislaus County farm after they were left without feed for over two weeks. Homes are needed for surviving hens, who will be ready for adoption in a week or two. Please visit Animal Place's adoption page if you can help.
According to news reports, about a third of the egg-laying hens were dead when Stanislaus Animal Services Agency discovered them on the property rented to A&L Poultry, and the majority of the survivors were in such desperate condition that they will need to be euthanized. About 2,000 birds were healthy enough to be rescued, and homes are now needed.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund is monitoring the case and considering our legal options to ensure justice for the tens of thousands of birds who suffered a horrific death in this shocking case of cruelty.
Today’s daily action for National Justice for Animals Week is: fight animal abuse from your own computer.
You can help fight animal abuse and honor animal victims from your own computer. Join the hundreds of thousands across the nation who have already taken action online to support critical ALDF campaigns, which are strategically designed to have the maximum impact for animals. A better world for animals is a click away!
- If you haven’t yet joined the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have signed the Animal Bill of Rights—take action now! Let Congress and all of our elected officials know that the law should protect the basic needs of all animals—and should provide justice for those who are abused and exploited.
- Communities have good reason to be concerned about the whereabouts of animal abusers. In story after heartbreaking story, abusers repeat their violent crimes against helpless animals, and often go on to victimize people as well. Keep your animals and your families safe. Visit ExposeAnimalAbusers.org to contact your local legislators in a single click and ask for an animal abuser registry where you live.
- Currently, most states have no mandatory requirements keeping those who are convicted of animal abuse crimes away from animals following their convictions. ALDF’s model “First Strike and You’re Out” law will help in the fight against animal neglect and cruelty by keeping offenders away from potential new animal victims and will also help reduce the huge economic toll which repeat offenders impose on their communities. Contact your state legislators today and ask them to support a "First Strike and You're Out" law for those who are convicted of animal neglect or cruelty.
Today’s daily action for National Justice for Animals Week is: become a Partner in Protection.
Animal victims of abuse cannot speak for themselves—so concerned citizens and our legal system must speak up for them. The Animal Legal Defense Fund has been fighting to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system for over thirty years. And we want you to be a part of that critical, desperately important work—not just during National Justice for Animals Week, but day in and day out, 365 days a year. Now, you can help animals every month of the year by making a monthly donation to the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
ALDF’s Partners in Protection program gives you a simple and convenient way to make regular contributions to ALDF via your credit card or electronic funds transfer. As a Partner in Protection, your gifts will provide a reliable, ongoing source of funding that is critical to our work on behalf animals.
Whether your monthly donation is $10 or $100, every single dollar counts in the fight against animal abuse.
- Be a part of ALDF’s cutting-edge work to push the law to provide real, lasting protections for animals—and to get real justice for animal victims. Become an ALDF Partner in Protection by signing up today to make easy, automatic monthly donations.
- If you can’t make a monthly pledge today, please make a one-time donation in honor of National Justice for Animals Week—honoring animal victims with your support for ALDF’s ongoing fight to put abusers behind bars.
Today’s daily action for National Justice for Animals Week is: share your rescue story.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund is delighted to have Teagan as the mascot of our 2012 National Justice for Animals Week. If you haven't already, watch our video of Teagan's rescue story and then share with us an animal you would like to honor or remember in the comments below or on ALDF's Facebook page. On Facebook, show your support by “liking” your favorite rescue stories.
Today’s daily action for National Justice for Animals Week is: don’t just read the news – make it!
Letters to the editor are short by design, and one of the most widely read sections of the newspaper. If you don’t think the issue of animal abuse is getting sufficient coverage in your local rag, or if you want to applaud a particular reporter for going in-depth to cover a case of animal cruelty, a letter to the editor is a great way to do it. If your letter gets published, you’ll win an ALDF prize pack!
For today’s National Justice for Animals Week action item, let your own community members know how they can join the campaign to fight animal abuse and honor animal victims with a clear, concise, letter to the editor. The ALDF website makes it easy to locate contact information for your local papers’ editorial pages and to write your own personalized, effective letter to the editor based on our ready-to-go talking points in just a few clicks. Get your name out there for animals—visit the aldf.org letter to the editor action center and take action now!
Then, if your letter is published, share it with us, and we’ll send you an ALDF prize pack, including a reusable ALDF tote bag, bumper sticker, and other ALDF goodies!
- Go to the letter to the editor action center on aldf.org
and locate your local newspapers in a couple of clicks. Check off the
papers where you’d like to send your letter to the editor.
- Fill in your email’s subject line, and, beginning with “To the
Editor:” draft your own personalized letter to the editor, filling in
the talking points provided by ALDF as you see fit.
- Provide your contact information in the form beneath your letter
text—the editorial page will need this information in order to run your
letter. Just click to send your message, and you’re on your way to
strengthening the fight against animal abuse in your own community.
- If your letter is published, email the link to the online newspaper to email@example.com, or mail a hard copy of the paper to us at ALDF, 170 East Cotati Ave, Cotati, CA 94931, Attn: Megan Backus. Be sure to include your name and mailing address along with the copy of your published letter to the editor. We’ll send you an ALDF prize pack in return! Note: letters must be received by March 31, 2012 and must relate to the themes of National Justice for Animals Week to be eligible for the prize pack.
Today’s daily action for National Justice for Animals Week is: meet the week's mascot, Teagan!
February 19-25 marks the Animal Legal Defense Fund's fourth annual National Justice for Animals Week, a yearly event that is dedicated to raising public awareness nationwide about how to report animal abuse and how to work within your community to create stronger laws and assure tough enforcement.
Join us on Facebook and here on ALDF's blog for a week-long campaign to fight animal abuse and honor animal victims! Take part in daily actions to bring us closer to real justice for animal victims.
Today's action is: Meet National Justice for Animals Week’s mascot Teagan, a little German shepherd who endured a life of severe neglect and abuse before she was miraculously rescued. Teagan was shot at close range and left for dead in central Mississippi. Upon rescue she was starving and weighed only 15 lbs. Teagan is now a healthy and happy in her forever home after being adopted from Rocky Ridge Refuge by ALDF’s Student Liaison Nicole Pallotta. Read more about Teagan at http://aldf.org/teagan.
Watch Teagan’s Story
Now share the video with friends, letting everyone know that, through your support of ALDF, you are a part of powerful community that is taking real action to help abused animals—not just during National Justice for Animals Week, but for generations to come!
Atlantic City’s Steel Pier recently came under heavy fire for plans to revive its famous diving horse show. The show, which ran from the 1920s through the 1970s, involved forcing a horse to jump off a 40 foot platform into a pool of water below. Predictably, diving like this is dangerous and traumatic for the horses, for whom high diving is anything but a natural behavior. Humans force animals to suffer in the name of entertainment all the time, but the thought of reviving this absurd and unnecessary practice still surprised me. Steel Pier operators even went so far as to claim on their Facebook wall that they had “conducted significant research into past practices,” and had determined “there was no animal cruelty or abuse that occurred in the past.” How horse diving itself did not register as cruelty and abuse in these people’s minds is beyond me.
But then an inspiring thing happened. Thousands of people stood up to condemn Steel Pier’s plans to bring back the terrible spectacle. Flooded in negative publicity, the developers announced that they no longer intended to include horse diving in their new plans. In an attempt to save face, Steel Pier claimed that it had merely decided to “create new memories for visitors instead of recreating old ones.” What really happened is clear: thanks to relatively new attitudes about the treatment of animals, Steel Pier’s pointlessly cruel horse diving act was shut down before it could even get started.
I sometimes get discouraged when I look around and see all the ways that animals are made to suffer for human amusement. The country is full of disreputable zoos, where animals spend their days pacing the walls of their tiny cages. Circuses with no regard for the physical or psychological health of their animals flourish. Wild animals are still held captive by the thriving canned hunting industry, waiting to be shot by “hunters” who get a thrill from killing the helpless. But when I see tens of thousands of people stand up and say no to reviving an old, abandoned form of animal cruelty, I feel hope. It reminds me that we can in fact eliminate specific forms of animal cruelty and keep them from coming back. The condition of animals in this country moves forward at an excruciatingly slow pace, but it’s important to remember that it is moving forward. In a few more decades, I wonder what other current forms of animal cruelty will have turned into sad memories of past mistakes.
Just so long as we can keep cat breading. Cat breading’s okay.
Chris Kubic, a high school social studies teacher, and his wife, Jennifer, recently noticed construction going on at a decommissioned nuclear power plant in Lake County, Illinois. Kubic, who is familiar with the snakes at Illinois Beach State Park, adjacent to the power plant, recognized that many hibernating snakes could be endangered if construction was allowed to continue near railroad tracks at the plant. "The snakes tended to accumulate around the old railroad tracks and I figured there was a den there," Kubic told the Chicago Tribune. So Kubic and his wife set out to save the snakes.
The Chicago Tribune reported that Kubic met with officials from EnergySolutions, the company hired to decommission the power plant, and they agreed to help him save the snakes. According to Rob Carmichael, curator of the Wildlife Discovery Center in Lake Forest, snake populations are on the decline in the Chicago area because of “the loss of habitat and getting squashed on highways.” Thus, an unusually thoughtful effort was made to save as many snakes as possible while the old railroad ties near the plant were removed.
On a cold and windy day in January, Kubik and Carmichael joined contractors from EnergySolutions, along with Michael Corn, a biology professor emeritus at the College of Lake County, to gather the snakes with their bare hands. Among the species that were rescued were brown snakes, who require an undisturbed habitat. And a great number of garter snakes were found, along with a few western fox snakes. None of the snakes rescued were harmful to humans.
The group spent the entire day saving as many snakes as they could find. The snakes were then taken to a six-foot-tall wine chiller in Lake Forest, which will act as an artificial hibernating den. Carmichael stated that the chiller “can be set right at the temperature snakes need to survive in winter — about 48 degrees." Lucky snakes indeed! It appears that the rescue took place just in time too, as it was reported that biologists also discovered a snake den underneath the railroad ties filled with hundreds of empty snake eggs. Thanks to the thoughtfulness of a few individuals many reptilian lives were saved!
Sweaty Palms. Racing Heart. Laser Focus.
It’s that time of year, when the best and the brightest law students, coaches, and judges congregate at the National Animal Law Competitions, an inter-law school competition presented by the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark, in collaboration with the Animal Legal Defense Fund. The prestigious national competition will be hosted at UCLA School of Law, February 24-26, 2012.
This exceptional event provides law students from across the United States an opportunity to develop knowledge in the field of animal law while honing their written and oral advocacy skills. Virtually unheard of over a decade ago, competitions such as the premiere 9th Annual National Animal Law Competitions, afford law students the opportunity to shine in three separate categories: Legislative Drafting & Lobbying Competition; Closing Argument Competition; and Appellate Moot Court Competition. Judged by experts in these respective fields (including several ALDF staff attorneys), law students are given invaluable feedback, so they can further develop their burgeoning animal advocacy skills.
Past competitions have focused on cutting-edge animal law issues such as breed specific legislation, Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, “cruelty free” labeling, animal fighting, and the link between domestic violence and animal cruelty. This year’s problems promise not to disappoint, as students will be using their advocacy skills to tackle complex legal theories, concepts and strategies relating to hot button issues such as “ag gag” bills.
Best of luck to the competitors as you prepare for this exciting event. We look forward to seeing you shine at the National Animal Law Competitions!
The Animal Legal Defense Fund currently has an opening for a development associate in our Cotati, California office. The development associate is responsible for assisting the director of development with the day-to-day operations of ALDF fundraising programs.
If you want to make this world a better place for animals and have fundraising experience, we want to hear from you! Learn more about the position and apply today!
In May 2008, Christopher Comins shot two Siberian husky dogs that had come onto an Orange County, Florida property where Comins happened to be walking. Reportedly claiming that the dogs were harassing a calf, Comins shot both of the dogs multiple times—nine shots altogether, continuing to shoot after the dogs were already wounded and down—while ignoring the pleas of their owner who was in close pursuit after their escape from his control. Christopher Butler, who had raised Riley and Hoochie from pups, said he came upon the cow pasture and watched as Riley came toward him wounded. Butler is reported to have said, "I said, 'Just stop shooting.' "He (the shooter) turned around and shot the other dog again." While both dogs eventually recovered from the shooting, one of them lost an eye. The incident was witnessed by several horrified passersby and videotaped by at least one.
In January 2011, the state of Florida proceeded to trial on criminal animal cruelty charges. Comins was charged with two counts of felony animal cruelty. The dogs' owner cried on the stand while describing what it was like to see his dogs being shot. But before the case could get to the jury, the judge granted a judgment of acquittal. Thus, in a surprising turn of events, the Orange County jury never got the chance to deliberate the animal cruelty charges filed against Comins. Instead, minutes after the State rested its case, the judge ruled on a defense motion to dismiss the charges.
"I don't believe the state has met its burden and I'm granting a judgment of acquittal. This case is dismissed," Judge LeBlanc said. The acquittal means that the trial is over and Comins has been cleared of the crime. The government is not permitted to appeal or try again. Fong Foo v. United States, 369 U.S. 141 (1962); Sanabria v. United States, 437 U.S. 54 (1978). The jury never was given the chance to render its verdict. One has to ask, "Why?"
The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides, in part:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed ...The idea, which has controlled American jurisprudence for over two hundred years, is that a jury of peers, selected from the community in which the alleged crime occurred, is best suited to decide the issue of an accused's guilt or innocence. Moreover, in Florida, where Comins was tried, the prosecution has the right to a jury trial as well. (Rule 3.260 provides that an accused can only waive his or her right to a jury trial with the consent of the State.)
Florida law does give a judge the power to grant a motion for judgment of acquittal if "...the court is of the opinion that the evidence is insufficient to warrant a conviction." (Rule 3.380) This does not, however, give the courts unbridled discretion. Typically, a judge orders a directed verdict after finding that no reasonable jury could reach a decision to the contrary.
"[T]he decision to grant or deny a motion for judgment of acquittal is not one which calls for the exercise of judicial discretion. If the evidence is legally sufficient to support the elements of the alleged crime, the trial court has no discretion to acquit the defendant..." Jones v. State, 790 So.2d 1194, 1196-97 (Fla. 1st DCA 2001)(en banc).
"A defendant, in moving for a judgment of acquittal, admits not only the facts stated in the evidence adduced, but also admits every conclusion favorable to the adverse party that a jury might fairly and reasonably infer from the evidence. The courts should not grant a motion for judgment of acquittal unless the evidence is such that no view which the jury may lawfully take of it favorable to the opposite party can be sustained under the law. Where there is room for a difference of opinion between reasonable men as to the proof or facts from which an ultimate fact is sought to be established, or where there is room for such differences as to the inferences which might be drawn from conceded facts, the Court should submit the case to the jury for their finding, as it is their conclusion, in such cases, that should prevail and not primarily the views of the judge." State v. Brockman, 827 So.2d 299, 302-303 (Fla. 1st DCA 2002) [Emphasis added].
Every crime has "elements" that the State must prove. Florida's felony cruelty to animals statute, Section 828.28.12(2) requires proof of one element:
"To prove the crime of felony Animal Cruelty, the State must prove the following element beyond a reasonable doubt:A judge has the right to decide after hearing the prosecution's case that it has failed to prove the necessary elements and dismiss the case. Such relief is rarely granted, but in this case, it is reported that the Court felt that there was not enough evidence to show malicious intent on the part of Comins. "This was not someone who was torturing an animal," the judge was quoted as saying. The Court is also reported to have said that he had heard no evidence that the act of shooting the dogs was committed in a cruel manner.
The defendant intentionally committed an act to an animal which resulted in the excessive or repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering to an animal or the animal’s cruel death."
What's wrong here? First, "malicious intent" is not an element of the crimes charged. All the State has to prove is the intent to commit an act. It clearly did so when it proved beyond all doubt that Comins shot Hoochie and Riley nine times with a firearm. Second, the commission of the act "in a cruel manner" is not an element of the crimes charged either. What the State has to prove is that the act resulted in the excessive or repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering to an animal or the animal's cruel death. Third, even if "malicious intent" and "cruel manner" were elements of the crimes charged, they by their very nature present questions of fact for a jury to resolve, not issues of fact for a judge to determine. Fourth, while Comins' attorneys maintained the defendant was protecting cattle, that is an affirmative, not absolute, defense that only a jury can weigh.
Needless to say, the dogs' owner, Chris Butler, was stunned by the Court's ruling. So is this writer.
In a recent blog post, I reported on my serendipitous encounter in December with Wile E. Coyote while returning home from the grocery store just after dusk. I wrote about how people and coyotes should learn to live together, noting that the Calabasas, California City Council had recently adopted a coyote management plan that bans the use of city funds for trapping and promotes “an aggressive coexistence education campaign.” After all, coyotes were here first and we moved in with them.
So I am happy to report that Wile E. Coyote will also be able to continue on his way in my home city of Claremont, California. In January, the City of Claremont announced that coyotes will be a “New Priority Project” for 2012. Most importantly, it was declared that the City Council had reviewed “the City’s existing policy to leave the coyotes alone unless there is an immediate danger to residents and their animals.” In addition, the “City Council reaffirmed their commitment not to eradicate the coyotes and directed police to use non lethal sponge bullets to scare coyotes away from populated parks where there is the possibility of interactions between the coyotes and children.” I wholeheartedly applaud this step in the direction of peaceful coexistence.
Jim Sak, a former Chicago police officer for over 30 years, recently relocated to Aurelia, Iowa, to help care for his wife’s 87-year-old mother. Shortly after arriving, the Saks learned that they had an unwelcome family member, Snickers, who is Jim’s service dog. Because Aurelia had a “breed specific” ordinance singling out pit bulls, the Saks were told Snickers could no longer live with them.
The Saks were summoned to a city council meeting on December 14th, where the council then voted 3 to 2 not to make an exception for the Saks to allow them to keep Snickers. This occurred even though the Saks argued that Snickers “was the sweetest, most good-natured dog you’d ever want to meet.” And that Jim heavily relies upon Snickers after “suffering a debilitating stroke that left him with no feeling on the right side of his body.” The council subsequently ordered the Saks to remove Snickers by the following day.
The Chigago Sun-Times quoted George Wittgraf, an attorney representing the Iowa town, as saying that Aurelia is “simply exercising its authority to protect and preserve the rights and property of its residents — whether or not that’s trumped by” federal law. In addition, City Clerk Barb Messerole said the ordinance was approved in March 2008, after a meter reader was bitten by a pit bull.
But the Saks were not going to take losing Snickers lying down. An animal foundation hired an attorney to help represent the Saks, and it paid to board Snickers at an out-of-town kennel while the Saks filed a legal challenge. In their lawsuit, the Saks have asserted that the Americans with Disabilities Act guarantees disabled persons the right to have service dogs, regardless of their breed. And just before the New Year, the Saks received some good news from a federal judge in Sioux City, who issued a temporary restraining order allowing Snickers to be returned to his family. The case remains pending.
Jim Saks was quoted as stating before the restraining order was issued, “I was a policeman for 32 years. I understand there’s black and white, but there’s also a grey area where you have to use your head. [The council members are] not using their heads.” Well stated, Jim. This is a prime example of the failings of breed-specific legislation. Just because, as City Clerk Barb Messerole said, “…several people c[a]me forward saying they were concerned about the pit bull because of the nature of the breed. They just feel it’s unsafe. They’re aggressive and could hurt somebody. If the service animal was anything but a pit bull, it would have been fine,” Jim Saks should have to lose his trusted and proven caregiver? It just doesn’t make sense. It should be clear that Jim’s obvious need for Snickers should trump any unfounded and hysteric fears about a particular breed. It is sad that it will take a court to say so.
“Compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind (sic).”
I consider myself a compassionate person. Yet, I know that there are situations in which I have let myself and others down, where the limits of my compassion have been reached. With that knowledge, I’m working on enlarging and strengthening my own compassion.
I have friends who are extremely compassionate toward other human beings. I greatly admire these people and the many ways in which they live out their values: they deliver meals to homebound seniors, mentor at-risk youth, reach out to people suffering due to financial hard times, foreclosure, homelessness, physical illness, depression, schizophrenia… The list is a long one.
These friends respect what I do for nonhuman animals and often ask about my work. Many of them live with companion animals, dogs or cats whom they consider to be members of their families. We share stories about our beloved dogs and cats and show photos.
But, in tell-tale moments, my friends will mention a delicious turkey sandwich they ate at a local deli, or the pot roast they had the other day. I wince and wonder: why the disconnect?* Why does compassion for humans and our companion animals not extend to compassion for the animals called “food?” (* I am equally saddened when an animal rights activist shows a lack of compassion for humans.)
I see a commercial on TV: a restaurant is advertising its steak and a photo shows a large pinkish-brownish piece of cooked flesh on a plate. In order to find that appealing, I would have to ignore the fact that the steak used to be a living, breathing steer. How can I? I have stood in slaughterhouses and watched, in horror and sadness, as steer have met their deaths. Slaughterhouses are cold, harsh, windowless cement rooms, with terrified animals, putrid smells, rivers of blood, hanging corpses; they are where violent death happens. I don’t want to be a part of that. I don’t want to bring about that death. These animals have done nothing to me to warrant such terrible treatment. They are helpless victims and I am powerless to stop the never-ending assembly line that spells their demise. Yet, I cannot, in good conscience, support a system that does something so inherently wrong to other living beings. The only choice I have is to opt out, and to speak out on behalf of the victims.
When I see the steak, I see the cow. When I see the drum stick, I see the chicken. The two are inseparable; that is how I define compassion.
The legal work that we do at Animal Legal Defense Fund can be hard-edged. We see animal suffering on a daily basis and we must turn our pain and anger into rational action as we assist in cruelty prosecutions and file civil lawsuits against animal abusers. But, at the very center of our work is a deep and abiding compassion that embraces both human and non-human animals.
Compassion is the wellspring from which all that we do arises. It is what guides our work to build a more loving world, by extending the limits of our own compassion and encouraging others to do so. Compassion is the duty from which we ought not to shrink. While writing this, I found a wonderful quote that gives me hope for the future. I choose to believe that the hearts of my fellow humans will open to embrace the lives of all creatures, that the current disconnect will not always and forever be the rule.
“For me, forgiveness and compassion are always linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?”
P.S. If you are reading this and wondering how to put compassion into action, please consider going meatless for one day per week. It’s a small step, but significant.
In an attempt to reduce California’s deficit, Governor Brown has proposed a substantial weakening of the Hayden Act, including sections that require shelters to care for homeless and lost companion animals for up to six days before euthanizing them. This holding period is crucial to allowing lost dogs and cats to be reunited with their families or adopted when they are unclaimed or abandoned.
Former State Senator Tom Hayden's message to Governor Jerry Brown urges the Governor to leave intact the law he wrote in 1998.
Please take a moment today to contact Governor Brown and your state legislators! Urge them to oppose any legislation that will remove existing protections for homeless and lost companion animals.
On January 23, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned a 2008 California law that required the euthanasia of downed animals at slaughterhouses, ruling that California's law was preempted by federal law. A state may not impose "any additional or different – even if nonconflicting – requirements," wrote the Court.
This expected decision highlights the urgent need for changes in the law at the federal level.
The Downed Animal and Food Safety Protection Act (H.R. 3704), sponsored by Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), would permanently prohibit all downed livestock animals – animals that cannot walk because they are diseased, injured or ill – from being used for food, and require that these animals be humanely euthanized.
The bipartisan bill would improve upon federal regulations by making the ban on downed animals permanent and apply to all farmed animals – not just cattle as is currently the case with existing regulations.
The bill is already supported by several members of Congress including Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who is the lead cosponsor of the bill.
“Animals that are ill or injured should be humanely euthanized instead of being dragged through slaughterhouses then sold to restaurants, supermarkets or butchers for human consumption, a sick and disgusting practice,” said Rep. Ackerman.
Contact your federal legislators and ask for their support of the Downed Animal and Food Safety Protection Act.
Great news from Puerto Rico! The Puerto Rico Supreme Court has sounded the death knell for the Bioculture monkey breeding facility in Guayama after several years of litigation and public protest by local citizens and animal rights activists.
The Bioculture facility would have housed more than 4,000 primates captured from the wild, whose offspring would have been sold to research laboratories in the United States. But Guayama residents, supported by an international coalition of animal protection groups including ALDF, drew public attention to the proposed facility and pledged to fight its construction. The residents joined People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in filing a lawsuit challenging Bioculture’s permits.
As we reported last year, the plaintiffs won at the trial level, but Bioculture continued construction of the facility while it appealed the decision all the way up to the Puerto Rico Supreme Court. Last month, the high court upheld the trial court’s decision, and just last week, it denied Bioculture’s request for a rehearing.
Politicians continue to push involvement in the biomedical research industry as part of Puerto Rico’s economic development, but the popular activism and tenacious litigation surrounding the Bioculture facility should make them think twice about courting business from industries that exploit animals for profit.
Animal Legal Defense Fund, representing Compassion Over Killing, recently filed a civil suit against Cal-Cruz, a California chicken hatchery, to enjoin animal cruelty occurring there. This lawsuit marks an important development in animal law by seeking to apply animal cruelty standards to farm practices and doing so through a civil cause of action.
The action against Cal-Cruz stems from a 2009 undercover investigation by Compassion Over Killing. The investigation produced video footage of chicks killed and mutilated by the operation of heavy machinery used by workers to sort the newly hatched chicks. Mutilated chicks often fell to the floor where they shook with pain and gasped for air within view of the workers. Eventually, workers picked those chicks off the floor, left them for long periods of time in a bin full of other injured chicks, and forced them all down a narrow chute where they passed through a kill plate and into a pool of waste. These practices occurred with the knowledge of upper-management and appear to violate the California penal code which, generally speaking, prohibits action or inaction that unreasonably causes unjustified animal suffering.
Regrettably, enforcement of animal cruelty laws to protect farmed animals is exceptionally rare. The power to directly prosecute crimes is held by the state which has traditionally shied away from prosecuting cruelty cases involving farmed animals. Additionally, most states exempt cruelty against farmed animals – no matter how unnecessary or severe – if the cruel conduct is a “customary agricultural practice.” The few farmed animal cruelty cases that do exist typically target egregious acts of violence by individuals as opposed to systematic practices of animal cruelty performed by corporate entities and management.
The consequence of leaving farmed animals practically outside the protection of the law sets an absurdly low floor for the treatment of farmed animals – any amount of animal suffering may be tolerated if it yields extra dollars for the business. The lawsuit against Cal-Cruz presents a challenge to this unsettling dynamic in two ways.
First, the lawsuit seeks recognition that the treatment of chicks at Cal-Cruz fell short of the requirements under California’s animal cruelty law. There is no customary agricultural exemption in California so the key issue is whether the chicks suffered due to the gross negligence of Cal-Cruz workers and management – in other words, whether the conduct is incompatible with how a reasonable person under the same circumstances would act. Cal-Cruz workers and management seemed to violate this standard by failing to adequately ensure that chicks were not mutilated or killed by machinery, by failing to attend to injured chicks in a timely manner, and by failing to humanely euthanize the chicks. Importantly, these allegations do not only single out the actions of bad-apple employees but attack the normal course of conduct at Cal-Cruz.
Second, the lawsuit provides a basis for animal advocacy organizations themselves to stop animal cruelty violations. As mentioned above, only the state has the power to directly prosecute animal cruelty violations. However, California Business and Professionals Code § 17200 provides a civil cause of action to enjoin “unlawful business practices.” By alleging that the routine incidents of animal cruelty at Cal-Cruz constitute unlawful business practices, ALDF hopes to stop ongoing animal cruelty violations itself without relying on the prosecutorial discretion of the state.
Farmed animals have been left unprotected from cruelty laws for too long. The lawsuit against Cal-Cruz marks an important development in the campaign to extend basic compassion to farmed animals. The fact that the lawsuit is viable at all is a testament to encouraging cultural and legal trends taking place right now. And, if successful, it will set precedent raising the floor of the treatment of farmed animals by clarifying our duty towards them and allowing a path for civil enforcement of cruelty laws.
Especially where groups of neighboring urban buildings are involved, empty foreclosure properties present an increasing challenge for law enforcement as incoming criminals replace outgoing residents.
Dogfighting is decidedly toxic to communities, as a chilling case from Chicago illustrates all too well. A September 3, 2011 news report describes a 7-month-old German shepherd puppy who was stolen from his home, sold for $10 and later discovered to have been decapitated in a nearby area of foreclosed properties known to be heavily used by dogfighters. A 16-year-old boy reportedly admitted to the alleged crime and was arrested and charged with felony counts of animal cruelty and animal torture. Horrified neighbors are left to lament their ongoing fears as police continue to investigate:
… “People around here are scared. The kids around here know that they are fighting dogs back there all the time,” the man said…Pet Theft is but one ugly aspect of dogfighting culture. Acquired by theft or deception (for example, by answering “Free to a Good Home” ads), some dogs are stolen for fighting or breeding, while disposable “bait” animals are used to incite dogs to fight and test for “gameness.”
…A police source in the Austin area told me that within the past eight months, officers have recovered at least 10 dogs from the same vacant building this owner believes his dog was taken to…
…Despite a new ordinance that is supposed to force banks to secure and maintain foreclosed properties, many decaying properties like this one in Austin are being taken over by undesirable elements. And these criminal squatters are making it difficult for legitimate residents to enjoy their own homes.
“There have been several dogs missing in this area, and I am also hearing that someone is catching cats and [gouging] their eyes out,” the dog owner said. “All of a sudden, these things are happening. If these are the kind of people that are coming into the neighborhood, we can’t stay here. We have worked too hard to have to live like this.”…
Chicago Sun-Times, September 3, 2011
The financial and societal costs of dogfighting are heavy and insidious, creating a ripple effect across a jurisdiction. Egregious animal cruelty combined with the inevitable elements of weapons, drugs and gang violence motivate already overburdened local, state and federal criminal justice bureaus to devote resources to dogfighting cases. Citizens not directly exposed to the crime are nonetheless disadvantaged by law enforcement agencies stretched beyond their means, as well as animal shelters overwhelmed by animal victims and costs of care. There are children who are regularly exposed to the ruthlessness of dogfighting from a young age – while children who witness violence of any type suffer the effects, juveniles who ultimately become participants in the dogfighting world face particularly ominous futures.
Resolve to acknowledge the impact that dogfighting has on your community, regardless of its geographic proximity to your home and family. Find and support local programs which seek to prevent future dogfighters by educating youth, and contact your legislators at all levels of government toward supporting law enforcement and animal shelters by enacting and strengthening laws which deter and penalize dogfighting.
Law students around the nation are headed back to school from a well-earned and much-needed break after year-end exams. Exams mean precious family time, personal time, and just plain time for anything else give way to the never-ending nights in a study cubicle at the law library. Law school is meant to be punishing, and finding ways to relieve stress while earning a J.D. can be elusive. So it is quite encouraging that some law schools have introduced warm hearts, cold noses, and four paws to help students get through these stress-filled days. Partnering with many local rescue and shelter groups, the schools have made many homeless and adoptable puppies and dogs available for tummy rubs and ear nuzzling just when the students (and dogs!) need it most.
The Washington Post has caught on to the trend, reporting that “After the Yale Law Library added a ‘therapy dog’ named Monty to its collection in the spring, a number of other law schools have used the gentle yapping of puppies to break the stifling pressure that blankets their campuses.” Most recently, George Mason University School of Law partnered with a rescue group for “Puppy Day” for the second time, to students’ delight. One student even said that taking time out to hold a squirming puppy made her feel human again. Other schools that offer therapy dog programs to their students include Stetson University College of Law in Florida, University of San Francisco School of Law, and the University of Arizona College of Law.
An additional plus to the therapy concept has to be that introducing homeless and adoptable dogs to law students who might not otherwise get an opportunity to go to a shelter to find a companion may just spark a love connection at one of these events. A dog who might otherwise wait a long time at the shelter may just find the perfect forever-home with a law student who appreciates the love only a dog can provide. Opportunities to introduce pets that need homes to potential adopters have to be applauded, because those opportunities can lead to positive and immediate results for all parties. A case in point: Michael Phelps, the Olympic gold medalist swimmer, was recently on NBC’s Today show to discuss the 2010 Olympic Games when he was conscripted into helping out with an unrelated adoptable dogs segment. He fell in love, and long story short, he adopted the dog he introduced. Such a story could not have been scripted better!
It has to be true that just the sight of a puppy can automatically make one’s heart feel lighter. And the touch of smooth, silky, or coarse fur between one’s fingers can make even the most anxious or nervous test-taker smile. Can it be that the soothing presence of a dog can almost (almost!) make law school exams bearable?
I just got back from Washington D.C. and a productive visit at the 2012 Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Annual Meeting. For those of you unfamiliar, the AALS is a non-profit educational association of 172 law schools representing more than 10,000 law faculty in the U.S., and its Annual Meeting constitutes the largest gathering of law faculty in the world.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund was an exhibitor at the five day meeting so I had the pleasure of speaking with distinguished law school professors, deans, and administrators about ALDF and animal law. It was the perfect opportunity to let these folks know about all of the resources ALDF’s Animal Law Program (ALP) makes available to those interested in teaching animal law and to law students interested in forming Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapters. Several attendees were surprised to learn just how much the field has grown in the last 12 years -- with more than 135 law schools in the U.S. and Canada now having offered a course in animal law, and more than 170 law schools having had a SALDF chapter.
But the unexpected highlight for me was meeting a young man from Nevada interested in animal law. Okay, young man is a bit of a stretch, he was nine. He stopped by ALDF’s exhibit with his parents and grandparents in tow, one of which was a law school professor. He came prepared with a list of questions for me and explained how he has always cared about animals and had only wanted to be a vet. But apparently one quick visit to the U.S. Supreme Court shook that dream up a bit. He confidently stood in front of the ALDF table and explained how he wanted to be an attorney for animals. He had great questions about what it would take for him to get there, what kind of animals he would be helping, what kinds of things could he be doing now, whether he could be a vet and an attorney at the same time, and even asked how I felt about an article that discussed emotional distress damages for when an animal is injured or killed. This young man was obviously bright and compassionate, a common set of traits found in ALDF’s attorney members. But at the young age of nine, he was truly inspiring. Wherever Nathan ends up in life, I’m sure he’ll be helping animals. I’m just secretly hoping it’s at least partially through the law.
With the support of marine scientists, environmental groups, and the International Game Fish Association, which keeps track of all sport fishing records, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) voted in November to protect tiger sharks, smooth hammerheads, scalloped hammerheads, and great hammerheads. These shark species are in addition to the 23 sharks already protected by state law. The new law, which took effect on January 1st, will still allow for the “catch and release” of the sharks in state waters, but it makes their killing, possession, sale, or exchange a crime. The law will also not affect the killing or transport of sharks by most fishermen in federal waters.
The Miami Herald has reported that, “Shark experts and environmentalists applaud the [ban] and hope it clears the way for extending protections in both federal and international waters. Populations of all four species, according to FWC and federal fisheries biologists, have declined by more than half in recent decades, with studies suggesting smooth and scalloped hammerheads in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf down by as much as 98 percent and tigers reduced by at least 65 percent.”
Florida has been a continued leader in shark conservation, passing one of the first bans on shark finning, which has since been outlawed in U.S. waters. In addition, Florida’s other shark fishing laws have been considered some of the most stringent in the country. One can hope that other states will follow Florida’s lead. Conservation is needed now more than ever, as sharks play a vital role in regulating the ocean ecosystem. With the popularity of shark fin soup and the misperceptions of sharks as “man-eaters,” shark populations are being decimated all over the world, making extinction a real possibility. The need for their protection cannot be underestimated.
Driving home from the grocery store last week, just after dusk, I encountered a curious pedestrian crossing my street as I approached my home. Who was it exactly? I can’t be sure but his name just might have been Wile E. Coyote. Yes, he had a lean, wolf-like appearance and loping gait which were unmistakable. He was a coyote alright. As a result, the short meeting reminded me of a recent article in the Los Angeles Daily News discussing the way some cities deal with their coyote populations, and in particular, the trailblazing city of Calabasas.
While most people are naturally uneasy at the thought of roaming, howling coyotes, the truth is "They're not circling your house, frothing at the mouth, waiting to kill somebody," Lt. Marty Wall of the California Department of Fish and Game told the Daily News. But coyotes do pose a threat to animals and can attack humans, so cities in Southern California have to have a plan to deal with them.
Recently, there has been an increase in coyote sightings and confrontations, making the need for a coyote plan all the more pressing for cities. As such, it is quite commendable that the city of Calabasas has become one of the few Los Angeles area cities to enact a coyote management plan that bans the use of city funds for trapping. The Calabasas City Council adopted the plan after “animal activists decried the use of snare traps as inhumane because they don't always catch an intended target and can slowly strangle the animal.” The trapped coyotes are usually euthanized as set out by state law. Before this new plan, county officials could be called in to trap a sighted coyote even if there was no attack involved. Now it will take an attack against a human to generate action by the city, possibly involving the state Department of Fish and Game to investigate and then handle any possible trapping.
The new policy also includes “an aggressive coexistence education campaign aimed at teaching residents how to scare off coyotes that have become too familiar with humans, and how to protect their pets.” The Los Angeles Times has reported that Calabasas “will work with Project Coyote, the Animal Welfare Institute and the National Park Service to develop a public education campaign that will teach residents how to live more harmoniously with coyotes.” Project Coyote is one of the groups that have worked tirelessly to minimize coyote conflicts with people, and it was at the forefront of the Calabasas plan, organizing an online petition in support. Camilla Fox, executive director of Project Coyote, was instrumental in getting the ordinance passed, as she helped to edit the final language of the ordinance.
As Calabasas Councilman Fred Gaines said, “We're living in their neighborhoods. There's no reason to harm these animals. They're not attacking humans. From time to time, they do pick up a pet, but that's what they do. [And w]e'd have a lot more rats and mice without them." The statistics show that Calabasas has not had any human attacks at least in the last nine years, and only one companion animal has been killed during that time period. It certainly does appear that the key to peaceful coexistence is changing human behavior to make sure coyotes aren't attracted to human areas, just as experts have said. Officer Greg Randall, wildlife specialist with Los Angeles Department of Animal Services, was quoted in the article stating that, “It's a waste of time to spend your time removing animals that have survived for the last 235 years. If killing them worked, they wouldn't be here. So removing them isn't the answer."
All this brings me back to that lone pedestrian I encountered last week. I was not frightened. I was in my car, after all. But seeing Wile E. did make me stop for a moment and think, are all my dogs inside? As I recalled that, yes, they were all safely inside the house, I was glad to have had that brief, yet natural encounter with a native resident of my city. His ancestors were here long before mine. And while we do have the ability to annihilate and destroy this perceived threat, isn’t it always better, and humane, to at least try and live peacefully side by side.
Thank you to everyone who has helped us toward our goal of reaching one million members in ALDF's official Facebook Cause, "Abuse an Animal, Go to Jail!" We just missed the mark, but due to your incredible efforts, our generous donor has donated the $2012! In just one month animal advocates recruited over 36,700 new members and earned $2,550 for Abuse an Animal, Go to Jail! It looks like 2012 is going to be another great year for the animals!
Help ring in the new year by inviting your friends and family to Abuse an Animal, Go to Jail! today.
Modern science has erased any doubt that animals can think, feel, and communicate in many of the ways we once thought uniquely human. Yet our laws concerning animals are still rooted in the era when we largely believed that they were little more than simple machines. This fundamental disconnect remains at the heart of our treatment of animals and, sadly, has allowed us to create such horrors as the veal crate, gestation crate, battery cage, puppy mill, etc. It’s allowed us to justify the systematic torture of animals for purposes so trivial as testing cosmetics or making elephants perform silly tricks. It has allowed us to deny animals the most fundamental of legal rights.
But as science continues to destroy the myth that animals' rights are not worthy of legal consideration, we draw closer to the day when the courts will not be able to deny them any longer either. The law has traditionally lagged behind science and ethics – even when it came to protecting once relatively powerless humans, like children, African Americans, and women. But our laws have the capacity to evolve. It is an exciting time for animal law and the Animal Legal Defense Fund is pushing the law forward every day.
Here are a couple of recent news stories about this trend in science:
In today’s New York Times, an article discusses the rise of classes at universities that focus on the human/animal relationship.
A recent article added another dimension to the cognitive ability of rats, finding that they demonstrated a high degree of empathy for their fellow rats.
You helped make incredible strides for animals this year!
Please make a special year-end gift to the Animal Legal Defense Fund and help make 2012 another year of extraordinary progress.
I think back on this year and how, with your help, ALDF has been able to fight for animals:
- Last month, ALDF won its lawsuit to free Tony, a Siberian-Bengal tiger who has been confined as a roadside exhibit for over a decade at a Louisiana truck stop.
- In September, ALDF filed a class action lawsuit against Barkworks, a Southern California pet store chain, for repeatedly engaging in fraud and false advertising in an effort to conceal from customers that they source their puppies from abusive puppy mills.
- In May, ALDF exposed the cruel practice of “penning,” where wild foxes and coyotes are trapped so that packs of hunting dogs can be set loose on them, often mauling them to death. Our lawsuit in Indiana challenges the state's decision to waive permit requirements for a controversial Greene County penning facility.
2012 will bring even more challenges, making it that much more important for us to begin the New Year in a position of strength. That's why I hope that in this season of giving, you will make a generous contribution to the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
Wishing you much happiness in the New Year!
December in New York City and the winter is nothing like I remember growing up here as a kid. It’s not even that cold at the moment!
Although winter jackets have hardly been necessary this season, with temperatures hovering around 50 to 60 degrees a few days this week, I have still seen enough people wearing fur and fur-trimmed coats and accessories to remember why winter in New York has always made me uncomfortable.
It’s funny - I stepped off the plane earlier this week on a redeye flight from Portland, Oregon (where I’ve been living for the last two years while earning my law degree at Lewis and Clark), and the phenomenon of people wearing animal fur couldn’t have been further from my mind. It must have been the whirlwind of the weeks leading up to law school final exams, or the fact that wearing fur would look so out of place among über-environmentally conscious and conscientious Portlanders, but I hadn’t given it much thought.
Once I arrived back in New York, though, I was reminded that although wearing fur has become increasingly incongruous with our warming winters, it’s hardly a moot issue. I can’t say I’m surprised that designers are still creating clothes with animal fur or that that fur trim still appears in magazine advertisements; the incredibly powerful fur industry throws money (and fur samples) at the magazines deciding what’s in fashion, and at the most promising emerging designers. By the way, Oprah’s O Magazine announced an anti-fur stance in its October 2011 issue. In it, Oprah describes how she had an “aha” moment while staring at a sable cape in her closet “and that was it. I gave away all my furs 20 years ago.”
As I re-emerge from my Portland-bubble, I guess I’m most disappointed that people are still choosing to wear it. Do people still not know where the fur trimming on their jacket comes from? Or what makes fur for fashion particularly distressing, and in an entirely different category than other sartorial ‘materials’ like cotton or rayon or even wool or leather? There’s the possibility, too, that people know that fur for fashion comes from animals—know that the fur must literally be taken off the animals’ backs, and the animals must be killed in this process—and choose to wear it anyway, but it is a dark view of human nature to fathom that people know where it comes from, know about the cruel process, and choose to wear it anyway.
Because fur is still out there, it is still worth reminding people—shoppers and winter coat-wearers and everyone, really—that fur isn’t just another material. It’s mean, because it means the death of an animal, or many, for a single fur pelt. Fur-bearing animals like foxes, chinchillas, rabbits, and raccoon dogs are killed for their fur in some of the most gruesome ways imaginable (think (or don’t) anal electrocution (totally legal in most states), and being skinned alive). Producing animal’s fur for fashion is the sole product being peddled by the fur industry, and more than 75 million animals are killed every year to make this happen. It’s legal and it’s fueled by demand—which is to say that buying products with animal fur or promoting the idea that fur is in fashion translates into more animals being killed to satiate this demand.
With so many grave and complex problems in the world fueled by poverty, massive inequality, warming climates, and lack of access to basic essential services like food, water, and health care, this seems like it would be one of the easier ills to cure. Fur is ultimately just a fashion choice—both trivial and unnecessary to us, but the cause of great suffering and death for the animals whose fur we wear.
In this holiday season, please renew your commitment not to buy fur, and share your knowledge with others about where fur comes from. It’s just one thing you can do to help make the world a more compassionate place.
With the steady stream of shocking undercover video documenting abuses of America’s “food animals” making it into our regular media diet, I am not at all surprised that the factory meat/egg/dairy industries are trying to suppress the free flow of information about their operations. In what I believe to be a tacit admission by the industry that they know they cannot win a debate on the merits of the production methods they employ, they are now pushing state bills that, if passed, would criminalize the collection of damning evidence (a/k/a “ag gag” bills). Such a move proving once again the old adage, “If you can’t win on the facts, then silence your critics.” This is an understandable development in an industry that has so much to be ashamed of (e.g., veal crates, castration without pain control, gestation/farrowing crates, tie-stalls, de-beaking—and the list goes on).
Three states entertained ag gag bills last legislative season (Florida, Minnesota and Iowa)—none passed. However, don’t let that fact lull you into complacency: Florida’s ag gag bill was reintroduced just a couple of days ago and three other states (Kansas, Montana, and North Dakota) have had variations on ag gag laws on the books for several years now (adopted as part of each state’s equivalent to the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act).
As attorneys working in the justice system, where the truth is supposed to have some relevance in the outcome of a case (the exclusionary rule notwithstanding), ALDF opposes these ag gag bills. I am pleased to report that both the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA) and the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) have joined ALDF in this fight. America’s two preeminent national prosecutors associations are united in their condemnation of the industry’s attempt to prevent undercover scrutiny of its conduct. In a joint letter signed by NDAA, APA, ALDF and others, both NDAA and APA point out that in addition to being profoundly poor public policy, these legislative attempts to restrict citizens’ flow of information to law enforcement sets a dangerous precedent that encourages other industries with enough political clout to seek similar preferential treatment. If the agriculture lobby is entitled to special “protection” from the collection of admissible and highly relevant evidence of criminal conduct, then why not afford the same courtesy to the insurance industry, securities traders, or big pharmaceutical companies?
We work with prosecutors on a daily basis to help them achieve the best possible outcomes in animal cruelty cases, so it comes as no surprise that we share a common view in opposition of these ag gag bills. Nevertheless, I am very pleased that both APA and NDAA have joined us in this fight.
As this year comes to an end, it is important that you know what your commitment to animal protection means, not only to me, but to all of us here at the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
Every day we hear stories of heartbreaking animal abuse. If we thought we were fighting to stop these criminals on our own, it would be hard to face the day. But to know we have animal advocates such as you at our side fills us with hope. Together, we are empowered to help stop animal cruelty and win justice for animal victims.
In this season of giving, please consider making a special year-end gift to protect animals from exploitation, abuse, and neglect in the New Year.
Your gift empowers ALDF to:
- file lawsuits to protect animals like Lolita, a solitary orca who has been confined to a tiny concrete tank at the Miami Seaquarium for more than 40 years;
- press for legislation that stops the abuse of animals like the thousands of chimpanzees used in research laboratories and exploited in the entertainment industry;
- provide expert legal counsel to prosecutors across the country to help put animal abusers like Thomas Nebus, who repeatedly stabbed his neighbor’s dog Rosco, behind bars.
Together, we’re winning the case against animal cruelty. That's why I hope, as this year comes to a close, you will make a year-end gift to the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
Thank you for your continued support, and please accept our warmest wishes for a Happy New Year.
Cue the holiday clichés—snow gently falling amidst the evergreens, sipping cocoa by firelight (or popping Xanax in the guest bathroom—look, I don’t know what goes on in your family), and the inevitable misshapen sweater, hand-made by Aunt Hildy, wrapped up under the Christmas tree or Hanukkah bush. And speaking of knitting, let us not forget, now that the winter is decidedly upon us, the most adorable holiday cliché of all—rescued animals in outerwear!
Animals like Big Red, a chicken at California’s lovely Animal Place, a sanctuary for rescued farmed animals, who seems to be taking inspiration from Paris Hilton in this fluffy pink pullover.
The good people at Animal Place explain,
The barn here is large and spacious. This is wonderful for providing optimal space to a large number of chickens, but it makes keeping the barn warm difficult….When we got an email from a knitting club in New Mexico, we were ecstatic. They offered to knit some sweaters for the birds. We said yes!Meanwhile, halfway around the world, certain Kiwi penguins laugh in Jack Frost’s icy face this year, thanks to their own jaunty jumpers. After a devastating New Zealand oil spill this past October that tragically killed countless sea birds, a local yarn store put out the call for penguin sweaters. It turns out that oil is especially harmful to penguins, whose feathers provide them from special protection against the cold—a protection that is damaged by contact with oil. The sweaters keep the rescued birds warm as they recover, in addition to preventing them from consuming oil on their feathers while preening.
Apparently natty knitters from across the globe responded with such needle-clicking ferocity that the penguin sweater demand was quickly met. Go knitters!
But of course, one need not look to such far-flung locales for your holiday dose of cute overload. Lest our own beloved rescues catch a chill this holiday season—well, what could be more American (sigh), than a Snuggie (As Seen on TV!), purchased at Costco, and gifted by my cousin in San Diego (where it has been known to reach a finger-numbing 60 degrees in the darkest depths of winter) to my own beloved shelter cat, Theo.
While not amenable to his adorable little tuxedo paws and razor sharp claws of death being fitted through the arm-holes, Theo placidly tolerates his Snuggie with the steadfastness that can only be conferred by sleeping twenty hours a day. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
To all of you who share your hearths and hearts with animals in need this holiday season—and with hopes for a warmer year for all animals in need in 2012—Happy Holidays from all of us here at ALDF.
This year I’ll be celebrating the holidays in the San Francisco Bay area. I really look forward to the end of year—the amazing vegan dinner parties with friends and family, the über Secret Santa gift exchange at work, and all of the colorful decorations and sparkling holiday lights in my neighborhood.
I’ll miss my dear friends that I left behind in Washington, DC, my home for the last six years. I’ll also miss the winter snow which I became accustomed to after a decade of living on the East Coast.
Thankfully, many of my East Coast friends are lining up to come visit me out west because of the idea of leaving behind frigid temperatures in exchange for the year-round California sunshine is quite the draw.
And let’s be honest here…they are also really excited to come visit me because they want to meet Sophie, the newest addition to my family.
Sophie and me.
Sophie is a beautiful 12 week-old grey kitten whose introduction to the world was less than ideal. Sophie was found behind my friend and coworker April’s house in the woods of Northern California.
Sophie was about nine days old, underweight, low body temperature, not taking to the bottle, and not least of all, with a small puncture wound in her neck.
April and her husband Jason brought Sophie in from the cold and damp woods. They gave her a home, took her to the veterinary clinic, got her on antibiotics, and fed her every few hours with a syringe. Newborn kittens need up to 10 feedings in a 24 hour period. No doubt an exhausting and sleep depriving venture.
Sophie's milk mustache.
It’s important to mention that while April and Jason were bringing infant Sophie back to health, they were also caring for Tashi, another newborn kitten that was found just the day before all alone in a tree stump near their house. Tashi, like Sophie, was very hungry and needed kitten formula. She also needed to be treated for the hundreds of fleas on her.
April and Jason are Sophie and Tashi’s heroes. They’re also my heroes. When I celebrate the holidays this year and reflect on what I’m thankful for, they’re at the top of my list.
Jason and April gave me the best holiday “gift” I could ever ask for—the chance to adopt Sophie. April knew that I was looking to adopt another cat and let me know that as soon as Sophie was healthy, I could adopt her.
Adopting a second cat was something that I thoughtfully considered for about two years. It’s a huge decision. These young animals are not toys. To adopt a young animal (or an animal of any age for that matter), is an important and life-altering decision. I’ll never forget when I adopted my first cat, Sumalee. I was asked, “Are you prepared to take care of her for the next 18 years of your life?” That question was sobering moment from my drunken stupor of kitten cuteness.
I’m sure you all have seen a TV commercial or movie with a young child rushing downstairs to open the ribbon-covered box that shakes; then out comes the super-adorable puppy that licks the child’s face. What the TV commercial or movie does not show you is the time and money involved in proper veterinary care, food, pet supplies, and house training.
It also doesn’t show you when the animal is turned over to the over-burdened animal shelter that is filled beyond capacity with homeless animals that were once "pets" gifted to them for the holidays. Even worse, some animals are abandoned on the side of the road.
The fact is that animals do not make good gifts because these animals are not toys—they are living beings that require a lifetime of constant care, support, love, and attention. They should never be an impulse purchase! Instead, please consider the decision very carefully and once you’re certain that you have the time, money, and love to commit to an animal, visit your local humane society, animal shelter, or rescue group. Humane societies, shelters, and rescue groups have a wide variety of animals up for adoption—including purebred animals—and can also advise you on your pet adoption.
Please never buy an animal from a breeder or a pet store that likely get their animals from a puppy or kitten mill! These animal factories put profit above animal welfare, producing cats and dogs with little regard for their health or genetic quality.
ALDF recently sued Barkworks, a Southern California pet store chain, claiming the stores repeatedly engage in fraud and false advertising in an effort to conceal from customers that they source their puppies from abusive “puppy mills.” The lawsuit claims the stores have a demonstrated pattern of misleading customers about where their puppies come from.
With the assistance of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, municipalities from coast to coast are exploring ways to prohibit the sale of dogs and cats obtained from large-scale commercial breeding operations. A number of states and communities, including West Hollywood, California; South Lake Tahoe, Nevada; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Austin, Texas; and Hermosa Beach, California; and Lake Worth, Florida, have banned the sale of puppies in pet stores. In addition to LA, other big jurisdictions are also considering similar bans, including Irvine, California; San Francisco, and Suffolk County, New York.
If you’re planning on giving an animal companion to a loved one this holiday season, please consider very carefully how it will impact your loved one’s life as well as the animal’s life.
Adopting Sophie is a decision that has changed my life forever. It’s been five weeks and I’m so in love with her. I honestly have forgotten what life was like before this two pound furry bundle of energy entered my life. Sure, I’m not getting much sleep right now and I risk a stealth kitten attack at every move. (Sophie’s attacks usually start from under the couch, behind my computer monitor, and very recently from underneath the bed covers. I have to be vigilant at all times and I love it!)
A society’s values to an extent are codified in its laws and regulations, which is why we have criminal animal cruelty laws — because we agree that cruelty to animals is wrong.
Although there may not be a consensus on what exactly constitutes cruelty, we tend to know it when we see it.
Starting from this hopefully uncontroversial common ground, let’s take a look at what laws exist to protect the greatest number of animals used by humans: farmed animals. Leaving aside the moral and ethical questions about what and whom we should eat, the world in which we live is one where billions of animals are killed for food each year, and I think everyone can agree that these animals should be protected from cruelty and abuse and not made to suffer.
Yet, the sad fact is that although they make up the vast majority of animals used in our society, there are very few laws protecting farmed animals (New law school program unleashes animal rights, Nov. 24).
Most people are surprised to learn that farmed animals have virtually no legal protections. Leaving aside the lack of enforcement issue (a formidable problem in itself), let’s just look at what laws are on the books. The two federal laws that cover farmed animals, the 28-Hour Law and the Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act, apply only to transport and slaughter.
The Animal Welfare Act regulates the use of farmed animals only in the realm of biomedical research; it does not apply to animals used for food. There are zero federal laws governing the conditions in which farmed animals are raised.
That’s the federal level; what about state law? Individual states do have their own animal cruelty statutes. However, farmed animals are typically excluded from criminal animal cruelty laws, as most have provisions that exempt agricultural practices. Sadly, and counter-intuitively, the largest group of animals exploited for human gain receives the least amount of protection under animal cruelty laws.
On the positive side, a few states have passed legislation (most through citizen-initiated ballot measures) gradually phasing out some of the most egregious intensive confinement practices over several years. A more disturbing trend is the recent spate of “ag-gag” bills that would make it a crime to photograph a farm and also criminalize any group distributing video footage or photos of a farm.
This brings us to the issue of knowing cruelty when we see it. Well, first we have to see it, and this legislation would neatly circumvent that issue (not to mention the First Amendment). As agricultural practices have become more industrialized and intensive (more animals in smaller spaces), farmed animals have been moved indoors, into darkness, and out of public view. And now the meat industry is trying to pass laws to prevent the public from ever seeing what happens to animals before they end up in the food supply.
This is wrong. The trend should be toward greater transparency, not less.
It is easy to feel helpless when you see how animals on modern farms are treated and realize there are no legal remedies. Despite opponents’ insistence that advocates carefully edit videos taken from within factory farms and slaughterhouses, the steady stream of stomach-churning footage emerging from these facilities shows us a different and sadder picture, one where cruelty and abuse is “business as usual.”
How I wish this footage were not real, that it was somehow doctored to look worse than it is. I would sleep better at night. I do not want this to be the way animals are treated. Many of us who choose a vegan diet do so as one small way to not directly support this cruelty.
Despite opponents’ attempts to paint animal advocates with the same distorted brush, there exists a plethora of different views on philosophy, tactics, strategy and long-term goals within the broad animal protection movement. Anti-animal protection activists also claim the animal rights movement has an “all or nothing” agenda, but this is a distortion as well, just as we don’t have to make the false choice between being compassionate toward humans or animals.
We can do both. Activists who launched the British and American humane movements of the 19th century (which spawned the modern animal rights movement) were also key players in the child welfare movement. Like children, animals cannot organize or speak for themselves in the political arena; they are completely powerless, which places them at our mercy. Let’s not close our hearts and minds to them.
Between an abolitionist (absolute hands-off) approach and a world in which we can do whatever we want to animals in the name of profit and convenience, there is plenty of work to be done.
Please sign Animal Legal Defense Fund's Animal Bill of Rights and speak out for animals.
This article was originally published as an op-ed for the Portland Tribune. It's in response to "New law school program unleashes animal rights."
Factory farms, also known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), house hundreds or thousands of animals in very small spaces. Many of the animals on factory farms live their entire lives in cramped, dirty conditions just eating and excreting. “They will almost certainly never walk out in a field, chomp on grass, or feel the sun on their backs.” Just think of that. There have to be consequences, right? But these operations don’t like to advertise what goes on there. After all, having that many animals in such a confined space cannot be good—for the animals or us.
I have to confess that up until recently I didn’t know much about factory farming. It is not like the farmers call attention to the fact that most of the animals on their farms never reach anywhere near their average life expectancy. Enter a very informative article in the November 2011 of O, the Oprah Magazine. It details one woman’s fight against such operations near her home in Michigan. After doing her research, Lynn Henning decried, “This is not farming.” And I have to agree—wholeheartedly.
The article discusses the many health implications not only for the animals but for the residents near such facilities. It also mentions the environmental concerns:
“…CAFO waste isn't just manure, urine, and groundwater: It can contain birthing fluid; blood; hormones; chemicals like ammonia and heavy metals like copper (copper sulfate baths are used to clean the cows' hooves); antibiotics put into their feed, and antibiotic-resistant bacteria; pathogens like E. coli, cryptosporidium, and salmonella; milk house wastes, including cleaning agents and bad milk; and silage leachate, which is basically liquid runoff from fermenting fodder.”
Yikes! Why hasn’t anyone raised huge, waving red flags about this?
When Henning did raise concerns, seeking answers, she and other nearby farm families faced scare tactics, physical intimidation, and legal threats. She has even had her mailbox blown up and her granddaughter's window was shot out. But she has persevered, spreading the word about the tragic consequences of these so-called “farms.” It appears that CAFOs are big business, and those seeking to curb operations in any way are seen as threats to their existence.
In Finland, two activists who shot videotape in 2009 of the appalling conditions at similar pig operations faced prison time for ten cases of disturbance of the peace and 12 cases of aggravated defamation. In the videos, “the pigs appeared to live in cramped and dirty conditions with little stimulus to their existence. Some of the animals had fight wounds and bedsores. Some dead pigs were also seen in the pens.” The prosecutor of the case asserted that Karry Hedberg and Saila Kivelä had implied that crimes had been committed at the sites. But after an investigation, it was ruled that no laws had been violated by the pig farmers. Thus, the pair faced charges. Kivelä and Hedberg insisted, however, that it was not their intention to suggest that any laws were broken at the operations. In fact, they hoped to show that the operations were legal in Finland, bringing to light the real reality and fostering open debate about the situation.
But just this week they were acquitted of all charges of aggravated defamation, and Hedberg, who was considered the main defendant, was only given a 20-day suspended sentence for disturbing the public peace because they had entered one farm through the owner’s front yard. Helsingin Sanomat reported that, “As it had not been asserted that the recordings had been doctored in any way, the court found that selective use of camera angles could not be seen to constitute false or suggestive information… freedom of speech needs to be considered, even though the pig farms were depicted in a negative light….” Earlier this year Kivelä and Hedberg were quoted as being “…satisfied if they have managed in some small way to alter people’s perception of domestic meat production.”
Wow. I know my eyes have certainly been opened. I used to be one of those people that Hedberg referred to in an interview as having “…fond ideas [from the 1970s] of how animals are kept.” I know it is easier for me to think of farming as idyllic and pastoral, with the animals all being treated kindly. “The reality is that the number of individual farms has dropped dramatically, and even in rural areas people no longer recognize animal production. It has become an industry that has little to do with the countryside, or with anything natural.” Without anyone speaking out, we’d never know that.
The two-year-old Doberman weighed only 19 pounds when he was rescued from the locked bedroom of a foreclosed New York home. Abandoned and alone, Justin, named for being rescued "just in time," is the namesake of America's first ever animal abuser registry -- a law drafted by the Animal Legal Defense Fund and designed to keep convicted abusers away from animals.
Help the Animal Legal Defense Fund expose animal abusers by making a special year-end donation toward our work to protect animals from repeat abuse and win justice for animal victims.
Since "Justin’s Law" was passed in Suffolk County, New York in 2010, two additional counties in New York have established animal abuser registries, both based on legislation drafted by ALDF. With the passage of Rockland and Albany Counties’ laws, more than 2.1 million people -- and millions of animals -- now live in jurisdictions protected by animal abuser registries!
Imagine if these registries were established in every community -- in your community.
In story after heartbreaking story, abusers repeat their violent crimes against helpless animals and often go on to victimize people as well. Abuser registries will make a dramatic difference in keeping offenders away from potential new victims by allowing animal shelters and humane societies to screen potential adopters more thoroughly -- and by alerting the public to their whereabouts. Fewer victims will, in turn, also help reduce the huge financial toll communities bear in providing care and rehabilitation to those who are abused.
Your gift today will help us make sure that no convicted animal abuser can ever walk into an animal shelter and shop for his or her next victims.
Together, we can make it happen.
This time of year many people will buy foie gras, believing the industry’s lies that these diseased bird livers, produced by force-feeding ducks and geese, are somehow humane.
If they were produced humanely, it is odd that California would have banned their production and sale - joining more than a dozen countries that have done the same, that Wolfgang Puck would refuse to use foie gras, and that the Pope would have condemned it.
One of the reasons I began a career as an animal protection lawyer was my desire to help end the most barbaric forms of factory farming, combined with my struggle to understand how someone could argue straight-faced that force-feeding an animal so that its organs became mutilated - just so they taste "better" - was justifiable. Since that time I have litigated several cases regarding foie gras production, and examined thousands of pages of records, including testimony by experts on both sides of the issue. I have become convinced that defenders of foie gras production have to deny the obvious facts involved - that they are willing to destroy an animal's organs while it is still living, or patronize those that do, just to improve taste. They have to change the facts because being the sort of person who would do that to an animal, or patronize those that do, is inconsistent our shared view of what it means to be decent.
One has to change the facts to justify it. Well, that is not a proper justification. It ought to be enough – for anyone who eats animals– that these animals died to become food without their being mutilated first. That is getting closer to what it means to be decent. People who feel otherwise are no different from other types of animal abusers, and would have to lie to themselves not to see it.
Speak out against foie gras! Join the Animal Legal Defense Fund in urging the USDA to place a warning label on foie gras stating "NOTICE: Foie gras products are derived from diseased birds."
Rats have it rough in our legal system. A judge in Utah recently dismissed cruelty charges against a man who videotaped himself eating a live baby rat and whose court papers argued that rats "should have no legal protections" because “for centuries [they] have been a scourge to humanity.” Most anti-cruelty laws exempt “pest control,” so even unnecessarily painful methods of exterminating rats are typically legal. And the federal Animal Welfare Act, which sets minimal standards for the treatment of animals used in research, exempts rats from its protections.
Yet despite the seeming inability of some judges, lawmakers, regulators, and researchers to find empathy for rats, a new study confirms that rats themselves empathize with each other and will forego personal rewards to liberate their suffering friends.
A study published in Science last week describes an experiment by researchers at the University of Chicago, in which two rats were placed in a cage, one trapped in a small restraint tube. In the vast majority of sessions, the unrestrained rat would become agitated at the alarm calls of his distressed cagemate, then figure out how to open the door of the restrainer to free the trapped rat. To ensure that the liberation was intentional and that the free rats were not just fiddling with the door of the restrainer, the researchers controlled with empty restrainers and restrainers containing stuffed toy rats; the free rats showed little interest in the restraint devices that did not contain fellow live rats, leading the researchers to conclude that the “rats were motivated to move and act specifically in the presence of a trapped cagemate.”
Not only were the rats motivated to act empathically, they also made personal sacrifices to do so. To test the relative value of empathic behavior, the researchers placed chocolate chips in a separate restrainer to see if the free rat would prefer to get these treats instead of helping his cagemate. In a majority of cases, the unrestrained rat would rescue his friend and share the treats. In a few tear-jerking cases, free rats actually carried chocolate chips over to their newly liberated friend and placed it before him, “as if delivering it,” according to one of the researchers.
Studies like this one confirm remarkable behaviors in animals, but unfortunately, we often draw the wrong lessons from them. Instead of accepting that animals—even rats—are empathic, vulnerable, and convivial creatures who deserve to flourish in their own contexts, we again reduce them to objects of study. Already, scientists are clamoring to confirm this study and expand on it with yet more animal research. At what point will we have learned enough about animals to realize that they deserve to be free? When will we finally discover sufficient empathy in the human species to remove the restraints that keep millions of animals confined in laboratories?
In the meantime, each of us can show empathy toward rats by purchasing only products that are not tested on animals, donating only to charities that don’t support experiments on animals, and practicing humane rat control.
For more than a decade, Tony, a Siberian-Bengal tiger, has spent every day and night at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana. He paces on the hard concrete surface of his cage, unable to escape the stench of fuel and the deafening sound of diesel engines.
But Tony’s fate is about to change. Thanks to the generosity of supporters like you, the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit to free Tony – and we won! On November 2, East Baton Rouge District Court Judge Michael Caldwell ordered the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to revoke the current permit that allowed Tony to be kept at Tiger Truck Stop, and prohibited the agency from issuing any new permits to the truck stop.
It is because of your voice, your dedication, and your support that Tony will soon be free from the miserable, lonely conditions he’s endured day and night for the past decade. You made Tony’s freedom possible -- and with your support, we can win victories for more exploited, neglected, and abused animals.
We would like nothing more than for Tony to live out his life in the comfort of an accredited sanctuary that is far better equipped to meet his basic needs and to give him the kind of life he deserves. ALDF continues to do everything we can to get Tony out of the truck stop as soon as possible, and make sure Tony’s next home is one where he can live out his life in a peaceful, natural environment, free of the fumes, toxins, and noise that have plagued his life to date.
ALDF is a relentless advocate for our clients like Tony, and we will not rest as long as any animal is being abused, neglected, or exploited. We’re able to do this because you stand by us and because you understand the role the law can play in the fight against animal cruelty.
Your support today will help ALDF win justice for more animals like Tony.
Thank you for all that you do for animals.
Renowned jurist William Blackstone famously commented that:Last week, the USDA announced the largest penalty ever assessed against an animal exhibitor for violations of the Animal Welfare Act when it settled with the owners of the Ringling Bros. circus for $270,000 stemming from “alleged” mistreatment of elephants and tigers. The healthy enforcement and hefty settlement levied against Ringling Bros. warrants some commendation of the USDA but is tainted with a tinge of irony. Animal rights groups have been suing Ringling Bros. unsuccessfully for years to put a stop to similar mistreatment of elephants.
[W]here there is a legal right, there is also a legal remedy, by suit or action at law, whenever that right is invaded.
When most people think about animal rights they think about substantive rights such as the right not to be killed to satisfy trivial human interests, the right to adequate space, and the right to be free from abuse. However, these substantive rights are only as powerful as their complementary procedural right of enforcement. I might declare myself King of the Galaxy but, with no means to enforce my decrees, my right to rule the galaxy is worthless. This is a similar conundrum that confronts advocates seeking to enforce animal rights.
Lawsuits may only be brought on behalf of human interests. This proposition seems innocuous enough but is actually quite arbitrary and harmful. Under American law, a person must have standing in order to bring a lawsuit. Generally, this requires that the individual has suffered some discrete injury to ensure that the lawsuit is vigorously advocated and that the judgment rendered constitutes more than a mere exercise of mental masturbation by the judiciary.
It is an unfortunate quirk of our law that standing may not be predicated on injuries to an animal. Laws such as the Animal Welfare Act, the Humane Slaughter Act, and anti-animal cruelty laws implicitly recognize that animals have the capacity to suffer, i.e., to be injured. After all, there is no Furniture Welfare Act or Humane Lumber-Making Act resting within our colossal stacks of statutory law. By failing to recognize injury to an animal as a sufficient basis to sue, the law limits enforcement of animal rights to executive agencies or to humans that have coincidentally suffered an injury.
This brings us to the irony of the Ringling Bros. settlement. Animal rights groups sued Ringling Bros. circus in 2000 alleging that the treatment of elephants violated the prohibition against harassing elephants in the Endangered Species Act. Since the groups could not premise their standing-to-sue on injuries to the elephants, they instead advanced arguments framing the lawsuit in terms of coincidental human injury. The courts shot down each of these arguments and, eleven years after the first case was filed, have not yet issued a judgment on the elephants’ underlying substantive rights under the Endangered Species Act. The USDA rattles its sabre ten years later and easily vindicates the general spirit of the lawsuits – that Ringling Bros. “allegedly” unlawfully mistreated its elephants.
The USDA’s extraction of the largest penalty against an animal exhibitor for violating the Animal Welfare Act is welcome news and hopefully a harbinger of the agency’s future inclinations. However, it is important not to lose sight of the bigger picture. ALDF’s standing to sue on behalf of animals is regularly challenged in the cases it brings and some cases are turned down altogether. Executive agencies should focus more resources on enforcing the law. But more importantly, the law should recognize the procedural right of groups like ALDF to bring suits vindicating injuries suffered by animals themselves.
As we move into the busy holiday season, an anonymous Animal Legal Defense Fund donor has challenged us not to forget about animals in need this time of year. If our Facebook Cause Abuse an Animal, Go to Jail! reaches one million members by 2012, this generous ALDF supporter will donate $2012 toward ALDF’s mission to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system! That means we need 61,768 people to join our Facebook Cause in 31 days. Will you help us achieve our goal and raise $2012 for animals by inviting your Facebook friends to join Abuse an Animal, Go to Jail!?
Facebook Causes is a great way to share what matters to you with your friends and family. Over the years our official Cause, Abuse an Animal, Go to Jail!, has continued to serve as a platform for supporters who want animal abusers behind bars!
Join Abuse an Animal, Go to Jail! today and help us win the case against cruelty.
If you’re not already a fan of ALDF’s Facebook page, please join us here: www.facebook.com/AnimalLegalDefenseFund.
‘Tis the season for celebrating with good friends and family, Silk Nog – and spreading holiday cheer with Animal Legal Defense Fund holiday cards! We’ve just added three news designs to choose from, each one featuring an adorable animal rescued by an ALDF supporter. And a portion of the proceeds from each purchase goes directly to helping animals in need. Spreading holiday cheer and helping animals sounds like the perfect recipe for a wonderful holiday season. And while you’re shopping, check out ALDF’s other merchandise – t-shirts, totes, mugs, and more! Pick up the perfect stocking stuffer for the animal lover in your life.
Here’s a peak at our new holiday card designs and what each animal companion’s guardian had to say about their furry rescue. These designs and more can be purchased on ALDF's online store.
My husband had two criteria for a dog: 1) healthy 2) no poodles. When we arrived at the shelter, I saw: a poodle mix with a limp. My husband saw: our dog. We took Brennan home and, 24 hours later, learned that he needed orthopedic surgery. We did that immediately, and he healed beautifully. After 18 months of long walks, tug-o-war, cuddles and sloppy kisses, we can't imagine life without our adorable "Mystery-poo!"
Lucy found our home after being abandoned at a local neighborhood park. She was shy and skittish, and we could tell that someone had badly broken her heart. We worked hard to earn her trust and love. It took some time but she eventually came to realize that she would always have our love and devotion. What some person disposed of like trash so easily, we gladly received as a wonderful gift.
Lance spent the first five years of his life as a stud dog in a puppy mill operating just outside Montreal, Canada. He was seized by the SPCA when they raided the mill in fall 2008. When I first met Lance while volunteering at the shelter, he was terrified and badly emaciated. Despite the physical and psychological scars that he still bears, he has blossomed into a loyal, loving and playful companion. He reminds me every day what a big difference each and every one of us can make in the lives of animals.
Current regulations under the Endangered Species Act have created an illogical and self-defeating double standard that grants “wild” chimpanzees vital protections under the Act, while denying “captive” chimpanzees in the United States any protection at all. The decision to “split list” the chimpanzee population, as this wild-versus-captive division came to be known, dates back to a regulation issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service, or FWS, in 1976. Inexplicably, that regulation designated all chimpanzees as “threatened” species but, without justification, exempted captive chimpanzees from receiving any of the protections afforded to their wild counterparts.
It soon became evident that FWS’s split listing failed to protect either the wild or the captive chimpanzee population. And, by 1990, the species was in such great peril that FWS was compelled to review its 1976 classification. Although the 1990 status review resulted in the upgrade of wild chimpanzees to endangered status, captive members of the species continued to languish without protection. Remarkably, FWS’s commercial explanation for prolonging the split listing flatly contradicted the conservation mandate embodied in the Endangered Species Act.
Then, last year, reacting to the worsening plight of the species, the Humane Society of the United States, in concert with several other animal rights’ organizations, petitioned FWS to reconsider the status of captive chimpanzees in the United States. That petition—supported by affidavits from primate experts and activists such as Drs. Jane Goodall and Richard Wrangham—detailed the often tortured and painful existence of captive chimpanzees in this country, including their exploitation for entertainment and research, and their suffering as household pets. The petition also powerfully linked the lighthearted manner in which chimpanzees have been portrayed here in the United States with the catastrophic degradation of their natural habitat and wild populations in Africa. FWS was persuaded by the petition, and launched another status review—this time, to re-examine the split listing. In September of this year, FWS invited public comments to inform its review of the split listing and its overall decision-making process.
ALDF contacted the law firm of Proskauer Rose in search of volunteer legal assistance to prepare a comment exposing the plight of captive chimpanzees. We embraced the opportunity and immediately focused our attention on the legality of the chimpanzee split listing. After an exhaustive exegesis of the legislative history and text of the Endangered Species Act, we concluded that the split listing of chimpanzees violated both the letter and spirit of the law, such that FWS had lacked the authority to impose such a split in the first place. In addition, with the aid of the Humane Society petition, we established that the justifications for the split-listing that were advanced in 1990 have proven utterly false over time. Given these two incontrovertible conclusions, we urged FWS to grant captive chimpanzees the same endangered status as wild chimpanzees, with all of the protections that accompany the designation.
We submitted our comments on October 31, 2011, and are hopeful that the great weight of legal and scientific data will persuade FWS of the futility of the split listing and the need to unify the chimpanzee population under one legal standard.
It is not too late for you to voice your own views and concerns on this important issue! We learned recently that, due to an error in the initial publication calling for public comments, FWS has re-opened the comment period and will accept submissions until January 30, 2012. Please take a moment to read the call for comments to see if you are able to add something to the conversation.
Once again, it has been Proskauer’s privilege to represent ALDF in its advocacy efforts on behalf of animals.
Some years ago, my family was visiting Farm Sanctuary, which we do often, and I was headed over to the pig barn to hang out with the pigs. I love those pigs! Just then, several large male turkeys walked straight up to me, fluffing their wings to make themselves look large and menacing. I was impressed, sort of.
They were pitiful fellows, a far cry from their wild cousins, who are graceful, lean and able to fly. These rescued factory farmed turkeys have been genetically manipulated so that their chests are huge and barrel-shaped and they hobble around slowly and with great difficulty. Yet, they are such proud fellows.
I had never given much thought to turkeys, so decided that this was my chance to get to know them better. I sat down in the entrance of the turkey barn and soon, a large tom turkey began to circle very slowly around me, staring at me intently with the eye on one side of his head. He seemed to be drawn to the sound of my voice, backing away only when I dared to stroke his beautiful, soft feathers. He circled continuously for several minutes, getting closer and closer, until he was about six inches away from my face, at which point I felt a bit intimidated--after all, I knew what goodwill I bore him, but I had no idea what was on his mind. Then, he turned and left and another turkey took his place, then another, then another. An hour passed by, as I sat there blissfully watching them watching me. I'm not sure who was examining whom more closely.
My daughter, Maggie, later teased me by chanting: "Mommy has a turkey boyfriend." Well, not quite, but I must say, I was won over by those amiable, stoic little soldiers. We usually see farmed animals in large groups and it reinforces the belief that they are not individuals. The farmed animals who I meet at sanctuaries keep teaching me that they are, indeed, somebody.
I wanted to introduce you to my "turkey boyfriends," in the hope that, perhaps, you can see their charms. They have faces and personalities, likes and dislikes. They have a sense of their own being and a curiosity about those around them. Each year, I spend Thanksgiving with my extended family and one of them cooks a turkey as the centerpiece of the holiday dinner. I love the members of my family and I hope that, someday, their circle of compassion will extend to all living creatures. With each passing year, I grow sadder at the fate of those "Thanksgiving" turkeys; the life and death of a factory farmed turkey is a story of pain and suffering. At Thanksgiving, I give thanks that turkeys are not my food, but rather, my inquisitive and delightful companions.
It’s about time, right? The Los Angeles Times recently reported that Allergan, the maker of Botox, had a process approved earlier this year by the Food and Drug Administration that will allow Allergan to test its product on cells in a lab dish, instead of having to test every batch on live animals. It took Allergan 10 years for its scientists to develop the test, but its success may allow Allergan to stop at least 95% of its animal testing within three years if the process is approved by all the other countries in which Botox is sold. According to the Times article, “The government says that every new compound people might be exposed to — whether it's the latest wonder drug, lipstick shade, pesticide or food dye — must be tested to make sure it isn't toxic. Usually, this requires animals. Allergan's new test is one of several under development, or already in use, that could change that.”
Joyce Tischler, ALDF's founder and general counsel, finds the advance a terrific step in the right direction. “One of the most exciting developments in science today is the move away from the use of live animals and toward the use of tissue cultures, cell cultures and other non-animal alternatives. Scientists are exploring a variety of alternatives to the use of animals in testing and this is a significant advance. Not only will fewer animals suffer, but non-animal tests are better predictors of what a human reaction will be, and they are faster and less expensive. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
Testing facilities in the U.S. indeed test on nearly one million mammals per year, according to 2009 statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But that number does not include mice and rats, the most widely used animals in labs, because the U.S. Animal Welfare Act excludes them. It has been estimated that the actual number of research animals used in the U.S. is closer to 17 million, including rodents, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. And it is true that animal testing does not necessarily indicate how products will affect humans. The Times cites a 2000 study in the journal Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, reporting that rodent experiments predict toxicity to humans just 43% of the time. Not very accurate results when better alternatives are available.
Times have changed. No longer are animals viewed as “black boxes,” easy “creatures” to be tested upon, and their deaths studied. It is true that the most tests utilized today have not kept pace with scientific progress. In the past, scientists didn't understand how chemical testing could sicken an animal or measure the effects upon the animal as a result, but they could certainly see if the animal lived or died from that chemical. This led to the "Lethal Dose, 50%" test, invented in 1927, which is based upon how much of a given toxin will kill half of the animals exposed to it. Until June 2011, this was the test Allergan had to use. Thankfully, progress has allowed Allergan, and hopefully soon, many other companies, to move away from seeing animals as just a means to an end. And that is good news for us all.
As we detailed in an earlier post, California recently enacted a law prohibiting the sale and possession of shark fins.
However, that was not the only animal-protective legislation California approved in its most recent legislative session. In fact, the state passed several significant bills into law targeting persons who victimize animals, including:
- AB 1117 – strengthens the laws regarding seizure and care of abused and neglected animals. Also, establishes a new law prohibiting those convicted of abuse from owning, residing with, or caring for animals for five years following a misdemeanor conviction and for 10 years following a felony.
- SB 425 – strengthens the laws against dogfighting and cockfighting.
- SB 426 – allows eviction of tenants who use their property for dogfighting or cockfighting.
- SB 917 – strengthens animal cruelty penalties and prohibits roadside animal sales.
Of course, California wasn’t the only state to pass important animal legislation this year. But these new laws demonstrate why the Golden State continues to rank as one of the “Top 5” states in the country for its animal protection laws.
Good job, California!
In August 2011, the University of Pennsylvania was issued an official warning letter for its "failure to establish programs of adequate veterinary care" for some of its research animals. According to a Philadelphia Inquirer article, the warning covered inspections from May 10, 2010, through July 20, 2011, and stated that “two dogs had interdigital cysts (often from standing on wire flooring), dirty and algae-filled water containers for four horses, and three gerbil deaths that occurred because of ‘unsuitable sipper tubes.’” It was also reported that any further violations could result in a civil penalty or criminal prosecution.
Worden also noted that Penn houses up to 5,000 animals a year at its medical and veterinary schools and that it has garnered 115 violations for the treatment of its research animals since 2008. That number is more than twice the number of violations found at Princeton University, which ranked as the second worst school in a survey of USDA inspection reports from 2008 to 2011. Penn has received at least $1.4 billion from the National Institutes of Health since 2008, and that amount for federal research funding is the highest of any Ivy League school. With research funding at stake, there have been recommendations that call for the USDA to formally sanction any schools for such violations and that the National Institutes of Health should pull research funding from any offending institutions.
There should absolutely be consequences for Penn for its continuing actions. These circumstances do not appear to be isolated incidents, and warnings do not seem to have the desired effect, as the university seems content to carry on the callous treatment of its research animals. Penn has issued a statement claiming, "we take these issues very seriously and have modified our program to correct the deficiencies noted during that period. We are continually working to improve our animal care program with the goal to eliminate any shortcomings that occur and prevent them from recurring.” Maybe if the funding for their research program was decreased, such incidents would decrease too. And the “goal” of proper treatment of the animals would finally be reached. Let’s make this a final warning to Penn and all the other institutions that conduct animal research.
Shouldn't animals that are injured by people convicted of hurting them legally be considered "victims?" This will allow, in many cases, punishment commensurate with the crime, especially in those states which have "sentencing guidelines" which recognize "victim injury" as a sentencing enhancement. This blog post recalls my recently experience as a Florida prosecutor and my attempts to get a meaningful sentence after a man I prosecuted was found guilty of cruelty to a Rottweiler dog, Rosco. I asked the judge to deem Rosco a "victim" and to score extra sentencing points against the perpetrator. [State v. Thomas Nebus - #01-2010-CF-3230-A; Eighth Judicial Circuit Court]
At last count, 21 states have some form of sentencing guideline system utilizing either a grid or worksheet structure. Some, like Florida and Maryland, consider injury to the victim as a sentencing factor. Florida, though, limits the definition of "victim" to "...any person...." This seems just wrong, though it is overwhelmingly the predominant legal view.
Animals are more than mere chattel. There is now no question that mammals, in particular, are intelligent, sentient, social creatures that feel both physical and emotional pain. Most states, in one form or another, mirror Florida's felony cruelty statute which proscribes the intentional commission of an act or acts which result in "the cruel death or the excessive or repeated infliction of unnecessary pain and suffering" to an animal. They do not, and should not, speak of "damaging the animal property of an owner." As such, such laws, at least implicitly, recognize not only the sentiency of animals but their indisputable existence as victims of crime rather than inanimate objects.
It is no coincidence that three Florida statutes, in logical sequence, deal with the abuse of the elderly and disabled, address the abuse of children, and prohibit cruelty toward animals. Moreover, FS 828.03 treats animals exactly like children and allows for the appointment of agents to investigate violations of Florida law "for the purpose of protecting children and animals." [Emphasis added] Clearly children, the elderly, and disabled adults are recognized as victims. Surely it is only logical to afford animals, at least sentient mammals, the same recognition. To fail to do so would create an undeserved and illogical "loophole" by which the perpetrators of horrific acts of violence and cruelty to animals would escape full accountability.
While once ignored, denied, or rationalized away, there is now a compelling (and ever-growing) body of evidence that animals possess the capacity to experience pain, stress, and emotions such as fear. See, e.g., Animal Pain (Charles E. Short & Alan Van Poznak eds., Churchill Livingston 1992); Mental Health and Well-Being of Animals, ed Franklin McMillan, 2005, Blackwell Publishing; Physiology and Behaviours of Animal Suffering, Neville G. Gregory, 2004, Blackwell Publishing; The Sciences of Animal Welfare, Mellor, Patterson-Kane, Stafford, 2009, Wiley-Blackwell; Understanding Animal Welfare: The Science in its Cultural Context, David Fraser, 2008, Wiley-Blackwell. The concept that animals experience basic emotions, including fear and stress in response to pain may still be heresy to some, but the reality is no longer deniable. In the words of one prominent ethicist, animals are "more like people than like wheelbarrows in that what we [do] to them matters to them - they are "sentient." Bernard E. Rollin, Science and Ethics (Cambridge Univ. Press (2006) (emphasis original).
I presented all these arguments to the judge on behalf of the Rottweiler, Rosco, but he rejected them in light of the limitation of "victim" to "a person" provided under the Florida punishment code. Nevertheless, he adjudicated the defendant, a convicted felon, imposed a six month jail sentence, and added a consecutive three year period of probation that will insure, among other conditions, substance abuse and psychological treatment as indicated, a $2500 fine, and most important, no contact with animals. I can't help but think, though, that maybe it's time for the legislature of Florida and other states to start explicitly treating animals like the victims they, so very often, tragically are.
So reads the headline of one of the many news stories on the trial and sentencing of Diane Eldrup who operated a “shelter & boarding facility” in Deer Park, IL, named “Muddy Paws.” The facts adduced at trial describe a classic animal hoarding situation:
- The floors were covered with trash and feces.
- Starving animals were locked in cages stashed away in a very cold and dark building.
- Although food and water were readily available to the defendant (even stacked on top of some of the cages), the defendant failed to provide adequate food or water.
- Animals were caked in sticky dried urine and feces.
While exceptionally horrific, mass animal neglect (hoarding) is painfully common. However, the legal significance of this case lies in the fact that it expressly raised the issue of whether starvation qualifies as torture—a question we get from investigators and prosecutors all over the country.
Predictably, the defense didn’t think it did. Thus, at the close of the State’s case, the defense moved for a judgment of acquittal on the torture charges, arguing that the State failed to prove that the defendant intended to cause pain and suffering by failing to provide food to these suffering animals. Under 510 ILL. Comp. Stat. 70/3.03, the crime of animal torture is defined as:
“A person commits animal torture when that person without legal justification knowingly or intentionally tortures an animal. For purposes of this Section, and subject to subsection (b), ‘torture’ means infliction of or subjection to extreme physical pain, motivated by an intent to increase or prolong the pain, suffering, or agony of the animal.”The trial judge, Judge James Booras, denied the defense motion and sent the case to the jury, noting there was evidence in the record indicating that the defendant felt that her possession of the dogs compromised her marriage, and that the defendant was hiding animals from investigators. These are good facts from which to infer the defendant’s motive and intent - they are however arguably frosting on the cake, and the case should have gone to the jury even without them. Why? Because the failure to provide food for such duration that animals die of starvation (a process that takes approximately 30 days) is no mistake. It is a hoarder’s affirmative and repeated choice not to engage in required conduct as dogs howl, then whimper and ultimately die; the intent is readily inferred from the defendant’s daily refusals to act to abate the suffering and torturous deaths.
While each state’s law is different, if you as an investigator, peace officer or prosecutor have a starvation case, give us a call and we’ll guide you through the “starvation = torture” analysis of the law in your state. You might be surprised what’s out there…
One last point: Congratulations to the three prosecutors from the Lake County State’s Attorney’s office who so diligently worked this case (Suzanne Willett, Michael Mermel, and Raquel Robles-Eschbach) and to the entire investigative team, for a job well done. Regardless of what one thinks of the sentence imposed (30 months of soft incarceration—meaning Eldrup has leave to spend her days attending treatment and visiting her son)—these are incredibly important cases and it nice to see such a quality effort on the part of these fine professionals.
Tony is an 11-year-old Siberian-Bengal tiger.
For most of his life, he has lived in a cage at Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana. He is a roadside attraction.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund has sued to get Tony out of that cage. We hope that Tony can be sent to a sanctuary, where he can live out his life in a more natural environment. Last week, we won our lawsuit in the East Baton Rouge District Court. The judge ordered the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries not to renew the annual permit that allows the truck stop to keep him in that cage, and ordered the Department to revoke the current permit.
Michael Sandlin, owner of Tiger Truck Stop, thinks Tony should stay at the truck stop. He says that’s Tony’s home and that people like to come and see him.
Many Americans view wild animals as “specimens” to be kept in a jar and brought out for us to gaze upon. There is something inherently wrong with that assumption and, to the extent that we can get inside the mind of a wild tiger stuck in a cage in Louisiana, let’s look at this situation from the perspective of what’s best for Tony.
According to National Geographic, there are only about 400-500 Siberian tigers and less than 2,500 Bengal tigers left in the wild. These sub-species are critically endangered. “Tigers live alone and aggressively scent-mark large territories to keep their rivals away. They are powerful hunters that travel many miles to find prey, such as elk and wild boar, on nocturnal hunts... Despite their fearsome reputation, most tigers avoid humans…”
This is worth repeating: in their natural habitat, tigers travel great distances to hunt and they avoid contact with human beings.
In contrast, let’s take a look at Tony’s environment.
You can see a video of Tony in his roadside cage:
Look closely at Tony. Do you notice the way he walks back and forth? That is called “stereotypic behavior,” repetitive or ritualistic movement, such as pacing or rocking. This is abnormal behavior; it is not the way Tony would act in his natural habitat and it is a sign that something is very wrong.
According to experts, “(p)ossible explanations…include that carnivore pacing represents frustrated escape attempts (to forage, range, reach a mate, or for any one of a host of reasons)” or because species that usually roam over a wide range of land have been “rendered more dysfunctional by captivity…” “Stereotypic Animal Behaviour – Fundamentals and Applications for Welfare” (2nd ed.) – eds. Georgia Mason and Jeff Rushen (CABI, 2006).
Tony is not a play-toy or a stuffed animal or large puppy hoping to get someone’s attention. He’s a tiger and he has been denied the basic right to be a tiger – a wild animal living and hunting according to his natural instincts in his native habitat. Can anyone seriously argue that a wild tiger wants to be spend his entire life stuck in a cage at a truck stop, inhaling gasoline fumes and having to be in close proximity to the human beings his instincts are telling him to run away from? Seriously?
And, while we’re on the subject, there are thousands of other wild animals exploited in this way all over the U.S. Once again, if you look closely, there are visible signs telling us why wild animals should not be in captivity: the recent incident in Ohio, where dozens of wild animals were let loose by their owner and slaughtered by local police; Tyke, the elephant who broke loose after years of performing tricks in the circus. Tyke killed one person, injured several others and was thereafter killed on the streets of Honolulu; Travis, the “pet” chimpanzee in Connecticut who attacked a woman and badly mutilated her face; Tilikum, the captive orca (killer whale) at Orlando’s Sea World, who has killed three human beings so far. These are just a few of the incidents that serve as wake-up calls that wild animals have no place in captivity. Wild animals are being victimized every step of the way – by being removed from their native environments, by suffering in a life of captivity and, if they manage to escape, by being summarily killed.
We want to do the right thing for Tony. He can no longer survive in the wild, but he can go to a reputable sanctuary and live his life with far more dignity and less stress. I urge public officials to stop ignoring the obvious and deal realistically with the problems caused by allowing individuals to keep wild animals in captivity: ban private ownership, sale, purchase, possession and custody of wild animals.
To find out what you can do to help Tony and others like him, visit: http://freetonythetiger.wordpress.com/.
The 2011 Republican Primary debates have surprisingly brought a lot of attention to Texas. Of course, most people don’t know that Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured children in the nation, ranks near last in SAT scores, last in per capita state spending on mental health, 2nd in the birth rate, 7th in teenage birth rate, 10th in foreclosure rates, 4th in the percent of children living in poverty, and 1st in carbon dioxide emissions. But if you ask some folks, the problem in Texas is burros. Yes, those adorable donkeys. You may recall that ALDF was involved in a burro lawsuit in 1981 but this is a different scenario.
Back in 2007, much of the public was outraged to learn that two high-ranking Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPDW) employees had shot and killed 71 burros at Big Bend State Park over the course of several months. Thankfully, the backlash from this incident led to a moratorium on the practice. And after holding public hearings, the agency agreed to let wildlife groups capture the burros for relocation. But in December 2010, the TPWD, overseen by a Governor Perry-appointed commission, re-instituted the shoot-to-kill policy. And now at least 50 of the estimated 300 burros who live in and around the 300,000 acre state park have been shot. Why is this happening? TPWD claims that burros are an invasive species worthy of being removed lethally. They say burros are destructive to vegetation and water supplies and that the burros are not a native Texas species. They cite photos of springs and creeks fouled by burro droppings as evidence (honestly they do). Cattle ranching has long been a part of Big Bend’s history. How different are cattle?
But wild horse and burro advocates claim that the state agency is killing wild burros to make way for hunting opportunities of bighorn sheep by wealthy hunters. Bighorn sheep have been reintroduced in to the park and hunting permits for them are sold in an auction format, with the highest recorded winning bid more than $150,000. Burro advocates claim that these hunters view burros as competition for forage that would otherwise be consumed by bighorn sheep. Of course, we can support bighorn restoration while also protecting the wild burros. There are approximately 75 species of mammals inhabiting the deserts and mountains of Big Bend National Park and yet the burros are being singled out.
Sadly, the burros shot may not be killed immediately, but rather are wounded and wander off to die slow and painful deaths. TPWD even acknowledges that verification of immediate death is not always possible. TPWD claims it is costly to capture the burros and relocate them. Of course, it’s not cheap to have state employees driving aimlessly around the park in state vehicles taking target practice. And the park receives some 300-350,000 visitors a year. It’s not good economic sense to bring this negative attention to such a beautiful park and discourage people from visiting it. The opportunity to see wildlife in their natural setting is one of the greatest draws of the park. Park visitors aren’t looking for a big game preserve and we need to let them know. Please send a letter to Governor Rick Perry urging him to take immediate action to stop the killing of Texas burros and add your name to this petition.
Happy Halloween from everyone at ALDF!
Clare is a poodle at heart.
Daisy feels more like a butterfly than a daisy today.
Elvis doing his best frog impression.
Katie's taking a break from being a busy bumble bee.
Lucy makes the cutest ladybug, if we do say.
Maggie's ballerina debut.
Penny makes the purrfect black cat.
Riley is a pumpkin even when it's not Halloween.
Little old lady Kona takes a rest from her travels.
Roxy is a diva in her leopard print.
Does it get any cuter than Ruby in her sailor dress?
Shadow prefers eating pumpkins over wearing them.
Skip gets ready to buzz around in his bee costume.
Sporting her Halloween jester outfit, Vegas is ready to be the life of the party.
Zoey says BOO!
All Photos © William Rivas-Rivas/ALDF
There are many stories and myths. The person that kept their new puppy tied to a tree outside all day without adequate food, water or shelter. The animal guardian who said, after Buster got one of those terrible doggy diseases that could have been held at bay with a simple shot, that they didn’t know they needed to vaccinate him. Or one of the most common ones…“I didn’t neuter Spike because I wanted him to remain a male. I didn’t want him emasculated.” These are simple scenarios that needn’t happen, but they continue to occur because of a lack of education. Some folks really don’t understand that tying up a puppy, failing to vaccinate, and neglecting to spay or neuter a companion animal is wrong. Maybe they had no one to teach them?
Enter a very special educational program instituted by lawmakers in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and surrounding Bernalillo County, discussed in the September 2011 issue of Dog Fancy. An innovative program, “dog owners” who break the law for the first time (dog license, leash law infractions, and the like) are being sentenced to attend a Pet Owner Responsibility Class. While some are not happy about the prospect of attending class, many who leave the class afterward are thankful for the opportunity. It helps, too, that attendance is mandatory and that failing to show up for class can lead to a bench warrant, with a fine or jail time. On the positive side, it seems to really make a difference. In the five years that the class has been taught, there has only been one repeat offender. The class covers the animal-control ordinance and proper pet care basics, among other topics. There is also plenty of time for questions and discussion during the four-hour class.
This is an admirable and refreshing approach to getting the word out on how to care for companion animals and what local laws are concerning their basic treatment and care. Instead of just paying a fine, and possibly continuing with their law-breaking ways, guardians have the opportunity to learn why their infraction was unlawful, and best of all, how to correct that behavior. For some people, caring for a companion animal is simple, logical and innate. But for others, that respectful behavior must be learned. And there must be resources where such folks can turn for the valuable information. Maybe other communities will now follow Albuquerque’s lead and establish such classes, especially since it is clear that such education is having a positive effect. It would be easy for city parks and recreation departments to offer an elementary companion animal information class or meeting. Learning doesn’t have to be the result of an infraction. Or the class could be offered as an option when purchasing a companion animal license. There are lots of folks that could benefit, even if they already feel they are doing everything right. Getting more education out there can only be beneficial for the animals.
Last year I had the opportunity to present a lecture at ALDF’s Future of Animal Law Conference at Harvard Law School, the subject and proposals of which I would like to revisit here briefly.
Today, the U.S. has only three states which lack felony-level animal cruelty penalties – this is a dramatic shift from twenty years ago when forty-three states were without them. While there certainly remains a great need to strengthen and expand existing anti-cruelty laws and to ensure that such protections are fully enforced, it is time to expand the reach of our laws to encompass a new class of animal-focused statutes -- a class I am referring to as best interests laws.
Complementary to laws which focus solely on protection from cruelty, best interests laws – either expressly or by effect – are provisions which recognize that animals have interests beyond protection from physical abuse and neglect. Certainly it is in the best interests of an animal not be subjected to mistreatment, but where anti-cruelty laws are, at their core, tools striving to protect animals from physical abuse and define societal standards, laws based primarily on best interests have the potential to more broadly and proactively impact the lives of animals in a multitude of areas.
The following are some proposals that fit into this classification of statutes. The custody proposal was formally unveiled last year; the registry proposal was launched as a campaign last year and has since been successfully enacted in three jurisdictions. I have previously written about the other two proposals, but they have not yet been made into state law.
It is noteworthy that these proposals borrow from some of the legal tools and concepts used on behalf of children. This makes intrinsic sense, as there are many corollaries between animals (especially companion animals) and children. For example:
- Both share a dependency on others for needs
- A library of laws protect both
- Both may be beneficiaries of trusts
- Both have many organizations/agencies working on their behalf
- Custody of Companion Animals in Divorces & Separations
The custody of companion animals has been an increasing issue in litigation emanating from divorces or in the separation of unmarried parties. ALDF attorneys and others have attempted to have courts consider the best interests of animals in these situations with mixed results. This proposal, which I introduced at Harvard last year, seeks to assist the courts in these situations by codifying a structure whereby the best interests of an animal in a custody dispute must be considered. No state has yet enacted this proposal, but a New Jersey lawmaker began drafting legislation on this concept late last year.
- Animal Abuser Registries
I developed this concept over a decade ago and added it to ALDF’s model laws collection. As with sex offenders, the premise is that knowing the whereabouts of convicted animal abusers and providing animal shelters and the public with access to that information reduces the risk and costs of new victims. Clearly, it is in the best interests of an animal not to become a victim of cruelty or neglect – this proposal approaches that threat with prevention rather than reaction.
Last year ALDF launched a national campaign to raise awareness of this concept and, so far, there have been more than 40 such bills introduced in 21 jurisdictions. Three counties in New York (Suffolk, Rockland, and Albany) have enacted registries covering more than 2.1 million people and millions of animals.
- Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Animals
There is a perception for many in the public that prosecutors and other law enforcement officials are looking out for the best interests of animal victims – while often true, this is not always the case. Enacted by statute, CASAs for children have been around for decades for similar reasons, and we notice and appreciate their value. In the past, I have written about borrowing the concept for animal victims. Such a proposal would establish a similar system whereby criminal courts could appoint a CASA to represent the interests of the animal victim(s) during the court proceedings relevant to that case. Chicago has had an animal CASA program for a few years with successful results, however no state has enacted such a law as yet.
- Termination of Unfit Guardian/Owner’s Interest in an Animal
This proposal would allow a court broad review in determining whether a guardian/owner of an animal is fit to possess the animal and, if not, the means to terminate this interest. The court review includes considering conduct that may not rise to the criminal level, but nonetheless may be detrimental to the animal. It establishes that the court must consider the best interests of the animal in making its decisions.
We have some exciting news to share with you. Animal Legal Defense Fund board of directors member Marilyn Forbes and The Sidney and Beatrice Albert Foundation have generously issued a special online-only $10,000 matching gift challenge through October 31st, and we urgently need your help to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity for animals.
Every dollar you donate online to ALDF through the end of the month will double its impact on behalf of animals, up to a total of $10,000. Will you help us raise $10,000 by October 31st?
Just think of what your contribution will mean for the animals. Your gift will help ALDF:
- File groundbreaking lawsuits to stop animal abuse and expand the boundaries of animal law
- Provide free legal assistance to prosecutors handling cruelty cases
- Strengthen anti-cruelty statues
- Help us prepare the next generation of attorneys, judges, and politicians to meet the challenge of protecting animals through the law via our 172 Student ALDF law school chapters
But we can’t do it without your support.
I hope you’re excited about this special $10,000 matching gift challenge -- exclusively for online donations. Will you stand with us once again and help us take advantage of this tremendous opportunity to turn $10,000 into $20,000 for the animals?
Thank you for all you do to support our work to make this a safer world for animals through the legal system. I hope we can count on you to help us meet this matching gift challenge.
Listen to factory farmers defend themselves and you would think they see the animals they raise and kill as their beloved family pets. They will talk about humane handling standards, responsible husbandry, and even how much they love the animals they are fattening and killing. But if you want to know how factory farmers really see animals you need to look at their actions and not their words. Right now the National Meat Association, a mouthpiece for factory farmers across the country, is asking the Supreme Court to strike down a California law that requires exactly the sort of basic humane treatment for farmed animals that factory farmers claim to want. The law bans the sale, transport, or purchase of sick and disabled “downer” animals who are so weak they are unable to walk. The law was passed in the wake of investigations by the Humane Society of the United States documenting downed animals being dragged, shocked, bulldozed, rammed, and hosed to force them through the slaughter process.
The National Meat Association – "animal lovers" that they are – want the law struck down.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund has intervened in the case, NMA v. Harris, now before the Supreme Court, to stand alongside California and defend its law. At issue is whether federal law, which favors the factory farmers, trumps or “preempts” California’s law. One can wonder why the Obama administration is so beholden to the factory farm lobby that it is willing to get behind the abuse of sick and downed animals. Regardless, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is opposing the National Meat Association before the Court, and arguing that the state law should be upheld. The Court will soon hear arguments in the case, which could have a major impact on the suffering of millions of animals and on animal law more generally.
A law that bans the sale, transport, or purchase of sick and disabled “downer” animals -- living, feeling beings -- who are so weak they are unable to walk, is the bare minimum we can do to be humane. Factory farmers oppose it, and they are willing to go all the way to the Supreme Court to protect their profits. Think factory farmers love animals? Then why are they fighting to force even sick and disabled animals – animals too weak even to stand – to slaughter? The obvious truth is that they love the money these animals represent, and it is time they simply admitted as much.
Dozens of exotic animals escaped from an Ohio farm
on Tuesday prompting a hunt which resulted in the death of almost 50
animals. Sherriff’s deputies shot at least 18 Bengal tigers, 17 lions,
six black bears, one baboon, two grizzly bears, three mountain lions and
two wolves. Their owner, Terry Thompson, appeared to have freed the
animals and then taken his own life. The horrific incident has brought
attention to the serious need for a ban on private ownership of exotic
animals in Ohio.
What Ohio residents can do:
Contact your state and local elected officials and demand that they enact laws to:
- Prohibit new ownership of exotic and wild animals as pets.
- Protect currently-owned exotic and wild animals by giving officials the authority to inspect and regulate these animals and the conditions in which they live.
- Prohibit all sales and transfers of existing exotic and wild animals.
April and Daniel Akiva were delighted to welcome Buddy, a three-month-old Cockapoo puppy, into their family. But their joy quickly turned to concern the evening they brought Buddy home from Barkworks, a Southern California pet store chain.
Buddy began coughing and was later diagnosed with kennel cough, a respiratory disorder. Shortly after, he was diagnosed with an ear infection, and less than two months later, when Buddy was just five months old, the Akivas rushed him to the vet for emergency medical treatment after he had shortness of breath and began foaming at the mouth. His lungs full of fluid, the young puppy died five days before Christmas.
Sadly, Buddy's story is not unique. That's why the Animal Legal Defense Fund has filed a class action lawsuit against Barkworks, the pet store that sold Buddy, for repeatedly engaging in fraud and false advertising in an effort to conceal from customers that they are selling puppy mill puppies, who have a much higher rate of illness and health problems as a result of abusive breeding practices and inhumane living conditions.
Help ALDF stop Barkworks' blatant and illegal deceptive practices -- and double the impact of your support! Between now and October 31, donations to ALDF will be matched dollar-for-dollar -- up to $30,000.
The Akivas, along with several other named plaintiffs in the case, and untold numbers of others, purchased extremely sick puppies from Barkworks, despite being given warranties that the animals were "fit for sale" and "not ill." What's more, the store misled countless customers about where their puppies came from. Prior to purchasing Buddy, April asked a Barkworks representative if the puppies they sold came from puppy mills -- she was explicitly told they did not.
Barkworks misrepresented the breeding history and health of its puppies in order to convince customers to purchase them, resulting in large profits for their business -- and heartbreak for countless dogs and their adoptive families.
Join us in our fight against abusive puppy mills and those who support them.
Together, we can help put an end to the abuse.
In 2008, the Animal Legal Defense Fund entered into an exciting collaboration with Lewis & Clark Law School to launch the Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS) at Lewis & Clark. Since that time, CALS has educated and supported law students and legal professionals in the rapidly developing field of animal law through classes, conferences, scholarships, and clinical opportunities.
The milestones that have been achieved at CALS have been nothing short of incredible, from the appointment of the first animal law dean to hiring the first full-time faculty member dedicated to an animal law clinic. These “firsts” complement an already impressive list of pioneering accomplishments at Lewis & Clark including the formation of the first Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapter, first academic animal law conference, first animal law journal, and first national animal law competitions.
With the above track record, CALS has set the academic bar high as a leader in the field of animal law. This position was validated once again when Lewis & Clark’s Law School Dean, Robert Klonoff, announced at the 19th Annual Animal Law Conference that it will be launching an Animal Law LL.M. (Master of Laws) program. With the creation of this program, Lewis & Clark will have the first advanced legal degree program in animal law in the world. The LL.M. degree will be offered starting next fall (2012).
Congratulations to our colleagues at CALS - Pamela Frasch, Kathy Hessler, and Laura Handzel - for this latest accomplishment!
* Photo courtesy of Brooke Peters.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund was recently joined by the Center for Food Safety, Public Justice, and several Texas residents in a case filed in Texas state court challenging state officials’ refusal to follow their own law, and ensure that egg laying hens are not overcrowded into cages, left alone injured and dying, or otherwise left to dwell among dead bodies or in other unsanitary conditions. That is not a lot to ask.
But the state, under influence from the factory farm lobby instead of the Texas citizens that passed the law, has refused to do it and is now wasting precious taxpayer dollars to support the factory farm lobby and fight the Animal Legal Defense Fund in court. The state is literally spending tax dollars to defend a private industry that does little if anything for the citizens of Texas.
But the funny thing is, by supporting overcrowded and unsanitary factory farms the state is not only wasting taxpayer money to defeat the very law the taxpayers passed. The state is also playing games with food safety.
Video courtesy of The Humane Society of the United States
Those conditions - egg laying hens overcrowded into cages, left alone injured and dying, or living among dead bodies or in other unsanitary conditions - dramatically increase the likelihood that eggs will be infected with Salmonella, a bacteria that can cause serious illness or even death in unsuspecting consumers. Every year, about 142,000 Americans contract salmonella from eating eggs. Texas has seen a major increase in salmonella outbreaks in recent years and millions of eggs have been recalled from facilities with conditions similar to those found at Cal-Maine.
Texas is putting the welfare of factory farmers over that of its citizens. What else are state officials good for if they cannot even protect food safety?
Texas agencies have been giving egg producers like Cal-Maine an unfair free pass by allowing them to operate in violation of state health and safety laws. The government can no longer give these operators what amounts to economic subsidies at the cost of public health and safety. Texas citizens passed this good law. Whose side are state officials on?
The court is expected hear arguments later in the year.
Calling all designers! The Animal Legal Defense Fund is looking for a fun, new t-shirt design and we’re holding a contest to find the perfect one. Do you have an eye for style? Do you have a design in mind that shows how much you care about winning justice for animals? Submit your design today! (Did we mention there’s a $300 prize for the winning design?)
We’re accepting entries until October 21st, so put your thinking cap on – or thinking t-shirt, in this case – and enter today! Once all entries have been received, voting will be open to the public from October 22-November 4. Yep, that’s right. You get to choose the winner!
For design specifications or to register for the contest, visit HatchWise.com.
Together, we’re making a difference for animals. And we’re doing it in style.
The Albany County Legislature (New York) voted unanimously yesterday to establish an animal abuser registry, making it the third county in New York (and, indeed, the entire nation) to pass such a law. In the past year, Suffolk County and Rockland County approved similar legislation. With the passage of Albany County’s law, more than 2.1 million people (and millions of animals) now live in jurisdictions protected by animal abuser registries!
The publicly accessible registries allow communities to track the whereabouts of convicted animal abusers and prevent those offenders from acquiring new animals.
To these ends, the Albany County law includes the following provisions:
- Applies to misdemeanor and felony convictions for animal cruelty, animal fighting, sexual abuse of an animal, and harming service or police animals.
- Offenders remain on the registry for 10 years following a first offense and for life following any subsequent offenses.
- Offenders who fail to register are guilty of a misdemeanor and may be incarcerated for up to 1 year and fined up to $1,000.
- Any person or group selling, offering for adoption, or otherwise transferring animals must check the registry to ensure that the potential owner is not listed on it.
- Failure to check the registry is a violation and is punishable by a fine of $5,000.
They didn't know their puppies were sick. They didn't know they were supporting puppy mills when they purchased their new companions. In fact, each family was explicitly assured that their puppy was from a reputable breeder and was healthy.
Yet tragically, an untold number of puppies purchased from Barkworks, a Southern California pet store chain, began experiencing health problems -- such as pneumonia, ear infections, and other life-threatening diseases -- almost immediately after joining their new families.
That's why the Animal Legal Defense Fund has filed a class action lawsuit against Barkworks for repeatedly engaging in fraud and false advertising in an effort to conceal from customers that they purchase their puppies from abusive puppy mills.
Help ALDF stop Barkworks' blatant and illegal deceptive practices. Between now and October 31, donations to ALDF will be matched dollar-for-dollar -- up to $30,000. Don't miss this special opportunity to double the impact of your support!
Barkworks misrepresented the breeding history and health of its puppies in order to convince customers to purchase them, resulting in large profits for their business -- and heartbreak for countless dogs and their adoptive families.
I urge you to take this opportunity to double the impact of your support during our 2011 Matching Gift Challenge. Together, we can make a difference for animals and continue our fight against puppy mills and those who support them.
Thank you for taking a stand against puppy mills and supporting ALDF in our fight against animal cruelty.
On July 31, I ran the San Francisco Marathon, referred to by The Wall Street Journal as “The Race Even Marathoners Fear.”
I wasn’t alone—25,000 runners from around the country and globe took on the intense challenge of running 26.2 miles of San Francisco’s picturesque neighborhoods—steep hills included. Even running across the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge, albeit breathtaking, is no walk in the park.
Why would I take on the physical toll running 26.2 miles—dehydration, blisters, black toenails, chafing, calf strains, muscle cramps, and soreness just to name a few.
My motivation for running?
I ran the San Francisco Marathon to raise awareness and support for the Animal Legal Defense Fund. I didn’t run the marathon for me. I ran it for all the animals who suffer and die in factory farms, puppy mills, research laboratories, and other abusive industries.
When I finally crossed the marathon finish line, some 5 hours after I started and 3 hours after the marathon winner, I was beyond thrilled.
I met my goal of finishing and crossing the finish line without injury.
I also surpassed my fundraising goal. I raised nearly $2,000 for ALDF!
I owe many thanks to everyone who donated and to all of those who supported me during the run. Knowing that so many people believed in me and believed in ALDF made it all possible for me to finish and meet my goal.
I am so proud to have finished this marathon and so proud to help support an organization that is committed to fighting to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system.
When the Occupy Wall Street protests began in Downtown Manhattan several weeks ago, not many paid attention. The mainstream media was very slow to react and give the movement any traction. That was then and this is now. On September 30th, the movement released its first official declaration, listing its demands, “Principles of Solidarity,” and “Documentation on how to form your own Direct Democracy Occupation Group.” The group cites that its movement and declaration come at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run the government. The declaration goes on to say that the protestors on Wall Street have peaceably assembled within their rights to let certain facts be known. Among the facts listed is one that those familiar with the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s three-plus decades of work may already know all too well: “They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless nonhuman animals, and actively hide these practices.”
The Occupy Wall Street movement, that was at first portrayed by many as insignificant, is now spreading across the land, as more and more people voice their displeasure with such corporate behavior. A search of the news reveals that the movement has reached all corners of the country, and that protests are now taking place in Hartford, Philadelphia, Tampa, Minneapolis, Chicago, Los Angeles, Pueblo, New Orleans, and Santa Barbara, among others. From these unexpected corners, citizens are giving a voice to the truth about how animals are regarded by corporate America.
How many times has it been reported that a corporation has violated the law with respect to the way they treat, experiment on, house, and kill animals? Unfortunately, too many to count. Remember the great pet food recall and the many deaths associated with it? How about the many undercover videos of animals being tortured and terribly abused before being slaughtered for their meat? It has become more and more difficult to fight against such wrongs when there are so many loopholes and lobbies protecting these corporations. Incidents of mass abuse just continually get swept under the proverbial rug, while corporations continue to add to their bottom line.
Things need to change. There needs to be more protections for the animals, not the corporate fat cats, and most certainly, there needs to be more transparency. Today, more than ever before, we need to continue the campaign for animal rights and speak out against those who so blatantly disregard these rights, especially those who profit from their unlawful behavior. Any movement that recognizes these tenets deserves a voice.
On his website, Governor Brown states, "The practice of cutting the fins off of living sharks and dumping them back in the ocean is not only cruel, but it harms the health of our oceans. Researchers estimate that some shark populations have declined by more than 90 percent, portending grave threats to our environment and commercial fishing. In the interest of future generations, I have signed this bill."
Although not the only economic incentive for fishermen, the market
for “shark fin soup” is a strong one, and California is one of the
largest markets for fins outside of Asia. So-called “shark finning” has
taken a horrifying toll on sharks.
Some of the numerous reasons to stop this abhorrent practice:
- Shark finning is inherently cruel: sharks are often finned alive, then thrown overboard to sink to the bottom of the ocean and die a slow, agonizing death
- As much as 90% of the world’s shark population has been decimated by overfishing, with shark finning accounting for up to 70 million shark deaths each year
- Sharks are a crucial part of the world’s ecosystems
- Shark finning is banned in the coastal waters of many nations, including the U.S. (with the exception of North Carolina)
- Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington have all passed bills banning the sale of shark fins
AB 376 was approved by the Senate in September on a 25-9 vote and was overwhelmingly passed by the Assembly in May on a 65-8 vote. An increasing number of states are realizing, cruelty is intolerable, regardless of its place in any culture’s traditions.
Thank you to everyone who contacted their legislators and urged them to support this important bill!
On a daily basis my colleagues and I at ALDF's Criminal Justice Program see the worst of mankind’s interactions with animals. It is necessary to get a bit thick-skinned dealing with the daily carnage—if for no other reason than to maintain one’s professional judgment and objectivity. However, the “dog/cat burned alive” cases still really get to me. You don’t have to look very far to find them. Just go to Pet-Abuse.com and enter “dog burned alive” and run the search—you’ll get eight pages of results. Or, if you prefer, have a look in Lexis. See, e.g., Childs v. State, 2000 Tex. App. LEXIS 7510; State v. Rodriguez, 2000 Kan. LEXIS 613; Brown v. State, 2009 Tex. App. LEXIS 2936; State v. Collier, 1998 N.J. Super. LEXIS 485; Anderton v. State, 1980 Ala. Crim. App. LEXIS 1287; Commonwealth v. Epifania, 2011 Mass. App. LEXIS 1102.
In just such a case (involving a dog), my good friends in Detroit (Wayne County—Amy and Raj) prosecuted two defendants – Kristian D. Jackson (Case No. 10-012065-01) and Decarlos L. Young (Case No. 10-012065-02). The act was captured on a cell phone camera video. These two twisted and violent souls opted to use fire after they were unsuccessful in killing the dog by strangulation/hanging.
According to media reports, the defendants tried to spin this incident as a misguided attempt at flea control (based on statements on the video), but one could easily conclude that this dog was being culled as a “cur” for not being a willing fighter.
Their sentences? Thirteen months to 8 years for Jackson, and 24 months to 8 years for Young (who was on probation for child abuse at the time, and who also picked up drug charge a month after the dog burning incident). The sad news here is that 24 months prison (or even 13 months prison) is relatively good when one looks to other states for comparison. In Oregon, for example, our felony sentencing guidelines are so weak that a defendant who intentionally sets a cat or a dog on fire is legally precluded from going to prison—a short term in jail yes, but not prison. (Yes, we’ve tried twice in the last two legislative sessions to fix this, but it seems that the members of the Oregon Legislature feel that the we just can’t afford to put these types of violent offenders in prison.)
Back to Jackson and Young. Our faithful readers will recall that the duration of incarceration ordered in court (the gross sentence) is misleading – it is the net amount of time served by a defendant that is the relevant measure. I can assure you that the eight-year cap was an absolute fiction. In fact, a quick look through the Michigan Department of Corrections’ database reveals projected release dates of November 5, 2011 for Jackson, and September 29, 2012 for Young. Recall that the sentencing hearings were held on December 16, 2010. Thirteen months in Jackson’s case nets out to less than 10 months, and 24 months in Young’s case nets out to 22 months. These reductions are credit for the time served prior to sentencing. The good news is that in Michigan there are no early release vehicles such as “credit for good behavior.”
Notwithstanding the fact that Michigan can be considered one of the “tough on crime states” due to its repeal of the “good behavior” credit, 10 months in prison for an offender with no priors or even 22 months in prison for an offender who was already on probation for child abuse seems incredibly light. I have watched the video and listened to this dog cry as he burns to death. If you watched it and found this dog’s death as heart wrenchingly nauseating as I do, then perhaps you’d agree that at least an eight year net prison term should be the minimum sentence rather than the maximum sentence… Perhaps even longer?
I find it ironic that, though almost never imposed in non-homicide cases, our justice system has no problem requiring that a cap be placed on the theoretical maximum possible prison sentence for felony animal cruelty. However, while our justice system readily embraces setting a maximum penalty for aggravated forms of animal cruelty, there are no mandatory minimum sentences. This needs to change. But will it? Legal proponents of mandatory minimum sentences for violent offenses are often met with substantial resistance from lobbyists working to repeal mandatory minimum sentencing laws – while these groups are by and large motivated by the outcomes in drug cases, their efforts can (and do) create a bias against mandatory minimum sentencing proposals in general, even for violent crimes.
What you can do help establish mandatory minimum sentences in aggravated forms of animal abuse? Educate yourself and then act—here are some approaches:
- Go to your local courthouse and watch a few sentencing hearings—you’ll be shocked at what you see.
- Chat with police officers and prosecutors about how they feel the justice system is working.
- Attend a local budget hearing and learn just how much money your local police department or sheriff’s office has to work with.
- Above all else, write to your state legislators and urge them to sponsor and support a bill requiring mandatory minimum sentences in all cases of aggravated animal abuse, including cases where animals are intentionally burned alive. It’s not a silver bullet—it doesn’t cover every possible outrageous act of cruelty, but it’s good a start and sets a strong precedent for further action.
Well, it’s my turn to blog again, and I seem to be a bit of one-trick pony these days (pardon the speciesist expression), so here I go again, writing about love and loss. Words cannot express how deeply touched I was – and am – by the comments left on my last blog post (“Alec, Teagan, and Me”). I have my own blog, where I have felt comfortable expressing all of the messy, awful, bewildering, painful roiling emotions that engulfed me when my beloved shepherd Alec died. But this was my first time writing about grief for the ALDF blog, and I was apprehensive to post something so personal. Little did I know it would connect with so many people! I just re-read the comments again and tears streamed down my face as I did so. Every story, every relationship, is different, yet shares so much in common. These comments are windows onto so many dear and special relationships that cannot be quantified, explained, or forgotten, and I am privileged for the glimpse. To read such bittersweet stories of love and loss and resilience makes me feel strong, through osmosis, I guess…strength in numbers, a community of kindred spirits, a little club where people understand. Thank you for sharing with me and each other.
“Grief is the price you pay for love.” Well I hated that one after Alec died, I really did. I know some people find this a comforting thought, and I understand how it could be. And it is certainly true. It just didn’t resonate with me in the beginning. It felt flippant; it didn’t seem to capture everything Alec and I had been through together, how unfair it felt to lose him that way. What did bring me a modicum of comfort (and I use that word, comfort, very loosely, as it was almost impossible for me to come by anything resembling comfort for a long time after he died – if anyone out there is in that dark scary place where I was, I’m sorry; trust me it does get better; I didn’t think it would either) was the knowledge that grief is a universal experience. Rare is the person who is not touched by grief in his or her lifetime. Although there was no grief *exactly like mine* (so unjust!) and no relationship *exactly like ours* (so special!) and no set of circumstances *exactly the same* (so many exacerbating factors!), it did help just knowing that there were people out there who could relate to some of what I was going through, if not all.
Some of these people I knew personally, and others came to me through words I read in books or stories I heard on the radio. Some were people who had suffered similar losses; some were people whose losses were in no way similar to mine save the feelings left at the end of it. The processing that must occur, the door through which the bereaved walks (forced march is more like) and steps out on the other side a new person, someone transformed inexorably, even if nobody knows but you. These commonalities were like an invisible thread connecting me to people I had never met. Yet we shared a bond. Reading your comments was like that too. They are a gift. I printed them out. I will treasure them. In fact they inspired me to begin a memorial project I have not been able to bring myself to face yet – the mountains of photos I have of Alec, the ones that in my mind will become a beautiful slideshow, a tribute to him and the life we shared together. The problem has been manifesting this vision, getting it out of my mind and tackling it in the real world. As tears slid down my cheeks reading your amazing stories of loyalty and pain and friendship and everlasting love I realized I was ready to go through his pictures. More than a year later, it’s true; this has taken me a long time. But he is not going anywhere (else), and neither is my love. I carry my grief with me like a satchel, like one of those hobo sacks on the end of a stick. Sometimes I put it down, but it is always with me. I take it from place to place, from day to day, from dawn to dusk and into the dark night. He is gone but my love for him remains. It is what is left of him. It feels weird, one-sided…almost imaginary. It wakes me up at night sometimes. It is the truest thing I can say about the way things are now. I am holding this love that never left. Like that Calvin & Hobbes cartoon where Calvin looks up and is suddenly sitting all by himself in the cafeteria; he was daydreaming and didn’t hear the bell. Everyone has gone to class. He is alone. It feels like that, a little. Where did you go? Why didn’t I hear the bell? And who pushed me through this goddamn door?
I was talking to my friend not long ago about Alec, and I said that we exist outside of time now. Something like that. It just popped out of my mouth but I paused on it, considering what it meant, wondering why I said it. My perceptive friend heard me slip into ponder mode and said, “Hmm, I sense a future blog post.” Well I have not written about it until now, but I have thought about the idea of time a lot in the aftermath of Alec’s death. The tie-in here is the question of the photos, of being a weirdo who cannot create a slideshow of her dead dog until more than a year later. But, really, what is the rush? I always say people should not bury their grief deep inside, no matter how temporarily compelling it may be as a short-term survival strategy, because it can come back worse later. But I have been writing, I have been crying, I have been thinking, I have been talking. The pictures are tough for me though. And I think it’s because of the time thing. This is hard. Sometimes the particulars of grief are so clear in my mind yet difficult to write about. It’s like I keep Alec in my pocket, hold him close, can bring him out when I need …okay it’s like, you know how your favorite song can take on a wallpaper quality if you listen to it too much? I have always been the sort who when I fall really in love with a song or album, I have to limit myself in how much I listen to it because I don’t want it to lose that special magical quality and deep emotional resonance. I don’t want to wear it out. Not everyone does this. And I don’t do this with *every* song I love, just those really special songs by my favorite bands that I have some kind of weird connection with –an entire album like this for me is Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (and this album is this for many people, I realize). When it came out in 1998 I was absolutely stunned and wanted to listen to it over and over all the time. But not wanting to dilute the awe those songs inspired in me, I rationed myself. And I never let it just play in the background. I limited myself to times when I could listen to the album with intention, to experience it fully. And though diminished somewhat in its ability to knock me over emotionally, it still feels fresh to me after more than 10 years.
What does this have to do with looking through photos of Alec? I guess I don’t want Alec to feel like a dusty old memory, like some song playing in the background that has lost its transcendent luster. And I fear if I stare at his pictures all the time they will lose some elusive quality, some freshness. They will become of the past, old and blurry relics. Because the thing is, they’re all I’ve got now, the only thing that is somewhat tangible and of the senses. There will be no new ones. Is this me trying to stop the passage of time, to corral it, to exert some measure of control in an area where I have been denied agency? I couldn’t stop his death but maybe if I lock the pictures away one day when I really need him it will be like meeting all over again for the first time. I don’t know. This is the first time I have really tried to articulate my problem with the pictures. Nobody gets it. In this way, my grief is more unique than universal. People really relate to some things I say, while others are more likely to get blank stares. This photo thing is one of the blank stare inducers.
I have a couple on my walls now. I am making progress. And I can’t stop time. But part of my grief process, most of what got me through the door to other side where I decided (yes, it was a conscious decision) I was going to survive, was the idea of forging a new relationship with him. The ghost of him, if you will. The “him” that is in my pocket, or my satchel, wherever non-corporeal Alec is, whichever imperfect metaphor is most apt. But for some people the most comforting thing they can think of is to surround themselves with photos of their deceased loved one. That is awesome. I wonder sometimes if I am doing my grief “right,” whether I am handling it properly. But then I realize there is no right or wrong answer and I think as long as I keep writing I will be okay. He will still be here with me.
One of the comments on my last post that struck me was SusanD writing about her beloved cat Champy’s death over fourteen years ago. She wrote: “I heard the usual clichés, ‘he's at the Bridge,’ ‘it was his time,’ ‘you'll get over it’ -- I never did, never will. Fourteen years. Yesterday. An eternity.” I have said very similar things. Alec died more than a year ago. It feels like forever; it feels like 5 minutes. This is what I was saying to my friend in the conversation where I mused that we existed outside time now; I just remembered the context.
And Victoria commented about her dearly departed dachshund: “I don't think that I will ever recover completely. Since then I have rescued two more doxies, and love them dearly, but…I am still waiting to be with my Scooter.” I can so relate to that too…that feeling of waiting. I don’t find comments likes this – “I will never get over it.” “I am waiting to be with him.” – depressing. They are beautiful to me. They are testaments to relationships that now exist outside of time. Whatever that means, I don’t know (I sometimes write things I don’t fully understand). But this comforts me.
And so does the sharing of stories. I wrote recently in my blog about how I love to hear Alec’s name, how I like to talk about him, to think about him. I know a large part of the pain of losing a loved one can be the feeling of having to keep it inside. Especially in the case of a companion animal, a bereaved person can be made to feel their grief is not legitimate. This is terrible and compounds the tragedy of loss. Social attitudes are changing, but outside the rarified air of ALDF and my simpatico circle of friends, I know it can be a harsh place out there for people grieving the loss of a dear animal companion. That is why we must share our stories – to give each other hope and strength.
Because not everyone feels this way about their companion animals, it is even more important for us to share our stories. Many of us know what it is like not only to open our hearts and truly love a member of another species, but to enact that love with a commitment to the animal and his or her needs (I have personally always found the action part of the verb “love” to be more important than the more passive, feeling part). An animal doesn’t care that you say you love her – show her! Take her for a walk, include her in your life, be HER best friend! At ALDF we often say the law regarding companion animals has not caught up to changing social norms. The notion that animals are mere property is antiquated and has not kept pace with our changing perception of pets as family members. This is true, especially if you hang out in places like the ALDF blog (or in our office)! Yet for every person who mourns the death of a non-human best friend, for every person who turns her life upside down and finances inside out to accommodate a special needs animal or to treat a life-threatening disease, there is another person dumping their erstwhile “family member” at the shelter because they peed in the house, barked too much, shed all over the furniture, or simply required too much time and energy. Sadly, many of these healthy animals, each one as deserving of a loving home as the beloved individual animals in our own lives, will be put to death simply because nobody wanted them.
This shameful killing of former “best friends” happens every day, everywhere, because animals are property and the family member designation is arbitrary, something bestowed upon them by us – and not all of us. We can only hope to form a critical mass eventually, a tipping point where the more mainstream notion is that dogs and cats (and other species we have brought into our homes and made dependent on us) are companions with their own interests and lives – lives that mean everything to them – and not pretty set pieces or ornaments or animated stuffed toys or forgotten shadows on the end of the chain tied up alone in the backyard. The juxtaposition between the cherished relationships described in the comments on my last post and the ways some dogs and cats are (legally) treated is astounding when you really think about it. I believe ALDF and its supporters are at the forefront of a progressive trend. At ALDF we can bring our animal companions to work, we take dog walk breaks, and we are allowed bereavement days when they die – just like a human member of the family. So until not only the law but the rest of society starts to catch up with those of us who truly treat our dogs and cats like cherished friends and family members (not through misguided anthropomorphism but rather a careful consideration of their species-specific needs; to fulfill those needs in a human-centered society is not always easy, but those of us who have truly and respectfully loved an animal find the rewards far outweigh the challenges), we should keep sharing our stories and inspiring one another with our tales of love, commitment, and yes, inevitably loss…but equally inevitable, I hope, will be the post script: learning to love again.
A year ago I could not imagine adopting another dog. Yet here I am, head over heels in love with a sweet little one-eyed German shepherd. I’m back in a dog-centric routine, trying every day to make someone happy again…walks, adventures, trips to the park, rides in the car, simple companionship. Teagan is so different from Alec, but she makes me feel close to him because of the joy she has brought back into my life. We have been together three months now. She is amazing and I love her. (To see some pictures of Teagan in her new home with me, you can visit her Facebook page.) I love the idea of adoption as a tribute. All the animals sitting in shelters hoping against a ticking clock that someone chooses them before their time is up would agree. And Teagan’s presence has been so healing to me. Not that I will ever completely heal. Or stop waiting for our miracle. Alec would have been eleven years old next month. Time marches on. But I am hoping he is still with us, with Teagan and me, somewhere outside of time, maybe waiting for me too.
I wouldn’t say I’m a slave to fashion, but “indentured servant” seems fairly descriptive. And while I’m more hunter than hoarder, stalking with precision strikes the perfect specimens of gut-crushing vegan corset belts and toe-mashing pseudo-suede platform wedge booties (I’m an 8.5; aren’t you sweet to ask!)—I like to think that, by choosing not to wear fur, leather, or wool, I’m the lone victim of my own style choices. And I’m in good and growing company with every passing season.
Who else did a private cheer from the sofa when, earlier this month, the inimitable Tim Gunn had to get real with Project Runway contestant Josh Christensen in a fabric store, chiding with his dry, paternal charm, “We’re fur free.” The judges have since said “auf Wiedersehen” (twice!) to the pelt-petting Josh C, for those of you who have been too busy watching Jersey Shore in the competing time slot to stay up to date (shame on you, and also—call me).
Meanwhile, Oprah’s O Magazine has vocally announced an anti-fur stance in its current fall fashion issue. The media maven and self-made billionaire describes her own “aha” moment when she gave away all of her own furs 20 years ago, and the issue highlights chic faux alternatives to real fur and even leather throughout…an exciting indicator that the concept of vegan fashion has moved out of the fringe and into the mainstream. You can thank America’s most influential woman for sharing her fur-free stance with her legions of fans by leaving a comment at Oprah.com.
And most exciting, for those of us pushing to help fur-bearing animals through the legal system—on September 20, the City Council of West Hollywood voted unanimously to ban the sale of clothing made of fur, the first such ban in the nation. Following the review of a financial impact study, a final vote will take place next month before the measure becomes law. It’s a natural landmark for the animal-friendly city, which has previously banned the cruel declawing of cats and, most recently, the sale of cats and dogs from puppy and kitten mills.
In its coverage of West Hollywood’s historic vote, the New York Times quoted Keith Kaplan of the Fur Information Council of America, an industry trade group, as stating, “People are still buying fur. If people were not buying it, stores wouldn’t want to sell it. So the animal rights lobby is trying to force through a ban on a legal product.” I’d agree that if there were zero consumer demand for fur, stores would not be selling it—which is why ongoing public educational efforts about the horrific violence behind fur production are still so vital to ending this most disgusting of industries.
And to say that opponents of animal abuse are trying to take a currently legal product—one that is necessarily the product of the painful and gratuitous death of an animal, or many dozens of animals—and make it illegal…well, that’s also accurate. But what’s wrong with that? It’s hardly the first time a legislative or regulatory body has stepped in to provide a moral compass in the thoroughfare of unchecked capitalism. There is a consumer market for sleek ivory tusks, sliced from the bodies of slaughtered elephants; for the horns of desperately endangered rhinos; heaven help us, there is a market for child pornography. But we have decided as a society that democratically elects our lawmakers that the interests of the beings victimized by these moneymaking enterprises outweigh the interests of consumers who would exploit them. And given the abundance of stylish faux fur alternatives—from trendy to high fashion--available faster than you can say “Google,” it’s difficult to argue that today’s fashionista has a very compelling interest in purchasing real animal fur. Slowly but surely, our culture and our laws are converging on a consensus that fashion should be pain-free.
But my feet are still killing me.
No one can deny that this year’s Little Ben’s Cruise for Compassion started with a bang—well, a bang followed up with strong winds and buckets and buckets of rain. Catch a glimpse of the evening's festivities in this video produced by Red Leash Photography:
Despite the storm, the fifth annual Ben’s Cruise, hosted by Michelle and Larry Kownacki from Paws pet boutique and organized by numerous volunteers, was a great success.
ALDF's Carter Dillard, William Rivas-Rivas and Sarah Luick
with Michelle and Larry Kownacki, holding Ben and Davis.
Safely docked in Annapolis so as to avoid the fate of the S.S. Minnow, Ben, the little Jack Russell and cruise’s namesake, was determined to not let Mother Nature ruin his night.
Ben proudly led the 150 two-legged guests and about 50 four-legged canine guests aboard the Watermark’s Harbor Queen in a fun-filled evening of live music by the Dan Haas Trio Band, generous raffle prizes including the grand prize of two Southwest Airlines round-trip tickets and delicious finger foods donated by Whole Foods. There were also lots of great silent auction prizes donated by local-area businesses and of course, scrumptious dog cake.
After all, Ben’s Cruise for Compassion is always a very special evening as it celebrates Ben’s freedom while raising much-needed funds for ALDF.
Ben enjoys a taste of his special dog cake.
Ben endured a lifetime of suffering in horrific conditions on the property of Barbara and Robert Woodley until ALDF sued the Woodleys in a groundbreaking lawsuit and won freedom for Ben and more than 325 dogs living in the worst conditions imaginable.
“Looking into Ben's innocent eyes makes it easy to support ALDF,” says Ben’s mom, Michelle. “He is just one of so many animals that has benefited from ALDF’s hard work to advance the interests of animals through the legal system. ALDF is fighting for animals’ right to live a life without abuse or neglect—a cause we should all support.”
Ben’s Cruise raised $10,000 for the Animal Legal Defense Fund! And for the second straight year, Nancy Squires and The Squires Group generously matched the $10,000 raised that night for a total of $20,000!
Me and Ben
ALDF sends a huge thank you to Michelle, Larry, Nancy, Madeline, and all of the volunteers and attendees who made Ben’s Cruise for Compassion a great success! And many thanks to Red Leash Photography for capturing the night's memories.
Did I mention there was lots of dancing?
Photos courtesy of Red Leash Photography.