In Memoriam: Dr. Mel RichardsonPosted by Matthew Liebman, ALDF Senior Attorney on January 6, 2014
It is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to a dear friend of the animals and of ALDF. Dr. Mel Richardson, affectionately known as Dr. Mel to his friends and colleagues, passed away on January 2 at the age of 63.
With more than 40 years of veterinary experience, Dr. Mel was a tireless advocate for captive wild animals. I first met Mel at an elephant summit at the Performing Animal Welfare Society sanctuary about four years ago. I was immediately charmed by his laid-back demeanor, his sense of humor, his discernable kindness, and, of course, his Georgian accent. Dr. Mel quickly became an important part of ALDF’s work on behalf of captive wildlife. He was the expert witness in our lawsuit against the City of Seattle concerning the inhumane captivity of elephants at the Woodland Park Zoo, where Mel was once a zookeeper. Dr. Mel was the veterinarian in charge of transporting Ben the bear from a tiny, barren concrete cage to a spacious, naturalistic enclosure at the PAWS sanctuary after a lawsuit filed by ALDF and PETA freed Ben from the roadside zoo in North Carolina that held him captive. Most recently, Mel wrote a comment letter on behalf of ALDF concerning the cruel captivity of two elephants at the Niabi Zoo in Illinois, who were ultimately transferred to better conditions (albeit, at another zoo). He was also a regular consultant for us on all sorts captive wildlife cases, and the phrase “Let’s call Dr. Mel and ask him” was uttered frequently at our litigation meetings. These are just a few examples of Mel’s work, and he did much more for many other organizations. His primary allegiance was to the animals and he was happy to help anyone at any time.
We will miss Dr. Mel greatly, not only as a colleague and a consultant, but as a friend. He died too soon, but he left a wonderful legacy that will continue to inspire us to fight for freedom for animals.