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:


No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

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!



No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

“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.


No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

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.




No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

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.

No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Wins for Animal Protection in the 2016 Election

Posted by Nicole Pallotta on November 15, 2016

While much of the nation’s focus has been riveted on the outcome of the recent presidential election, voters in a handful of states also decided important ballot measures related to animal protection last week. First, the good news.

Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly approved Question 3, An Act to Prevent Cruelty to Farm Animals, which bans the production and sale of products obtained from the extreme confinement of farmed animals. The bill not only prohibits confining farmed animals in cages so small they cannot comfortably stand up, lie down, turn around or move their limbs, but also goes further in banning the sale of meat and eggs resulting from these practices outside Massachusetts.

election-blog-1200-630The confinement practices that will be prohibited in Massachusetts starting Jan. 1, 2022, include battery cages for egg-laying hens, veal crates for calves and gestation crates for pigs. Although only one farm in Massachusetts currently uses battery cages, and none use veal crates or gestation crates, the provision banning the sale of products resulting from these practices will have a greater impact. So far, only California has passed a law banning the sale of eggs from hens kept in cages, and no state has banned the sale of meat products from confined animals.

This new legislation—which passed by a landslide with 78% in favor—is  stronger than any similar law in the U.S. and sends a clear message that people care about farmed animals. We can expect more challenges in the future to the egregious methods of animal confinement that have become standard in the agriculture industry.

Oklahoma voters rejected State Question 777, also known as the Right to Farm bill, which would have amended the state constitution to include farming and ranching rights. Adding guaranteed farming rights to the state constitution would have made it extremely difficult to pass any new regulations related to agriculture. The amendment would have required the courts to apply the same standards to lawsuits concerning agriculture and farmed animals that it does in those concerning free speech, gun ownership and religious freedom—thus making newer state restrictions and regulations vulnerable to lawsuits. Despite the backing of powerful agriculture groups, Oklahoma voters decided not to grant the farming industry legal protection from future regulation.

In another positive development, Oregonians approved Measure 100, the Wildlife Trafficking Prevention Act, which bans the sale of animal parts from 12 endangered species to thwart illegal poaching. It passed by a wide margin.

The U.S. is now the second largest market for illegal wildlife products and Oregon joins several states that have recently enacted legislation to curtail trafficking, including New York, New Jersey, California, Washington and Hawaii. At the federal level, last month President Obama signed into law H.R. 2494, the Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Act of 2016, which provides tools to help the U.S. lead efforts to combat the global poaching crisis and work with partner nations to protect elephants, rhinos and members of other endangered and threatened species from being victimized by the international trafficking trade.

And in California, voters rejected Proposition 67, affirming a ban on plastic bags. Plastic bags are a significant cause of death for marine animals. After San Francisco became the first jurisdiction to ban single use plastic bags in 2007, California followed in 2015 with the nation’s first statewide ban. Proposition 67, put on the ballot by a coalition of plastic bag companies, would have overturned the ban.

Unfortunately, not all of the news was positive for animals. Montanans voted down the Montana Animal Trap Restrictions Initiative, or I-777, a ballot measure that would have prohibited the use of cruel animal traps and snares on public lands. Although the initiative contained many exemptions, anti-trapping advocates knew they faced an uphill battle in a state with a strong hunting and trapping tradition that in 2004 approved a constitutional right to “harvest wildlife.” However, in light of the fact that advocates had tried unsuccessfully to get similar measures on the ballot in 2010 and 2014, the fact that they were able to collect enough signatures to get it on the ballot this year can be viewed as a hopeful sign.

Despite the mostly positive gains made on state ballot measures this election, many are concerned about what a Donald Trump presidency will mean for animals. Although President-elect Trump has not issued any official statements on animal protection, during his campaign he pledged to dismantle environmental protections and regulations, which could have far-reaching impacts on animals and their dwindling habitats. Trump does not have a voting record on animal protection—having never previously held political office—however, many of his likely picks for cabinet-level positions, including the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency, are sport-hunting enthusiasts and climate change skeptics, some of whom have demonstrated a pronounced antipathy to animal interests.

While the effects of a Trump presidency remain to be seen, we will fight to ensure the progress that has been made for animal protection will not be undone—and indeed will continue to move forward—no matter who sits in the Oval Office.

Further Reading:


No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Congratulations to 2016 Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) Essay Contest Winner Jonathan Morris!

Posted by Nicole Pallotta on November 14, 2016

Jonathan Morris and Marina Golias at Animal Legal Defense Fund's Cruise for a Cause, November 5, 2016.

Jonathan Morris and Marina Golias at Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Cruise for a Cause, November 5, 2016.

We are pleased to announce Lewis & Clark Law School 3L Jonathan Morris has won the first-ever SALDF Essay Contest, the theme of which was: “How can we best protect wild animals in light of urban expansion and population growth?”

In his winning entry, Time to Grow Up: Vertical Farming as a Potential Solution to Wildlife Issues in the United States, Jonathan argued that in addition to increasing urbanization and human population growth, animal agriculture (including plant crops grown to feed farmed animals) is a significant contributor to wild animals losing their habitats. In addition to the devastating displacement effects of more land being used for agriculture, countless wild animals lose their lives each year through lethal predator control programs operated by federal and state agencies that work to protect agricultural interests. Jonathan posits that vertical farming – a method utilizing taller structures in urban areas to grow crops in a higher density, controlled environment – represents one potential solution to making more land available for wild animals, thus also reducing deadly encounters with humans.

Jonathan won two free tickets to the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Cruise for a Cause, which took place November 5, 2016, and a travel stipend to help him and a guest attend.

He said: “The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Cruise for a Cause was an incredible event. I had a wonderful time meeting supporters and several staff attorneys, all dedicated to improving the lives of animals. As a law student, it is not often I am invited to attend a luxury cruise in Los Angeles. I particularly enjoyed Moby’s live performance and meeting Ed Asner. I am grateful for the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s generous invitation and hope that the cruise becomes an annual event.”

Jonathan is an active member of the Lewis & Clark SALDF chapter. He is currently doing an externship with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and has clerked for our Litigation and Animal Law Programs. In addition, Jonathan is a recipient of the 2016 Animal Legal Defense Fund Advancement of Animal Law Scholarship.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund salutes Jonathan and all our wonderful SALDF members – the next generation of animal lawyers – as they work to develop innovative solutions to create a brighter, more humane future for all animals.

No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Legally Brief: Animal Law Conference 2016

Posted by Natalia Lima on November 8, 2016

On the weekend of Oct. 7, 2016 the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark Law School and the Lewis & Clark Student Animal Legal Defense Fund chapter hosted the 24th annual Animal Law Conference in New York City. The event brought together students, attorneys and experts with one common goal: to make the world a better place for animals through the legal system. Animal Law might still be a new field, but there’s a high demand to learn more about it. Yet again, this year’s conference was sold out well ahead of the big weekend.

The conference kicked off with an evening reception at the Manhattan Penthouse, near Union Square. Guests enjoyed plant-based appetizers while the Animal Legal Defense Fund honored pro bono attorneys and law firms Morgan Hector; Deb Robinson; Dentons US LLP; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP; Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP; Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP; Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and Winston & Strawn LLP who offered invaluable help with our cases in the past year. Recent law school grad, Priscilla Rader, and current law student, Raj Reddy, accepted the SALDF Chapter of the Year award on behalf of the Lewis & Clark Law School SALDF chapter for their outstanding work to engage fellow students in animal law projects and events.

swise-blog-1200x630Throughout the weekend attendees had a chance to hear about a number of legal issues affecting animals today. Keynote speaker Steven Wise, president of the Nonhuman Rights Project, spoke of his ongoing efforts to seek legal personhood for nonhuman animals, highlighting his work on behalf of four captive chimpanzees in New York state. Other panels explored the first amendment’s important role in the litigation of animal protection work, the challenges surrounding military working dogs and their handlers and new approaches to helping captive wildlife, among others. You can view each presentation on the Animal Law Conference YouTube page.

fourshot-blog-1200x630Attorneys and activists from around the country were able to network and learn about new strategies they can implement in their own cases. Law students got to see firsthand how they can advance the interests of animals in the future.

We’re grateful to all of this year’s speakers and attendees for making our conference such a success. And a big thank you to our sponsors: Donor Point Marketing, The Moxie Foundation and RKD Alpha Dog, and in-kind sponsors: Beyond Meat, Happy Cow and Janet Holmes.

joan-blog-1200x630Conference attendees were the first to hear some big news: our venue for next year’s Animal Law Conference will accommodate many more guests. We’ll be back in Portland, Oregon the weekend of Oct. 13-15, 2017, and it’s sure to be one of the biggest, most exciting Animal Law Conferences yet. Make sure to watch and follow the Animal Law Conference on Facebook and Twitter to get the latest updates.


No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

LIVE with the Animal Legal Defense Fund: Ag-Gag

Posted by on November 1, 2016

Our first Facebook LIVE event gave viewers the chance to have their questions answered in a live streaming conversation with the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Executive Director Stephen Wells and Chief Legal Counsel Matthew Liebman. Up for discussion: Ag-Gag laws. With a decision in our case against Utah’s Ag-Gag law just days away, viewers brought their best questions to the table. Watch the video below to learn about the different kinds of Ag-Gag laws, why they’re dangerous, and what the Animal Legal Defense Fund is doing to stop them.

Join us on Facebook and stay tuned for a schedule of our 2017 Facebook live events.

No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

First-Ever Law Student Scholarship Panel Held at 2016 Animal Law Conference

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

This year, for the first time in the event’s long-running history, the Animal Law Conference dedicated a panel to showcasing law student work. The Inaugural Law Student Scholarship Panel took place Sunday morning, October 9, and featured three papers chosen from among more than 30 submissions. The call for papers, written on any animal law topic during law school in the last two years, was announced by the Animal Legal Defense Fund last spring. Submissions were reviewed and ranked by a committee of practicing animal law attorneys and professors.


Papers were selected based on writing quality and animal law analysis, with the latter including originality of the topic and/or the legal analysis and suggestions for effective solutions with potential to help animals and advance the animal law movement. In addition to the opportunity to present their work, the authors of the winning papers also received a travel scholarship from the Animal Legal Defense Fund to attend the conference. The top papers were:

The panel was a success and the three panelists did an outstanding job. The selection committee also chose ten honorable mention papers, which are posted, along with the panel papers, on the conference website here (under “Inaugural Law Student Scholarship Panel”).

Our decision to organize this panel is the direct result of the incredible growth of animal law in academia and concomitant rise of student interest in animal law issues. Since 2000, the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Animal Law Program has been dedicated to advancing and supporting the future of animal law, and the field has undergone near-exponential expansion in the last decade and a half. In the 16 years since we started tracking, the number of Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapters has grown from 12 to 215 and, in that same time period, the number of law schools offering a course in animal law has expanded from 9 to more than 160. Along with our resources for law students and SALDF chapters, educational opportunities continue to expand.

In 2008, the inception of the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark, in collaboration with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, was an important milestone that broke new ground in professional higher education by creating the most extensive animal law curriculum in the world. More recently, Harvard Law School has emerged as an academic leader with the launch of its new Animal Law & Policy Program.

Students are the next generation of animal lawyers and policy makers and, as this panel ably demonstrated, they are already doing great work exploring cutting-edge legal theories and considering practical ways to use the law to help animals. We look forward to hearing more student ideas that will help move the conversation forward at next year’s panel!

No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Keeping Everyone in Matthew’s Path in Our Thoughts

Posted by Stephen Wells, Executive Director on October 6, 2016


As Hurricane Matthew causes rising anxieties in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, our hearts go out to everyone in the region. Looking at the storm’s destruction in the Caribbean, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is mourning the many lives lost, and urging anyone in the storm’s path to take appropriate precautions.

We hope that anyone sheltering in place or evacuating can stay united with their human and nonhuman family. The internet offers some very useful emergency preparedness resources including listings of places with pet-friendly accommodations, caring for pets during an emergency and what to take with you if you have to evacuate.

As we watch reports of the storm unfolding on the news and social media, and hear reports from our friends and family in the region, we can’t help but be concerned about everyone in Matthew’s path. We hope the storm will pass through with minimum impact, and we want you to know that we are thinking of all of you.

No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Pennsylvania Court: Neglected Puppy Does Not Have to Return to His Abuser

Posted by David Rosengard, Criminal Justice Program Fellow on September 6, 2016


Great news for a pit bull puppy named Luke—last week, a Pennsylvania court decided that he does not have to return to his abuser! In Commonwealth v. Kuhns, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed the legitimacy of using contraband forfeiture rules to prevent seized animals from going back to owners who subjected them to unlawful cruelty. Derivative contraband is now one more legal strategy that animal advocates, prosecutors and law enforcement can add to their toolbox to protect animal victims where the criminal justice system falls short.

The case in question involved Luke, a pit bull puppy. In 2014, Luke, then six months old, suffered a shattered shoulder allegedly at the hands of his owner. Law enforcement subsequently seized Luke, charging his owner with animal cruelty. At trial, however, a key witness’s testimony was different than her earlier statements regarding how Luke’s injury took place: his owner was acquitted—and demanded that the state return Luke. The prosecutor, concerned at the prospect of Luke returning to the environment where he was so seriously wounded, worked with the Animal Legal Defense Fund to develop a unique legal argument that would ultimately succeed in preventing Luke’s return.

Our ‘derivative contraband’ argument—which requires a much lower standard of proof (preponderance of evidence) than that of a criminal case (beyond a reasonable doubt )—focused not on how Luke’s shoulder came to be broken, but rather neglect: specifically, on trial testimony establishing that the defendant failed to get Luke the immediate veterinary care that his severe injury required. The argument’s second stage applied Pennsylvania’s contraband law: if the defendant sufficiently involved Luke in an unlawful act, that would, in turn, make Luke derivative contraband—which law enforcement has no obligation to return. In short, the strategy was to argue that a preponderance of the evidence showed (1) the defendant had engaged in a specific episode of unlawful animal neglect; (2) as the subject of that specific neglect, Luke was integrally related to that unlawful act; (3) Luke should therefore be declared contraband; and (4) as contraband, the defendant could be ordered to forfeit Luke.

The trial court agreed with our analysis, ruling that Luke was indeed contraband, and ordering him forfeited from the defendant owner. The defendant appealed to the Superior Court, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed an amicus (‘friend of the court’) brief in the case. In its amicus, the Animal Legal Defense Fund argued not only that the trial court had properly applied Pennsylvania’s contraband rules, but that so long as the law treats animals as property, it must also be willing to award them contraband status when they are subject to unlawful cruelty. Failing to do so would perversely give the state fewer options on behalf of animals (who suffer when subject to cruelty) than on behalf of mere unfeeling objects.

The Superior Court upheld the trial court’s ruling: Luke had been subject to unlawful neglect, which allowed him to be designated contraband, and appropriately forfeited. Crucially, the Superior Court found the defendant “unreasonably risked harm to [Luke] by exhibiting indifference to the consequence of [his] injury. Likewise, [defendant] failed to take the necessary steps to care for [Luke] at the time that care became necessary. The symptoms displayed … required immediate medical attention….” In other words, the obligation to provide one’s animal with timely care rises in direct proportion to the severity of the animal’s injury—and a “wanton or cruel” failure to provide such care can result in the animal being forfeit.

We salute the great work undertaken on this matter by Lycoming County Assistant District Attorney Melissa Kalaus and late Humane Society Police Officer Lawrence Woltz. HSPO Woltz conducted the investigation of Luke’s injury and unlawful treatment, and ADA Kalaus argued the case at trial and handled the state’s response on appeal. Luke has since been adopted, and is very happy in his new home. Without the dedication to the cause of justice exhibited by HSPO Woltz and ADA Kalaus, Luke would not enjoy the safety and security he does today!

No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

California says Bye-Bye to Bullhooks

Posted by Carney Anne Nasser, Senior Counsel for Wildlife & Regulatory Affairs on August 30, 2016


The only way to get a multiton elephant to perform the ridiculously contrived and unnatural tricks you see in the circus, or to be conditioned to walk in circles to provide rides at county fairs and roadside amusements, is through the constant threat of physical punishment. Elephants do not perform for peanuts. Indeed, exhibitors who use elephants for entertainment brandish a firepoker-like device known as a “bullhook” or “ankus” to strike and jab elephants in the most sensitive parts of their bodies. While the worst abuses take place during training behind closed doors, elephant handlers are never seen without their bullhooks during performances because the mere presence of the bullhook is a reminder to the elephant of the pain that awaits her if she doesn’t do as commanded.

Fortunately, localities around the country have started prohibiting or restricting the use of cruel training tools used to make elephants and big cats dance in circles or jump through rings of fire. It is these local legislative changes that precipitated Ringling Bros.’ parent corporation to end using elephants for its circus—complying with new legislation all over the country was just too complicated for the traveling act which is on the road 50 weeks out of the year. However, in the past month, we have seen states stepping up to do the right thing for elephants, too.

In July 2016, Rhode Island became the first state to enact a statewide bullhook ban when Gov. Gina Raimondo signed legislation prohibiting use of the cruel devices. Just this week, California became the second with Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bullhook ban into law.

Elephant advocates will recall that Gov. Brown vetoed a criminal bullhook ban that passed both houses during the 2014-15 legislative session due to his stated wish not to further complicate the California Penal Code. Bill sponsor Sen. Ricardo Lara tweaked the language of the bill so that violations would be subject to civil penalties, including revocation of any state-issued wildlife permits, rather than criminal prosecution. No time has been lost in the process of making these changes since both included an effective date of January 1, 2018.

Ringling Bros. stopped traveling with elephants in May 2016,  and all of the accredited zoos in California use protected contact, a positive-reinforcement style of elephant management that is safer and more humane because handlers never share the same unrestricted free space with elephants—and therefore do not need to use bullhooks. So what impact will SB 1062 have? You may recall that Have Trunk Will Travel (HTWT), the Perris, Calif.-based exhibitor that supplies elephants for movies, weddings, commercials, parties and elephant rides at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, was captured on undercover video violently abusing elephants with bullhooks and electric shock, including an elephant named Tai who has been used in a number of movies, including Water for Elephants. Since the undercover video footage became publicly available, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums ended its affiliation with HTWT and all county fairs across the State of California where HTWT used to provide elephant rides have cut ties with the company. The language in SB 1062 subject HTWT to civil penalties including revocation of the permits necessary for it to lawfully keep elephants in the state for treating and training the elephants the way it does.

As circuses pivot away from use of elephants, as the curtain is being peeled back on the dark side of animals used in Hollywood, and blockbuster movies like Rise of the Planet of the Apes and television shows like The Walking Dead are opting to use computer generated imaging and animatronics rather than live animals, days are numbered for exploitative companies like Have Trunk Will Travel.

When it comes to elephants, big cats and other exotic animals used for human amusement, abuse is the rule—not the exception—which is why the Animal Legal Defense Fund will continue to urge and support critical legal and regulatory changes that will bring an end to the cruel exploitation of rare and endangered species once and for all.

No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Good news for Alaska’s Wolves and Bears . . . Maybe.

Posted by Stephen Wells, Executive Director on August 24, 2016

Legally Brief

First the good news. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which manages our nation’s National Wildlife Refuges, has issued new regulations for Wildlife Refuges in Alaska that end some of the most egregious forms of wildlife killing permitted and promoted by the state of Alaska.  Specifically, the new rules “prohibit the take of mother bears and their cubs, the take of brown (grizzly) bears over bait, the killing of wolves and their pups at den sites, and aerial gunning” on any National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

The USFWS rules were necessary because the federal agency allows the state of Alaska to manage wildlife on National Wildlife Refuges within the state. And Alaska’s wildlife policies regard wolves and bears as competition with human hunters for prized hunting targets, like moose and caribou. Thus they have “managed” wolves and bears to severely limit their numbers, by allowing extreme methods of killing including those listed above, as well as outrageously long hunting and trapping seasons (for wolves this often means no limits on the number you are allowed to kill). The state has even hired marksmen to shoot wolves and bears from helicopters and airplanes.

black-bear-cc-Jitze-couperus-article-image-230pxWhile this war on Alaska’s wildlife will continue on state lands and other federal lands, like those managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the rule change still matters. Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuges comprise more than half of all the National Wildlife Refuge land in the country – nearly 77 million acres. That’s about 18% of all land in the state. And much of that land is excellent habitat for these species.

Time to celebrate, right? Maybe. Here’s the bad news. Even as these new, minimal protections are being put in place, both the U.S. House and Senate FY17 Interior Appropriations bills (the bills that fund the entire federal government) contain “riders,” sneaky amendments, which would block the implementation of this rule. Riders are attached to “must-pass” legislation like funding bills, because it is very difficult to remove them from such sweeping matters.

That means that members of the Congress in both the Senate and the House of Representatives want the massacre of wolf pups in their dens, bear mothers and their cubs, the baiting of bears for the kill with garbage and even shooting from aircraft to continue on our National Wildlife Refuges.

No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

The USDA is Standing By While a Global Crisis Looms

Posted by Kelsey Eberly, Staff Attorney on August 23, 2016

A global health crisis fueled by the greed of factory farming conglomerates and their allies in Congress is looming. It’s not climate change or heart disease, but the public health nightmare of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. The development of antibiotics only began in earnest about 100 years ago, and since then they have revolutionized medicine. Most people alive today have no concept of what life would look like without access to lifesaving antibiotics, but widespread misuse and overuse of these lifesaving tools could have deadly consequences.


“A post-antibiotic era means, in effect, an end to modern medicine as we know it,” says Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization. “Things as common as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill.” The Centers for Disease Control state that each year at least 2 million people become infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria, and 23,000 people die as a direct result of these infections. With major health organizations in agreement that antibiotic resistance is a dire health threat, one would think that the meat industry, the largest abuser of these lifesaving drugs, would clean up its act. Sadly, this is not the case.

For years, the Animal Legal Defense Fund has been sounding the alarm bells about the danger of feeding thousands of pounds of antibiotics to healthy farm animals, to keep them growing faster and larger and to prevent them from succumbing to disease amid their filthy, overcrowded living conditions. Antibiotics have long been a crutch used by the meat industry to maintain their inhumane, industrialized operations that churn out meat with maximum efficiency and profit. The overuse of these drugs, many of which are important—even critical—in human medicine, has contributed to the spread of pathogens that are resistant even to next-generation, cutting-edge antibiotics. Colistin, a drug of last resort, has become one of the only effective antibiotics to treat highly drug-resistant bacteria when all else has failed. The recent emergence of a colistin-resistant bacteria in the United States, then, first in a human patient and later in a specimen of pig intestine, raises the specter of a truly invincible super bacteria.

At the same time, consumer demand for meat from animals raised without antibiotics has skyrocketed, as consumers seek to avoid drug-resistant bacteria and choose healthier options. However, misleading labeling of meat and poultry both deceives consumers and prevents the market from changing to meet consumer demand.

In response to this public health crisis, on June 3, 2013—over three years ago—the Animal Legal Defense Fund submitted a petition to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, asking the agency to require that meat and poultry from animals fed antibiotics be labeled as such, and to provide a uniform labeling standard for antibiotic use in meat, to meet consumer demand and address the antibiotic resistance crisis. The Animal Legal Defense Fund followed up the petition with a letter providing additional evidence of the need for mandatory antibiotics labeling, including Congressional support, studies, surveys and policymaking recommendations.

In response, the agency did absolutely nothing. Now, the Animal Legal Defense Fund has gathered another three years of additional evidence of the antibiotic resistance crisis, rising consumer demand for meat raised without antibiotics and the confusion that inconsistent and unregulated antibiotics labeling has sowed. And today, the organization submitted another follow-up letter, accompanied by 31 pieces of evidence, illustrating the dire need for mandatory meat and poultry antibiotics labeling.

Since the original letter, evidence has mounted in support of antibiotic labeling. Three federal acts have been introduced to combat antibiotic resistance and the excessive use of antibiotics in agriculture, and new studies have emerged documenting the transference of drug-resistant bacteria between farm animals and human hosts. The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s first letter has garnered support from a coalition of public health and environmental organizations, including The Sierra Club, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project and Friends of Family Farmers.

The USDA’s continued inaction in the face of an enormous public health crisis and rampant consumer confusion shows that it’s abdicating its statutory responsibility to protect consumers and safeguard human health. The Animal Legal Defense Fund will continue urging the agency to do its duty.

No Comments  |  Leave A Comment