Growl: Compassion, Truth, Nonviolence, and Justice in Animal Advocacy
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on September 18, 2014
Kim Stallwood is British animal rights scholar every advocate for animals should have on his or her radar. His latest book, Growl: Life Lessons, Hard Truths, and Bold Strategies from an Animal Advocate from Lantern Books, has been long-awaited by the Animal Book Club. Growl’s main drive is an exploration of how to co-exist with nonhuman animals using four main principles or “key values” of truth, compassion, nonviolence, and justice. The book also raises important questions about animal advocacy.
Can animals have rights? Growl investigates this question in practical terms and philosophical measure. Opponents claim animals cannot have legal rights because they cannot articulate reason or consciousness (although even this has been challenged). Yet, Growl asks readers to consider: moral and legal rights are commonly given to humans—such as infants and the mentally impaired—who don’t possess those requirements. So why not allow the same for the interests of nonhuman animals?
Kindness to animals, Kim notes, referencing Immanuel Kant, is a virtue worthy of human moral systems. And justice—as opposed to charity—is what is required for these moral systems. As he writes, “injustice characterizes our activities with animals. The animal industrial complex is injustice on a massive scale.” And this sense of justice distinguishes the seriousness with which one pursues animal protection. Many animal charities, he suggests, are based on “individual good-heartedness.” Justice, on the other hand, “reflects the sanction (in both meanings of the word) of society and the enforcement of law and order.”
And it is in this way that Kim’s work aligns with that of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Our mission is to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals using the legal system. Animals need laws to protect them from harm and to advance their interests: animals need more than the kind-hearted generosity of few, they need the permanent protection of the whole. Kim writes:
I am optimistic for the future of animal rights in the U.S. because of the strength of the third branch of the government—the judiciary—and the ability to develop public policy through the courts.
And that is the work the Animal Legal Defense Fund continues to do, in the ballot box, the courts, and working with community and individuals to better protect animals.Growl (evocative of Allan Ginsberg’s famous poem Howl) encompasses the work of a lifelong animal advocate and complements Kim’s alter-ego blog and social media presence as The Grumpy Vegan. Kim describes five stages of effective social movements: public education, policy development, legislation, enforcement, and public acceptance.
Kim Stallwood founded the Animal Rights Network—the world’s largest library on animal rights—and was once national director of PETA, campaigns officer for the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, and national organizer for Compassion in World Farming. For many years he was executive editor of The Animals’ Agenda and currently edits Speaking Out for Animals, and is the European director for the Animals and Society Institute, an organization he co-founded in 2005. He has also written Animal Dharma. Visit Kim’s website to learn more about the Animal Rights Challenge to make society’s treatment of animals the responsibility of society.
Tracking Animal Crimes Data in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program – A Huge Step Forward
Posted by Scott Heiser, Senior Attorney and Director, Criminal Justice Program on September 17, 2014
Since 1929, the FBI has been the central repository for the collection and dissemination of federal, state, and local crime statistics. Law enforcement and lawmakers alike regularly cite these statistics when making key policy decisions—be it a decision by a local sheriff to add patrols to reduce the rate of residential burglaries or a state legislature’s enactment of a new statute defining a new crime or enhancing the penalties for an existing one.
For those of us who champion animal protection issues, we have been frustrated by the fact that the FBI’s UCR program has not included data related to crimes against animals. However, that glaring deficiency is about to change. The key internal committee within the FBI that proposes changes to the UCR program rules recently (and unanimously) passed two resolutions that amend the UCR program to expand its scope to finally include crimes against animals, and in September 2014 the Director of the FBI formally approved these changes.
This great outcome is the product the hard work of many, including the Animal Welfare Institute, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund. However, this could not have happened without the Herculean efforts of John Thompson, Deputy Executive Director of the National Sheriffs’ Association (or as we like to say, the “other NSA”).
This is great news and we have every confidence that, when armed with the hard facts of the extent and frequency of crimes against animals, this data will play a vital role in improving federal, state, and local laws for the betterment of animals—thank you, Mr. Thompson!
FLOAT for Lolita
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on September 15, 2014
This week—and this week only—you can make a splash for Lolita the orca, the star of one of ALDF’s most important ongoing campaigns, by purchasing a specially designed t-shirt in her honor.
Lolita is an intelligent and sensitive orca who is confined to the smallest orca tank in North America (at the Miami Seaquarium) and has been for decades—since she was kidnapped from her family in the Puget Sound. Her conditions at the Miami Seaquarium mean daily misery for Lolita—no orca companion, no shelter from the sun, and a pathetically small tank that really is more like a bathtub, which she is trapped in, day in and day out. And, even though her shameful living conditions clearly violate the Animal Welfare Act, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) continues to hand out AWA licenses to the theme park. The Animal Legal Defense Fund is working hard to give Lolita the justice she so rightly deserves, which includes protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Your purchase of an exclusive shirt in her likeness will help support that campaign. Available this week only!
For Love of All Things, or FLOAT, is a new breed of company promoting socially, environmentally and globally conscious consumerism. They create awareness and funding for the world’s top nonprofits by conducting limited edition apparel campaigns and contributing $8 from every sale to the current week’s cause. Thisweek, that cause is Lolita.
T-shirts can be purchased Sept. 15 – 21 at FLOAT’s website.
Caught in the Trap: LA Bans Snare and Body Gripping Traps
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on September 11, 2014
Every year, millions of animals like coyotes, wolves, mountain lions, bobcats, and beavers are caught by trappers in the U.S. The most popular trap—the barbaric steel jaw leghold trap—uses metal jaws to grasp an animal by the leg. Most animals caught in these devices die slowly and painfully from shock, blood loss, hypothermia, or starvation. Many try to chew their own legs off to escape. That’s one reason why, earlier this year, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously banned anyone from using any trap “that maims or causes the inhumane death or suffering of any animal” such as those that grip or snare wild animals or use poisons as bait. One council member wrote that all traps “can be inhumane through negligent care or use, but snares, body-crushing and body-gripping traps are inherently inhumane.” Banning these traps reduces the suffering of wild animals and also protects other animals from getting caught in such traps accidentally.
California Ban on Steel Jaw Traps
California voters banned many of these same devices in 1998 through Proposition 4, a statewide ballot initiative that banned traps and other cruel practices used by the fur trade along with dangerous poisons that hurt animals and the environment. Violation of these laws indeed can result in criminal charges. However those prohibitions did not apply to government employees who still are allowed to use other body-gripping traps, such as conibear traps and snares, and are only prevented from using steel jaw leghold traps. California is one of nine U.S. states and more than 85 countries that ban or severely restrict the use of steel jaw leghold traps, which have been declared inhumane by the World Veterinary Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Animal Hospital Association, and the National Animal Control Association.
A New Way Forward
Many animals are trapped as part of a federal predator control program known as Wildlife Services. The agency spends more than 100 million dollars annually to trap, snare, shoot and poison more than a million wild animals. Targeted animals, like coyotes, bobcats, bears, raccoons, and beavers, and animals killed unintentionally, like moose, deer, great-blue herons, endangered condors, bald eagles, and even family pets are killed mostly on public lands and at taxpayer expense. One Wildlife Services trapper reports his records showing that for every one target animal his traps caught, two additional non-target animals were captured—nearly all of whom had to be killed due to their injuries from traps.
My dog once had the misfortune of being caught in a steel jaw leghold trap set out for wolves in Alaska’s Chugach National Forest. I’ll never forget his cries of pain, fear, and helplessness. Fortunately, I was able to release him with relatively minor injuries. Most non-targeted animals caught in traps are not so lucky.
Research shows that nonlethal methods (like range riders, guard dogs, proper fencing) are more effective than trapping, snaring, and poisoning. That’s why ALDF is working with other animal and conservation organizations to assure that our wild neighbors are afforded the respect and protection they deserve. California has made significant moves to protect its wildlife and the Los Angeles ban demonstrates that there are more humane and effective ways to coexist with our wild neighbors.
Legally Brief: A Step Toward Victory in Idaho Ag Gag Case
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on September 4, 2014
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.
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:
- 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.
Student Animal Legal Defense Fund Chapter of the Year Award 2014
Posted by Kelly Levenda, Animal Law Program Staff Attorney on September 2, 2014
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:
- Demonstrate how your chapter raised animal law awareness to other law students, the law school, and/or the broader campus community;
- Describe one or more pioneering projects or initiatives your chapter spearheaded that advanced the field of animal law or otherwise directly benefited animals;
- 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 email@example.com. I encourage all SALDF chapters to apply!
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).
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|
|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|
|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.
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.
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.
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.
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%.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Consumers Win, Meat Producers Lose in Federal Labeling Case
Posted by Daniel Lutz, ALDF Litigation Fellow on July 29, 2014
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.
Winning the Case against a Coyote Killing Contest
Posted by Jessica Blome, ALDF Staff Attorney on July 25, 2014
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.
Animal Law: A World Phenomenon!
Posted by Joyce Tischler, ALDF's Founder and General Counsel on July 16, 2014
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.
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!