First Criminal Charges Filed under California’s Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act
Posted by Nicole Pallotta, Academic Outreach Manager on March 28, 2017
In February 2017, the first criminal charges were brought under California’s Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, also known as Proposition 2. The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office filed more than 50 charges against an Ontario, California egg facility, Hohberg Poultry Ranches, after investigations revealed chickens were being kept in cages so overcrowded the animals were unable to turn around—conditions outlawed by the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act.
The Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act passed via state ballot initiative by a 64% majority of California voters in 2008. The law, which came into effect in January 2015, requires that egg-laying hens have the ability to fully spread their wings without touching another bird or the side of an enclosure. In addition to 39 counts of violating the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, prosecutors also charged Hohberg Poultry Ranches with 16 counts of animal cruelty under California’s state animal cruelty code, Penal Code 597(b).
The charges stem from a 2016 investigation conducted by the Inland Valley Humane Society, the Ontario Police Department, The Humane Society of the United States, and the Animal Cruelty Prosecution Unit of the San Bernardino District Attorney’s Office, following a complaint that hens were being kept in “inhumane” and “deplorable” conditions. According to Deputy District Attorney Debbie Ploghaus, who oversees the Animal Cruelty Prosecution Unit:
“Upon serving the search warrant, we found approximately 28,800 hens in unsanitary conditions that clearly violated the Farm Animal Cruelty Act. In some instances, we found dead hens decaying in the same cages beside living hens laying eggs for human consumption.”
As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Hohberg Poultry Ranches received a warning letter from the Food and Drug Administration in 2012 after serious human health violations were found during inspections. San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos, who brought the charges, said:
“While we are obviously concerned about the health of our citizens, at the end of the day, we also have a lawful obligation to ensure that animals in our county are being treated humanely. The overcrowded conditions these animals were forced to live in were cruel. It was a horrible existence.”
District Attorney Ramos, who created the Animal Cruelty Prosecution Unit just under a year ago, in April 2016, told local news station ABC7 the egg facility was in clear violation of the law, saying of the cramped conditions endured by the birds: “I think it’s horrendous. They start trying to get out and they start pecking one another. It’s just a horrendous situation.”
The owner of the facility, Robert Hohberg, pled not guilty to all charges at his March 7 arraignment in San Bernardino Superior Court. If convicted, he could face up to 180 days in jail for each cage size violation and one year for each animal cruelty count.
California became a leader in U.S. efforts to prevent the most egregious forms of cruelty to farmed animals with the 2008 passage of the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, which mandated that animals be housed in conditions that allow them enough space to turn around freely, lie down, stand up and fully extend their limbs. The law has thus far withstood multiple challenges from the agriculture industry, most recently in November 2016, when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit brought by six states that argued provisions in California’s law violated the Commerce and Supremacy Clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund is also working to ensure the California animal agriculture industry is held accountable to the state’s improved housing standards for farmed animals. On March 15, 2017, we sued the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) for violating the California Public Records Act by unlawfully withholding records regarding living conditions of egg-laying hens in factory farms. We requested these records in August 2016 to determine factory egg farms’ compliance with California’s Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act and the Shell Egg Food Safety Regulations that were instituted after its passage. California residents who voted to pass the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act have a compelling interest in ensuring the law is enforced, and there is little information currently available regarding egg producers’ compliance with the new standards.
Beyond California, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is leading the charge to reform factory farming through the courts, in part by advocating for greater transparency and against Ag-Gag laws, which are designed to prevent the public from learning about animal cruelty by criminalizing whistleblowers who reveal animal abuse. You can read about Ag-Gag laws and our ongoing work to overturn them here.
Although the mistreatment of farmed animals is often hidden from public view, consumers are increasingly aware of the substandard conditions in which animals raised for food are routinely kept prior to their slaughter, due in part to undercover investigations by animal protection organizations. In November 2016, Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly approved Question 3, An Act to Prevent Cruelty to Farm Animals, which is similar to California’s Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, but goes further. California’s law bans the sale of eggs from hens kept in cages too small for them to stand up, lie down, or turn around, but Massachusetts is the first state to ban the sale of meat products as well as eggs from animals confined in this manner. Once it goes into effect in 2022, this new legislation—which passed by a landslide with 78 percent of voters in favor of the law—will be stronger than any similar law in the U.S.
However, even the strongest laws are meaningless without enforcement, and prosecutors have historically been reluctant to pursue cruelty charges involving farmed animals. The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office’s willingness to bring these animal cruelty charges and hold the agriculture industry accountable to the minimal standards enacted by California voters sends a clear message that times are changing. The Animal Legal Defense Fund named District Attorney Michael Ramos one of the Top 10 Animal Defenders for 2017.
- San Bernardino District Attorney’s Office. “Charges filed against Ontario egg ranch.” San Bernardino District Attorney Blog. Feb. 9, 2017.
- Rocha, Veronica. “Ontario egg farm is charged after thousands of hens are found in ‘inhumane’ conditions.” Los Angeles Times. 7, 2017.
- McMillan, Rob. “Animal cruelty charges filed against Hohberg’s Poultry Ranches in Ontario.” ABC7. Feb. 7, 2017.
- Animal Legal Defense Fund. “Animal Legal Defense Fund Sues California Department of Food and Agriculture to Release Records about Conditions of Egg-Laying Hens.” Press Release. March 15, 2017.
- Pallotta, Nicole. “Federal Appeals Court Dismisses Challenge to California Sales Ban on Eggs Sourced from Extreme Confinement of Hens.” Animal Legal Defense Fund Blog. Dec. 1, 2016.
- Valenzuela, Beatriz. “San Bernardino County DA creates unit to prosecute animal cruelty.” The Sun. April 28, 2016.
Legally Brief: The Mother of Animal Law
Posted by on March 24, 2017
March is Women’s History Month—an appropriate time to express our thanks and reverence for the vision, courage and diligence of the “mother of animal law.” Over three decades have passed since Joyce Tischler founded the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and the success and growth we enjoy today is all thanks to Joyce
Working as a young lawyer in the San Francisco Bay Area of the 1970s, Joyce sought and found a handful of compassionate colleagues with an interest in protecting animals and advancing their legal rights—together they formed Attorneys for Animal Rights, which shortly changed its name to the Animal Legal Defense Fund. From the very beginning, Joyce helped set the Animal Legal Defense Fund apart, not only in its mission to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system, but also in its consistent success in filing cutting-edge lawsuits. Groundbreaking has always been the right word to describe Joyce and the Animal Legal Defense Fund. In 1981, seeking to put theory into practice, she spearheaded a lawsuit against the U.S. Navy, which had been secretly shooting and killing feral burros with plans to kill over 5,000. Initially citing the need for an Environmental Impact Statement, Joyce negotiated continuously over the next eight months, ultimately saving the lives of every burro who had been under threat.
With Joyce’s leadership, the Animal Legal Defense Fund has filed groundbreaking and major impact lawsuits and laid the foundation necessary for animal law to be taken seriously in law schools, law firms and bar associations across the country. She has challenged hunting and trapping using the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA), sought enforcement of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), engaged in animal custody battles, argued against the right to kill animals pursuant to will provisions and challenged the U.S. Patent Office’s rule allowing the patenting of genetically altered animals.
Now serving as the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s general counsel, she is responsible for in-house legal matters and spends her time out of the office writing, lecturing and promoting the field of animal law. While her leadership and persistence in the field has been recognized formally and repeatedly by her professional peers, we’d like to underscore our appreciation for all of her roles—fighter, nurturer, organizer, litigator—all of them vital to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, all of them devoted to making life better for animals.
I have had the pleasure and privilege of working shoulder to shoulder with Joyce for the past 18 years to continue to grow the incredible organization she founded and to fulfill its mission, “to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system.” I can imagine nothing better than spending the next 18 years working with the “mother of animal law” to win justice for all animals. Thank you, Joyce, for your commitment, strength and integrity!
Take Action: Ask Governor Hutchinson to Veto Arkansas Ag-Gag Law
Posted by on March 17, 2017
UPDATE – March 24, 2017:
Thank you to everyone who took action to defeat this bill. Unfortunately, Arkansas Governor Hutchinson signed HB 1665 into law, but we’re not done fighting. Read our full statement here.
A bill in Arkansas that would endanger animals is very close to becoming law. We need your help to show Governor Hutchinson that his constituents and other Americans oppose Ag-Gag laws. House Bill 1665 is designed to deter whistleblowers, journalists and undercover investigators from publicizing information, including conditions for animals on factory farms. This cruelty should not be allowed to continue in secret. Arkansas’ law would allow factory farm employers to sue whistleblowers directly, who could be liable for tens of thousands of dollars.
Ag-Gag bills, which are pushed by lobbyists for corporate agriculture companies, are an attempt to escape scrutiny over unsafe practices and animal abuses by threatening liability for those who expose these improper and, in many cases, illegal practices. Arkansas’s version is written so broadly that it would also ban undercover investigations of all private entities, including restaurants and daycare centers. This law would silence conscientious employees who wish to report wrongdoing.
Help us urge Arkansas’s Governor Asa Hutchinson to veto this bill. There are many ways you can help, no matter where you live:
- Everyone: Tweet at Governor Hutchinson.
Always be polite! Don’t insult, don’t “yell” in all caps or use foul language. Consider using these tweets:
@AsaHutchinson Please veto HB 1665. It infringes on free speech, endangers animals, workers & children. AR is better than that.
@AsaHutchinson Please veto HB 1665. Ag-Gag laws are failing nationwide for a reason. They’re unconstitutional, dangerous, and un-American.
- Everyone: Comment on Governor Hutchinson’s Instagram.
Always be polite! Don’t insult, don’t “yell” in all caps or use foul language. Consider using these comments:
Please veto HB 1665. This bill hurts the most vulnerable members of our society and tramples on free speech.
Please veto HB 1665. This law is unconstitutional and similar ones have been challenged across the country. Arkansas should be better than this.
Please veto HB 1665. This law panders to big industry instead of protecting those who are most at risk.
- Everyone: Comment on Governor Hutchinson’s Facebook.
Politely urge him to veto HB 1665.
Sydney Seafood Store Convicted of Animal Cruelty for Inhumane Treatment of Lobsters
Posted by Nicole Pallotta, Academic Outreach Manager on March 15, 2017
A popular seafood store in Sydney, Australia, was charged with animal cruelty for its treatment of lobsters, resulting in the first animal cruelty conviction in New South Wales (NSW) involving crustaceans. In both the U.S. and Australia, no matter how horrendously they are treated, it is rare for criminal cruelty charges to be brought in cases involving animals who are considered “food.” This is especially true when those animals are non-vertebrates, making this case particularly notable.
The conviction of Nicholas Seafood resulted from an inspection by the NSW Royal Society for the Prevention of Animals (RSPCA) after it obtained video showing a worker butchering a lobster alive with no attempt to render the animal unconscious beforehand, in violation of NSW’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. The video shows a lobster struggling to escape during the dismembering process, remaining alive after the animal’s tail is cut off—which according to the RSCPA does not kill but causes immense pain—and before being put through a band saw.
The RSPCA issued a fine, but Nicholas Seafood decided to take the matter to court, resulting in the conviction of an Act of Animal Cruelty and a $1,500 fine. The company has said its staff have now been properly trained to kill the lobsters in a manner considered “humane” according to government guidelines.
Whether crustaceans are covered under animal cruelty laws depends on how the specific legislation defines “animal.” There is no national animal protection law in Australia, but each state or territory has its own law protecting animals. Some restrict the definition of animal to vertebrates, but others, including NSW, include crustaceans in that definition. Crustaceans were added to NSW’s Prevention of Animal Cruelty Act in 1997 “after it was medically proven they feel pain.” In contrast to the vertebrate species included in the law, crustaceans are only covered when being prepared as food.
In addition to about half of Australian states and territories, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland include crustaceans in their national animal protection legislation. United Kingdom animal advocacy group Crustacean Compassion is currently campaigning for crabs, lobsters and other crustaceans to be included under the definition of “animal” in the Animal Welfare Act 2006 of England and Wales.
The historical justification for excluding non-vertebrates from animal cruelty laws is predicated in part on the belief that they are unable to feel pain, a belief which has begun to crumble under the weight of mounting scientific evidence to the contrary. As research has begun to show that lobsters and crabs experience pain and suffer distress, interest in their wellbeing has increased.
In the U.S. too, whether crustaceans are covered by criminal animal cruelty laws depends on how each state’s applicable statue defines “animal.” Even if crustaceans are not expressly excluded, it is highly unlikely a prosecutor would pursue cruelty charges against a seafood company. A 2013 People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) undercover investigation into cruelty at a Maine lobster plant is illustrative. Video revealed lobsters and crabs being ripped apart while alive and fully conscious, and the organization filed a complaint requesting the owner of the facility be investigated for possible violations of the state’s criminal animal cruelty statute. Although Maine’s animal cruelty statute covers “every living, sentient creature” besides human beings, the district attorney declined to pursue charges, asserting “it is far from clear that the Legislature intended to include lobsters and crabs within this definition…the opposite intention is more likely.”
Despite the general lack of legal protections for aquatic animals, there is reason to be optimistic. Along with the groundbreaking outcome of the Nicholas Seafood case, public awareness is growing about the capacities of crustaceans and other aquatic animals such as fish, who also have little to no protection under the law despite their widespread (and increasing) use in intensive farming and research.
In another positive development, the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark Law School recently launched a new, first-of-its-kind Aquatic Animal Law Initiative (AALI), which works to protect and promote the interests of aquatic animals by advocating on their behalf through the legal system and providing education about their cognitive, emotional and physiological capacities. As the first entity to focus on questions broadly relating to the legal protection of aquatic animals, we can expect the AALI to play a significant role in steering policy, law and public opinion about these vastly misunderstood animals in a more humane direction.
- Zhou, Naaman. “Sydney fishmonger convicted of animal cruelty over lobster treatment.” The Guardian. Feb. 15, 2017.
- RSPCA New South Wales. “Crimes Against Crustaceans: Nicholas Seafood Convicted of Cruelty to Lobster.” Media Court Release. Feb. 15, 2017.
- McKee, Jillian. “One of Sydney’s biggest seafood stores convicted of animal cruelty charges for torturing a lobster.” The Daily Telegraph. Feb. 14, 2107.
- RSPCA Australia. “Are crustaceans protected by animal welfare legislation?” Aug. 4, 2014.
- Betts, Stephen. “Prosecutor won’t charge Linda Bean, lobster plant for animal cruelty.” Bangor Daily News. 30, 2013.
- Levenda, Kelly (2013) . “Legislation to Protect the Welfare of Fish.” Animal Law. Vol. 20. P. 119.
- Aquatic Animal Law Initiative, a project of the Animal Law Clinic at Lewis & Clark Law School and the Center for Animal Law Studies, in collaboration with the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
Stop a New Ag-Gag Bill – Contact the Arkansas Tourism Bureau
Posted by on March 14, 2017
UPDATE – March 24, 2017:
Thank you to everyone who took action to defeat this bill. Unfortunately, Arkansas Governor Hutchinson signed HB 1665 into law, but we’re not done fighting. Read our full statement here.
A proposed new Ag-Gag bill is being considered by Arkansas lawmakers, and we need your help to stop it from becoming law. Factory farms want to keep their cruel practices hidden from the public, and industry lobbyists push Ag-Gag laws to accomplish that goal.
We successfully sued Idaho and had its Ag-Gag law ruled unconstitutional. And we continue to fight in Utah and North Carolina challenging the constitutionality of their states’ Ag-Gag laws. Help us stop Arkansas’ Ag-Gag bill before it becomes law.
Take action now to let the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism know that if this bill passes, you won’t be visiting.
Your help is urgently needed. House Bill 1665 has already quickly passed the Arkansas House and moved out of committee in the Senate.
The law would allow factory farm employers to sue whistleblowers directly, making them vulnerable to expensive lawsuits, all for trying to do the right thing. Such intimidation will effectively keep those who witness animal cruelty from speaking up. Arkansas’s version of Ag-Gag is written so broadly that it would also ban undercover investigations of virtually all private entities, including daycare centers and restaurants. This law would silence conscientious employees who wish to report wrongdoing.
Florida: Urge Your Legislators to Protect Orcas
Posted by on March 13, 2017
The Animal Legal Defense Fund is leading a coalition of animal protection, environmental and marine conservation groups proposing Florida legislation that would ensure no additional orcas will be held in captivity in the state.
The Florida Orca Protection Act would grandfather in existing orcas but outlaw the holding of any additional orcas in captivity in Florida. The act would also prohibit breeding captive orcas or transporting them out of state, unless to a seaside sanctuary. It’s a commonsense law that just codifies SeaWorld’s previous commitment to phase out breeding orcas immediately and orca performances by 2019.
This is the first Florida legislative session since the tragic death of Tilikum—featured in the documentary Blackfish—who died at SeaWorld Orlando in January. Don’t let his sad life and lonely death be in vain.
FLORIDA: Urge your state legislators to support the Florida Orca Protection Act
The Animal Legal Defense Fund is committed to using the legal system to free all remaining captive orcas. Until then, we’ve made it easy for you to email your legislators and ask them to support the Florida Orca Protection Act and make it illegal to hold any additional orcas in captivity in Florida.
Arkansas Residents: Stop the Ag-Gag Bill
Posted by on March 7, 2017
UPDATE – March 24, 2017:
Thank you to everyone who took action to defeat this bill. Unfortunately, Arkansas Governor Hutchinson signed HB 1665 into law, but we’re not done fighting.
We need your help to stop House Bill 1665, a proposed new Ag-Gag bill being considered by Arkansas lawmakers. This law is designed to deter whistleblowers, journalists and undercover investigators from publicizing information, including conditions for animals on factory farms. The law would allow factory farm employers to sue whistleblowers directly, who could be liable for tens of thousands of dollars.
The bill has already passed the house and is headed to the senate—urge your state senators to oppose House Bill 1665.
Ag-Gag bills, which are pushed by lobbyists for corporate agriculture companies, are an attempt to escape scrutiny over unsafe practices and animal abuses by threatening liability for those who expose these improper and, in many cases, illegal practices. Arkansas’s version is written so broadly that it would also ban undercover investigations of all private entities, including nursing homes and daycare centers. This law would silence conscientious employees who wish to report wrongdoing.
Please, contact your senators today. You hold the power to prevent this dangerous bill from becoming law. Please share this with your friends and family in Arkansas.
This action is only available to Arkansas residents.
Act Now to Protect Animals in Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuges
Posted by on March 6, 2017
UPDATE – March 22, 2017
Thank you to all of our supporters who took action on this issue. Unfortunately, the bill has passed, and we expect it to be signed by President Trump. We are disappointed in this outcome, but remain committed to defending the Endangered Species Act and supporting other legislation that offers animals the protections they deserve.
Alaska’s wildlife is under attack and we need you to be their voice. Just seven months ago, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service enacted a rule to prevent the State of Alaska from allowing horrific methods of wildlife control including steel-jawed leghold traps and neck wire snares, shooting hibernating bears with their cubs, killing wolves and their pups during denning season and shooting grizzly bears from airplanes. Now that important rule is under threat.
A new proposal would allow people to kill wolves and bears using these cruel and indefensible methods again. The attempt to roll back basic protections for Alaskan wildlife is being fueled by trophy hunters.
Take action today to defeat this dangerous proposal.
We’ve made it easy for you to contact your senators and tell them you do not support H.J. Res. 69 and S.J. Res. 18, the congressional joint resolution that would permanently repeal protections for Alaskan bears and wolves.
Thank you for your support.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund Files First Brief in “MonkeyGate” Appeal
Posted by on March 3, 2017
Standing for Government Transparency and Animal Protection
The Animal Legal Defense Fund has filed its initial appellate brief with the Florida Second District Court of Appeal in its appeal of the July 2016 ruling in the “MonkeyGate” case. The brief is the latest development in the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s multi-year campaign to void the decision to approve two new primate breeding facilities in Hendry County, Florida. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of local landowners, alleges that Hendry County illegally approved site development plans for the SoFlo Ag and Panther Tracts primate facilities in violation of the state’s Sunshine Law.
The county approved these facilities in closed-door conferences without public notice or public meetings. The crux of the lawsuit alleges that Hendry County staff engaged in policy-based decision-making, which is subject to the Sunshine Law, by classifying these primate breeding facilities as “animal husbandry” for agricultural zoning purposes. However, the definition of “animal husbandry” only includes domestic animals like pigs and chickens, not wild and exotic primates bred and used as test subjects in biomedical research. As such, the approval of the primate breeding facilities in agriculture zoning amounts to rewriting the zoning code, which is exactly the type of policy-based decision-making that requires a public hearing with reasonable public notice under the Sunshine Law.
The Hendry County primate facilities house thousands of long-tailed macaques and other primates for breeding and sale to biomedical research companies. Some primate breeding facilities in Hendry County have been the subject of investigations revealing horrific conditions and cruelty. It’s reasonable to expect macaques at the new facilities would be subject to similar abuse. Long-tailed macaques are inquisitive and intelligent animals who live in social groups. They’ve even been seen using stone tools to prepare their food—like cracking open oysters and sea snails. They have been the victims of the animal testing industry for decades.
The SoFlo Ag facility is only a few hundred feet away from residential areas, posing a risk to both property values and residents’ enjoyment of their property. Additionally, macaques can transmit deadly infections to humans, meaning their presence in Florida threatens human health and safety. Considering all these factors and the requirements of the Sunshine Law, the Animal Legal Defense Fund believes that the public has the right to participate in the decision whether to build these facilities in the community.
Citizens must be given a chance to be heard when the government makes decisions that will affect their homes and day-to-day lives. Hendry County’s disregard of the Sunshine Law in approving these primate breeding facilities should not be tolerated.
San Francisco Bans Sale of Dogs and Cats in Retail Stores
Posted by Nicole Pallotta, Academic Outreach Manager on February 27, 2017
San Francisco has become the latest jurisdiction to outlaw the sale of commercially bred dogs and cats in retail stores. San Francisco’s new ordinance, passed unanimously by the city’s Board of Supervisors on February 14, 2017, prohibits retail stores from selling commercially bred dogs and cats, and instead encourages stores to partner with animal shelters and rescue groups to display adoptive animals. It also bans the sale of puppies and kittens under eight weeks old.
The new law applies only to retail stores and does not make it illegal to breed dogs and cats; people still can purchase an animal directly from a breeder, where “the consumer can see the conditions in which the dogs or cats are bred or can confer with the breeder concerning those conditions.”
Although there are no retail stores currently selling commercially bred dogs and cats in San Francisco, this law will prohibit any from doing so in the future. Restricting retail sales in this way is intended to reduce the number of dogs and cats who are killed in shelter facilities each year by decreasing the commercial demand for animals bred in puppy and kitten mills—the large-scale breeding facilities which are major suppliers of animals sold in retail stores—and increasing demand for animals from animal shelters and rescue organizations.
Additionally, the legislation is designed to “promote community awareness of animal welfare and foster a more humane environment in San Francisco,” as well as reward humane business practices. According to an editorial in the San Francisco Examiner co-written by sponsoring supervisor Katy Tang:
“….this ordinance also acknowledges San Francisco businesses for their humane business practices. The large majority of pet stores in this country have stopped selling puppies and kittens and instead profit from selling pet-related products and offering quality services. Most also partner with local shelters to promote the benefits of adoption and regularly host events to help animals find new loving families. This is the model followed by San Francisco’s existing pet stores, and they should be recognized for doing the right thing and encouraged to continue.”
San Francisco joins a steadily growing list of cities that have passed bans on the commercial sale of dogs, cats, and in some cases, rabbits. Since Albuquerque became the first to pass such a ban in 2006, larger cities that have enacted similar legislation include Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, San Diego, Los Angeles, Austin and Las Vegas.
These laws are part of a growing national movement to combat puppy and kitten mills, which treat animals like a cash crop, keep them in poor conditions and deceive consumers. While some of these laws allow exceptions for small breeders, they are still a positive step toward 1) reducing the number of unadopted companion animals who are put to death in shelters each year, 2) reducing in the long run the number of animals who suffer in the substandard conditions that are the norm in breeding operations by eliminating the market for commercially bred dogs and cats, and 3) encouraging people to view animals as sentient beings rather than disposable commodities.
Until they are outlawed completely, the Animal Legal Defense Fund also uses litigation to improve conditions in puppy mills, including a recent landmark victory in Pennsylvania in which the court struck down regulatory exemptions that had significantly weakened the state law regulating large commercial breeding facilities. The decision restored the integrity of the law and reinstated a comprehensive set of requirements for commercial dog breeders, including a prohibition on metal wire flooring and ensuring mother dogs have unfettered access to exercise areas. The Animal Legal Defense Fund, with the Humane Society of the United States and law firm Locke Lord LLP, also recently settled a lawsuit against Chicago pet store chain Furry Babies, which is now required to disclose the specific source of its puppies, thereby giving consumers who do not wish to support the cruel puppy mill industry the ability to make an informed choice.
- Ordinance amending the Health Code to prohibit pet stores from selling dogs and cats not obtained from animal rescue organizations or shelters, and prohibiting the sale of puppies or kittens under eight weeks old. 2017.
- Robertson, Michelle. “San Francisco pet stores can no longer sell non-rescue animals.” San Francisco Chronicle. Feb. 16, 2017.
- Tang, Katy, Amy Jesse, Virginia Donohue, and Jennifer Scarlett. “Ban animal sales at SF pet stores to end abusive cycle.” San Francisco Examiner. Feb. 14, 2017.
- “Jurisdictions with Retail Pet Sale Bans.” Best Friends Animal Society.
- “Landmark Puppy Mill Decision Reinstates Regulations on Cruel Industry.” Animal Legal Defense Fund. Sept. 9, 2016.
- “Pet Store Chain Accused of Selling Unhealthy Puppy Mill Dogs Settles Lawsuit.” Animal Legal Defense Fund. Sept. 12, 2016.
Act Now to Fight a Dangerous Bill Pushed by Dairy Industry
Posted by on February 27, 2017
We need your help to defeat a dangerous new bill in the U.S. Senate. The “DAIRY PRIDE” Act is a blatant attempt by the dairy industry to stifle the rise of plant-based products that many consumers choose as healthier and more humane alternatives by prohibiting such products from using “milk” or “cheese” in their names. The dairy industry is losing market share because consumers are gravitating toward cruelty-free products, like soymilk and cashew cheese, which are great sources of protein but contain no cholesterol or animal products.
The dairy industry claims this bill is designed to end “confusion” among consumers, but the idea that consumers would believe almond milk comes from a cow is absurd. The full name of the bill reveals its true motive: “Defending Against Imitations and Replacements of Yogurt, milk, and cheese to Promote Regular Intake of Dairy Everyday Act.”
The bill would forbid makers of dairy alternatives from using “milk” or “cheese” in their name, even when that is what consumers expect for such products and when changing the name would only cause more confusion, not less.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund fully supports truth in labeling, but the DAIRY PRIDE Act is designed to discourage people from purchasing healthy and humane alternatives to dairy milk products and to ensure the continuation of cruel factory farming despite consumers’ growing interest in products that don’t require animal cruelty.
The bill is currently in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. We’ve made it easy for you to contact the senators in this committee and urge them not to support this bill.
Legislators are using public resources to do the bidding of an animal-abusing industry that is terrified of the superior plant-based competition. We can’t let the dairy industry get away with this. Speak up to tell Congress to stop stifling competition from humane dairy alternatives.
Case Inspiring Change in Florida Dog Bite Law Featured in The Florida Bar Journal
Posted by Nicole Pallotta, Academic Outreach Manager on February 24, 2017
In a victory for due process in dog bite cases, a Florida law passed last year allows guardians of dogs accused of causing serious injury to a person to mount a defense on behalf of the animal to save that animal’s life. An article published in the January 2017 edition of The Florida Bar Journal, “Padi-Waggin: The Tail of One Dog’s Journey from Death Row to Legislative Inspiration for Dog Bite Due Process,” tells the story of how the new legislation came to pass.
House Bill 91, signed into law by Florida Gov. Rick Scott in March 2016, replaced a previous statute that required the automatic killing of, paradoxically, any non-dangerous dog who severely injures a human, regardless of the circumstances of the incident and without giving owners the ability to appeal. The new legislation allows an “animal control authority” discretion in deciding if a dog should be put to death following a serious bite incident and enables owners to launch a more traditional due process appeal whereby they can introduce mitigating circumstances, such as provocation, to justify the dog’s actions.
The impetus for HB 91 was a 2015 case involving a Labrador mix named Padi, who bit a child and caused severe injury to the child’s ear (requiring stitches and reconstructive surgery). Under Florida’s old “dog death penalty” law, Padi would have been killed without considering if the attack was provoked. Although witnesses said that Padi was defending himself when the child cornered him under a desk, the law as written gave animal control no leeway to consider preceding circumstances.
According to the Bradenton Herald, accounts differ on whether the child lunged at Padi or if Padi lunged at the child first, but all parties generally agreed that Padi had gone into a corner of the office to avoid the child and the child followed.
Padi’s case received widespread attention as his guardian challenged the law in an effort to save the dog’s life. In December 2015, the Circuit Court for the 12th Judicial Circuit voided the statute on constitutional grounds, finding it “arbitrary and unduly oppressive,” and ordered the immediate release of Padi, who had been seized by animal control seven months prior. In its decision, the court noted that Florida’s laws allowed for the consideration of potentially intervening circumstances when a dog was declared “dangerous,” yet not in situations involving dogs like Padi, who have never been classified as dangerous. The court found this fact “illogical and inconsistent.” According to the opinion:
“In short, if Padi was subjected to a dangerous dog investigation under §767.12, then [d]efendant and Padi would be allowed certain enumerated defenses, such as provocation, in defense to a dangerous dog investigation and classification; however, such defenses are not authorized under §767.13(2).”
The court also found the statute unconstitutional because it provided animal control authorities “unbridled discretion” in its decision to categorize a dog as “dangerous” or not, with:
“…no guided authority to select the severity of consequences for a dog’s actions. The Florida Supreme Court has emphasized in numerous cases that unfettered authority granted to a government enforcement agency with no clear, specific legislative guidance is unconstitutional.”
Although the court’s decision only applied in three Florida counties, HB 91 changed the law throughout the state. The Bradenton Herald quoted the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Greg Steube, as saying this case “brought to the forefront a law that is really unfair…if a burglar breaks into your house and the dog bites the burglar, the dog would have to be put down.”
The new law also exempts canines from the “dangerous dog” category if that dog was reacting to certain circumstances that justify the attack, such as if the dog was being tormented, assaulted or abused; if the dog was defending or protecting a human in the immediate vicinity from an unjustifiable attack; or if the person who was seriously injured was unlawfully on the property at the time. If the dog is deemed “dangerous,” the animal control authority can return the dog to the legal owner with certain restrictions; if a dog is not declared “dangerous,” animal control may no longer automatically destroy the dog if the owner files an appeal during the mandatory impoundment period—even if the dog has killed another human being. In addition, if a dog has not been declared “dangerous” but the owner knows of the dog’s dangerous propensities and the dog causes severe physical injury or death of a human, that owner commits a misdemeanor under the new law.
Paul Gartenberg, Padi’s guardian and a veterinarian, is hopeful this case will have an impact beyond Florida; he also plans to use his skills outside the veterinary profession to teach children appropriate behavior around dogs. According to an interview in the Bradenton Herald:
“The Padi case has had a ripple effect as Arizona and other states have called Manatee County to rewrite state statutes, Gartenberg said. ‘It’s having an impact nationwide’ he said. Gartenberg hopes to write a children’s book ‘as soon as possible’ about the incident to prevent future ones. ‘I think that was the root of the problem: This child didn’t know how to interact with the dog,’ he said.”
Although breed-neutral laws regarding dangerous dogs and/or reckless owners will always be necessary, the Animal Legal Defense Fund believes these laws must at minimum allow for consideration of the circumstances of the incident and for owners to mount an appeal. These laws should also be augmented by other approaches, including public education campaigns to teach children and adults how to safely interact with dogs and encourage better understanding of animal behavior.
- Eschenfelder, Robert. “Padi-Waggin: The Tail of One Dog’s Journey from Death Row to Legislative Inspiration for Dog Bite Due Process.” The Florida Bar Journal. January 2017. Volume 91, No. 1. P. 36.
- Aronson, Claire. “Padi the dog stars in Florida Bar Journal.” Bradenton Herald. December 30, 2016
- Irby, Katie. “Padi lives: Sarasota judge declares severe dog bite law unconstitutional; case against Bradenton dog closed.” Bradenton Herald. December 17, 2015.
- The Florida Senate – HB 91 — Severe Injuries Caused by Dogs.
Michigan Appeals Court Dismisses Lawsuit in Fatal Shooting of Two Family Dogs by Police
Posted by Nicole Pallotta, Academic Outreach Manager on February 15, 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 argued—in Fourth Amendment terms—that by unreasonably killing their dogs, the officers had unlawfully seized 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 was 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.
Setting Sixth Circuit precedent, the Court of Appeals held that “there is a constitutional right under the Fourth Amendment to not have one’s dog unreasonably seized”—and that law enforcement officers unreasonably killing one’s dog is just such a constitutionally prohibited seizure. In doing so, the appellate court highlighted the emotional attachment between companion animals and their people, which makes such a killing a particularly severe intrusion on Fourth Amendment interests. As a result, the court held that in order to be legitimate, such a killing must be justified by a similarly important government interest, such as officer safety. Further, the court determined that this right for people to be free from having their dogs unreasonably killed was clearly established prior to the Browns’ two dogs being slain.
Operating from that position, the court looked at the actions taken by the Battle Creek Police Department officers during the search, asking whether “given all of the circumstances and viewed from the perspective of a reasonable officer at the scene, [the dogs] posed [an] imminent threat [to the officers]….” Unfortunately, in reviewing the statements of the officers involved (who were the only witnesses to the shootings), the court determined that a reasonable officer would have felt imminently threatened by the dogs. As a result, the court determined that the shootings in this case did not violate the constitutional right to not have one’s dog unreasonably killed by law enforcement officers. While the court’s opinion does not exhaustively list the factors giving rise to the officers’ feeling of imminent threat, it appears connected to the officers’ perception of the home potentially containing dangerous people, not just to the dogs themselves.
Although police officers have the need and the right to protect themselves in the line of duty, the degree to which the facts in this case were read as indicating the dogs posed a threat to the officers is troubling. In particular, the second dog shot was, according to the officers’ own testimony, avoiding them when they breached the front door by moving away from the officers and retreating to the basement. While the court points to the officers’ sense that the basement needed to be cleared in order to confirm there were no dangerous people hiding there, and suggests that the presence of the dog may have prevented that, the court does not explain how the third shot inflicted on that dog—at a point where the dog had retreated, wounded, to a corner of the basement—was responsive to a sense of imminent threat.
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. The court’s determination that the shooting had not resulted in any constitutional violation, however, proved fatal to this argument: the claim requires an actual constitutional violation to proceed. Nonetheless, the Court of Appeals quoted the district court’s observation that “there isn’t much of a policy, practice, not just in Battle Creek but throughout the country, on how” law enforcement officers should interact with dogs.
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. 29, 2016.
- Animal Legal Defense Fund. Dogs Shot by Cops: Companion Animals and Law Enforcement.
Help Us Fight Back – Critical Animal Welfare Reports Removed From USDA Website
Posted by on February 9, 2017
On Friday morning, animal protection in America took a significant step backward when news broke that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had removed critical animal welfare reports from its website. The Animal Legal Defense Fund immediately got to work on battling this devastating change which sacrifices the well-being of animals while shielding animal abusers from public scrutiny.
The removed USDA reports contained information on animals kept by research labs, zoos, puppy mills, circuses and animal transporters—and whether those facilities are violating the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Removing these reports keeps the illegal mistreatment of animals in the dark. Without the USDA’s enforcement records, countless animal protection organizations are severely hampered in their essential work to protect animals.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund intends to sue to compel the USDA to stop hiding this information. We won’t stand idly by while our federal government takes action to make animal law enforcement more difficult than it already is.
Your immediate support is crucial to our success.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund will not back down, but we are going to need you by our side for this. Your generous donation today means we can do whatever is necessary to ensure the USDA records remain publicly available and hold people accountable for unlawful treatment of animals. The tax-deductible donation you make today is critical.
Californians: Permanently End Cruel Pig Exhibition at the California State Fair
Posted by on February 9, 2017
UPDATE February 16, 2017: Last week we enlisted your help to urge the organizers of the California State Fair to stop using taxpayer dollars for an illegal exhibition of pregnant and nursing pigs. We deeply thank you for your effort. We gave them a chance to do the right thing, but because the organizers have not agreed to permanently end this cruelty, we are following up on our promise and suing them for their inhumane treatment of these mother pigs.
THIS ACTION IS NOW CLOSED.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund needs California residents’ help to end the cruel exhibition of pregnant and nursing pigs in farrowing crates at the California State Fair. The California State Fair usually features the cruel exhibition of pigs confined in farrowing crates that are so small that the pigs cannot even turn around or walk. They are forced to give birth and nurse in public, despite their instincts to stay isolated during this time. The pigs are never let out for exercise. These farrowing crates cause needless suffering by completely depriving the exhibited pigs of the ability to engage in any exercise.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund has sent a letter to the organizers requesting this cruel exhibit be cancelled for good. We are giving them a chance to do the right thing, but if they don’t comply we are prepared to sue them for their inhumane treatment of the pigs.
We ask Californians to please contact the Board of Regents of the University of California and California Exposition and State Fair (Cal Expo) to let them know that taxpayer-funded animal cruelty will not be tolerated.
Even though the exhibit has been cancelled in recent years because of health concerns, we need to make sure it never happens again. Californians hold the power to end this shameful practice at the California State Fair. Please share this with your friends and family in California.