Good news for Alaska’s Wolves and Bears . . . Maybe.
Posted by Stephen Wells, Executive Director on August 24, 2016
First the good news. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which manages our nation’s National Wildlife Refuges, has issued new regulations for Wildlife Refuges in Alaska that end some of the most egregious forms of wildlife killing permitted and promoted by the state of Alaska. Specifically, the new rules “prohibit the take of mother bears and their cubs, the take of brown (grizzly) bears over bait, the killing of wolves and their pups at den sites, and aerial gunning” on any National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
The USFWS rules were necessary because the federal agency allows the state of Alaska to manage wildlife on National Wildlife Refuges within the state. And Alaska’s wildlife policies regard wolves and bears as competition with human hunters for prized hunting targets, like moose and caribou. Thus they have “managed” wolves and bears to severely limit their numbers, by allowing extreme methods of killing including those listed above, as well as outrageously long hunting and trapping seasons (for wolves this often means no limits on the number you are allowed to kill). The state has even hired marksmen to shoot wolves and bears from helicopters and airplanes.
While this war on Alaska’s wildlife will continue on state lands and other federal lands, like those managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the rule change still matters. Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuges comprise more than half of all the National Wildlife Refuge land in the country – nearly 77 million acres. That’s about 18% of all land in the state. And much of that land is excellent habitat for these species.
Time to celebrate, right? Maybe. Here’s the bad news. Even as these new, minimal protections are being put in place, both the U.S. House and Senate FY17 Interior Appropriations bills (the bills that fund the entire federal government) contain “riders,” sneaky amendments, which would block the implementation of this rule. Riders are attached to “must-pass” legislation like funding bills, because it is very difficult to remove them from such sweeping matters.
That means that members of the Congress in both the Senate and the House of Representatives want the massacre of wolf pups in their dens, bear mothers and their cubs, the baiting of bears for the kill with garbage and even shooting from aircraft to continue on our National Wildlife Refuges.
The USDA is Standing By While a Global Crisis Looms
Posted by Kelsey Eberly, Staff Attorney on August 23, 2016
A global health crisis fueled by the greed of factory farming conglomerates and their allies in Congress is looming. It’s not climate change or heart disease, but the public health nightmare of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. The development of antibiotics only began in earnest about 100 years ago, and since then they have revolutionized medicine. Most people alive today have no concept of what life would look like without access to lifesaving antibiotics, but widespread misuse and overuse of these lifesaving tools could have deadly consequences.
“A post-antibiotic era means, in effect, an end to modern medicine as we know it,” says Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization. “Things as common as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill.” The Centers for Disease Control state that each year at least 2 million people become infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria, and 23,000 people die as a direct result of these infections. With major health organizations in agreement that antibiotic resistance is a dire health threat, one would think that the meat industry, the largest abuser of these lifesaving drugs, would clean up its act. Sadly, this is not the case.
For years, the Animal Legal Defense Fund has been sounding the alarm bells about the danger of feeding thousands of pounds of antibiotics to healthy farm animals, to keep them growing faster and larger and to prevent them from succumbing to disease amid their filthy, overcrowded living conditions. Antibiotics have long been a crutch used by the meat industry to maintain their inhumane, industrialized operations that churn out meat with maximum efficiency and profit. The overuse of these drugs, many of which are important—even critical—in human medicine, has contributed to the spread of pathogens that are resistant even to next-generation, cutting-edge antibiotics. Colistin, a drug of last resort, has become one of the only effective antibiotics to treat highly drug-resistant bacteria when all else has failed. The recent emergence of a colistin-resistant bacteria in the United States, then, first in a human patient and later in a specimen of pig intestine, raises the specter of a truly invincible super bacteria.
At the same time, consumer demand for meat from animals raised without antibiotics has skyrocketed, as consumers seek to avoid drug-resistant bacteria and choose healthier options. However, misleading labeling of meat and poultry both deceives consumers and prevents the market from changing to meet consumer demand.
In response to this public health crisis, on June 3, 2013—over three years ago—the Animal Legal Defense Fund submitted a petition to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, asking the agency to require that meat and poultry from animals fed antibiotics be labeled as such, and to provide a uniform labeling standard for antibiotic use in meat, to meet consumer demand and address the antibiotic resistance crisis. The Animal Legal Defense Fund followed up the petition with a letter providing additional evidence of the need for mandatory antibiotics labeling, including Congressional support, studies, surveys and policymaking recommendations.
In response, the agency did absolutely nothing. Now, the Animal Legal Defense Fund has gathered another three years of additional evidence of the antibiotic resistance crisis, rising consumer demand for meat raised without antibiotics and the confusion that inconsistent and unregulated antibiotics labeling has sowed. And today, the organization submitted another follow-up letter, accompanied by 31 pieces of evidence, illustrating the dire need for mandatory meat and poultry antibiotics labeling.
Since the original letter, evidence has mounted in support of antibiotic labeling. Three federal acts have been introduced to combat antibiotic resistance and the excessive use of antibiotics in agriculture, and new studies have emerged documenting the transference of drug-resistant bacteria between farm animals and human hosts. The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s first letter has garnered support from a coalition of public health and environmental organizations, including The Sierra Club, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project and Friends of Family Farmers.
The USDA’s continued inaction in the face of an enormous public health crisis and rampant consumer confusion shows that it’s abdicating its statutory responsibility to protect consumers and safeguard human health. The Animal Legal Defense Fund will continue urging the agency to do its duty.
Lucky and Nicole: Together in Solitary
Posted by Stephen Wells, Executive Director on August 17, 2016
A female Asian elephant named Lucky, who has lived for 53 years in captivity under conditions that don’t meet her basic physical, psychological or social needs, deserves some relief. In December 2015, the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit on behalf of concerned San Antonio residents against the San Antonio Zoo, seeking compliance with Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) elephant-management guidelines. The lawsuit, filed under the Endangered Species Act, notes that conditions for Lucky have caused her psychological torment and physical injury.
We also hoped that zoo officials would release Lucky, to spend her final days at a sanctuary in the company of other elephants, walking in grass, resting in shade. The Tennessee Elephant Sanctuary offered such accommodations free of charge. The zoo declined.
The zoo’s former director has said that Lucky was “weird” and “too old” to move to sanctuary; his successor, Tim Morrow, maintains that Lucky is simply better off alone. We’ve come to expect such feigned ignorance about the natural needs of captive animals from people who benefit from their captivity, but Morrow has gone a brazen step further.
He’s introduced Nicole, an Asian elephant held captive as a circus performer for 36 years, as a companion. Morrow described the act as “the first step into our next phase.” Adding an aging elephant and citing it as a solution effectively doubles down on the zoo’s willful ignorance of elephant welfare. Now there will be two elephants living in substandard conditions—still out of compliance with AZA guidelines and the Endangered Species Act. That issue aside, not all elephant pairings are compatible, and Nicole has been removed from the elephant companions she’s known for decades. To split substandard conditions between two arthritic animals and sell it as an improvement is either insulting or oblivious.
Not surprisingly, the zoo continues to spin the story as a win for Lucky. “Elephant in need of a friend finds perfect match,” declared USA Today, alongside kid-friendly video, oompah circus music—and zero supportive science. If Morrow means it when he says “Lucky’s health and well-being is the primary focus,” she would be moved to a sanctuary, not expected to share her woefully inadequate enclosure with another elephant she might not even bond with.
Our litigation aims to remedy that, either through compliance with the AZA guidelines, or by seeing these elephants liberated to live comfortably with others of their own kind at an appropriate sanctuary.
Student Animal Legal Defense Fund Chapter of the Year Award 2016
Posted by Kelly Levenda, Student Programs Attorney on August 9, 2016
SALDF Fostering Growth for Next Generation of Animal Advocates
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on July 21, 2016
With 190 chapters established in the U.S. and 22 internationally, ALDF’s Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapter program has taken law schools by storm. Through SALDF, we provide grants and guidance, career advice and educational materials, and a variety of other resources. Over 15 years, the number of universities and law schools offering courses in animal law has increased from just 9 in the year 2000 to more than 170 today—largely as a result of the work of our coordination with concerned students on those campuses through SALDF.
In an environment where legal protections for animals are often inadequate and consistently under attack, an obvious need exists to enlist talented, driven individuals to advance and execute better protections. The entities that profit from the abuse and killing of animals too often have access to expensive legal teams. SALDF invests in law students so that the animals also have teams of dedicated lawyers willing to take on the toughest fights—and win.
Last October at the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s 23rd annual Animal Law Conference, the George Washington University Law School (GW) and Harvard Law School (HLS) SALDF chapters received the SALDF Chapter of the Year Award. Both chapters held networking and fundraising events, organized conferences, brought in guest speakers, and built coalitions with other law school organizations. In 2015, the HLS chapter worked with the Harvard Food Law Society to host an all-day conference on factory farming with over 200 people in attendance. The GW chapter co-hosted a screening of the film Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret for ALDF’s National Justice for Animals Week; it also hosted a discussion of Ag-Gag laws with a former undercover investigator who had been charged with animal cruelty for documenting animal abuse. We’ve also featured the outstanding work of dozens of chapters throughout the U.S. for engaging in similarly robust efforts in our Student Chapter Spotlight Series.
Our Where Are They Now page features former SALDF members and the valuable work they have gone on to do. The most recent subject, Elizabeth Baker, is senior science policy specialist with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, where she works to modernize the laws governing pharmaceutical testing. She says, “I want to ensure that the people and organizations who want to use modern human-focused technologies have the same support that those currently using the traditional animal methods have.” Through SALDF, we’re working toward a more level playing field in the same way—so the next generation of lawyers is equipped to construct legal protections that work for animals.
Scales Tilt Toward Justice for Animals Abused in Research Labs
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on July 6, 2016
In late May, Santa Cruz Biotechnology, a large supplier of animal subjects for laboratory testing, reached a record-setting settlement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), agreeing to pay a $3.5 million penalty and forfeit its animal dealer license. The verdict followed years of contention and litigation over allegations that goats and rabbits at its Santa Cruz facility had been mistreated. The USDA cited “repeated failure to provide minimally adequate and expeditious veterinary care and treatment to animals.”
The $3.5 million penalty reached with the USDA is more than ten times the previous highest penalty assessed under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). This historic USDA penalty may signify a meaningful shift in the USDA’s willingness to actively pursue and prosecute corporate animal abusers.
Meanwhile, the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s litigation against Santa Cruz Biotech, on behalf of Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN), is still underway. A judge had dismissed our case in light of the USDA’s enforcement action, but recently the court heard oral argument in our appeal of that dismissal. Because our lawsuit is based on California state animal cruelty laws, a decision would apply to all animals, including those that the AWA excludes, including rats and mice. Thus, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and SAEN’s lawsuit would be the only remaining bulwark against Santa Cruz Biotechnology’s callous cruelty to animals left out of federal law. We expect to receive a ruling this summer.
From one perspective, we can see the USDA’s multi-million dollar penalty both as a vindication of our work with SAEN to end the commercialization of abuse and as a warning signal to other lab-animal companies doing the same. From another perspective, we recognize that the terms of the settlement reduced the original USDA fines dramatically, perhaps by 90% or more. Such a bright moment of humane adjudication shouldn’t be allowed to recede, but neither should it be heralded as an unqualified victory. It is without question a big step in the right direction.
Join us at the 2016 Animal Rights National Conference
Posted by on June 30, 2016
There’s just one week until the 2016 Animal Rights National Conference! This year’s conference takes place in Los Angeles from July 7-10, and it’s a packed weekend. The Animal Legal Defense Fund will be there representing all of our hard work to protect animals through the legal system. As the only national nonprofit focused on this work, we’re excited to serve up our unique perspective and expertise. Attendees will have four opportunities to hear from us, including a very special reception we’re hosting on Friday evening, open to conference attendees and anyone else who’s interested.
Here’s what you can look forward to:
Friday July 8 at 12 p.m. our Los Angeles Regional Director Lindsay Larris will present during the panel titled “Enforcing Protective Laws (Using local authorities, litigation, media, agitation to prevent animal abuse).” She’ll give the audience a glimpse into how the Animal Legal Defense Fund uses civil litigation to enforce laws that protect animals. From the obstacles animal litigators face to the creative ways we navigate them, attendees will walk away with a much better understanding of how we protect animals.
Immediately following Lindsay’s presentation, Animal Legal Defense Fund will be on Friday’s 1:30 p.m. panel on “When Activists Need Support,” featuring Tom Linney, our senior pro bono manager. It’s no surprise that being an animal activist is a tough job, but this panel will give attendees an overview of all the ways activists can get the help they need (plus some support they didn’t even know they needed!). Tom will talk about some of the ways to find an attorney to help with animal-related matters, as well as the variety of legal resources currently available to animal advocates
On Friday evening we’ll be celebrating with a reception from 6 to 7:30 p.m. with drinks, delicious hors d’oeuvres, and great conversation! Not attending the conference? You’re still welcome to come meet us at our reception. Tom Linney and Kelly Levenda, from our Animal Law Program, will be hosting the event and several other key staff members will also be present. Learn more here.
Start off the conference’s last day on Sunday at 10:15 a.m. with our Manager of Investigations T.J. Tumasse on the panel “Running Undercover Investigations (Exposing animal abuse through undercover investigations).” As a veteran investigator himself, T.J. knows the ins and outs of using undercover programs to help educate the public and further the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s litigation efforts. We don’t all have what it takes to work undercover, but the information that comes out of such investigations is absolutely vital to our work.
Animal Legal Defense Fund will also have a booth in the exhibit hall, which is open to the public—so please drop by and say hi!
Register today if you haven’t already! We can’t wait to see you there.
More Dogs Left in Hot Cars This Summer
Posted by Ian Elwood, Online Communications Manager on June 27, 2016
It’s officially summer, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund has seen many more reports of dogs being left in hot cars. Three dogs in Sacramento, California were rescued by the fire department after getting a call from concerned citizens. The temperature inside the car was 160 degrees—far too hot for anyone to be inside. A former Georgia police officer was arrested after it was found that he left his K-9 in a patrol car for several hours, causing the dog to die. A South Carolina couple was charged with cruelty after leaving their dog in a hot car on a 90 degree day. The list goes on.
Shelters are receiving an overwhelming number of calls and police departments are cracking down, but the best thing for everyone is if dogs—and all living beings—are kept safe in the first place. You can help!
What You Can Do
Help us spread the word about this important issue by sharing with your friends and family on social media. Please download our graphic to post, or print a stack of flyers to hang at your grocery store, laundromat, and other community hotspots. You can also learn the local laws about how to best report dogs in hot cars where you live—some states allow individuals to rescue dogs, others require that you call 911.
If you haven’t already, don’t forget to get your Animal Legal Defense Fund Sunshade! It sends a clear signal to anyone who sees it about the danger of leaving dogs in hot cars.
- Get your sunshade now!
Oregon Supreme Court: Blood Draw is Not a “Search”
Posted by By Lora Dunn, Interim Director and Senior Staff Attorney, Criminal Justice Program on June 21, 2016
Animal sentience matters! That was the message from the Oregon Supreme Court last week when it issued its ruling in State v. Newcomb. Overturning the 2014 decision by the Oregon Court of Appeals, the higher court ruled that a defendant owner, whose emaciated dog Juno was seized by law enforcement on probable cause of criminal animal neglect, did not have a protected privacy interest in that dog’s blood. The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief in the case, joined by the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the National District Attorneys Association, the Oregon Humane Society, and the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association.
The defendant, Amanda Newcomb, had argued that drawing blood as part of a routine medical examination of the lawfully seized dog was a “search” under the Oregon Constitution and Fourth Amendment, which prohibit unreasonable searches. Rejecting that argument, the Oregon Supreme Court found that such an owner does not have a protected privacy interest in the interior of the lawfully seized dog under either the Oregon Constitution or the Fourth Amendment and therefore no “search” occurred.
Crucial to the Court’s finding was the unique nature of animals which, though legally considered property, are nonetheless “sentient beings capable of experiencing pain, stress and fear,” according to Oregon legislation the Animal Legal Defense Fund helped enact in 2013. The Court emphasized that this sentience matters when analyzing an owner’s privacy interest in the animal, and that an animal should not be analyzed like a closed container or any other object. The Court also recognized its recent decision extending the exigency exception to animals in recognizing that “some animals, such as pets, occupy a unique position in people’s hearts and in the law.” As the Court further explained,
“Oregon law prohibits humans from treating animals in ways that humans are free to treat other forms of property … A person can be as cruel or abusive as she wants to her own stereo or folder, and can neglect the maintenance of a car to the point where it will not operate, without legal consequence. The same is not true of an animal that a person owns or has custody of or control over.”
This Newcomb decision has enormous practical implications for those working tirelessly on the ground every day to rescue animals, including the Oregon Humane Society, which investigated Juno’s case and provided her medical care. The Court was clear that, even if law enforcement would use the results of a medical exam to purpose criminal charges, the veterinarian’s purpose in a blood test is medical diagnosis and treatment—and that’s what matters.
Now, investigators who lawfully seize an animal don’t have to go through the often cumbersome and time consuming process of securing a separate warrant before a veterinarian can perform a simple diagnostic exam to properly treat an abused or neglected animal. This ruling also ensures that animals lawfully seized during criminal investigations will be able to receive necessary, prompt medical attention without evidence suppression issues potentially jeopardizing the criminal cruelty case.
We applaud the great work of Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and Assistant Attorney General Jamie Contreras, who presented the state’s case in oral argument, for their exceptional work on this case. Our sincere thanks as well to Virginia Coleman for her great work on the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s amicus brief.
Protect Dogs From Hot Cars This Summer
Posted by Ian Elwood, Online Communications Manager on June 7, 2016
A dog in Ohio was rescued by police recently after being left in a hot car for over two hours. Police had to smash the window to save his life, but this was far from the first such incident. Each year, police departments issue warnings at the beginning of summer about how dangerous hot cars can be for dogs—and all living beings. In another sad case this year, felony charges are being considered for the owner of a dog in Salt Lake City, after the dog was found dead by animal control officers. The interior temperature of the car on a 91 degree day was in excess of 120 degrees.
Because such stories are usually only reported on by local news outlets, the issue rarely reaches a national audience, and dogs—the most traveled with pet—continue to suffer or die from being left in hot cars. The Animal Legal Defense Fund has been campaigning proactively on this issue for the past few years, before the summer reaches its hottest months, to get the word out and educate dog owners—as well as passersby—about the dangers of hot cars, and the laws in place to protect Good Samaritans.
How You Can Help
You can help protect dogs from being left in hot cars, by learning your local laws about how to report dogs in hot cars. You can also help by purchasing an Animal Legal Defense Fund Sunshade. It sends a clear message about the dangers of hot cars where it’s needed most—in the parking lots where these incidents commonly occur.
Justice for Harambe
Posted by Carney Anne Nasser, Senior Counsel for Wildlife & Regulatory Affairs on June 6, 2016
Here we are again. Only six weeks after big cat keeper Stacey Konwiser was killed by a Malayan tiger at the AZA-accredited Palm Beach Zoo, yet another tragedy has occurred. This time, a May 28th incident at the AZA-accredited Cincinnati Zoo left a little boy injured and a young gorilla, Harambe, dead. Well-meaning people are outraged and desperate to assign blame. Indeed, since Saturday, more than 180,000 signed a petition seeking prosecution of the child’s parents, all in the name of #JusticeforHarambe. Social media is flooded with a debate over whether the zoo made the right call by killing rather than tranquilizing Harambe. However, at their core, these heart-wrenching situations aren’t about parenting, emergency management, or keeper error. Responsibility for every single one of these tragic incidents lies with zoos, circuses, and other business models centered on warehousing animals for public amusement.
As long as we keep complex wild animals in zoos, circuses, and other unnatural situations that deny them the full range of their normal behaviors, they will continue to suffer and dangerous human-animal interactions that end in tragedy will continue—all while wild populations dwindle. Despite the claims of zoos and other animal exhibitors, not only is there no educational value in seeing animals confined to artificial exhibits, conservationists like David Quammen in his book, Wild Thoughts from Wild Places, have pointed out that zoos “may actually undermine the continued existence of what they purport to celebrate. People … visit the zoos, and by the mesmeric power of these vicarious experiences, they come carelessly to believe that [an endangered species] . . . is alive and well because they have seen it.”
We can each do a better job of seeking #JusticeforHarambe by cutting through the noise about parenting, defects in habitat construction, and appropriate methods to immobilize animals in an emergency, and committing to support only those conservation initiatives that: 1) focus on legitimate contributions to preservation of species in the wild; and 2) don’t put the lives of keepers, animals, or the viewing public at risk.
Legally Brief: Behind Closed Doors, Beneath the Law
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on June 6, 2016
Farmed animals in the U.S. receive virtually no protection under federal law except for regulations of the way they are transported and slaughtered. Despite the last few decades’ slow expansion of legal protections for companion animals and, to a lesser degree, animals used in entertainment, no federal laws have been enacted to protect farmed animals when it comes to the way they are raised. Moreover, most state laws exempt otherwise cruel standard agricultural practices from state cruelty laws, essentially making farmed animals beyond—or beneath—the law.
In late April, the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a complaint with the Illinois Attorney General regarding violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act recorded on video at a pig-breeding facility own and operated by The Maschhoffs, LLC. The Animal Legal Defense Fund complained that the company engaged in unfair business practices due to the apparent animal neglect caused by a failure to feed and provide proper veterinary care to animals. The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s complaint also alleged that the company engaged in deceptive business practices because the conditions at the facility conflicted with the company’s own advertising that it is committed to “humane animal handling” and providing the “best possible environment” for the animals.
In the video, The Maschhoffs employees can be seen slamming piglets against the ground. Adult mother pigs are shown writhing in farrowing and breeding crates, constructed to maximize per-square-foot profit and so small as to prevent pigs from being able to turn around, much less stretch their muscles or roam to satisfy natural instincts. Confinement is intense, and when workers fail to move pregnant pigs to farrowing crates in time, piglets are crushed to death by mother pigs with no room to move and no natural bedding material to make a proper nest. Pigs obviously anxious with hunger can be seen jostling empty food bins and employees converse about malfunctions with the feeding systems.
None of this was surprising to our investigators, or to us. In an industry that slaughters well over 100 million pigs in the U.S. every year, these dead piglets and sick, dying mother pigs are simply considered breakage or shrinkage if not “collateral damage.” To an industry that can move lame animals into position for slaughter using electric prods, the sight of empty food troughs is unlikely to evoke empathy and spur changes from within.
Even the last few moments of an animal’s life that might be granted some humane protection by federal law are under attack, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been decreasing its slaughterhouse inspector workforce and shifting those responsibilities to the animal product producers themselves, as absurd as that may sound.
And all of this is taking place in an environment where at least seven states have enacted “Ag-Gag laws” that seek to punish would-be whistleblowers and undercover activists for recording and sharing footage like that taken at The Maschhoffs facility. We’re doing battle to keep such laws from spreading. In August 2015, an Animal Legal Defense Fund-led coalition of animal, environmental and civil rights organizations scored a first victory against an Ag-Gag law when a federal district court in Idaho declared the law unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendment. Similar suits are now pending against the states of Utah, Wyoming and North Carolina.
Factory farms and industrial slaughterhouses will continue to try to find ways to hide their practices and protect their profits. With your continued support, the Animal Legal Defense Fund will anticipate and counter their every step, bearing witness and sharing what we see with judges, legislators, litigators and you, as we work to eliminate so much unnecessary suffering.
Animal Law Symposium 2016: Animal Cruelty Prosecution
Posted by Lora Dunn, Interim Director and Staff Attorney, Animal Legal Defense Fund on June 1, 2016
On May 21, 2016 the Animal Legal Defense Fund gathered experts in criminal animal cruelty cases for our second-annual Los Angeles symposium, Animal Cruelty Prosecution: Pitfalls and Progress.
Kicking off the day was our Prosecuting Animal Cruelty Cases 101 panel, with animal control professional Mark Kumpf and L.A. County Deputy District Attorney Debbie Knaan sharing strategies for building a successful animal cruelty case from the ground up—from processing the crime scene through analyzing potential criminal charges. Dr. Farshid Shahriar then walked us through the importance of veterinary forensics in linking the perpetrator to the animal victim, such as conducting a thorough necropsy (an autopsy for an animal).
Senior Trial Consultant Rich Matthews—a “myth buster” of traditional beliefs about jury selection—shared some insider tips and tricks of the voir dire process, which can be the most crucial part of any criminal prosecution. Veteran prosecutor and ALDF Criminal Justice Program attorney Diane Balkin and civil rights attorney Karen Snell addressed the host of issues surrounding canine encounters with law enforcement, and proposed strategies for addressing these heartbreaking and often fatal cases.
The symposium concluded with the tragic story of a 5-month-old Doberman pinscher named Davey, who suffered horrendous injuries at the hands of his abuser. District Attorney Joyce E. Dudley and Deputy District Attorney Kevin Weichbrod of the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office, who worked tirelessly to prosecute Davey’s case, also proposed legislative changes to California’s animal cruelty laws and related legislation bolster better outcomes in animal cruelty cases.
We’re grateful to all of this year’s speakers and attendees for making our second annual symposium such a success!
The Animal Legal Defense Fund Files Lawsuit to Advocate for Wildlife Welfare
Posted by Jeff Pierce, ALDF Legislative Counsel on May 18, 2016
Does the law contemplate the welfare of wildlife in the wild? On Monday, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, in collaboration with Friends of Animals and the Law Offices of Donald B. Mooney, filed a lawsuit in Sacramento arguing that it most certainly does.
We represent the Public Interest Coalition (a Placer County grassroots organization) in litigation challenging the California Fish & Game Commission’s recent decision allowing hunters to outfit their hunting dogs with GPS tracking devices and “treeing switches” (radio telemetry that tells a hunter when an animal might be treed). The lawsuit alleges that the Commission violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in failing to examine a range of ways their decision will significantly impact wildlife.
The new rule permitting GPS tracking devices effectively incentivizes hunters to use dogs more often, since such devices make hunting easier and basically eliminate the hunter’s ethical commitment to so-called “fair chase.” Outfitted with GPS collars, dogs can range at greater distances from hunters, who no longer have to keep them within sight or earshot. More dogs and less control means greater harm to wildlife, not only to the wild animals hunters are permitted to pursue with dogs, which includes deer and feral pigs, but also to the wild animals whom hunters are forbidden to hunt with dogs, like bear and bobcats.
Indeed, on state and federal lands throughout California, companion dogs are restricted to leashes, and in some cases prohibited entirely. Those restrictions are based on the recognition that dogs harass and disrupt wildlife. Beyond those site-specific restrictions, California law, like the federal Endangered Species Act, broadly prohibits any activity that “harasses” wildlife. State regulation, like its federal counterpart, defines harassment to mean activity that “disrupts an animal’s normal behavior patterns, which includes, but is not limited to, breeding, feeding or sheltering.” In other words, a person need not kill or even physically injure wildlife to break the laws protecting them: they need only disrupt a wild animal’s normal behavior.
Wildlife biologists, cognitive scientists, and animal behaviorists insist that an animal who exhibits normal behavior enjoys a high degree of welfare. Conversely, an animal who is denied the ability to exhibit normal behavior—or who exhibits abnormal behavior—suffers a low degree of welfare, characterized by physiological and psychological disturbances.
In allowing hunting dogs to tear through the wild spaces of California beyond the control of hunters, the Fish & Game Commission has effectively authorized hunters to harass wildlife, which the law prohibits. Our lawsuit petitions the California court system to prevent the Commission from allowing GPS collars until it has properly examined the unlawful toll its decision will have on the welfare of our State’s wildlife heritage.
American Humane Certified and Foster Farms: Profiting On Consumer Concern for Animal Welfare
Posted by Kate Brindle, Animal Legal Defense Fund Law Clerk on May 9, 2016
Many consumers who eat animals and animal products strongly prefer to buy only “humane” products, but this term is not well-regulated, and unfortunately, many products advertised as “humane” may not actually reflect what consumers think they are buying and supporting. One example is the chicken sold by Foster Farms and marketed as “American Humane Certified,” a private certification label created by the American Humane Association (AHA). Yet, AHA standards permit standard industry practices, which are anything but humane. Foster Farms also markets some of its chicken products as “fresh” and “natural,” even though Foster Farms’ chickens are denied everything that is natural—like foraging and dust-bathing—to them.
Foster Farms’ cruel treatment of chickens begins at the start of the production process. According to a class action lawsuit against Foster Poultry Farms filed in California, under AHA standards, Foster Farms can source from hatcheries (including its own) that only comply with the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP). However, the NPIP permits de-toeing—a debilitating procedure where roosters’ toes are cut with surgical sheers to prevent scratching, de-beaking—the cutting off of the ends of chickens’ beaks, without anesthesia so chickens will not peck each other in the crowded and unnatural conditions in which they are kept, and grinding up of live male chicks since they cannot lay eggs and are, thus, useless at hatcheries.
The American Humane Certified label also allows chickens to experience cruel living conditions, where they are overcrowded, forced to breathe air with concentrations of ammonia up to 25 parts per million, and suffer a host of medical problems, including chronic joint and leg pain.
Further, AHA standards permits inhumane slaughter practices, including shackling and hanging live chickens by their feet before slaughter, a painful and stressful process that can result in broken bones. Under AHA standards, some chickens drown in scalding hot water as the industry standard bleed-out time is often not long enough to kill the chickens before they are submerged in de-feathering tanks.
Given the conditions chickens actually endure, Foster Farms’ labeling its chicken products as “humane” is deceptive. Ironically, in a survey conducted by the AHA itself, when asked “[w]hat does a humanely raised certified label signify to you when seen it on meat, dairy and egg products?” 95% of respondents said “better treatment of animals.” So, an overwhelming portion of ordinary consumers would likely see the American Humane Certified label on a package of chicken, and believe that chicken received better treatment than other chickens on the market, even though AHA certification allows treatment that is often no different and, in some cases, worse than standard factory farming industry practices and the labels are in no way a guarantee that Foster Farms’ chickens didn’t suffered through the cruel practices listed above.
On July 13, 2015, California consumers filed suit against Foster Poultry Farms, claiming Foster Farms’ use of “American Humane Certified” labels on their chicken products is misleading and deceptive. In response to the complaint, Foster Farms challenged the plaintiffs’ causes of action by filing a demurrer, which is set to be heard today.
Foster Farms is claiming that the court should not hear the consumers’ case because the United States Department of Agriculture controls the labelling of poultry products under the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act. But the State of California has long had power to protect its citizens from false advertising, and to prevent animal cruelty. Regardless of the outcome of the hearing on this jurisdictional issue, consumers should arm themselves with truth about “humane” labeling, or choose plant-based alternatives to eliminate cruelty from their plate completely.
See more work that the Animal Legal Defense Fund has done to stop consumer deception by factory farms here.