In Memoriam: Dr. Mel Richardson

Posted 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.

21 thoughts on “In Memoriam: Dr. Mel Richardson

  1. I am so sorry for your loss and that of the world’s animals. It still leaves me reeling, after 66 years of living, at how the good are taken from us too soon; and the cruel seem to with us ad nauseum.

  2. Charlene Thompson says:

    With a sad heart I want to let you know that the work of Dr. Mel Richardson will be ever so greatly missed. May God bless the animals he worked so to help.

  3. Gail Palmer says:

    It is very sad that someone with such a wonderful heart is gone so early. Thank you fro all you did for the animals

  4. Noella Elliott says:

    Wow I don’t even know the man, but bow down with deep respect for his love of animals. Anyone who cares so deeply and selflessly for animals is a hero in my book! The animal kingdom has lost a great warrior.

  5. Pieter Wing says:

    Such a sad loss – but what a wonderful Legacy to leave behind. Such amazing work – gone too soon. R.I.P.

  6. Susan Baguiao says:

    Sorry for the loss a great man, i now he will be missed dearly.

  7. Carina says:

    R . I . P .

  8. Donna Lenhart says:

    I have sorrow for Dr. Mel, his family, friends and the world’s animals on the loss of this true human being. We desperately need more like him. May he rest peacefully in the company of animals.

  9. Joanne says:

    I am in shock. A good man who passed too soon. I don’t know what to say ….. it is so unfair. RIP Dr. Mel.

  10. Laurel Braitman says:

    Thank you for posting this Matthew. I took this photo of Mel when we went to go see the elephant seals calving. He was so happy. I already miss him so much.

    1. Matthew Liebman says:

      It’s such a wonderful photo, and it captures his personality so well. I’m so glad I went to that PAWS event and met you both. I’ll always remember having beers at that roadhouse in San Andreas and listening to Mel’s stories that night. Good times.

  11. Patrice Cody says:

    Thank you for making this world a better place, for making a difference to the animals.

  12. Patrice Cody says:

    Thank you for making this world a better place and making a difference for the animals.

  13. Rebecca Greene says:

    Animals of all kinds mourn the passing of a human who cared.

  14. Andrew Begg says:

    I hate news like this. Its a big loss for animals, one they can ill afford, whenever a good person like him dies. I hope he did not suffer. I’m terribly sorry for his family and friends and I know everyone at ALDF is saddened. May he rest in peace.

  15. ellen says:

    RIP Dr. Mel – you will be missed by all.
    you have done a fantastic job with the animals, they too will miss you
    my condolences to friends and family

  16. sharon pilon says:

    The Best Tribute to Dr. Mel would be to carry on his work with the animals he loved ! He was one of the GREATEST FRIENDS ANIMALS EVER HAD ! R. I. P. DR. MEL YOU WILL BE REMEMBERED AND LOVED BY ALL WHO YOU TOUCHED IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER !

  17. Paula Feldmeier says:

    RIP Dr. Mel – you were a hero to the animals for sure and an inspiration to those of us who want to do what we can to help animals. And it’s good to hear you never lost your GA accent! – fellow Georgian, Paula

  18. Shellie Ray says:

    Rest In Peace, Dr. Mel…you were one of the “true” heroes of our time!!…BLESS YOU!
    Many condolences to to all who had the pleasure of knowing this dear,compassionate man. He will will be greatly missed by many…animals and human, alike.

  19. Lois Nathan says:

    How sad for the animal kingdom and the world at large, wish I had known Dr. Mel during his lifetime.

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