Governor Snyder Wants Open Season on Michigan Wolves

Posted by on December 28, 2016

Despite the many actions our supporters have taken over the past month, and the demonstrated will of Michigan’s citizens, Governor Snyder has signed SB 1187, intended to create an open season on wolf hunting in the Upper Peninsula.

Michigan voters soundly rejected this policy by referendum in 2014, but lawmakers have pursued it anyway. Making matters worse, SB 1187 includes a clause that protects the bill from being subjected to public referendum. Now that the Governor has signed the bill into law, the people of Michigan cannot overturn it unless or until a more responsible state legislature repeals it.

The good news is that despite this blatantly undemocratic move by Michigan lawmakers, wolves remain federally protected, in part because Michigan is so openly hostile to wolves and has routinely failed to demonstrate an ability to manage wolf recovery in the Great Lakes Region.

We encourage Michigan residents to share your opinion and frustration with your governor and elected state representatives by submitting Letters to the Editor and contacting the Governor’s office. As always, the Animal Legal Defense Fund will continue working to protect these wolves and will keep you updated on any developments.

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Honoring a Hero for Animals

Posted by on December 21, 2016

The Animal Legal Defense Fund congratulates Nicoletta J. Caferri, Chief Deputy of the Animal Cruelty Unit in Queens County who was recently honored with the 12th annual New York City Bar Association Thomas E. Dewey Medal. Each year the medal is awarded to an outstanding assistant district attorney in each of New York’s five district attorney offices.


This honor recognizes ADA Caferri 24 year commitment to the Queens District Attorney’s office as well as her excellence overseeing New York City’s very first Animal Cruelty Unit, which was created earlier in 2016. The elected Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said of the win, “As the Animal Cruelty Prosecution Unit Chief, Nikki has shown vision, talent and determination when it comes to the pursuit of justice and improving the quality of life for Queens County’s smallest and furriest residents. Keeping dogs, cats and pets of all kind safe and free from harm has been her highest priority from day one.”

We could not agree with Brown more, having named ADA Caferri one of America’s Top Ten Animal Defenders during National Justice for Animals Week 2016. Her role as head of the Animal Cruelty Unit is invaluable, guiding the unit to investigate and prosecute animal cruelty crimes and educate the public about how to prevent and detect animal abuse. District attorney and law enforcement offices all too often lack the resources or the special expertise needed to prosecute criminal abuse cases, but Queens’ Animal Cruelty Unit is proof of how successful such a unit can be.

We are proud to see ADA Caferri’s tireless work as an animal cruelty prosecutor continue to receive the respect and admiration she deserves. In addition to her packed schedule as a prosecutor, she is a contract attorney with the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Criminal Justice Program and presents animal cruelty case trainings to prosecutors and law enforcement nationwide on our behalf.

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Quebec Court of Appeal Overturns Suspension of Montreal Pit Bull Ban

Posted by Nicole Pallotta, Academic Outreach Manager on December 19, 2016

On Dec. 1, 2016, the Quebec Court of Appeal overturned a lower court ruling that had temporarily suspended new provisions of Montreal’s animal control by-law banning “pit bull-type dogs.” The suspension order was the result of a lawsuit filed by the Montreal SPCA against the city shortly after the ban went into effect on Oct. 3, 2016. The SPCA argued that the breed-specific provisions in the by-law ran counter “to article 898.1 of the Civil Code of Quebec, which grants animals the status of sentient beings.” The organization also charged that the definition of “pit bull” in the new by-law is too vague.

Brindle pit bull puppy cuddles on a couch

The first step in the lawsuit was the request for stay of the provisions targeting “pit bull type dogs” until a hearing could be held on its merits, which the Quebec Superior Court granted. However, the City of Montreal challenged this decision, arguing the stay was not justified in the circumstances, and the Quebec Court of Appeal agreed. Thus, while the Montreal SPCA continues to fight the ban in court, most of the breed-specific provisions are now in effect.

Those provisions make it illegal to adopt or otherwise acquire a pit bull dog within city limits and require any pit bulls grandfathered in to be muzzled when outdoors (even when in their owner’s backyard), kept on a leash no longer than four feet and supervised by someone age 18 or older. In order to be grandfathered in, Montreal pit bull owners must pass a criminal background check, sterilize and vaccinate their dog and purchase a special permit costing approximately $150.00 by March 1st, 2017.

Some of the provisions of the by-law are still under suspension, however, as a result of concessions made by the City of Montreal during the appeal hearings. According to the Montreal SPCA, the City of Montreal “cannot issue euthanasia orders based on breed or physical appearance, prohibit someone from reclaiming their lost dog based on breed or physical appearance, and must allow all dogs to continue to be adopted to families residing outside of Montreal.” This compromise will remain in effect until a hearing can be heard on the merits of the regulations.

As in the U.S., jurisdictions in Canada have not taken a unified approach to the issue of breed-specific legislation. Neighboring province Ontario has had a ban on pit bulls since 2005, which was upheld by the Ontario Court of Appeal in 2009; that decision was cited by the Quebec Court of Appeal in its Dec. 1, 2016 ruling. However, within Ontario, Ottawa (Canada’s capital city) has been vocal about not enforcing the ban. The City of Winnipeg enacted a breed ban in 1990, and the City of Edmonton repealed its breed ban in 2012, preferring to focus on dogs’ behavior rather than their breed.

A common criticism of breed-specific legislation is that it is inherently problematic to determine a dog’s breed based on appearance, and that the category of “pit bull” is itself arbitrary and overly broad. Empirical data confirms that not only average citizens but even animal care professionals cannot identify breeds by appearance. In Montreal’s by-law, “pit bull” includes three distinct breeds, mixes thereof and any dog with the characteristics of these breeds. Given this ambiguity, breed-specific legislation is almost impossible to enforce in a fair manner. In addition to continuing its lawsuit, the Montreal SPCA will be terminating its animal care services related to dogs, citing an unwillingness to kill healthy, behaviorally-sound, and adoptable dogs based only on their appearance.

Critics of breed-specific legislation argue moreover that these laws are not only discriminatory, penalizing all pit bulls regardless of their behavior, but also ineffective in preventing dog bite fatalities and injuries. Further, such laws raise concerns about due process rights. In the U.S., among those who have issued position statements against breed-discriminatory laws are the American Bar Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Obama administration. The Montreal SPCA has posted a petition and alternative solutions to address the public safety issue of aggressive dogs on its website:

Further Reading:

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Dogs and Cats Need You-Take Action Today

Posted by on December 15, 2016

Not all animals have homes for the holidays. In fact, in some places, there aren’t even shelters to help animals looking for home.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund needs your help to improve life for animals in one such place—Barbour County Alabama.


Alabama state law requires each county in the state to maintain a “county pound and an impounding officer” for impoundment of stray dogs, cats and ferrets. But Barbour County currently has no shelter, and residents are forced to take on the burden of sheltering and rehoming stray and abandoned animals. Today the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit to compel the county to follow its state’s law. Now we need your help to let Barbour County know that the whole country is watching their next move.

Please take action today—urge the Barbour County Commission to follow Alabama state law.

The county started to build a pound 14 years ago, but it has never opened. Still, the County Commission has repeatedly taken funds and equipment appropriated specifically for the animal shelter and services and put them toward other projects. In the meantime, the problem of animal abandonment and other animal cruelty crimes in the county has increased.

In one highly publicized incident in 2016, 11 puppies were found in a garbage bag with their dead mother, likely because there is nowhere for the public to surrender animals.

In another case, a Barbour County resident found a dog suffering from a gunshot wound. She took pictures and notified local law enforcement of the crime, including the identity of a suspect based on witness reports. Law enforcement declined to investigate or even just make a report of the incident.

Take Action

The Barbour County Commission needs to know that compassionate people around the country are watching. It takes just a few moments to send an email politely urging the Barbour County Commission to abide by Alabama law and open a shelter.

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Michigan: Wolves Need Your Quick Action Today

Posted by on December 15, 2016

UPDATE: December 27, 2016 – The Animal Legal Defense Fund is disappointed to report that Governor Snyder has ignored the will of Michigan voters and signed SB 1187 into law. While the law is intended to create an open season on wolf hunting in the Upper Peninsula, wolves remain federally protected and the law will not take effect unless the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service removes those protections.

Actively ignoring the will of the people, the Michigan Senate passed SB 1187, which would label wolves as a game species to be hunted and trapped. The bill is likely to pass the House as well. There are many elements of this bill that we find deeply concerning. Michigan residents: urge Governor Rick Snyder to veto Senate Bill 1187 in the almost certain event it passes the Michigan House.

Intense Timber Wolf (Canis lupus) Sits Under Pine

This is the third time Michigan has tried to approve a wolf hunt despite voters soundly rejecting the policy by referendum in 2014.

Because lawmakers know they are going against the will of the people they represent, SB 1187 includes a clause that protects the bill from being subjected to public referendum. In other words, the people of Michigan will not be able to overturn the bill if it’s signed in to law. Preventing Michigan voters from being able to directly determine Michigan law is a blatantly undemocratic move.

Michigan: Contact Governor Snyder today on behalf of the wolves.

Once widespread throughout the country, wolf populations have been decimated by hunting trapping and poisoning. Due to their fragile population, wolves of the Great Lakes region are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service would have to remove these protections, before SB 1187 could take effect, but this seems likely to happen in the near future. SB 1187 would lay the groundwork for wolves to be killed for sport in Michigan as soon as it does, and regardless of the will of the people of Michigan.

Michigan residents: call Governor Rick Snyder’s office today and urge him to veto Senate Bill 1187 if it passes the House.


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Ohio Appeals Court Rules Dogs are Worth More Than “Fair Market Value”

Posted by Nicole Pallotta, Academic Outreach Manager on December 13, 2016

Last month, the Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision that had relied on a strict property analysis in restricting damages to fair market value in a case that involved the serious injury of a companion dog. Ruling that “substantial justice was not done,” the appellate court remanded the case back to the Toledo Municipal Court, instructing it to recalculate the damages to reflect the fact “that pets do not have the same characteristics as other forms of personal property, such as a table or sofa which is disposable and replaceable at our convenience.”

The case originated in April 2015 when Jamie Rego filed a complaint for damages against Shawn Madalinksi, whose dog attacked and seriously injured Rego’s five month old pit bull puppy Kingston while on Madalinksi’s property during a visit in November 2014. At the time the complaint was filed, Rego had spent more than $10,000 on veterinary care for Kingston following the attack, which resulted in three broken legs and numerous puncture wounds.

Black and white pit bull puppy

In January 2016, the Toledo Municipal Court awarded just $400.00 in damages, finding that because dogs are legally classified as personal property, compensatory damages were capped at the market value of the animal.

The appeal argued the trial court had erred in holding that damages for veterinary expenses incurred for the treatment of a dog attacked and injured by another dog are limited to the injured dog’s market value. The appeals court agreed, noting that while dogs are undisputedly classified as personal property in Ohio, and that damages for loss or injury to personal property, including dogs, are generally limited to market value:

“…we cannot ignore the growing number of courts outside of Ohio which have awarded veterinary expenses for injuries caused by attacks from other dogs and grooming or kennel injuries. Further, some states have enacted statutes allowing recovery for economic damages such as veterinary expenses for injured pets. In addition, various courts and law review articles have discussed the plausibility of reclassifying companion animals under a ‘semi-property’ classification suggesting such terms as companion property, or sentient property.”

The court also included “the owner’s affection for the animal” as a factor that “may be considered in assessing the reasonableness of the decision to treat the animal.” However, citing existing case law, the court made clear it intended affection as a factor to be limited to assessing economic damages (e.g. vet bills) and that noneconomic damages, such as emotional distress or loss of companionship, are not available in cases involving companion animals.

Although it is still rare for courts to award compensatory damages for noneconomic harm in cases where animals are wrongfully injured, decisions like this awarding economic damages beyond market value signal continued evolution in the courts, which—though bound by animals’ legal classification—are moving toward recognizing that animals are distinct from other forms of property.

Further Reading:



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Attention Michigan: A Call to Save Michigan’s Wolves

Posted by on December 7, 2016

UPDATE: December 27, 2016 – The Animal Legal Defense Fund is disappointed to report that Governor Snyder has ignored the will of Michigan voters and signed SB 1187 into law. While the law is intended to create an open season on wolf hunting in the Upper Peninsula, wolves remain federally protected and the law will not take effect unless the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service removes those protections.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund urges Michigan residents to take action once again to save the state’s wolves. Compassionate residents have voted to protect wolves—but elected officials are bending to the will of special interest groups in an effort to pass a new law that would label wolves as a “game species” —allowing them to be shot or subjected to even crueler leg-hold traps. This law, SB 1187, threatens to subvert the will of the people of Michigan, who have repeatedly demonstrated opposition to wolf hunting.

With just a few days left in this legislative session, it’s vital that Michigan residents call their state Senator and Representative now to politely—but firmly—urge them to oppose SB 1187. When calling, comments can be as simple as, “I’m a constituent who cares about wolves, and I’m calling to urge you to respect the voice of the people and reject SB 1187.”

Intense Timber Wolf (Canis lupus) Sits Under Pine

Personal phone calls have a heavy influence on elected officials—please take a few moments to assure that wolves remain protected. By making these calls, Michigan residents can hold elected officials accountable.

Michigan has been a battle ground for wolves in the past several years. For more information, read Wolf Hunting Law Ruled Unconstitutional by Michigan Court of Appeals.





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Wolf Hunting Law Ruled Unconstitutional by Michigan Court of Appeals

Posted by Nicole Pallotta, Academic Outreach Manager on December 7, 2016

On Nov. 23, 2016, the State of Michigan Court of Appeals overturned the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, also known as Public Act 281, which would have allowed wolves in Michigan to be hunted if they are ever removed from the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) list. The decision was the result of a lawsuit brought by Keep Michigan Wolves Protected (KMWP), which challenged the state Natural Resources Commission’s authority to classify gray wolves as a “game species.” In 2015, the Michigan Court of Claims found in favor of defendants (the State of Michigan, the Department of Natural Resources and the Natural Resources Commission), but on appeal a three-judge panel reversed the lower court’s ruling on constitutional grounds.

The law at issue, PA 281, was enacted in 2014 as an indirect initiated state statute. These laws are citizen-initiated through signature gathering. After the signatures are collected the proposed law goes directly to the state legislature, which can decide to enact the law or put it on the statewide ballot to be voted on by citizens. PA 281, initiated by a pro-hunting group, gave the Michigan Natural Resource Commission sole discretion over wildlife management in the state and the power to decide which animals are classified as game species and can therefore be hunted. After the petition gained the required number of signatures, the Michigan legislature approved the measure in August 2014, skipping the ballot.

Three Eastern Timber Wolves Pack

That same year, Michigan voters rejected via ballot initiative two laws that would have allowed wolf hunting. Michigan Wolf Hunting Referendum, Proposal 1, would have upheld a law designating the wolf as a game animal and allowed hunting and trapping of wolves in the state. Michigan Natural Resources Commission Referendum, Proposal 2, would have upheld a law granting the Commission permission to directly designate game species and determine hunting seasons. Although these measures were both voted down by Michigan citizens, they were rendered moot since the legislature had approved PA 281.

Critics claimed the legislature had not only subverted the will of the people in enacting PA 281, but also that the wording of the measure was misleading and that many who signed the petition may not have realized they were supporting wolf hunting. In its lawsuit, KMWP argued that the petition was strategically drafted to conceal its true purpose. From the Court of Appeals decision:

“Plaintiff’s description regarding how PA 281 came into being conjures up images of a Trojan Horse, within which the ability to hunt wolves was cleverly hidden. Plaintiff claims that the initiating petition was strategically drafted in such a way as to appeal to potential signers by touting that it would ensure that only sound scientific principles would govern the taking of fish and game … that it would support our active-military members by letting them hunt and fish for free, and that it would provide money to combat the spread of Asian carp—all of which have excellent ‘curb appeal’—while surreptitiously slipping inside the body of the act a reenacting provision to ensure that regardless of the referenda votes on PA 520 and PA 21, wolves would be on the game species list, as would associated wolf hunting provisions … ”

Although the Court of Appeals conceded this assessment may be accurate, it disagreed that the measure was unconstitutionally deceptive and confusing. However, KMWP had also argued PA 281 violated the Title-Object Clause of the Michigan Constitution, which states: “No law shall embrace more than one object, which shall be expressed in its title.” The court was persuaded by this argument, finding the title of the proposed law didn’t inform the public or legislature of the law’s actual effects and that therefore the law as drafted was unconstitutional.

Specifically, the court took issue with the provision of the act granting free hunting and fishing licenses to active members of the military, finding it had no necessary connection to the scientific management of fish, wildlife and their habitats, and that without that provision—and the broad appeal of the benefit it conveyed—“we cannot presume that the Legislature would have passed PA 281.”

Although the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has tried several times to delist Great Lakes gray wolves, the courts have reversed each attempt. For now, wolves remain classified as endangered and are therefore federally protected in Michigan, which is in line with the will of the Michigan voters.

Further Reading:




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Animal Protection Coalition Urges USDA To Protect Consumers

Posted by on December 5, 2016

Newly Proposed Meat Labeling Guideline Encourages Misleading Industry Practices

Contact: Natalia Lima,, 201 679 7088

SAN FRANCISCO – The Animal Legal Defense Fund, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Compassion Over Killing (COK), representing more than 6 million members and supporters, have submitted a joint comment today, as the comment period closes, to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) sharply criticizing the agency’s “Labeling Guideline on Documentation Needed to Substantiate Animal Raising Claims for Label Submissions,” released in September. Feedback so far has been overwhelmingly critical, and today’s joint comment from the animal protection coalition leads the outcry.

The comment argues that FSIS’ Guideline violates the law by enabling—even encouraging—rampant consumer deception. Instead of defining a baseline standard for commonly used consumer-attracting animal product labels, like “humane,” “free-range,” and “raised without antibiotics,” the Guideline allows each company to define the terms based on their own interpretation and their internal company policies—and doesn’t even require that these policies be made public. This creates confusion and inconsistency for consumers across the market, and an open invitation for companies to mislead customers who have a reasonable expectation of what certain terms and claims mean.

The Guideline effectively renders any and all animal raising claims meaningless. It allows producers that use standard, industrial production methods to make “humane” or “animal-friendly” claims, while hindering producers that have actually instituted strict standards that come closer to satisfying consumer expectations and likely misleading the large percentage of conscious consumers who are willing to pay extra for products they believe are raised more humanely.

“The USDA’s approach blatantly violates its statutory duty to protect consumers,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “The Animal Legal Defense Fund urges the agency to take steps that genuinely ensure animal products’ and by-products’ labels clarify and inform purchasers, not mislead the public.”

“Without any authority to go onto farms to see for itself how animals are being treated,” says Jared Goodman, the PETA Foundation’s Director of Animal Law, “the USDA has all but guaranteed that it will continue to approve ‘humane’ labels where portions of birds’ beaks and pigs’ tails are cut off and animals live their entire lives indoors without enrichment before being roughly rounded up and loaded onto a truck for a terrifying transportation to a violent death.”

“FSIS is taking a step in the wrong direction with this Guideline, which violates the agency’s own statutory mandates and allows producers to use inconsistent claims that will mislead consumers who care about animal welfare,” says Cheryl Leahy, General Counsel for Compassion Over Killing.

The comment is just one voice in a loud outcry against the USDA’s label giveaway to the animal slaughter and by-product industry. An online petition from PETA has garnered more than 36,000 signatures, and public interest organizations of many constituencies have weighed in with opposition to FSIS’ industry-friendly proposal.

For more information, please visit

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Protecting Pennsylvania’s Mother Dogs from Puppy Mill Neglect

Posted by Stephen Wells, Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director on December 2, 2016

Legally Brief

In 2008, as part of the Pennsylvania Dog Law, the Pennsylvania state legislature enacted some of the most comprehensive regulations on commercial dog breeders in the nation. The state had become, in the words of one legislator, “the puppy mill capital of the East,” and sought to strengthen the law primarily to ease the suffering of mother dogs used for breeding. Commercial breeders commonly kept mother dogs in cages with only metal wire strand flooring, and many dogs were literally never let outside for exercise.

pa-puppy-mill-cindy8Used because it’s cheap and easy to clean, such wire flooring is not only uncomfortable but also harmful to stand on. Paw deformities and other serious injuries often result from such conditions. The amendments to the Pennsylvania Dog Law were intended as a remedy, banning the use of metal wire strand flooring and requiring “unfettered access” to outside exercise for dogs over 12 weeks of age.

But such laws are only meaningful if they’re enforced. Under pressure from puppy mill owners, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture soon issued two broad exemptions to the law. One allowed 50 percent of the flooring to be metal wire strand in cages where mothers with nursing puppies were kept, while the other said the Department wouldn’t enforce the law if breeders provided “daily” access to an exercise area for nursing dogs.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund went to work for mother dogs and their puppies. With three Pennsylvania residents and supporters, we challenged the regulations through multiple Pennsylvania state agency review processes. Those review boards sided with the Department of Agriculture every time.

Seeing no other option, we sued the Department, asking the court to strike down the unlawful exemptions. On Sept. 9, 2016, a panel of judges ruled in our favor. Finding that the Department’s actions were contrary to the clear purpose and intent of the Dog Law, the court struck down the exemptions.

Now puppy mills in Pennsylvania are required to provide all dogs with safe, comfortable flooring and with free access to fresh air and room to exercise. Consistent with the will of the people and with the intent of the lawmakers who passed the law, Pennsylvania puppy mills will no longer be able to profit while ignoring basic needs of mother dogs. This is a significant step forward in the fight against puppy mills.

Learn more about the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s work to stop puppy mills at


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Federal Appeals Court Dismisses Challenge to California Sales Ban on Eggs Sourced from Extreme Confinement of Hens

Posted by Nicole Pallotta, Academic Outreach Manager on December 1, 2016

On November 17, 2016, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit challenging California’s ban on the sale of shell eggs obtained from sources that do not comply with its animal care standards. California voters passed Proposition 2, or the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, in 2008, which prohibits the confinement of farmed animals in spaces so small they cannot turn around freely, lie down, stand up and fully extend their limbs. Most egg-laying hens cannot do that in “battery cages,” the cramped and tiny cages that have become industry standard and are outlawed by the new law.


Proposition 2 did not originally apply to out-of-state egg producers, which at the time supplied almost half of the eggs consumed in California. The California legislature passed AB 1437 in 2010 as an accessory bill mandating that eggs sold in California must be produced in compliance with Proposition 2, regardless of state of origin. Both laws came into effect on Jan. 1, 2015, giving California producers seven years, and out-of-state producers five years, to transition to alternate housing systems for their hens.

In March 2014, through their attorneys general or governors, six states – Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Alabama, Kentucky and Iowa – filed suit, arguing provisions in California’s law violated the Commerce and Supremacy Clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The Animal Legal Defense Fund, along with Farm Sanctuary and Compassion Over Killing, filed an amicus brief in support of California’s motion to dismiss, which the lower court granted, ruling the six states lacked parens patriae standing to challenge the constitutionality of California’s law. The plaintiff states appealed the decision, but it was affirmed by the Court of Appeals on Nov. 17, 2016.

Parens patriae, Latin for “parent of the country,” is a doctrine that allows states to step in and act on behalf of those who are legally unable to act on their own behalf. It has most often been used to advocate for children and mentally ill or incompetent citizens, but may also be invoked by states to protect the interests of its people and the general economy of the state.

The states’ standing argument rested on the claim that their “quasi-sovereign interest in the economic well-being of their people” had been harmed. They also argued that their citizens had been excluded from the benefits that flow from participating in the federal system because egg producers in their states would be forced to spend millions of dollars to comply with the regulations or be closed out of California’s huge market. A three-judge panel unanimously rejected this argument, ruling that the states failed to show how the law would affect their citizens and not just individual egg farmers, and that any future economic harm to their citizens was speculative.

This is not the first time Proposition 2 has been challenged, but thus far it has survived attempts to overturn it. Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the law’s constitutionality in the face of a claim that its standards were too vague and therefore impossible to reasonably implement because it did not specify exact dimensions for chicken housing. The court disagreed, finding that enough room to spread their wings and turn around was specific enough.

The Ninth Circuit’s Nov. 17 decision comes just after Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly approved Question 3, which outlaws the same confinement practices that are banned in California—including  battery cages, gestation crates for pregnant pigs, and veal crates for calves—but goes further in also banning the sale of eggs and all meat products obtained from animals raised in these conditions (including outside the state).

While laws that prohibit keeping animals in tiny cramped cages may seem like a minimal step forward, these bans on specific industry practices represent some of the strongest laws that currently exist in the U.S. to prevent long-term physical and psychological suffering in animals raised for food. There are no federal laws that govern the conditions in which farmed animals are raised, and extreme confinement has become the norm in modern animal agriculture. The most intensive forms of confinement affect breeding pigs, egg-laying chickens and calves raised for veal – all three of whom were covered by prohibitions enacted in Proposition 2 and Question 3. One or more of these forms of confinement have been banned in other states as well, but California and Massachusetts now have the most comprehensive laws that address farmed animal housing standards; banning not only cruel confinement practices but also sales of products obtained from these practices (even if produced out-of-state) gives these laws a much wider reach.

Further Reading:


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Congratulations to the 2016 SALDF Chapter of the Year!

Posted by Kelly Levenda on November 30, 2016

The Animal Legal Defense Fund congratulates the Lewis & Clark Law School Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapter for winning the 2016 SALDF Chapter of the Year Award! The award celebrates a SALDF chapter that has been a strong voice for animals on campus and in their community and has shown incredible efforts to advance the field of animal law.

SALDF chapters play a vital role in the growing field of animal law. Through raising awareness of the exploitation of animals, they show their law school communities that animal protection is a serious social justice issue. SALDF members are future attorneys, legislators and judges. They will be influential in changing the law to better protect animals.

During the 2015-2016 academic year, Lewis & Clark SALDF had one of its most impressive years to date. Established in 1993, Lewis & Clark SALDF was the first student chapter of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. (There are now over 215 SALDF chapters in the US, Canada and internationally!)


Lewis & Clark SALDF fostered a culture of volunteerism. Over 40 members rolled up their sleeves at Wildwood Farm Sanctuary, cleaning stalls and constructing enclosures for rescued farmed animals. More than a dozen members took on volunteer roles at the 2015 Animal Law Conference. The group also hosted Save Endangered Animals Oregon’s ballot initiative kickoff, with members gathering signatures to stop the trafficking of wild animal parts.

The chapter raised awareness of issues affecting animals by co-sponsoring the Human-Animal Studies Conference, visiting the Wolf Haven International Sanctuary and holding a Meatout celebration where Lewis & Clark students were treated to free plant-based food, beer and raffle prizes to inspire compassion for farmed animals. The Meatout raffle and the chapter’s Cutest Companion Contest raised just under $1,000 for animal protection organizations!

The chapter also focused on networking opportunities and bringing speakers to campus. Their third annual Animal Law Networking event brought together animal advocates, attorneys, legal professionals and animal law students. Lewis & Clark SALDF brought in over ten speakers, including Peter Brandt, Senior Attorney for Farm Animal Litigation at the Humane Society of the United States; Nicole Jergovic, who prosecutes animal crimes for the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office; Emily Davidsohn, Investigations Department Staff Attorney and Case Manager at the Oregon Humane Society; Quinn Read, Northwest Representative for Defenders of Wildlife and Lizzy Zultoski, staff attorney at Advocates of the West.

Thank you to the chapters that applied for this year’s award and to all of our SALDF chapters for being a voice for animals!



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“Sled Dogs” Reveals the Cold Truth

Posted by Stephen Wells, Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director on November 29, 2016

Before I joined the Animal Legal Defense Fund, I was the executive director of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, and Alaska’s unique animal protection concerns will always have a special place in my heart. Alaska is home to so many iconic animals. Everyone is familiar with the image of sled dogs, made famous by the Iditarod, the annual thousand mile sled dog race. The grueling race captures the imagination, but most people are unaware that the event is propped up by an industry of shocking cruelty. Much like the abysmal puppy mills that stock pet stores nationwide with sick dogs, the breeding and raising of sled dogs is indefensible and cruel. I am honored to appear in a documentary film on the subject, “Sled Dogs,” premiering at the Whistler Film Festival on Dec. 3, 2016.


The world needs to see this documentary. The image of the sled dog industry, the things we are allowed to see, like the start of the Iditarod, is all very carefully managed. The horrifying things like the cullings and the dogs that are kept on short chains for the vast majority of their lives, are all happening out of sight, out of mind. Sled Dogs explores this reality, including how puppies are raised like athletic machines, the mass culling of 100 sled dogs in Whistler and the inherent cruelty of forcing dogs to endure the Iditarod.


The Iditarod gets at the heart of what is so wrong with the sled dog industry. While the Iditarod was inspired by the 1925 serum run to quell a diphtheria outbreak, the modern event is purely recreational. The serum, brought into Nome, Alaska by a team of dogs led by the famous Balto, saved countless lives. But Balto didn’t make the nearly 700 mile journey himself, he was one of 20 teams that participated in the relay. This fascinating piece of history has turned into the Iditarod, in which dogs are forced to do something that people in the past would have never asked dogs to do. When people absolutely relied on dogs, they would have recognized immediately that such a task would be abusive to dogs. Now the Iditarod is marketed as a re-creation, but it bears no resemblance to the event. It’s merely a big money sporting event.

“Sled Dogs” rips away the manufactured image of sled dog racing, and it has the potential to change what is considered acceptable treatment for these dogs.

Watch the trailer and learn how you can get involved at – and learn more about the cruelty sled dogs endure in the Legally Brief: Cruelty to Sled Dogs.


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Attention New Mexico: Urge Santa Fe County Commissioners to Restrict Trapping on Federal Public Lands

Posted by on November 22, 2016

UPDATE: Victory! Thanks to advocates’ great efforts – the County Commission unanimously adopted the resolution pledging the County’s help in restricting cruel and indiscriminate trapping on federal public lands.


On Tuesday, November 29, 2016, the Santa Fe County Board of Commissioners will consider a resolution pledging the County’s help in restricting cruel and indiscriminate trapping on federal public lands, including in the Santa Fe National Forest.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund has been working with local advocates and the Board of Commissioners to make this possible, but we urge you to contact the Commissioners and let them know you support this effort!

Local residents and the many visitors to tourist-friendly Santa Fe love the outdoors and use federal public lands for hiking, biking and other recreational pursuits. Santa Fe is indeed an outdoor mecca, but trapping tarnishes its reputation and endangers people, pets and wildlife.

Commercial trappers set traps on public lands, creating a risk of injury to dogs, other animals and people. An increasing numbers of dogs have accidentally been caught in traps in Santa Fe County. Even if trappers caught only the wildlife for whom they set their traps, the practice is extremely cruel: trapped animals suffer inhumane levels of fear, pain, stress, starvation, dehydration and predation.

Neither the U.S. Forest Service nor the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish can protect wildlife, pets and people from traps whose locations need not be reported. Only by prohibiting the use of animal traps can we protect the safety of individuals, families, companion animals, endangered species and wildlife.

What can you do?

  1. Write or call the Commissioners ahead of time and let them know you want Santa Fe County to work with authorities to prohibit trapping on federal public lands!  (Santa Fe: Find Your District)
  2. Attend the Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, November 29, 2016 and show your support in person! Arrive at the County Chambers before 2:00 pm to ensure you can speak in favor of this Resolution.

Let’s work together to make Santa Fe County safer and more humane for all.




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Victory for Egg-Laying Hens as 9th Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Prop 2 Challenge

Posted by on November 18, 2016

Missouri’s crusade to roll back farmed animal protections approved by California voters suffered a fatal blow today when a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s dismissal of the case (State of Missouri ex rel. Koster v. Harris). The Missouri Attorney General’s lawsuit sought to gut California’s Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, or Proposition 2, which passed in 2008 and went into effect two years ago this January.


The law affords farmed animals more humane living conditions, requiring that farmers provide egg-laying hens, calves used for veal and pregnant pigs adequate space to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turnabout freely within their enclosures. In a showing of California’s staunch commitment to humane treatment, the state’s General Assembly voted to require all eggs sold—in addition to those raised—in the Golden State to meet these same requirements, improving the lives of millions of hens throughout California and across the country.

However, rather than permit their egg producers to compete in the new, California-driven humane marketplace, Missouri and five other states decided to sue. In February 2014, before the law even went into effect, the six states filed a federal lawsuit to overturn it. A few months later, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, along with Farm Sanctuary and Compassion Over Killing, submitted an amicus brief in support of California’s motion to dismiss Missouri’s baseless suit, and on October 2, 2014, a federal judge in Northern California granted California’s motion, prompting Missouri and the states to appeal.

Now, the Ninth Circuit has also sided with California, affirming the lower court’s finding that Missouri has no standing to sue, because its lawsuit benefits not the people of Missouri but the private economic interests of an unidentified number of its egg producers. In short, the Missouri Attorney General’s naked attempt to use state power to do big ag’s bidding utterly failed. While the Ninth Circuit left the door cracked for Missouri to file a new complaint if it can show that the law, now in full effect, is harming the state, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is hopeful that Missouri and the five other states will see that battery cages are quickly becoming obsolete, and give up their pointless campaign.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund celebrates this victory for hens and is committed to fighting for a world in which inhumane battery cages are relegated to the dustbin of history.

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