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Legally Brief: A Step Toward Victory in Idaho Ag Gag Case


Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on September 4, 2014

Legally Brief

Tremendous news today in one of the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s most important lawsuits! Protecting the billions of animals raised for meat, dairy, eggs and other products on factory farms is an important part of ALDF’s work. A key to our efforts is the ability to gather evidence about the routine cruelty that occurs on factory farms. Ag gag laws like Idaho’s are the industry’s attempt to shield corporate owners from exposés of their treatment of animals.

ALDF led a coalition of public interest groups in suing the state of Idaho arguing that its recently enacted ag gag law violates the U.S. Constitution by trying to “gag” constitutionally protected free speech. To put it simply, the law seeks to punish people who speak up about animal abuse, instead of punishing animal abusers.

Today, the U.S. District Court of Idaho ruled against the State of Idaho’s attempt to throw out our lawsuit. The court ruled instead that our coalition, which includes PETA, the ACLU, the Center for Food Safety and others, can move forward against the state of Idaho and its controversial ag gag law!

Undercover investigations, which ag gag laws are designed to prevent, have exposed egregious and horrific animal cruelty on factory farms, leading to civil and criminal penalties and adding weight to efforts to pass stronger animal protection laws. They have exposed illegal animal abuse including animals being beaten, kicked, maimed, and thrown by workers—as well as revealing the terrible conditions animals endure every day on these massive industrial farms.

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The state asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, which was filed this March, outright; instead the judge agreed the case merits its day in court. We also opposed an attempt from the Idaho Dairymen’s Association—an ag industry group—to intervene in the lawsuit as a defendant. This group played a key role in drafting the ag gag law to begin with in a disturbing collusion between industry and the government set in place to regulate that industry. The court denied this attempt to intervene in June.

Today’s ruling is important: the “motion to dismiss” is a hurdle that stops many a lawsuit in its tracks, but it looks like we, and the animals, will have our day in court. The judge recognizes that if our claims are true, then we have stated a constitutional violation. If the laws are motivated by animus or if the State cannot put forward sufficient evidence to justify the law, it is unconstitutional.

Our coalition of plaintiffs includes:

  • ALDF, PETA, ACLU, CFS
  • Farm Sanctuary, River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary, Western Watersheds Project
  • Sandpoint Vegetarians, Idaho Concerned Area Residents for the Environment (ICARE), Idaho Hispanic Caucus Institute for Research and Education (IHCIRE)
  • The political journal CounterPunch, Farm Forward,  journalist Will Potter, Professor James McWilliams, investigator Monte Hickman, investigative journalist Blair Koch, and undercover investigations consultant Daniel Hauff.

In addition to this, many groups have filed amicus briefs with the court in support of our case, including:

  • AFL-CIO
  • Center for Constitutional Rights
  • A coalition of journalist organizations led by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

What’s next? Our case now moves into the “discovery” phase, in which each side gathers information from the other as we build our legal arguments.

Our case in Idaho is our second such lawsuit. ALDF filed the nation’s first lawsuit against an ag gag law in Utah last year, and we recently won the motion to dismiss in that case as well. Both cases are moving forward and so far, we are two for two against ag gag.

For more information about why ag gag laws are bad for animals, the public health, worker safety, and the environment, please visit ALDF.org/aggag.

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Student Animal Legal Defense Fund Chapter of the Year Award 2014


Posted by Kelly Levenda, Animal Law Program Staff Attorney on September 2, 2014

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We are now accepting submissions for our second annual Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) Chapter of the Year Award! The award celebrates a SALDF chapter that has shown amazing efforts in advancing the field of animal law and advocating for animals through original projects and initiatives both on and off campus. This award will be given out at the Annual Animal Law Conference in Portland, Oregon.

SALDF chapters play an important role in shaping the animal law attorneys of tomorrow and raising the awareness of animal law. They do this through activities such as submitting comments on federal regulations, participating in their local legislative process, holding networking events, and writing academic articles. They also partake in tabling, leafleting, organizing conferences and guest speakers, building coalitions with other law school student organizations, and screening films.

If you are a SALDF member and would like your chapter to be considered for this award, you must describe how, during the 2013-2014 academic year, your SALDF chapter met one or more of the following criteria:

  1. Demonstrate how your chapter raised animal law awareness to other law students, the law school, and/or the broader campus community;
  2. Describe one or more pioneering projects or initiatives your chapter spearheaded that advanced the field of animal law or otherwise directly benefited animals;
  3. Describe any other activity your chapter believes demonstrated exceptional dedication to the field that either advanced animal law or otherwise directly benefited animals.

A committee comprised of representatives from Animal Law Conference co-hosts Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Center for Animal Law Studies, and the Lewis & Clark Law School SALDF will review submissions and select a winner. The Lewis & Clark Law School SALDF is prohibited from being considered for this award. Submissions must be 250 words or less, and be received no later than 5 pm (PST) on Thursday Oct 2. Please email your submission to me at klevenda@aldf.org. I encourage all SALDF chapters to apply!

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ALDF Scores Partial Transparency Victory for Animals on Airlines


Posted by Chris Berry, Staff Attorney on August 21, 2014

On July 3, 2014, the Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a final rule partially granting a request by ALDF to expand reporting requirements by air carriers for incidents involving animals during air transport. 79 Fed. Reg. 37938. The final rule significantly expands the previous rule by requiring major air carriers to report incidents involving the loss, injury, or death of all warm and cold-blooded animals shipped as pets, and all cats and dogs even if they are part of a commercial shipment. By contrast, the previous rule excluded all animals who were part of a commercial shipment (e.g. to a pet store or laboratory).

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ALDF originally petitioned DOT in August 2010 to cover all animals after reviewing news reports that seven puppies died on a hot flight from a commercial dog breeder in Tulsa, Oklahoma to Chicago, Illinois. The air carrier was not required to report those deaths because the seven puppies were traveling as a commercial shipment to pet stores and therefore did not qualify as pets. ALDF promptly responded to this inequity by petitioning DOT to require reporting incidents involving all animals – not just pets traveling with their guardian. ALDF explained that strengthening the reporting rule would increase consumer and law enforcement access to data involving air carriers’ pet safety records.

ANIMALS COVERED BY OLD REPORTING RULE
PET COMMERCIAL
CATS AND DOGS Covered Not Covered
OTHER SPECIES Covered Not Covered

DOT’s final rule meets ALDF partway by expanding the reporting requirement to include all cats and dogs even if they are not shipped as pets. The most significant effect of the new rule will likely involve reports for incidents involving cats and dogs shipped en masse in the pet store and animal research industries. However, the rule falls short of granting ALDF’s full request because it is limited to commercially-shipped cats and dogs. For example, air carriers will not be required to report incidents involving nonhuman primates on the way to research facilities or other commercial enterprises. That information would help consumers determine an air carrier’s general animal transportation safety record, and facilitate efforts to review a carrier’s compliance with applicable animal welfare laws and transporting standards.

ANIMALS COVERED BY NEW REPORTING RULE
PET COMMERCIAL
CATS AND DOGS Covered Covered
OTHER SPECIES Covered Not Covered

Even if it falls short, DOT’s new rule is nonetheless a substantial victory for animal and transparency advocates. In addition to covering more animals, the new rule provides additional strengthening of the reporting regime by:

  • Expanding the reporting requirement to include any U.S. Carrier with at least one aircraft holding sixty or more seats;
  • Requiring carriers to file annual reports with the number of all animals lost, injured, or killed during the calendar year, and to affirmatively state that the number was “zero” if there were no incidents;
  • Requiring carriers to include the total number of animals transported during the calendar year when they file their annual reports; and
  • Requiring carriers to sign and certify that the annual report is true, correct, and complete.
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A New Tool for Combatting Animal Cruelty


Posted by Lora Dunn, ALDF Staff Attorney on August 20, 2014

Today, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is proud to announce its partnership with the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA) in launching the National Law Enforcement Center on Animal Abuse (NLECAA). Kicking off in August 2014, the NLECAA will be a go-to information clearinghouse and forum for law enforcement nationwide who seek assistance with animal cruelty prevention and investigation strategies. The Center will draw together resources from organizations around the country, such as ALDF’s Criminal Justice Program, to bring law enforcement the tools needed to successfully combat animal cruelty where they live, as well as raise awareness about the realities of animal abuse.

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ALDF has long applauded NSA for making animal crimes a priority, and highlighting the Link between violence to human and animal victims alike. Just last month, ALDF joined NSA in advocating for the collection of animal cruelty data in the FBI’s crime reporting system—a significant step toward the investigation and prevention of these crimes that was unanimously approved by the FBI’s internal committee.

ALDF salutes NSA and its Deputy Executive Director, John Thompson, for bringing these important resources to law enforcement through the National Law Enforcement Center on Animal Abuse!

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Numerous Violations at Cricket Hollow Zoo


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on August 18, 2014

Roadside zoos are one more travesty in the world of animal display. The zoos are usually understaffed, the facilities unkempt, and the animals suffer immensely. Often the enclosures are totally inadequate and shockingly inhumane and illegal too. Enforcement of animal protection laws requires watchdogs like ALDF to keep tabs on the federal agencies who are supposed to monitor these facilities. And sometimes, the zoos are so bad, and the legal violations so well-documented, there is little question of the proper enforcement required. And that’s why earlier this spring the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit against the Iowa-based Cricket Hollow Zoo for violating the Endangered Species Act by failing to provide proper care for its animals. Since filing the lawsuit, ALDF has obtained shocking records from investigations conducted by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS). These records show the zoo is also violating the Animal Welfare Act.

The USDA report states “an excessive number of flies” were prevalent throughout the entire facility and enclosures at the zoo were found to be filthy, dangerous, and causing great mental and physical suffering. For example, a female coyote with a swollen toe, a coati mundi with demonstrable hair loss, and an emaciated capybara, seem to have received little to no veterinary care. Furthermore:

  • The wolf hybrid enclosure was found with a build-up of feces and food waste.
  • Similarly, a build-up of flies and feces were found within the reptile house.
  • Enclosures lacked water, contained soiled bedding and filthy living areas.
  • Other enclosures lacked proper shelter and drainage.
  • Some housing doors lacked locking mechanisms, which could easily result in animals escaping or injuring themselves and others.

One of the most serious violations documented in the report is lack of clean, drinkable water:

  • The water within one coyote enclosure was green and had debris sitting on the bottom.
  • The water within the enclosure housing two porcupines was brown and had debris and/or feces mixed with the water.
  • The gerbils in the “reptile house” had no water at the time of the inspection; the bowl was filled with moist bedding and debris.
  • Lack of clean water for animals can cause thirst, dehydration and other medical conditions.

The report also notes that “the high number of serious noncompliant items and repeated problems” demonstrates that “the work load at the facility continues to exceed the current staffing level.”

The USDA’s inspection—May 21, 2014—came after ALDF’s 60-day notice letter, warning the zoo that an ALDF lawsuit was imminent if the zoo failed to comply with the law and continued to cause animal suffering. The zoo was therefore aware of being under the public glare, and yet still allowed these horrible conditions and the suffering of animals to continue. ALDF is considering legal action to compel the USDA to enforce the Animal Welfare Act against the Cricket Hollow Zoo.

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Howling for Coyotes


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on August 15, 2014

Coyotes are wild “song dogs” known for their beautiful howls and their importance to diverse wild lands. Like dogs, their gentle, affectionate nature and the role they play in their habitat is fascinating. Yet, like wolves, they are slaughtered en masse because of mistaken cultural myths and legal loopholes. From a love of outdoors, time spent working in a national park, and my own experience living in the country amongst coyotes, I know them to be incredibly playful awe-inspiring wild animals with a profound intelligence and sense of family. That’s why I’m proud of the work the Animal Legal Defense Fund does to help protect coyotes and other native predators.

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Coyote jumping. (CC Kim Seng)

These song dogs (their official name is canis latrans, or “talking dog”) are pack animals, like wolves, domestic dogs, and humans. Coyotes mate for life and live in family structures with a dominant mom and dad and extended family. They create elaborate dens within circular territories so they can better protect their pups. Coyotes are small, weighing between 35-45lbs, depending upon geography and season. Contrary to popular myth which demonizes them, coyotes are very shy animals—and they are a “keystone species” which means their presence impacts the entire ecosystem they belong to. Remove these animals in savage, haphazard ways and everyone suffers.

Yet coyotes can be killed without limitation in California and Oregon and nearly every other state. In fact, in the Pacific Northwest, coyotes are treated like garbage by the courts, which considers them “vermin.” There are little to no bag limits, no seasons, and, thanks to the abuse of legal loopholes, groups find ways to hold blood bath “killing contests” with large cash prizes to see who can kill the most of this beloved but maligned song dog. Working with Project Coyote, ALDF recently shut down an Oregon coyote killing contest and is in support of a proposed ban that would end predator killing contests in California permanently. Right now, you can help protect coyotes in Idaho from a killing contest bloodbath by leaving a public comment with the Bureau of Land Management.

Whether for their fundamental beauty, their cultural heritage as “trickster” in native communities, their dog-like, wolf-like complex family and social relationships, their intelligence, their playfulness, their importance to wild habitats, or for the simple fact that killing contests are dangerous and barbaric, the fact that these contests continue across our country every year is shocking.

But that’s not all humans do to coyotes. ALDF has long fought coyote and fox “penning” facilities. Penning is the practice of capturing wild animals to use as bait to train dogs to kill on hunts. Coyotes and foxes are trapped in leghold traps or snares, sold to penning facilities, where they are released into a small pen by hunting dogs who tear them to pieces for practice. Penning is legal in nearly 20 states.

Coyotes are persecuted on an even more regular basis too. ALDF, along with a strong coalition of conservation groups, is working hard to challenge the federal agency known as “Wildlife Services” and its war on native wildlife. Wildlife Services has become essentially a taxpayer-funded killing agency, recklessly killing coyotes and other animals on public lands at the behest of private ranchers. And that’s where much of the negative, inaccurate lore about coyotes comes from: the introduction of ranching.

Wildlife Services, much like killing contests, traps and kills coyotes haphazardly. The government agency kills millions of animals each year, spending more than $100 million to do so—killing tens of thousands of “non-target” animals and endangered species as well. In the past 14 years, they’ve killed more than a million coyotes. Their standard methods are inhumane and ineffective—despite the holocaust of coyote slaughter by this agency, and the suffering they’ve caused to sentient beings, the coyote population has tripled. Any wildlife agency worth its salt knows that killing coyotes leads to increased procreation. When left alone, coyotes regulate their own populations and help keep our wild places in working order. ALDF’s coalition and campaign shows ranchers that nonlethal predator control, and coexistence with native wildlife, is best for everyone. Marin County, California, for example, replaced Wildlife Services with nonlethal predator control and coyote predation was actually reduced by more than 60%.

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Coyote pup recovering at an animal rescue. (© Animal Rescue Team Inc.)

Wildlife Services has also been in the news because multiple employees have been caught torturing trapped coyotes. And that brings us to another part of the coyote’s sad saga. Coyotes, as shy, small, playful wild dogs, are vulnerable to the depraved minds that enjoy torturing beings who can’t protect themselves. Just last week, ALDF, along with the Animal Rescue Team, offered a cash reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator who tied and likely tortured a 6lb female coyote pup.

The way some humans treat animals often breaks our hearts—and our laws. The way some treat apex predators like our wild song dogs—coyotes and wolves–is also a pox on our cultural history and our inability to coexist with wildlife. But it’s something we can remedy with better understanding and better animal protection laws.

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NYPD’s Anti-Cruelty Initiative a Success


Posted by Christopher Wlach, ALDF Guest Blogger on August 12, 2014

The NYPD’s recent anti-cruelty initiative has, for many of New York’s animals, been a success. Since the initiative’s launch in January 1, 2014, cruelty investigations have nearly tripled in the city, with the NYPD now taking the lead in responding to complaints. Just last week, for instance, the NYPD’s newly-formed Animal Cruelty Investigation Squad rescued 20 pit bulls from brutal living conditions in Queens, NY.

These increased enforcement efforts represent a positive step toward stopping animal abuse. But New York’s anti-cruelty laws aren’t just for protecting dogs and cats—they protect horses too. Yet how the NYPD’s anti-cruelty initiative is dealing with New York’s carriage horses remains uncertain.

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This uncertainty is nothing new. Back in October 2012, ALDF was concerned that the NYPD was not fulfilling its duties to enforce various statutes and regulations protecting carriage horses. ALDF therefore used New York’s Freedom of Information Law—“FOIL” for short—to request enforcement records. FOIL sets up a simple process for obtaining government records: you describe the records you want to a government agency; and unless an exception applies, the agency has to provide them. Yet despite the clear wording of ALDF’s request, the NYPD initially denied that it had any responsive records about carriage horses. And when the NYPD maintained this position on appeal, ALDF was forced to challenge the NYPD in court. After a hearing, a New York judge agreed with ALDF that the NYPD’s professed lack of records was “just hard to believe.” He ordered the NYPD to produce its various enforcement records.

ALDF’s successful FOIL suit underscores the importance of “the people’s right to know”—a right that not only lies at the heart of New York’s Freedom of information Law but also is closely linked to carriage horses’ welfare: without a meaningful right to review NYPD records, the public can’t know whether the NYPD is actually enforcing the laws protecting New York’s carriage horses.

And while the NYPD’s enforcement partnership with the ASPCA appears to be yielding positive results for many animals, it’s still uncertain whether New York’s carriage horses are seeing the partnership’s benefits. With the NYPD now helming anti-cruelty investigations, the ASPCA has disbanded its own Humane Law Enforcement division. It is unclear, however, whether the NYPD has also taken over the division’s enforcement of carriage horse laws—for instance, alerting Central Park drivers to carriage traffic and ensuring that horses are not working in excessive heat. Indeed, recent incidents suggest that enforcement may be lax.

The NYPD/ASPCA anti-cruelty partnership is promising. But it’s important that carriage horses not be left behind. To that end, public inquiry—including through requests under New York’s Freedom of Information Law—provides an essential mechanism for ensuring that the laws protecting carriage horses are not just on the books, but enforced in practice.

Christopher Wlach is an attorney at the New York office of Winston & Strawn LLP, which represented ALDF pro bono in this matter. The views expressed above do not necessarily reflect the views of Winston & Strawn LLP, its management or employees.

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Two Great Legal Victories for Animals in Oregon


Posted by Scott Heiser, Director and Lora Dunn, Staff Attorney, Criminal Justice Program on August 11, 2014

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August 7 was a busy day for animal lawyers in that the Oregon Supreme Court issued two important decisions: (1) State v. Nix, affirming the Oregon Court of Appeals decision by holding that animals who are abused by their owners are “victims” of those crimes, at least for sentencing purposes; and (2) State v. Fessenden/Dicke, ruling that the exigent circumstances exception to the warrant requirement can apply to animal cruelty victims in imminent harm. ALDF had filed amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs in the Court of Appeals in Nix and in the Oregon Supreme Court in Fessenden/Dicke. In the latter, we were joined by the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA) and the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA).

The Nix opinion tracks the logic of the Court of Appeals in large part and stands as a pillar for those who demand that our justice system recognizes animals as more than mere property by specifically holding that, for the purposes of Oregon’s anti-merger statute, ORS 161.067(2), animals abused by their owners are “victims.” The Court rooted its decision in legislative precedent and intent, finding that the Legislature’s goal in enacting the modern second-degree animal neglect statute, ORS 167.325, was “the treatment of individual animals, not harm to the public generally or harm to the owners of the animals.” Because the Oregon Legislature “regarded those animals [suffering from neglect] as the ‘victims’ of the offense,” the Court concluded that animals were likewise victims for purposes of merger. In reaching this conclusion, the Court cited the fact that ALDF funds a full-time, statewide prosecutor who is dedicated to handling only animal abuse cases in Oregon.

In State v. Fessenden/Dicke, the Court was exceptionally cautious in its approach, though it did ultimately reach the correct result. The Court found that an officer can seize an animal without a warrant when that officer has probable cause to believe the animal is a victim of cruelty and immediate action is necessary to prevent further imminent harm to the animal. In so ruling, the Court determined, for the first time in Oregon, that the exigent circumstances exception to the warrant requirement under both the Oregon Constitution (Article I, Section 9) and the Fourth Amendment can apply to cases involving animal victims. In reaching its conclusion, the Court noted—just as ALDF had in its amicus brief—that other states already allow such warrantless seizure to prevent serious injury caused by criminal activity, including California, Montana, and Texas. However, in a disappointing move, the Court declined to decide whether the emergency aid exception applies to animals—an exception similar to the exigent circumstances exception in that it allows warrantless entry to save life, but does not require probable cause—even though the Court of Appeals had extended the emergency aid exception to animal life.

Significantly, the Court soundly rejected defendants’ contention that animal protection laws exist solely for human benefit; while animals are property, said the Court, today Oregon has one of the most comprehensive schemes of animal protection that was clearly enacted to protect animal victims, regardless of ownership. In emphasizing the strength of Oregon’s laws, the Court cited ALDF’s Rankings Report and the Legislature’s finding that “animals are sentient beings capable of experiencing pain, stress and fear” as evidence of the ongoing evolution of the legal status of animals (legislation ALDF had help to draft and pass in 2013).

The facts of Fessenden/Dicke presented a clear case of imminent harm caused by criminal neglect: A veteran officer, experienced in animal cruelty cases, determined that the extremely emaciated horse required immediate seizure to survive and that there was not adequate time to obtain a warrant before the seizure. Based on the officer’s experience and his reasonable belief that the horse was a victim of cruelty, the Court ruled that his seizure of the dying horse was lawful under the exigent circumstances exception. The Court was careful to apply this exception to these specific facts, but explained that other circumstances may also trigger a similar application of the exception.

Our thanks and congratulations to Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, Oregon Solicitor General Anna Joyce and Assistant Attorneys General Jamie Contreras and Pamela Walsh for their excellent work on these two important cases. Additionally, ALDF is so very grateful for the brilliant work of Virginia Coleman who was instrumental in preparing our amicus brief, and for the support of David LaBahn of the APA and Allie Philips of the NDAA in joining ALDF on this appeal.

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Consumers Win, Meat Producers Lose in Federal Labeling Case


Posted by Daniel Lutz, ALDF Litigation Fellow on July 29, 2014

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Today, in American Meat Institute v. U.S. Department of Agriculture the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld a USDA regulation requiring meat retailers to disclose country-of-origin information on labels for consumers, or “COOL.” In a significant victory for consumer access to information, the appellate court found that there is substantial governmental value in labels that help consumers avoid outbreaks of disease. The decision also clears a path for an ALDF petition to require labeling of meat that comes from animals dosed with antibiotics.

This important case took a circuitous route to the full, or en banc, D.C. Circuit court. Meat producers challenged the rules, arguing that mandatory labeling violated their free speech rights. The district court and appellate panel rejected the meat industry’s challenge. With an eye towards our antibiotics labeling advocacy, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, along with the Center for Food Safety submitted an amicus brief in support of the constitutional validity of the regulation. In line with ALDF and CFS’s arguments, the en banc court decided that public health justifies mandatory labels.

As the court wrote, there is a substantial interest in “enabling customers to make informed choices based on characteristics of the products they wished to purchase, including United States supervision of the entire production process for health and hygiene.” The D.C. Circuit’s opinion recognizes the heightened importance of labeling the health risks inherent in meat, and provides all the more reason to urge the USDA to grant ALDF’s petition to require labels on meat and poultry from animals given “subtherapeutic” antibiotics.

Consumers who eat (and feed their children) meat and poultry have no way of knowing if it comes from an animal who was given subtherapeutic antibiotics—dosed out preemptively to animals on factory farms due to the rampant illness that intensive confinement can foster—and that’s why ALDF is demanding the government place labels on meat products.

Consumers have a right to make informed decisions—and animals have rights to live in conditions that don’t require mass doses of medicine simply to survive. A Change.org petition to require labeling on meat from animals fed antibiotics has surpassed 150,000 signatures. This petition supports ALDF’s request to the USDA to protect the public from a “superbug” crisis resulting from standard industry practices at factory farms. Help us spread the word by signing here.

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Winning the Case against a Coyote Killing Contest


Posted by Jessica Blome, ALDF Staff Attorney on July 25, 2014

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ALDF has just settled an important case and shut down an illegal gambling operation and coyote killing contest. I learned about Duane Freilino’s coyote killing contest in early January, 2013—when I was just beginning week 32 of my pregnancy. As part of an annual tradition, Freilino planned to host a three-day coyote killing spree in the high desert of Harney County, Oregon. The winners of Freilino’s contest—the hunter who killed the most coyotes in three days; the hunter who killed the largest male coyote; the child who killed the most coyotes—would win thousands of dollars in cash prizes, an automatic rifle, and bragging rights. Moreover, hunters would place bets on who they thought would advance in a Caclutta-style hunting auction designed to encourage hunters to kill.

Photographs of the previous seven contests depicted smiling hunters garnishing automatic rifles atop piles of coyote carcasses. The very idea sickened me: What right do we have to kill a class of animals en masse simply for fun? What effect would the mass killing of a single species have on the delicate balance that is ecosystem self-management? What about the coyote’s right to peaceful coexistence?

After some research, I learned coyotes can be killed anytime without limit in Oregon—an injustice that is common in nearly every state. However, the Oregon General Assembly has decided that gambling is a public nuisance as a matter of law. Two weeks after learning about Freilino’s plan, ALDF, Project Coyote, and its members asked the judge to stop Freilino’s coyote killing contest because killing for prizes and betting on those winners is gambling—whether the instrument of risk is a poker chip or a rifle.

Determined to stop the kills, the week of the contest we raced up to Oregon to file the temporary restraining order. At nearly nine months pregnant, I flew up on a tiny little plane, drove four hours through the high desert without cell service or gas station, and then had to stay in a remote rural town. But the trip was worth it in the end because the judge agreed the lawsuit had legal merit.

After that initial hearing, Freilino countersued ALDF, Project Coyote, and their members on meritless grounds for $100,000. ALDF responded quickly by filing a motion to strike Freilino’s counter lawsuit because Freilino’s only purpose was to stifle ALDF’s First Amendment right to challenge his killing contest in court.

Freilino learned that suing charities based on unfounded accusations violates those charities’ First Amendment rights to free speech and public participation. Ultimately, Freilino’s frivolous countersuit cost him more than $5,000 in attorney’s fees and a lifetime ban on hunting contests. In the aftermath of our victory, I hope hunters planning participate in similar killing contests heed this serious lesson.

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Animal Law: A World Phenomenon!


Posted by Joyce Tischler, ALDF's Founder and General Counsel on July 16, 2014

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The Second Global Animal Law Conference has just concluded in Barcelona, Spain, and I was honored to represent the Animal Legal Defense Fund (“ALDF”), one of the main sponsors of this historic event. I spoke to the audience about how successful social movements use three interdependent approaches: litigation, legislation and public outreach (education), and how animal protection litigation is creating broad-based changes in the U.S., as well as in other countries.

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This was a truly international gathering, bringing together participants from China, Japan, Australia, South Africa, Nigeria, Finland, Switzerland, Portugal, England, Spain, France, Germany, U.S., Canada, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Hong Kong, Dubai, Italy, Austria, Argentina, and several other nations.

The major themes rising to the surface were that almost every country’s laws are based on the concept that animals are “things” and resources to be used at-will by humans. This fosters the mass amount of suffering that the law does little or nothing to stop. No jurisdiction anywhere in the world currently deals adequately with the basic problems faced by animals. Not surprisingly, the industries that exploit animals are in control of the laws, the codes, the regulations—or lack thereof—and they are always looking for ways to silence their critics. Interestingly, ag-gag, addressed by law professor and ALDF board member, David Cassuto, was a topic of great interest to this international audience.

Listening to each panelist, I was inspired by the great social and cultural diversity represented in that room: we come from different cultures, religions, races, and yet we have common ground in our shared understanding of the enormity of the problems we face in trying to protect animals from largely unregulated suffering. The good news is that our colleagues from different parts of the world are completely committed and passionate about improving the lives of animals.

The question arose, as it always does, about how much we ought to focus on welfare/protection and how much on rights. And, we reviewed the challenges: how do we strengthen animal protection laws and gain basic legal rights for all sentient beings? How do we win more of the battles? It is not enough to be right; we must be strategic.

It was heartwarming for me to share this special experience with two old friends who served on the Board of Directors of ALDF for many years, and have worked to build ALDF as well as the field of animal law: Professor David Favre and renowned author, Steven Wise. In the earliest days of ALDF, when there was just a small group of us, we could not have imagined that someday, animal law would become a worldwide phenomenon. Dear friends and colleagues, Pamela Frasch, dean of the animal law program at Lewis & Clark Law School, and Kim Stallwood, author of the newly released book, Growl, added depth to the conference.

Conferences such as this provide me with the opportunity to reconnect with remarkable leaders, such as Professor Song Wei, champion of animal protection in China, and Professors Deborah Cao and Alex Bruce, who are defining the field in Australia. I was also delighted to make new friends, such as Assistant Professor Maria Baideldinova, who has introduced the first ever animal law course in Kazakhstan, and generally has 80+ students in her class. At dinner, Maria and I compared notes on our approaches to teaching animal law. Presentations by younger scholars, such as Moe Honjo of Japan and Lois Lelanchon of France, reminded me that the future of animal law is in very capable hands.

Muchas gracias to Professor Marita Gimenez-Candela, who has introduced and championed the study of animal law in Spain, and who arranged for the conference to be hosted at Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, where she directs the first European master’s program in animal law and society. Equal thanks to David Favre and Pamela Frasch, who worked closely with Marita over the past year to bring this prestigious event together. They even managed to get the Mayor of Barcelona to officially welcome our attendees and the subject of animal law to the City of Barcelona!

Animal law is no longer solely an American movement. There is enormous value to holding international conferences in which the challenges and advances in animal law are discussed and shared, and at the end of the conference, we committed, as a group to meet again at least every four years. Viva Animal Law!

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Demand Labeling to Prevent Superbug Crisis


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on July 14, 2014

Did you know that nearly 80% of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. go to animals on factory farms before they’re even sick? Crowding and filth in factory farms creates conditions where animals need medicine to keep them alive before slaughter. This mass usage of antibiotics in animal agriculture means antibiotic resistant “superbugs”—bacteria that can’t be killed by our common medicines. These superbugs could be the number one public health crisis facing us today.

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Consumers who eat (and feed their children) meat and poultry have no way of knowing if it comes from an animal who was given pre-emptive antibiotics, and that’s why ALDF is demanding the government place labels on meat products. Consumers have a right to make informed decisions—and animals have rights to live in conditions that don’t require mass doses of medicine simply to survive. A Change.org petition to require labeling on meat from animals fed antibiotics is approaching 150,000 signatures—help it get there by signing here. This petition supports ALDF’s request to the USDA to protect the public from a “superbug” crisis from factory farms by labeling meat and poultry.

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Tightly packed spaces and unsanitary conditions on factory farms mean mass usage of antibiotics. Intensive confinement like this weakens immune systems and causes immense physiological stress. Instead of making conditions better, producers give drugs to animals to prevent the outbreak of disease and to speed an animal’s hormonal growth to “slaughter weight” more cheaply by using less food. That meat may end up in school lunches or family suppers. Studies show that antibiotic-resistant epidemics of E. coli and salmonella may start from just this origin. Yet the ag industry isn’t required to disclose its use of antibiotics to consumers!

Labeling is how consumers understand what they are purchasing and feeding their families. Food safety information helps consumers make better choices, and it’s up to the USDA to empower us with the ability to make these decisions. Carter Dillard, ALDF’s director of litigation, explains:

Millions of animals are being harmed and consumers misled by this failure to accurately label food products—and this is a matter critical to public and animal health.

Write or call your Congressional representative and ask them to support ALDF’s petition by urging the USDA to protect the public with clear food labels.

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Heroes and Criminals: Reporting Animal Abuse in 2014


Posted by Shelley Rizzotti, Vice Chair, ALDF-LA on July 3, 2014

Two boys, ages 12 and 17, watched their neighbor from their second story window bludgeon a defenseless cocker spaniel “Mookie” with a pipe-like object. Mookie was confined to a tiny pen with nowhere to escape. The children watched the attack long enough to film it with a cell phone so they would have proof to show authorities—one of the boys being heard to say “I’m sorry, doggie” as the dog cried during the filming. When the abuser initially denied hitting the animal, the children were called heroes for having captured the abuse on video—video that was critical to ensure authorities had evidence to pursue criminal charges against the abuser. Authorities were grateful.

What is the difference in the eyes of the law?

What is the difference in the eyes of the law?

A young woman, in her early 20’s, watched men from the side of a public road rake a living cow across the ground with a piece of heavy machinery that looked like a bulldozer. The animal was unable to stand up, unable to get away. The young woman watched the men hurt the animal and like the boys, filmed it. It was proof that the animal was being abused. Instead of authorities thanking her though, and saying how brave she was to watch the abuse long enough to film it, they were only focused on where she was standing when she filmed the abuse, not that the helpless animal was being abused. Authorities were not grateful. Authorities filed criminal charges against her (that were ultimately dismissed).

Would the young woman have been treated differently if she had been age 5, 10, 17, filming the abuse, instead of an adult? Lauded a hero like the boys if she had been a little girl with bows in her hair crying because the animal was being hurt? Would she have been threatened by the slaughterhouse manager and law enforcement if she was a child and had parents there with her? Would that have made a difference in the way she was treated? Would things have been different if the animal being scraped with the bulldozer was a dog, instead of a cow? Would things have been different if the animal was going to be a pet versus going to be food?

The bottom line is that whether animal abuse is recorded by a child or an adult, an immigrant worker or one undercover—whether the abuse is of a companion animal or an animal in a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO), abuse, is abuse, is abuse. Anyone who reports it, especially those who can endure seeing it long enough to film it, and film it long enough to build a case against it (however long that may be), is a hero, not a criminal.

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Legally Brief: Animal Bill of Rights


Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on July 3, 2014

Legally Brief

Each Fourth of July in the United States, we celebrate our freedom and our independence—our legal “rights” are a point of pride. The Animal Legal Defense Fund advocates for nonhuman animals to also receive the full protection of the law as a right.

Without legal protection, animals are defenseless against exploitation and abuse by humans. From the shameful treatment of exotic animals—like Ben the Bear and Tony the Tiger—who have been imprisoned in roadside cages, to wildlife who are penned, hounded, trapped, shot, and terrorized, to the dogs savagely torn apart for profit in dogfighting rings, to puppies treated like disposable machines in puppy mills, to ducks force-fed to the point of disease so people can eat gourmet treats, to the animals confined by hoarders in the most horrifying of conditions.

(CC Soggydan Benenovitch)

(CC Soggydan Benenovitch)

This Fourth of July, ALDF urges you to sign the Animal Bill of Rights and encourage your representatives to pass legislation that gives animals the rights they deserve:

  • The Right of animals to be free from exploitation, cruelty, neglect, and abuse.
  • The Right of laboratory animals not to be used in cruel or unnecessary experiments.
  • The Right of farm animals to an environment that satisfies their basic physical and psychological needs.
  • The Right of companion animals to a healthy diet, protective shelter, and adequate medical care.
  • The Right of wildlife to a natural habitat, ecologically sufficient to a normal existence and self-sustaining species population.
  • The Right of animals to have their interests represented in court and safeguarded by the law of the land.

Across the nation, people are signing the Animal Bill of Rights to show a groundswell of support for laws that protect animals. ALDF is aiming for ONE MILLION SIGNATURES. If you haven’t yet joined the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have signed the Animal Bill of Rights—please take action now. Let our elected officials know we need stronger laws to protect the basic needs of animals—and provide justice for those who are abused and exploited.

Watch ALDF’s Animal Bill of Rights Video, which has aired more than 3,000 times across the country in just over two months.

Sign the Animal Bill of Rights.

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Joshua Horwitz – War of the Whales


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on July 1, 2014

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When science author Joshua Horwitz first came across a lawsuit filed by an environmental lawyer against the U.S. Navy, he knew he had a found an untold story. That story has become a brand new book (from Simon & Schuster) called The War of the Whales. As he explains, the “war of the whales” refers to the conflict between the safety of marine life and the Navy’s use of lethal sonar training exercises that impact the ocean’s animals for hundreds of miles.

The clash of national security with animal and environmental advocacy makes this book a compelling narrative, and it is a story that continues in the courtroom today with ALDF’s lawsuit (along with the Natural Resources Defense Council) against the U.S. Navy. Horwitz explains, “Number one, all of the lawsuits—including the current one that ALDF is party to—all they want to do is limit peace-time training and exercises. In a war situation… obviously the Navy needs to protect its people and protect the country. However, whales and dolphins shouldn’t have to die for practice. You don’t need to train in known marine habitats. That’s the position of NRDC and ALDF in this, and it’s a self-evident position.”

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War of the Whales follows two very different advocates for whales: NRDC senior attorney Joel Reynolds and Navy veteran and whale researcher Ken Balcomb. Because of the secrecy inherent to military procedures,naval sonar expert Ken Balcomb provides valuable insights into Navy operations. Together, Balcomb and Reynolds brought forth a lawsuit in the 1990s to compel the Navy to tell the truth about acoustic warfare activities and the impact these tests have on marine life. A lower court ruled against the Navy, but the Bush administration overturned that decision by executive order, claiming national security issues were at stake. NRDC did not give up, and that case reached the Supreme Court in 2008. The higher court ruled that protection of the public interest came from “securing the strongest military defense rather than in enforcing marine mammal protection.” However, the case invoked further comprehensive environmental research on the topic. Thanks to NRDC’s lawsuit, such studies are required and often funded by the Office of Naval Research.

Along with the NRDC, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is currently involved with a similar lawsuit against the U.S. Navy for amplifying its sonar testing program. ALDF and NRDC allege that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) illegally granted the Navy permission to harm marine mammals nearly ten million times off the coast of southern California and Hawaii during the 2013-2018 “training” period. In the Navy’s own environmental review, the Navy estimates that its activities will cause 9.6 million “takes” (or harms), including thousands of instances of permanent hearing loss as well as temporary hearing loss for millions of dolphins and whales, including beaked whales and endangered blue whales. This is more than a 1000% increase from the previous five year period—which was already under question by environmental and animal advocates in the lawsuit featured in War of the Whales.

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The public is growing increasingly aware of issues that affect whales and orcas–from the environmental issues presented in War of the Whales to the issues of captivity raised in the documentary film Blackfish. Horwitz says “My biggest hope for the book is that general readers will become aware of how their tax dollars are being spent in ways that threaten endangered species like whales and other marine mammals—and to activate through organizations like ALDF.”

Joshua Horwitz has worked for decades with humane, environmental, and animal groups—including ALDF—and he is cofounder and publisher of Living Planet Books. For more information, visit warofthewhales.com. War of the Whales comes out today, July 1.

Read the longer interview with author Joshua Horwitz and case study of War of the Whales here.

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