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ALDF LL.M. Scholar Award


Posted by Pamela D Hart, Director of Animal Law Program on March 20, 2015

The Animal Legal Defense Fund and Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS) are pleased to announce the ALDF LL.M. Scholar Award. The award provides tuition assistance toward the Animal Law LL.M. degree at Lewis & Clark Law School—the first and only postgraduate law degree program focused specifically on animal law.

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In 2008, the Animal Legal Defense Fund entered into an exciting collaboration with Lewis & Clark Law School to launch the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark. As a result of this collaboration, CALS has educated and supported law students and legal professionals in the rapidly developing field of animal law through classes, conferences, scholarships, and clinical opportunities.

The milestones that have been achieved at CALS have been nothing short of incredible, from the appointment of the first animal law dean to hiring the first full-time faculty member dedicated to an animal law clinic. These “firsts” complement an already impressive list of pioneering accomplishments at Lewis & Clark, including the formation of the first Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapter, the first academic animal law conference, the first animal law journal, the first national animal law competitions, and launching of the first Animal Law LL.M. (Master of Laws) program in the world. The ALDF LL.M. Scholar Award is another of these “firsts” in support of the field of animal law.

ALDF has a longstanding commitment to animal legal education, and providing CALS with the funds to offer this new LL.M. award to an exceptional U.S. applicant is the next step in its continued support. This award is open to any recent law graduate or practicing attorney looking to immerse completely in specialized animal law courses. Whether your goal is to pursue teaching, build relationships within the animal law community, or work for an international animal welfare nonprofit, the LL.M. program is customizable to meet your educational and career goals.

Application submission guidelines.

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Humane Education and the Future of Compassion


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on March 19, 2015

Humane education is one way the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s mission to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system can reach future generations. For example, at law schools across the nation, Student Animal Legal Defense Fund chapters (SALDF) do tremendous work in the field of animal law. But for younger children, and potential future SALDF members, HEART (Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers) initiates compassionate thinking about animals, and how they can be protected through the legal system. HEART’s brand-new resource guide aims to do just that.

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Have a Heart summer campers on a field trip to Catskill Animal Sanctuary.

 

Why is humane education so important? “Integrating humane education into the curriculum helps develop a culture of compassion,” says Meena Alagappan executive director of HEART. “Cultivating empathy in children is an effective way to prevent later violence toward animals,” she says. HEART is a national nonprofit that fosters compassion and respect for all living beings and the environment through empowering schoolchildren.

Each HEART lesson is designed by educational experts to provide age-appropriate ways to engage children with issues of compassion. With younger children, Meena notes, “it’s about getting them to relate to animals by understanding our similarities and learning interesting facts about the animals.”

Consider companion animal issues like abusive puppy mill breeding facilities and overcrowded shelters. In upper elementary math classes, HEART’s lessons help students measure how many animals result from one un-spayed dog and her mate in just two years—more than 600 puppies! Studying that exponential growth reinforces math skills while driving home the importance of animal protection laws. “Teachers love these activities,” Meena says, “because they help satisfy mandated learning standards and allow students to become more informed and responsible members of society.”

HEART’s 160-page compassionate resource guide includes 40 fun and memorable lessons like these for children in grades K-12. Lessons can be conducted in school or outside the classroom, at community centers, libraries, or camps. “We designed the curriculum with self-contained, accessible activities, so it’s suitable for not only teachers, but also concerned citizens who don’t have a formal background in teaching,” Meena explains.

“Behind Closed Doors” is a middle school lesson that engages students with the lives of egg-laying hens who are intensely confined in “battery cages.” Students compare the basic needs of dogs and cats with the needs of farmed animals and learn what “factory farm” means for chickens. Students are then given the opportunity to consider a law that would allow for larger cages for hens. They use their own critical thinking skills to present arguments and decide for themselves, as if they are members of Congress. These lessons also encourage civic participation in animal law issues. Students receive the core, empowering message that they can make a difference in the lives of animals.

Available on HEART’s website are more materials, along with informative and engaging videos to share. Download the free HEART resource guide and visit HEART on Facebook.

Meena Alagappan was formerly the chair of the American Bar Association’s Animal Law Committee and the NYC Bar Association’s Committee on Legal Issues Pertaining to Animals. She was educated at Cornell University, Northwestern Law School, and Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine.

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ALDF Speaks Up for Elephants at Woodland Park Zoo


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on March 17, 2015

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Elephants Bamboo and Chai are suffering immensely in the Seattle-based Woodland Park Zoo. That’s why, today, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (with the pro bono assistance of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher) submitted a friend of the court brief in support of the right of Seattle taxpayers to see records about the conditions in which the elephants at Woodland Park Zoo are kept. Open records lawsuits are crucial to safeguarding the ability of the public to advocate for and protect animals in captivity.

ALDF’s amicus brief comes after a trial court denied a Seattle taxpayer these records. The trial court held the taxpayer was not entitled to the records because the zoo is not performing a governmental function, despite the fact that it receives millions of tax dollars every year from the city to operate the zoo. ALDF’s brief argues that the zoo is subject to the state’s Public Records Act as a government-funded entity.

The public has been increasingly outraged by conditions of captivity at the zoo. Last year, Watoto, a 45-year old African elephant, was euthanized after keepers found her suffering from arthritis so badly she couldn’t move to an upright position. Harmful management, longstanding neglect, and inhumane breeding practices have hurt elephants like Bamboo, Watoto, and Chai. These elephants suffer severe and chronic foot and joint problems, unexplained bleeding, and psychological damage.

Elephants are sensitive, intelligent, family-oriented, and social, and require wide expanses for their well-being. But that’s not what they get at the Woodland Park Zoo. Chai has been treated like a breeding machine: inseminated over 100 times, her only live birth, Hansa, died at just six years old. Chai and her fellow pachyderm prisoners demonstrate severe psychological suffering, compounded by pathetically small enclosures that prevent them from engaging in many natural behaviors.

For more than a century, the zoo used taxpayer dollars to support the cruel treatment of animals. The zoo’s origins lie in Seattle’s 1899 purchase of 200 acres on the southwest shore of Green Lake. From the beginning, the zoo has been fundamentally beholden to the people of Seattle. In 2010, ALDF filed a lawsuit on behalf of Seattle taxpayers against the zoo for cruel treatment of elephants. That lawsuit was dismissed by the court on standing, a procedural ground—but the court expressed concern about holding elephants captive and did not exonerate the zoo’s treatment of the elephants.

As cities begin to partially privatize their zoos, taxpayers risk losing their right to know how animals are treated in these facilities. This threat to transparency undermines public records laws, as ALDF argues in its brief. The Woodland Park Zoo has announced it will send the zoo’s two surviving elephants to the Oklahoma City Zoo—against the wishes of Seattle taxpayers, the majority of the city council, and the mayor, who all want to see Bamboo and Chai retired to a reputable sanctuary.

 

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2nd Annual Siskiyou Prize for Animal & Environmental Literature


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on March 11, 2015

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Attention all authors, aspiring writers, and book lovers! One of our favorite presses, Ashland Creek Press—independent publishers of animal-themed and environmental-themed books—is announcing the 2nd annual Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature. Ashland Creek has brought us books featured in the Animal Book Club like The Tourist Trail by John Yunker, Among Animals, and our recently reviewed Love & Ordinary Creatures, a novel by Gwyn Hyman Rubio.

The 2nd annual Siskiyou Prize will be awarded for an unpublished, book-length work of prose with environmental themes. This includes novels, memoirs, short story collections, and essay collections. Manuscripts are due September 1, 2015. The winner will receive $1,000, a four-week residency at PLAYA, and an offer of publication by Ashland Creek Press.

For this prize, “new environmental literature” refers to literary works that focus on the environment, animal protection, ecology, and wildlife. As book club members and ALDF supporters know, ALDF’s work on the overlap between animal protection and conservation efforts is strong. The links between animal agriculture, overpopulation, climate change, and habitat destruction form the basis of much of ALDF’s recent work, as well as our lawsuits to stop environmentally destructive and cruel wildlife killing contests, and our legal work to protect endangered species of birds, wolves, and marine mammals.

The Siskiyou Prize is named for the Klamath-Siskiyou region of northern California and southern Oregon, one of the most diverse eco-regions in the world. Considered a global center of biodiversity, the Klamath-Siskiyou region is an inspiring example of the importance of preservation. The prize seeks work that redefines our notions of environmentalism and sustainability, particularly when it comes to animal protection. The award will not go to books that support hunting, fishing, or eating animals. Under these basic guidelines, the prize is open to a wide range of writing with environmental and animal themes.

Prize judge Ann Pancake’s first novel, Strange as This Weather Has Been (Counterpoint 2007), features a southern West Virginia family devastated by mountaintop removal mining. Based on interviews and real events, the novel was one of Kirkus Reviews’s Top Ten Fiction Books of 2007, won the 2007 Weatherford Award, and was a finalist for the 2008 Orion Book Award. You can read about last year’s winner, selected by bestselling author Karen Joy Fowler, here. Karen’s amazing book We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves will feature in an Animal Book Club giveaway and review next month!

This prize is a tremendous way to celebrate and encourage more great writing on animal protection and conservation issues. For more information, visit SiskiyouPrize.com or AshlandCreekPress.com.

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American Bar Association Protects Animals and Public Safety


Posted by Chris Green, ALDF Director of Legislative Affairs on March 9, 2015

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On Monday February 9, the American Bar Association’s (ABA) house of delegates adopted Resolution 105 urging all legislative bodies to pass laws that prohibit:

“the possession, sale, breeding, import, or transfer of dangerous wild animals, such as big cats, bears, wolves, primates, and dangerous reptiles, in order to protect public safety and health, and to ensure the humane treatment and welfare of such animals.”

This means that the ABA puts its full endorsement behind the policy position that ownership of dangerous wild animals should be banned throughout the U.S. The ABA’s 400,000 nationwide membership and impeccable credibility for objectively pursuing justice and uniformity in the law makes this a significant step. Indeed, trade groups who promote exotic animal ownership already are lamenting passage of Resolution 105, stating: “Th[is] Report presents new problems for all exotic animal owners and keepers…”; “Without question, this Report will make its way into legislatures across the country…”; and, “This edict, adopted and approved by the ABA, will be a persuasive argument to politicians.”

As the current chair of the ABA-TIPS Animal Law Committee, I initiated Resolution 105 over three years ago, after dozens of dangerous wild and exotic animals were set loose in the rural Ohio community of Zanesville. The culprit, Terry Thompson, was a recently released convicted felon who had a history of animal cruelty. Reportedly distraught over separating from his wife, Thompson intentionally released more than 50 wild animals from his private menagerie and then took his own life on October 18, 2011.

When law enforcement officials arrived at the scene, they quickly had to choose between using lethal force to stop the animals or risking harm to human life. With nightfall approaching, the difficult decision was made, and over the next few hours police officers shot and killed 49 of the dangerous wild animals Thompson had released, including tigers, lions, bears, mountain lions, wolves, and a baboon.

At the time, Ohio was one of seven U.S. states that shockingly had absolutely no laws restricting private possession of dangerous wild and exotic animals. Bizarrely, while Ohio allowed ownership of grizzly bears, tigers, and venomous snakes with no oversight in 2011, possessing “pit bull-type” dogs was a crime. Both Ohio laws have since been changed through the committed work of animal advocates. But five U.S. states still allow anyone to own any dangerous animal without even so much as a permit. Those states are: Alabama, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina and Wisconsin. In addition to the obvious animal welfare concerns, privately owned exotic animals have killed more than 40 Americans over the past 25 years, including eight children—such as the 10-year old boy who was mauled to death by his aunt’s 400 pound Bengal tiger.

The ABA’s passage of Resolution 105 will greatly help us end the hazardous and harmful practice of exotic animal ownership, and prevent the future captivity of animals such as Tony the Truck Stop tiger and Ricky the bear. Thanks go out to all my colleagues in the ABA-TIPS Animal Law Committee for helping pass this important measure.

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ALDF Supports a Fur Free West Hollywood


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on March 6, 2015

Today, ALDF has again stepped up for animals by speaking out in support of West Hollywood’s historic, first-in-the-country ban on the sale of products made from fur within city limits. Animal fur—from animals like foxes, minks, raccoon dogs, and many others—is cruelly produced, so the city decided to foster a cruelty free community by demanding that businesses sell faux fur or other cruelty-free alternatives. Unfortunately, a business called Mayfair House, which sells luxury animal fur products, has once again challenged the constitutionality of the city’s ban.

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The ban was passed in 2011, but did not go into effect until 2013. Last year, Mayfair House filed a lawsuit challenging the ban in federal court. In that case, the court allowed ALDF to submit a friend of the court (amicus curiae) brief in support of the city’s motion to dismiss the business’s lawsuit. A federal judge ruled that Mayfair House’s lawsuit was meritless and dismissed its suit with prejudice. But in June 2014, Mayfair House filed another lawsuit—this time in state court—challenging the validity of the law. The city was forced to defend its ordinance yet again, and ALDF will support the city’s efforts to reject the cruelty of fur by filing another amicus brief today.

ALDF has consistently supported West Hollywood’s effort to become the leader in groundbreaking, local animal protection ordinances. Indeed, more than 25 years ago, in 1989, the city declared itself to be a Cruelty Free Zone for Animals. Ordinances banning steel leghold traps and animal testing to make cosmetics soon followed. In 2003, the city banned the practice of non-therapeutic declawing of cats and other animals; seven other California cities followed that model in 2009. More recently, in 2010 West Hollywood banned the commercial sale of dogs and cats, in an effort to crackdown on the inhumane treatment of animals raised in puppy and kitten mills. And in 2013, West Hollywood banned the commercial display of animals, including circuses.

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Does the city have the right to pass such humane laws? California’s state constitution protects a municipality’s ability to evolve in response to public values—like valuing the well-being of animals. Local control has proven effective in combatting animal cruelty because state and federal laws are inadequate. Animals depend on local governments, to fill that void. And precedent supports this: ten years ago California courts upheld the West Hollywood’s ban on the declawing of domestic cats after the California Veterinary Medical Association filed a lawsuit similar to Mayfair House’s.

West Hollywood meets its obligation to foster a Cruelty Free Zone with a ban on the sale of fur products. The agony animals on fur farms suffer is hard to swallow. The methods of confinement and slaughter are intentionally barbaric in order to preserve the integrity of a fox, rabbit, or chinchilla’s “pelt.” Animals are kept in small, filthy cages before being suffocated, electrocuted, gassed, or poisoned. In anal or vaginal electrocution, electrodes are attached to the animal’s face and genitals, and a heart attack is induced. Commonly—with no pain-killers and while fully conscious—animals are skinned alive.

ALDF’s support of West Hollywood is just one of a number of ways we are reaching out to protect animals and to defend humane, reasonable animal protection laws. Next month, the court will hear oral arguments on this issue, and ALDF will be there. Stay tuned for more in our fight against fur.

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Ringling to Phase Out Circus Elephants!


Posted by Carney Anne Small, ALDF Legislative Counsel on March 5, 2015

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“We’re not going to come… without our elephants,” said Stephen Payne, Ringling Bros.’ vice president of corporate communications, when the City of Los Angeles passed a ban on firepoker-like bullhooks that circuses use to dominate and control elephants. As public awareness has grown about the circus’ barbaric bullhook abuse, forcible separation of mothers and infant elephants, confinement of elephants in cramped boxcars for up to 100 hours at a time, nearly interminable chaining at performance venues, and use of elephants who are sick or suffering from painful conditions like arthritis, dozens of jurisdictions across the United States have banned the use of bullhooks or the use of exotic animals in traveling acts all together. Despite the clear shift in public opinion about the use of elephants and other animals in entertainment acts, Ringling has remained unyielding in its position that it will not end its use of elephants. Until today.

We have all hoped to see the elephants have their own Blackfish moment. And that moment appears to have arrived. On March 5, 2015, we all woke up to historic news that may not have been believable had it not been reported on virtually every major news network across the United States: Ringling Bros. announced that it is finally eliminating the use of elephants from its circus by 2018. In this earthshattering about-face maneuver, Ken Feld, the CEO of Ringling’s parent company, acknowledged the role that shifting public opinion and legislative efforts to ban bullhooks has played, and the circus’ need to adapt. While some groups have been critical of the efficacy of bullhook bans, this announcement by Ringling Bros. is a clear indication that the bans passed in Oakland, Los Angeles, Fulton County, and other localities across the U.S. have indeed influenced the $2 billion entertainment corporation’s decision to adapt and drop the elephant act.

This is a monumental step in the right direction, but our work on behalf of exotic animals in entertainment is not over yet. While we at Animal Legal Defense Fund are celebrating this historic victory for elephants, our efforts to pass legislation that will protect elephants, tigers, and other animals who are exploited in circuses and traveling acts will not end until all animal acts are a relic of the past.

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Commercialized Cruelty to Sled Dogs


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on March 2, 2015

Around this time of year, ALDF is often asked: “are the Iditarod and other commercialized dogsledding events cruel to animals?” Every March—this year beginning March 7—the Iditarod is held in Alaska, and is the most famous example of commercialized dogsledding.

The annual Alaskan Iditarod is a grueling race through 1000 miles of the roughest terrain on earth, in temperatures that drop well below zero. Teams of dogs run, sometimes up to 100 miles a day, for 7-10 days. The human mushers compete for substantial financial rewards—even at the cost of injuring dogs. ALDF Founder and General Counsel Joyce Tischler explains:

Under the laws of some states, commercial dog sledding practices would be considered criminally cruel. In California, for example, the state criminal anti-cruelty law makes it a crime to inflict needless suffering or unnecessary cruelty upon an animal—including by overworking an animal. Conveniently for the Iditarod backers, Alaska’s anti-cruelty law conveniently exempts standard dog sledding practices and lets the industry define what is acceptable.

Since the Iditarod began decades ago, more than 140 dogs have died from heart attacks, pneumonia, muscle deterioration, dehydration, diarrhea, and spinal injuries. Some have been impaled on sleds, drowned, or accidentally strangled. Injured dogs are left alone at checkpoints, according to the Sled Dog Action Coalition. And big game animals, like elk and moose, who get in the way of the race, may be killed. During the off-season, sled dogs are generally kept chained to their doghouse in an outdoor kennel. Often, when the dogs are no longer profitable, they are killed.

And it’s not just Alaska—last year, a Colorado sled dog operator was charged with eight counts of animal cruelty after an investigation revealed starving, sick, and constantly tethered dogs left out in the cold. From the 1990s through 2014, the operator of Krabloonik Sled Dog Center was accused of “culling” his dogs by gunshot, as well as neglect, punching and beating dogs, and providing inadequate shelter.

Another commercial sled dog enterprise in Colorado at the Pawsatrak Racing Sled Dog Kennel also got in hot water for cruelty to animals. Authorities found six dogs dead on the premise and the rest were seized. A veterinarian who performed necropsies attested that the neglect of these dogs was chronic. Both owners were convicted of criminal animal cruelty.

In fact, cruelty charges have been filed against operators at sled dog operations all over the country, from Maine to Montana to New York—the abuse and neglect of sled dogs is horrific, pervasive, and chronic. Any time animals are used as objects to produce profits, in under-regulated industries, their well-being is in danger. Please do not support this inherently cruel industry.

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Protect Exotic Animals in Las Vegas!


Posted by Carney Anne Nasser, ALDF Legislative Counsel on February 27, 2015

Clark County Commissioners are meeting on Wednesday, March 4 to consider revoking the zoning permits for Keith Evans to house exotic animals. ALDF needs your help to make sure the interests of these and other animals are protected!

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The Lion Habitat Ranch, aka “Lion Photo Studios,” is a roadside zoo in Clark County that breeds and exhibits over 40 lions who are kept in substandard cages and used for photos and other dangerous opportunities for unsafe public interactions. Because lions and other big cats may only lawfully be used for direct public contact until they are about 12 weeks old, exhibitors like Keith Evans of the Lion Habitat Ranch have to keep breeding lions in order to maintain a steady supply of cubs. Exotic cats who become too big for public handling frequently end up warehoused in cages, sent to other roadside zoos and other exploitative operators with histories of Animal Welfare Act violations, shuffled around through the lucrative exotics market, or even dumped at facilities that slaughter lions for their meat and parts. Evans has exceeded the number of lions he may lawfully house, but apparently keeps breeding them.

Keith Evans was recently cited by the USDA for unsafe handling practices involving interactions between lions and the public. Because the USDA only inspects about once a year, and Clark County has no ordinance regulating exotic animal ownership, Evans operates with virtually no oversight 364 days of the year. Unless Clark County stops the madness by revoking Evans’ zoning permit to keep dangerous wild animals, Evans will continue to breed lions, expand his operation, and contribute to the exploitation of other exotic animals. This situation also underscores the need for Clark County to finally pass an ordinance that provides meaningful oversight over exotic animal ownership.

Please speak up for lions and other exotic animals condemned to lives of abuse and deprivation by urging Clark County Commissioners to: 1) revoke Keith Evans’ conditional use permits, and 2) pass an ordinance that empowers the county to exercise greater oversight over owners of dangerous wild animals!

Action for Nevada Residents

If you are a Nevada resident, please call Clark County Commissioner Chair Steve Sisolak today at (702) 455-3500. All you have to do is politely say, “As a Nevada resident who cares about animal welfare and public safety, I wanted to voice support for your effort to revoke the conditional use permits for Lion Habitat Ranch, and ask you to pass an exotic animal ordinance that will prevent situations like this from happening in the future.”

After you call, please be sure to send a follow-up email to the Clark County Commissioners. If you are a resident of Clark County, be sure to note that in your email.

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A Better World for Animals is at Your Fingertips!


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF's Staff Writer on February 27, 2015

Today’s daily action for National Justice for Animals Week is: Fight animal abuse online.

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Fight animal abuse and honor animal victims online. Join the hundreds of thousands across the nation who have already taken action online to support critical ALDF campaigns, which are designed to have the maximum impact for animals. A better world for animals is at your fingertips!

Animal Bill of Rights

Help us reach one million signatures! Please join the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have signed the Animal Bill of Rights—take action now! Let Congress and all of our elected officials know that the law should protect the basic needs of all animals—and should provide justice for those who are abused and exploited.

Animal Bill of Rights

Expose Animal Abusers

Communities have good reason to be concerned about the whereabouts of animal abusers. In story after heartbreaking story, abusers repeat their violent crimes against helpless animals, and often go on to victimize people as well. Animal abuser registries will help keep animals and families safe. New York City recently became the largest jurisdiction to pass a measure that will create a registry of convicted animal abusers in the city. If you would like to help pass a registry in your state, please contact your local legislators and ask for an animal abuser registry where you live! Take action at ExposeAnimalAbusers.org.

First Strike and You’re Out

Currently, most states have no mandatory requirements keeping those who are convicted of animal abuse crimes away from animals following their convictions. ALDF’s model “First Strike and You’re Out” law will help in the fight against animal neglect and cruelty by keeping offenders away from potential new animal victims and will also help reduce the huge economic toll which repeat offenders impose on their communities.

Contact your state legislators today and ask them to support a “First Strike and You’re Out” law for those who are convicted of animal neglect or cruelty.

 

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Captive Elephants Need Better Protections


Posted by Carney Anne Nasser, ALDF Legislative Counsel on February 26, 2015

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Any time elephants and humans share the same space, whether in a zoo, at a circus, or at a county fair, elephants are likely to suffer. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, elephant handlers who utilize the “free contact” system of elephant management have the highest risk of fatal work injury for any profession. Free contact is characterized by the use of sharp bullhooks or other weapons intended to inflict pain and fear. Handlers use the bullhook to beat, jab, hook, poke, and prod elephants in the most sensitive areas of their bodies. When the public is present, the mere presence of the bullhook acts as a threat of pain the elephant will endure if she doesn’t perform as commanded. This barbaric conditioning process begins when the elephants are mere infants. Already in 2015:

  • An investigation has been opened into UniverSoul Circus for alleged cruelty to an elephant at a show in Atlanta.
  • The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium was cited by the USDA for using biting dogs to control elephant behavior.
  • Asheville, North Carolina instituted an aggressive policy change to prohibit circuses from using exotic animals in the city-owned arena.
  • San Francisco is considering an ordinance to ban the exhibition of exotic animals.
  • Hawaii stands poised to pass the first state-wide legislation to ameliorate abuse of wild and exotic animals used in circuses.
  • Just this week, Santa Monica, Calif. passed a ban on the exhibition of exotic animals.

In addition to abusive handling, elephants also endure premature maternal separation; lack of adequate enrichment, space, and socialization; and perpetual confinement in chains on unnatural surfaces during transport for traveling shows or while backstage at performance venues. These conditions are associated with lifelong physiological and psychological damage that make elephants unpredictable and prone to aggression:

  • 9/10/2014: an elephant fatally crushed the founder of an elephant facility in Hope, Maine.
  • 10/11/2013: an elephant fatally trampled a handler at the Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield, Mo. while he was coaxing the elephant from one part of the enclosure to another.
  • 8/26/2013: an elephant attacked a visitor at a roadside zoo in Williston, Fla. whose resultant critical injuries required her to spend nearly two months in the hospital.

On the other hand, the “protected contact” method of handling elephants is characterized by positive reinforcement: handlers don’t use bullhooks or other weapons, never share unrestricted space with the elephant, and never force the elephant to submit to the handler’s demands. This method is employed by the only two reputable elephant sanctuaries in the United States (the Performing Animal Welfare Society in California and The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee) and by zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

ALDF is working toward the day when holding elephants captive will be a relic of the past—in the meantime we are fighting to ensure captive elephants aren’t subjected to additional abuse with cruel weapons of behavior modification. Los Angeles, Oakland, Miami Beach, and dozens of other localities across the U.S. have enacted ordinances to ban the use of bullhooks or the use of elephants and other exotic animals in entertainment all together. ALDF is working hard to ensure more jurisdictions pass laws to ban the cruel use of bullhooks and other weapons, to prohibit prolonged chaining and caging, and to eliminate the use of wild and exotic animals in entertainment altogether.

We hope you will join us by refusing to attend any entertainment events where animals are forced to perform, and by letting legislators know that you will not tolerate such cruelty in your community.

Take Action

  • Do not attend events that exploit animals.
  • Urge your local legislators to pass similar ordinances that ban the use of exotic animals in entertainment.
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Download LiveSafe for National Justice for Animals Week


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on February 25, 2015

One of the ways you can support National Justice for Animals Week 2015 is by downloading a free mobile reporting app—in case you encounter acts of animal cruelty or neglect. LiveSafe is designed to help animals by letting you report abuse and neglect right from your phone. Your animal abuse crime tips will immediately alert your local law enforcement when animals are in need of help—and justice. Join forces with ALDF in protecting animals and stopping animal abusers! Here’s how LiveSafe works:

With ALDF’s LiveSafe app you can help secure the legal justice animals deserve. Help the Animal Legal Defense Fund win the case against cruelty. Install LiveSafe today!

Take Action Button

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Arrest Made in Puppy-Burning Case!


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on February 24, 2015

arrested-burned-dog-250pxOn January 22, ALDF offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction after a Sacramento puppy was found burned to death on a North Sacramento street. The 8-9 month-old puppy had been locked in a dog crate and burned alive. Although this grim case sickens us, we are announcing some great forward movement: thanks to the dedicated work of the Sacramento SPCA, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s department, and the Sacramento Metro Fire department, an arrest has been made.

According to media reports, the suspect, a 20-year old Oakland man named Willie Turner, has been arrested on suspicion of animal torture. Collaboration between the fire department and the sheriff’s department led to the warrant and arrest for the suspected perpetrator of this heinous crime.

On January 21, neighbors reported a trash fire outside the Oak Plains Masonic Lodge on 3010 Becerra Way—the fire turned out to be the burning dog, who may have been heard whimpering or howling before firefighters arrived on the scene and realized the fire was a burning dog.

Under California Penal Code 597(a), a person convicted of maliciously and intentionally maiming or killing an animal can be sentenced for up to three years and/or fined $20,000 for felony animal cruelty. In California, it is at the district attorney’s discretion whether animal cruelty is charged as a felony. We can only imagine the agonizing pain this puppy must have suffered. And studies show that persons who harm animals tend to be repeat offenders and are five times more likely to harm humans too.

And this terribly sad, outrageous act of animal cruelty reminds us why this week, National Justice for Animals Week 2015, is so important. Want to speak up for animals who can’t speak for themselves?

Urge your local and state lawmakers to enforce stricter sentences for the most violent abusers.

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Making News for Animals


Posted by Jennifer Molidor ALDF's Staff Writer on February 24, 2015

Today’s daily action for National Justice for Animals Week is to make news for animals!

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Write a Letter to the Editor

Don’t just read the news—make it! If you don’t think the issue of animal abuse is getting enough coverage in your local paper, or if you want to applaud a particular reporter for going in-depth to cover a case of animal cruelty, a letter to the editor is a great way to take action for animals.

Let your own community members know how they can join the campaign to fight animal abuse with a clear, concise letter. “Letters to the Editor” are one of the most widely read sections of the newspaper and can reach a large audience. These letters allow community members to comment on the way animal issues are being addressed in the media and influence the topics covered by the local paper. Elected officials often monitor this section of the newspaper and take notice of public opinions.

If your letter is published, share it with us, and we’ll send you an ALDF prize pack including a reusable ALDF tote bag, bumper sticker, and other ALDF goodies! Email the link to the online newspaper to info@aldf.org, or mail a hard copy to us at:

Animal Legal Defense Fund
c/o Megan Backus
170 East Cotati Ave
Cotati, CA 94931

Include your name, mailing address, and copy of your published letter. Letters must be received by March 31, 2015 and must relate to the theme of National Justice for Animals Week to be eligible to win.

We’ve made it easy for you to contact your local newspaper with your views, but editors want to hear from you in your own words. Take action and write a letter to the editor now!

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National Justice for Animals Week 2015 Begins


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on February 23, 2015

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ALDF’s National Justice for Animals Week gives everyone the tools to stop animal abuse, and urges law enforcement, prosecutors, and lawmakers to protect animals from abusers. From ALDF action alerts, adoption campaigns, spreading the message with social media, signing the Animal Bill of Rights, to downloading ALDF’s LiveSafe app—where you can report animal cruelty to law enforcement with just a few clicks on your smartphone—ALDF’s National Justice for Animals Week makes it easy for you to speak up for animals.

Every year, ALDF highlights our dedication to protecting animals from criminal acts of cruelty by telling the story of one special animal. This year, National Justice for Animals Week 2015 (February 22-28) celebrated animal hero Gracie the alpaca and drew attention to the plight she and 174 other alpacas suffered at the hands of an abuser—who is facing serious jail time for his crimes.

Gracie is one of 175 emaciated and starved alpacas seized by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office from “Jocelyn’s Alpaca Ranch” (near Portland, Oregon). The alpacas were so neglected, 50 animals perished from lack of nutrition. ALDF dedicated a $5,000 grant to help with the costs of care and the sheriff’s office kindly fed the remaining animals until they were safe to move. That’s when Shari Bond from Cross Creek Alpaca Rescue stepped in and provided a safe haven to rehabilitate the remaining alpacas.

Just two years old, Gracie weighed only 35lbs at the time she was rescued. She had been severely deprived of nutrition as a baby, and her growth was stunted as a result. 230 animals had been forced to share a mere three acres. “The trees were all the animals had to eat,” Shari explained.

“Gracie broke my heart from the moment I first laid eyes on her. She had ‘checked out and had the vacant stare animals get when they have given up. At one point she fell down and did not have the strength to stand again. I promised her I would do everything to get her out of there and protect her.”

Gracie has since made a full recovery, and is even making friends at Shari’s rescue. And she has doubled in weight, in just the last few months! Gracie palled around with her friend Iris, and later moved in with two small males, Puck and Dallas. You can see their adorable friendships and learn more about their story here!

National Justice for Animals Week also celebrates the human heroes who fight to better protect animals. Like Oregon deputy district attorney Jake Kamins, who—with ALDF’s support—has become the first-ever funded prosecutor totally dedicated to putting animal abusers behind bars, where they belong. Jake successfully prosecuted Gracie’s legal case and secured a criminal conviction of Robert Silver, co-owner of the ranch that starved the alpacas. Silver was charged with two felony counts and 16 misdemeanor counts of animal neglect, and he was sentenced to three years in prison.

National Justice for Animals Week 2015 also celebrates America’s “Top Ten Animal Defenders.” These heroes have gone above and beyond to protect animals, like Sgt. Lindsay Herron, an animal crimes investigator for the Minneapolis Police Department, who has made a huge dent in shutting down dogfighting rings in that area, in addition to educating schoolchildren about safety with animals, and in her spare time rescues dogs too.

Other heroes include former Illinois governor Pat Quinn, who repeatedly passed such strong animal protection laws he kept Illinois at the top spot of ALDF’s state rankings, year after year. Animal victims of abuse cannot speak for themselves, but these extraordinary people are taking a stand in seeking justice for abused and neglected animals. During National Justice for Animals Week 2015, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is delighted to announce America’s Top Ten Animal Defenders.

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