Captive Orcas Finally Have the Attention of Congress—but is the USDA Listening?

Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on June 19, 2014

Legally Brief

On June 11, 38 members of Congress penned a letter to Tom Vilsack—U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)—demanding updated regulations for captive marine mammals. Current regulations do not take into account some dramatic improvements over the past several decades in our scientific understanding of the physical and psychological impact of confinement upon these highly intelligent and social animals.

For years, ALDF has been leading the fight to ensure better laws and enforcement for captive marine mammals. For example, an orca named Lolita has been housed in the smallest orca tank in North America at the Miami Seaquarium for more than four decades. Her tank fails to meet even the minimum requirements of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA)—requirements already recognized as outdated and inadequate. In addition to being held in a tank that is far too small, Lolita has no shelter from the sun, and she hasn’t seen another orca for decades (in the wild, orcas like Lolita spend their entire lives with their mothers and swim up to 100 miles a day). Yet the USDA keeps renewing this theme park’s exhibitor’s license, and ALDF along with PETA filed a lawsuit to stop this renewal. Recently, ALDF also urged the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to enforce safety regulations for Lolita and her trainer’s sake. There’s profit to be had in this billion dollar industry, but Lolita suffers for it.

For nearly two decades, the USDA has done little to nothing to update the AWA regulations for captive marine mammals: in 1995, the USDA convened a committee that failed to reach consensus on the most important regulations; in 2002, the USDA began the process of updating the remaining regulations, but has so far failed to do so; in 2010, SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed by an orca named Tilikum in front of a horrified audience at a SeaWorld show, as highlighted in the documentary Blackfish.

Last week’s letter from members of Congress strongly urges the USDA to prioritize the revision of these regulations. For example, the letter asks that tank size, temperatures, and noise regulations (along with the impact of having trainers in the water and swim-with-the-dolphins programs) be modernized, “so that the updated science can be incorporated” and the agency can “provide the most updated and scientifically supported humane standards for captive marine mammals.”

Congress took another bold step last week, as Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Jared Huffman (D-CA) added an amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations Act that will provide one million dollars to study the effects of captivity on orcas, if the amendment survives the Senate and the bill becomes law.

ALDF will continue to fight for Lolita’s freedom and we applaud members of Congress who are calling upon the federal agency in charge of protecting captive animals—the USDA—to take action as well. After 20 years of delay, it is well past time for animals like Lolita and Tilikum to receive the legal protections they deserve. The Miami Seaquarium violates even the weakest, most outdated laws. Hundreds of thousands of people have signed a petition to boycott SeaWorld and we encourage people to boycott marine mammal parks like SeaWorld and Miami Seaquarium that treat these magnificent wild animals like amusement park sideshow attractions.

16 Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Kicking a Sick Pig When She’s Down

Posted by Liz Hallinan, ALDF Litigation Fellow on June 18, 2014


On June 3, ALDF and a coalition of animal advocacy groups submitted a petition to the USDA requesting that so-called “downer” pigs—who are too sick, weak, or injured to walk to their slaughter—be removed from the human food supply.

Slaughtering downer animals for food has disastrous animal welfare consequences. Under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, which aims to prevent needless suffering of animals, the USDA is obligated by Congressional mandate to ensure that animals raised for food are slaughtered humanely. Allowing products from downer animals to be sold after slaughter discourages compliance with this law. When animals are too weak to stand but can still be sold for food, slaughterhouse workers have an incentive to force those animals to stand, and to use abusive tactics to do so.

Undercover investigations at slaughter facilities have documented workers prodding, kicking, and even ramming weak animals with forklifts to force them to their feet. Additionally, workers can aggressively handle and injure even healthy animals, since wounded animals can be sold for profit. As a result, animal welfare expert Temple Grandin has recognized that “maintaining an adequate level of animal welfare at the plant level is impossible if the pigs are too weak to walk through the yards.”

From a food safety perspective, the inclusion of these animals in the food supply poses a risk to public health. Unhealthy animals sold for food are more likely to make consumers sick. For example, the USDA banned downer cows in 2009, presumably in part due to evidence that downer cows are more likely to be infected with “mad cow disease” that can be transmitted to humans who eat infected beef.

If producers are not financially rewarded for weak and injured animals, healthy animals are more likely to be treated humanely—sick animals will be humanely euthanized, not turned into food. The USDA has already recognized this very fact when they recently granted a petition to prohibit the slaughter of downer veal calves, stating that such a ban would “better ensure humane handling” at slaughterhouses.

The USDA has an abysmal record of enforcing the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, not least because there are too few inspectors for the enormous task of overseeing the slaughter of more than nine billion animals every year. Granting this petition would allow USDA to focus on the humane treatment of healthy animals, as well as ensure a better food supply for consumers.

Click here to take action by asking the USDA to act on the coalition’s petition, 14-02.

For more information, please see ALDF’s Farmed Animals and the Law brochure.

14 Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Readers Write: Summer Reading for Animal Advocates

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


Earlier this month, ALDF asked Animal Book Club readers to write in with their suggestions for a great summer reading list for animal advocates! Here’s what you said!

Michelle Mitchell writes:

All the Way to the Ocean, by Joel Harper, is wonderful! An uplifting story about two best friends, Isaac and James, and their discovery of the cause and effect relationship between our cities’ storm drains and the world’s oceans, lakes and rivers… It is sure to inspire both young and adult readers alike and teach a timeless life lesson—If we all do our part a cleaner, safer environment is indeed within our reach…”

Sara Jacksmith

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler. I thought it was just going to be a novel, but it had a great message about the horrors of animal testing.”

Marianna Burt

“At this time of year I take a break from grim animal cases and cutting-edge literary works and reread the books that first moved me to care about animals. I go back to the iconic classics Black Beauty and Beautiful Joe and find that they have the power to stir my sympathy as they did when I was a child. Next I go to my all-time favorites: Richard Adams’ Watership Down and The Plague Dogs. Finally I look at one author’s lighthearted use of anthropomorphism—May Sarton’s The Fur Person.

Dee De Santis

“I love all of Rob Laidlaw’s animal protection books. I have added them to my public library’s collection.”

Other Suggestions

  • Striking at the Roots — Mark Hawthorne
  • Redemption: the Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America – Nathan Winograd
  • Don’t Lick the Dog – Wendy Wahman
  • Wallace: The Underdog Who Conquered a Sport, Saved a Marriage, and Championed Pit Bulls—One Flying Disc at a Tim — Jim Gorant
  • Wild Animals in Captivity — Rob Laidlaw
  • Buddy Unchained — Daisy Bix
  • Suspect -- Robert Crais
  • A Small Furry Prayer: Dog Rescue and the Meaning of Life — Steven Kotler
  • A Home for Dakota – Jan Zita Grover
  • The Elephant Letters: The Story of Billy and Kani – G.A. Bradshaw

Coming Up in the Animal Book Club

One of our readers reminds us of a good quotation by Jenny Brown, author of The Lucky Ones, who said “Animals are here with us, not for us.”

Happy reading!

7 Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Fifth Circuit Rules that Animal Crush Video Law Prohibits Obscenity and Congress Has Significant Interest in Preventing Animal Cruelty

Posted by Lora Dunn, Staff Attorney, Criminal Justice Program on June 17, 2014


On June 13, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that the “Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010” (“the Act”) is Constitutional on its face because it prohibits “obscenity” not protected by the First Amendment, and that Congress has a “significant interest” in preventing the violence and criminal activity that these heinous videos necessitate.

The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded a 2013 ruling by the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Texas, which had held that animal crush videos are not obscene and that the Act violated defendants’ First Amendment rights. In 2012, defendants Ashley Nicole Richards and Brent Justice were arrested in Houston and charged with violating the Act for producing and selling obscene videos of Richards torturing dogs, cats, and other animals for the sexual gratification of viewers.

The Fifth Circuit agreed with the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) that the district court should have applied the Supreme Court’s three-part test for obscenity established in the case of Miller v. California, rather than relying on the “variable and debatable” legislative history of the Act. ALDF filed its amicus brief, along with the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, in August 2013.

In the 2010 case of U.S. v. Stevens, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that an earlier version of the Act from 1999 was unconstitutional; Congress swiftly and nearly unanimously passed an amended version of the Act in 2010. Today, the Fifth Circuit ruled that this second and current version of the Act is Constitutional on its face because it serves the “significant interest” of preventing the violence to animals promoted and required by such videos, and was “reasonably tailored” to meet that interest, in part because the Act now exempts lawful activities like hunting, normal veterinary practices, and customary agricultural practices.

Significantly for victim animals, the Fifth Circuit looked to the “long history and substantial consensus” of animal cruelty laws in this country, emphasizing that animal cruelty “is so antisocial that it has been made criminal” in every state. As a practical matter, the Court also acknowledged that because of the “clandestine manner in which animal crush videos are made,” it is difficult for state law enforcement to target the underlying cruelty that these videos depict—furthering the need for the Act.

ALDF applauds the Fifth Circuit for this landmark ruling that acknowledges Congress’s compelling interest in combatting the egregious animal cruelty inherent in animal crush videos.

26 Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Welcome New ALDF Board Members and Advisory Council

Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on June 17, 2014

aldf-logo-burgundyALDF is pleased to introduce three new members of the ALDF Board of Directors, Wendy Morgan, Lisa Brewer, and Victoria Stack. Victoria is a co-founder and director of International Communication Initiatives, a nonprofit whose mission is to design, coordinate, and promote cross-disciplinary projects that advance a humane and environmentally conscious society. Wendy Morgan is a family law attorney experienced in business, entertainment, and animal rights law. Lisa Brewer has worked as an attorney at Hewlett-Packard Corporation and Apple, Inc., and currently has her own law practice in the San Francisco Bay Area, focusing on workplace investigations.

We are also delighted to present ALDF’s brand new Advisory Council. This council of diverse advisors includes law professors David Favre (Michigan State University) and Bernard Rollin (Colorado State University). David is also the vice chair of the American Bar Association/TIPS Committee on Animal Law, while Bernard serves on the Institute for Laboratory Animal Resources (ILAR) Council of the National Academy of Sciences. Also joining the council are former ALDF Board members Susann MacLachlan (professor of law at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago) and Joshua Marquis (former district attorney in Astoria, Oregon). Other advisors include Robert “Skip” Trimble, a board member of the Texas Humane Legislation Network, Dave Simon—author of Meatonomics and board member of the Animal Protection & Rescue League—software architect Stephanie Walter, and Brooks McCormick.

No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

All Talk, No Quack: Vet Association Won’t Stand Against Foie Gras

Posted by By Kelly Murray, ALDF Law Clerk on June 13, 2014


Force-feeding young ducks and geese to produce fatty livers known as “foie gras,” is inhumane, and that is why ALDF has launched multiple attacks against this cruel industry. It is a tough argument to say that force-feeding ducks to produce foie gras does not cause animal suffering. Unfortunately, that is exactly what the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is suggesting by not taking a stance against foie gras production.

In 2010, the AVMA amended its Veterinarian’s Oath to emphasize the association’s commitment to animal welfare. The revised oath reads:

“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…”

According to former AVMA Executive Board Chair, Dr. John R. Brooks, AVMA’s board was sending a message by adopting the new oath – “The message is we as the AVMA and veterinarians in general do recognize that protecting animal well-being is what we’re all about.”

Based on the oath, you would expect the AVMA to take a strong position against the production and sale of foie gras—but you would be wrong. In fact, the AVMA has refused to adopt a policy on this cruel and unnecessary practice. On May 7, 2014, the AVMA released a report entitled, “Literature Review on the Welfare Implications of Foie Production,” in which the association even admits, “Capture and restraint are stressful to the ducks and rapid insertion of the feeding tube provide opportunities for injury and therefore pain.” It further goes on to list the known risks of foie gras production, including the “creation of a vulnerable animal more likely to sufferfrom otherwise tolerable conditions….”

Despite the AVMA’s own admission that ducks used in foie gras production are stressed, have increased opportunities for pain, and are more likely to suffer than other ducks, and despite animal organizations like ALDF leading the fight against the foie gras industry, the AVMA refuses to take a stance or implement a policy on foie gras.

Rather than strive to prevent the suffering and relief of ducks used in foie gras production, as their oath requires, the AVMA has turned a blind eye to the plight of these animals. Until the AVMA recognizes its self-prescribed duty, it will have a tough time convincing anyone that protecting animal well-being really is its top priority.

To read more about ALDF’s landmark victory against the foie gras industry and our lawsuits against producers and restaurants who violate California’s ban on foie gras, visit

16 Comments  |  Leave A Comment

ALDF Speaks Out Against Factory Farm Pollution at Washington Board of Health Hearing

Posted by Liz Hallinan, ALDF Litigation Fellow on June 11, 2014


Dairy cows being milked.

Today, Washington’s Board of Health is holding a hearing regarding the impacts of animal agriculture on public health and the environment. ALDF, along with several environmental groups, is speaking at the hearing to urge the Board to hold factory farms accountable for their role in polluting the state water supply.

Thousands of animals are confined in crowded and filthy conditions on factory farms in Washington where they are forced to stand in their own waste for their entire lives. These conditions not only lead to unimaginable animal suffering, but also contribute to the spread of disease, endangering both animal and human health. These thousands of animals also create an enormous amount of waste—which then goes untreated and leaks into ground and surface water.

For example, Washington has around 500 dairies, containing 200,000 cows who produce 20 million pounds of manure each day. This untreated manure is kept in unlined lagoons or is spread across fields. This waste then runs into surface and groundwater, polluting streams and aquifers with nitrates and E.Coli. In fact, the EPA has determined that the nitrate pollution of drinking water in the Lower Yakima Valley is the result of these industrial animal farms. Antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals fed to the animals on these farms also contaminate the drinking supply. Water pollution from factory farms is a well-established risk to public health.


Manure being spread on a field.

The Washington State Board of Health has the legal authority to promulgate rules to protect residents from the health hazards posed by manure from factory farms. ALDF is asking that the Board revise the regulations regarding the keeping of animals on concentrated animal operations to include specific and enforceable requirements for managing the spread of animal manure.

The Board of Health must act on this urgent matter, as neither the Washington Department of Ecology nor the Department of Agriculture is sufficiently regulating water pollution from factory farms. In fact, the Department of Ecology is charged by the federal Environmental Protection Agency with protecting the state waters under the Clean Water Act. However, the Department has so far ignored this duty and has required the federally mandated water pollution permit from only 1% of factory farms in the state.

It is imperative that Washington’s state agencies regulate the pollution coming from factory farms. Until then these facilities will continue to put both animal and human health at risk.

Click here to take action by asking the USDA to act on the coalition’s petition, 14-02.

27 Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Will Lolita—Miami Seaquarium’s Lonely Orca—Star in Blackfish “Sequel”?

Posted by Jenni James, ALDF Litigation Fellow on June 10, 2014

The Miami Seaquarium is in the business of breaking laws. For decades, the Miami Seaquarium has confined Lolita, a wild born orca, in conditions that violate the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Lolita is kept in an undersized concrete aquarium prison and denied shade and the companionship of other orcas. Because of this, ALDF and PETA sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for renewing the Miami Seaquarium’s license.

The Miami Seaquarium has also been violating the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act—the law that protects employees from deadly workplace hazards, such as swimming with wild orcas. Miami Seaquarium has been requiring trainers to swim with and even ride upon Lolita as she performs tricks in her tiny tank, despite the law. ALDF included exclusive video evidence of this ongoing occupational hazard in a complaint sent to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”). This complaint renews the request ALDF made first in November 2013, asking OSHA to investigate this blatant violation of the OSH Act.

To see the violation in question, click here (12:25 in the video).

The Miami Seaquarium has no excuse for its lawless behavior. The 2010 death of SeaWorld orca trainer Dawn Brancheau (made notorious by the award-winning documentary Blackfish), sparked a prolonged legal battle over employee safety. This battle ended in April 2014, when SeaWorld lost its appeal before a panel of judges from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in SeaWorld of Florida v. Perez. The panel affirmed the decision below, which held that close contact with captive orcas is a recognized hazard, prohibited by the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Despite this clear ruling, as depicted in ALDF’s video footage of Lolita’s May 10, 2014 performance, the Miami Seaquarium continues to ask its employees to put their lives on the line, all in the name of entertainment and profit. By doing so, they are inviting another tragic disaster like the one featured in Blackfish.

The legal issue is settled. The Miami Seaquarium is not immune from the Circuit Court’s decision. OSHA now has the opportunity to prevent another tragedy. In the process, Lolita will no longer be treated like a living surfboard. If you think an investigation is overdue, you can take action here.

54 Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Caging Motherhood

Posted by Carol J. Adams, Guest Blogger on June 9, 2014

How is slavery normalized and naturalized? It may seem counterintuitive, but one way is to exhibit it. In the past, this involved selling enslaved African-Americans at public auctions or encouraging artistic depictions of “odalisques” (female slaves in the Ottoman Empire). Now, sows are transported to the California State Fair and kept on display in farrowing crates with their babies. That’s why, last summer, the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit against the Cal Expo and the U.C. Board of Regents for illegally transporting and displaying pregnant and nursing pigs at the Livestock Nursery Exhibit. Today, ALDF filed an appeal in that case.

This form of reproductive slavery begins with synchronizing sows’ pregnancies and delivery (including inducing labor). After giving birth, the sows are placed in farrowing crates. Farrowing crates were ostensibly created to keep the sow from rolling over and crushing her offspring. One wonders how pigs avoided extinction for all the centuries that they birthed prior to the creation of these body-gripping cages.

The farrowing crate frames female re-productivity: the ostensibly revered maternal body is controlled, dominated, displayed, and objectified. In fact, this captive reproduction deprives sows of expressing their maternal instinct which is to nurse and care for the piglets away from people.

The sow is burdened by sexist cultural representations that show her as wanting to be dominated, pregnant, and consumed. Consider “Lisa”:


A sexualized being who wants to bear children just for you.

Lisa was part of an exhibit at the annual convention of “pork producers.” Of course, the sow is—against her will—the real “pork producer.” For “Lisa,” production and reproduction are the same act, and her body is the raw material of production. I constantly hear from meat eaters, “it’s because of me that the animal I am eating was even born.” In fact, it’s because of the sow that “pork” and “bacon” exist; her status is so low she can be exhibited in her painful, cramped cage of motherhood. Exhibiting her is the act of reassurance that such treatment is okay. We can consult our own bodies (say on a cross country flight), and know that being confined and having restricted movement is not comfortable. Upon landing, besides reaching for their luggage stowed above them, people rise from the seats and stretch.

Any exhibit of sows in farrowing crates wants us to gawk, and in gawking be reassured. Discomfort? Anguish? “Lisa” and her sisters never get to stretch.

While the image of “Lisa” commits discursive violence, it exists to support a material form of violence. The sows at the California State Fair are not representations; they are actual beings, as is this sow:


Notice the words “Fat/Selfish bitch” in the upper left hand corner. Photo courtesy of Mercy of Animals Investigator, Iowa Select Farms.

From a sexualized female who “wants” to give you another baby through reproductive captivity to “fat selfish bitch,” the arc of the narrative being told about the child-bearing sow enforces on their lives and perpetuates some of the painful regressive stereotypes applied to women. Fat selfish bitch? Maybe she wanted to stretch.

Carol J. Adams is the author of The Sexual Politics of MeatEcoFeminism: Feminist Intersections with Other Animals & the Earth co-edited with Lori Gruen is forthcoming.

22 Comments  |  Leave A Comment

High Time to Modernize the Methods of Kosher Slaughter

Posted by Jeff Pierce and Carmine Lippolis, ALDF Litigation Fellows on June 6, 2014


The Times of Israel announced recently that the Israeli Chief Rabbinate has adopted a more modern view of gender: women will serve alongside men as Israel’s “kosher supervisors.” These watchmen and watchwomen ensure that slaughterhouse workers follow the religious mandates of shechita, granting (or withholding) the kosher imprimatur on commercially sold meat.

While we applaud the Chief Rabbinate for opening this door to women, we would urge them to modernize not merely the supervision of kosher slaughter but also its execution. The Chief Rabbinate should finally declare as abhorrent to Jewish law the abusive practice of “shackle and hoist” restraint, and should refuse to import any meat from those employing this cruelty.

But don’t kosher requirements already mandate the humane treatment of animals? Not exactly: kosher requirements generally dictate only how the animal must die. Namely, like this: while the animal is still conscious, the slaughterer makes a single slice across the animal’s throat; the animal’s blood pressure drops so suddenly that straightaway he loses consciousness.

Kosher requirements generally say far less about how the animal must live. Like their non-kosher counterparts, most animals who become kosher meat spend their lives in appalling confinement. Similarly, kosher requirements generally say little of how the animal must be handled in the moments surrounding death. Instead, secular regulations have filled that vacuum.

In the U.S., the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 (PFDA) required that a slaughtered animal not collapse into the blood of those who went before him. Historically, the only method of kosher restraint was manual: the slaughterer would lay the animal on his side. But that didn’t comply with the PFDA. For the first time, kosher practitioners had to get the animal off the floor. Enter shackle and hoist. Ironically, the Jewish community opposed the PFDA because it essentially mandated cruelty.

The strong of heart may view this undercover footage of a shackle and hoist slaughterhouse in Uruguay, from which the U.S. and Israel import much of their kosher meat. In a 2010 article in The Los Angeles Times about that investigation, Temple Grandin, an expert on humane slaughter, said of shackle and hoist, “I’m getting fed up with it. It’s a really terrible practice and it needs to stop.” Grandin is joined by many influential Jewish groups who feel the same way. For example, the Committee on Jewish Laws and Standards (CJLS) denounced shackle and hoist not only for its blatant cruelty but also because it violates another tenet of Jewish law, tsa’ar ba’alei chaim, the mandate not to cause suffering to living creatures.

Okay, but the CJLS is an authority only within Conservative Judaism. What about an Orthodox authority? The Chief Rabbinate itself. In 2008, after PETA publicized the above-referenced investigation, Israel’s highest religious leadership insisted it would “phase out” shackle and hoist. According to the Jerusalem Post, then-Chief Rabbi Metzger set the end of 2011 as the deadline. It’s now 2014, and steers are still strung up by a chain, bellowing and kicking as their blood courses to the killing floor. Alternatives exist that comply with both the kosher mandate and secular food safety requirements.

With the power to declare what is and is not kosher comes a responsibility not merely toward those who consume but also toward those who are consumed. As the Chief Rabbinate welcomes women into the field of kosher supervision, we urge the Rabbis to live up to the promise of their predecessors and to eliminate the most repugnant method of kosher slaughter.

11 Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Horse Carriage Ban the Only Meaningful Way to Protect NYC’s Carriage Horses

Posted by Jeff Pierce, ALDF Litigation Fellow on June 5, 2014

Saverio Colarusso, the horse-drawn carriage driver charged with criminal animal cruelty in New York, is due back in court on June 16. Regardless of whether he cuts a plea deal or takes his case to trial, the allegation that he knowingly drove an injured horse (named Blondie) speaks volumes about the suffering that New York’s carriage horses endure.


(Mary Culpepper/Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages)

The facts in Blondie’s case, as alleged, are simple. Late last December, a police officer noticed that Blondie was limping and struggling while Mr. Colarusso was working her. When the officer questioned him, Mr. Colarusso reportedly stated that Blondie had been injured for four days. On that fourth day, Blondie had already been working the streets of New York City for five hours, all while her driver, by his own admission, knew she was injured.

Blondie had thrush, a painful hoof infection that, when left untreated, becomes severe enough to cause lameness. Thrush occurs in wet, muddy, or unsanitary conditions, like an unclean stable. Blondie lived at Clinton Park Stables–the same stables where, in early May, Irish actor Liam Neeson publicly hosted city councilmembers and touted the supposedly high quality of care the industry’s animals receive. Mr. Neeson, who has become the industry’s unofficial spokesman, insisted during an appearance on the Daily Show that carriage drivers “treat these horses like children.” But Mr. Colarusso’s case proves the contrary: carriage drivers make money by driving their horses, not by giving them the care and rest they deserve.

The case of Frank Luo, another shady carriage driver, reinforces the point. Mr. Luo is accused of trying to make an unhealthy, retirement-age horse named Ceasar (sic) appear to be a much younger, healthier horse named Carsen, so that he could continue to exploit Ceasar. When he got caught, he sent Ceasar out of state, beyond the reach of an official investigation. This is hardly any way to treat your children.

We’re sure Blondie and Ceasar are not the only horses forced to endure inhumane treatment, which is why the Animal Legal Defense Fund has an ongoing lawsuit against the NYPD to obtain public records of carriage-related accidents and injuries. This lawsuit was bolstered in April by the N.Y. Supreme Court’s agreement with ALDF that the public has a right to see these records.

With Mr. Colarusso’s criminal case still pending, the New York Post reported recently that New York’s Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), which regulates the carriage drivers, has revoked Mr. Colarusso’s license. The DCA opened its own case, opting wisely not to wait for Mr. Colarusso’s criminal case to run its course. Appearing before the department’s administrative judge, Mr. Colarusso tried to take back what he’d told the police officer, claiming that Blondie injured herself when she stumbled just 15 minutes prior to his questioning, startled by a garbage truck. The administrative judge didn’t buy it, and neither does the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

We applaud the DCA for revoking Mr. Colarusso’s license and urge it to do the same with Mr. Luo. In the meantime, we hope that Mr. Colarusso’s criminal case will reach a just end that properly acknowledges the suffering the industry’s voiceless victims endure, and we call upon the Mayor and City Council to move more swiftly to shut down an industry that, ultimately, victimizes all its horses.

Take Action

Take the pledge! Join ALDF in calling for the shut down of the horse-drawn carriage industry.

Take Action Button

22 Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Legally Brief: the U.S. Must Ban Cosmetic Testing on Animals

Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on June 5, 2014

Legally Brief

Some good news may be coming for animals: the Humane Cosmetics Act, introduced by Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA) as “HR 4148.” If passed, the Act would eliminate animal testing for cosmetics made or sold in the U.S. It would also make it illegal to sell or transport cosmetics across state lines if any part of that product has been manufactured by testing on animals after the ban is implemented. The bill has bipartisan support and recently Michael Grimm (R-NY) signed on as a co-sponsor, along with nearly 50 other members of Congress.

rabbit-cc-the-original-turtle-article-image-500pxAnimals—most commonly rabbits and rats—are used in acute toxicity tests where they are force-fed or forced to inhale massive doses of a chemical ingredient, and as a result will suffer severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, convulsions, paralysis, seizures, and/or bleeding before death. Other tests include eye and skin corrosion tests, in which rabbits are fully restrained while chemical substances are dripped into their eyes or rubbed into their shaved skin, creating ulcers, scabs, swelling, or blindness. These results are subjective at best and can only predict human reaction with approximately 65% accuracy in most cases.

Furthermore, these tests have been done already, for years—and none of these cosmetic tests are required by law—not by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), not by the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and not by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) or any other law or regulatory body. Worse still, the Animal Welfare Act (AWA)—the federal law that regulates animal testing—is poorly enforced, and doesn’t address or provide any legal protection for most of the millions of animals tested on—like rats, mice, and birds.

So why are these cruel, unnecessary tests performed? It is likely that these tests are used by corporations to shield themselves from potential liability in the event they are sued. But even so, it is in the best interest for the industry itself to use alternatives to testing on animals because such tests are known to be unreliable, expensive, and time-consuming. More importantly, they cause tremendous and unnecessary suffering to sentient beings. Scientists have already developed alternatives that use human blood, cell, or skin tissues, or advanced computer technology to test the safety of cosmetic products. Companies already using these alternative methods have cut costs, time, and cruelty. There are numerous, widely available brands that have never been tested on animals—see ALDF’s Cruelty-Free Consumer Guide.

As recently noted in Scientific American, the U.S. has been behind the times when it comes to preventing cruelty to animals in unnecessary laboratory testing. The European Union has banned cosmetic testing and even prohibits the marketing of cosmetic products tested on animals. In contrast, China requires such testing, and the U.S., while not requiring it, has not stepped up to ban it. Happily, that may finally change with the Humane Cosmetics Act.

Just this week, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health held a Briefing on The Humane Cosmetics Act (H.R. 4148): Advances and Challenges in Replacing Animal Use in Cosmetic Testing in Washington, D.C., in which experts discussed the scientific advances in non-animal testing for cosmetic safety, and the scientific, legal, and policy challenges that remain, and how the Humane Cosmetics Act could impact other U.S. laws and policies.

The Humane Cosmetics Act would encourage the development of new testing methods that don’t harm animals, and increase the use of advanced testing alternatives already available. Better, more reliable methods of testing mean eliminating testing on animals. Our need to produce safe products corresponds directly with our need to make those products humane, and both are possible under the law.

For more information, order ALDF’s “Animal Testing and the Law” brochure.

98 Comments  |  Leave A Comment

California Gives ESA Protections to Lone Wolf and His Pups

Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on June 4, 2014


Wolf pups spotted near the California border. (Photo by US Fish & Wildlife)

Fantastic news! The California Fish and Game Commission voted today to protect wolves under our state Endangered Species Act (ESA). California’s lone wolf, known as “OR-7,” aka “Journey,” is a male gray wolf who has roamed our northern mountains for several years, unprotected until now under the ESA. For years, we feared for Journey’s safety, particularly because shameful “coyote killing contests” are bad for wolves who are easily mistaken for coyotes and bad for the thousands of coyotes slaughtered each year nationwide. Now, with these new protections for wolves at least, killing a wolf in California carries a punishment of up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment for up to a year in the county jail, under the state’s Fish and Game code.

But today is a good news day for wolves—and not just because of the long-awaited protections under the ESA. Just hours before this announcement from the commission, it was confirmed that Journey has had pups!

The lone wolf now has a pack, and Journey and his family will be protected under state law. He has traveled thousands of miles throughout Oregon and Northern California and is the first and only wolf in California since 1924. He has been tracked in Shasta County, Siskiyou County, and Oregon’s Klamath County—and is perhaps the most well-known wolf in the United States and beyond. In fact, recently he was the subject of documentary called OR-7, which screened in Portland just last month.

Huge kudos goes to the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) who has fought hard on this issue—and submitted a petition in 2012. As CBD knows, it’s not just good news for Journey: its good news for the future of our wild habitats and the wildlife who inhabit them—because gray wolves are a central part of the biodiversity of California’s mountainous northern ecosystems. The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, crossing the boundary between California and Oregon, is a breathtaking, outstanding natural resource. In fact, it holds the largest concentration of intact watersheds and untouched wilderness on the Pacific coast, covers 10 million acres, and is defined by the mighty Rogue River watershed.

Congratulations Journey and pups! Slán abhaile, as they say in Irish. Safe journey home.


4 Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Pink the Pelican Released after Savage Animal Cruelty Attack

Posted by Shelley Rizzotti, Vice Chair, ALDF-LA on June 4, 2014

As an attorney dedicated to winning justice for animals, yesterday was a truly special day for me. I had the pleasure of watching the release of the California Brown Pelican named “Pink,” who was returned to the wild after a month and a half recovery from a savage attack. In the April 2014 attack, a perpetrator—who is still at large—butchered Pink’s entire throat pouch and left him to die. The International Bird Rescue—a San Pedro, Calif. based nonprofit—has been caring for Pink and rehabilitating him since the attack, and we are thrilled at his recovery and release.


Pink flies free after being released on June 3, 2014 at at White Point Park in San Pedro, California. (Copyright International Bird Rescue/Bill Steinkamp)

In a surgical room packed with reporters at International Bird Rescue yesterday, Pink received his final pre-release medical clearance. His pink hospital band (hence his nickname, “Pink”) was removed and replaced with a blue identifier: “V70.” He was then placed in a crate and transported a few miles to Royal Palms Beach Park, where even more press awaited to see him released.  As a Los Angeles Council Member was addressing the press, a little girl, walking through the park with her parents, approached the crate, oblivious to the cameras, microphones, film equipment and the 50 or more people surrounding the crate. She interrupted the Councilmember and told him she wanted to give the bird some bread. Her little voice silenced the crowd of hundreds, and her concern for the bird in the crate spoke to us all.


Pink’s last checkup before his release.

Pink’s story isn’t just about a miraculous recovery and release. The heart of his story is really the torture of a defenseless animal. The photos of Pink’s weak and helpless state, with his throat slashed, incited people to action and drew huge media attention. As a result, International Bird Rescue says that reporting of bird injuries along the coast have drastically increased because of Pink’s story—meaning that countless other birds are also now getting a second chance at flying free.

This story reminds us that animal abuse everywhere needs to be reported and prosecuted. That is why the Animal Legal Defense Fund and International Bird Rescue, along with several concerned anonymous citizens, are offering a total $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person (s) responsible for this attack—which could mean felony penalties and prison time. In addition, the Port of Long Beach has put up $5,000 toward Pink’s surgical and rehabilitative care. California Brown Pelicans like Pink are threatened species protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and under California’s Penal Code, which prohibits maliciously and intentionally maiming, mutilating, torturing, or wounding a living animal. Although we are delighted by Pink’s recovery and release into the wild, his story demonstrates just how much animals need protection under the law.


Pink flies free, as all pelicans should.

Anyone with information that might lead to the arrest and conviction of the person (s) responsible for the mutilation of this bird should contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 310-328-1516.

No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Summer Reading for Animal Advocates

Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on June 4, 2014

ALDF wants to hear from you! This week, we are inviting readers to write in and share their favorite animal protection-themed books. The best suggestions will be included in our post next week at! Help us put together the best summer reading list on animal protection as you get ready for summer and catching up on those books you’ve been meaning to read!


New Books Coming Up in the Animal Book Club

Recently in the Animal Book Club

Each of these books raises important issues that the Animal Legal Defense Fund is working on to help protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. These issues include:

What is the best animal book you’ve read recently? Do you have a favorite quote? Let us know!

Send your choices to Jennifer at and don’t forget to “Like” us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter!

Happy Reading!

10 Comments  |  Leave A Comment