Poems of Compassion by Gretchen Primack

Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on January 8, 2014

KindCoverThis week, ALDF features Kind, and asks you to explore the genre of compassionate poetry. In this book, author Gretchen Primack directs her focus on the world of animals. With quiet imagery, Gretchen captures the essential heart of our relationships with nonhuman animals—for better, and sadly, worse. Many of these issues echo the work the Animal Legal Defense Fund does in the courts to help win rights for and improve the lives of all animals. Gretchen, who lives in New York’s famed Hudson Valley (home of a gigantic producer of cruel force-fed foie gras that ALDF has successfully taken to task), presents poems about factory farms, hunting, companion animals neglected, to the simple yet profound interconnections between the species, and takes on all matter of animal rights issues. Some poems are gentle and invoke the beauty of a picnic on a warm day, while others pull back the iron screen that hides the brutal world of slaughterhouses, the workers who work in them, and the destruction of kindness that ensues in such a horrific environment of cruelty and pain.

Kind refers, I think, both to the idea of kindness—a compassionate center amongst a cruel world—and the bias of speciesm that blinds humans to the experiences of animals. Kindred spirits, we are all of the same kind. Consider this line from “Egg” after describing a hen suffering in unimaginable close confinement, “it feels like that. Blister it on the gas. Feed on it/ It makes us who we are.” Veganism sounds like a good idea, after reading Gretchen’s revelations of animal suffering. And her attention to the sentience of animals, the empathetic reach to the experience as animals experience them, is what makes this selection of poems enjoyable. In “Matter” she asks, “what if a fish/mattered as much as you/matter—if you do.”

The captivity industry takes hits as well, of course. A stinger is her poem, “Ringling.”

Maybe someday you will trick

for me.

Maybe I will find value in you

on one foot.


I will take you from family,


so I can watch you



Will you bore me? I bore myself

now, reduced

to your conditions, cut off

from my life

and language. None of me

is left; still

you found something

to waste.

deborah-kindCertainly, this book is no child’s book. The power of poetry is the ability to move the reader, with just a few carefully chosen words. Selected rhythms and cadence chosen wisely can strike at the essence of an experience and send truth deep into the heart of a reader. Poetry is an epiphany, when done well—a revelation and an awakening. Here, in Kind, that awakening is of cruelty to animals and our interdependence upon them. It isn’t easy or meant to be scrolled through with a short attention span. And yet, that is why Kind, a very slim volume with quiet sketches of animals and short poems, is both powerful and accessible. In this way, the reader engages with important animal rights issues and sees animals in the light of an artist. They certainly deserve no less—and this volume is worth reading!

We enjoyed Gretchen’s writing as co-author of The Lucky Ones: My Passionate Fight for Farmed Animals with Woodstock Animal Sanctuary’s founder, Jenny Brown. Gretchen Primack is also the author of several books, including Doris’ Red Spaces and The Slow Creaking of Planets and her poetry has been published in numerous journals of excellent repute, including The Paris Review and The Antioch Review. The book is available at

Three randomly selected winners will receive a copy of Kind! Just enter to win by Jan 15, 2013.


  • What can you do to be more kind to human and nonhuman animals alike?

Buy the Book

Don’t want to wait? You can buy a copy of the book by visiting:

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On the Ground for Elephants in Kenya

Posted by Joyce Tischler, ALDF Founder and General Counsel on January 7, 2014

In December, I traveled to Kenya to attend the first National Judicial Dialogue on Wildlife and Environmental Crimes.

For the first time in Kenya’s 50 year history as an independent country, judges, magistrates, prosecutors, police officers, customs agents, representatives of the Kenya Wildlife Service and conservation/animal welfare agencies came together to engage in an open and honest conversation about the need for more effective investigations, prosecutions, convictions and sentencing of those who are responsible for the slaughter of elephants.

Why Are Elephants Being Slaughtered?


The Elephant Research Center at Amboseli National Park has the skull of each elephant who had died there over the past forty years.

The poaching (slaughter) of African elephants has once again reached dangerously high levels. The major reason for the killing is the demand for ivory (elephant tusks) from China and other parts of the Far East. As the Chinese middle class is growing, people are looking for status symbols and ivory fits the bill. Other countries are also importing ivory, but China is where the demand is greatest. Another cause of the slaughter is said to be terrorists trying to raise substantial funds to support their activities. Finally, the increased human population in Africa has taken over the traditional lands where elephants once roamed and human-elephant conflicts account for additional slaughter. Experts predict that if the poaching of elephants is not halted, African elephants will be extinct in one decade. If that is not a wake-up call, I don’t know what is.

What Came Out of this Event?


Elephants at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. (Copyright CALS/Natasha Dolezai)

The workshop was held at Amboseli National Park, home to approximately 1,500 elephants. Soon after we arrived, we went on a game drive, where we were able to see five families of elephants. Family units usually consist of 10-12 females and their calves, led by a matriarch. The adult males (bulls) associate with the family only to mate. As we drove, Katito Sayialel, a research assistant who has spent twenty years working for the Amboseli Trust for Elephants identified the elephant families we were viewing, and gave background that was helpful to the law enforcement representatives. For me personally, this was the realization of a dream I have had for many years: viewing African elephants in the wild, with none of the cages, chains, and beatings that occur in the U.S. We then visited the Elephant Research Center where Katito works and saw the skulls of every elephant who has lived and died in Amboseli. This set a powerful context for the next day’s workshop.


At the workshop, we learned that:

  • Poaching is generally carried out by people in the communities near where the elephants live. Elephants are shot and killed, and their tusks are removed by cutting most of their faces off, often with a chainsaw. The poachers make relatively little money from the animals they kill, as was mentioned by a former poacher who attended the workshop and now works to end poaching. The poachers sell to middlemen who sell the animal products for substantially more money overseas.
  • Prosecuting these poachers is like putting a Band-Aid on a surgical wound. The middlemen need to be targeted.
  • By some estimates, 40,000 elephants are being slaughtered annually. Poachers target the elephants with the longest tusks, which means the matriarch and the bull elephants. The result to the elephant families is disastrous, and the killings of the elephants are now outpacing their birth rate.
  • The penalties for conviction of poaching are too low to be effective and there was consensus that penalties must be substantially increased.
  • Several key problems were identified with regard to how the various agencies currently handle these cases—from the police reports sheets, to prosecutorial control of the evidence and exhibits, to sentencing. There was discussion about how to remedy these problems through better internal systems, greater independence of the judiciary, and interagency cooperation.
  • The poaching of elephants is a complex problem. It requires a focus not only on Kenyan poachers, but also on poaching as an international wildlife crime.

The agenda included break-out sessions in which the participants had informal discussions about the challenges and opportunities, which were then reported back to the whole group. I was heartened to see that the Kenyan law enforcement officials seemed engaged and willing to work to protect their native wildlife.

This event was planned and sponsored by Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) and Kenyans United Against Poaching (KUAPO), in partnership with the Kenyan Judiciary Training Institute (JTI). If you want to support this groundbreaking work, please visit the website of Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) and donate generously.

The sponsors of the workshop announced that the same parties will be invited to meet in six months, to continue the momentum that started at this important first event.

In future blogs, I’ll write about my impressions of Kenya and Kenyan wildlife.

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In Memoriam: Dr. Mel Richardson

Posted by Matthew Liebman, ALDF Senior Attorney on January 6, 2014

It is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to a dear friend of the animals and of ALDF.  Dr. Mel Richardson, affectionately known as Dr. Mel to his friends and colleagues, passed away on January 2 at the age of 63.


With more than 40 years of veterinary experience, Dr. Mel was a tireless advocate for captive wild animals. I first met Mel at an elephant summit at the Performing Animal Welfare Society sanctuary about four years ago. I was immediately charmed by his laid-back demeanor, his sense of humor, his discernable kindness, and, of course, his Georgian accent. Dr. Mel quickly became an important part of ALDF’s work on behalf of captive wildlife. He was the expert witness in our lawsuit against the City of Seattle concerning the inhumane captivity of elephants at the Woodland Park Zoo, where Mel was once a zookeeper. Dr. Mel was the veterinarian in charge of transporting Ben the bear from a tiny, barren concrete cage to a spacious, naturalistic enclosure at the PAWS sanctuary after a lawsuit filed by ALDF and PETA freed Ben from the roadside zoo in North Carolina that held him captive. Most recently, Mel wrote a comment letter on behalf of ALDF concerning the cruel captivity of two elephants at the Niabi Zoo in Illinois, who were ultimately transferred to better conditions (albeit, at another zoo). He was also a regular consultant for us on all sorts captive wildlife cases, and the phrase “Let’s call Dr. Mel and ask him” was uttered frequently at our litigation meetings. These are just a few examples of Mel’s work, and he did much more for many other organizations. His primary allegiance was to the animals and he was happy to help anyone at any time.

We will miss Dr. Mel greatly, not only as a colleague and a consultant, but as a friend. He died too soon, but he left a wonderful legacy that will continue to inspire us to fight for freedom for animals.

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Animals Were Harmed – the Suffering of Animals Who Entertain Us

Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on January 3, 2014

The entertainment industry makes a lot of money displaying animals for our amusement. That’s why animals appear regularly in movies, commercials, amusement parks, even remote truck stops or pitiful roadside zoos. The dirty secret is that animals are often abused to “teach” them to perform and most spend their lives in isolation between “performances” as illustrated so clearly in the movie Blackfish. This is why ALDF consistently takes to the courts to fight the hidden cruelties so common in the entertainment industry, like our case to free Ben the bear last year from a life of misery at “Jambbas Ranch,” a roadside zoo in North Carolina. We visited Ben and other animals at the PAWS sanctuary just last month (photos at the end of this post).


Rescued elephant at Performing Animal Welfare Society on December 2013, San Andreas, California. (Ian Elwood)

In Hollywood, because we love them, animals can mean big profits. Audiences generally don’t realize what animals go through to become “performers.” Recently, The Hollywood Reporter released an exposé that revealed “King,” a Bengal tiger in Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning film A Life of Pi, nearly drowned during the film’s production. Yet the film was still given a “No Animals Were Harmed” rating by the American Humane Association (AHA). Last year, while Hollywood celebrated the AHA-approved film The Hobbit, we learned that 27 animals were killed during its production.

In fact, animals are harmed on and off set in many forms of human entertainment. For example, circuses often “discipline” gentle giants like elephants with brutal bull hooks. Recently, ALDF testified in favor of the successful LA ordinance that bans the use of bull hooks on elephants–which controversial circus Ringling Bros. says will effectively ban the circus from city limits.  Oakland, Calif. also recently passed a wide-ranging ordinance governing all animals used by circuses, and will be considering a bull hook ban in the near future.

Chimpanzees are especially vulnerable and often used by the entertainment industry in films and commercials.  However, the chimps we see on TV are only able to perform for a few short years before they become unmanageable.  Chimps deemed “unusable” typically live out the remainder of their lives in solitude in roadside zoos or worse.  ALDF continues working to free chimps and other animals exploited for entertainment: like Lolita—a  43 year old orca kidnapped from her pod and held in the smallest orca tank in North America, without an orca companion, so she can entertain crowds paying high prices for tickets to the Miami Seaquarium. Meanwhile, we can all do our part by not visiting theme parks, zoos, and aquariums, or supporting films, or even truck stops that profit from the exploitation of animals. We are the voices of the voiceless, and we ask you to speak for them too.

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Interview with Josh Tetrick

Posted by Ian Elwood, ALDF Online Editor on January 2, 2014

The Animal Legal Defense Fund sat down with Josh Tetrick, founder of Hampton Creek Foods, at the 2013 Animal Law Conference to talk about his role in working to replace factory farmed eggs with humane, plant-based alternatives. Watch the video below for more!

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Justice for Animals: ALDF Celebrates 5 Animal Rescues of 2013

Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on December 31, 2013

So many cases of animal abuse come across our desks every day at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, we’d like to take some time to celebrate some of the work of animal rescuers across the nation—and reiterate just how important it is to battle cases of dogfighting, animal hoarding, companion animal abuse, factory farming cruelties, and even shelter neglect. Without further ado, here are five stories from 2013 in which shockingly large numbers of animals were rescued from abuse!


1. 168 dogs rescued from a puppy mill

Cass County, North Dakota – Cass County officials seized 168 dogs, some pregnant and living in filthy, cramped conditions at an apparent puppy mill—where dogs were stacked in kennels three high. Some kennels had five inches of feces piled inside them. The animals were underweight, unvaccinated, suffering from ear infections and dental problems, and some of the dogs’ fur had become so matted that the animals’ movement was restricted by their own hair. Darcy Darrell Smith pleaded guilty to misdemeanor animal abuse.

2. 41 emaciated cows seized

Wallowa County, Oregon – Following an investigation into the death of a calf, the sheriff’s office seized 41 cows and calves. A calf had been too weak from malnourishment to get up, and was trampled by the other cows. The examining veterinarian said some of the cows could barely walk and were noticeably emaciated. One cow died when deputies were seizing the animals, because she was so weak that she fell to the ground and was never able to get up again. Edward Charles Scott was convicted of two counts of Animal Neglect in the First Degree and 12 counts of Animal Neglect in the Second Degree.

3. 225 cats removed from a disease-ridden cattery

Santa Rosa County, Florida – After receiving several complaints about Kirkham Kattery Rescue, deputies executed a search warrant and seized 225 cats who had been roaming freely in the residence. 86 of the cats were so ill they were euthanized. Allan and Ella Kirkham were each charged with: 20 counts of felony cruelty to animals; 10 misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals; and 1 count of selling an animal with a contagious or infectious disease.


4. Menagerie of 150 animals rescued from a hazardous home

Suffolk County, New York – Neighbors complaining of a foul odor induced authorities to search the house of an elderly woman who was apparently an overwhelmed rescuer/hoarder. She forfeited 150 animals, including 60 dogs, 25 cats, rabbits, birds, lizards, tortoises/turtles, chinchillas, ferrets, and hamsters. One report described feces scattered throughout the home and two cats consuming the remains of a dead cat. Crews in biohazard suits hauled the survivors away in pet carriers. One witness said the home was occupied by two women, one of whom is a practicing veterinarian. Officials said they are considering animal cruelty charges, and that the residents violated a town code prohibiting more than 10 animals. The house, which was under renovation and covered in Tyvek at the time, was condemned.

5. 375 rabbits seized from filthy conditions at a breeder’s home

Indianapolis, Indiana – Animal Care and Control officers seized more than 375 rabbits, including many babies. Investigators had visited the same home about a month prior to the raid, after receiving a complaint about the smell.  At that time, they discovered there was no water in many of the rabbits’ bowls. They said they found rabbits in their own feces and urine, with urine burns, and some who hadn’t moved in so long the fur had rubbed off their pads. “The living conditions they’re in are deplorable,” said Marcus Brown, Deputy Chief of Enforcement for IACC. Officials had given the owner, Rick Cartheuser, a month to clean it up, but they found nothing had changed. He faces municipal violations regarding care and treatment of animals.

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Why Local Activists Protest the Great Bull Run

Posted by Alexis Braun, ALDF Litigation Clerk on December 26, 2013

As the cruelty of the Pamplona, Spain bull run has become more contentious, two American lawyers, Rob Dickens and Brad Scudder have brought the bull run to America. Over ten events have been scheduled for this year and next. On August 24, 2013, the first of these events was held outside Richmond, Virginia. Two people were rushed to the hospital and several dozen others required first aid for minor cuts and bruises. According to Dickens, some participants in the run “complained that there weren’t enough injuries.  People running wanted more injuries and more danger.  That’s what people sign up for.”


The second Bull Run occurred outside Atlanta, Georgia, on October 19, and at least one person was injured. The next run was scheduled to take place in Baytown, Texas, outside Houston, on December 7.  On December 3, ALDF sent a letter to the Honorable Jimmy Sylvia, informing him of the need for a permit for mass gatherings as required by the Texas Health & Safety Code.  Noting that no application for a mass gathering permit had been filed, ALDF called on the Judge to stop the event from taking place.

The day following the release of the letter, Dickens postponed the Baytown event until January 25, 2014, due to “inclement weather.” The run was conveniently postponed so that the sponsors had the opportunity to file a timely application for a permit. This skirting of the law was not the first time the promoters failed to apply for proper permits. Officials from the Georgia Department of Agriculture were forced to grant permits at the last minute before the Atlanta run, when the promoters failed to apply for veterinary inspection permits.  Given that Dickens and Scudder are attorneys themselves (who “realized that paperwork wasn’t their cup of tea”), these failures to apply for proper permits for an event that poses a serious danger to public safety appears as a routine disregard for the law.

Houston activists remain dedicated to protesting the event, but their main concern is not the failure to apply for proper permits on time, or even for public safety. A petition calling for the cancellation of the Baytown run received thousands of signatures and highlights the cruelty of an event which forces “frightened, agitated bulls to run along an enclosed track for the supposed amusement of humans.”  Over 5,000 people signed a petition asking for the cancellation of the bull run in Virginia, and more than 8,000 signed a similar petition for the Georgia Bull Run.

The cruelty activists see when they look at bull runs in Pamplona or the United States is not just limited to the end of the run when the bulls may be beaten, tortured, and killed. Those who oppose events like the Great Bull Run know that animals experience fear.  In the words of Temple Grandin, “The single worst thing you can do to an animal emotionally is to make it feel afraid.  Fear is so bad for animals, I think it’s worse than pain.”

Mr. Dickens and company may not think causing an animal to feel fear for our own amusement constitutes animal cruelty, but there are many who disagree. And those Americans will be the ones who stand with signs on dusty gravel roads leading up to the next ten Great Bull run events scheduled in the United States.

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Merry Christmas at Muttville

Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on December 25, 2013

Because It Is Never Too Late for a New Beginning

During the dark days of winter, it is more important than ever to help homeless animals.  Muttville, a senior dog rescue in the San Francisco Bay Area, is one of those organizations who do just that: their staff and volunteers provide warmth, love, and shelter for thousands of needy animals.


Sherri Franklin, a longtime animal advocate and rescue worker, started Muttville in 2007 out of her own home. Now, her organization rescues hundreds of dogs in the Bay Area and has received numerous awards as an outstanding rescue organization.  The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s own Kay Wood volunteers for Muttville. In addition to a busy day as ALDF’s office manager, Kay is always caring for a “fospice” mutt in her home, and in her ALDF office!  “Fospice” is a program where animal advocates foster senior dogs who need hospice care at the ends of their lives. Kay and the other volunteers at Muttville help see that these dogs spend their last days, months, and years in loving, happy homes.

Nearly a year ago, Kay volunteered to fospice a senior dog named Felix, who has become a regular fixture at the ALDF office. When Kay first brought Felix home, he was raggedy, suffering from infections, and depressed. With a little love and affection, and some yummy treats, Felix is now a cheerful, outgoing, affectionate old fella, as full of life as any puppy.  As Sherri says “Felix was supposed to be a fospice dog who was going to live only a few months. Look at him now!”


Kay explains “Sherri has many foster volunteers but not so many fospice volunteers. It used to be that you could never adopt out an older dog. Their age was a death sentence.”  Being an older pup doesn’t have to mean doom and gloom any more, thanks to Muttville. “Because we’ve had such success at rehoming senior dogs, we’re showing other shelters and rescues that they can also be successful at adopting out senior dogs,” Sherri says.

“We’re doing things differently too. Our shelter is cage-free, homelike, and stress-free. It’s a new way of looking at sheltering dogs, where they live not in kennels by themselves, but in groups while they wait for adoption.” Muttville fully vets its dogs too. You don’t go in without knowing basic health issues that the dog may have. “That sets us apart,” Sherri says. “We do dental if the dog needs it, we do full blood panels. Not all our dogs are perfectly healthy, but we can tell you that.”

Older dogs are more mellow, love to cuddle, and don’t chew shoes.  “I have a huge shoe collection,” Sherri laughs. “And all my shoes are still okay.” Sherri explains “these dogs know they’re getting a second chance, that you’re rescuing them. It’s like a built-in bond waiting to happen. We have people who have adopted four or five dogs from us. And when the dogs pass away, they come adopt another. It really feels good to be doing this.”

“You go in knowing your time is limited, that you’re going to give as much love to these dogs as you can.”

Muttville hit a milestone last month of 2,000 dogs rescued, and in the past two weeks have had a record-breaking 50 senior dogs adopted.


With their strong social media presence – you can “like” their Facebook page—they are spreading the word so well that more people are coming to Muttville for help, and they need more volunteers and donations. “We’re helping more dogs now than ever before,” she says. “The hardest part of my job is receiving about 500 requests to take dogs in every week and not being able to help them all.”

Find out how you can adopt a Muttville dog, become a Muttville volunteer, foster a dog in your loving home, or even just meet the muttville mutts online! Thank you from all at the Animal Legal Defense Fund to Muttville and the volunteers who put animals first. Happy holidays!



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Nash: the Rescue of a Slaughter-Horse

Posted by Ashley Wilson, ALDF Administrative Assistant on December 24, 2013

I have always been an animal lover, and the issue of horse slaughter is at the forefront of my volunteer work. In 2012, I learned of 10 horses in a Nevada feedlot who were about to be auctioned off to “meat buyers.” These individuals buy horses to sell to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico. Fortunately, the buyers had to wait for a full load of horses so these ten had a week reprieve to be rescued.

Looking through photos of the horses, I saw a scraggly, beat up, paint horse and I was horrified.

Nash at the slaughter auction.

Nash at the slaughter auction.

Even though I’m a college student, I pulled together every dollar I had and paid the “meat price” for this poor horse, and suddenly owned a very sick and malnourished gelding seven hours away. After some digging, I found out that he used to be ridden by children, and was sold to the kill buyer due to his “laziness.”

Even before meeting him, I named him Nashville. He was a mess when he arrived at my house. He had eye and ear infections, an upper respiratory infection and urinary tract infection, feet that were trimmed so short they were completely bruised to the point he could barely walk, he had scars covering his entire body, and I could count every rib. The vet placed him at a 1.5 on the Henneke horse body condition scale: which put him at about 200 pounds under weight.

The vet informed us that Nash had the worst teeth he had ever seen. So we got his teeth floated, this made it much easier for him to eat and reduced his pain. Nash also bore a shameful “23” spray-painted on his rump, a number that identified him before he was to be loaded onto the truck to the slaughterhouse. The first thing we did when he arrived home was spend hours scrubbing the final reminder of his uncertain fate, and removing this number.

The day we brought Nash home.

The day we brought Nash home.

Nash had to be quarantined from our other horses for the first month. I cleaned his eyes and nose every day, gave him antibiotics, and although he was clearly very scared, he was so malnourished he couldn’t put up much of a fight. As he slowly grew stronger, he remained wary of people and it took a while for us to build trust.

After a few months, Nash slowly began to look and feel better. With the help of friends and family, we began assessing his training.


Once Nash had gained a significant amount of weight, I made one of the most difficult decisions of my life; with tears flowing, I decided to try to find him a forever home that could offer more than I could, where he would be happy and loved unconditionally.  Although he completely misbehaved during the showing, the first family that came to look at Nash decided to give him a chance, just as I had. They fell in love with him, and they say they will keep him until the day he dies! Nash is now living on a beautiful property in Mendocino County, surrounded by love of humans and other horses. He gets to go on overnight camping trips, trail rides, and the chance to just be a normal horse.


Nash with his new person.

It was a difficult journey for both he and I, but I am so glad Nash was rescued from his uncertain fate of slaughter. No horse deserves to spend his last days frightened, squished, and starving among a meat train headed to a slaughter plant.

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Environmentalism as a Form of Animal Rights

Posted by Carter Dillard, ALDF Litigation Director on December 23, 2013

As the field of animal law grows, with more classes, books, cases on file and precedent, many wonder how animal law relates to the field of environmental law, which is similar in many ways. Both fields are relatively new, both reflect an evolution in human thinking that takes into concern a broad array of interests beyond immediate disputes between persons, and both cover similar issues—like the treatment of wildlife. And yet animal law is often seen as less important, a more emotional and less rational response to the suffering of individual animals, whereas environmental law and environmentalism deal with lofty subjects like human health and safety, and the survival of whole species, including our own. Environmentalists are seen as dealing with critical things like climate change, while animal law might be concerned with lesser things like the sheltering of dogs and cats.


The irony is that some ways of thinking about animal rights are more likely to lead to the protection of our own species, and a healthy and safe environment, than traditional forms of environmentalism and environmental law. By focusing their concern primarily on human welfare as it relates to the environment, and how to make the planet healthy, safe and sustainable for a growing number of humans, many environmentalists have become trapped in a never ending debate about what constitutes an acceptable level of risk to humans, whether the science exists to prove such a risk, and how to define what a healthy, safe and sustainable planet looks like. And, given things like the onset of anthropogenic climate change, the ongoing mass extinction of other species, ocean acidification, and a human population set to grow by billions in the next few decades there is no doubt: the modern environmental movement, mired in debates about evidence and human interest, has largely failed.

How would animal rights do a better job of protecting the environment? The view of animal rights as focused on things like sheltering dogs and cats misses the bigger picture. Despite many persons’ fixation on domestic animals the vast majority of nonhuman species avoid humans, and seem to simply want to be left alone in their natural habitat—free of human influence. Despite the fact that we have dragged many species into our human world, and concerned ourselves with their welfare, really protecting the interests of animals may mean ensuring their autonomy from human influence more generally. And if we do that, if we respect the interests of animals to live autonomously and largely free of human influence in their natural habitats, we would have to set a standard for the protection of the earth’s ecology that makes the traditional environmental standards of sustainability, and health and safety, look pathetically meager by comparison. A standard of nonhuman autonomy would never have tolerated anthropogenic climate change, the spread of toxins, or many of the other things that destroy nonhuman habitat while also threatening human well-being.

Many environmentalists wait to see evidence of harm to humans through changes in the environment; they would have done better by protecting animals from the changes themselves. Had environmentalists in the past adopted a standard of nonhuman autonomy, thinking about each animal’s interest in being let alone in their natural habitat rather than humans’ interest in their own welfare, we would ourselves be better off today.  Is it karma that humans’ selfishly ignoring the interests of animals has led to our own endangerment? Who knows—but environmentalists might reconsider the role of animal rights in their thinking, and whether it is possible to protect the environment without protecting—and more importantly freeing—the nonhuman creatures that inhabit it.

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Wacky Animal Laws of 2013

Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on December 20, 2013

Earlier this week, the Animal Legal Defense Fund released its annual State Rankings report—the longest-running, most comprehensive report of its kind. The report tracks animal protection laws across the United States. Check out this ever-popular report to learn where your state ranks, and what states are the best and worst to be an animal abuser. Take action here to improve your state’s animal laws.


Some laws, however, just leave our animal law experts scratching their heads. Here are some of 2013’s wackiest laws involving animals. Did you know?

  1. In Alaska it is against the law to push a live moose out of an airplane mid-flight.
  2. If you live in Arizona, you aren’t allowed to let your donkey sleep in the bathtub (horses can’t be kept in bathtubs in South Carolina, just FYI).
  3. In the Golden State of California, animals can’t mate within 500 yards of a church or school (Just how is this law observed, enforced, and punished?).
  4. Colorado folk must have some strange habits, because it is illegal to drink and ride a horse.
  5. How’s this for profiling: in Connecticut, dogs with tattoos must be reported to the authorities.
  6. In Georgia, people can no longer give away goldfish at Bingo contests.
  7. In Idaho, there is to be no fishing! At least not while riding a camel.
  8. In Iowa there is to be no eating of the fire hydrants. Especially if you’re a horse.
  9. Maryland movie theaters do NOT allow people to bring lions.
  10. If only this were true for areas of the world that aren’t land-locked: it is against the law to hunt whales in Nebraska.

Wackiest of all, for 2013, Kentucky—a state perpetually at the bottom of our state rankings report—has determined that you simply cannot release a feral (i.e., wild) pig into the wild.

But what are the best new laws for 2013, according to ALDF? Here are a few highlights!

  1. In California, you can no longer use hound dogs to hunt bears and bobcats – which is bad for the bears and bobcats, and the dogs, and other wild animals caught in the middle.
  2. Cosmetics tested on animals may no longer be sold in Europe. India also instigated such a ban, the first country in South Asia to do so.
  3. Three states passed anti-Breed Specific Legislation (that targets pit bulls): Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Nevada.
  4. Oregon amended its anti-cruelty laws, including new requirements for animal rescues.
  5. North Dakota overhauled its anti-cruelty laws including adding its first felony cruelty provision.
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Legally Brief: Christmas Comes Early for Animals—as Abuser Registry Takes Hold in NYC

Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on December 20, 2013

This week, the New York City Council voted unanimously to create a registry of animal abusers. This legislation, introduced by Council Member Peter F. Vallone Jr. and supported by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, means the city can keep better tabs on animal abusers within its city limits.


The impetus for this city registry came after Astoria bodybuilder Milan Rysa threw his own dog out an apartment window (he was convicted for this act of cruelty). Vallone wanted to ensure something like this could never happen again. “Right now, there’s nothing stopping an animal abuser from walking out of prison, going to his neighborhood pet shop, and buying a new animal to hurt,” said Council Member Vallone. “Our shelters are doing an excellent job of trying to keep animals safe, but they have no way of knowing if they are handing a puppy off to a violent criminal—my registry fixes that problem.”

This registry will provide electronic information to law enforcement, pet stores, shelters, veterinarians, and animal protection groups and require them to consult the registry before adopting out or selling an animal to anyone. Furthermore, it would prohibit convicted animal abusers from owning, residing with, or intentionally engaging in any physical contact with any animals for a minimum of 5 years.  Anyone in violation of these terms—who fails to report or who owns an animal during the period of their prohibition – would face up to a year in prison. Registries like Vallone’s aim to speak up for animals who cannot speak up for themselves, and that’s why the Animal Legal Defense Fund has worked so closely with Vallone’s office to get this bill passed.

ALDF has led the effort to establish animal abuser registries and recently launched a campaign to create a national animal abuser registry. This national database would provide a valuable public tool to help ensure that no animal is ever adopted out or sold to a convicted animal abuser even when abusers cross state or county lines to do so.

ALDF worked closely with Suffolk County, New York to help it become the first-ever locality to pass an abuser registry law, two years ago. Many states are considering registry bills this year; four counties in New York have already passed such laws (Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, and Albany). ALDF offered start-up grants to establish state-level registries in Michigan, Texas, and Arizona this year—and offered to donate $10,000 to offset the costs of establishing a registry in New York City—which has just become the largest jurisdiction in the nation to protect its citizens with an animal abuser registry.

These registries are a gift for animals and animal advocates. Along with Council Member Vallone, ALDF believes that protecting animals and communities is something we can all get behind.

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Animal Protection Laws: Where Does Your State Rank?

Posted by Lora Dunn, ALDF Staff Attorney on December 17, 2013

The results are in! The Animal Legal Defense Fund published its eighth annual Rankings Report—the longest-running, most comprehensive report that tracks animal protection laws across the entire U.S. This year’s biggest trends included strengthening penalties for neglecting an animal (now a felony in six more states) and requiring that abusers reimburse those who care for cruelly treated animals—including Arizona, the most-improved jurisdiction in 2013. Watch my short video update for more about latest trends in criminal legislation.

Where does your state rank? The best five states for animal protection remained the same this year, with Oregon enacting a felony penalty for animal neglect and rising to the number two spot. Kudos to North Dakota, which completely revamped its cruelty code to include a felony cruelty provision for the first time, and jumped out of the dreaded “best states to abuse animals.” South Dakota is now the only state that does not include a felony penalty for even the most heinous acts of cruelty. For more analysis on the report, listen to my interview on CBS Chicago.

Disappointed with how your state ranks? Take action! Call your representatives today and demand stronger animal protection laws in your state.
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Share for Stronger Animal Protection Laws!

Posted by on December 16, 2013

Thanks for taking action to establish stronger animal protection laws where you live. Help us spread the word by sharing on your social networks!

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Shut Down New York’s Carriage Horse Industry!

Posted by Jeff Pierce, ALDF Litigation Fellow on December 12, 2013


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

In New York City, the horse-carriage industry is causing great suffering for horses and putting people’s lives in danger. New York’s carriage horses labor nine hours a day, seven days a week, rain or shine. Often startled in traffic, some bolt along busy streets, causing serious injury to themselves or nearby humans. When not fastened to the carriages, the horses hover uncomfortably in extremely small stalls, and are rarely released to pasture. That is why today the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a petition with the New York Supreme Court asking the court to force the New York Police Department (NYPD) to turn over enforcement records regarding the city’s horse-drawn carriage industry. One of NYPD’s duties is to oversee the health and safety of carriage horses, passengers, and passersby in New York City. And yet, NYPD has insisted that, after conducting a “diligent search,” it could find “no records” of its own enforcement. New York’s Department of Health has indicated NYPD does have these enforcement records. ALDF contends that the carriage industry suffers from gross under-regulation, and notes evidence—from the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages—of a pattern of industry violations that disregard regulations designed to protect horse welfare and safety.

It is for these reasons—the inhumane conditions for horses and the grave risk to public safety—that Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has vowed to ban the industry upon taking office. Similarly, New York State Senator Tony Avella has sponsored a bill that would prohibit the operation of horse-drawn carriages in New York City and mandate the humane relocation of the horses.

Since October 2012, ALDF has filed numerous public records requests under New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL)—the NY state equivalent of the federal Freedom of Information Act—as part of a long-term investigation of the horse carriage industry. In particular, ALDF has requested records concerning NYPD’s obligation to enforce regulations under the City’s health  and consumer affairs codes, the State’s anti-cruelty code, and any other laws and regulations respecting the protection of the health, safety and well-being of carriage horses. NYPD claims it has no such records despite evidence of a pattern and practice of ongoing violations. Winston & Strawn is providing pro bono legal assistance for the petitioners.

ALDF, the Coalition to Ban Horse Drawn Carriages, Friends of Animals, NYCLASS, the ASPCA, and numerous other animal organizations have long sought to eliminate the horse-drawn carriage industry from New York City. “Without official records from the NYPD, it is difficult for citizens to evaluate how often horses spook and bolt into traffic causing injury to themselves, passersby, or even nearby cars,” said Elizabeth Forel, president of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages.  “There is great concern that this industry is under-regulated.”

Edita Birnkrant, NY Director of Friends of Animals said, “Our NYC office is located at Columbus Circle, the site of numerous carriage horse accidents. I witness daily the dangerous and chaotic traffic situations the horses are forced to pull carriages in, and often see drivers violating the law, putting both the horses and the public at risk. A ban on this heartless industry is long overdue.”

We at the Animal Legal Defense fund, along with the citizens of New York, hope the Mayor-elect holds true to his word.

Take Action!

Are you outraged about the treatment of horses in the New York carriage horse industry? Here’s your chance to do something about it!

We are asking everyone to contact Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio via social media to congratulate him on his recent campaign victory, and request that he stay good on his campaign promises to ban the horse-drawn carriage industry in New York City.

New York State residents: If you live in New York State, please show your support for State Senator Avella’s bill to ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City by contacting your representative. Avella has introduced legislation (S.667) in the State Senate that would prohibit the operation of horse-drawn carriages in New York City, and mandate the humane relocation of the horses released from service. Show your support!

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