The Lost Whale

Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on February 6, 2014

the-whale-dvd-article-image-500pxThis week in ALDF’s Animal Book Club, we are reading The Lost Whale: the True Story of an Orca Named Luna, by Michael Parfit and Suzanne Chisholm (St. Martin’s Press). There’s been a lot in the news lately about the plight of orcas—from the raging controversy sparked by revelations about SeaWorld’s mistreatment of whales in the stunning documentary Blackfish, to ALDF’s lawsuit with NRDC against the U.S. Navy for planning to kill thousands of endangered whales and dolphins (and harm millions more) with underwater sonar and explosives testing in southern California and Hawaii. And of course, ALDF was delighted with the recent news that finally Lolita, the orca held captive in illegal and miserable conditions at the Miami Seaquarium for 43 years, may receive the protections she is due under the Endangered Species Act. ALDF—along with PETA—will continue to do everything we can to give Lolita her freedom.

So in a sense, The Lost Whale addresses these issues about the harms our society brings upon all these giants of the sea, by telling the tale of one particular whale. It is the heartbreaking and true story of a lonely orca named “Luna,” who befriended humans in Nootka Sound, off the coast of Vancouver Island. One of the beauties of this story is the deeply personal connection between humans and orcas that reflects the great emotional intelligence that orcas possess. In this way, we cringe all the more to think of Lolita at the Miami Seaquarium, or Tilikum at SeaWorld, languishing miserably in pathetically tiny tanks—tanks so shallow they can’t ever dive or engage in true swimming behaviors, and so lonely it defies all natural and social experience that is their birthright as wild animals.

In The Lost Whale, Luna becomes separated from his pod, and his desperation to make connections reminds us of our common plight with nonhuman animals. Unable to find his own family (orcas are extremely family-oriented, social animals), he attempts to bond with humans. As is the case with Lolita and Tilikum, amongst animal lovers, scientists, and lawmakers controversy surrounded the issue of how best to help Luna. But one thing becomes clear—orcas belong in the wild, with their families, protected by law, safe from explosives and sonar testing, and that is why ALDF is working so hard to ensure this.

Part journalistic exposé of a national scandal, part personal tale of an interconnection between humans and animals, the charming story presented here makes The Lost Whale a book worth reading. The Lost Whale also expands upon the authors’ critically acclaimed films The Whale (narrated by Ryan Reynolds and produced by Scarlett Johansen) and Saving Luna.

For more information, visit the Lost Whale Facebook page and The Whale website. Enter the Animal Book Club giveaway now—one lucky winner will be chosen to receive a free copy of The Lost Whale.


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NYC Creates City-Wide Animal Abuser Registry!

Posted by Chris Green, ALDF Director of Legislative Affairs on February 5, 2014

UPDATE 2-5-14: The Michigan ICHAT Registry bills just passed out of the House Judiciary Committee without a single vote against them.  They now go to the floors of both chambers for full up or down votes.

On February 4, 2014 the New York City Council voted unanimously to override former Mayor Bloomberg’s veto and create a city-wide animal abuser registry across the five boroughs. ALDF has been involved in this effort since 2012, providing advice, testimony and even offering a $10,000 grant to help defray start-up costs.

The NYC registry will compile the names of convicted animal abusers and prohibit them from having any contact with animals for a minimum of five years. Shelters, Pet Stores and other entities in NYC also will be required to consult the registry before adopting out or selling an animal to anyone, and forbidden from transferring an animal to anyone on the list.

Keeping defenseless animals out of the hands of convicted abusers is an important way to address animal cruelty at its source—and today’s vote is a powerful legacy for former Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. who championed the effort. Indeed, New York City will now become the largest jurisdiction ever to implement such a registry. This is a great first step by the incoming City Council and indicative of all the potential good things to come from the recently inaugurated Mayor Bill de Blasio and his “Vision for a More Humane City for New York’s Animals!


That is not the only good legislative news on this front. Hot on NYC’s heels, the State of Michigan is rapidly moving forward with its own version of the animal abuser registry concept. Instead of creating a separate registry, MI legislators have introduced a group of bills that instead would require shelters and animal control agencies to consult MI’s existing ICHAT system to do a criminal background check on anyone seeking to adopt a companion animal. Known as both Logan’s Law and the Animal Adoption Protection Act, the proposed bills also would prohibit animal abusers from owning animals for 5 years. Keeping our animals safe is something that resonates with legislators and voters of all political persuasions as noted by one of the bi-partisan bill sponsors Rep. Harvey Santana (D-Detroit):

“There are no Republican dogs or Democratic cats,” he said. “The issue of animal abuse reaches across party lines and concerns people on both sides. Having legislators from both parties and both chambers just makes sense. ”

After the MI ICHAT bills passed the MI Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously last October, last week I testified on behalf of the measure before the MI House Judiciary Committee—which is expected to vote favorably on the measures this Thursday. The bills then would move to the floors of both houses and could get an up or down vote by the end of the month. Michigan would be the first state to create this much-needed safeguard to keep animals out of abusers’ hands.

CG MI Registry Hearing

Rep. Harvey Santana (D-Detroit), former ALDF Clerk Renee Edmondson, and ALDF Director of Legislative Affairs Chris Green all testifying on behalf of the Michigan ICHAT legislation.

But Wait, There’s More!

At the Animal Law Conference held at Stanford last October, we announced ALDF’s plans to create a national Do Not Adopt Registry that will compile animal abuse conviction data into one, uniform database and make it accessible across state lines. Implementing a centralized, national registry will provide shelters, rescues, pet stores and individuals all over the country with one site to better screen potential adopters and customers to ensure they have not been convicted of animal abuse crimes, such as dog fighting or hoarding. Animal Control Officers similarly will gain an immediate, mobile means to identify abuser conviction histories during enforcement visits.

ALDF’s Do Not Adopt Registry will be open and accessible by anyone, but searchable only by name and date of birth (verifiable by a potential adopter’s driver’s license). If a name and birth date matches, then the database will provide the type/date/location of offense. This approach will keep shelters from having to negotiate a patchwork of independent, localized registries that are not linked to one another. It also will limit the manner and type of offender data available, so that only what is necessary for shelters and others to evaluate someone seeking to adopt or purchase an animal is made publicly accessible.

To that end, I’m happy to announce today that my home state of Illinois will be the first to introduce such legislation to opt-in to ALDF’s national Do Not Adopt Registry. We have been working closely with the office of Senator Sue Rezin (R-Morris) and she is expected to introduce the bill any day now.

“I am very excited for the potential of a national animal abuse registry administered by the Animal Legal Defense Fund,” Sen. Rezin said. “The registry will allow us to protect animals and make sure they are being placed in safe homes. This will be a service for the shelters and organizations that work hard to place animals in good homes, giving them peace of mind knowing that they have a database to rely on when screening potential animal owners. I look forward to passing it through the Illinois General Assembly.”

As you know, Illinois consistently has been #1 in ALDF’s Annual State Animal Protection Laws Rankings and this legislation will help Illinois further push the national animal protection envelope.

One obvious target of this identification system is dog-fighters looking for cheap victims to train or use as bait dogs. Another critical group are those convicted of animal hoarding. The issue of animal hoarding is of grave concern given that in just TWO hoarding cases in which ALDF intervened in North Carolina (the infamous Woodley and Conyers cases), a staggering 500 DOGS and CATS had to be rescued from deplorable conditions and provided care. And such care is not cheap—in just one Ohio hoarding case, the price tag to the local county for rescuing and treating the 170 animals removed from a single home was over $1.2 million! When one considers that 80% of animal hoarders are likely to repeat their behavior, anything a municipality can do to identify hoarders within their borders only makes sound fiscal sense and strong social policy.

While we all certainly understand that most animal hoarders are in desperate need of mental health treatment, in the meantime, because innocent animals remain defenseless and vulnerable to this type of abuse, as a society we need to provide every tool available to prevent hoarders from easily acquiring yet another animal to harm. Up until now there has been no official mechanism to prevent someone convicted of animal abuse from simply walking into a shelter or going on Craigslist and acquiring a new animal to abuse. Every shelter we have spoken to welcomes any means they can employ to identify another Jeffrey Nally and keep their precious animals out of such abusive hands.

So all in all it has been a positive week across the nation for legislative measures to ensure that animals are kept out of the clutches of convicted animal abusers. We here at ALDF will keep you posted as these efforts develop.

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Orphaned Elephants in Kenya: Precious Lives in the Balance

Posted by Joyce Tischler, ALDF Founder and General Counsel on February 3, 2014

In December, the Animal Legal Defense Fund sent me to Kenya to attend the first ever Kenyan judicial workshop focused on the need to aggressively prosecute wildlife crimes, particularly the illegal killing (poaching) of massive numbers of African elephants. On my first day there, I visited the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi, where I videotaped “feeding time” for baby elephants who are orphans.

In the wild African elephants live in families (or herds) composed of females and their calves, led by the matriarch. The calves are carefully protected by the entire family. Males don’t leave the herd until they are approximately 15 years old. Females stay with the herd for life.

But, what happens when humans kill some or all of the adult elephants? In many cases, the calves do not survive. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is rescuing and raising some of these orphaned baby elephants. When the orphaned calves arrive, they are often emaciated and shell-shocked. Rehabilitating them is slow and complex, with the ultimate goal to transition each elephant back into a wild herd.

On behalf of ALDF, I went to visit the Sheldrick Trust and see these precious elephants with my own eyes. Frankly, I was as excited as a flea on a dog, waiting to see the babies. I entered the facility, passed the straw filled barns where the orphaned elephants sleep at night, and waited for the current 25 rescued calves to arrive from the bush to receive their giant bottles of milk. Since one cannot safely milk a wild African elephant, the Trust has painstakingly developed and perfected a milk formula that meets the nutritional requirements of growing elephants.


The orphaned elephants came trotting in from the bush, one by one. There was a part of me murmuring, “OMG” as they entered and came close. Adorable doesn’t begin to describe these animals. They are pint-sized versions of the adults, and they freely engage in play and roughhousing. The tallest of the baby elephants is no taller than me (five feet). All of them were covered in the reddish mud of Nairobi, an effective sunblock and insect repellent, as well as a fun mess for an elephant to roll in.

At the same time, there was a lump in my throat, as I was reminded that each of these adorable children is an orphan, who probably watched his or her mother die at the hands of humans. That is tragic and inexcusable.

Since the inception of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, we have been committed to the protection of wildlife, both in the U.S. and abroad. Please join us in our effort to educate the public that ivory equals death. Forward this message and video to others and post it on your Facebook page. Tell everyone you can that we must not tolerate even one more elephant death.

At ALDF, we applaud and encourage efforts such as The David Sheldrick Trust, which enables these orphaned elephants to live out their natural lives with elephant families in the wild. That’s where they belong.

Ready for a whole lot of cute? Check out the video I took of the orphaned baby elephants.

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Welcome, Emily Millward!

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

emily-millwardAs an administrative assistant for ALDF’s Development program, Emily assists with donor support, community outreach, program development, public speaking, and philanthropy to help ALDF provide the best possible legal advocacy for animals. Emily helps thank ALDF’s generous donors for their support, and she extends our appreciation for their kindness in helping to make ALDF’s work possible.

Emily has worked for nonprofits previously, including for animal shelters as well as for organizations that work with at-risk youth. In 2013, she interned for Canine Companions for Independence and knew she wanted to focus her career on helping animals—for her, helping animals has always been a central part of life. She brings strong written and oral communication skills to this position: Emily received her bachelor’s degree in communications in 2013 from California State University, Chico, where she majored in Communications and minored in Marketing. She is the first person in her family to graduate college and is a first-generation American citizen as well as an Irish citizen.

Born and raised in Sonoma, California, she has returned to her home county after completing her education. She worked for time for a winery in Napa as a tasting room representative, but decided that she really needed to go into a career that she felt passionate about. And here she is! On weekends you can typically find her hiking throughout the valley, exploring the beauty of San Francisco. She is excited to be the newest member of the ALDF team and we are excited to have her.

Welcome, Emily!

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Meet Meena Alagappan, Humane Educator

Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on January 31, 2014

atty_spotlight_meenaOne of the best ways to make a more compassionate world for all living beings is through humane education. At the 2013 Animal Law Conference at Stanford Law School, co-sponsored by the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Center for Animal Law Studies, ALDF had a chance to sit down with Meena Alagappan, executive director of Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers (HEART). Meena was a panel participant in “Creative Employment Opportunities,” and she presented her expertise in humane education to discuss potential rewarding careers in animal law and ways to help animals as attorneys. But her expertise also comes in the form of humane education for young people.

As director of HEART, a New York, Portland, Indianapolis, and Chicago-based public charity, Meena guides the humane education programs through free instructional services for students K-12. The primary goal of HEART is to promote compassion and respect for animals (human and nonhuman) and the environment by educating youth and teachers. The broad scope of HEART addresses the interconnections between animal rights, human rights, and care for the environment. “Our approach is to encourage young people to think about their responsibility to the earth and each other, and to think more about global consequences.”

After learning about animal-overpopulation issues, for example, students have a chance to participate in hands-on activities like designing public-service announcement posters and participating in shelter drives—to allow students to explore their creative side and demonstrate the need for spay and neuter campaigns. After learning about factory farming, students might raise money to sponsor and protect a farmed animal. “We do these workshops primarily in inner cities. It’s a big deal for these kids,” says Meena. “In one case they created a map of local, green, organic markets in the area.” Projects like these create engaged students and active memories and motivations that last forever.

A long-time advocate of humane education and animal rights, Meena has served on the American Bar Association’s Animal Law Committee and the New York City Bar Association’s Committee on Legal Issues Pertaining to Animals, and she serves on the Board of Directors for the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, and the Pioneers for Animal Welfare Society (PAWS). She consistently champions the important intersection of law, science, education, and animal protection, and is co-author of “A Note on Pedagogy: Humane Education Making a Difference” (Journal of the Institute for Critical Animal Studies). Meena herself was trained at Cornell University, Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, and Northwestern University School of Law. She has been an attorney member of ALDF’s Animal Law Program since receiving her J.D. degree.

Meena has been with HEART since 2005, and helped restructure the organization to provide teacher training and help raise awareness about legal issues. For example, she points to a New York law that requires every publicly funded elementary school to provide some degree of humane education, section 809 of the education code. “A lot of educators aren’t aware of the law or the benefit in providing humane education,” she says, and this is where Meena steps in, as HEART partners with humane organizations, shelters, and sanctuaries to connect the needs of children with the needs of animals.

“Our goal is really to empower children by informing them and giving them the tools to make compassionate choices,” she says. “We don’t advocate any one particular agenda. At the end of each lesson we ask them to brainstorm on how they think they would like to help animals.”

“I think that children have a natural affinity for animals. They’re very open to learning, they’re eager to act, and to take ownership of their passions,” says Meena. “They are interested in not only fixing the problem but in preventing it, and that’s really what I think humane education can do.”

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Legally Brief: Taking Out the Gag in Ag Gag Legislation

Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on January 30, 2014

Huge news this week! As we explained, the proposed U.S. Farm bill will not include the dreaded King Amendment, which would have meant horrible news for animals—and prevented your state from setting its own health, safety, and animal welfare standards on imported agricultural products. But the King Amendment was only one cog in the wheel of the continued assault on animal welfare and the plight of farmed animals. By now, you’ve heard about so-called “ag gag” bills rearing their heads in state legislatures to protect the agricultural industry from scrutiny. These laws attempt to “gag” animal activists and other law abiding citizens from exposing chronic and illegal animal abuse—exposure that is constitutionally protected by the laws of our land. And that is why ALDF’s landmark lawsuit against Utah’s unconstitutional ag gag law is so important. But what else is happening in the world of ag gag?

In New Hampshire, a “Mandatory Reporting” ag gag bill was just tabled last week and thus is essentially dead for at least another year. This particular bill tried hard to clothe itself in anti-cruelty rhetoric. ALDF and our legislative affairs team worked with numerous animal protection organizations to shut this bill down.

Similarly, the new Indiana ag gag bill was just amended to simply addressing criminal damage to institutional property resulting from trespass to agricultural facilities—which is already illegal. The bill still puts factory farms in an institutional category with schools and houses of worship, but there is no real impact from its provisions. Although the final language is still being worked out, and nothing is over until the session ends, the decimation of this bill is another big victory in 2014 for animals.


Everyone is watching Colorado at the moment, now that New Hampshire’s dangerous bill is off the table. Unlike New Hampshire, Colorado’s “Mandatory Reporting” ag gag bill mandates the reporting of all cruelty, abandonment, or neglect to any animal, not just “livestock.” This reporting must be done within 24 hours to either the animal’s “owner” or to law enforcement officers. The bill also makes false reporting of cruelty to law enforcement a crime, which would create a difficult Catch-22 for the average citizen who may not understand what constitutes criminal cruelty. Indeed, a person could face prosecution for not reporting an act she believes to be cruelty, but then on the other hand be prosecuted if what she reports turns out not to be. In reality, the whole point of such mandatory or “Quick-Reporting” bills is to force animal abuse investigators to reveal themselves at the first sign of any cruelty, and thereby hinder their ability to gather evidence of a systemic pattern of abuse involving the management or owners of ag facilities.

The Animal Agriculture Alliance—an industry group ALDF called out last year for making ludicrous claims against animal advocates, with absolutely no evidence—has declared they intend to make such Mandatory/Quick Reporting bills their main objective this year. The darker goal of the Alliance is to nip animal cruelty investigations in the bud. Their real motivation is to hide the truth about chronic animal abuse on factory farms, even if it means doing everything they can to prevent the investigation and exposure of illegal animal cruelty. Last year animal advocates were able to kill all 11 state ag gag bills that were attempted, so far we are 2 for 2 in 2014. All attention now turns to Colorado.

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Sport and Trophy Hunting Is Not Conservation

Posted by Alexis Braun, ALDF Litigation Clerk on January 29, 2014

On January 11, the Dallas Safari Club auctioned off a permit to hunt a black rhino in Namibia. The Club wants us to believe that the killing of a critically endangered black rhino for sport is really an act of conservation. However, the individual who won the auction will soon travel to Namibia and shoot and watch die a member of an endangered species. After a taxidermist has stuffed the rhino, this individual will attempt to import the rhino—now called a trophy—back into the United States to serve as an ego booster, conversation starter, and furniture piece. If this doesn’t feel like conservation to you, it’s because it’s not.


There are an estimated 5,055 black rhinos worldwide, 1,800 of which live in Namibia. This represents a decline of about 96 percent over the last century. A related subspecies, the western black rhino, was declared extinct in 2011. In 2004, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) gave Namibia permission to hunt up to five male black rhinos a year, but the permit auctioned in Dallas was the first such permit to be sold outside of Namibia.

The Club justified the auction of the permit of this critically endangered species by promising that the money raised would go towards supporting black rhino conservation efforts in Namibia. The government of Namibia guaranteed that only a senior male rhino that was post-reproductive age would be hunted. The Club’s Executive Director Ben Carter publicly stated: “First and foremost, this is about saving the black rhino.”

The Club had publicly predicted that the auction could raise as much as one million dollars for rhino conservation in Namibia, but the winning bid totaled only $350,000.

Some have publicly supported the Club’s actions, including Dr. Rosie Cooney of the IUCN, who wrote: “Capitalizing on the humane demise of a post reproductive animal in order to produce tangible benefits for the conservation of its species is a sound strategy of strong support.”

Thankfully, others have come forward to condemn the actions of the Club. After the Club announced its plans to auction off the permit in late 2012, over 25,000 people signed a petition asking the Club to cancel the auction.  Bob Barker, Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society of the United States, Jeff Flocken of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and ALDF’s own executive director Stephen Wells all criticized the auction as contrary to conservation efforts.

The Dallas Safari Club would like us to see what they do as conservation. What it comes down to, though, is that trophy hunters kill animals for fun, for sport, for entertainment, for a hobby. That is not conservation.

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ALDF Lawsuit against California Animal Testing Facility Gains Support

Posted by Matthew Liebman, ALDF Senior Attorney on January 28, 2014

Lab rats in "empathy test" at unknown facility. (CC Brandon Keim)

Lab rats in “empathy test” at an unknown facility. (CC Brandon Keim)

In January 2013, ALDF filed a lawsuit, using the California state anti-cruelty code against an animal testing facility known as Santa Cruz Biotechnology that “harvests” blood from tens of thousands of animals. We filed this lawsuit on behalf of Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN) to protect the animals housed at the facility, who have been neglected and mistreated, as evidenced by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspections. The case is currently on appeal before the California Court of Appeal.  Last week, the Court denied a motion filed by Santa Cruz Biotech to keep secret the names of those who have a financial interest in the outcome of the animal cruelty lawsuit filed against it by Stop Animal Exploitation Now, represented by ALDF.

The California Court of Appeal requires all parties in every case to disclose the names of those with vested interests in the case. Santa Cruz Biotech sought to file its certificate “under seal,” that is, to make it secret and unavailable to the public, purportedly because they are “fearful of harassment by animal rights activists.”  ALDF fought this request, arguing that the public has a right to access court documents.  The Court denied the animal testing facility’s request, ordering Santa Cruz Biotech to file its certificate publicly. This is a small but important step in our appeal: as animal research facilities try to stay in the shadows, we are committed to exposing cruelty to animals used in research.

Our lawsuit received further legal support last week, as a group of public interest legal organizations—the Los Angeles Community Action Network, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, Disability Legal Rights Center, Inner City Law Center, Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, National Housing Law Project, Public Counsel, Public Interest Law Project, and Western Center on Law and Poverty (represented by the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles)—submitted a “friend of the court” brief to the California Court of Appeal. The brief supports SAEN’s standing under California’s Unfair Competition Law, because nonprofits like SAEN and the amici suffer real injury when lawbreakers force them to divert organizational resources to campaign against illegal conduct.

The Court of Appeal will hear oral arguments in the case sometime in the next several months, and we expect a decision on the appeal later this year. We are confident that we will be able to hold this testing facility accountable for its illegal neglect and mistreatment of sick and injured animals.

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King Amendment Officially Rejected!

Posted by Chris Green, ALDF Director of Legislative Affairs on January 27, 2014

Great news! Today the Farm Bill Conference Committee just released its conference report containing the final version of the U.S. Farm Bill. We can thankfully relay that the dreaded King Amendment is nowhere to be found in any of the 949 pages that will be sent to the full House and Senate for a final vote.


As ALDF repeatedly has warned, the King Amendment outrageously would have prevented your state from ever setting its own health, safety and welfare standards and applying them to imported agricultural products produced elsewhere. In doing so it immediately would have rolled back laws in 8 states that forbid cruel farm animal confinement, rescinded California’s Foie Gras ban, horse slaughter and puppy mill prohibitions, children’s nutritional requirements, and have nullified CA’s Prop 2 and other such ballot initiatives where voters have spoken to demand better treatment for the animals whose products are sold within their own state borders.

The King amendment inevitably would have created a “race to the bottom” whereby the most abusive and dangerous rules in the country would become de facto national standards––since producers “doing it on the cheap” in one state always would undercut the prices of domestic producers in those states that care more about public health and animal welfare.

The effect could have been cataclysmic for animal protection in this country and we at ALDF thank you profusely for all the calls, letters and emails sent to legislators to help defeat this potentially devastating measure.

We now urge you to again contact your Congressional representatives in both the House and Senate and request that they vote for this final version of the U.S. Farm Bill. As an added bonus it also contains a provision that makes it a Federal crime to bring a child under 16 years of age to any animal fight.

With today’s news, the recent renewal of the ban on horse slaughter inspection, and last week’s tabling of New Hampshire’s Ag-Gag bill, it looks like 2014 is off to a great legislative start so far!

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A Great Day for American Horses

Posted by Chris Green, ALDF Director of Legislative Affairs on January 17, 2014

Today, President Obama signed into law an omnibus $1.1 trillion, 1,582-page spending bill that contains some very good news for horses and those of us who love them.

Most immediately, the Act ensures that horses will not be slaughtered for human consumption in this country for the time being—restoring a ban on using any Federal dollars to inspect horse slaughter facilities. Without those government inspections, slaughterhouses are not legally able to comply with Federal Meat Inspection Act standards.

Wild horses in Cold Creek, Nevada on January 8, 2013. (CC Ingrid Taylar)

Wild horses in Cold Creek, Nevada on January 8, 2013. (CC Ingrid Taylar)

Although no horse has been legally slaughtered for food on U.S. soil since the remaining plants were finally shut down in 2007, last year three facilities in New Mexico, Iowa & Missouri were granted permits to start slaughtering horses again—after one plant sued the USDA to allow the killing to begin. This was only possible because Congress’s previous inspection funding ban expired in 2011, demonstrating that targeting inspections is at best a temporary and tenuous tool in the effort to permanently protect American horses from harm.

Indeed, letting this provision lapse has led a tumultuous, high-stakes battle this past year—with the USDA initially issuing permits to slaughter horses, animal advocates suing to stop them, courts imposing injunctions to halt the process (and then rescinding them), local and state agencies denying permits, and even current and former Governors weighing in publicly to try and stop the killing. It has been a massive drain of time, resources, and energy for all involved.

Thankfully horse slaughter has again been derailed, but just for the moment, as this renewed ban lasts only through September 30, 2014, the end of the fiscal year. In order to truly bring an end to this abhorrent practice, it is time to urge your members of congress to pass the Safeguard American Foods Export (SAFE) Act S. 541 and H.R. 1094. This bill would permanently ban the domestic slaughter of horses and halt the export of American horses for slaughter abroad by prohibiting the “sale or transport of horses in interstate or foreign commerce for purposes of human consumption.” Please make a call today.

But wait, that’s not all…  Today’s enacted spending bill also restored protections for wild horses as well.  Using the same funding ban tactic, the bill prohibits the expenditure of Federal funds on “the destruction of healthy, unadopted, wild horses and burros…or for the sale of wild horses and burros that results in their destruction for processing into commercial products.”  This helps fix a 2004 spending amendment that removed 34-year old protections and allowed the Bureau of Land Management to sell wild horses for slaughter if they were over ten years old or had failed to be adopted at least three times.

Additionally, today’s bill grants the U.S. Forest service authority to spend or transfer funds to help adopt wild horses and burros from National Forest System lands, and also for the BLM to enter into 10-year agreements “for the long-term care and maintenance of excess wild free roaming horses and burros” on private lands.

All-in-all a great day for American horses…but there is still much work to be done.

Now let’s get the SAFE Act passed and make these protections permanent.

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Veterinary Association Supports Meat and Dairy Producers Drugging Confined Farmed Animals

Posted by Liz Hallinan, ALDF Litigation Fellow on January 17, 2014


The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is lobbying for continued use of antibiotics on farmed animals who are not yet sick. The mass dosing of intensely-confined animals on factory farms with antibiotics is linked with the growth of dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as “superbugs.” But this overuse of antibiotics also allows animal cruelty—cramming animals into dark, filthy, crowded spaces on factory farms—to continue. This is why ALDF has filed a petition with the USDA to clarify the labeling on meat and poultry products that have been linked with this rampant abuse of antibiotics. And it is why we need organizations like the AVMA to be concerned with preventing animal suffering, not just maintaining animal health.

In 2011, the AVMA made a laudable change to their veterinarian’s oath with just four little words:

Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.

AVMA recognized that veterinarians should prioritize animal welfare, not just animal health. Evidently, however, AVMA’s goal of preventing animal suffering does not extend to intensely-confined farmed animals.

For instance, AVMA supports giving “preventative” antibiotics to farmed animals. Producers raise animals in severely overcrowded conditions to produce the highest amount of meat, dairy, and eggs possible. Such confinement requires the systematic use of antibiotics to prevent sickness. These drugs are administered at low levels in animal feed, which allows the animals to avoid contagion and grow faster despite their unhealthy environments.

Animals are not the only ones harmed by this system of intense confinement. Significant evidence suggests extensive use of antibiotics in animals is detrimental to public health. After avoiding its own evidence for 35 years, even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finally admitted so last month—a decision that ALDF and other groups have decried as inadequate. Despite this evidence, the AVMA is actively lobbying for continued use of antibiotics. Ongoing use of these drugs means continued confinement and animal suffering.

The Vice Chair of AVMA’s Council on Biological and Therapeutic Agents and veterinarian professor Dr. Scott Hurd has stated, “[d]rug companies are moving out of the animal health business due to the silly ideas [about antibiotic resistance]. Most of the antibiotics used on-farm are because sick and dying animals need medicine, not so the farmer can make a quick buck.” What Hurd overlooks is that animals are sick and dying because of their intense confinement, the direct cause of their suffering.

If the AVMA were serious about preventing animal suffering, it would oppose the extensive use of antibiotics for farmed animals. Reducing the systematic use of antibiotics in animal feed would force meat producers to provide spacious and healthy environments for their animals, the surest way to increase animal health and welfare on factory farms.

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Legally Brief: Animals Freezing to Death Outdoors in the Polar Vortex

Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on January 16, 2014

With record-breaking chills, the “polar vortex” has meant dogs left outdoors have been subjected to brutal cold. Some areas, like North Dakota and Minnesota, have recorded temperatures as low as 40 degrees below zero. In Chicago, a polar bear at the Lincoln Park Zoo had to be brought indoors. Sadly, dogs have been freezing to death outdoors, from New York to Marion County, Tennessee—where one poor dog even tried to chew his way out of his wire cage. Criminal charges have been filed in the New York Flat Creek Border Collies case under New York Agriculture and Markets Law 353-b (2) and dogs at this facility have either been removed or moved indoors. Meanwhile, state bills are being introduced in response to this case, which would mandate stiffer penalties for failure to provide adequate shelter.

In the past week, an ALDF investigation has revealed some of the worst commercial animal breeders in Nebraska and New Jersey. Last fall, ALDF called out the scariest houses of animal houses of horror in Missouri and in Minnesota, and we are following up with more facilities soon. Public scrutiny and law enforcement are our best tools, and that is why we are exposing such neglect and the failure of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to act on the findings of its own inspections.

What the Law Says

State laws differ dramatically when it comes to standards of care for animals. Some don’t include “shelter” as basic care, and others exempt some animals from protection. New York state law, for example, prohibits animal neglect but does not specifically include “shelter” in its cruelty statute.

Although state laws differ in minimum standards of protection for animals, one thing is clear: it should be illegal to let animals freeze to death. And states like New Jersey and New York, which have seen natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy, should know better. That is why it is so important to hold bad actors—like law-breaking breeders, shelters, zoos, and individuals—accountable to the law.

What You Can Do

ALDF has received many letters and phone calls from outraged citizens concerned about freezing animals in their area. While prosecution of these offenders is generally left to the discretion of the USDA or local law enforcement and prosecutors, ALDF provides direct support and training to law enforcement and prosecutors in the handling of such cases, including financing forensic investigations, locating and funding essential expert witnesses, doing research and writing briefs, and even making appearances on behalf of prosecutors in court. These services—and your voice and support—are often the primary factor in whether a case is prosecuted at all.

Safety tips: the best way to keep companion animals from freezing to death is to bring them indoors, where it is warm.

  • Don’t leave companion animals outdoors when the weather drops.
  • Wipe the paws of your furry companion—salt that melts snow can be a serious irritant for them.
  • Antifreeze is both deadly and delicious—its sweet taste attracts animals and will kill them.
  • Keep an eye on parked cars—animals may crawl under the hood to find warmth.
  • Plastic—rather than metal—water bowls can prevent an animal’s tongue sticking to the bowl. Remember: animals cannot drink frozen water; cold water lowers body temperature rapidly.
  • Shivering, weak pulse, dilated pupils, stupor, and unconsciousness are signs of hypothermia. If an animal exhibits these symptoms please contact a veterinarian right away!

Resources: Check out ALDF’s compendium of Animal Protection Laws in the U.S. and Canada to see where your state falls on laws regarding animal neglect and abuse.

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Gracie’s Story: a Rescue Tail and an Exposé of Animal Suffering at the Stockton Animal Shelter

Posted by Jenni James, ALDF Litigation Fellow on January 16, 2014

When local government fails to enforce laws that protect animals from suffering, turning to the courts is often the only remaining option—and that is why ALDF is monitoring the situation at the Stockton, California animal shelter closely. When Eileen McFall first visited Stockton Animal Services on March 2, 2012, she thought she knew what to expect. Having heard media accounts of nearly a thousand animals destroyed under the newest supervisor, Eileen had also heard disturbing stories from current and former shelter employees. Still, what she found shocked her.


Gracie at Stockton Shelter with a large abscess.

She saw animals with obvious injuries who showed no sign of having received veterinary treatment. Most disturbing was a pit bull with a large, untreated swelling on her face. With her camera, Eileen documented what she witnessed and asked to see the records of sick and injured animals, but shelter staff refused.  City council member Dale Fritchen was allowed to see the shelter’s records, which defused the situation, but Eileen was still prevented from seeing these public records.

Outraged, Eileen posted the images of the wounded dogs on Central California Pets Alive, a Facebook page she organized to advocate for shelter reform in Stockton. When concerned citizens called Stockton Animal Services, they were told the dog with the swollen face had been taken to a local veterinarian and diagnosed with tumor they were told would be too expensive to treat. Working with a local rescue, Eileen used the provisions of the California state law “the Hayden Act,” to place “rescue holds” on several dogs, including the one with the swollen face, now named Gracie.

Eileen fostered Gracie, who turned out to have an abscess and ear infections. A local veterinarian drained the abscess and put in stitches, gave her antibiotics for the ear infections, and spayed her, once she was healthy. For less than $500 retail, a higher price than Stockton Animal Services would pay if it had simply employed a veterinarian, Gracie was treated. Within a month, Gracie was adopted by a local family—and she is now a beloved family member.


Gracie in her adoptive home.

Since then, Eileen has helped rescue dozens more dogs and cats in urgent need, mostly pit bulls, who are killed at alarmingly higher rates than all other breeds, and many of whom are sick or injured with treatable conditions. These loving, adoptable animals are listed on Central California Pets Alive.

Eileen says “for every animal I save or help, I know there are hundreds killed, and many of them could be saved if Stockton followed the law, used taxpayer funding effectively, and demonstrated a commitment to the policy goal of the State of California to end the killing of healthy and treatable animals by comprehensively implementing lifesaving programs.”

Almost two years after Gracie’s rescue, and many fruitless attempts to bring about reform, Stockton Animal Services still blocks access to public records—and continues to deny treatment to sick and injured animals. ALDF will not stand for the neglect of innocent animals, and we encourage citizens to report their concerns to local law enforcement. Remember to “adopt, not shop”—by adopting animals from shelters rather than purchasing them from breeders and pet stores.  Hundreds of thousands of cats, dogs, and other animals are in shelters waiting for their forever-homes, before it’s too late. ALDF is strongly considering legal action to protect the animals at this facility.

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Got Salmonella? ALDF Looking for Victims of Salmonella Outbreak from Tyson Chicken Products

Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on January 13, 2014

mechanically-seperated-chickenMeat producers like Tyson Foods hope you’re in the mood for “mechanically separated chicken”—a byproduct made by smashing a chicken’s unstripped bones, muscles, and fiber through a sieve to produce a pink, gooey yogurt-like substance that becomes chicken nuggets and chicken patties. If that’s not enough to whet your appetite… got Salmonella? Tyson Foods, Inc. (the nation’s largest producer of chicken products), is recalling more than thirty thousand pounds of mechanically separated chicken products that may be contaminated with Salmonella.

Tyson Foods has recently bragged about their “Farm Animal Well-Being Advisory Panel,” which ALDF fears is nothing more than a “greenwashing” publicity stunt, to try to reform their damaged image. Why is Tyson’s image so tarnished? The mega-corporation relies on controversially cruel “broiler houses” for its production of chicken, for one thing. It also relies on intensive “gestation crates” for pregnant sows, though it changes the name of the crates to mislead the public—these styles of crates are banned in nine states for animal cruelty. If that’s not enough, undercover investigations continue to blow the lid off the systematic abuse of animals in Tyson supplier slaughterhouses.

Yet, whether causing animal suffering or public health and safety scares with massive food recalls, Tyson gets away with leading consumers to think it treats animals humanely, and that its food products are safe for human consumption. This is why ALDF has petitioned the Federal Trade Commission to stop Tyson Foods from its false advertising. We have been successful so far, as Tyson has modified its website claims to animal welfare significantly since our petition—but not nearly far enough.

And that is why ALDF needs you. Salmonella outbreaks and food safety recalls from the nation’s biggest supplier are alarming—and extremely dangerous, especially for older people, infants, pregnant women, and those with impaired immune systems. Symptoms of Salmonella include abdominal cramps, fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and develop 12 to 72 hours after infection.

If you would like more information, or if you or someone you know has gotten sick from Tyson chicken products, or been deceived by Tyson’s animal welfare statements—please contact ALDF immediately at

This is an attorney advertisement coordinated by Danny Lutz for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, (headquartered in Cotati, California).

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Geese Rescued by Parks Department Worker

Posted by Ian Elwood, ALDF Online Editor on January 10, 2014

Although rescuing animals is always a team effort, ALDF would like to focus on the actions of one animal hero, who kayaked onto a frozen lake to save two geese—putting himself at risk to save their lives. The two domesticated geese were rescued by a crew, including Neel Deshpande, after onlookers noticed that the geese were frozen to the ice and called it in. ALDF spoke with Deshpande, who works for Metro Parks in Nasheville as an outdoors skills educator.


Neel Deshpande rescuing one of the geese.

“It was a great feeling freeing the geese,” Deshpande said. The first goose was had his feathers frozen to the ice, so Deshpande chipped away with a hammer until the goose was free. “Once I got him free, it was clear he was exhausted and not happy. I petted him a few times to try to calm him down then picked him up and put him on the front of the kayak.”

The crowd breathed a collective sigh of relief after Deshpande freed the second goose and both were safely in the arms of animal rescuers from a local wildlife rescue called Walden’s Puddle. “The news helicopter overhead gave it all a bit of a dramatic flair,” Deshpande added. Video of the rescue was featured on News Channel 5 and other networks.

After the rescue, the two geese were taken to Walden’s Puddle animal rescue to be nursed back to health by volunteers.

“The geese are in recovery and have perked up,” said Lane Brody, CEO of Walden’s Puddle. “They are getting chatty with the other geese.”


Geese at Walden’s Puddle animal rescue after being warmed up and fed. (Walden’s Puddle)

Since the geese were a domestic breed—not wild animals—they were not suited for winter survival like other animals living outside. After they are back to full weight they will be placed in a good home where they will be cared for and kept inside at night. Many thanks to Neel Deshpande, Walden’s Puddle, and everyone else who contributed to rescuing and caring for these two geese.

And remember, you can be an animal hero too. Leave animal products on the animals—go vegan!

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