Blog Archives | Animal Legal Defense Fund
End the Cycle of Abuse – Speak out in Support of the Animal Welfare and Violence Intervention Act
Posted by on April 17, 2018
Animal abusers are five times more likely to harm humans. The Animal Legal Defense Fund is working with California State Senator Scott Wilk to address the link between animal cruelty and violence against humans by passing SB 1024, the Animal Welfare and Violence Intervention Act of 2018.
Animal abuse is among the most misunderstood and undercharged crimes in our society. Currently, there are limited sentencing options, and judges have little power to ensure animal abusers receive appropriate treatment or education. In California, fines, limited jail time, probation, and forced animal surrender are about the only options. None of these options adequately address the underlying causes of animal cruelty.
We need Californians’ help to ensure this bill becomes law. The bill would require all convicted animal abusers to complete an approved animal offender education course and require offenders convicted under more serious animal abuse statues – like those involving malicious violence – to undergo a mandatory mental health evaluation and possibly ongoing counseling for up to one year.
Please take a few minutes to call the legislators in the Senate Public Safety Committee today and politely ask them to support SB 1024. Find their phone numbers at the bottom of the page. If you’d like, you can use the sample script below:
“Hi, I live in _____ (name of Senator’s) district (if you don’t live in their district, simply say ‘I am a California resident’). I am calling to ask him/her to support SB 1024, the Animal Welfare and Violence Intervention Act of 2018. Abusers of animals are five times more likely to harm humans. Legislation addressing the link between animal abuse and violence against humans is essential to protecting Californians.”
Thank you for protecting California’s animals!
- Senator Nancy Skinner (East Bay) – (916) 651-4009
- Senator Scott Wiener (San Francisco) – (916) 651-4011
- Senator Steven Bradford (Los Angeles) – (916) 651-4035
- Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (Santa Barbara/Ventura) – (916) 651-4019
- Senator Holly Mitchell (Culver City) – (916) 651-4030
- Senator Jeff Stone (Riverside) – (916) 651-4028
- Senator Joel Anderson (San Diego) – (916) 651-4038
San Francisco Becomes First Major U.S. City to Ban Fur
Posted by Nicole Pallotta, Academic Outreach Manager on April 17, 2018
“I hope that it inspires other cities and the country to take action. Certainly we need better federal regulations on fur farming. There’s no humane way to raise an animal to peel its skin off.”
– San Francisco Supervisor Katy Tang, in the Los Angeles Times
San Francisco has become the third and largest city in the nation to prohibit the sale and manufacture of products containing animal fur. The groundbreaking ordinance was unanimously approved by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on March 20, 2018.
San Francisco Supervisor Katy Tang, who was inspired to spearhead the ban after two other California cities passed similar legislation, said in a press release:
Fur factory farms are violent places for animals where they are gassed, electrocuted, poisoned and injured for the sole purpose of creating clothing and accessories. It is unconscionable that San Francisco would continue to allow these types of products to be sold, and we must set the example for other cities across the country and the globe to join us in banning fur apparel.
West Hollywood, known for its animal-friendly legislation, was the first city to pass a fur ban in 2011, which went into effect in 2013. The Animal Legal Defense Fund provided model language for that law. Berkeley passed a similar law last year, with councilmembers citing concerns about the welfare of animals and fostering a humane environment. Likewise, San Francisco’s ordinance unequivocally states that concern for the animals who suffer and die in the fur trade while cruelty-free alternatives are readily available was the reason for the ban:
The sale of fur products in San Francisco is inconsistent with the City’s ethos of treating all living beings, humans and animals alike, with kindness. In light of the wide array of faux fur and other alternatives for fashion and apparel, the demand for fur products does not justify the unnecessary killing and cruel treatment of animals. Eliminating the sale of fur products in San Francisco will promote community awareness of animal welfare, bolster the City’s stance against animal cruelty, and, in turn, foster a more humane environment in San Francisco.
In addition to being the first major U.S. city to ban fur, San Francisco is also regarded as a fashion hub and has far more stores that sell fur apparel than Berkeley or West Hollywood, making the legislation even more groundbreaking.
In arguing for the ban, San Francisco supervisors spoke out strongly on behalf of the millions of individual animals who are killed for their pelts each year. As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle:
“It is estimated that around the world some 50 million animals are slaughtered in gruesome ways so that we can wear their fur and look fashionable,” said Supervisor Katy Tang, the ban’s author. “My hope is that it will send a strong message to the rest of the world.” Tang usually votes on the pro-business side of issues, but not this time. “I am a huge animal rights advocate, and while in office I would like to use my legislative abilities to help those who can’t speak for themselves,” Tang said. “It’s unethical and immoral to raise animals for their skins,” said fellow Supervisor Jeff Sheehy.
The new law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2019, with current retailers having until 2020 to sell their existing inventory. The ban exempts taxidermy and used fur products sold by secondhand stores, nonprofit organizations, and other outlets not normally in the business of selling fur.
West Hollywood’s fur apparel ban – the nation’s first – survived a federal challenge mounted in 2013 by Los Angeles-based retailer Mayfair House, which alleged the law was unconstitutional and that the city overstepped its authority in banning fur apparel sales and that such trade should be regulated by the state. The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed an amicus brief in this case, asking the court to uphold the city’s constitutional authority to protect animals within city limits, and supporting the city’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. In July 2014, a federal court agreed and dismissed the fur retailer’s action.
In 2015, after another challenge by the same retailer, West Hollywood’s fur ban was redrafted to allow the sale of fur obtained by lawful trapping. The trapping exemption was added so that the municipal fur ban would not clash with California’s Fish and Game code, which allows for the display and sale of fur lawfully taken by people with a state trapping license. San Francisco’s ordinance includes a similar exemption for trapping.
San Francisco provides an interesting case study in historical change. The first major city to outlaw the sale of animal fur was also once the center of the fur trade in the western United States. According to the Washington Post:
The coastal city named for Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, was vital to the fur trade beginning in the late 1700s…In the centuries since then, furs have lived several lives, going from kitschy to fashionable to, in some eyes, evil…Now, they’ve begun falling out of fashion, quite literally. Many of the world’s most elite fashion house – places where fur was basically a requirement when designing new garments – have disavowed the animal-based material.
In sync with the many major fashion houses that have decided to part with animal fur, San Francisco’s ordinance cites changing times and evolving technologies that have rendered the need for animal fur obsolete, as well as the lack of legal oversight of the fur industry, as reasons why the legislation was necessary:
Historically, animals were hunted or trapped for food, and their pelts were used to provide protective clothing. Over time, civilizations and technology have developed such that fur is less of a necessity and more of a luxury…Further, more animals are now killed to make decorative fur trim than to manufacture full fur garments…Existing laws require relatively little oversight of the fur farming and fur trade industries. Compliance with guidelines issued by the American Veterinary Medical Association is not mandatory, and fur farms are not monitored by any government agency.
Animal advocates have been working to extinguish the cruel fur industry for decades. Fur farming has been banned or is being phased out in many European countries including Germany, Austria, Croatia, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, and Norway. Others, like Switzerland, have passed such strict welfare regulations that fur farming had been effectively eliminated without an outright ban. However some countries, like China – the world’s second biggest producer of farmed fur– have very few regulations.
While it remains to be seen if San Francisco’s ban will “set off a wave of similar bans across the nation,” it does demonstrate how as a society we are increasingly reevaluating and refining our values and laws regarding what is acceptable treatment of animals. Following the city council vote, Supervisor Tang succinctly embodied this changing ethos in a tweet:
“Speaking on behalf of those with no voice, my colleagues just voted 10-0 to support my ban on the sale of new fur apparel & accessories beginning 1/1/19. No more profiting off the literal backs of animals.”
- Text of Ordinance amending the Health Code to ban the sale and manufacture in San Francisco of animal fur products. March 20, 2018.
- San Francisco Supervisor Katy Tang. “BOARD OF SUPERVISORS TO VOTE ON LEGISLATION BANNING FUR APPAREL SALES” [Press Release]. January 24, 2018.
- Matier & Ross. “SF on verge of banning sales of new fur clothes.” San Francisco Chronicle. March 18, 2018.
- Andrews, Travis. “San Francisco, a city central to early U.S. fur trade, just banned fur sales.” The Washington Post. March 21, 2018.
- Ege, Mike. Supervisor’s Fur Ban Pits High Fashion Against Modern Animal Ethics. The Bay City Beacon. January 30, 2018.
- Molidor, Jennifer. ALDF Supports a Fur Free West Hollywood. Animal Legal Defense Fund. March 6, 2015.
Protecting Puerto Rico’s Captive Animals
Posted by on April 9, 2018
Puerto Rico’s only official zoo, Dr. Juan A. Rivero National Zoological Park, gained international attention last year for its abysmal conditions. More than 100 animals live at the zoo, including endangered animals such as Mundi, a female African elephant, lions, ring-tailed lemurs, tigers, and North American black bears. Outraged by the treatment of the animals, people around the world, including the governor of Puerto Rico, have called for the zoo’s closure. The Animal Legal Defense Fund stepped in – filing a public records request and urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) not to renew the zoo’s license due to its many Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations.
A Zoo in Crisis
USDA inspection reports reveal a zoo on the verge of catastrophe. Animals are dying due to untrained staff, poor sanitation, and enclosures that fail to meet even the most basic needs of the animals. The zoo is severely understaffed, and the few employees are not properly trained to care for the zoo’s diverse animal population. In June 2017, five lion cubs died due to employee error. Four cubs were crushed to death after an employee failed to follow protocol and separate the cubs from their mother. A fifth cub asphyxiated due to improper feeding.
Medical problems plague many of the animals. A tiger suffering from multiple ailments died last year after the zoo failed to provide adequate veterinary care for over two years. Many of the animals’ enclosures are deficient, particularly in the extreme temperatures of Puerto Rico. For example, only one of the bear enclosures has access to a pool of water, leaving the other bear unable to cool himself off. In the summer, temperatures regularly soar into the 90’s and above, and the animals need to be able to escape the heat.
Puerto Rico’s economic troubles and the September 2017 hurricane exacerbated the zoo’s problems. Lawmakers held hearings about the state of the zoo last year, and experts testified the zoo needed increased staffing and improvements to infrastructure. But budget cuts across the board have resulted in reduced government services to Puerto Rico’s human residents, making funding the zoo an even lower priority.
As the USDA Records Blackout Continues, Animals Suffer
In February 2017, the USDA removed two online databases containing thousands of records about facilities regulated by the AWA previously available on the USDA website. Animal advocates and organizations relied on the online databases to monitor conditions at thousands of roadside zoos, puppy mills, and research labs across the country. The records served as the basis to build legal cases against the worst violators, challenge the USDA for its failure to enforce the AWA, and advocate for stronger animal protection policies.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit against the USDA over the blackout, but as the case winds through the court system, animals like those at the Mayaguez zoo suffer. Case in point – with records no longer available online, in July 2017, the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed an expedited Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records related to the zoo. The USDA denied the request to expedite, ignored several requests for status updates, and finally, seven months later, responded with a single document –which happened to already be publicly available. The Animal Legal Defense Fund appealed the response.
Endangered Animals have Special Protections
The zoo’s many endangered animals are of special concern. The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s landmark legal victories against Cricket Hollow Zoo in Iowa created an important precedent under the Endangered Species Act. As a result, zoos and any other person who chooses to keep an endangered animal must be prepared to provide for these animals’ unique biological and psychological needs. It’s clear that the Mayaguez zoo is not equipped to provide the level of care mandated by the Endangered Species Act.
In February 2018, the zoo’s license was listed as “canceled” on the USDA website. Due to the information blackout, it’s unknown what factors contributed to the USDA’s decision or the status of the many animals in the zoo’s possession. The Animal Legal Defense Fund submitted a new FOIA request regarding the cancellation in March.
Multiple sanctuaries have offered to rehome some of the zoo’s animals, but political gridlock leaves their fate uncertain. These sanctuaries’ offers would help alleviate some of the financial pressure currently on Puerto Rico and allow the country to focus on rebuilding its infrastructure after the devastating hurricane in 2017. The Animal Legal Defense Fund is deeply concerned about the wellbeing of these animals and will continue to push for answers.
Stopping Cruel High-Speed Pig Slaughter
Posted by on April 5, 2018
This week the Animal Legal Defense Fund submitted comments to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) opposing the agency’s plan to speed up pig slaughtering — an already alarmingly fast process, at an average of 16 pigs per minute —and turn over critical food safety inspection duties from agency inspectors to self-interested and industry trained slaughter plant workers. USDA’s proposed “Modernization of Swine Slaughter Inspection” rule would expand a failed and unlawful pilot program, the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point-based Inspection Models Project (HIMP), to pig slaughterhouses nationwide, creating the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System. While the largest meat companies stand to profit from this privatized, speeded-up pig slaughter, animals, consumers, and slaughterhouse workers will pay a steep price.
Abusive, painful slaughter of pigs
Despite a broad outcry — from the agency’s own Office of Inspector General and its front-line inspectors in HIMP slaughter plants, to a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers, and the general public — USDA appears poised to remake pig slaughter in the image of Hormel Foods. As the example of HIMP plant Quality Pork Processors, Inc. (QPP) makes clear, this would mean abuse, terror, and painful slaughter for many thousands of pigs across the country. QPP supplies meat exclusively for Hormel Foods, and slaughters a whopping 1,295 pigs per hour, or one pig every three seconds. A 2015 undercover investigation of QPP revealed plant employees, under pressure to keep up with the facility’s high slaughtering speeds, illegally dragging, kicking, beating, and excessively shocking pigs with electric prods. Disabled “downer” hogs who were too sick or injured to move were abused as slaughterhouse workers tried to force them to the kill floor. The QPP investigation also documented numerous instances of improper stunning of pigs — another serious violation of federal law. A QPP supervisor who was supposed to be overseeing the required stunning of pigs was filmed literally sleeping on the job. Does this facility sound like a model for the nation?
Playing Russian roulette with food safety
As if this weren’t bad enough, implementing the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System nationwide also carries dire consequences for food safety. In the words of one HIMP plant inspector, “[f]ood safety has gone down the drain under HIMP.” Poorly-trained plant employees have been enlisted as on-line sorters, replacing FSIS inspectors with expertise in pathology and decades of experience in inspection — while slaughter speed increases dramatically. Reprimanded and threatened with termination for performing inspection duties too rigorously, company sorters have every incentive to ignore violations. As large pig carcasses speed by, employees miss or ignore dangerous and unsanitary contaminants, defects, and diseases — fecal matter, bile, grease, hair, toenails, cystic kidneys, bladder stems, abscesses, lesions, diamond skin, and more — allowing sullied pigs to proceed down the slaughter line to be processed into food. FSIS inspectors similarly face pressure not to stop the slaughter line to remove carcasses with contaminants, experiencing threats and retaliation both from the company and their own agency superiors.
This toxic formula has wrought dismal results. As the USDA’s own watchdog sub-agency reported, of the top 10 pig slaughter plants nationally racking up the most food safety citations in a three-year period, three were HIMP plants, and by far the most-cited plant in the country during that period — with nearly 50% more citations than the slaughterhouse with the next highest number — was a HIMP plant. FSIS’s own HIMP plant inspectors were so alarmed by the pilot program — and by their leadership’s repeated failure to heed warnings — that they became whistleblowers. Citing abysmal results for food safety, slaughter plant workers, and the welfare of animals, a bipartisan coalition of members of Congress further warned FSIS not to proceed with HIMP, while over a quarter million people signed a petition opposing the plan. FSIS should heed this chorus of well-placed criticism, and discard the new pig slaughter program as a failed and unlawful experiment.
Hormel under fire
While the QPP investigation revealed Hormel’s pig slaughter failings, the Animal Legal Defense Fund also gained a shocking first-hand view into Hormel’s mistreatment of pigs in its care when we obtained undercover footage from a pig breeding facility operated by The Maschhoffs, LLC, which sources pigs to Hormel. The investigator documented pigs suffering for weeks with prolapsed rectums, gaping open wounds, and bloody cysts among other illnesses. Pigs deprived of food for long periods of time became agitated and injured themselves. We called on Hormel to clean up its supply chain and protect pigs from these heinous abuses.
And in 2016, the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit against Hormel Foods, alleging the company is misleading consumers by advertising its Natural Choice®-brand deli meat and bacon products as “natural,” “clean,” “honest,” and “wholesome,” when in reality they are sourced from industrial, pharmaceutical-using factory farms and inhumane, unsanitary slaughter facilities like QPP. Through its “Make the Natural Choice” advertising campaign, Hormel paints a picture of sustainably-sourced, ethically-raised products that we allege bears little resemblance to its true practices, and dupes consumers into believing they are buying something they’re not. Learn more about the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s lawsuit against Hormel.
The USDA is accepting public comments on the proposed pig slaughter plan until May 2, 2018. Make your voice heard and tell them to ditch this dangerous and inhumane proposal.
Cities Are Fighting Back Against Puppy Mills – But Some States Won’t Let Them
Posted by on April 2, 2018
Across the country, cities and counties are taking a stand against the cruel puppy mill industry by adopting retail pet sale bans. Puppy mills are breeding facilities in which the maximization of profit is prioritized over the well-being of the dogs. These laws make it illegal for pet stores to sell dogs and cats (and sometimes additional animals) sourced from large-scale commercial breeders, and instead require them to offer animals available for adoption from rescues and animals shelters. In 2017, California made history when it enacted AB 485, the first state law to prohibit pet stores from selling commercially-bred animals. While California is the first state to enact a retail pet sale ban, hundreds of cities and counties, including Cook County (Chicago) and New York City, have adopted similar ordinances.
In response, pet store lobbyists are pressuring state legislatures to pass preemption laws blocking cities’ and counties’ right to adopt retail pet sale bans. Passing preemption laws at the state level is a common tactic employed by lobbyists to impede local laws. When a local law conflicts with a state law, the state law preempts (or takes precedence over) the local law. Pet store lobbyists claim these laws are necessary to ensure there are uniform laws across a state. In reality, puppy mill preemption laws simply rob cities and counties of the ability to pass laws their residents want.
States with Preemption Laws – Arizona and Ohio
Despite vigorous opposition from animal advocates, both Arizona and Ohio passed laws undercutting the power of cities and counties to prohibit the retail sale of puppies. Ohio Governor John Kasich signed Senate Bill 331, dubbed the “Petland Bill,” into law on December 19, 2016. As the name suggests, Petland was the driving force behind SB 331. At the time of its passage, several Ohio communities, Toledo and Grove City, had adopted laws that required pet stores to offer only puppies from animal shelters or rescue organizations. Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper lamented the decision, stating, “This bill was a last-minute sneak attack on Ohio voters, citizens, and communities that are taking action to improve their economic fortunes, protect their quality of life, and crack down on horrific abuses against animals.”
And in Arizona, Governor Doug Ducey signed a similar preemption bill in May 2016. Defending his decision, Governor Ducey wrote that the law “ensures puppies being sold in pet shops are coming from responsible breeders” in a public letter. Despite Governor Ducey’s claims, the Arizona law did little to protect consumers or puppies from unscrupulous pet stores. Less than a year later, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) information blackout further weakened the already weak law.
Preemption Laws and the USDA Information Blackout
Both the Arizona and Ohio preemption laws suggest that breeders licensed by the USDA are somehow distinct from puppy mills. But the reality is that many puppy mills are USDA licensed. At the federal level, breeders are regulated by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), a law that outlines basic care requirements for the millions of animals living in roadside zoos, puppy mills, and research labs across the country. But the standards for a breeder to be a “USDA-licensed” facility are minimal and many breeders with USDA licenses still have hundreds of dogs on a relatively small property, living in wire cages with little human interaction. Moreover, the USDA has an abysmal track record when it comes to ensuring facilities meet even the most basic AWA requirements.
And even when AWA violations are found, they rarely result in license revocation. Instead, the USDA issues warnings or negligible fines, or takes no action at all. That could change in the future. Thanks to a lawsuit filed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia recently ruled that the USDA can no longer rubberstamp license renewals for facilities it knows are violating the AWA. But presently, thousands of puppy mills remain licensed.
Worsening the situation, in February 2017, the USDA removed public access to thousands of animal welfare records related to the AWA. The removal of these databases added an additional wrinkle to preemption laws. The Ohio law is predicated on the ability of consumers and local authorities to confirm whether pet stores are sourcing their puppies from breeders without USDA violations. Specifically, the law forces cities to allow pet stores to sell puppies from “qualified breeders.” The statutory definition of “qualified breeder” excludes, in part, breeders with certain kinds of violations from the USDA within the last three years.
But when the USDA removed the databases, animal advocates, local governments, and consumers lost this ability. Today the Ohio law is virtually unenforceable, enabling pet stores to sell puppies from breeders regardless of their track record without fear of repercussion. The Arizona law was similarly undermined by the removal of the databases. In a concession to animal advocates, the Arizona preemption bill included a disclosure requirement – stores must label each animal’s cage with information about the breeder, including the USDA license number. Upon the removal of the online databases, these requirements became largely useless.
Preemption Bills Defeated in the 2018 Florida and Georgia Legislative Sessions
This year, efforts to pass preemption bills in the Florida and Georgia legislatures failed. Similar efforts in Tennessee and Illinois also failed in 2017. Near the end of the 2018 Florida legislative session, pet store lobbyists snuck language into a tax bill, HB 7087, that would have voided retail pet sale bans in 58 Florida cities and counties and prohibited future ordinances.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund worked with professionals in Tallahassee and rallied Florida residents to defeat the bill. It was ultimately amended to remove the preemption language prior to becoming final. Then just days before the session ended, Representative Halsey Beshears, R-Monticello, introduced a similar amendment to an agricultural bill. Facing opposition once again from the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Florida Association of Counties, Representative Beshears withdrew the amendment later that same day.
Legislators in Georgia went a step further and introduced bills, SB 418 and HB 948, that would have prohibited cities and countries from regulating the sale of any goods also regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, the USDA, and the Food and Drug of Administration. The bill provoked significant outcry from advocates and while the Senate bill received a floor vote, both bills ultimately died.
Retail pet sale bans are a powerful way for people to fight puppy mills in their own communities. Preemption laws wrongly infringe on local governments’ ability to protect their residents and animals. Instead of passing preemption laws, states should ban the sale of commercially-bred animals statewide. In 2018 alone, at least six state legislatures (Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, and Pennsylvania) are considering such legislation. It is almost assured more states will follow suit in the future.
Animal Cruelty Prevention Bill Introduced in California
Posted by on March 30, 2018
On March 26, 2018, California State Senator Scott Wilk, R-Antelope Valley, introduced SB1024, the Animal Welfare and Violence Intervention Act of 2018, to address the link between animal abuse and violence towards humans and to stop the escalation of dangerous behavior among offenders who hurt animals. The Animal Legal Defense Fund worked closely with Sen. Wilk on the bill concept and drafting to sponsor it with him in the legislature. It has broad support among legislative, animal protection, and law enforcement leaders and will receive a hearing in the Senate Committee for Public Safety in the coming weeks. The Animal Legal Defense Fund will be spearheading the bill’s progress through the legislature.
Bill Introduces Mental Health Counseling and Animal Education to Sentencing
The bill requires all convicted animal cruelty offenders to complete an approved animal offender education course that will teach them proper techniques for interacting with animals in a positive way. The bill also amends California law to require offenders convicted under more serious animal abuse statues — like those involving malicious violence — to undergo a mandatory mental health evaluation and, if deemed beneficial by the assessing mental health professional, to seek ongoing counseling for up to one year.
As law enforcement, mental health, and animal protection communities have known for a long time, current animal cruelty penalties are neither restorative nor rehabilitative and do not sufficiently address the root causes of these crimes nor do they adequately reduce recidivism among animal abuse offenders or escalation of violent behavior among those offenders. This bill seeks to address this problem at its root and prevent further animals or people from becoming victims of the perpetrators in the future.
Link Between Violence Towards Animals and Violence Towards People Evident
Animal abuse is among the most misunderstood and undercharged crimes by our criminal justice laws and our society more broadly. Currently, sentencing options are limited and judges are afforded little discretion in appropriate treatment or education of offenders. In California, fines, limited jail time, probation, and forced animal surrender are about the only options. None of these are particularly well suited to addressing the well-documented, underlying causes behind animal cruelty that strongly correlate to subsequent, escalated forms of violence.
The link between animal abuse and violence towards humans is well documented. Offenders who display violence towards animals often subsequently commit violent acts towards humans whether it be domestic violence, child abuse, or, as we saw tragically in Parkland, Florida in 2018, mass shootings. In some cases, 60% of domestic violence offenders also abused animals at some point and 70% of the most violent prisoners in a study of federal prisons, had serious animal abuse in their histories.
As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. While we may not be able to prevent the crimes that bring these offenders to the table, once they’re there, we can certainly endeavor to put the guard rails in place to address their behavior and try to prevent it from happening again. Stay tuned for continued updates about this important legislation as it gains traction and even more support in the California legislature. We commend Senator Wilk for sponsoring this important legislation which could serve as a model nationwide.
The Individual Within the Whole: Considering the Wellbeing of Individual Animals in Environmental Reviews
Posted by on March 28, 2018
The recent death of Sudan, the last male northern white rhino, made headlines around the world. While his death was not unexpected – at 45-years-old, he was elderly – it was a tragedy for multiple reasons. The future of the northern white rhino is dim. But his death, and the fanfare around it, underscores how deeply many of us value individual animals in addition to species as a whole. We are saddened by the inevitable extinction of the northern white rhino, but we also grieve for Sudan. Sudan had a name – he was not just a number.
Considering a policy or law’s impact on the overall population of an animal species is required by multiple federal and state environmental laws. Will the construction of a border wall result in the extinction of the Mexican gray wolf? Will permitting the use of certain pesticides adversely affect wild orca population numbers?
These questions view the species as a set, often ignoring the impact on individual members. The Animal Legal Defense Fund cares not only about robust population numbers, but also about the individual orcas and Mexican gray wolf families that are adversely impacted by our country’s policies. But do environmental reviews have to consider the well-being of individual animals rather than considering only how an action impacts a species’ overall population numbers? The Animal Legal Defense Fund argues that they do.
Challenging the California Fish and Game Commission
In 2016, the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Public Interest Coalition, a grassroots organization in California, after the California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to amend state regulations to allow hunters to use GPS dog collars while hunting mammals and “treeing switches” (radio telemetry that alerts a hunter when an animal might be treed). A hunted animal is “treed” when hunting dogs chase them up a tree, and wait at the bottom barking, holding the animal hostage with fear. Treeing is used for animals including cougars and black bears. The Animal Legal Defense Fund argued the Commission violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by failing to consider the detrimental impact the decision will have on wildlife.
Back in Court
In response to the lawsuit, the Commission revisited the amendment. But at the end of 2017, it voted again to allow GPS collars and treeing switches. And once again, the Commission failed to conduct a proper environmental analysis. CEQA is a powerful law that mandates all public agencies evaluate projects and regulations that could significantly impact the environment. But the Commission did not consider the impact of the changes on the welfare of individual wild animals. The Animal Legal Defense Fund is suing the Commission once again, this time as a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
New Technology, New Threats to Wildlife
The new regulations make it easier to hunt and incentivize hunters to use dogs more often. Instead of staying in close physical proximity to hunting dogs, a hunter can simply track the dog on an electronic screen. A dog could roam for miles in search of a wild animal, out of the sight and control of the hunter. An increased number of unsupervised dogs roaming wildlife habitat equals more harm to wild animals. Unsupervised dogs are more likely to trap, injure, or even kill animals that may not be legally hunted like an endangered animal or adolescent animals. Further, the dogs themselves are vulnerable to attack by wild animals.
But even if a dog does not pursue an animal, the presence of dogs themselves disturbs a wild animal’s daily routine. State regulation defines harassment as an activity “that disrupts an animal’s normal behavior patterns.” The government already acknowledges that the presence of dogs disrupts or “harasses” wildlife – companion dogs are either prohibited or required to be on leashes across many public lands in the state.
This same reasoning behind restricting companion dogs should have been applied before the Commission allowed GPS collars and treeing switches. The hunting industry is taking advantage of these technological advancements to the detriment of wild animals. The Commission is legally obligated to consider the impact of new hunting technology on the wellbeing of individual animals. We may not know their names, but each animal and her wellbeing is important – and not merely as a representative of her species.
Speak Out In Support of the Greyhound Protection Amendment
Posted by on March 28, 2018
Greyhounds used for racing spend most of their lives in cramped crates, without a family to love them. Racing dogs routinely suffer broken backs and legs, and dogs that don’t run fast enough are callously discarded. Nearly 500 dogs have died at Florida tracks since 2013.
The Florida Constitutional Revision Commission is considering the Greyhound Protection Amendment, a constitutional amendment that would end the inhumane practice of greyhound racing in Florida. The Commission is meeting now to decide which proposals to the state constitution to place on the November ballot. Please take a few minutes to politely ask Commissioners to place Proposal 67 on the ballot – and give Floridians the chance to cast a vote against greyhound racing.
Florida is only one of a handful of states that continue to support greyhound racing. Twelve of the 18 remaining racing tracks in the United States are in Florida. It’s time to shut this cruel industry down.
We can make history for greyhounds this November. Join us.
Tell Missouri Legislators to Support Humane and Healthy Plant-Based Producers
Posted by on March 28, 2018
We need your help to defeat a series of dangerous bills in the Missouri legislature. Senate Bill 627, House Bill 2607, and House Committee Bill 16 are all designed to suppress the growing plant-based products industry by prohibiting these producers from using the term “meat” in their advertising.
Times are changing – as consumers become aware of the cruelty in the factory farm industry, they’re incorporating humane alternatives like veggie burgers into their diets in lieu of traditional meats. These products account for more than three billion dollars in annual sales. But instead of responding to shifting consumer demands, the traditional meat industry wants to use the government to unfairly suppress competition. Unfortunately, some Missouri lawmakers agreed and are pushing legislation to give the factory farm industry preferential treatment over others.
These bills aim to discourage people from choosing plant-based alternatives and protect the profits of cruel factory farms. Thank you for speaking out and telling Missouri legislators not to stifle competition from plant-based alternatives.
Animal Law—New Perspectives on Teaching Traditional Law
Posted by on March 21, 2018
The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s very own Joyce Tischler and Pamela Hart recently teamed up with Kathy Hessler and Sonia Waisman to co-author Animal Law—New Perspectives on Teaching Traditional Law, a new legal casebook published by Carolina Academic Press. The Animal Legal Defense Fund is the leader in mainstreaming the teaching of animal law in American law schools. This pioneering casebook is a first-of-its-kind turnkey approach to incorporating animal law into existing “traditional” law courses at American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law schools.
This resource is important because law professors often look for new tools to help explain complex legal concepts and inspire their students to better engage in the study of law. While traditional areas of the law experience change over time, a newly created legal area may provide a condensed version of the process by which social debate and legal development interact. The emerging field of animal law has fascinating insights to offer traditional law courses.
Due to the ubiquitous presence and use of animals in our society, animal law overlaps with contracts, criminal law, torts, property, constitutional law, commercial law, wills and trusts, domestic relations, environmental law, evidence, patent, and even tax law – all relating to the use or protection of animals. For example, someone who abuses a mouse can be charged with cruelty, but anyone can hire a pest control company to kill and remove wild mice from their attic, with no fear of criminal prosecution. The mice in both situations suffer, but the law views and treats them very differently. Using animal law cases enables the professor to provide students with a new lens through which to explore how the law works, and enables us to reach a much larger audience of future lawyers, judges, and other legal professionals.
Furthermore, investigating animal law cases within traditional areas of law fosters an understanding of how the law develops in response to new information and evolving social norms. Should dogs or cats be used in medical research? What sorts of protections should animals raised for food be given? Should elephants be kept in captivity? Animal law cases encourage critical thinking and questioning of the function of certain legal constructs, sharpen our legal analysis, test the law’s ability to respond to changing realities, and allow us to clearly see bridges between legal fields and other non-legal disciplines.
For additional information on Animal Law—New Perspectives on Teaching Traditional Law, please click here.
Illinois Becomes Second State to Require Courts to Consider Wellbeing of Companion Animals in Custody Disputes
Posted by Nicole Pallotta, Academic Outreach Manager on March 20, 2018
Illinois has become the second state to enact legislation requiring a court to take into consideration the “wellbeing” of a companion animal in determining custody in divorce and dissolution proceedings involving pets. Public Act 100-0422, effective Jan. 1, 2018, amends the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act to empower courts to create joint responsibility agreements (similar to shared custody) in cases where a couple is fighting over custody of an animal. The new statutory language states:
“If the court finds that a companion animal of the parties is a marital asset, it shall allocate the sole or joint ownership of and responsibility for a companion animal of the parties. In issuing an order under this subsection, the court shall take into consideration the well-being of the companion animal.” [emphasis added]
Alaska amended its divorce law in a similar manner last year.
Although a majority of people consider animals to be members of the family, the law classifies animals as property in all 50 states. For this reason, courts are not generally required to consider an animal’s well-being or treat the animal differently from other material assets, such as furniture or appliances, which must be fairly divided in a divorce. In fact, the word “custody” is a misnomer in these cases; in legal terms they are about “property distribution.”
However, with Illinois and Alaska having taken the important step of codifying a “wellbeing” standard for companion animals during custody disputes, the law is starting to catch up to changing societal norms. Even in states where they are not required to do so, judges have discretion to consider an animal’s well-being, and a growing number of courts have acknowledged that people have a special relationship with animals that sets them apart from other types of property.
The emerging “best interests” standard, in contrast to a strict property analysis, regards companion animals more like children or other dependents than unfeeling objects. While animals are not children, treating them like dependents is a better fit for their status in society than treating them as inanimate possessions.
For the last two decades, the Animal Legal Defense Fund has filed amicus (or “friend of the court”) briefs in custody cases asking courts to consider the “best interests” arguments that are beginning to be codified in the law. In those briefs, we did not favor either party in the dispute but argued that courts have the authority to treat animals more like dependents than property, and should do so:
“Courts routinely make custody decisions for children and other dependents after weighing evidence about which home will provide the best life for them. The determination is made by identifying and then evaluating the relevant factors in an effort to promote the individual’s physical and mental well-being to the greatest extent possible. Virtually identical concerns and principles are present in custody cases involving companion animals. Courts and legislatures recognize that companion animals merit special attention and care under the law. Prevailing legal authority gives this Court the power to consider [the animal’s] interests in this dispute, just as it would in a more traditional custody case.”
Attorneys working on a custody case involving an animal can request an amicus brief from the Animal Legal Defense Fund on our website.
Illinois has gained a reputation as a national leader for its relatively strong animal protection laws. It was recently named no. 1 for the 10th year in a row in the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s U.S. Animal Protection Laws 2017 Rankings, an annual report that evaluates which states have the best and worst animal cruelty laws. Illinois State Senator Linda Holmes, who sponsored PA 100-0422, also sponsored the “Beagle Freedom Bill” last year, which requires the state’s public research institutions to have an adoption policy in place for dogs and cats used in testing, rather than putting them to death immediately when the research concludes. The bill was signed into law in August 2017.
In recent years, custody battles over animals have increased, reflecting the important role that animals play in people’s lives and families. By amending their divorce statutes, Illinois and Alaska set an example for the rest of the nation in acknowledging what seems like common sense but has not been consistently recognized in our legal system: that animals are thinking, feeling beings and therefore distinct from other forms of personal property.
- Text of Public Act 100-0422. Illinois General Assembly.
- Vivanco-Prengaman, Leonor. “New state law treats pets more like children in custody cases.” Chicago Tribune. December 25, 2017.
- Wyatt, Erika N. “Pet Custody Comes to Illinois.” Family Law Topics Blog (Schiller DuCanto & Fleck LLP). September 6, 2017.
- Animal Legal Defense Fund: Requesting an ALDF Amicus Curiae Brief.
Protect Wisconsin’s Animals from Sexual Abusers
Posted by on March 19, 2018
WISCONSIN RESIDENTS ONLY: A critical bill in the Wisconsin legislature that would strengthen penalties for people who sexually abuse animals is in trouble. The proposed law would make it a felony to sexually abuse an animal in Wisconsin. Currently, these crimes are only misdemeanors, except in a few specific situations.
Unfortunately, this important bill was not placed on the final Senate calendar for this Tuesday. Without this critical step, the bill will die. However, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has the ability to add bills to the calendar at the last minute.
Please call Senator Scott Fitzgerald at (608) 266-5660 today and politely ask him to add the bills to the calendar. Here’s a sample message to share with Senator Fitzgerald: “I am a Wisconsin resident. Please include SB 802/ AB 666, the animal sexual abuse bill, on the March 20 agenda for a vote.”
Thank you for taking a few minutes to defend Wisconsin’s animals.
Update on the Animal Legal Defense Fund Farrowing Crate Lawsuit
Posted by on March 13, 2018
Four years ago, the Animal Legal Defense Fund sued the California State Exposition and Fairs (Cal Expo) and the University of California Board of Regents for mistreating pregnant and nursing pigs at the California State Fair. Historically the fair’s Livestock Nursery Exhibit featured mother pigs kept in tiny “farrowing crates” for three weeks every year. The courts dismissed the lawsuit on procedural grounds, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund refiled the lawsuit in 2017 which quickly settled. But the lawsuits had an effect. Since the filing of the lawsuit, the fair has not hosted the exhibit. In a March 1 letter sent to Animal Legal Defense Fund attorneys pursuant to the settlement, the CEO of the state fair stated that the upcoming 2018 fair would once again not include the cruel display.
Gestation Crates and Farrowing Crates = Cruel Confinement
While a growing number of people are familiar with the term “gestation crate,” farrowing crates are less well known. These crates are used for mother pigs who have recently given birth and are essentially the same as gestation crates with a small barred area attached to the side for piglets. Like gestation crates, pigs in farrowing crates are unable to walk, turn around, or even stand comfortably. Pigs in the late stages of pregnancy were purposefully transported to the fair so that they would give birth and then nurse the piglets afterward. While giving birth near strange people would be stressful for any animal, a pig’s instinct is to nurse in isolation – an impossibility when they’re trapped in crates only a few feet away from onlookers.
A Violation of State Cruelty Laws
This type of intensive confinement violates California animal cruelty statutes. The law requires that confined animals be provided with an adequate exercise area. But the pigs in the exhibit were never let out for exercise. Pigs are highly intelligent animals – able to solve puzzles and form deep emotional bonds. Trapped in crates with no mental stimulation, many pigs resort to gnawing on bars or waving their heads repeatedly, indications of severe psychological distress.
Intensive confinement is also losing favor with the public. In 2008, California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 2 which required egg-laying hens, gestating pigs, and calves raised for veal have enough room to stand up and fully extend their limbs. The Animal Legal Defense Fund is a proud member of Prevent Cruelty California – a coalition working to place a measure on the 2018 California ballot that would enact crucial upgrades to Proposition 2. The new measure would require that pregnant pigs be able to move freely. Further, it prohibits the sale of pork produced using gestation crates by December 2021.
In light of changing public perception and potential new laws prohibiting the intensive confinement of farmed animals, it’s unlikely the exhibit will be missed.
Meet the Animals You’re Protecting Through Our Stop the Hunt Campaign!
Posted by on March 9, 2018
Stop the Hunt aims to end canned hunting and trophy hunting in the United States and across the world. Our Canned Hunt Permit Tracker lists permit applications submitted by canned hunting operations (also called “hunting ranches”). These operations profit off the importation or breeding of exotic and endangered animals by charging people money to kill them for sport. Our Stop the Hunt page also fights back against trophy hunting by opposing import permits. Every year, Americans travel to foreign countries to kill endangered animals and then apply for a permit to import the “trophies” (the bodies of the dead animals) back into the United States. Like canned hunting operations in the U.S., this practice does nothing to benefit animals.
You’re probably familiar with some of the animals killed by sport hunters such as zebras or lions. But there are a few other species routinely exploited by the trophy hunting industry that are not as well known. These animals are just as deserving of our protection. Read on to learn more about barasingha, red lechwe, Eld’s deer, bontebok, and the Arabian oryx.
Barasingha deer are gentle animals also known as swamp deer. Compared to their American counterparts, the white-tailed deer, they are quite hefty with mala barasingha weighing up to 600 pounds. Barasingha are herbivores, eating primarily grass, leaves, and aquatic vegetation. They live in large social groups numbering from 8 to 20 individuals. The male barasingha is known for his stunning antlers. The name “barasingha” comes from a Hindu word meaning “twelve-tined,” referring to the male’s voluminous, crown-like antlers.
Native to India and Nepal, they are frequently farmed (bred to be killed) by canned hunting operations across the United States. Sadly, their distinctive antlers make them targets of sport hunters for whom killing a stag with many antler points is something to boast about. Barasingha are classified as endangered, fewer than 5000 animals exist in the wild today.
Red lechwe are a species of antelope that live in Southern Africa. They love to spend time in the water and are well adapted to marshy areas. Red lechwe can run very quickly in knee-deep water because their fur is coated in a greasy substance that acts as a natural water-repellent. Their splayed and elongated hooves are well-designed to move easily through wet or muddy earth. However, on firmer ground, they have difficulty moving quickly. Red lechwe live in huge, single sex herds, numbering thousands of members. Male red lechwe have beautiful, distinctive antlers that resemble long spirals. Though they are classified as a threatened species, red lechwe are bred to be killed by sport hunters who pay thousands of dollars for the opportunity to hunt them in the United States.
Eld’s deer, also known as brow-antlered deer, are an endangered species from Southeast Asia. In their native home, Eld’s deer are threatened by hunters (both for bushmeat and for use in traditional medicines) and habitat loss. Eld’s deer are agile, graceful animals with long, thin legs. They are known for their curving antlers that extend nearly 40 inches long. Eld’s Deer are herbivores, eating mainly grass, fruits, and plants though they also enjoy farmed crops like rice and peas, if available. Females tend to live in small groups with their fawns while males are solitary.
The bontebok is an endangered antelope primarily found in South Africa. The bontebok is easily identified by her deep chocolate coat with a white stripe extending down the front of her face. Unlike many other species, both male (rams) and female (ewes) bontebok have ring-shaped horns that grow up to 18 inches. Though they are antelopes, the bontebok is not very good at jumping. Surprisingly, they are skilled at crawling underneath objects instead. Once abundant, hunting drove the species close to extinction. Today, bontebok are extensively farmed by canned hunting operations. The vast majority of bontebok live on these private farms instead of the wild. In other words, most of the bontebok alive today are bred to die.
Though the Arabian Oryx is sometimes called the Arabian unicorn, they are actually a type of antelope found in Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Arabian Oryx live in desert regions and thrive in harsh habitats with little water and humidity. Their bodies are perfectly designed to survive hot, dry conditions. Their white fur reflects the sun, and their splayed hooves are well-adapted to walking on sand. Black spots around their eyes act as permanent “sunglasses.” In 1972, there were only six wild Arabian Oryx left due to rampant hunting. Though still endangered 45 years later, there are roughly 1000 Arabian Oryx in the wild thanks to conservation efforts. Despite their fragile existence, like the other animals in this list, Arabian Oryx are imported, bred, and hunted for sport at ranches in the United States.
We continually update our Stop the Hunt webpage with new canned hunting operation applications so that advocates can join us in telling the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that canned hunting doesn’t benefit endangered species and should be denied under the Endangered Species Act.
Keep the USDA Transparent and Accountable
Posted by on March 6, 2018
The USDA is charged with ensuring the millions of animals in roadside zoos, puppy mills, and research labs across the country receive the basic care required by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Despite this mandate, the USDA fails year after year to fulfill its duty.
Now the USDA proposes action that could dramatically reduce government oversight of facilities like puppy mills. Under the proposal, USDA would decrease inspections at facilities that obtain certifications from industry groups (in other words an organization that represents the interests of roadside zoos could “certify” roadside zoos). These industries profit from abuse and will not be accountable to the public or the animals.
Click here to go to the regulations.gov page and submit a comment to the USDA urging it to reject self-policing. We’ve provided a sample to help you compose your message. But comments should be in your own words. So please take a few minutes to explain why you care about this issue before submitting.
“As a taxpayer, I expect our government agencies to enforce the law. I strongly object to the USDA’s proposed plan to decrease Animal Welfare Act (AWA) inspections in deference to industry groups – allowing entities like roadside zoos, puppy mills, and research labs to largely police themselves. To ensure transparency and accountability, Animal Welfare Act licensees must be regularly inspected by USDA officials.”
We are holding the USDA accountable – thanks to an Animal Legal Defense Fund lawsuit, a court recently ruled that the USDA can no longer automatically rubberstamp license renewals for facilities it knows frequently violate the AWA.