New Michigan Law Empowers Animal Shelters to Deny Adoptions to Convicted Animal Abusers
Posted by Nicole Pallotta, Academic Outreach Manager on January 24, 2017
On Dec. 28, 2016, Michigan Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley signed into law House Bills 4353 and 4355, two of the four bills in the legislative package collectively known as “Logan’s Law.” The new amendatory acts, which passed the legislature with strong bipartisan support, allow Michigan animal shelters to deny adoptions under certain circumstances and to consider prior criminal history before adoption.
Logan was a Siberian husky victimized by an unknown assailant in 2012. The perpetrator, who was never found, threw battery acid on Logan’s face while he was sleeping in his outdoor kennel overnight. Logan lost his eyesight and suffered serious burns but seemed to be recovering with veterinary care and medication. However, six months after the attack Logan, who was 11 years old, died from complications resulting from his injuries.
To honor his memory, Logan’s human family, Matt and Nancy Falk, spearheaded the new legislation in an effort to keep animals up for adoption out of the hands of convicted animal abusers. At the end of March, animal shelters will be empowered to conduct criminal background checks on potential adopters using Michigan’s Internet Criminal History Access Tool (ICHAT), which is maintained by the Department of State Police, and can deny adoption to anyone who has been convicted of an animal abuse offense within the last five years.
Both bills amend Public Act 287 of 1969, Michigan’s law regulating pet shops, animal control facilities and animal shelters (although the new law does not apply to pet shops). The Animal Legal Defense Fund submitted testimony in support of the bills in May 2015.
Although earlier versions of the bills would have required shelters to conduct a criminal background check, and prohibited adoption of animals by individuals with recent animal cruelty convictions, the language was watered down to allow rather than require, in what Rep. Paul Muxlow, sponsor of HB 4355, called “a compromise.” HB 4355 states:
Before allowing an individual to adopt an animal, an animal control shelter or animal protection shelter may [emphasis added] conduct a search using ICHAT to determine whether that individual has a prior criminal history for an animal abuse offense.
And HB 4353 states:
An animal control shelter or animal protection shelter may [emphasis added] consider an individual’s criminal history when deciding whether to allow that individual to adopt an animal. An animal control shelter or animal protection shelter may [emphasis added] choose not to allow an individual who has been convicted of an animal abuse offense to adopt an animal unless a period of at least 5 years has elapsed since the date of his or her conviction…
Although not required by the new amendments, Michigan animal shelters will now have access to the ICHAT system to screen potential adopters for relevant criminal histories, and presumably even without it being expressly prohibited most shelter staff would choose not adopt an animal to an individual with a recent animal cruelty or neglect conviction.
Although HB 4353 and HB 4355 may not stop all potential abusers from obtaining an animal, their passage is an important first step in protecting shelter animals and ensuring they are placed in safe, loving homes. Matt Falk shared the news of the bills’ passage in December 2016 on Facebook, expressing gratitude to everyone who helped make it happen. His last thank you was for Logan: “I need to thank the one that has inspired me to take on this whole thing…. Logan! What a great dog he was. So thanks for being you Logi. You did not die in vain.”
- Egan, Tom. “New Michigan law helps protect pets from animal abusers.” Detroit Free Press. Dec. 28, 2016.
- “Michigan Passes Law To Protect Pets From Animal Abusers.” CBS Detroit. Dec. 28, 2016.
- Text of HB 4353 and HB 4355.
- Logan’s Law Facebook Page
- Animal Legal Defense Fund, “What to do in cases where anti-cruelty laws have been broken.”
Michigan Appeals Court Dismisses Lawsuit in Fatal Shooting of Two Family Dogs by Police
Posted by Nicole Pallotta, Academic Outreach Manager on January 24, 2017
On Dec. 19, 2016, the United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, upheld a lower court’s dismissal of a civil suit involving the fatal shooting of two family dogs by police officers who were executing a search warrant for drug-related activity in 2013. The dogs were owned by Mark and Cheryl Brown, who alleged their Fourth Amendment rights had been violated by the officers’ unlawful seizure of their property.
In March 2016, the district court granted defendants’ request for summary judgment and found in favor of the defendants, which included the Battle Creek Police Department (BCPD) and the three officers involved in the fatal shooting. On appeal, plaintiffs argued that the district court had erred, specifically contending that it is clearly established that a government official’s unreasonable killing of a dog is a seizure under the Fourth Amendment, and the seizure of the Browns’ dogs was unreasonable.
However, the appeals court upheld the lower court’s decision. Although the appeals court granted the first point, finding that an individual has a property right in their dog and that this right was clearly established in 2013 when the Browns’ dogs were killed, it disagreed that the seizure of the two dogs in this case was unreasonable, concluding:
“…a police officer’s use of deadly force against a dog while executing a warrant to search a home for illegal drug activity is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment when, given the totality of the circumstances and viewed from the perspective of an objectively reasonable officer, the dog poses an imminent threat to the officer’s safety.”
Though the court conceded the shooting of the Browns’ dogs constituted “severe intrusions given the emotional attachment between a dog and an owner,” it qualified that statement by observing “…on the other hand, insuring officer safety and preventing the destruction of evidence are particularly important governmental interests that the courts must strive to protect.” After weighing all of the circumstances, the court determined that “viewed from the perspective of a reasonable officer at the scene” the two dogs posed imminent threats and that the officers were therefore justified in using deadly force.
Although in this case the officers did not know there were dogs at the residence until shortly before the raid, this information might not have made a difference to the outcome. According to the opinion:
“Although here the officers did not have notice, even had they been given more advance notice, it is not clear that they would have been able to make arrangements for the protection of the dogs. Any such arrangements may have raised suspicion or alerted the criminal suspects that something was amiss. It may have given the suspects an opportunity to depart the premises, destroy evidence, or formulate plans for an attack against the officers. Because of such possibilities, the officers’ actions here—in failing to make advance arrangements for the protection of the dogs—were reasonable.”
In weighing the officers’ interest in smoothly executing their search warrant against the lives of the dogs (or more accurately, the Walsh’s property interest in their dogs), the former prevailed with this court.
Although police officers have the need and the right to protect themselves in the line of duty, the facts in this case are troubling because the question of whether the dogs were acting aggressively—key to the finding of “reasonableness” —is far from clear, in particular with regard to the second dog who, according to the officers’ own testimony, avoided them when they breached the front door by moving away from the officers and retreating to the basement.
Plaintiffs had also alleged that the City of Battle Creek was municipally liable because the BCPD failed to provide training to address the known risk of constitutional violations arising from dog shootings. However, despite characterizing it as “a recurring problem that amounts to deliberate indifference,” the court found that the lack of a policy on how to treat dogs in the search of a house did not constitute a violation, observing that “…there isn’t much of a policy…not just in Battle Creek but throughout the country, on how to deal with this beyond the general statements of how officers are supposed to respond to resistance.”
This lack of policy is something the Animal Legal Defense Fund has been working to address, through guidance for law enforcement provided by our Criminal Justice Program, recommendations on model laws and policies regarding mandatory training of non-lethal methods for dealing with dogs, and our partnership on the documentary film, Of Dogs and Men, which premiered in September 2016 and provides practical solutions for keeping both police officers and dogs safe during high-stress encounters such as this one.
These goals need not be mutually exclusive. Sadly, police shootings of dogs are not as uncommon as one might think, with more than 10,000 companion dogs losing their lives at the hands of police each year, according to Department of Justice statistics. This trend can be reversed through proper training for law enforcement officers in non-lethal approaches to canine encounters. Given the increasing number of households that include companion animals, these tragic incidents are likely to continue without intervention and education.
Although in this case the court found the actions of the officers reasonable, the sad outcome for these dogs, who committed no crime, likely could have been prevented. With proper training we can hope to see a shift in what is considered “reasonable” in situations where an innocent animal’s life is at risk for engaging in natural canine behaviors like barking, and being in the wrong place at the wrong time—which should never include the dog’s own home.
- Opinion: Brown v. Battle Creek Police Department, No. 16-1575 (6th Cir. 2016)
- “Court rules officers justified in shooting barking dog during drug raid” Tribune Media Wire. Dec. 29, 2016.
- Animal Legal Defense Fund. Dogs Shot by Cops: Companion Animals and Law Enforcement.
Defend the Endangered Species Act
Posted by on January 23, 2017
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is one of the key laws we use to secure stronger protection for animals under the law. Our recent groundbreaking victory removing tigers, lions and lemurs from a deplorable roadside zoo was based on the ESA, as are several of our ongoing cases. Our mission to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system, as well as the very survival of entire animal species, depends on the continued strength of the ESA. We want to expand protections granted under this important federal law, not weaken it.
Over the years, the ESA has faced many challenges, like attacks led by major industries that place profit over animals’ lives and habitat protection. As more and more animals are threatened, the Animal Legal Defense Fund remains committed to fighting for the Endangered Species Act.
The ESA helps us protect endangered species and dramatically improves the lives of the individual animals who desperately need our help. I hope you’ll join us and make a pledge to protect this indispensable law.
Animals in Film: Capitalizing on Suffering
Posted by Nicole Pallotta, Academic Outreach Manager on January 23, 2017
Amid growing public concern about the abuse of animals used in the entertainment industry comes another disturbing instance highlighting the fact that there is only one way to ensure a film production is humane: keeping animals off the set. The film A Dog’s Purpose has come under scrutiny after a video surfaced last week showing a distressed German shepherd being forced into churning water meant to simulate rapids on the set of the film. The video was widely circulated and public condemnation was swift, including calls for a boycott of the film. Amid this firestorm of negative publicity, the premiere of the film, scheduled for last weekend, has been cancelled. The film is still scheduled for nationwide release on January 27.
Ironically, films like this capitalize on the tender feelings and strong bond many movie-goers have with their dogs. Mainstream films reflect the dominant culture, and stories featuring a sympathetic dog as a main character have become more common as the status of companion animals in American society has evolved to a point where most Americans consider them family rather than property.
While the popularity of these movies capitalizes on that bond, their treatment behind the scenes reveals an uncomfortable contradiction. The law still classifies animals as property, and this disconnect allows them to be treated like props behind the screen while being idealized as family members on it. The film industry has had it both ways – profiting off audience’s love for animals while simultaneously mistreating them.
However, the tide is turning and forcing animals to perform unnatural acts for our entertainment is increasingly being rejected. Growing public scrutiny and declining profits have caused amusement industry giants like SeaWorld and Ringling Brothers to discontinue their use of animals (and in Ringling’s case, to shut down completely). Behind-the-scenes videos like this, showing a panicked dog being forced to “perform,” demonstrates that it is not only captive exotic animals who suffer in the entertainment industry. Companion animals are also subject to abuse and mistreatment.
But aren’t these animals protected, perhaps even pampered on set? Far from it. A recent PETA investigation into Birds and Animals Unlimited, a major supplier of “animal talent,” including to A Dog’s Purpose, as well as popular film and TV productions like Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, and Pirates of the Caribbean, uncovered horrific conditions and overt neglect of animals in their care. As with all industries that use animals, abuse thrives in the absences of transparency and oversight. Many moviegoers assume that the animals they see on screen were free from harm because the American Humane Association (AHA) – the only industry body that certifies the humane care of animals in Screen Actors Guild films – reassuringly says so at the end of each film in which animals appear. However, the AHA’s approval has been given to many films in which animals were, indeed, harmed.
To name just two examples, in 2013, The Hollywood Reporter released an exposé revealing that “King,” a Bengal tiger used in the Oscar-winning film Life of Pi, nearly drowned during the film’s production. Yet this film still received a “No Animals Were Harmed” rating from the AHA. And in 2012, we learned that 27 animals were killed during production of The Hobbit – a film that mind-bogglingly also received AHA approval. In addition, AHA does not address the conditions in which animals forced to perform in movies live off the set, nor the training methods used to make them perform.
People are fascinated by animals and will always want to see them on film. Thanks to sophisticated modern technology, this is possible without a single animal suffering. There is simply no reason to force live animals to perform on screen when we have such rich replacements at our fingertips. For example, the wondrous and award-winning live-action film The Jungle Book (2016) – a cinematic triumph filled with amazing and lifelike animals – was filmed completely with computer-generated imagery (CGI) except for the human actor who played Mowgli.
We can hope the public relations disaster that has befallen the makers of A Dog’s Purpose serves to stoke reform in the film industry. Future producers may decide the cost of using live animals is too high when humane (and visually stunning!) alternatives are available. Opportunities abound to feature realistic awe-inspiring CGI animals in film while keeping live animals off the set. Just look at The Jungle Book. A critical and commercial success grossing over $966 million, it ably demonstrated a movie can be filled with animals yet use none in production.
- Wells, Stephen. “Animals Were Harmed – the Suffering of Animals Who Entertain Us.” Animal Legal Defense Fund. January 23, 2014
- Molidor, Jennifer. “Are the Oscars Celebrating Animal Cruelty?” Animal Legal Defense Fund. February 23, 2013.
Alaska Legislature Becomes First to Require Consideration of Animals’ Interests in Custody Cases
Posted by Nicole Pallotta, Academic Outreach Manager on January 20, 2017
With the adoption of an amendment to its divorce law, Alaska has become the first state to empower judges to take into account the “well-being of the animal” in custody disputes involving nonhuman family members. The bipartisan HB 147, which was signed by Gov. Bill Walker in October 2016 and becomes effective Jan. 17, 2017, will be the first law in the nation to expressly require courts to address the interests of companion animals when deciding how to assign ownership in divorce and dissolution proceedings. It is also the first to explicitly allow joint ownership of a companion animal.
With the new amendments in HB 147, Alaska also becomes the 32nd state to allow companion animals to be included in domestic violence protective orders, and permits a court to order that the abuser pay financial support for a pet in the care of the human victim, if that abuser has a legal obligation to care for the pet.
While the amendments regarding domestic violence protection and costs of care are important steps forward for companion animals in Alaska, the provision requiring consideration of animals’ well-being when deciding their legal ownership is groundbreaking and unique. Even though judges throughout the US can already choose, in their discretion, to consider an animal’s best interests, no other state legislature has required judges to do so when adjudicating property distribution upon the dissolution of a marriage.
To those of us who share our lives with animals, it may seem obvious that their interests should be one of the factors under consideration in custody cases. However, because animals are classified as personal property under the law, this has not typically been the case. In fact, the word “custody” is a misnomer in these cases, which are legally about “property distribution.”
Although the increase in custody battles over companion animals demonstrates their evolving social importance as family members, courts typically resolve these disputes based on one criterion: the property status of the animal. In other words, which party is the more rightful “owner” under the law? This issue can get murky when a couple has been jointly caring for an animal for years and sharing veterinary expenses, food and other custodial costs (as well as intangible “costs” like time spent with the animal), despite who may have initially paid any fees in acquiring the animal.
In custody disputes involving companion animals, the Animal Legal Defense Fund has long advocated through our amicus (or “friend of the court”) briefs for judges to take into account the interests of the animal when determining custody (as with children). Although not generally mandated by legislatures to consider an animal’s well-being or treat the animal differently from other property that must be fairly divided after a breakup, a handful of cases have acknowledged that people have a special relationship with their companion animals that sets them apart from other types of property.
Alaska’s new law codifies the inconsistently applied acknowledgement that animals are fundamentally different from other forms of property. Rep. Liz Vasquez, the bill’s sponsor, said: “Pets are truly members of our families. We care for them as more than just property. As such, the courts should grant them more consideration. It’s only natural.”
As few laws exist that bring the interests of an individual animal before the court, Alaska’s new statute represents significant progress for animals in the legal system. It remains to be seen if other states will adopt similar legislation, but Alaska has taken an important step in recognizing our evolving social relationship with companion animals, and their value beyond mere property.
- Sponsor Statement: HB 147.
- Text of Bill.
- Raines, Liz. “State lawmakers call for tougher law to protect pets, domestic violence victims.” KTVA Alaska. February 1, 2016.
- Dischner, Molly. “Dog-loving lawmakers’ bill addresses pet custody in divorces.” Juneau Empire. April 23, 2015.
Posted by Stephen Wells, Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director on January 19, 2017
2016 was another busy year for the Animal Legal Defense Fund in our efforts to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. Three cases in particular highlight the importance and the broad range of our continuous work on behalf of animals.
In February, the Animal Legal Defense Fund victoriously sued Cricket Hollow Zoo, now known as Cricket Hollow Animal Park, on behalf of four tigers and three lemurs provided substandard care. This landmark victory is the first successful use of the Edangered Species Act (ESA) to obtain a court-ordered removal of animals from captivity due to substandard conditions. This case also established that isolation of social animals can be considered a violation of the ESA. Six months after our win, African Lions were granted ESA protection and we immediately filed another lawsuit on behalf of Jonwah and Njjarra–two African lions held at Cricket Hollow. We secured their release to The Wild Animal Sanctuary, where Jonwah received lifesaving veterinary care to address a critical digestive problem that had likely developed as a result of her substandard care.
In June, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that the legal owner of an emaciated dog, Juno, did not have a protected privacy interest in the blood drawn, that was done as part of a routine exam evaluating Juno’s health. The Animal Legal Defense Fund had led a coalition to file an amicus brief in the case, State vs. Newcombe. In its ruling, the Court recognized animals’ unique nature: while legally considered property, they are “sentient beings capable of experiencing pain, stress and fear,” according to legislation that we helped enact in 2013. As explained in the ruling:
“Oregon law prohibits humans from treating animals in ways that humans are free to treat other forms of property … A person can be as cruel or abusive as she wants to her own stereo or folder, and can neglect the maintenance of a car to the point where it will not operate, without legal consequence. The same is not true of an animal that a person owns or has custody of or control over.”
In September, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s “derivative contraband” strategy to prevent the forced return of seized animals to neglectful guardians. Luke, a pit bull puppy, was seized by law enforcement after suffering a shattered shoulder allegedly at the hands of his legal owner, who was charged with animal cruelty. At trial, the acquitted owner demanded that the state return Luke. We worked with the prosecutor to develop the unique legal argument that ultimately succeeded in preventing Luke’s return to a neglectful environment.
These victories changed life for individual animals, and will impact so many others in the future. Ultimately, none of this could have happened without the steadfast support of our members. As the new year opens, we are already finding new opportunities to achieve legal victories for animals, and we look forward to having you by our side along the way.
Why I applied to law school instead of veterinary school
Posted by Kelly Levenda, Student Programs Attorney on January 17, 2017
During the first week of December, Animal Legal Defense Fund founder Joyce Tischler presented the History of Animal Law at Harvard Law School. She discussed her path to founding the Animal Legal Defense Fund and its early cases, legal theories and victories. These included halting a U.S. Navy plan to kill more than 5,000 wild burros, bringing four Animal Welfare Act lawsuits to protect animals used in experimentation and the first legal challenges of cruel agricultural practices, like force feeding ducks to create foie gras and iron deprivation and confinement of calves who are slaughtered for veal. I heard Joyce give a similar talk eight years ago at the University of Chicago Law School, and it was a turning point for me.
I had just received my undergraduate degree in pre-veterinary animal science from one of the top agricultural science schools, but I did not apply to veterinary school as I had originally planned. During my undergraduate studies, my eyes were opened to the cruelties that animals suffer when they are farmed. This includes having their bodies modified (such as removing their testicles, tails, horns or parts of beaks) without painkillers, being kept in intensive confinement where they cannot turn around, extend their wings or lie down comfortably and calves being taken away from their mothers shortly after birth. After witnessing some of these injustices firsthand as part of my degree, I could no longer stomach veterinary school, and was committed to spending my life fighting to protect animals a different way.
During my last semester of college, I came across the Animal Legal Defense Fund website. I was thrilled at the idea of using the law to advocate for and protect animals. I saw that Joyce Tischler was speaking on the history of animal law a few weeks later. Hearing this talk was what inspired me to apply to law school to study animal law. I took advantage of the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s resources and opportunities for students. I was able to receive an Advancement of Animal Law Scholarship, clerk and complete a fellowship for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, attend the Animal Law Conference and obtain Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) project grants so that the chapter I was leading could hold events. Now I’m an attorney at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and I manage the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund program. I am fortunate to be able to assist the future attorneys, legislators and judges who will be influential in changing the law to better protect animals.
Are you thinking of attending law school and want to help animals? Check out our resources to guide you:
Live Animal Mascots: A Tradition of Exploitation, Not Conservation
Posted by Stephen Wells, Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director on January 13, 2017
Since 1936, Louisiana State University has kept a series of live tigers as mascots, all named Mike. The most recent tiger, Mike VI, was euthanized in October after a four-month battle with cancer. LSU also promotes Mike as a tourist attraction, and has already begun searching for Mike VII.
All tigers are classified as endangered species. They need meaningful conservation, not exploitation for entertainment. LSU’s archaic tradition should be laid to rest, rather than perpetuating America’s tiger surplus by helping a commercial breeder stay in business just for the sake of obtaining a live mascot for use as an entertainment prop.
In 2007, LSU acquired Mike VI from an Indiana breeder-dealer whose federal license to exhibit and deal animals was permanently revoked in 2010 when federal officials found dozens of serious violations of the minimum standards of care prescribed by the federal Animal Welfare Act. Mike VI, like most tigers in America, was a “generic tiger,” meaning he was intentionally cross-bred—a practice embraced by many unscrupulous exhibitors around the country that took advantage of a since-closed legal loophole to skirt U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service protection and regulation.
The university’s athletics website proudly describes what a typical Saturday afternoon for the LSU mascot has been like:
Mike’s ride through Tiger Stadium before home games in a travel trailer topped by the LSU cheerleaders is a school tradition. Before entering the stadium, his cage on wheels is parked next to the opponent’s locker room … Opposing players must make their way past Mike’s cage to reach their locker room.
These tigers have spent their lives in captivity just to be an accessory to the sports season.
LSU’s site also recalls a day from the life of Mike IV:
Pranksters cut the locks on Mike IV’s cage and freed him in the early-morning hours. Mike roamed free…before being trapped in the Bernie Moore Track Stadium where veterinarian Dr. Sheldon Bivin used tranquilizer guns to capture and return the Bengal Tiger to his home.
These are the stories about Mike’s captivity that the university is eager to advertise.
Studies show that people who see exotic animals forced to live in artificial settings not only learn nothing at all about the species, but also walk away with reduced interest in legitimate conservation efforts.
We strongly encourage LSU, and every university with a live animal mascot, to only utilize costumed human mascots—who are more entertaining, less likely to pose a threat, and do not require subjecting apex predators to lives of deprivation of their complex needs. Southern University in Baton Rouge has elected to use only human mascots since its last live mascot, a jaguar named Lacumba, was found dead in the cage in which she was confined in 2004.
Keeping a live animal mascot—especially an endangered species—has everything to do with catering to the whims of fans and boosters, and nothing to do with legitimate conservation. Any 21st-century institution of higher learning should know better than to condone and actively participate in the commercial trade and exploitation of exotic animals. We’ve learned from history time and again that “tradition” is not a sufficient reason to continue exploitative practices. The time has come for LSU to turn away from a tradition of exploitation, and to contribute to legitimate tiger conservation.
Animal Law at the 111th Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Annual Meeting
Posted by Nicole Pallotta, Academic Outreach Manager on January 12, 2017
The Animal Legal Defense Fund attended the 111th Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Annual Meeting in San Francisco, Jan. 4-7, 2016, where “thousands of law faculty, deans, administrators, and scholars gather each year to connect and collaborate with colleagues, discuss critical and emerging legal issues, and attend programs focused on fresh perspectives on law and legal education.” Under the theme “Why Law Matters,” the conference featured over 250 sessions on varied topics, including animal law.
At our booth in the exhibit hall we connected with the legal community and shared information about the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s academic resources with law professors interested in teaching animal law, career services counselors whose students are curious about opportunities in the field, and anyone with an interest in protecting animals.
We hosted our 10th Annual Animal Law Reception at AALS on Friday evening, which gave conference attendees and local law professionals an opportunity to mingle with colleagues from the animal law community, meet Animal Legal Defense Fund staff and learn more about our work. During the reception, Executive Director Stephen Wells presented an overview of the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s mission and recent victories for animals, followed by a screening of our Advances for Animals in 2016 video.
The field of animal law has undergone tremendous academic growth since we first attended AALS in 2005. At that time, around 50 law schools had offered a course in animal law. Today, that number has grown to more than 160 schools. And since then, two law schools — Lewis & Clark and Harvard — have launched full-fledged animal law programs. A pioneer in the field since 2008, Lewis & Clark Law School’s robust Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS), in collaboration with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, offers the world’s first LLM degree in animal law, a summer animal law program, and more than 30 courses in animal law, while the newer Harvard Animal Law and Policy Program offers academic fellowships, courses and more. In addition to the two animal law clinics currently operating at Lewis & Clark and the University of Buffalo, Michigan State University College of Law, already home to the Animal Legal & Historical Web Center, will launch its new Animal Welfare Clinic later this year.
As the only organization dedicated to protecting animals through the legal system, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is proud to continue fostering the growth of the field of animal law. Keep an eye on our event page or sign up for our law professional or law student e-newsletters to stay in the loop on animal law events happening in your area!
Sign Now: Tell the SEC to Stop Tyson Foods’ Lies
Posted by on January 9, 2017
We need you to join our fight against the cruelty of factory farms. In September 2015 the Animal Legal Defense Fund released undercover footage from a Tyson Foods plant that revealed flagrant violations of state and federal law. We’re working hard to hold Tyson accountable and we need your help as we urge the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to expedite their investigation of Tyson’s deceptions.
Tyson Foods entices investors with false promises of superior animal treatment and care for its workers. Its practices reveal a drastically different reality including shocking animal cruelty and safety violations.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund is committed to exposing the horrors of factory farming and holding companies accountable to the law.
Animal Legal Defense Fund Files Anti-SLAPP Motion Against Landry’s Defamation Suit
Posted by on January 8, 2017
National nonprofit questions the captivity and conditions of four endangered white tigers
HOUSTON – The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a motion asking a Harris County judge to dismiss a baseless lawsuit filed by Landry’s Inc. and the Downtown Aquarium Inc. that claims the animal protection organization defamed Landry’s restaurant simply by publicly commenting on the long-controversial mistreatment of four white tigers, Nero, Marina, Coral and Reef. The tigers—who have never had adequate access to sunlight, fresh air or natural surfaces—have been housed indoors at the Downtown Aquarium and restaurant for 12 years.
The motion was filed by Houston law firm Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos Alavi & Mensing P.C., or AZA, under the Texas Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) statute. This law allows judges to dismiss meritless lawsuits filed against those who speak out about a “matter of public concern.”
The Animal Legal Defense Fund announced its concerns about the four tigers in September when it delivered a 60-day notice of intent to sue—as required by the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA)—on behalf of Cheryl Conley, a Montgomery County woman who says she witnessed violations of the ESA at the downtown facility. Before the 60-day-notice period expired, Landry’s pre-empted the organization and Ms. Conley by suing for defamation.
“This is a blatant attempt to silence free speech,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “Baseless lawsuits like this are often used in an attempt to intimidate and silence advocates—which is exactly why Texas has an anti-SLAPP law. Our primary concern is the health and wellbeing of the tigers—and we will not be deterred.”
AZA lawyer Adam Milasincic argues that Landry’s and its CEO and owner Tilman Fertitta, star of a reality TV show “Billion Dollar Buyer,” are public figures which makes discussions of the tigers’ confinement a public concern even beyond the concern about the tigers’ welfare.
“This suit’s intention is to dissuade animal advocates from starting a public dialogue about the care and environment these tigers are entitled to under federal law— including the protected right to thrive ,” says Mr. Milasincic.
The anti-SLAPP law allows not only for dismissal of meritless lawsuits, but for fines against those who use them to silence free speech. Ms. Conley filed a separate anti-SLAPP motion requesting dismissal. Her lawyer Ashish Mahendru of Mahendru P.C. calls Mr. Fertitta a “Billion-Dollar bully.” Mr. Mahendru’s motion asks for fines and for Landry’s to be forced to “shut down the tiger enclosure as a sanction for the malicious use of the judicial system to silence its critics. Otherwise, it’s not simply the tigers who are condemned to imprisonment. It’s also the rights of noble citizens like Cheryl Conley that are being violated.”
The lawsuit is Landry’s, Inc. and the Downtown Aquarium, Inc. v. Animal Legal Defense Fund et al. No. 2016-79698 in Harris County’s 334th District Court.
Animal Legal Defense Fund Urges Securities and Exchange Commission to Expedite Investigation of Tyson Foods
Posted by on January 8, 2017
SAN FRANCISCO—Tyson Foods has come under fire in recent years after several high-profile exposés and investigations. The Animal Legal Defense Fund, the nation’s preeminent legal organization for animals, is now urging the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to expedite an investigation of the chicken producer in relation to the organization’s 2015 undercover investigation of a Tyson Foods slaughter plant.
The SEC is charged with protecting investors, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund is urging the agency to stop Tyson Foods from enticing investors with false promises of superior animal treatment and care for its workers. Although the company attempts to portray itself as prioritizing responsible farmed animal care and worker safety, its practices reveal a drastically different reality.
Undercover video footage, obtained in a Tyson Foods Carthage, Texas processing plant, clearly shows the extremely fast speed at which chickens are hung and slaughtered. Employees are expected to hang 35 chickens per minute, which greatly increases the possibility of equipment jamming in processing plants—an issue which is captured multiple times on video, killing hundreds of birds through suffocation. The speed also makes it impossible to handle the birds in a humane fashion and creates safety concerns for Tyson Foods employees.
“Our investigation proves that the cruel treatment of chickens by Tyson Foods is not isolated incidents, but a systematic, companywide problem,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “Tyson Foods is putting profits over not only ethical standards, but state and federal laws.”
The Animal Legal Defense Fund first filed a complaint with the SEC in September 2015 asking for an investigation and enforcement of legal violations revealed by the undercover footage. In September 2016 the organization sent a follow up request to the SEC, which was routed to the agency’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy for further review.
Investors place increasing weight on issues of corporate social responsibility due to the impacts such issues have on consumer purchasing decisions, and thus stock price. The Animal Legal Defense Fund urges the SEC to hold Tyson Foods accountable for deliberately deceiving investors through false and misleading statements.
To view video footage and get more information about the Animal Legal Defense Funds’ undercover investigation of Tyson Foods, visit www.aldf.org/Tyson
Advances for Animals in 2016
Posted by on January 6, 2017
From the first major victory in an Endangered Species Act lawsuit brought on behalf of animals in captivity, to a cutting edge legal strategy that saved a puppy from an abusive situation, to an undercover investigation that’s still sending shockwaves through the factory farm industry—thanks to your generous support—the Animal Legal Defense Fund spent 2016 fighting for animal protection on every front.
Today—and everyday—we thank you for your unwavering support. These are your victories.
We still have a lot of work ahead of us in 2017—and we’re so glad we have you by our side. Thank you for your support in 2016—and thank you for your support in the coming year.
Take Action: Help Stop 2 Coyote Killing Contests on Federal Land
Posted by on January 4, 2017
We need your help today to stop two massive coyote killing contests, one of which is scheduled for this Saturday. These two contests are set to take place in Wyoming, partially on federal property, and they don’t have the necessary permits for these killing sprees.
According to federal regulations, the reason permits are required is to manage visitor use, protect natural and cultural resources, minimize recreational use conflicts and provide for the health and safety of visitors. All of these concerns are at play when it comes to the upcoming coyote killing contests.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund and a coalition of other animal protection organizations have already contacted BLM pointing out the legal permit requirements and demanding the killing contests be cancelled. Please add your voice and help us pressure the only agency that can stop these contests.
Coalition Urges Federal Agency to Regulate Unpermitted Coyote Killing Contests
Posted by on January 4, 2017
Coyote Hunts Lack Necessary Permits and Threaten Public Safety and Natural Resources
JACKSON, WY—Animal protection and environmental organizations submitted a written request to the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) urging the agency to enforce its own regulations regarding two Rock Springs, Wyoming, coyote-hunting contests scheduled to take place in the coming weeks. The purpose of such contests is to kill as many coyotes as possible, and prizes are awarded to those who shoot the most. The Rock Springs contests are slated to take place partly on BLM-managed federal land—and contest organizers have failed to obtain the requisite permits and liability insurance.
The first of these upcoming contests, the “Wyoming Coyote Classic,” is scheduled for this Saturday, January 7. In light of the impending date, the coalition is turning up the pressure, encouraging their members and supporters to contact the BLM field office to demand it take action this week.
Federal regulations require that certain commercial and competitive events held on BLM lands have a “special recreation permit” in order to lawfully take place. Both upcoming Rock Springs contests constitute commercial and competitive use of BLM land and therefore require these permits. According to BLM regulations, the purpose of requiring special recreation permits is to manage visitor use, protect natural and cultural resources, minimize recreational use conflicts and provide for the health and safety of visitors.
These planned contests pose great risk to natural resources, as contestants are freely using public lands to shoot as many coyotes as possible. Without permits, recreational use conflicts are almost certain, which raises safety concerns for visitors not aware of or not participating in the contest. With participants competing to kill as many coyotes as possible in a short period of time, there is an increased risk that participants will act carelessly, possibly injuring other recreational users or even killing visitors’ dogs on public lands.
“Killing contests are simply blood sport,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “They are completely inconsistent with proper wildlife management, which recognizes coyotes as essential members of healthy ecosystems, not targets to be killed for ‘fun.’”
The event promoters have also failed to obtain the federally mandated liability insurance prior to hosting the contests. Both upcoming events have no age restrictions, and contestants may enter without prior firearm experience. Serious hunting injuries are especially common among younger and inexperienced participants. As property managers, the federal government could be held liable if a participant or bystander is injured during these contests, putting public safety and taxpayer money at risk.
“Wyoming coyotes can be legally persecuted in almost any manner imaginable,” says Program Director Kristin Combs of Wyoming Untrapped. “Like trapping, these ‘recreational’ contests are not based on a sound science foundation, and it’s time to reform these archaic ‘wildlife management’ practices.”
The Animal Legal Defense Fund is the nation’s preeminent legal advocacy organization for animals and has taken on coyote killing contests in the past, including shutting down a Kansas event several months ago. In addition to the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Wyoming Untrapped, the coalition currently pressuring the BLM includes the Center for Biological Diversity, Good Wolf, Nevada Wildlife Alliance, Project Coyote, WildEarth Guardians, Wyoming Untrapped, Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, and Western Watersheds Project.
For more information visit, aldf.org.