Yesterday the Louisiana Court of Appeal issued its long-awaited opinion in Animal Legal Defense Fund v. State of Louisiana, holding that Michael Sandlin is ineligible for a permit to confine Tony the Tiger in a cage at the Tiger Truck Stop.
Although the court held that ALDF lacked standing to be a plaintiff in the case, it nevertheless confirmed that our clients—Louisiana residents and taxpayers—do have standing to challenge illegal actions by the government, in this case the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
In ruling on the merits, the court agreed with ALDF’s argument that Michael Sandlin cannot receive a grandfather permit to continue to keep Tony because Sandlin does not meet the legal requirements for such a permit. As the court put it:
The record establishes that on August 15, 2006, Tony was not owned by Michael Sandlin; rather, he was owned by Tiger Truck Stop. Additionally, on August 15, 2006, the ownership and possession of Tony by Tiger Truck Stop and the possession by Michael Sandlin in Iberville Parish was in violation of a local ordinance, and thus, illegal. Although that local ordinance was amended in 2009 retroactive to August 15, 2006, the amendment to the ordinance did not change the fact that on August 15, 2006, neither Tiger Truck Stop nor Michael Sandlin legally possessed or legally owned Tony. Only an individual who legally possessed an exotic cat (such as a tiger) and who could prove legal ownership of that exotic cat is entitled to a permit for that cat. Accordingly, that part of the judgment of the trial court granting a final/permanent injunction against DWF, enjoining it from issuing any new permits to Michael Sandlin and/or Tiger Truck Stop for the tiger ("Tony" microchip #477E201A4C) now located at Tiger Truck Stop in Iberville Parish is affirmed.
The decision marks a significant step towards Tony’s freedom, as the second-highest court in Louisiana has confirmed that the Department erred when it issued Sandlin a permit. Sandlin’s lawyer has said she intends to seek rehearing of the Court of Appeal’s decision, as well as review by the Louisiana Supreme Court. Sandlin also has his own lawsuit to invalidate the state’s big cat ban. But rest assured ALDF will fight every step of the way to make sure Tony ends up in a reputable sanctuary. We still have a long road ahead, but we’ve cleared a major hurdle and have earned this moment of celebration.
At midnight on June 16th, I will lace up my shoes and brave the hilliest city in the U.S.—San Francisco—to run the San Francisco Marathon…twice. According to The Wall Street Journal, the San Francisco Marathon is a race that even marathoners fear! I’ll run the first marathon in reverse—starting at the finish line and ending at the starting line. As soon as I cross the finish line—well, the starting line—I will then run the San Francisco Marathon…again. I had to do something extraordinary to call attention to the millions of animals who suffer and die as a result of animal testing, on factory farms, and for roadside entertainment.
William training hard before the big run
Every day, the Animal Legal Defense Fund works to protect animals by:
- Filing groundbreaking lawsuits to stop animal abuse and expand the boundaries of animal law.
- Providing free legal assistance to prosecutors handling cruelty cases.
- Working to strengthen state anti-cruelty statutes.
- Encouraging the federal government to enforce existing animal protection laws.
- Nurturing the future of animal law through Student Animal Legal Defense Fund chapters and our Animal Law Program.
- Providing public education through seminars, workshops and other outreach efforts.
Lasting change can only come when the law reflects what most of us already believe to be true—that abusing an animal is wrong.
Please help me raise $10,000. A tax deductible donation of any size - $10, $20 or even $100—will help me get closer to my $10,000 goal and will make a big difference in the lives of animals.
June 16th will be the toughest day (and night) I’ve ever experienced. It will be about 11 hours of running, numerous blisters, extremely sore muscles, black toenails, and chafing in some rather painful areas. But my run is nothing in comparison to the plight of animals.
I know I can do it with your support. I also know that working together we can be the legal voice for animal victims of cruelty and demand that society hold abusers accountable for their crimes.
I urge you to please make as generous a donation as you can. Your support is vital to everything we do.
From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for your generous support!
Working to protect animals is emotionally draining and people often ask us how we continue to do this work without burning out. The fact is: some of us do burn out, and that’s sad because the animals end up losing a valuable advocate.
Over the years, I’ve developed several techniques to avoid burn-out. I strive to keep a sense of balance in my life, stay close to friends and family, read good books and create quiet time to appreciate the present moment. I also spend many hours with my companion animal family members and take note of other animals who are doing just fine and enjoying their lives.
Recently, I was in Brussels, Belgium to participate in a panel on the use of animals in toxicology, a subject that often makes me feel angry and depressed. After the panel was done and the work was complete, I found myself walking around the lovely cities of Brussels and Bruges. Of course, I noticed the dogs.
In fact, if you and I were walking down the street in Washington, D.C, and you saw the White House, I would notice the cute dog walking in front of the White House. Story of my life…
So, here I was in beautiful Belgium and while the architecture is gorgeous, I kept noticing well cared for dogs on one end of the leash. These lucky canines were obviously part of the family. I noted that there were Jack Russell terriers and English Bulldogs, as well as other great looking dogs, some who were pure bred and others who were mutts like me.
As I stood waiting for a bus, a tram stopped nearby, the door opened and there stood a beautiful Bull Terrier, on his way home with the human who held his leash. I tried to grab my phone and take a photo, but I was too slow. None-the-less, the seed was planted: I wanted to capture the happy faces of these Belgian dogs.
As I walked down the streets and saw dogs, I stopped their guardians and asked if I might snap a photo of their animal companions. You would think this was an everyday occurrence, because their humans didn’t look at all surprised and were only too willing to indulge the odd little American woman.
I was delighted and the photo sessions opened up conversations about their relationships with their dogs. One man even announced to his dog, “Vous êtes arrives!” (You have arrived!) And so, for those of you, like me, who always to see the dogs first, I offer these pictures of Les Chiens de Belgique (the dogs of Belgium).
On March 29, 2013, the Federal Trade Commission responded to ALDF's complaint against Tyson Foods, Inc., assuring ALDF that it will give the concerns expressed in the complaint "full consideration and appropriate attention" and noting that policing the truthfulness of environmental claims like those made by Tyson is an agency "enforcement priority."
Lodged over two months earlier, ALDF's complaint to the FTC called on the agency to investigate and enforce against false and misleading advertising by meat processing giant Tyson. Namely, ALDF pointed out Tyson's deceptive marketing tactic of broadly advertising a quotation by Tyson Chairman and CEO John Tyson, claiming that the meat processor is "leading the industry pursuit . . . to further enhance animal well-being."
This flies in the face of Tyson's actual reliance upon inhumane factory farming practices.
Tyson uses gestation crates, in which pregnant sows are unable to turn around, lie down comfortably, or take more than a step forward or backward. Many U.S. states ban gestation crates and numerous animal experts consider the crates inhumane. Yet across its promotional materials, Tyson claims to provide environments "favorable" to pigs. Tyson has simply renamed its gestation crates as "individual housing"—changing the name, rather than the practice, in a deceptive move to appeal to ethically conscious consumers.
Similarly, Tyson says it provides a "comfortable environment" for chickens. Tyson's methods fit no definition of comfortable. Reviewing Tyson's strict policies on chicken housing density, housing lighting, and weight gain, animal welfare groups have found that Tyson produces no humanely raised chicken products. Animal advocates routinely expose animal cruelty in slaughterhouses connected to Tyson.
Recently, five employees of a Tyson pig supplier were found guilty of criminal animal cruelty based on an HSUS undercover investigation of conditions at a Wyoming pig facility. The undercover video footage shows abhorrent living conditions for mother pigs in gestation crates, as well as workers kicking and punching pigs, highlighting the absurdity of Tyson's "animal well-being" claims. But as the New York Times has reported, states under pressure from big agribusiness are attempting to eliminate any peek into the internal operations of factory farms through ag gag—or "anti-whistleblower"—laws. With the public increasingly unable to see into the meat production jungle, the FTC must step up its enforcement against deceptive advertising.
Tyson also claims to be environmentally sound, yet multiple courts have held Tyson responsible for environmental hazards. And as recently as this April 4, Tyson settled with the EPA for nearly $4 million with regard to the company's release of dangerously high levels of ammonia, critically injuring and killing employees.
ALDF urges the FTC to correct Tyson's attempts to reel in ethical consumers with deception.
As the days grow warmer here in Northern California, the Animal Legal Defense Fund docket is heating up with innovative ways to fight animal cruelty. ALDF launched a video series and a brand new smartphone app for reporting animal abuse. And we are funding an Oregon state prosecutor focused exclusively on prosecuting animal abuse. Our legal battle to end the cruelty of force-fed foie gras is also gaining steam. All in all, we are leading the fight for justice for animals!
This Just In!
In a rare criminal prosecution of farmed animal abuse, felony criminal charges were filed against the owners of A & L Poultry. You might remember this story from last year, when ALDF filed a civil lawsuit in the largest California farmed animal rescue in history. The defendants abandoned 50,000 hens to starve to death. Thanks to the enormous efforts of volunteers, three animal sanctuaries, which ALDF is representing, were able to rescue the surviving 5,000 hens.
Animal testing facilities have also been taking big hits. We filed a first-of-its kind lawsuit to hold Santa Cruz Biotechnology (a biomedical manufacturer that harvests blood from goats) accountable for animal abuse. Goats were found starving, with untreated skin conditions, broken bones, and painful respiratory ailments. The USDA is investigating the lab for 20 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. Santa Cruz Biotech could face at least a $200,000 penalty.
Want to know more about animal law? Check out ALDF's new 30 Second Animal Law video series, where experts answer questions in 30 seconds or less! In my video, I answered the question "what is the biggest problem for animals under the law?" But we’ve also got great videos featuring champion cyclist Levi Leipheimer speaking out against puppy mills and Hampton Creek Foods, a company celebrated by Bill Gates for its plant-based product "Beyond Eggs." Our latest video answers the question, "So you want to be an animal lawyer?"
Our Animal Book Club is off and running with our interview with bestselling Rin Tin Tin author Susan Orlean. We also sat down with Kim McCoy, former Whale Wars star and current executive director of One World One Ocean Foundation, to talk about her work protecting marine animals. Taking things in a new direction, we also interviewed Aaron Simpson, a vegan mixed martial artist and animal advocate.
Fighting for animals just got easier with "ALDF Crime Tips": a first-of-its-kind app designed to let people discreetly report animal abuse in their community right from their smartphone. It’s a great way for people to join forces with ALDF in stopping animal abusers.
A Just Cause
"Cage-free" and "free-range"—when juxtaposed with misleading images on egg cartons, these terms can confuse well-meaning consumers. Our egg labeling lawsuit with Compassion Over Killing aims to hold government agencies responsible for proper labeling on egg cartons. During our Easter Egg Action Week, a whopping %51 of survey respondents said they don’t eat eggs at all! Way to go animal advocates!
In my opinion piece in the Napa Valley Register, I explained how ALDF undercover investigators have shown Napa restaurant "La Toque" is violating California’s ban on force-fed foie gras. ALDF’s lawsuit aims to protect animals from such bullying—and to give Californians the assurances provided by the law, especially when it comes to the production of food! Meanwhile our case continues against Hudson Valley Foie Gras, the largest producer of force-fed foie gras in the nation. ALDF is doing everything we can to serve up justice and to protect animals from exploitation—gourmet priced or not.